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East European Perspectives: July 5, 2000

5 July 2000, Volume 2, Number 13
RADICAL POLITICS IN EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PART VI: Placing in Boxes: Radical Continuity and Radical Return in Russia (B)

By Michael Shafir

Continuing the scrutiny of Russian radical continuity formations begun in "East European Perspectives," Vol. 2, no. 12, this section of the study also starts looking into the particularities of radical continuity parties. Among the former organizations, one must also mention the Russian People's Union (SRN). As has been shown, the SRN counts among its supporters former KGB General Aleksandr Sterligov. Two of its co-chairmen, Stanislav Terentev and I. Kuznetzov, are also known as former KGB officers. Terentev is also the editor in chief of "Kolokol" (The Bell), one of the most vicious anti-Semitic publications in Russia. Seven SRN candidates ran for single-mandate seats in the 1995 elections, but none were elected. In the presidential elections of 1996, the SRN supported Zyuganov. In 1998, a certain N. Kozlov wrote in "Kolokol" that mankind's history "knows only two ways of struggling with Jewish invasion: massacre and deportation." Published in Volgograd, where many other extremist publications are printed, "Kolokol" enjoys the dubious record of having received the most warnings for its incitement to racial hatred--64 by 1998. Yet only in 1998 has a criminal case been opened against Terentev, a well-known Volgograd businessman. Instead of appearing in court, however, Terentev sent a bus of supporters, including members of the radical return Russian National Unity (RNE), in yet one more display of the "Red-Brown" alliance. The supporters formed a human chain around the court, whereupon the case was hushed up and never restarted (Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, p. 233; Union of Councils, 1999, pp. 30, 116-17).

Finally, a "border case" example between radical continuity and radical return is provided by the Union of Venedy, which describes itself as a cultural and educational organization rather than a political party. Placing the union in the radical continuity "box" would be justified by the fact that politically it leans towards the KPFR, and many of its members are also KPFR members. The name, however, derives from the medieval Latin chronicles where the Slavs were described as "Vends" and the union has also links with such radical return formations as Nikolai Lysenko's National Republican Party of Russia (NRPR). Its ideology, however, is pagan. The union came into being in spring 1990, as a result of a split in the Russian People's Party, with one wing setting up the union and the other the People's Party of Veneds. The first leader of the union was Konstantin Sidaruk, later replaced by Yevgenii Sokolov. But the main ideologist of the union is Viktor Bezverkhy, a former professor of Marxism-Leninism from Leningrad. Still under communist rule, in 1988 Bezverkhy set up a clandestine Nazi association calling itself "Union of Volvkhes," as a result of which he was warned by the KGB that a criminal case might be opened against him. It was not. To become a member of that earlier union, candidates had to write in blood an oath pledging "to dedicate all my life to the struggle against Judaism" (Pribylovsky, 1994, pp. 35-36; Union of Councils, 1997, p. 107).

For him to reach a court of justice, Bezverkhy had to await post-communist times. In January 1995, a court in what is now St. Petersburg acquitted Bezverkhy of violating the then article 74 in the Criminal Code, the predecessor of article 282 (the code was amended in 1996 and has applied since 1 January 1997), which prohibited incitement to racial hatred. He was put on trial for printing in his Volkhv publishing house, materials calling Jews "human garbage... who are not needed by mankind, since they cannot be socially honest." But the court pronounced Bezverkhy innocent, ruling the prosecution had failed to prove that this constituted an infringement of the provisions in article 74. An earlier attempt to convict him for publishing Hitler's "Mein Kampf" had also ended in failure, the court finding that Bezverkhy had not been guilty of instigation to interethnic hatred, but merely tried to make a profit (Orttung, 1995, p. 3). Little wonder, then, that Bezverkhy has continued to indulge in what would make Marx turn in his grave if he were to read the Union of Venedy's main publication, "Rodnyzhe prostory" (Native Expanses): "Let us preserve the genofund, retain the purity of blood...Let us restore the ancient faith of our ancestors, in order to survive;" or "The blend of Russian people with Mongols and Africans engender mongrels (according to Darwin)...Anti-Semitism is bad...But the interspecies blend with yellows, blacks and kikes is still worse, because it results in the degradation of the nation"; or the still better (since it uses Marxist jargon against Marxism): "Spiritual culture cannot be common to all mankind. Human rights are a harmful lie...Let us throw into HISTORY'S DUSTBIN both Christianity and Marxism-Leninism-- the ideologies of the kikes" ("Rodnyzhe Prostory," nos. 24, 27 and 25, 1995, respectively, cited in Union of Councils, 1997, p. 108. Emphasis mine). In spite of the relative electoral setback in 1999 of the KPRF, radical continuity parties such as those discussed above are unlikely to vanish from the Russian political landscape in the foreseeable future.

