Illustration: Moa Thelander

Illustration: Moa Thelander

Peer-reviewed articles Expert conclusions on verbal extremism A Dispute over Methods

The practice of mandatory recourse to linguistic experts’ opinions in cases pertaining to racial, ethnic, and other types of hatred and hostility, has caused the vast development of different approaches to the analysis of the texts. During last ten years, numerous methods for identifying “verbal extremism” have been recommended. It has been suggested that the evolution of Russian legal linguistics has not yet resulted in a “common theoretical basis for linguistic investigation in court that is shared by all experts”. The current status of the proposed approach to studying texts in order to identify “hostility and hate” demonstrates both the difficulty of establishing a general theoretical basis for forensic linguistics as a whole and the contradictions that arise in applying the numerous methodologies that exist in Russian science for studying “extremist” texts.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 3:2016, pp 10-19
Published on on October 25, 2016

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The practice of mandatory recourse to linguistic experts’ opinions in cases pertaining to racial, ethnic, and other types of hatred and hostility, has caused the vast development of different approaches to the analysis of the texts. During last ten years, numerous methods for identifying “verbal extremism” have been recommended. It has been suggested that the evolution of Russian legal linguistics has not yet resulted in a “common theoretical basis for linguistic investigation in court that is shared by all experts”. The current status of the proposed approach to studying texts in order to identify “hostility and hate” demonstrates both the difficulty of establishing a general theoretical basis for forensic linguistics as a whole and the contradictions that arise in applying the numerous methodologies that exist in Russian science for studying “extremist” texts.

Keywords: Freedom of speech, counter-extremism, “verbal extremism”, linguistic expert’s opinion


The evolution of legal linguistics in the Western European tradition was determined primarily by its multidisciplinary, crosscultural nature.1 The evolution of such investigations in other countries is also distinguished by their critical nature, which is associated with the idea that the relationship between language and the law is interpretive and that a critical reading and reinterpretation of the language of the law is necessary as a mode of its existence.2 In this sense, it is curious that authors of surveys see the general state of legal linguistics in Russia in diametrically opposed ways.

As Liliana Goteliani3 notes in her review, the evolution of Russian legal linguistics has not yet resulted in a “common theoretical basis for linguistic investigation in court that is shared by all experts”. In the author’s opinion, this problem cannot be solved quickly. It will take decades, but the results of this effort would increase “trust in investigation, both in court and in public opinion”.4 Indeed, many Russian researchers agree with this statement of the problem. In his monograph Vvedenie v sudebnuiu lingvistiku [Introduction to forensic linguistics], Professor Aleksandrov points to the need “to come to grips with the nature of criminal process, the law, and evidence in their linguistic aspects”.5

Not all authors are so skeptical, however. For example, in 2006, E. I. Galiashina, assessing the status of forensic linguistic investigation in extremism cases, noted that Russia has “elaborate and tested practices for linguistic analysis of extremist statements and written texts in the media”.6

This clearly reveals diametrically opposed notions of the status of the methodology applied in studies aiming to evaluate the extent of “extremism” in a particular text. It seems that the current status of the proposed approach to studying texts in order to identify “hostility and hate” demonstrates both the difficulty of establishing a general theoretical basis for forensic linguistics as a whole and the contradictions that arise in applying the numerous methodologies that exist in Russian science for studying “extremist” texts.

Methodologies for the study of “extremism” in a text

There are so many apparent contradictions that it seems fairly challenging to attempt a full description.7 Nevertheless, there are a number of significant issues in methodology that continually arise both in judicial debates and in scientific an d applied scientific publications devoted to studying media for signs of “extremism.”

If speakers of a language can identify a certain appeal in a text expressed in a way that adequately understand, why do they need the help of an expert? The main argument seems to be that the text contains “hidden appeals” or other methods of “linguistic manipulation”.8 The reason why linguists are required in this instance is clear: if the language is understood by all parties in the process, then the only way to prove the need for a linguistics expert is the hypothetical presence of an “hidden” element that only language specialists can reveal.

In deliberations over whether forensic investigation is essential in hate speech cases, the main problem seems to be the limits of the linguistics expert’s competence and the scope of the investigation necessary to identify what is called “verbal extremism”:

When they assert that a linguistics expert examining a particular disputed text is not entitled to make it his objective to determine what the speaker wanted to say, but can only answer the question what he said, they are proceeding from the assumption of a fatal mismatch between the speaker’s intentions and the perlocutionary effects. In reality, this is not the case, and a linguist can count on success in investigating the speaker’s intentions, his speech tactics and strategies, and his communication hits and misses.9

The most debatable question is therefore what exactly a linguistic investigation determines: what was “said,” what is “concealed” behind the spoken words, or what is the potential meaning of what was said in a certain context. Different authors answer this question differently.

For one of the most respected specialists on this issue, L. Galiashina,

It is hardly possible to determine the presence or absence of a verbal breach of the law and its content or to properly classify a deed without a linguistic investigation of the text.10

In another of her works, she states this more categorically:

The elucidation and interpretation of the meaning of an oral statement and a written text require special linguistic knowledge, not only in cases when manipulative techniques for influencing an audience or for camouflaging xenophobic statements by means of subtle verbal acrobatics are used, but also for a reflective audience to identify propaganda and agitation, appeals to take particular actions, threats and incitements, and justifications or rationales for engaging in extremist activities.11

Consequently, it is hardly possible to determine the presence or absence of a verbal breach of the law and its content or to properly classify a deed without a linguistic investigation of the text.12

It is worth noting the reference to techniques of “speech manipulation” and “camouflage,” the detection of which, according to the author, is one of the fundamental objectives of linguistic expert investigation.

