Nikolai Mikhailovich Girenko (Cyrillic: Николай Михайлович Гиренко) (1940-2004) was an ethnologist and human rights activist.
Nikolai Girenko was born in 1940 in Leningrad. On graduating the Leningrad State University he worked for several years in Africa. Girenko received recognition in Russia for his ethnology and African studies. Girenko taught in the university and worked for Kunstkamera.
Saint Petersburg's citizens elected Girenko to the first democratic Lensovet in 1990-1993. Girenko participated in the ethnic minorities rights group of this legislative body and chaired a similar committee of Saint Petersburg Union of Scientists. He provided more than 20 expert examinations at requests of Moscow's and St.Petersburg's law enforcement bodies.
Girenko managed scientific and education programs meant to foster tolerance and counter-act chauvinism. Girenko and others organized the European Conference for the Rights of Ethnic Minorities, the first of its kind in Russia, in 1991.
Nikolai Girenko took part in the trial of an ultra-nationalist newspaper "Russian Veche" in 2004 as an expert witness. Girenko provided expert examinations of publications of the Shultz-88 group in another trial. He consulted the investigators of the 2002 murder of a 53-year-old salesman Mamed Mamedov.
Girenko organized workshops on legal counter-acting the nationalistic extremism in the city of St. Petersburg. He also expressed concern about the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states. He participated in international human rights defenders' congresses.
Members of the nationalist cells voiced irritation in their press with Girenko's work.
An anonymous attacker killed Girenko by a rifle shot through the entrance door of his St.Petersburg apartment 19 June 2004, shortly after Girenko testified about Russian National Unity in the court.
Lev Borkin, Girenko's colleague, said that Girenko mentioned receiving threats. One night in November 2003, unknown individuals broke the entrance to the office of Union of Scientists and left a note, "We will be whacking you, science freaks!".
Vladimir Popov, leader of the radical group Russian Republic, claimed responsibility for the killing in an interview to the Agency of Journalistic Investigations on June 24 2004. Popov said that a "death sentence" was given to Girenko by the group.
As of June 2005, the official investigation did not find suspects, according to the newspaper Tainy Sovetnik. Yelena Ordynskaya, senior assistant to the city Prosecutor, said the investigation found that Russian Republic published its "death sentence" to Girenko few days after the murder.
On 14 December 2005 St. Petersburg's city court convicted of inciting ethnic hatred 6 Mad Crowd members, including one of its leaders, Alexei Voevodin.
In May 2006 the city's Prosecutor Sergei Zaitsev announced that militia had arrested 8 and wanted 5 more members of the group, all by the article 209 of the Russian Criminal Code, "organizing a gang". A militiaman had killed one of the gang's leaders, Dmitry Borovikov. According to the militia, Borovikov resisted during the arrest causing the militiaman to shoot. Borovikov's girlfriend said the militiaman shot Borovikov in the back of the head without a warning. In December 2006 the third leader of Mad Crowd, former member of Shultz-88 Ruslan Melnik was convicted of inciting ethnic hatred under article 282 to 3.5 years in a penal colony.
In the beginning of 2000s extreme nationalists committed at least 26 hate murders in Russia, according to Moscow Bureau for Human Rights. Since year 2003, St. Petersburg's militia investigated ethnic hate murders of the following individuals.
A court reporter Leonid Nikitinsky wrote that militia pressured and tortured teenage petty criminals from poor families, forcing them to confess in the hate murders. According to Nikitinsky, it was vice-president of the Agency of Journalistic Investigations Yevgheny Vyshenkov who revealed suspected perpetrators among the Mad Crowd members in January-February 2006 and published his findings in Tainy Sovetnik in May 2006. Nikitinsky wrote that by the time Vyshenkov discovered Mad Crowd suspects, jury trials found a group of 7 youth guilty of murdering Sangboeva, despite the evidence that militia had tortured them. Two other jury trials acquitted groups of 8 and 14 youth of charges with the murders of Sultonova and Tuan, respectively. Nikitinsky wrote that the Mad Crowd members found by Vyshenkov had confessed in ethnic hate murders, including the killing of Sangboeva, but the prosecution downplayed the role of the gang.
The investigation of the role of Mad Crowd in the hate murders continued as of December 2006. Prosecution intended to keep the earlier conviction of the 7 youth and to appeal the acquittals of the other two groups.
The portal "Human Rights in Russia" organized a social campaign called "I don't want to hate". The authors of the campaign hope to overcome racism, ethnic discrimination and xenophobia. In Russia alone, more than 70 non-government organizations and 47 mass media editor offices are taking part in the campaign.