| by CTEC
Skydas (Lithuanian: “Shield”) is a Lithuanian neofascist accelerationist organization that has its origins in the Iron March skullmask network—a web forum active from 2011 to November of 2017. Skydas, active from 2015 to 2019, called for a reawakening of fascism at the individual and societal levels and advocated for the violent destruction of democracy as an integral part of creating a fascist utopia. Additionally, the organization’s close affiliation with other extremist groups, including the U.K.’s National Action, Ukraine’s Azov Movement, and Italy’s CasaPound, is indicative of its desire to foster international connections with extremist groups of similar ideological foundations. While the organization is no longer active on their online social media platforms, its messaging and propaganda remain easily accessible online, carrying the potential to inspire future extremist violence.
Similar to other neofascist accelerationist organizations, Skydas held the view that modern society has degenerated beyond repair, requiring extremist violence to collapse it in a fashion consistent with militant accelerationism. Consistent with its self-styling as a “shield” for Lithuania, Skydas members are frequently pictured on its media platforms holding weapons or dressed in uniform, accompanied by messages like “[this is a] Call to action,” “Stand guard,” and “Never weaken, never tire, never lose hope, never despair.” Skydas’s media platforms also reflect the organization’s racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic stances. Multiple posts and propaganda images promote white nationalism and fascism, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories like ZOG, and anti-LGBTQ+ narratives.
Skydas’s ideological foundations are reflective of its origins in the Iron March skullmask network, which itself is rooted in a blend of fascism and Traditionalism largely inspired by philosopher Julius Evola. Evola believed that the ideal society possesses a fascist foundation, with a racial caste-based system ensuring a “racially pure” society. Evola also embraced Traditionalism, defined by H.E. Upchurch as “a syncretic 20th century religious movement that combines Hermetic occultism with the Hindu doctrine of cyclical time and a belief in a now-lost primordial European paganism.” This Hindu doctrine, an integral part of this ideology, posits that time is divided into four cycles of increasing degeneracy; the final cycle, known as the Kali Yuga, represents a time during which society deteriorates so monumentally that it leads to an apocalyptic and spiritual war, ultimately resulting in modern society’s demise and the rebirth of a new, purified Golden age. Evola believed that this Golden age would be characterized by a fascist cultural and racial hierarchy, with the “pure” achieving an elevated societal status.
Evola’s fascist and Traditionalist philosophical influence serves as the ideological foundation of accelerationist groups today, many of whom existed in the Iron March network. Believing themselves to exist in the dark age of the Kali Yuga, adherents of Evola’s ideology believe that by sowing chaos, they can accelerate the destruction and subsequent rebirth of society. These adherents, including those of Skydas, feel spiritually motivated to engage in mass violence for the purpose of bringing about the end of the Kali Yuga and achieving a fascist utopia. Iron March members made frequent references to this ideology, encouraging members to engage in violence to accelerate the collapse of modern society.
Iron March adherents also heavily embraced neo-Nazi James Mason’s literature, titled Siege, as an important ideological influence. Siege promotes a pro-Nazi worldview, advocating for the destruction of democracy as essential to the establishment of a white ethnostate. Eventually, Iron March adherents popularized Siege culture—an online, updated appropriation of Siege that calls for the incitement of a race war as well as “total societal breakdown” by any means necessary. Siege culture is also representative of a particular visual aesthetic, characterized by skullmask and sonnenrad iconography and bold graphics. Extremist propaganda is often disseminated according to the Siege culture aesthetic. Skydas heavily parroted Iron March’s foundational ideologies in its own online communications, promoting Evola’s literature to its audience, referencing the Kali Yuga, encouraging members to read James Mason’s Siege, and popularizing skullmask and sonnenrad iconography in its propaganda.
