ThinkProgress

Neo-Confederates reach out to their ‘Russian friends’ in new project

Racist neo-Confederates are looking for help from their 'Russian friends' yet again. CREDIT: GETTY / SCOTT OLSON

In late 2014, before Russian hackers had stolen emails from Hillary Clinton or accused Russian agents had met with Republican higher-ups, a small conference gathered in Moscow’s Izmailovo Alfa Hotel.

Organized by a group called the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), the one-day conference was, according to a press release, dedicated to the “struggle for independence and creation of new sovereign geopolitical entities on the map of the world.”

The 2014 gathering was the first of what would become an annual affair for AGMR. The group went on to host a series of conferences that would, in time, attract both Kremlin funding and secessionists from states like Texas, California, and Hawaii — and, this week, help spark the newest plea for help from neo-Confederates in the United States.

The 2014 event was small, and generated almost no press coverage, but it did attract the participation of one of the best-known neo-Confederate groups extant: the League of the South. Described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a group dedicated to reforming the Confederacy, the League of the South envisioned a new country in the American South that would be dominated by “white Christians.”

While the group’s president, Michael Hill, was unable to attend the 2014 event in Moscow in person — this was two years before AGMR, with Kremlin backing, could afford to help individuals from the Texas Nationalist Movement and Yes California groups travel to Moscow — he managed to Skype into the conference. Hill’s talk centered on some of his favorite, fascistic points: the “independence of the Southern people,” the “South’s identity as an historic ‘blood and soil’ nation.”

As Hill later wrote, his talk “was very well received (through a translator) by the largely Russian audience.”

The invitation for Hill to speak marks one of the earliest instances of interest in Russia in stoking secessionists — and white supremacist — movements across the U.S. It would set the tone for things like the opening of a “California Embassy” in Moscow or the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page, which advocated Texas secession.

Even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office pointed directly to Russian operations like “Heart of Texas” as evidence of Russia’s social media interference, Russian pro-Confederate and pro-secession material is still floating around on social media sites — including the memorable “Captain Confederate,” first posted by the Russian “South United” page.

But Hill and the League of South never managed to make it to Russia. As California secessionists and Texas separatists flitted back and forth from Moscow, Hill and his group remained in the U.S., taking part in things like last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While it’s unclear how popular the League of the South became over the past two years, Matthew Heimbach, one of the white supremacist faces of the so-called “alt-right,” took a photo with the group’s flag — while simultaneously holding a book written by Alexander Dugin, a Russian neo-fascist whose work has been assigned at Russia’s General Staff Academy.

Matthew Heimbach (left) with the flag of the League of the South.

Now, though, Hill is reaching out once more to his allies in Russia. First reported by Right Wing Watch’s Peter Montgomery, Hill penned a note to his “Russian friends” this week, announcing that the League of the South would soon have a “Russian language section” on the group’s website. Wrote Hill:

We understand that the Russian people and Southerners are natural allies in blood, culture, and religion. As fellow Whites of northern European extraction, we come from the same general gene pool. As inheritors of the European cultural tradition, we share similar values, customs, and ways of life. And as Christians, we worship the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our common faith binds us as brothers and sisters….

[W]e believe that the Russian people and the Southern people are natural allies against the destructive and impersonal impulses of globalism. We ought to encourage closer ties between our two peoples and between those who represent our interests in all phases of life, including government, business, education, the arts, and other areas. Moreover, we should seek peace and goodwill between our peoples as the foundation for all our cooperative efforts.

Hill has not announced a timeline for the “Russian language section” on his group’s website. (He also wrote a similar statement in 2016, noting that both Russians and “Southern people” are “fellow Christians and traditionalists.”) It’s also unclear who, exactly, Hill has in mind regarding his “Russian friends”; AGMR appears to have effectively folded over the past year, with no secessionist conferences planned for the future.

Nonetheless, Hill’s missive highlights the fact that American white supremacists continue to view Russia as some kind of bastion, or some kind of ally, in their quest to either impose their own white supremacist beliefs in the U.S. — or, failing that, in breaking off part of the U.S. entirely.

As white supremacists at “Occidental Dissent” wrote in response to the League of the South’s move, “We were already pro-Russia long before this… Why wouldn’t the League of the South open a Russian language section on its website?”