Miss Hitler Contestants, via the original Adolf Hitler VK.com page
The story of the fascist beauty contest begins on Thursday, when an eagle-eyed investigator for Vocativ dug up the news that there was a "Miss Hitler" pageant going on VKontakte, a Russian social media network.
They officially dubbed their hateful contest "Miss Ostland" after Reichskommissariat Ostland, the Baltic region occupied by the Nazis during World War II, a name that gave the pageant a link geography, à la Miss America. "Miss Hitler" had more of a ring to it, though, so that's what the press called it.
Not that this was going to be an actual pageant, with bouquets of swastikas and contestants explaining to judges how much they admired Eva Braun. It was a social media goof, a post on VKontakte's Adolf Hitler fan page requesting entries. The eligibility requirements consisted of six items amounting to, basically "Be a female Nazi with a sexy photo." Prospective Miss Ostlands were advised to "get other Nazis to like your pic," and warned not to "insult other women’s pictures," because apparently the only thing Russian neo-Nazis hate more than minorities is internet drama.
Two days after the Vocativ story, the entire Adolf Hitler page was taken down by VKontakte, and replaced with a takedown message.
But around the same time as the takedown of the entire Adolf Hitler page on Vkontakte, the news began to circulate, beginning with a post on the Daily Mail titled "Miss Hitler 2014: The shocking beauty pageant for anti-Semitic women in Russia where entrants must include the reasons why they revere the Third Reich." And when there's a Daily Mail post, internet hysteria is never far behind.
So the Vocativ piece did its job: It attracted unwanted attention to Vkontakte, and got the page shut down. But the story is just getting started. Vocativ published an update announcing the cancelation, but as I type this, people are still tweeting about how shocking this contest is and the UK's Mirror was upset about the "shocking beauty contest."
There seem to be only 14 women who entered this contest, which doesn't seem to be affiliated with any major Russian fascist organizations. There's no doubt that right-wing extremism has been on the rise in Russia, however.
According to the most recent release from the SOVA center, a think tank, 2014 has seen 14 deaths due to racist violence so far, and 77 injuries. Earlier this year, skinheads carried out a brazen assault on a group of students from Zambia without a clear reason. But to make matters worse, the crime was carried out in St. Petersburg's city center, not some dark alley in a provincial town.
Some Russians have no problem expressing their racism in public, as soccer player Yaya Touré found out when Moscow fans shouted racial abuse at him from the stands last year during a Champions League game. On his return to the city this month, the match will be played behind closed doors so the locals don't get the chance to repeat their performance. (Touré has said publicly that African players shouldn't come to the 2018 World Cup, which Russia will host.) The Adolf Hitler fan page proved easy to shut down, but real-life fascism will prove much more difficult to deal with.
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