November 01, 2006

Watering the Seeds of Fascism

In early September, events in the little Karelian town of Kondopoga reverberated across the country. Every major news agency showed the aftermath of the town residents’ rebellion against Caucasian transplants: the devastated restaurant Chayka, which was owned by an Azeri; empty stalls of the city market; stores, where Chechens once plied their wares. It offered the mass media, politicians and opinion makers a chance to once again warn of the rising danger of Fascism in Russia.

I was in Kondopoga and saw how the Russian media exaggerated these events. What began as a typical restaurant brawl boiled over into a knifing, and then turned into citywide meetings against... not Caucasians in general, but against a specific, criminal Chechen gang, which had long been terrorizing this town of 35,000.

For seven years, the restaurant Chayka has been owned by an Azeri businessman who is well-known in Karelia. And for this entire span, the restaurant has been “supervised” by a certain Chechen gang. During this seven years there was one murder at the Chayka – of a girl who was peacefully dining in the restaurant. Residents say her death was an accident, that she was caught in the crossfire between Russian and Chechen criminal gangs, but it was nonetheless not reported. 

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