Turning to Russian radical return formations, the most prominent among them are Barkashov's RNE; Lysenko's NRPR; the Russian Party of Russia (RPR) and its follow-up, the All-Russia Party (VRP); Viktor Yakushev's National Social Union (NSS); the Russian National Union (RNS), now headed by Konstantin Kassimovsky, a party that is prone to splits even more numerous than those habitually encountered among radical return formations; the People's National Party; the Moscow-based Military Patriotic Center "Patriot," which split away from Dimitrii Vasiliev's "Pamyat" in 1988; yet another group called "Patriot" in St. Petersburg, headed by Soviet-era "professional anti-Zionist" Aleksandr Romanenko; and the Radical Right Party, which split away from Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in 1993, and whose first leader was Limonov. Limonov later left the party and eventually set up the National Bolshevik Front, then the Russian Bolshevik Movement, and finally the National Bolshevik Party or NBP, which, despite its name, is a radical return formation whose chief ideologist is Aleksandr Dugin. Also among radical return formations one must count the Nationalist Socialist Russian Workers' Party, set up in 1994. There has been even an organization known as REKS, an acronym for the Russian words for "Slash the Jews like dogs."

This, however, is not a complete list. In September 1994, according to a Russian journalist cited by Tolz, there were 33 neo-fascist groups publishing their own periodicals. In August 1994, the Moscow-based Anti Fascist Center published a list of 50 radical return periodicals that regularly violated the Criminal Code, inciting to racial hatred. Prominent among these must have been Dugin's "Elementy," which regularly features the fascist theories of Julius Evola, articles sympathetic to racist theories, as well as pictures of Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and (as Tom Lehrer would have put it) "that crowd" (Pribylovsky, 1994; Laqueur, 1997, pp. 190-91; Tolz, 1997, p. 194; Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, p. 232; Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 263; Solovyov and Klepikova, 1995, p. 111; McFaul et al., 1999, p. 96; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 30). On the eve of the 1999 elections to the State Duma, the Presidential Commission of Experts to Counteract Political Extremism counted more that 50 "extremist organizations" registered with the Justice Ministry and legally operating in Russia (Interfax, 29 October 1999; "Segodnya," 30 October 1999). Some were well-known. Others--such as the Black One Hundred or the Werewolf Legion--less so. The Black One Hundred separated from "Pamyat" in 1993. Its ideology mixes Russian Orthodox fundamentalism with pro-monarchic postures and strongly emphasizes the famous "blood libel" according to which Jews indulge in ritual murder (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 30). Walter Laqueur mentions the "acknowledged Nazi" organization of the Werewolves, whose leading members were arrested in June 1994 after planning a series of terrorist attacks. Two members of this organization were sentenced in March 1996 in Yaroslavl to jail terms for hooliganism and incitement to racial hatred, according to the Washington-based Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. But the organization is said to have been disbanded in 1994. It is thus not clear whether the above mentioned list was referring to one and the same organization. A Werewolves underground Nazi organization was active in Allied-occupied Germany after World War II (Laqueur, 1997, p. 191; Union of Councils, 1997, p.23).

