UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



With the exception of Polish hooligans, Russian football holigans are the most consistently violent around. Usually, Spartak or Lokomotiv Moscow would be trying to take the scalp of city rival CSKA — kingpins of Russia's hooligan world along with Zenit. The world hooligan was first found in British newspaper police-court reports in the summer of 1898, almost certainly from the variant form of the Irish surname Houlihan, which figured as a characteristic comic Irish name in music hall songs and newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s. The term was internationalized in teh 20th century in communist rhetoric as Russian word khuligan, a term of opprobrium for "scofflaws, political dissenters, etc."

The tendency to hooliganism is not abnormal in human behavior. In fact, it is only when it extends beyond acceptable limits that it becomes reprehensible. The borderline between high spirits in a group of young people and rowdyism leading to actual violence is small. Many group impulses for demonstration are natural, and it is only when they get out of hand that they are unacceptable to society. Drunkenness does not play a large part, especially in football rowdyism among youths.

There seems to be a tradition in some forms of violent behavior, as is shown by the antagonism which exists between supporters of certain football teams. Though rugby and cricket are the center of much less hooliganism than is soccer owing to the different type of spectators at rugby matches and the less exciting pace of cricket, yet scenes of near hooligan behaviour have been witnessed at both.

Hooliganism can in fact occur among any class in the community, but the magnitude of the crowds at football matches undoubtedly produces more scope for them to get away with their antisocial acts. These may vary from gang fights to frightening and molesting frail and ageing people who cannot protect themselves.

The bully boys have existed in all ages and cultures, and the behavior patterns have similarities. The great popular insurrection of AD 532 shook the throne of Justinian in the fifth year of his reign and laid in ashes the imperial quarter of Constantinople. Among the most singular and disgraceful follies of the Eastern Empire were the factions of the circus, which resulted from the colors worn by the charioteers who competed for the prize of swiftness. The narrative of Procopius is full and circumstantial, it sets forth the causes of the revolt. The White and the Red were the most ancient of these factions, but the Blue and the Green were the most remarkable for their inveterate hostility. All these factions obtained a legal existence, and the Byzantines willingly jeopardized life and fortune in behalf of their favorite color. The Emperor Justinian was a partisan of the Blues; and his favor toward them provoked the hostility of the Greens, and gave rise to a series of disturbances at the close of the war with Persia just alluded to, known as the “Nika riots,” which almost laid Constantinople in ashes.

Much of the crowd behaviour at football matches, such as singing and scarf waving, is innocuous, but with a small minority it is the prelude to violence or vandalism which tends to bring excessive disrepute to many gatherings of people. The 50,000 soccer fans who go home quietly after the match are not news, but the dozen skinheads who have a fight make the headlines. But at the end of the day there are almost invariably victors, as mass hooliganism is effective only so long as the gang and its ringleaders are together. Once the members are separated the emotional stimulus rapidly diminishes.

Hooliganism was defined as anti-social behavior. Social crimes, under which many forced laborers were sentenced, were covered by an assortment of Soviet statutes. Various legal degrees of gravity were defined: minor hooliganism, hooliganism, and malicious hooliganism. ”Hooliganism" - defined broadly as actions violating public order and expressing a disrespect for society — was the most common crime in the Soviet Union in terms of sentencing. Parasitism, also listed as a crime against public order, covered vagrancy begging, and evasion of work over an extended period.

Soviet life produced a variety of social problems that, theoretically, should never have arisen in a Communist society or should at least be on the decline at this stage of its development. However, as Soviet authorities themselves complained, many of these troublesome problems seemed to be on the rise.

One category includes the dodging of "socially useful labor," widespread alcoholism, and the growth of crime and "hooliganism," the last ranging from theft of state property to crimes cf sex and violence, often involving gangs of wayward youths. Particular concern was expressed by representatives of the Soviet "establishment" over a category of problems, perhaps best described as tendencies among the younger generation that reflected the young people's alienation, in one form or another, from present-day Soviet society. These tendencies, some of which seemed akin to the questioning of established ways and values by youth elsewhere, included indifference to Marxism-Leninism as a repository cf answers to the main problems of life.

A early as 1940 the Central Committee Plenum recognized the need to incorporate in the RSFSR Penal Code amendments which would harden the punishments so that employees guilty of minor theft, regardless of the amount, as well as those guilty of hooliganism at the enterprise, institution or in a public place, even if it was committed for the first time, would be punished under a sentence of the people's court by imprisonment of a period of at least 1 year.

