Skinheads in eastern europe

Freedom to hate or hate to be free

Not too long ago, a simple message was smeared in green paint on a crude danube bridge in the center of budapest: "skins have more hair than brains." what was amazing about this little graffiti was not the funny idea in a time of commercial, meaningless wall art, but that it stayed there for a good part of the year. Moreover it was not covered by any counter graffiti. It stayed until the city council finally washed it off.

The meaning of this graffiti is not obvious, but it is nevertheless important: the danger and the threatening influence from the side of the skinheads have largely disappeared in eastern and central europe. This does not mean that they no longer exist or that they have become respected members of civil society, but, on the contrary, that they pose the same threat to individuals as they do everywhere else in the world. However, the fear at the beginning of the decade that skinheads could become a strong destabilizing force in the region has dissipated, at least so far.

When the former communist states in the east came under the influence of reforms and revolutions in 1989, the emergence of skinhead groups became a gross problem. It seemed that the gangs had spread over the whole region overnight. However, the idea that the end of communism led directly to the rise of the skinhead movement in the east, that is, that people gained the freedom to hate, is not true and is misleading. As with crime, pornography and other social problems, the widespread belief that democracy was the key to opening pandora’s box overlooks the fact that these vices were also present during communism.

Undoubtedly, in the initial confusion associated with the system change, there was a growth of these vices. Since all negative news and information were suppressed in the people’s democracies, their sudden "appearance" in the "reformed" media made the increase seem more dramatic than it actually was. With the apparent collapse and bad reputation of the authoritarian power structures, the police themselves were over their role in the "new world order" insecure and therefore maintained its authority only leniently. Since then, it has regained confidence and most of its authority, both within and outside the democratic system.

This is not to say that the disappearance of skinhead movements in the east is only the result of the reintegration of the police into civil society. This has more to do with what one bitingly calls the "brazen law of the oligarchy" calls. In other words, money became the driving force of any kind of activity or movement. A social, economic or political philosophy no longer has any meaning and has been adapted to the all-pervasive paradigm.

Since the skinhead movements in the east are nationalistic, it should not be surprising that the various communist governments have struggled to contain them and have refused to acknowledge their existence. Nevertheless, some governments used the skinheads to their advantage. Making ethnic minorities, especially the roma, their targets, skinhead groups were tolerated in countries such as romania or the former czechoslovakia and occasionally worked closely with the extreme nationalist groups active there.

With the fall of the berlin wall, skinheads quickly joined forces with the extreme right-wing nationalists. Some politicians made no effort to hide their flirtation or even cooperation with skinhead groups. Similarly, skinheads sought out far-right, often anti-semitic nationalist parties, such as the hungarian truth and life party, to rise in rank.

Since then, however, it has no longer been fashionable to have skinheads in the party. Initially, skinheads were tolerated because they explicitly espoused nationalist ideas. Now that it has calmed the political climate somewhat, extreme nationalism is no longer an effective tool. People are more concerned with economic reality than with vague nationalist rhetoric. Therefore, many right-wing politicians have toned down their rhetoric and publicly distanced themselves from skinheads. They prefer to abide by the norms of parliamentary democracy.

Although there may be thousands who call themselves skinheads, only a few of them can be counted among the real skinheads. The makeup of skinheads in the east mirrors that in the west: short-cropped hair, shiny black boots, a black polo shirt and a bomber jacket. Many, as in the west, come from the ranks of disaffected youth who like a group identity with its own rules and dress codes and seem more interested in the public image of the movement than in fighting the ideology.

In many ways, the skinheads in eastern and central europe are living paradoxes. Even though they claim to represent a political position, most have little or no understanding of the political process. Moreover, even if they have a vague nationalist philosophy, they claim that they are not fascists, but only patriots. Ironically, their symbols, their music, their gulf and their vague knowledge of history, on which their alleged nationalism is based, have caused them to lose the support of real nationalists.

Even within the skinhead movements there seem to be "disagreements" disagreements. During an incident in budapest, skinheads were determined not to beat up gypsies, blacks or arabs, but to beat up on each other. Albert szabo, the well-known leader of the hungarian skinheads, had to frantically call the police when his 30-man group was confronted by other 60 angry skinheads, who were armed with baseball bats, knobs and other skinhead weapons. The altercation apparently broke out because of "ideological differences" from. A group, it was said, should follow a "masonic, anarchist" belong to splinter faction. The battle was prevented by the appearance of 13 police cars, 2 squad cars and a special unit.

Although it is unlikely that the skinheads in the east will become a political force that unleashes the same destructive forces that tore the continent apart 50 years ago, the authorities are unfortunately too lenient with them. Central and eastern europe will continue to change, and there is no guarantee that the shaky peace that now exists will last. Also an economic collapse cannot be excluded, which could lead to a revival of the skinhead movement. Finally, there are many networks between skinhead groups in the east and the west (especially in germany and the usa). These are organizations that not only support each other, but with the help of the internet strengthen the nature and scope of their activities and significance.

The skinheads are weakened, but not finished.

See also john horvath’s report on the goths in eastern europe