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East European Perspectives: July 19, 2000

19 July 2000, Volume 2, Number 14
C) Radical Continuity and Radical Return in Russia

Having first scrutinized different facets of Russian radical continuity formations ("East European Perspectives," Vol. 2, nos. 12 and 13) and having then started (in no. 13) placing formations in the Russian radical return "box," this section concludes the endeavor by discussing a few of Russia's other radical return parties.

The Russian Party of Russia (RPR) was set up by Viktor Korchagin in 1991. In the same year the Prosecutor-General's Office warned Korchagin against incitement to ethnic hostility. By then he had acquired a reputation for disseminating anti-Semitic literature. The office ordered Korchagin to cease the publication of "Khatekhizis evreia" (Jewish Catechism), a serialized article based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Korchagin had been publishing in his newspaper Russkie vedomosti (Russian Gazette) and in booklet form under the title "Suzhnost Zionism" (Content of Zionism). But Korchagin ignored the order and continued publishing both. "Russkie vedomosti" was closed after the October 1993 attempted coup, but the district Prosecutor-General's Office closed the case against Korchagin two months later. The case had been launched for violation of article 74 in the Criminal Code (see above). However, a private citizen relaunched the complaint and, in a most unusual step, in April 1995 a Moscow court sentenced Korchagin to pay a fine equal to 16 minimum monthly wages. The court also deprived him of the right to engage in publishing, editorial, or journalistic activities. The sentence was all the more unusual, as the representative of the Prosecutor-General's Office testified that the office had decided to drop the case, having found nothing objectionable in "Khatehizis evreia." But Korchagin escaped paying the fine, being amnestied under a decree issued on the 50th anniversary of World War II, and soon resumed his publishing activities, which in 1996 included a new edition of the Protocols under his "editorship" (Union of Councils, 1997, p. 105; Orttung, 1995, p. 6; Verkhovskii, 1997, p. 92).

In 1993 the RPR split. A dissident faction led by Vladimir Miloserdov, a former colonel, set up the rival All-Russia Party (VRP), which was registered as an all-Russian political organization in February 1995. The party claims to have branches in 62 localities and in the 1995 parliamentary elections it ran five candidates in single-constituency districts, none of whom were elected. Like Barkashov, Miloserdov made known his intention to run in the 1996 presidential contest, but, unable to come up with the 1 million signatures needed for registration, he ended in backing Zyuganov. All other candidates, he claimed, were either Jewish or had links to Jews and Freemasons (Union of Councils, 1997, p. 105; Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, p. 232).

Under Miloserdov's leadership the VRP adopted a new program in an attempt to better forge an identity separate from that of the RPR. But the program hardly made the party distinct from not only its predecessor, but also from other radical return and even some radical continuity formations. It advocated the setting up of state institutions where minorities can be represented only on the basis of their proportion in the population at large. The same principles were to apply to institutes of higher education. The party's program (according to Russkaya gazeta, the VRP's main publication, where the program was printed in August 1993) also called for the "liberation of Russia from the Freemason and Zionist yoke and the return by Zionists of what has been stolen from the working people." It denounced "cosmopolitans" who, being "disguised as 'democrats,' are hiding behind Russian first and last names" and who had engaged in the "final annihilation of Russia and the Russian people" through market mechanisms, "with the purpose of dividing the Russian nation and then exterminating it." As an alternative solution to Russia's economic problems, the program advocated "ensuring full employment of the indigenous people" through the "deportation (if necessary) of alien workers and experts to the countries of their residence." While Zyuganov would subscribe to many, if not all, of these points, the radical return character of the VRP is best reflected in the ethnocratic racist urging to "set up a network of genetic information banks and consulting offices for people entering into marriage." These institutions are to be charged with the task of "elucidating the principles of the nation's genetic fund preservation" (cited in Union of Councils, 1997, pp. 105-6).

The list of radical return parties also includes the National Social Union (NSS), which was set up on 9 November 1990 as a result of a split in the organization to which both Barkashov and Yakushev previously belonged--The National Unity for a Free, Strong and Just Russia. Yakushev believes that all Masons were and are homosexuals, that "inferior races" have one fewer chromosome than "superior races," and that Jews are "biorobots" programmed to commit suicide. The NSS wants to set up a "national state," with an economy based on "Aryan values" and, of course, it is opposing Zionist world hegemony (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 30; Laqueur, 1997, pp. 190-91).