Notably, Skydas’s public stance on violence differed from other neofascist accelerationist organizations, like Atomwaffen Division and National Action, which similarly originated from Iron March. While Atomwaffen and National Action have been explicit in their embrace of violent militant accelerationism, Skydas’s online media platforms indicate a more guarded relationship to openly self-describing as accelerationist. Atomwaffen, for instance, explicitly promotes the concept of militant accelerationism to its audience, encourages members to engage in mass violence for the specific purpose of destroying modern society, and explicitly advocates for a race war against specific out-groups. Conversely, Skydas has publicly claimed to “oppose violence and vulgarity,” writing on their Bitchute that “we are convinced we can defeat liberalism by laughing at its absurd flaws, by refusing to obey its fake moral norms, by challenging its dogmas intellectually.” Analysis from a close observer of the group indicated that Skydas may have publicly adopted this anti-violence stance as a method of preventing arrests and public recognition of its members, along with softening the harsh stereotypes associated with pro-fascist organizations. Despite this public assertion, Skydas’s online rhetoric and propaganda indicate a clear preference toward violent societal destruction and the establishment of a fascist system of governance.
Membership in Skydas is designed to be anonymous. Alluding to the risk of state surveillance, censorship, blackmail, and personal threats posed to members of strictly hierarchical organizations, Skydas explains that its members are protected because they “organise on the principle of autonomous action” rather than according to a hierarchical system. The organization also ensures that there are no means of identifying its members; when representing Skydas, most members’ faces are covered with skull masks and hoods or glasses to hide ascertainable features.
Skydas members and affiliates are predominantly made up of a “brotherhood” of male teenagers and young adults, with one Skydas representative confirming in an interview, “We are school and university students. Our youth dictates our protest methods and appearance.” Similarly, Skydas’s Bitchute states: “Anyone who loves his blood kin, economic justice, national unity, european culture and God like we do is a part of Skydas…we are waking the youth from its sleep, we are fighting the fight of our generation.”
Not just another Iron March member, Skydas was designated as one of the four “affiliated groups” in a popular infographic circulated on the forum. As such, Skydas utilized Iron March as a primary method of communication amongst group members and with other groups until its closure in 2017. Through the forum, newly-established extremist groups received significant aid in the build up and expansion of their networks, with Iron March moderators providing organizational and monetary advice, assistance with website creation, and aid in designing organization-specific propaganda. In a widely-circulated graphic from 2017, Iron March listed Skydas among its formally affiliated groups. Additionally, Skydas utilized the Iron March forum to network internationally, keeping in regular contact with National Action, Atomwaffen Division, and Antipodean Resistance, among other extremist groups.
Skydas enjoyed a close affiliation with National Action. Private message logs reveal that the establishment of Skydas was largely made possible due to the efforts of National Action affiliates; in coordination with Iron March members, National Action affiliates helped to establish Skydas as an organization. Benjamin Raymond, a key leader and propagandist for National Action, was particularly instrumental in promoting the organization. Raymond is seen as largely responsible for crafting Skydas’s individual aesthetic, utilizing his knowledge of graphic design and propaganda to help build up the organization. Reportedly a “core supporter” of the organization, Raymond even traveled to Lithuania to support the establishment and growth of Skydas.
Skydas’s online content also revealed its frequent collaboration with other European extremist groups. In 2017, the organization shared photos of Skydas members posing alongside Italy’s CasaPound Italia representatives, and similarly released images and videos of a Skydas conference jointly hosted with Ukraine’s Azov Movement. It appears that the bulk of their activity occurred during 2016 and 2017, years when Iron March was still functional.
