The concept of hooliganism in Putin’s Russia: a conveniant charge to control inconveniant people?
Freedom of expression is a human right demanding state actors to exercise a delicate balance. The paper examines the Russian charge of hooliganism as a possible constraint to freedom of expression. The aim has been to find out whether the charge is in accordance with legal standards protecting the right of freedom of expression which Russia is applicable to. If arbitrarily applied, it may also run contrary to the Russian Constitution. Modern day hooliganism cases are set against the background of and compared to relevant international law and the Soviet history and context, as well as against the civil and political development in Russia in recent years. The paper examines how the charge has been applied in recent high profile hooliganism cases. It demonstrates how the hooliganism charge has re-emerged as a tool to silence political dissent after the re-election of president Putin in 2012. Had Russia made a more efficient transition from totalitarianism, the charge would most probably have been more difficult to re-introduce. Extensive media attention is almost a prerequisite for the authorities to use the charge, indicating that humiliation and fear of political opposition, even the slightest, felt by the political establishment, is likely to precede a hooliganism charge.