Last week, the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, a Russian watchdog group that focuses on xenophobia, religion and “government misuse of counter-extremism measures,” drew public attention to a peculiar legal case [ru] in which a blogger from the Republic of Bashkortostan (a small autonomous republic neighboring Tatarstan in southern Russia) was charged with hate speech for a post she published on her Facebook account late last year. SOVA cites the case as an example of misuse of counter-extremism measures, which it defines as [ru]:
[…] действия государства и общественных групп, предпринимаемые в рамках противодействия агрессивному национализму или иным формам неприемлемого радикализма, но фактически направленные преимущественно на неправомерное ограничение гражданских свобод или даже прямо попирающие гражданские свободы.
[…] actions of the state or social groups, taken within the framework of combating aggressive nationalism or other forms of unacceptable radicalism, but in reality aimed mainly at unlawful limiting of civic freedoms or even directly trampling civic freedoms.
According to Bashkortostan's Investigative Committee [ru], the woman in question, Guzaliya Galimova, is in indeed being charged under the now infamous article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, for “inciting hatred or enmity, as well as denigration of human dignity.” Specifically, she is alleged to have had:
[…] находясь у себя дома разместила в открытом доступе в социальной сети Интернет «Facebook» текст, содержащий негативную информацию в отношении представителей русской национальности, создающую у читающего резко отрицательные психологические установки в отношении другого лица либо группы лиц […]
[…] while in her home, placed into the public domain in the Internet social network “Facebook” a text, containing negative information about members of the Russian nationality, creating in the reader a sharply negative psychological attitudes agaisnt other person or persons […]
What does this mouthful of a formulation mean? It turns out that last year Galimova, formerly a history teacher, went on vacation to Turkey (a popular beach destination among Russians), and came back dissatisfied with the experience. In fact, she was so dissatisfied that when she returned she went straight for her Facebook and wrote a profanity laced diatribe [ru], in which she somewhat unexpectedly blamed Russian women for the various problems she encountered, specifically singling out “Russian” as an ethnicity, rather than a civic identity:
О русских бабах, не о россиянках, а именно о русских бабах! Русское бабье как вас научилась ненавидеть, отдыхая в Турции. Как можно загадить все вокруг и испортить своим поведением менталитет турков мужчин. Еще отдыхая в Чамьюва, испытала на себе все прелести поведения русских сучек, иначе не назовешь.
About [ethnically] Russian broads, not [civically] Russian women, but precisely Russian broads! Russian broads, how I've learned to hate you, vacationing in Turkey. How you can turn everything around you into crap, and spoil the mentality of Turkish men with your behavior. While still at Çamyuva, I experienced the charming conduct of Russian b*tches, no other way to call it.
Galimova continued with a description of “stereotypical” Russian conduct at Turkish hotels — heavy drinking, promiscuous behavior, and being victims of robberies. Later she again emphasized the promiscuity:
[…] русское бабье на охоте за турками. Турки – тоже самое. Мне пришлось даже прибегнуть к помощи охраны, чтобы избавиться от назойливого турка, которому даже повода не давала. Спасибо охране – они четко выполняют свои обязанности. Знаю, что ни один турок не может ко мне прикоснуться без моего желания. […] Идешь и тебе прямым текстом предлагают секс, причем каждый второй. А причина проста как 3 копейки. Русские сучки! Знаете, всегда вношу ясность – я татарка, этим все сказано.
[…] Russian broads hunting Turks. Turks – the same. I had to resort to asking the security to get rid of an annoying Turk who I didn't even give cause [to hit on me]. Thanks to the security – they do their jobs well. I know that no Turk can touch me if I don't wish it. […] You are walking and you simply get offered sex, every second person. And the reason is as simple as three pennies. Russian b*tches! You know, I always make it clear – I'm a Tatar, and that says everything.
Describing herself as a historian, Galimova concluded by hypothesizing that this state of affairs exists because of Russian women who smuggled Turkish goods into the Soviet Union in the late 80s, and had sex in exchange for free merchandise.
The post went viral, and Galimova eventually ended up deleting it (she later removed her entire Facebook profile), but not before it was captured by several other bloggers, one of whom wrote a complaint [ru] to the local prosecutor's office. Galimova later asserted [ru] that the text was part of a “philosophical treatise on Russian women” which she says she wrote 2009.
As vitriolic as it was, it is unclear if such polemic should qualify as “inciting hatred,” or fall under free speech provisions. It is pretty clearly “denigrating human dignity” based on an ethnic distinction. If Galimova had not mentioned her Tatar ethnicity or made such a point to distinguish between ethnic and civic Russianness in her post, it is unlikely that anyone could make it fit under the Article 282. There is also the “public domain” aspect to consider — as usual with the Internet, the line between privately letting off steam and displaying opinions publicly is blurry. But is prosecuting Galimova worth the resources? Probably not. In the end, frivolous cases like this devalue the already controversial Russian hate speech laws.