Trendswatcher: Of Parking and PR Disasters

© RIA NovostiNatalia Antonova
Natalia Antonova  - Sputnik International
Should one pick sides in a conflict between a pro-Kremlin youth group and the alleged relatives of a big-time Chechen government official? Or should one just reach for the popcorn?

Should one pick sides in a conflict between a pro-Kremlin youth group and the alleged relatives of a big-time Chechen government official? Or should one just reach for the popcorn?

StopKham, a branch of Nashi Nashi, a youth movement tied to the Kremlin, is famous for placing big, incriminating stickers on the windshields of improperly parked cars in Moscow. StopKham, in Russian, quite literally means “stop the rudeness” - as activists belonging to the movement say they are concerned about drivers who do not follow basic etiquette.

StopKham has come under heavy criticism for their tactics - especially as they involve filming outraged automobile owners so as to further provoke them once they (the owners) realize that a mega-sticker is blocking their windshield. Other Moscow activists have pointed out that the city has a real problem when it comes to parking spaces, and harassing drivers is not going to make it better. StopKham activists have also been accused of deliberately targeting people they know will not be able to fight back.

Well, it seems that this last bit may have just been proven wrong. The activists apparently ran across a woman, Madina Mingayeva, who is married to Chechen politician Tamerlan Mingayev. The incident occurred right outside of the Yevropeisky shopping center - a glitzy area I avoid because it’s always full of sketchy security guards and other unpleasant people.

Incurring the wrath of StopKham activists after she improperly parked her Lexus, Mingayeva said she would not move the car “on principle” and called for reinforcements. Her son Islam Mingayev apparently arrived with some friends in a Porsche (why of course! It couldn’t have been anything less than a Porsche), and a fight started. StopKham activists have alleged that they were threatened, and the video they uploaded to YouTube, although heavily edited and set to annoying music, seems to suggest that they weren’t entirely exaggerating:

“God forbid this video shows up on YouTube,” Madina Mingayeva says on camera. “I swear to you, I will get you anywhere, your legs will be torn off. You’re going to crawl on two hands from then on.”

When Mingayeva’s son shows up, he is equally pleasant.

“I’m going to stab all of your relatives to death!” He screams at some point, in the midst of a physical showdown.

The police, who have begun an investigation (probably after much eye-rolling at both sides of the conflict, knowing how the police work around here), really ought to obtain the original video to get the full context of this incident, but the entire thing is creepy and crine-inducing.

I’m not a fan of public provocations, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the StopKham activists have accidentally drawn attention to a real problem - bigwigs from the North Caucasus and the people connected to said bigwigs seem to think that they can do no wrong.

All bigwigs in Moscow seem to think that they can do no wrong - to one extent or another. But due to certain factors, some of them cultural, making a bigwig from Chechnya mad, for example, is more likely to end up with graphic threats of violence. If you think I’m wildly generalizing, consider the case of prominent Chechen lawyer Dagir Khasavov, who recently threatened “rivers of blood” should Sharia courts be denied to Russian Muslims.

Khasavov is now suing Ren-TV, the channel that aired his original incendiary remarks, claiming that everything was taken out of context - though the video the channel has uploaded to YouTube does not appear doctored in any way.

What I found telling about the whole situation is how little surprise it generated. Heck, I called up a friend of Chechen origin to get his opinion on Khasavov, and heard a sigh, followed by a, “Look, guys like Khasavov are a minority - but they’re a vocal and dangerous minority.”

General ethnic tension in Moscow is obviously to blame here as well. People do not trust each other. Racist violence continues to be a problem. Skinheads are not just the sort of people you see in the movies, they’re a real phenomenon, and they really do maim and kill people.

At the same time, young men from privileged families in the North Caucasus are often raised to believe that they’re kings - and with class division in the region being what it is, they’re often not entirely off the mark. In Moscow, where clan wars rage practically on all levels of society, these young men often feel as though they can intimidate their way through life. Often, it works. Sometimes, it ends up in a PR disaster - or worse.

It’s fashionable nowadays to speak as though Moscow should just be rid of all undesirables - be they people who “stand in the way” of Sharia courts, or, conversely, Muslims themselves. Addressing the actual problem of ethnic tension, and class tension, which is another big factor here, is much trickier.

Either way, we can all probably agree that parking in Moscow remains a disaster.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Trendwatching in Russia is an extreme sport: if you’re not dodging champagne corks at weddings, you’re busy avoiding getting trampled by spike heels on public transportation. Thankfully, due to an amazing combination of masochism and bravado, I will do it for you while you read all about it from the safety of your living room.

Natalia Antonova is the deputy editor of The Moscow News. She also works as a playwright – her work has been featured at the Lyubimovka Festival in Moscow and Gogolfest in Kiev, Ukraine. She was born in Ukraine, but spent most of her life in the United States. She graduated from Duke University, where she majored in English and Slavic Literature. Before coming to Moscow, she worked in Dubai, UAE and Amman, Jordan. Her writing has been featured in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Russia Profile, AlterNet, et al.

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