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Male State founder Vladislav Pozdnyakov
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On the basis of sex Meduza’s dispatch from the trial that outlawed the far-right hate group ‘Male State’ as an extremist organization

Source: Meduza
Male State founder Vladislav Pozdnyakov
Male State founder Vladislav Pozdnyakov
Vladislav Pozdnyakov’s Instagram

On Monday, October 18, the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court outlawed the far-right hate group “Male State” as an extremist organization. This movement, called “Muzhskoe Gosudarstvo” in Russian, is linked to a number of VKontakte groups and Telegram channels that proclaim an ideology described as “national patriarchy.” Its founder, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, was handed a two-year suspended sentence in 2018 for inciting hatred against women (his sentence was overturned three months later, after which he left Russia). Over the past few years, Male State supporters have threatened LGBTQ+ activists, harassed feminists, and attacked brands for promoting tolerance and diversity in their ad campaigns. Meduza shares a dispatch from the trial that banned Male State’s activities in Russia.

“We’ll just stand here and watch,” one of the court marshals joked before the start of the hearing.

As it turned out, nothing more was required of them. Neither supporters, nor opponents, of “Male State” came to attend the trial. In fact, not even the movement’s founder — Vladislav Pozdnyakov — showed up. He left Russia in 2019, just months after receiving a suspended sentence for inciting hatred against women (his sentence was overturned after some extremism charges were reclassified as misdemeanors rather than felonies). 

Pozdnyakov was represented in court by Dzhambolat Gabaraev — a lawyer who had never been involved in a high-profile case before.

When Judge Anna Belova asked him about his client’s whereabouts, Gabaraev replied: “I can’t tell you that, Your Honor.” Asked why not, he said: “I myself don’t know where he is.”

The two other defendants in the case — former Male State activists from Nizhny Novgorod Dmitry Gubanov and Igor Nosov — didn’t appear in court either. However, Nosov sent the court a letter, explaining he had been seriously ill with the coronavirus, but still wanted to testify during the trial. He asked the court to postpone the hearing. (Meanwhile on Telegram, Pozdnyakov wrote that he wasn’t acquainted with Igor Nosov and surmised that he was simply a “random subscriber”).

Pozdnyakov’s lawyer also asked to delay the hearing. He noted that he had not had time to familiarize himself with the 600-page case file, and asked for the court to set up a video link for his client. Prosecutor Roman Yashin also chimed with the objections, but Judge Belova decided to review the case without the involvement of the Male State organizers.

The prosecutor then proceeded to explain that Male State “emerged in 2015 as a VKontakte group, which carried out massive information attacks” on women. Yashin added that at the time, Pozdnyakov personally “recruited supporters” in different Russian regions via the Internet.

Yashin then recalled several of Male State’s “actions,” underlining that the hate group’s followers not only promoted “ideas of supremacy on the basis of sex,” but also “incited enmity and hatred on the basis of race.” He also recalled that four Male State supporters were sentenced to time in prison in 2019 for creating an extremist community (Pozdnyakov wasn’t a defendant in this case).

In response, lawyer for the defense Dzhambolat Gabaraev argued that, in his assessment, Male State supporters didn’t “promote racial hate,” but rather “opposed the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors.”

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backstory

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“In general, [Male State] can’t be considered a public organization since it’s essentially a Telegram channel with information, which Vladislav Pozdnyakov hasn’t had anything to do with since June 2020. In reality, these messages did no harm to anyone. They [Male State supporters] stand for traditional values, for a healthy family and children. They are adherents to a healthy lifestyle,” the lawyer maintained.

In an aside, he added that the women who Male State followers criticized on social media had “themselves discredited the Russian population” with their behavior.

Gabaraev then delved into his own understanding of biology and anthropology, claiming that a) there’s an increasing number of “homosexuals” and b) this is due to the “promotion of non-traditional relationships.” Male State members simply didn’t like this, the lawyer told the court.

In turn, Judge Belova examined as evidence former State Duma lawmaker Oksana Pushkina’s appeal asking the Attorney General to investigate Male State for extremism. The case materials also included appeals from women who were harassed by Pozdnyakov’s followers. In turn, in their report, operatives from the Anti-Extremism Center (Center E) described Male State’s ideology as “radical patriarchy” and said the group’s aim was “to change the constitutional order of the country.”

As briefings from the Interior Ministry were being read out in court, Male State founder Vladislav Pozdnyakov told journalists that he’s not going to return to Russia until the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) is recognized as an extremist organization. 

During the deliberations, the prosecutor briefly summarized his position. Garabaev quoted Vladimir Putin: “In Russia there has not been, is not, and will not be anything associated with restrictions on rights based on race, sexual orientation, nationality, or any religious grounds.”

Judge Belova then retired to the deliberation room, where she spent a grand total of five minutes. Upon returning to the courtroom, Belova ruled in favor of the prosecution. “The court’s decision is immediately enforceable,” she said, to conclude.

Despite the outcome of the trial, Pozdnyakov publicly called on his followers to support Gabaraev, claiming that opponents of Male State were ruining the attorney’s ratings on a client review website. Separately, Pozdnyakov underscored that Gabaraev took on Male State’s case pro bono. 

The lawyer himself promised to challenge the court’s ruling, maintaining that his requests for a fair trial went unheard. 

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Alexey Garanin reporting from Nizhny Novgorod

Translation by Eilish Hart

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