There is the dark web, and there is the Russian dark web. I got a searing brainful of it when I was covering the Caucasus and Eastern Europe a decade ago: Bloody footage from inside the Beslan massacre; Chechen fighters slaughtering young Russian recruits on ogrish.com; the Dnepropetrovsk maniacs, two young Ukrainian serial killers who allegedly hoped to get rich by posting videos of their hammer-murders on Western shock sites.
The internet in Russia, in all its unreserved gore, seemed to take a cue from the mainstream media over there, which was likewise strewn with uncensored dead bodies in the tabloids and on television. I used to compulsively watch TV6’s Road Patrol, a voyeur’s delight of fresh car crashes and naked murder victims, while chain-smoking in my Moscow apartment and having very bad thoughts.
It was quite a mix: a country with weak institutions, not quite enough rule of law, and a tabloid press that raced around getting the most ghoulish pictures possible of the mayhem in society. I had only ever seen that mix firsthand one place before: Mexico.
He was arrested, found to be mentally ill, and yet still somehow later found to be well enough to renew his ID
So you can understand, maybe, how I would be obsessed with the story of #LordNaziRuso, which combines all of these things: Russia, Mexico, humans behaving terribly on the internet, and a bloody knife-fight and beating captured on video.
At the center of it all is Alexei Makeev—or alextime666games on YouTube. He is 42, Ukrainian by background, an itinerant dive instructor who lived for years in Elektrostal outside of Moscow. From what I can tell from the Russian news reports—mostly TV news shows who love the story because it comes with shocking video—he started filming in the home, vlogging his anger at his parents and their attempts get him psychiatric help. Other themes emerged. He liked videos of himself eating. He built a lot of campfires. He was always careful to put promotional material with his email in the backdrop of every shot and to film his official ID card and those of his parents. He started playing with axes. He liked to be in his underwear.
Ultimately, he took his behaviors into the street, began stalking Benetton stores and railing against them, walking around Elektrostal, haranguing stores and people alike. While in Russia, what he became known for—to the public and to authorities—were videos of him, often in deep snow, shoving old women and little kids alike to the ground while cussing them out. He was arrested for this, found to be mentally ill, and yet still somehow later found to be well enough to renew his ID. He left some time after that for Mexico for reasons that remain unclear.
By the time he made his way to Cancun, he had added Nazi ideology and symbols to this mix. He settled into a working-class neighborhood and started filming himself shouting racial slurs at people in something between Russian and broken Spanglish. He began carrying a machete with him, replacing the axes he showed off in Russia. On the sidewalk, in restaurants, or from a perch on his balcony, this barrel-chested, beer-bellied foreigner just berated whomever displeased him. In one video, he stomps in the middle of the food at a picnic some boys were having on the beach. In another, he threatens to murder a couple women and their baby. All the while, he had the camera trained both on his own face and on his victims and uploaded the videos to his channel.
He became, even before the night of the attack on him, a social media phenom, a source of huge contempt and outrage throughout Mexico, with millions of views for the many channels that both shared his videos and pointed out the insults. #LordNaziRuso, they tagged him, Lord Russian Nazi.
Part of what fascinates me about the story is that his neighbors tried to remove him peaceably. They reported him to the police, but the authorities were as feckless in Cancun as they were in Elektrostal. The Mexican government said that Makeev had no valid ID anymore and therefore couldn’t be deported. As his attacks on locals grew in frequency, the citizens of Cancun rallied behind a Change.org petition calling for Makeev’s removal from town for “manifestations of hatred towards Mexicans (including) death threats, unprecedented contempt for the elderly, cruel behavior towards children, as well as various aggressions expressing his hatred towards Mexico.”
Makeev’s time in Cancun came to a violent climax the night of Friday, May 19, when a mob gathered around his house with intent to extract and kill him. Other Russian vloggers, who have since become keenly interested in this fight themselves, think another Russian living in Cancun had publicized Makeev’s address so the large crowd of Internet-angry could join the neighborhood-angry and “solve” the #LordNaziRuso problem.
Earlier that day, before the attack began, Makeev continued to post online. First, a premonition: “Terrorists are trying to kill me!” and then, a taunt: “lick my dick Mexican piece of shit.”
Residents recorded the events of the night in real time on cell phone video cameras and at least one drone camera and spread the footage via livestreams broadcast across social media. Crowds, driven by anger and curiosity, gathered outside Makeev’s Cancun home. They launched bricks and stones through his windows, shouted through shattered glass.
The incensed crowd tore Makeev away from his computer screen.
In the same room from which Makeev uploaded his videos, he was attacked by the people he insulted. A crowd of roughly a hundred surrounded Makeev’s windows and flooded his doorway.
“Matalo! Matalo!” They shouted. “Kill him! Kill him!”
Shirtless and bloodied, Makeev retaliated, plunging a knife through the crack of his door. His weapon took aim, repeatedly stabbing a local 19-year-old boy in the stomach. As Makeev fled his living room for his roof, Carlos Eduardo Gutiérrez bled out on the sidewalk.
Once on the roof, Makeev, in plain sight of the mob and various cameras, collapsed with a fractured skull. Rumors of his death began to swirl and the mob dissipated. After being carried out of his apartment, bloodied and beaten, authorities carted Makeev to a hospital where he remains in critical condition with potential for brain damage. A judge sentenced Makeev to a year and a half in a preventative prison for the murder of Gutiérrez. The judge also granted local authorities two months to continue their investigation and determine Makeev’s legal situation. As of now, Makeev remains in the hospital until his condition improves.
Since May 19, Makeev’s polemical online presence has all but disappeared, save a selfie posted on Twitter by a man named Rodrigo Castillo who snuck into the hospital room to snap the now viral photo. Castillo is purported to be an employee of the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s office. In the picture, Makeev lies comatose and bloody, Castillo smiles. His caption reads: “Now they realize. Through a hard beating we took the devil out of the Russian Nazi. From now on they will respect us or they will be in for another beating.”
I don’t know what to make of it, except that it’s all quite tragic—Mexicans didn’t understand Makeev any more than his own countrymen did. Whatever his mental illness, Makeev’s outbursts were never really as much about the pride of Mexico as the Internet thought. There’s a compelling, if uncomfortable truth in all this—the big scary YouTube Nazi belonged in a hospital all along, just not this way.
With reporting by Valerio Ferris