Right-wing and ultranationalist organizers had vowed to go ahead with their rally despite a ban by authorities.
The protesters were seeking to proclaim what they see as the superiority of the Russian people and to protest the encroachment of other ethnic groups.
In St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, police broke up a fight between several hundred far-right activists and antifascists.
Dozens of ultranationalists were reportedly detained.
Russia has seen an increase in hate crime, including killings and violent attacks, against foreigners, Jews, and immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Opponents of xenophobia and nationalism had vowed to hold a counterrally to combat the "disease of fascism" that they accused the ultraright of spreading.
(RFE/RL Russian Service, AP, Reuters)
COMBATTING THE HATRED: RFE/RL's Russian Service on August 21 spoke with Kamilzhan Kalandarov, a member of the Public Chamber and a leader of the NGO Our Russia. (Read the complete interview in Russian). Kalandarov spoke about efforts the authorities are making to combat the wave of hate crimes sweeping Russia.
Kalandarov: Xenophobia today threatens the national interests of Russia. But I agree that the authorities are making good progress in this matter. First, the order on withdrawing Russian forces from Chechnya was recently signed. That is a big plus because the source of extremism, the sources of Caucasus-phobia are partly in Chechnya. Islamophobia grew dramatically after the first Chechen war. Next, the Public Chamber was created. We have a subcommission on nationalities issues and a subcommission that drafts projects related to xenophobia. This work is ongoing, which is why I think the authorities are really interested in making sure this problem does not go any further.
We should also mention the courts. I think that in many cases judges themselves hold [xenophobic] views. Second, we have not created normal conditions for protecting witnesses. People are not physically protected from various types of influence. Judges are afraid and witnesses are afraid. Because they have to keep living in that city. This defenselessness leads to cases not being pursued and to not-guilty verdicts being issued.
ARCHIVE To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Russia, click here.
SUBSCRIBE For a regular review of civil-society developments throughout RFE/RL's broadcast region, subscribe to "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies."
RFE/RL IN RUSSIAN: Visit RFE/RL's Russian-language website, featuring news, analysis, features, streaming audio, and more in Russian, courtesy of RFE/RL's Russian Service.