The Russian National Union (RNS) was set up in 1991 by Nikolai Vorobev in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals. Vorobev, who called himself a "national dictator," was arrested in December 1992 and charged with instigation to hatred, after making a call in one of his articles published in Voloya Rosii for "people with Asian blood and Jews to leave Russia forever." The court, however, pronounced him "not guilty" (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 34). By 1995-1996, and now led by Konstantin Kassimovsky, the RNS and Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NBP) were contemplating the merger of their formations in an attempt to boost the electoral chances of the radical right in the next Duma elections. The Moscow-based Anti-Fascist Center, however, launched a criminal complaint against Kassimovsky, charging him with dissemination of fascist ideas. As the electoral law prohibits those sentenced or charged from running, the plans were derailed and, moreover, the registration certificate of Shturmovik (Storm Trooper), RNS's Nazi-like publication, was revoked. That publication's motto is "Purity of Faith and Purity of Blood!" As a result of these developments, the RNS split once more, with some members leaving the formation and joining the Imperial Party collectively. That party was later integrated into the National Salvation Front, revived and now led by Vladimir Smirnov, but (as in 1995) was denied registration by the Central Electoral Commission in 1999 on grounds of too many forgeries on the list of signatories supporting its electoral platform. Left on its own, the NBP tried to expand nationwide in order to meet the requirements of the law for running in the 1999 elections. But the effort stopped short of meeting legal requirements (Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, p. 238; McFaul et al., 1999, pp. 96-7; Belin, 1999). That "detail," as observed, had not bothered the RNE.

Having failed in his attempts to merge the NBP with the RNS, Limonov in 1998 seemed to make a return to his radical continuity roots, entering into an alliance with Viktor Anpilov's Communists-Workers' Russia for the Soviet Union and with a formation that called itself the Union of Officers. The intention was to run joint lists in the 1999 Duma elections, but the alliance, calling itself the Front of Working People, was denied registration by the Ministry of Justice on procedural grounds and the would-be allies again parted to their respective sides of the radical spectrum (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 28). By March 1999, Limonov declared that he was ready to set up an alliance with Barkashov's RNE (RFE/RL Newsline, 23 March 1999).

That the NBP is able to swing from one end of the political spectrum to the other should not be surprising, as the "ends" exists only in the mind of politologists keen to apply Western-derived concepts and models to realities into which those do not fit. The very name of the NBP, National Bolshevik Party, indicates that Limonov's formation is possibly the best illustration of what the legacy of national communism is all about. Although the former emigre novelist turned politician is a declared admirer of Hitler, he finds no contradiction in having his supporters salute in Nazi-style and at the same time chant the names of Stalin and Lavrenti Beria, as happened at a meeting of the Democratic Choice Party in Moscow, disrupted by Limonov and his followers in late January 1999. That Limonov himself may be a case for psychiatrists--rather than for political scientists--is altogether another matter. For example, in February 1996, at a meeting of extremist movements in Moscow that decided to endorse Zyuganov's candidacy for the presidency, Limonov struck a dissenting note: he denounced Zyuganov for not being "a true communist" and called on the gathering to support Yeltsin instead (OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February 1996; RFE/RL Newsline, 2 February 1999).

Such idiosyncrasies notwithstanding, the NBP is, after the RNE, the strongest neo-fascist party in Russia, with branches in several important cities, and its followers, just like those of the RNE, have gained notoriety for their aggressive behavior. Limonov has also sought to follow in the footsteps of Zhirinovsky, his former party boss, by "exporting" his movement to other countries and by forging alliances with like-minded political parties. In September 1999, a group in Latvia announced it had set up a formation calling itself Limonka (which is also the name of the NBP publication in Russia, the name deriving from both that of the party's leader and signifying a hand grenade), whose declared purpose was to "assist the needy, arrange self-defense courses for members, and campaign against bankers, state officials and the U.S." (RFE/RL Newsline, 21 September 1999). Three years earlier, in September 1996, the NPB set up an alliance calling itself the Coordination Council of Radical Nationalist Parties, with the Ukrainian UNA-UNSO. The alliance was also joined by Yurii Belayev's National Republican Party of Russia, and by the little-known Party of Slavic Unity (Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 1997, pp. 232, 287). But, as often is the case, cross-border collaboration among neighboring nationalists proves difficult when it comes to overcoming their cross-purposes. In August 1999, a court in Sevastopol sentenced 15 members of the NBP to 15 days in jail for hooliganism; they had broken on 24 August, Ukraine's national day, into a club belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, hoisting their party's flag on the building and shouting slogans denouncing Ukrainian sovereignty over the city (RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, Ukraine Report, 31 August 1999).

