Many people get into politics and anti-fascism through music, when you first started how difficult was it getting people involved?
The language of street subculture is simple and understandable for young people. Therefore it attracted me, and people like me, back in school. And with it, political ideas that are easier to assimilate into that. But with age, the guys ceased to be interested in the music that they listened to, and with it political ideas left. This is the problem, it seemed like a trend. And only the anarchist platform gave us the ideas and means to keep some people in motion and speak with ordinary people more broadly. So for society we are considered hooligans and vandals, state propaganda also contributes to this and this is also a big problem for us.
How important was it for you and others as a subculture to help others self organise and help the opposition gain political autonomy?
It was important to us from the very beginning. In Irkutsk we were not just skinheads, straight edge kids and punks. We participated in environmental actions, in city wide protests with our anarchist agenda, in political discussions, etc. Of course, this would not have happened without communications with older anarchists from other organisations.
Following on from this as you were a subculture, and a group, rather than an official organisation what kind of problems and challenges did this bring?
Because of our appearance, police patrol cars would stop us all the time. At first, we were detained at a political rally for the way we were dressed and because they simply wanted to add political activists to their police files. Then they dealt with us regularly because of specific political actions. Not to mention the fights with the Nazis in the streets.
How did you get your messages of anti fascism into the community?
In the early 2000s, it was constant sticking of paste ups and stickers around the city as well as some graffiti whenever possible. We published a small newspaper “Free Siberia” and distributed it among students. We also organised pickets with banners like “stop racism”. That kind of action.
You talk a little about training and being ready to engage in street action, would you say this was an important part of when your group began and started engaging with the right?
Of course, we initially wanted to create a combat-ready mob, to protect our events, concerts and to just walk around the city. We visited all the places in the city where youth gathered so we had to be prepared. I still believe that this is necessary.
I agree with what you mentioned and propaganda and getting the word out there, that the actions need to followed by community actions and spreading the word of what you are doing, what other activities did you do?
In the age of the Internet, all agitation must be based on it. Sites, blogs and channels. Cover all areas where we can talk about problems and our point of view. But only when we have something to say, now I think that we should attend all opposition actions in cities. But do not merge with the liberals. Squeeze out the right. Stand strong with your agenda.
Did you see local communities being attacked by the far right and how would you, if needed to, support people?
In Russia, everything is difficult with communication with migrant communities. Subcultural anti-fascism does not mean supporting them, only protecting your scene. This is also a development problem. Only communication and understanding of each other can undo the walls of alienation. I see support in responding quickly to such attacks. It is also related to street activity. You need to look for those who attack and punish them. But one must be able to search.
What obstacles does the state deploy to stop and halt community engaging in political activism?
There is a negative presentation of our subculture in the media and in Russian cinema, many repression problems with youth in all cities. Also there is strong political police and laws against freedom of speech and political action.
Do you think they government are using terrorism and extremism as a reason to lock members of antifascist and anarchist groups up for smaller offences that if they were not political would not be charged?
I was tried twice in a simple criminal article without any political points. Anti-fascists were tried in Russia for violent crimes and it is obvious why. But the latest case against anarchists and anti-fascists shows that the state already wants to judge us by serious terrorist articles. Not everyone has even been convicted yet. There are 11 people on trial. But the guys have already received prison sentences from 7 to 18 years in high security units. This case is not the first or biggest of its kind. They will continue to attack our liberties as much as they can. Of course, they use extremist and terrorist articles to destroy our communities and projects. Even working in a legal field does not help to divert the hand of state law from us.
Would you say the state is hand in hand with fascist in Russia and does this play out in the prison system there? Are there a lot of fascists in the prisons and how did you interact with them?
When it is profitable, the state will cooperate and help them. To kill any kind of social protest with their hands is their aim. There are many facts about this in the recent history of Russia. Now the state does not need non-systemic radical nations. But we are sure that power structures will quickly be able to raise Nazi organisations again to a combat-ready regime. And create new ones.
There are many Nazi skinheads in jail convicted of violent crimes. Many nationalists sat inside for propaganda of extremist criminal code articles. It is everyone for himself inside and the individual chooses with whom to chat with. But the Nazis do not have authorities with the prisoners inside. Russia is a very multinational country. And thieves’ prison traditions prevail over racism and nationalism.
You talk a little about self organising within the prison system, did you yourself organise with any of the prisoners around anything?
The whole environment of prisoners is saturated with self-organisation. With help, small everyday problems are solved each day, and the fate of a person depends on this. Not everyone is allowed to resolve issues. This is due to the special Russian prison tradition. Based on domination and violence. There is an old prison term, “PonYAtiya (Concepts).” This is an unwritten set of rules and regulations of a prisoner. It applies to everyone. And it says that you should always organise and resist, and even if you are alone.
Towards the end of the video you talk about a network of people sending you letters and making sure you were reading in prison to keep up morale and get you through this difficult time, can you tell us more about this?
I think you know what the anarchist black cross is. No need to talk about the principles of this organisation. In addition to the ABC, there are other opposition political groups and people who disseminate information about political prisoners and everyone is already writing to them.
Is there other ways antifascist communities can support prisoners and is there a list of political prisoners in Russia at the moment?
Of course, there is a prisoners list and it is constantly updated. This is now being done by ABC and the people who once were members of it. There are not many ways for people to support prisoners. Some of the ways we can though are letters to prisoners, information support and financial support. So far, that’s all we can think of. Of course, for us, any anarchist or anti-fascist is also his own kind of propaganda. Unfortunately, in recent years this is their only outlook.