Galiashina follows M. Osadchii in this respect,

Extremist literature makes use of the hidden appeal, which is distinguished by the obvious lack of the main external sign of an appeal — the imperative form of a verb. A hidden appeal is information that incites actions and forms a desire to act or a feeling of the need to act in the target audience. A hidden appeal not infrequently provides a full-fledged program of actions that are being incited; i.e. the author programs the audience’s behavior, not infrequently using methods of speech manipulation of consciousness, acting on the reader’s or listener’s psyche or subconscious.13

As an example of this “indirect appeal” the author presents material deemed extremist, “Samaya konstruktivnaia partiia” [The most constructive party].14 Analyzing this text, which the author of this article does not consider extremist despite its radicalism, Araeva and Osadchii conclude that it contains “hidden appeals” that incite the reader “to certain actions the latter becomes absorbed in the text and imperceptibly takes the author’s side”.15

The methodology for the study of “hidden appeals” is most clearly associated with the works of A. A. Leontiev, who suggested applying a number of psycholinguistic methodologies, including a reference to “semantic integration methodology” (per V. I. Batov)16 to diagnose xenophobia.

In 2007, Professor Anatolii Baranov published a monograph devoted to forensic linguistic investigation.17 The author proposed a general text analysis system which he considers appropriate both for identifying signs of extremism and in defamation cases. The gist of Baranov’s method is to identify and analyze “verbal manipulation” tools in a text in which appeals play a fundamental role. Judgmentally motivated appeals perform a special function in the typology of appeals proposed by the author. According to Baranov, this kind of appeal can be constructed by:

○ judging groups of people negatively or positively on the basis of their affiliation with a certain ethnic, national, or religious group;

○ comparing one group with another;

○ predicting certain actions with respect to a group labeled positively or negatively;

○ offering additional motivations for given actions.18

In the late 2000s, Professor Mikhail Gorbanevskii, a disciple of Anatolii Baranov, and his school set up a Guild of Forensic Linguistics Experts (GFLE), which is often called on by law enforcement agencies to perform investigations in hate speech cases. Their original approach comprises a refusal to develop special text analysis methods at the request of law enforcement agencies. The Guild adopted the position that adequate text analysis requires no special knowledge or methodology; it needs no more than a linguist with professional qualifications adequate to recognizing “extremism in a text”. This approach was concisely described in recommendations for experts and judges encountering “extremist” cases. The author suggests using lexical and semantic analysis to establish whether a text contains words and sentences that are associated with meanings in Russian of any extremist activity or variations thereof and semantic-stylistic and linguistic-stylistic analysis to identify value judgments, detect extremist lexical items, and identify the modality of the text and judgments (positive or negative).19 This methodology is essentially an incorporation into linguistic methodology of the rather vague definitions of extremism given in Federal Law N 144. In our view, this cannot help but lead to a high degree of uncertainty in the interpretation of materials by Guild members.

The Siberian researcher K. I. Brinev proposes a system for analyzing extremist appeals in which he suggests identifying undefined appeals that do not contain instructions to achieve specific goals. Generally replicating Baranov’s typology, the author proposes essentially classifying only the speaker’s “speech behavior,” which distinguishes his approach significantly from similar approaches by other authors.20

One of the recent methodologies published and proposed as applicable to materials with a presumed “extremist bent” is the work of Sergei Kuznetsov and Sergei Olennikov.21 The author sees this methodology’s novelty in the fact that it highlights and accounts for the main feature of extremist cases: the propagandistic or agitational orientation of the unlawful actions.

A number of terms are proposed in this methodology. They include “conflictogenic text” to designate a text that will not be accused of extremism). The authors are nevertheless convinced that the methodology is aimed at understanding the specific features of the regulatory requirements of the law which, in abstract legal form, prohibit statements with certain conceptual and rhetorical attributes that influence an audience.22

Other authors answer this question in similar fashion, such as the authors of the methodology developed by the Russian Federal Forensic Investigation Center. Regarding the main objective of an investigation, they suggest that the expert linguist must be a “master of methods for the semantic description of the meanings of linguistic units and techniques for the explication of implicitly expressed meanings”.23

In similar fashion, in one of the recent works that consolidate experience in performing investigations with their methodological foundations, Podkatilina also points out that, “when studying a text for attributes of extremism, one must work with words a necessary aspect during an investigation is applying the knowledge of philology”.24

Since appeals are the primary linguistic form with which all kinds of “extremist texts” are most often associated, many works pertaining to expert activities are devoted to appeals. Baranov’s work is a classic. He says that “to count all the opportunities to transmit the propositional semantics of appeals associated with the incitement of racial, ethnic, and religious discord does not seem possible.” 25

Thus most authors of guidelines agree that “only linguists possess scientifically valid techniques for ascertaining a text’s true meanings and the intentions of the parties to the conflict, and for detecting the ‘undercurrents’ and manipulative techniques used by the parties”.26

In other words, linguists present the case that knowledge of the unique features of how language functions gives them a capacity for an exclusive understanding of a text, which representatives of other humanities and social science disciplines lack. Moreover, this kind of expert knowledge is objective in nature, meeting the requirements for forensic investigations. In particular, Podkatilina insists,

“the apparent simplicity of the evaluation of presumably extremist texts and of making decisions without using the results of the application of special knowledge leads at times to the adoption of unjustified court rulings.27

However, it seems that the use of special knowledge does not insure against such rulings at all.