The RNE was set up in October 1990 by several former members of Vasiliev's "Pamyat," whom he had expelled from his organization. When he was Federal Security Service Director, Sergei Stepashin estimated membership in the RNE at about 2,000, which is clearly too low, judging by regional reports sent to the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (1999). On the other hand, RNE's own 1995 claim to have some 200,000 followers is an obvious exaggeration, as is the claim that it has about 350 regional organizations, of which 100 are registered with the authorities (Belin, 1995, p. 8). If the claim were true, it would not have been possible for the Ministry of Justice to ban its running in the 1999 elections (see bellow). Although the RNE is registered as a legal party, it also has a secret counter-intelligence organization, with its own arms caches and communication network. Barkashov calls for the establishment in Russia of a dictatorship by "nationalist-minded military men." In the meantime he clarifies that "I am not a fascist; I am a Nazi." His newspapers display pictures of his partisans, all "of pure Russian stock" wearing Nazi paraphernalia and saluting with the right hand raised. The party's symbol -- a swastika combined with a cross-- and its slogan--"One nation, one people, one state"-- do not leave much room to wonder about its inspiration. The RNE perceives itself as the avant-garde of the coming national revolution and considers all other radical return organizations to be too tame (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 35; Belin, 1995, p. 8; Laqueur, 1997, pp. 189; Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 263).

Born in 1953, Barkashov is of working-class stock. He is much less interested in ideology than other radical return leaders, emphasizing that he prefers "action." His adherents, called "Soratniki" (Comrades in arms), receive instruction for Barkashov himself, who is a qualified karate instructor. It goes without saying that Barkashov is a believer in conspiracy theories. A giant conspiracy ("total genocide") has been launched, according to him, against the Russian people, with the purpose of destroying its "racial core" or "genotype." It is therefore necessary, he explains in perfect consonance with ethnocratic value-beliefs, to introduce eugenic principles into the state and hence to ban all mixed marriages (Laqueur, 1997, pp. 189-90; Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 263). But the RNE goes much further than that. As most other fascist and neo-fascist movements, its main targets are Jews (and those who "sold-out" to them), non-Europeans and homosexuals. And like both radical continuity and radical return formations everywhere in East Central Europe, the RNE seeks to build political capital out of discontent triggered by growing crime and the illicit enrichment of the "entrepratchiks." As the official RNE platform put it in 1996, "Power in Russia should belong only to Russians! Only pure blood...can ensure the victory of National Revolution. Right-wingers understand that. That is why they expel all the blended, Eurasians, gay-writers and other slime out of their ranks." Once in power, the RNE has a clear program to apply: "Property sized by the burrs [Jews], aliens, former party leaders, must be taken away and transferred to the Russian working people...The Blacks [i.e. Caucasians and Central Asians] who came from the South must be loaded into wagons and brought to their historical motherland!" But the party wants to be a law and order formation as well: "Vendors of drugs, corrupted officials, ravishers of the youth must be shot!" In October 1993 Barkashov's "Soratniki" mobilized to participate on the anti-Yeltsin side in the fight for the White House, which gained Barkashov the admiration of people such as "Zavtra's" editor in chief Aleksandr Prokhanov, Limonov or Dugin. His own conclusions from that instance are also telling: "Be aware, you dribbling mongrels...that the avalanche of people's wrath is already approaching and is about to flood the streets with the force of the National Revolution. And this revolution will not be inspired by Chechens and half-kikes, or subhumans who betrayed the Russian people in a bloody October 1993. We shall make the revolution because it is our right to. The National Revolution is our obligation to God, Nation and Motherland" ("Shturmovik," no. 1, 1996, cited in Union of Councils, 1997, p. 108).

The party's underground activities were well-known to the authorities before the formation registered to run in the elections of 1999 under the palingenetic name of Spas (Savior). Yet authorities in many localities, particularly those where the local government is in the hands of KPRF supporters, have enlisted RNE members for the task of joint patrolling with police forces, thus helping their drive to reflect the image of a "party of law and order" and its allegations that crime is due mainly to the presence of non-Russian ethnics (Union of Councils, 1999, pp. 12, 53, 86, 99; "Nezavisimaya gazeta," 20 October 1999). The RNE has also been allowed to make propaganda in some military units (Union of Councils, 1999, pp. 139-40), although it, just like several other radical return parties, are known for having paramilitary underground structures and despite the fact that in the past RNE has distributed leaflets among soldiers calling on those among them who were "patriotically-inclined" to carry out a military coup. RNE activists have also sought to gain access to military equipment by enlisting as security guards. Furthermore, the party has also been allowed by some local governments to distribute its propaganda materials in schools, infringing on the legal prohibition to do so. Its activists are encouraged to target "soldiers, workers and students" in particular. Viewed from this perspective, there is a strong resemblance between the RNE and the Romanian Movement for Romania (MPR), as will be shown below. And the comparison is in order on other aspects as well. Like MPR's leader Marian Munteanu (who, unlike Barkashov, draws his indoctrination model from the writings of Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu), Barkashov emphasizes that the main battle ahead is that "for people's conscience" (Shafir, 1992; Belin, 1995, p. 9; "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999).

