When the Nizhny Novgorod court, more than 400 kilometers east of Moscow, called a radical macho movement “extreme” and outlawed it on October 18, its famous leader, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, was not in favor of the story.

“Where is Pozdnyakov right now?” Judge Anna Belova asked the activist’s lawyer before the court, the newscast reported Jellyfish.

“I can’t tell you, honor,” lawyer Dzambolat Garabayev replied.

“The reason?” Belova asked.

“I don’t know where I am,” came the reply.

What is publicly known is that 30-year-old fitness coach Pozdnyakov fled Russia in late 2018 on charges of “inciting hatred against women” after receiving a suspension sentence.

It was the first sign of trouble for the man-state, the movement he created and led, and was eventually banned by authorities this week after acting with relative impunity.

Rather than a headquartered and volunteer-based physical organization, Male State is essentially a loose network of social media profiles, mostly on the Russian equivalent of VK and the Telegram messaging app.

Proponents of the ideology that the adherents describe as “national patriarchy” function as a virtual forum. It is this worldview that aims to restore the plight of men who have marginalized women who are supposedly removed from their positions as socially excluded men.

For the first time the movement was noticed, it began campaigning against the introduction of a law on domestic violence in Russia, a persistent plague in the conservative country. Feminist activists working to lobby through the legislature have reportedly received death threats from the group, and have also participated in rallies against legal initiatives.

In a riot in February, a feminist activist who asked to take part in protests in favor of women political prisoners and identify herself as Ksenia told RFE / RL that Pozdnyakov had posted her personal information on social media (doxing) and warned her of more rallies.

“His followers started sending me all kinds of insults, some even said it would be good to kill him,” Kenya told RFE / RL. His fellow activists also reported that Male State felt doxed and received death threats online.

After one of the rallies on February 14, Pozdnyakov wrote in his Telegram that “feminists and LGBT activists are bio-garbage” and “psychological patients who have no place among normal people.”

The Men’s State gained notoriety for directing women in contact with black men and mothers of mixed-race children and for online messages claiming to expose women who were allegedly featured in pornographic videos. In some cases, activists blackmailed the victims into paying money in exchange for a promise that their husbands would not report their actions.

But the male state eventually came to the attention of the authorities when, earlier this year, it launched attacks on Russian companies that published progressive advertisements. In August, the Vkusvill health food chain removed an ad featuring an LGBT couple, after male state activists threatened them on social media, accusing them of crossing the red line in their defense of gay marriage.

The lesbian couple then fled Russia, citing fears about their safety in Russia due to homophobic attacks.

At the time, Vkusville received a lot of criticism for its decision to deal with the pressure of online trolls, and some customers reported that they would boycott stores across Russia. But another company that was the target of Male State decided to fight and it was this attitude, the company says, that led to Male State eventually being outlawed.

Vyatsky KvasA manufacturer of carbonated beverages based in Kirov, Male State was attacked after a Instagram ad featuring a black model with a bottle of its product appeared.

Instead of withdrawing the ad, it doubled: it continued to publish similar images and in September launched a special project entitled Racism in Online Format, which presented a photo shoot with residents of several countries who moved to Kirov. a city of half a million inhabitants 1,000 kilometers east of Moscow.

On September 23, Pozdnyakov denounced the project on his Telegram channel. “Do not drink Vyatsky Kvas. Ochakovsky and Russky Dar are better,” he wrote, citing other brands of traditional Russian fermented drink. “Drink like real Russian men.”

In the comments section, his supporters began publishing personal data of the company’s management, according to later published screens Live Journal, and threatening revenge.

‘The strength of our traditions’

On October 5, the company responded strongly to the attacks Instagram in that post he called on the authorities to designate the male state as an “extreme” organization. “We believe that the best characteristic of Russians is the ability to welcome any man, regardless of gender, age and skin color,” he wrote. “That is, in fact, the strength of our traditions.”

On the same day, prosecutors in Nizhny Novgorod appealed to the regional court, demanding that the group be outlawed. Telegram and YouTube began blocking several accounts linked to Male State, sending a clear signal to its activists.

The October 18 resolution came as a victory for feminist and LGBT activists who long ago campaigned to ban Male State. As soon as he was informed, it was Vyatsky Kvas who took charge and proclaimed his “victory” over patriarchy.

In an emotional Instagram in the post, not only prosecutor Nizhny Novgorod thanked “anyone who was personally affected by the dirt campaigns and harassment.”

“Thanks to you, with the help of your support, we found in ourselves the power to ask the authorities to solve the problem of the male state,” the company wrote.

Svetlana Sidorkina,

Svetlana Sidorkina, a lawyer for the Agora rights group, told the Russian Service of the RFE / RL that the legal campaign against the Male State should be carried out much earlier. “You can put a lot of cases based on the information that is posted on the channels,” he said.

Looking back on the group’s three-year-old racist and homophobic attack, he complained that Male State had managed to get away with it so much that it had touched the conservative zeitgeist in contemporary Russia.

“In our minds it is still dominated by the dominance of men over women,” she said. “And all of that is treated like a normal situation.”

Reporting by Karina Merkuryeva of the Russian Service of the RFE / RL