One cannot say, however, that the authors of these methodologies do not see the complexities and contradictions in the use of linguistic knowledge in forensic investigation in hate speech cases. Many authors agree on the assessment of the basic errors and problems associated with scheduling and conducting an investigation. These problems include incorrect selection of experts, inaccurately posed questions, incorrect delegation of duties among the experts, the problem of an expert who is out of his depth, and finally the absence or weakness of scientific tools and their substitution by “general speculation and subjective judgments”.28 Other authors add the problems of expert independence, criticism of authority, defining extremism, and the extensive use of the term “social groups”.29 Nevertheless, this seems to be primarily a matter not of procedural or technical errors, but of a global contradiction between the interpretive nature of the humanities and the requirement of “objectivity” and “credibility” in a linguistic investigation.

In fact, some Russian linguists, such as M. Krongauz, are skeptical about the opportunities and prospects for linguists to participate in antiextremist proceedings. Citing the 2009 scandal involving a warning to the newspaper Vedomosti, he wrote:

Linguistic investigation involving cases of an accusation of extremism has largely discredited itself. … It is quite obvious that if a statement incites and appeals, then it appeals to and incites the masses. That is, the masses are capable of figuring this out without a linguist’s help.30

Continuing the skeptical line of thought begun by Krongauz, A. A. Smirnov noted in his voluminous article Zametki o lingvisticheskoi ekspertize31 [Notes on linguistic expert investigation] that “the ambiguity and inconsistency of legislation results in a situation in which the court does not have enough common sense32 or general knowledge to classify a deed as extremist ….” As a result, the author notes the clear “absurdity of expertocracy” in which only a specialist can determine whether a suspect committed a crime. Podkatilina objects, “An expert linguist cannot diagnose the unlawful nature of speech activity, inasmuch as this is within the exclusive purview of the legal practitioner.”33 This raises the question: What exactly does an expert determine?

A separate trend in the study and analysis of hate speech is exemplified by Nikolai Girenko’s school of sociohumanistic expert investigation. Unfortunately, his tragic death in 2004 brought an end to the development of this approach.34 In a small pamphlet, Girenko suggested that it was not so much the formal aspect, the level of expression of a given text (i.e., what linguistics is about) that should be analyzed so much as the level of its content, i.e., the belief model, the identification of which is the essence of analysis: “Basically it is the semantic tenor [of a text] that will be primarily involved this model of propaganda.”35 It was proposed that the semantic tenor of texts is fundamental in determining the social danger of these kinds of actions. This school was greeted with hostility by all the linguist authors listed above and by psychologists, who pointed out that the methodological framework of socio-humanities research is not sufficiently specific or conceptually refined.36

Authors whose methodologies ignore intertextual reality, primarily the possibility of irony, artistic provocation, religious diversity, or simply criticism, constitute a separate group of methodologies. A good example is Igor Ponkin, who, in his textbook on extremism, cites the term “sandfucker” from the animated series South Park or sacred texts of Krishna as examples of extremist text.37 Ponkin essentially follows the logic which interprets any reference to the “negative” or the use of “negative lexical units” toward a particular group as a sign of extremism. Essentially following this same investigatory logic, the authors of another text assert that accusing the United Russia party of fascism is a genuine sign of extremism.38

To sum up, therefore, the methods in question have numerous problems, the main one apparently being linguists’ inability to interpret the textual pragmatics that most often become the object of examination in courts, i.e., political and literary texts.39

Texts with special pragmatics in forensic linguistic investigation

One of the first guidelines on the linguist’s expert work in extremism cases contained an example of this kind of investigation, namely the interview of Malika Yandarbieva,40 in which the author concludes that this text unquestionably qualifies as extremist based on an analysis using her proposed methodology. One can only concur with A. A. Smirnov’s opinion that, “from the standpoint of linguistic pragmatics, this conclusion is untenable”.41 Let us add that it is likewise untenable from the common sense viewpoint: the authors of the investigation suggested that the statements of the separatist Yandarbiev’s widow be considered extremist solely because, in imparting her view of the world, she contrasted “we” (which included herself, Maskhadov, and Basaev as representatives of the Chechen people) and “they,” a “generalized image of Russia that is seen negatively”. Given the political context of the contrast between Chechen separatists and federal authorities, it would be extremely strange to expect a different view of the world from the widow of a separatist leader murdered by Russian special agents.