Apart from its palingenetic nature, the new name under which Barkashov's party registered for the 1999 elections reflected an attempt to conceal RNE's identity. On several occasions in 1998-1999 the party had engaged in violent and illegal activities or in threatening violence. On at least two occasions the party's name has been linked (not only by Russian Chief Rabbi Adolf Shafievich but also by then-Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin) to the bombing of synagogues in Moscow, though Barkashov has denied any involvement, calling one of those occurrences a "callously planned provocation mounted by the victims themselves" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1998 and 3 May 1999). In December 1997, the Ministry of Justice had refused to register RNE as a nationwide organization, on grounds of inaccuracies in the documents that they submitted. The ministry then recommended that the party hold a congress to make amendments to those points in its charter which it found objectionable. But when Barkashov tried to convey a congress in Moscow one year later, Mayor Yurii Luzhkov banned the gathering. Barkashov reacted by staging a march of his supporters through the capital and threatened that 100,000 of his followers will descend on Moscow and "fight for their rights." As a result, the Prosecutor General's office brought charges and a court banned the Moscow organization of RNE and annulled the registration of its publication, "Russkii Poryadok" ("Kommersant-Daily," 2 November 1999; "Nezavisimaya gazeta," 20 October 1999).

Barkashov could have moved the gathering to other regions, where his movement is either condoned or encouraged. Instead, he chose to outwit the ministry by concluding an agreement with the Spas movement, which was already registered and represented in the Duma by deputy Vladimir Davydenko, who became number two after Barkashov on the federal electoral list submitted for ballot registration ("Nezavisimaya gazeta," 20 October 1999). Although aware of the reasons for the metamorphosis, the Central Electoral Commission on 18 October 1999 registered Spas' lists for the 1999 elections. Only one week later, on 16 October, a court in the Far East district of Primorskii Krai banned RNE's activities on its territory, on the grounds that the organization was not lawfully registered, while at the same drawing attention to the fact that its activities were aimed at establishing militarized formations and stirring social and national feuds. Earlier, RNE activists had held weekly rallies in Vladivostok, spraying their logo on the walls of the buildings (ITAR-TASS, 26 October 1999). It is difficult to assess the success of RNE, had it been able to run its party lists in 1999. It is unlikely, however, that it would have been a sound one. In September 1997, in a by-election for a Duma seat in Stavropol Krai that Barkashov claims as a stronghold, the RNE candidate received just 3.5 percent of the vote (Belin, 1999).

There were plenty of grounds to justify banning RNE from running in the 1999 elections. To do so, however, the central authorities in Moscow would have had to issue two earlier warnings to the organization, and they had failed to do so. The Central Electoral Commission was not empowered by the law to ban the running of a party on the grounds of endangering the constitutional order, that being the prerogative of the Supreme Court acting on the appeal of the Ministry of Justice or the Prosecutor General's Office. In theory, the party could be outlawed as a "fascist" formation, as the Penal Code's Article 282 prohibits the activities of such parties. In practice, however, the relevant article in the code is not applied, because there is no agreement on what "fascist" activities are. The Duma failed to pass a more specific 1998 government-proposed bill on "Counter-Acting Political Extremism," mainly due to procrastination by the KPRF. At the end of the day, however, RNE was banned by the Central Electoral Commission from running, but neither on its fascist character grounds nor on that of threats of violence. Barkashov had simply submitted false information on the number of local organizations his party had in order to meet legal requirements. The law stipulated that lists running in the elections must have organizations in at least half of the Russian Federation's 89 subjects. Less scrupulous than the RNS or Lysenko's NRPR (see below), Barkashov claimed the RNE had 47 regional organizations, but when checked, ten of these were found to be non-existent ("Kommersant-Daily," 2 November 1999; "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 29 November 1999; Shafir, 1999).

