The Neo-Nazis Who Don’t Want to Be Called Neo-Nazis
6 August, 2019
C14 members march on the anniversary day of the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army on October 14, 2018 in Kyiv, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” – these are the 14 words coined by a noted American racist, David Lane. 88 is a reference to the “Heil Hitler” chant, with number 8 standing for the eighth letter of the alphabet ("h"). Therefore, 14/88 is a symbol for all neo-Nazis around the world. It is referred to as a “hate symbol” in the database of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a leading American organization that monitors and counters hate manifestations. The two numbers are also featured in the British police’s guide to “extreme right-wing symbols, numbers and acronyms.” However, when it comes to taking responsibility for advocating the neo-Nazi ideology, some organizations claim that the numbers “14” and “88” are “just numbers.”

A May 2018 tweet posted by Hromadske International, the English-language service of Hromadske TV, stated that the “neo-nazi group C14 has seized a former militant of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," Brazilian Rafael Lusvarghi.” On August 6, The Commercial Court of Kyiv granted C14’s claim against Hromadske. The court noted that the information circulated by Hromadske back in May 2018 “harms the reputation” of C14 and ordered Hromadske to refute the information and pay 3,500 hryvnia ($136) in court fees to C14. 

Hromadske maintains that it has the right to use such terminology.

READ MORE: Kyiv Court Rules In Favor of Far Right C14 Group in Case Against Hromadske

Journalists and experts who rate C14’s members’ ideology as “neo-Nazi” do not just do it because of the number 14 in their name. The group’s behavior and tangible actions lead to such interpretation. And it’s not just because of the photo of Yevhen Karas, the leader of C14, doing the Nazi salute. Hromadske has systematically reported attacks on the LGBTQ community and Roma camps (1, 2, 3, 4), of which C14 have been part.

Other organizations such as Reuters and the Washington Post, along with government bodies, such as the British Parliament, have referred to C14 in a similar manner. Human rights organizations, such as the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, have also referred to C14 as "neo-Nazi".

There’s a long list of arguments that researchers studying neo-Nazism ideology can give to groups such as C14. But why is C14 so against the use of this adjective? Perhaps, it’s because the word “Nazism” has a negative connotation in Ukraine (even with the added prefix “neo”), Nazi symbols are prohibited by the law – and C14 is trying to gain ground in Ukrainian society by running for community councils, Municipal Guard (civilian formations set up by local authorities to maintain law and order), and organizing educational events?

Back in time, American human rights activists managed to make the words “white supremacist” and “racist” unacceptable in the society. Gradually, a term “alt right” appeared for describing organizations that promote such an ideology. In essence, the term is just a euphemism for the same ideas.

Perhaps, C14 is also trying to soften its image. However, this does not change things. Hromadske has full right to use it as a synonym. And it will stand by this right in court.


Expert on right-wing movements, Vyacheslav Likhachev, explained to Hromadske: 

“In general, the allusion to the 14-word slogan in the organization’s name, as well as the systematic use of other signs – the Celtic cross, Tiwaz runes – and the fact of the “Roman salute” performance give full justification for claiming that C14 systematically uses neo-Nazi symbolism and is neo-Nazi."

The leader of the C14 organization Yevhen Karas (C) performs a "Roman salute".  Photo: social media

The Latin letter "C" (stands for "combat") – in conjunction with numerical neo-Nazi symbols – is also found in other neo-Nazi organizations, the most famous of which is the  C18 neo-Nazi terrorist organization ("18" in this case is "Adolf Hitler", under the ordinal number "A" and "H" in the Latin alphabet).

On the social media page of the Young Football Cup project (a championship among students, organized by C14), a caption containing David Lane’s slogan (in English) accompanied a picture advertising the championship. The image also read “for white children only” in Ukrainian. Yevhen Karas did not deny that the project “Young Football Cup” was implemented by C14 and that the aforementioned social media post existed. The Cup's banners depicted the Celtic cross. The social media posts that contained neo-Nazi symbols (which also included numbers "14" and "88") were written by one of the C14 leaders, Andriy Medvedko.

Images from a social media page of the Young Football Cup project (a championship among students, organized by C14).

Old photographs of the Cup's participants with a flag bearing another Nazi symbol  the Celtic cross  can be found online. And, although the flag has not been seen recently at C14 events, there is no other context for interpreting this symbol.

Additionally, on some C14's banners, you can see the so-called rune "Tiwaz" (an upward arrow, considered one of the neo-Nazi symbols) to indicate the letter "i" in the word "Sich" (another name for C14).

A banner depicting a Celtic cross (a Nazi symbol) held by C14 group members. Photo:

READ MORE: A Fine Line: Defining Nationalism and Neo-Nazism in Ukraine