Therefore, in its very first use, the Guild’s methodology demonstrated its insensitivity to the pragmatic objectives of a text, essentially to any text — political, religious and even literary. Notoriously famous is the attempt to ban quotation from William Shakespear’s Hamlet monologue because of its direct appeal to violence.42 This led to what appears to be repeated abuse of the methodology for analysis of texts on different subjects, primarily political. The example of the text “Samaia konstruktivnaia partiia” [The most constructive party”] has already been cited; it seems that none of the methodologies discussed above specifies exceptions, i.e. takes into account the pragmatics of the text, considering it proven by default that they are “true,” i.e. that they coincide with the intention, as A. A. Smirnov rightly points out. Indeed, any text, from religious to literary, from a political leaflet to a political parody, not only becomes a subject of examination, but is also judged as “extremism”. Examples of the use of psychological methodologies for identifying “intentions in the text” in question are highlighted separately for this reason. Limonov’s text, “Programma nenasilstvennogo grazhdanskogo soprotivlenia v politseiskom gosudarstve” [Program for nonviolent civil resistance in a police state”] is declared extremist on the basis, for example, of “destructive” demands“not to fill out tax returns”.43 Aside from the simple doubt that psychology has anything whatsoever to do with this analysis, it is indicative that this text expressly talks about nonviolence, pursuing peaceful civil protest, and indeed expresses suspicion of extremism, which would have to be ruled out because it appeal an appeal to illegitimate violence.

A separate challenge arises when the subject is a literary text. Researchers certainly do not doubt the possibility of analyzing a literary text for extremism; it is understood that such extremist literary works exist.44

Of course, there is the question of the classification of a particular text as literary, and even this does not rescue the text from examination for extremism.45 For example, Ivanenko, examining aspects of the image of the Jew in Gogol, concludes that “in that context scenes of the persecution of Jews are not an appeal to imitation, but a reflection of the spirit of the historical realities being described”.46 This argument seems insufficiently convincing, if only because large number of defenders of anti-Semitic texts will theoretically and practically resort to similar rhetoric.47

We have already discussed the situation in relation to cases of conscious parody or provocation. Further materials can be added to those already described.48 Specialists at Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University understood as extremist the parodic play Zhid-vampir [Vampire Jew] created by a group of Krasnoyarsk poets with a clear reference to Filatov’s play “Pro Fedota-streltsa, udalogo molodtsa ” [The tale of soldier fedot, a daring fellow”], which is permeated by irony and literary play on xenophobic myths. The foundation for this interpretation was a linguistic analysis, on the basis of which the specialists concluded that the phrase “I remember in ancient times horned Satan himself gnawed the Vampire Jew from a magic log” insults Jews. “Fine, go into the hut, only bow before the mushroom — they say that the Magdalene put her lips to it” insults Christians, while “Buryats smear the lips of idols with Christian blood” insults Buryats. In the expert linguists’ opinion, “The play has a light, absurdist tone, but it appears only toward the finale of the work”. 49

Another more challenging task is apparently the analysis of works that present the world of rightwing radicals in literary form. Nesterov’s book Skiny: Rus probuzhdaetsia [Skinheads: Russia awakes], which contains a nominally autobiographical story of neo-Nazi activity, was declared extremist in 2010.50 According to the experts’ conclusion,51 “the book contains “statements containing negative judgments toward an ethnic group (any ‘non-white race’); motivational statements containing a call to violent actions against ‘non-white’ people. The materials include hate speech. The materials contain appeals to engage in extremist activities”.52

In fact, here, as in the investigation of the Malika Yandarbieva interview, a quite surprising issue arises: what exactly were the experts examining? The fact is that a novel entirely devoted to the activities of Nazi skinheads cannot help but contain all the appeals that are typical of the xenophobic ideology of rightwing radicals. Similarly, in Saratov in 2010 there was an attempt to ban the release of the film Rossiia 88 [Russia 88], despite its obvious antifascist message, inasmuch as the film, shot in the mockumentary tradition, naturally makes use of the rhetoric of neo-Nazism to present the main hero.53 S. A. Makhmudov, a professor in the Russian Language Department of Samara State Pedagogical University, who performed the investigation, detected appeals to racial hatred and Nazi propaganda in the dialogues of the main heroes. For example, analyzing “linguistic situation No. 47, ”the investigator concludes that “the viewer might come away with the notion that ‘the skinheads’ goals are noble”. On the whole, analyzing the film using Baranov’s methodology and references to his own work on linguistic analysis of literary text, Makhmudov concludes that the film has all possible appeals to racial and ethnic violence and violent change of the constitutional order.54

The investigation of the text of Fedorovich’s text “Faciam lie mei mernineris” [sic; faciam ut mei memineris means I’ll make you remember me] is similar. The main actor in the text is the author’s alter ego, who is presented as an “intellectual murderer”. “Viktor enjoyed it most of all when almost every television program about skinheads showed a clip from the trailer for Format 18.”55

As in the case of Nesterov, Fedorovich’s description of assaults on the “racially alien” are intermixed with the lyric hero’s philosophical reflections in the style of social Darwinism. “Do those who lost the struggle for survival deserve pity?” A. M. Plotnikova, who cites this article as an example, clearly sees this text as extremist, in contrast to Vampire Jew, although it is apparently a matter of the genre selected by the author. There is essentially no significant difference between Fedorovich’s and Nesterov’s texts.56 Another example of a similar text is “Moia borba” [My struggle], a pretentious text similar in content, in which the main hero, who is hard to distinguish from the author, murders his various enemies — from the “racially alien” to human rights advocates — with various kinds of weapons.57 One must say that the “extremism” in these texts is exclusively related to the main heroes’ actions, and they of course are seen positively. The application of any formal methods of analysis leads to the classification of texts such as Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, the film Rossiia 88, and others as extremist.

