Mongolian neo-Nazi groups — wearing, the Guardian reports, “black, SS-style Nazi uniforms complete with lightning flashes and replica Iron Crosses” and based in an “office behind a lingerie store” — have been rebranding themselves as crusaders for the environment. They’re going around the country demanding soil samples from mining companies.

No country really likes it when their fringe neo-Nazis get attention. And Mongolia, whose neo-Nazi environmentalists are having their 15 minutes of fame, is no different. As one scholar of national identity said:

[Mongolians] have since 1990 thoroughly and vibrantly embraced representative democracy, just as they embraced socialism before 1990. I think that’s the real story here: Mongolians are not and perhaps never were a remote, isolated people; and they’re also quite capable of understanding irony, especially in regards to their contemporary condition.

But it’s hard not to be a little fascinated by this shift in focus. It’s so weird — environmentalism is so liberal! Nazism is so … well, let’s not go all Godwin here, but you know.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

On the other hand, it makes some sense. Mongolia’s going through a huge mining boom right now, and there are nationalist worries about workers from China and other countries coming in to steal the jobs. Rather than fight the workers, these neo-Nazi groups are focusing on fighting back against the mining companies, in part by raising concerns about pollution.

But there are plenty of Mongolian environmentalists who don’t also happen to be neo-Nazis raising those concerns, and they’d kill for the press coverage these guys are getting. Also, Mongolia didn’t invent the cross between environmentalism and Nazism. Canada did.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.