ST. PETERSBURG -- A St. Petersburg middle-school group with a neo-Nazi name has won a competition on tolerance, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
Organizers of the "Week of Tolerance" at secondary school No. 420 say they did not pay attention to the name of the group of eighth graders -- "14/88" -- when they selected the winner.
But it turns out that 14/88 is the sign used by neo-Nazi groups to identify themselves and can be found in their graffiti and often on their clothing.
Fourteen represents 14 words written by David Lane, an American white supremacist leader and convicted felon who said: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
The number 88 represents David Lane's 88 precepts, or sometimes the eighth letter in the alphabet (H), to represent the Nazi slogan "Heil Hitler."
St. Petersburg-based human rights activist Dmitry Dubrovsky told RFE/RL that the problem is in the perception of the idea of tolerance in Russia.
"Our society believes that tolerance is just about cultures: food, cuisine, and holidays. But in fact the major fault of the tolerance system [in Russia] has been expressed very explicitly with 14/88," he said.
Dubrovsky added that it is important to be cautious in finding out if the children really are followers of the neo-Nazi ideology or just wanted to make a joke. He said any sort of punishment could turn the children into heroes or martyrs.
Read more in Russian here