Finally, the same problem arises with scientific texts. First of all, it turns out that, in many people’s opinion, ascertaining whether a particular text is “scientific” does not make it ineligible for examination by law enforcement agencies.58 One recent example of this kind was the examination of the article “Chechenskaia respublika” [Chechen republic] in volume 58 of the 2006 Bolshaia Rossiiskaia entsikopedia [Large Russian Encyclopedia].”59 Let us note that the content of this article leaves something to be desired from both the professional and the ethical viewpoint. The matter of how formally scientific texts should be prohibited at all as extremist remains unresolved.60

Thus there seems to be a very serious problem related to the functioning of forensic linguistic investigation. The point is that the linguist’s common sense should eliminate scientific, political (primarily those critical of a political regime and its opponents), and literary (including parody and trolling) works from analysis. At the same time, using the methodologies listed above will lead to many such texts being interpreted as extremist on the basis of their formal attributes, since not only their general content, but also “appeals” and various rhetorical techniques will be reproduced in them with different goals — political or literary. In other words, all the approaches and methodologies discussed above ignore the pragmatics of the text, focusing at best on the text’s formal aspects, and therefore they cannot reliably document the differences in “extremism” between a literary text, political leaflet , and a text devoted to the study of problems of hate speech and xenophobia.

On the other hand, if these kinds of texts are excluded from examination, what then are linguists supposed to do with texts that hypothetically incite hostility and discord? It appears that the basic problem lies not in insufficiently qualified or agenda-driven experts, which is fairly often a problem in cases of this type.61 The fact is that it is not for scientists to determine the social danger of a text at all. As indicated above, linguistic methodologies applied to various kinds of texts yield results that are not only contrary to common sense, but also directly contradictory.62

In a choice between experts’ hypersensitivity (or partiality) and common sense, it seems that common sense should win out. From the linguistical standpoint, it seems that the main argument must be this: sense, which is not equivalent to meaning, arises during a speech act and includes the context in which it is pronounced as a vital sense-forming element. From the viewpoint of John Searle’s theory of speech acts, intent can be classified as the illocutionary goal of a statement, which is defined first and foremost by its pragmatic context.63 The absence of pragmatic context external to the text and a focus exclusively on what was said in the analytical methodologies under discussion appears to make the problem of determining the true content insoluble and places the expert in the uncomfortable position of being either a “bard of common sense” or a “constructor of extremism”. ≈


Acknowledgement: I collected data for this article while I was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy, and I thank the NED for generous support and assistance.



1                    K. Lutterman, “Übersetzen juristischer Texte als Arbeitsfeld der Rechtslinguistik” in Recht und Übersetzen, ed. G.-R. de Groos and Reiner Schulze (Baden-Baden, 1999), 50, quoted in L. Goletiani, “O razvitii iuridicheskoi lingvistiki v Rossii i Ukraine” [On the evolution of legal linguistics in Russia and Ukraine], Studi Slavistici 8 (2011), 241.

2                    See, for example, “Law and Language”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

3                    Liana Goletiani, On the Evolution of Legal Linguistics in Russia and Ukraine, Studi Slavistici, 8 (2011), 241—262.

4                    Goletiani, On the Evolution of Legal Linguistics in Russia and Ukraine, 247.

5                    A. S. Aleksandrov, Vvedenie v sudebnuiu lingvistiku [Introduction to forensic linguistics] (Nizhny Novgorod, 2003), 74.

6                    E. I. Galiashina, Lingvistika vs ekstremizma: V pomoshch sudiam, sledovateliam, ekspertam [Linguistics vs. extremism. To the aid of judges, prosecutors, and experts], ed. M. V. Gorbanevsky (Moscow, Iuridicheskii mir, 2007), 42.

7                    We refer those interested to previous surveys by A. R. Ratinov, M. V. Kros, and N. A. Ratinova, Otvetstvennost za razzhiganie vrazhdy i nenavisti. Psikhologo-pravovaia kharakeristika [Liability for hate speech: Psychological and legal profile], ed. A. R. Ratinov (Moscow, 2005); M. L. Podkatilina, Sudebnaya lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza ekstremistskikh materialov [Forensic linguistic investigation of extremist materials] (Moscow: Iurlitinform, 2013).

8                    The question of the very possibility of this kind of “linguistic zombification” is outside the scope of this article. We note only that the very statement of the question is suspiciously reminiscent of numerous and dubious speculations on “psychological zombification,” e.g., by representatives of religious minorities. See, for example, A. A. Panchenko, “Krovavaia etnografia: legenda o ritualnom ubiistve i presledovanie religioznykh menshinstv” [“Bloody ethnography: the legend of ritual murder and the persecution of religious minorities”], Otechestvennye zapiski 58, no. 1 (2014),

9                    V. A. Mishlanov and V. A. Salimovskii, “K teoreticheskim osnovaniam sudebnoi lingvistiki” [Toward the theoretical foundations of forensic linguistics], Siberian Association of Expert Linguists,

10                  E. I. Galiashina, Razvitie sudebnykh rechevedcheskikh ekspertiz v Rossii [Evolution of forensic speech science investigation in Russia], Iuristlib Legal Library,