Known until October 1991 as the Republican People's Party of Russia, Lysenko's NRPR supports Mussolini-like ideas, but at the same time has close links to German radical organizations. It is also ethnocratic, in that it argues that only ethnic Russians must be allowed to serve in the state apparatus, though in an attempt to moderate its image, it explained later (as Makashov did) that this should be achieved by means of a "numerus clausus" reflecting the proportion of non-Russians that might be allowed to serve in the government. Despite attempts to moderate his party's image, when Lysenko ran in the 1995 elections, he generated a lot of publicity with his claims about a "genocide" allegedly underway against Russians and about "mafia hordes from the Caucasus and Central Asia" that were "raping our women."

The emblem of the NRPR resembles that of the Nazi SS (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 31; Laqueur, 1997, p. 191; Belin, 1999). Lysenko spent more than a year in prison for having set a bomb in his office in the Duma, but was later acquitted (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 29). He acquired some national notoriety as a Duma deputy in 1995, in an apparent attempt to pose as the staunchest defendant of "near abroad" Russians. When then-Duma chairman Ivan Rybkin refused to give him the floor during a debate on Russian-Ukrainian relations, Lysenko (in a Zhirinovsky-like gesture) tore up a Ukrainian flag. He achieved precisely what he was after--wide coverage and a counterreaction from Ukrainian nationalists, who on the next day tore up a Russian flag in the Ukrainian parliament (Belin, 1995, p. 10).

Lysenko was voted out of the chairmanship of the party in late 1994, after being accused by his comrades of having misappropriated party funds to finance his 1993 electoral campaign. He was replaced by former People's Social Party chairman Yurii Belayev, but never accepted the decision. As a result, there are actually two NRPRs, one headed by Belayev, the other by Lysenko, although Lysenko's formation fell into decay after the split and was unable to meet the registration requirements for running in the 1999 elections (Union of Councils, 1997, p. 106; 1999, p. 29).

Unlike Lysenko, who is a follower of Mussolini, Belayev is an admirer of Hitler. Where they meet on common ground is in their hatred of Jews and people from the Caucasus. Belayev claims a membership of 10,000 in 39 cities and towns. His wing of the NRPR also has a paramilitary branch called Russian National Legion. The legion was set up under Lysenko's leadership of the party in late 1991. It is headed by a military council consisting of eight military officers--with rank no lower than lieutenant-colonel--and officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The authorities apparently turn a blind eye on this infringement of military regulations. The legion is also involved in business activities, consisting mainly of bodyguard agencies active particularly in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Pskov (Union of Councils, 1997, p. 106). The party's platform is not different from the views that allowed it to acquire notoriety under Lysenko. According to an article published in June 1996 in "Russkoye Soprotivlenye" (Russian Resistance), which is issued by the Moscow-branch of Belayev's NRPR, the party's supporters are "running out of patience" in the face of the sufferance of the "Russian people and the people of the white race in general," which is inflicted on them by "Jews, Asians, Caucasians, thieves, degenerates, moral, and physical freaks." These people "are to be murdered everywhere, and their money and values are to be returned to those who had been robbed." Belayev himself, addressing the NRPR congress that elected him as chairman, had the following diagnosis and simplistic cure to suggest for Russia's troubles: "The strain of interethnic relations in our country today is the strain of relations between the indigenous people of Russia--the Russian working people--on one hand, and Zionists who crave to establish their parasitic reign over Russians, on the other hand...Let us expel enemies from the Russian land by all possible means! Freedom to the Russian people on our indigenous land!" (both cited in Union of Councils, 1997, p. 107). In February 1996, a court of justice in St. Petersburg found Belayev guilty of incitement to ethnic hatred and of dissemination propaganda against Jews and people from the Caucasus. He was given a one-year, suspended prison term (Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, p. 241).

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