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From ethnic cleansing to beauty pageants; finding Russia’s Eva Braun.

It would appear that Nazism in Europe is not yet dead. On VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, a far-right fascist group known as @hitler_public has undertaken the ambitious task of organizing a “Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant.”

The contest is formally known as “Miss Ostland”, its name a reference to the Nazi civilian government implemented in the Baltic states from 1941-1945. Contestants are limited to young and beautiful anti-semitic women with a passion for all things Hitler. The rules of the competition are relatively simple; ‘be an attractive Nazi female and get other Nazis to like your picture; be civil to one another.’ Whoever amasses the most likes by the end of the contest is declared the winner with the top 3 contestants receiving illustrious prizes; an occult charm band, an iron cross pendant or a calendar from the History Channel television program ‘Vikings.’

Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture: otherwise it is of no interest to me. Whether ten thousand Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished.

Heinrich Himmler, October 6th, 1943

Ironically enough, the Nazis deemed Slavs (ie: Russians) a lesser ‘race’ and killed them by the millions in concentration camps during the war. A Russian “Miss Hitler” would be a total contradiction in the eyes of any self-respecting reich-member.

Image Courtesy of Flickr user Global Panorama

Image Courtesy of Flickr user Global Panorama

One of the greatest benefits of social media has been its ability to link us to communities that we otherwise would have never known existed. From the recovering addict finding an online support group to the lonely young boy falling in love with a forum full of poets, the internet and social networks have made possible to find millions of tiny, digital nations with a few clicks and keystrokes.

The emergence of this pageant exposes us to the ugly duality of social media. While sites like facebook, VKontakte and twitter open the door for us to build new communities, there is no guarantee that those communities are necessarily “good.” And while we might like to believe that the connections formed over our social networks are mostly harmless, we must also accept the fact that sometimes people gather around vile and hateful causes.

The pageant also raises certain questions regarding how the Russian government chooses to regulate social media. Vocativ notes that the Russian media whistleblower Roskomnadzor has yet to crack down on @hitler_public or any of the numerous Neo-Nazi groups on VKontakte. Roskomnadzor’s apparent apathy towards these groups is suspicious considering that, in February, it was given the ability to “block any website it deemed “extremist” without a court ruling.” This suspicion becomes even more troubling given that the same watchdog group “shut down 13 Ukrainian groups on VKontakte” just a month after being granted this power.

Roskomnadzor’s blacklist started with a law 2012, under the guise of “protecting the children.” The blacklist intended to block “websites featuring sexual abuse of children, offering details about how to commit suicide, encouraging users to take drugs and sites that solicit children for pornography.” At the time of its inception, human rights groups expressed concerns over the vague language of the law and its potential to limit Russian freedom of speech on the internet. Roskomnadzor’s actions (or lack thereof) have not yet manifested in excessive censorship and right now it is still unknown if the group will prove itself a barrier to free speech. However, if we (not just the Russians, WE) are not proactive in fighting for our rights, then we will only know we have lost them after we lose them; we cannot afford to wait.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr User Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

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