11                  E. I. Galiashina, Lingvistika vs ekstremizma, 41.

12                  E. I. Galiashina, Razvitie sudebnykh rechevedcheskikh ekspertiz v Rossii.

13                  M. A. Osadchii, “Klassifikatsia metodov sudebnoi lingvisticheskoi ekspertizy (na materiale ekspertnoi otsenki prizyva)” [Classification of forensic linguistic investigation methods (based on Materials from expert evaluation of an appeal] Sovremennye Problemy Nauki i Obrazovania [Contemporary problems of science and education], no. 6 (2011),

14                  “The article ‘Samaya konstruktivnaia partiia’ ” [“The most constructive party”], author A. A. Nikolaenko, published in Kurs newspaper, no. 43, October 22, 2004; decision issued by Belovo Municipal Court, Kemerovo Region, September 9, 2005. Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. Federal List of Extremist Materials,

15                  L. A. Araeva and M. A. Osadchii, “Sudebno-lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza po kriminalnym proiavleniiam ekstremizma” [Forensic linguistic investigation of criminal manifestations of extremism], Ugolovnii protsess, no. 4, (2006), 47. See also V. V. Volkov, “Ksenofobiia kak intentsionalnaia osnova vrazhdy v sudebnoi lingvisticheskoy ekspertize (lingvogermenevtika fenomena)” [Xenophobia as an intentional basis for hostility in forensic linguistic investigation (linguistic hermeneutics of the phenomenon], Zakonnost i pravoporiadok v sovremennom obshchestve, no. 19, (2014).

16                  A. N. Leontev, Prikladnaia psikholingvistika rechevogo obshchenia i massovoi kommunikatsii [Applied psycholinguistics of speech communications and mass communications] (Moscow: Smysl, 2008). The investigations of V. I. Batov were repeatedly questioned in connection with the increase in all formal requirements, both in regard to his quality as an expert and in regard to the quality of the expert’s product.

17                  A. N. Baranov, Lingvisticheskaya ekspertiza teksta: Teoreticheskie osnovaniia i praktika; uchebnoe posobie [Linguistic investigation of text: Theoretical basis and practice; a textbook] (Moscow: Flinta, 2007).

18                  A. N. Baranov, Lingvisticheskaya ekspertiza teksta, 452. In another article, I have pointed out that this system is not exclusively linguistic. In sociology it is called “polarized representativeness” and is used to construct a methodology for the investigation of hate speech texts proposed by a group of employees of the European University in St. Petersburg, including the author of this article, which was published in 2003. See D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Teksty spetsialnoi pragmatiki (trolling i parodiia) kak issledovatelskaya problema” [Texts of special pragmatics (trolling and parody) as an investigational problem], Neprikosnovenyi zapas 96, no. 4 (2014),

19                  E. I. Galiashina, Lingvistika vs ekstremizma, 53.

20                  K. I. Brinev, Sudebnaia lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza spornykh rechevykh proizvedenii, soderzhashchikh priznaki ekstremizma [Forensic linguistic investigation of disputed speech works containing attributes of extremism], Izvestia Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta, no. 7 (2009), note 1 on page 36.

21                  S. A. Kuzntesov and S. M. Olennikov, Ekspertnye issledovaniia po delam o priznanii informatsionnykh materialov ekstremistkimi: teoretiskiie osnovania i metodicheskoe rukovodstvo [Expert investigations in cases to declare informational materials extremist: theoretical foundations and guidelines] (Moscow: V. Ema, 2014).

22                  Op. cit. 47.

23                  O. V. Kukushkina, Iu. A. Safonova, and T. N. Sekerzh, Metodika provedenia sudebnoi psikhologo-lingvisticheskoi ekspertizy po delam, sviazannym c protivodeistviiam ekstremizmu i terrorizmu [Methodology for forensic psychological and linguistic investigation of materials in cases pertaining to countering extremism and terrorism] (Moscow: FBU RFTsSE, 2014) 17; emphasis added

24                  M. L. Podkatilina, Sudebnaia lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza ekstremistskikh materialov, 75—76.

25                  Baranov, Lingvisticheskaya ekspertiza teksta: teoriia i praktika: uchebnoe posobie [Linguistic Investigation], 463.

26                  E. S. Kara-Murza, “Lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza kak protsedura politicheskoi lingvistiki” [Linguistic investigation as a procedure of political linguistics], Politicheskaia lingvistika, no 7 ( 2009), 49.

27                  M. L. Podkatilina. Abridged Works, 111.

28                  M. L. Podkatilina, Abridged Works, 111 ff, see also N. A. Ratinov, “Tipichnye oshibki, sovershaemye pri proizvodstve sudebno-psikhologicheskikh ekspertiz materialov ekstremistskoi napravlennosti” [Typical errors made during forensic psychological investigation of materials with an extremist slant], Kochenovskie chtenia (2012),

29                  L. Z.Podnerezkina and E. I. Fedorenko, “Sudebno-psikhologicheskaia ekspertiza: Psikhologo-lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza materialov ekstremistskoi napravlennosti: uchebno-metodicheskoe posobie (Elektronyi resurs)” [Forensic psychological investigation: psycholinguistic investigation of materials with an extremist slant, study guide (electronic resource)] (Siberian Federal University: Krasnoyarsk, 2012), ; L. V Savinov, E. A. Dorozhinskaia and A. V. Sigarev, “Ekspertiza spornykh informatsionnykh (ekstremistkikh) materialov: metodicheskie i pravovye problemy” [Investigation of disputed informational (extremist) materials: Methodological and legal problems], Kriminologicheskii zhurnal BGUEP 32, no. 2 (11 2015) 209—222.