Iron March communications also revealed numerous attempts by a Skydas representative to forge a partnership with Atomwaffen Division. To this end, Skydas member Regsejj Teliavelis messaged the founder of Iron March and asked for the contact information of a representative of Atomwaffen Division. In his message, Teliavelis explained that Skydas’s website needed more traction, and a relationship with Atomwaffen Division could help to bolster its status. The Iron March founder complied, supplying Teliavelis with contact information for “Odin”— the Atomwaffen Division representative. To “Odin,” Teliavelis wrote messages proposing an Atomwaffen-Skydas partnership, explaining that Skydas members wanted to publicly affiliate themselves with “as many fascist and national socialist movements as possible,” including Atomwaffen Division. Teliavelis also inquired whether Atomwaffen would also publicly affiliate themselves with Skydas, even asking whether Atomwaffen could share Skydas propaganda on their social media platforms to increase the organization’s reach. “Odin” responded to these requests by asking Teliavelis to Skype him, apparently distrustful of watchful eyes on the Iron March forum. Although it is unclear whether these Skype conversations occurred, the two organizations do not appear to have had a particularly meaningful connection.
Over the years, Skydas-affiliated propaganda has been disseminated on major media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Bitchute. Of these media platforms, only two—Twitter and Bitchute—remain active, with the organization having been banned from YouTube and Facebook for posting content in violation of community guidelines. Skydas’s propaganda bears a strong resemblance to the visual and rhetorical characteristics associated with the Iron March skullmask network. The organization’s Twitter account, which opened in 2016 and has not been active since October of 2019, frequently posted content with Iron March-affiliated imagery like skull masks and the sonnenrad. On multiple occasions, Skydas shared a graphic calling Lithuanians to action and urging them to open their own “autonomous nationalist cells,” indicating a likely embrace of the ever-shifting, multi-node structure of the accelerationist terror scene born from Iron March.
Skydas’s Bitchute account (active December 2018–June 2019) similarly shared propaganda reminiscent of Iron March, with skullmask imagery heavily emphasized across several video uploads. One Bitchute upload, titled “The Lesser and The Greater war,” references Julius Evola’s Metaphysics of War—a commonly-discussed body of literature in neofascist and accelerationist circles. Skydas’s propaganda and broader social media activity indicate clear parallels between itself and other accelerationist groups, calling for a “rope day to come,” frequently referencing Julius Evola and James Mason’s Siege, and indicating the presence of the Kali Yuga in the same manner that other accelerationist groups do.
In addition to the organization’s dissemination of their own propaganda, far-right Serbian organizations have increased the reach of the group’s messaging by providing stickers, placards, and flags for Lithuanian fascists (including Skydas members). These organizations aid groups like Skydas in spreading harmful messaging. Indeed, Skydas propaganda shows skullmask-clad members in public places spray painting pro-fascist and Nazist graffiti, adorning buildings and other outdoor structures with anti-LGBTQ+ stickers and placards, and saluting in agreement with their messaging.
Skydas’s public-facing anti-violence stance appears to have aided the organization in preventing arrests, plots, or attacks that were attributable to its members. However, U.K.-born Mark Jones, though not an official member of the organization, was arrested and sentenced to five and a half years in prison in connection with his affiliations with several far-right extremist groups, including Skydas. Jones, 25 at the time of his sentencing, was a propagandist and graphic design artist for several far-right extremist groups until the time of his conviction in March of 2020. Convicted for being a member of the proscribed terrorist group National Action, Jones was also affiliated with a number of other far-right extremist groups, including NSC-131, Scottish Dawn, Azov Movement, and Skydas. Jones created propaganda for several of these groups, even traveling to Ukraine to meet with members of Azov Movement. While in Ukraine, the Court revealed that Jones had been messaging a member of Skydas. It is unclear how or why this contact was established.
Skydas’s public activity suggests that the organization did not achieve as strong of an influence as its larger European counterparts, like the Nordic Resistance Movement or Feuerkrieg Division. Amassing a maximum of approximately 400 followers across their media platforms, the group gained very little traction, and it was outpaced in the Baltic region by Feuerkrieg Division less than two years after its establishment. However, Skydas’s online presence indicates that the organization was an attempt to establish an accelerationist “brand” with a Lithuanian nationalist slant and to build coalitions across national boundaries. Additionally, their propaganda, filled with militant accelerationist and neofascist rhetoric and iconography, carries the potential to inspire external actors to engage in mass violence, despite the organization’s current lack of online presence.