Stern measures of State coercion were deemed necessary in respect to agents of imperialistic States who have been sent into the country, alsoin respect to those who maliciously broke the legal norms of the socialist community and did not yield themselves to indoctrination, and an respect to thieves, murderers, large speculators, malicious hooligans, and other dangerous criminals. It was precisely in this manner that the criminal laws adopted on 25 December 1958 were to have solved this problem. On one hand they specified narrowing and mitigating criminal responsibility for actions which did not present great danger to the State and to society, but on the other hand they provided for strict responsibility for the most serious crimes against the State and also against the life and health of citizens. It seemed to some that there was a difference between the concepts of hooliganism and sophisticated, well-planned banditry. Some anarchists, for example, put forward the slogans of freedom and attracted gangsters, parasites, hooligans, and prostitutes.

According to Pravda, August 13, 1959, the Republic Conference on Ideological Questions, called by the Uzbek Communist Party, revealed tendencies toward private ownership, theft of Socialist property, hooliganism, drunkenness, and all else that goes under "survivals of the past." The Tashkent Party Committee secretary, F.Hodzhaev warned the conference that nationalist survivals were especially dangerous in the economic field where "for the sake of local interests, state interests were relegated to oblivion." Taking the cue, the conforence emphasized the urgency of the Soviet and Uzbek people choosing cadres on the basis of their technical qualifications and without nationalistic prejudices.

The vast majority of forced laborers were sentenced for purely criminal acts - theft of state and personal property as well as crimes against persons and destruction of personal property were the most prevalent crimes following hooliganism. The number of persons convicted and arrested, however, for certain crimes, such as hooliganism, often depended on the Soviet attitude toward combating the crime at a given time or on the need for laborers in a particular industry. An emigre lawyer stated that the need for workers in the Estonian oil shale fields in the late 1960-7, for example, led directly to many more arrests for hooliganism and subsequent sentences to forced labor in that industry.

Political activists and dissidents were prosecuted for serious crimes against the state — anti-Soviet slander was one of the common charges — as well as for lesser offenses. They often fell prey to catchall applications of hooliganism and parasitism laws. An analysis of data on the number of persons sentenced by type of crime during 1976 in the Soviet Union identifies 'hooliganism,' or disorderly behavior, as the number one crime. Examples of misconduct under this category purport to show its uniqueness as a Soviet crime. Hooliganism is a crime mainly characteristic of young males in urban areas, and it is a distinctive barometer of the climate of Soviet society. Hooliganism also highly correlates with alcoholism. Crimes against the person are the second highest category of criminal behavior and include murder, rape, and serious bodily assault.

Soviet adolescents commit a significant share of these crimes, which are mostly committed on days off, holidays, and on the occasion of family festivals and ceremonies. Convictions for theft of State and public property and crimes against citizens' personal property rank third and fourth, respectively, in number of convictions. Other lesser categories include motor vehicle crimes, economic crimes, official crimes (criminal negligence and abuse of power), and crimes violating law and order.

Soviet crime statistics did not include about 1 million criminal cases reviewed each year by 280,000 comrades' courts and do not estimate the amount of white-collar crime, which is believed to involve as many as 20 million people. Soviet statistics on prisoners reveal that in January 1977 over 1,600,000 persons were serving sentences in corrective labor institutions. On a per capita basis, this was about 3.5 times greater than the US prison population.

Although the MVD organs hd sufficient forces and means, the effectiveness of the struggle against law violations on the streets remained low. In 1988 in one district, hooliganism accounted for 26.5 percent of all street crimes.

During the first nine months of 1989 the internal affairs organs and the procuracy registered 1,750,794 crimes, which is 437,321 (33.3 percent) more than during the same period in the previous year. As formerly, a considerable number of illegal acts took place in streets, squares, parks and public gardens. A total of 215,431 crimes were committed here, or 16.5 percent of the total number of those registered within the country. Street crime was growing at the highest rates in the Estonian and Lithuanian SSRs, the Mari and Tatar ASSRs, Kamchatka Oblast, and the cities of Leningrad and Moscow. The battle against street hooliganism was intensifying. In June of 1989, 8751 more crimes were exposed than during the same period last year, in August — 9918 more, and in September — 11,587 more.

Born into a poor family after the Great Patriotic War, Vladimir Putin’s childhood was marked by standard Soviet deprivation: cramped and paltry living conditions, food rationing, and isolation from the outside world - he was a self-described childhood “hooligan”.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 15-06-2016 19:20:14 ZULU