30                  M. Krongauz, “Antiterroristicheskaia lingvistika” [Antiterrorist linguistics], Forbes (2010). Accessed November 17, 2010,

31                  A. A. Smirnov, “Zametki o lingvisticheskoi ekpertize 2 (ekstremizm i utrata iskrennosti)” [Notes on linguistic investigation 2 (extremism and loss of candor)]. Available at

32                  The very possibility that events might unfold in this way worries experts. M. L. Podkatilina notes, “In case law there is a precedent when a court refused to append a specialist’s conclusion to a case, justifying this by the fact that the judges themselves are fluent in Russian” (M. L. Podkatilina, Abridged Works, 109).

33                  M. L. Podkatilina, Abridged Works, 90.

34                  A. Ia. Vinnnikov, N. M. Girenko, et al., Metodika rassledovania prestuplenii, sovershaemykh na pochve natsionalnoi i rasovoi vrazhdy in nenavisti [Methodology of investigating crimes committed as a result of ethnic and racial hostility and hatred], ed. O. N. Korshunova (St. Petersburg, 2002).

35                  Ibid., 89.

36                  A. R. Ratinov, M. V. Kroz, and N. A. Ratinova, Otvetstvennost za razzhiganie vrazhdy i nenavisti: Psikhologo-pravovaya kharakteristika [Liability for inciting hostility and hatred: Psychological and legal profile] (Moscow: Iurlitinform, 2006).

37                  I. V. Ponkin, Problemy gosudarstvennoi politiki v sfere protivodeistviia ekstremistkoi deiatelnosti: Uchebnoe posobie [Problems of national counter-extremism policy, textbook] (Moscow, Institute for State-Religious Relations and Law, 2011).

38                  O. V. Zelenina and P. E. Suslonov, Metodika vyiavlenia priznakov ekstremizma: Protsessualnye issledovania (ekspertiza) audio-, video- i pechatnykh materialov; Nauchno-prakticheskoye posobie [Methodology for identifying signs of extremism: Procedural studies (investigations) of audio, video and print materials. An applied science text] (Ekaterinburg, 2009). These authors assert, in particular, that “A conscious and targeted attack on religious and ethnic shrines is a special technique [of religious propaganda]”.

39                  It is, however, important to point out that an expert should not answer legal questions or substitute himself for the judge in deciding on the content of a text and its legal classification. In legal literature the phrase “science judge” refers to situations when an expert simply substitutes himself for the judge and issues a ruling in a case in which he is acting as a bearer of special knowledge. See, for example, E. Selina, “Protsessualnoe polozhenie svedushchikh lits” [Procedural position of experts], Rossiiskaya iustitisa, no. 9 (2002); A. Kudryavtseva, Iu. Livshits, “Dokazatelstvennoe znachenie “pravovykh” ekspertiz v ugolovnom protsesse” [Evidentiary significance of “legal” investigations in the criminal process], Rossiiskaya iustitisa, no 1 (2003).

40                  L. Galiashina, Lingvistika vs ekstremizma, Appendix 1.

41                  A. A. Smirnov, Abridged Works.

42                  See in this regard an example of the use of linguistic analysis methodology for a quote from William Shakespeare: N. D. Golev, “Vosstat, vooruzhitsia, pobedit… V. Shekspir i ekstremizm” [Arise, take up arms, conquer…: W. Shakespeare and Extremism”], Siberian Association of Linguist Experts,

43                  A. V. Bakina and I. Iu. Makhova, “K voprosu o psikhologicheskikh kriteriiakh ekspertnoi otsenki ekstremistskoi napravlennosti teksta” [Toward the question of psychological criteria for expert evaluation of the extremist slant of a text], Nauka i mir 3, no. 2 (2014), 178—183.

44                  See, for example, A. M. Plotnikov, “Lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza khudozhestvennogo teksta po delam o protivodeistvii ekstremizmu” [Linguistic investigation of a literary text in counter-extremism cases], Teoriia i praktika sudebnoi ekspertizy 36, no. 4 (2014), 18—23.

45                  It has also been suggested that not only literature be analyzed in this way. In the opinion of E. V. Salnikov, “one must distinguish four types of texts in which extremist ideas may be presented. They are literary, popular science, awareness raising, and propagandistic.” E. V. Salnikov, “Printsipy provedenia lingvisticheskoi ekspertizy ekstremistskikh materialov”, Forensic Experts Federation,

46                  G. I. Ivanenko, “Sudebnaia lingvisticheskaia ekspertiza: spetsifika analiza khudozhestvennogo teksta v aspekte zakonodatelstva ob ekstremizme” [Forensic linguistic investigation: specifics of analysis of literary text in respect to extremism legislation], Vestnik KGU im. N. A. Nekrasova, no. 6 (2014), 202.

