Violence 'in the Name of the Nation'
Journalist for Current TV travels to Russia to document a shocking subculture.
Oct. 11, 2007 — -- Disturbing images of Russian neo-Nazi skinheads attacking defenseless, unsuspecting immigrants have been circling the globe via the Internet. It was those pictures that provoked 28-year-old journalist Christof Putzel to make what turned out to be an extraordinary trip to Russia to find out what is going on.
"They're really brutal," Putzel said of the attacks. "A lot of times they end in fatalities. In the first six months of this year, I think, to the best information that we have … there have been over 300 attacks and 47 of those have ended in fatalities.
"This is not play-acting. It's not a rare occurrence. It's happening almost every single day."
Working for Current TV-- the two-year-old cable outlet founded by former Vice President Al Gore -- Putzel and his 24 year old producer Lauren Cerre went to Russia with a pair of store-bought video cameras and immersed themselves in a vast, violent neo-Nazi subculture.
"In the early '90s, our ancient state fell down and then [there were] lots of problems, lots of problems everywhere," said Sergei, a neo-Nazi Putzel interviewed. "Borders were opened and a hurricane of immigrants came."
"It's bad when a lot of people from another country, from poor countries, come to my country, try to work here," said another neo-Nazi, Ivan Litvinov.
"They see us as the people who completely destroyed their lives," said Jonathan Benjamin, an immigrant from Sri Lanka.
"When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, everything changed," explained Putzel. "A lot of people have been left without any direction, with a very unknown future, unknown economic prospects."
And who are the people that make up this subculture?
"They're young men, predominantly," said Putzel. "They come from families that are not necessarily very well off. Their futures are very uncertain. They're not very well educated. And this is something for them to believe in."
In a country that lost more people defeating the Nazis than any other country, there are now an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 neo-Nazis, half of the world's total. They even have supporters in parliament.