MOSCOW – A white supremacist from Texas lifted his black cowboy hat into the air as he stepped forward to address thousands of Russian nationalists at a rally Sunday in Moscow.
“I’m taking my hat off as a sign of respect for your strong identity in ethnicity, nation and race,” said Preston Wiginton, 43.
“Glory to Russia,” he said in broken Russian, as the crowd of mostly young Russian men raised their right hands in a Nazi salute and chanted “white power!” in English.
About 5,000 nationalists turned out for the Russian March, held for the third year on National Unity Day, a holiday the Kremlin created in 2005 to replace the traditional Nov. 7 celebration of the 1917 Bolshevik rise to power.
The Kremlin has tried to give the holiday historical significance by tying it to the 1612 expulsion of Polish and Cossack troops who briefly seized Moscow.
But extreme nationalists have seized on the holiday, reflecting a rise in xenophobia. More than 50 people have been killed and 400 injured in ethnically motivated attacks this year.
Pro-Kremlin youth groups and the liberal Yabloko party also held rallies Sunday, in part to counter the nationalist march.
The nationalists, who were kept away from the city center, marched along an embankment of the Moscow River to a small square, waving banners that read “Russians, stand up,” “Russian order or war,” and “Tolerance is AIDS.”
What united the marchers was their opposition to nonwhite migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia.
“Russia will be white,” said Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Migration.
“Our ultimate goal is our race and nation. Nation above all,” he said, rephrasing the Nazi slogan “Germany above all.”