47                  For an example, see D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Chto c nauchnoi tochki zrenia ponimaetsia…”’ili kak eksperty zashchishchaiut ksenofobov [What, from the scientific viewpoint is meant by…” or, How experts protect xenophobes] in Russkii natsionalizm: ideologiia i nastroenie [Russian Nationalism: Ideology and Sentiment] Moscow, IATs Sova, 2006, 122—138. Also, “historical realities,” for example, were used to give cover to publishers of racist texts as evidence of “the state of historical science in Germany in the 1930s.” For more detail, see D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Chto s nauchnoi tochki zrenia ponimaetsia…”.

48                  D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Teksty spetsialnoi pragmatiki”. In this article, I discuss examples of trolling on the Internet and of political parody.

49                  Vl. Moiseev, “Nepolitkorrektnaia skazka: V Krasnoyarske poimali bandu poetov-ekstremistov” [Politically incorrect fable. in krasnoyarsk they caught a band of extremist poets], Russkii reporter, June 12, 2013,

50                  Federal List of Extremist Materials, no. 1482. The book Skiny: Rus probuzhdaetsia [Skinheads: Russia awakes”], author D. Nesterov (ruling of Leninsk District Court, Orenburg of July 26, 2010, and ruling of Nikulino District Court, Moscow of May 24, 2012),

51                  According to the case file, the investigation was performed by specialists from the Russian Culture Studies Institute, a federal state-subsidized research institution; apparently they were V. Batov and N. Kriukova.

52                  Quoted from news at the IATs Sova website

53                  The author of this article tried to prove this in the investigation; the claim by the Saratov Region Prosecutor’s Office was withdrawn. For more detail, see the feature film Russia 88. Official website, See also E. Kostyleva, “Teper v prokate. Posle goda iskov i eksperiz ya ekrany vyshel film Pavla Bardina Rossiaa 88” [“Now showing: after a year of claims and investigations Pavel Bardin’s Film Russia 88 is on screens], Vedomosti (2010) accessed March 5, 2010,

54                  S. A. Makhmudov, “Zakliuchenie lingvisticheskogo issleodania ot 15.08.2009. g. Samara” [Conclusion of a linguistic investigation of August 15, 2009, Samara,

55                  A neo-Nazi studio that mostly produced propagandistic xenophobic videos. Martsinkevich, the leader of Format 18, was sentenced under article 282 of the RF Criminal Code.

56                  Except that Fedorovich’s text was not on the list of extremist materials.

57                  As a curiosity, note that in the text quite a few actual people, including the author of this article were “killed”: “Two days later I dropped in on a meeting “Food not bomb’s” [sic]. The anti-fascists were somehow quite relaxed. I saw that some homeless person was stuffing his face and right next to him were two anti-fascists. A good target. Mask on the face. I shot all three with a 7.63 Walther. And in the evening I used it to punish another kind of antifascist — Dubrovskiy” “Moia borba” [My Struggle]. from materials on radical right-wing websites).

58                  As an example one can cite the story of Prof. V. Avksentev, against whom the Stavropol Krai prosecutor’s office tried to open a criminal case under article 282 of the RF Criminal Code for the truly xenophobic quot ations from respondents who answered questions related to the ethnic situation in the krai. For more detail, see M. P. Kleimanov, A. and A. Artemov, “Poniatie i vidy kriminalnogo ekstremizma” [Concept and kinds of criminal extremism], Vestnik Omskogo universiteta 24, no. 3 (2010): 168—169.

59                  No. 680 on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Information material item (definition), “Chechen Republic” in volume 58 of the print edition of Bolshaia entsiklopedia [Great Encyclopedia] (Moscow: Terra Publishing, 2006) (ruling of Zavodsk District Court, Groznyi, of April 5, 2010).

60                  It remains an open question whether to consider the publication of “scientific heritage” containing racism and xenophobia as scientific and therefore beyond the purview of forensic investigation. See, for example. D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Rasizm v rossiiskikh universitetakh: ‘nechayannyi rasism’ ili ‘obektivnoe nauchnoe znanie’” [Racism in Russian universities: “Casual racism” or “objective scientific knowledge”]; “Rasizm, ksenofobia, diskriminatsia. Kakimi my ikh uvideli…” [Racism, Xenophobia, discrimination. how we spotted them…], in Novoe literanurnoe obozrenie [New Literary Review] , ed. Ekaterina Demintseva (Moscow:2013), 256—274.

61                  See, for example, A. Epshtein and O. Vasilev, Politsia myslei: Vlast, ekspertizy i borba c ekstremizmom v sovremennoy Rossii [Though police. power, investigation, and the struggle with extremism in modern Russia] (Moscow: Gileia, 2011).

62                  See the cases of the Karelian blogger M. Efimov, in which the same methodology was used for investigations that yielded diametrically opposed conclusions. For more detail, see D. V. Dubrovskiy, “Teksty spetsialnoi pragmatiki”.

63                  J. R. Searle, ”What Is a Speech Act?” in Teoriia rechevykh aktov [Theory of speech acts] (Moscow: 1986), 151—169.

  • by Dmitry V. Dubrovskiy

    Associated Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow since 2008, but was declined to renew the contract February 25, 2022, apparently on political grounds, as he is seen as a “foreign agent”. An expert on human rights in Russia, he has focused on issues relating to xenophobia, ultra-right nationalism, hate crimes, and hate speech as they relate to freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.

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