Another radical return formation is the People's National Party, headed by Aleksandr Ivanov-Sukharevsky, which regularly publishes Ya Russkii (I am a Russian). Reminiscent (though most likely unaware of it) of Nichifor Crainic's "ethnocratic state," the party calls for Orthodoxy to be the country's state religion and for those who are not both Russian and Orthodox by birth to be stripped of their citizenship. Like Crainic in his time, Ivanov-Sukharevsky is a Hitler admirer. For him, the Fuehrer had "carried the cross to a Russia enslaved by the kikes" (cited in Union of Councils, 1999, p. 30).

Finally, a neo-Nazi skinhead formation calling itself Russian Purpose and led by one Semion Tokmakov was active in several cities and in May 1998 its members attacked a black U.S. marine. In the wake of the attack, Tokmakov was sentenced to three years in jail, but was freed under an amnesty after having served just 17 months. It is not without relevance to note that the lawyers that represented Tokmakov in court are known to have close ties with Viktor Ilyukhin. In late June 2000, over 150 members of this group battled police after a new neo-Nazi rock concert in Moscow. They threatened bystanders and damaged police cars, all while shouting "Heil Hitler" and extending their arms in a fascist-like salute. After being attacked with bottles and rocks, members of the police arrested 74 of the neo-Nazis. Yet a spokesman for the police denied any ideological implications when commenting on the incident, which was deemed to have been just one of "ordinary hooliganism." This in spite of the fact that one of the group's members, interviewed on Russian Public Television, boasted: "I personally pursue the goal of the purity of the Russian nation. This means that only Russians should live in Russia" (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 2000).

Against the electoral performances of Russian radical continuity, radical return formations have little to boast about. Only National Republican Party of Russia leader Nikolai Lysenko managed to get elected to the State Duma in 1993 in a single-member constituency seat in Saratov Krai, for which purpose he considerably moderated his image (Tolz, 1993, p. 2n; Laqueur, 1997, p. 191; Union of Councils, 1997, p. 106). The NRPR itself, however, failed to collect enough support signatures to qualify it to run on the party lists for those elections. In 1995, when it did so, it garnered an insignificant 0.49 percent of the vote. Aleksandr Dugin, running in 1995 for a single-constituency seat in St. Petersburg, received only 0.85 percent of the vote. In the above-mentioned 1997 by-election in which the RNE candidate garnered a poor 3.5 percent, a NBP candidate did even worse, enlisting the support of a meager 2.5 percent of voters (RFE/RL Newsline, 15 September 1997). The RNE did not officially compete in the 1995 elections, but two of its members, running in single-constituency districts in Moscow, received 2.46 and 0.6 percent, respectively, following a campaign waged primarily with swastika-carrying leaflets stuffed in mailboxes. "Pamyat" founder and leader Dimitrii Vasiliev, also running for a single-member constituency seat, could not muster more than 3.35 percent (Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 264).

This is not a singular Russian phenomenon. Parties of radical return find it, for the time being at least, more difficult to penetrate legislatures than parties of radical continuity do. One reason, as illustrated by the Russian case but easily applicable to other countries as well, is the incessant, Brownian-like split-cum-merger-split again movement that has been affecting the electoral credibility of these formations. In part, this is undoubtedly a reflection of the inflated personal egos of their leaders. But inflated egos will be found all over the political spectrum. Radical return parties, however, are mostly "ideological" rather than pragmatic formations. As such, they are prone to splits, with each dissenting wing ready to "anathematize" other wings and being in turn "anathematized" by them. Yet in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia such parties managed to get parliamentary representation in at least one of the scrutinies so far held. Apart from Russia, radical continuity formations have thrived in Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, but not in Hungary and in Poland. It is on these East-Central European states that future issues will focus upon.

Belin, L., 1999, "Competition Intensifies For 'Patriotic' Vote," RFE/RL Russian Election Report, no. 2, 12 November.

Hanson, S. E., Williams, C., 1999, "National Socialism, Left Patriotism, or Superimperialism? The 'Radical Right' in Russia," Ramet, S. (ed.), The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe Since 1989 (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press), pp. 257-77.

Institute for Jewish Policy Research and American Jewish Committee, 1997, Antisemitism World Report (London: Institute for Jewish Policy Research).

Laqueur, W., 1997, Fascism: Past, Present, Future (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

McFaul, M., Petrov, N., and Ryabanov, A. with Reisch, E. (eds.), 1999, "Primer on Russia's 1999 Duma Elections," (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Moscow Center).

OMRI Daily Digest, 1996.

Orttung, R. W., 1995, "A Politically Timed Fight Against Extremism," Transition, Vol. 1. no. 10, pp. 2-7.

Pribylovsky, V., 1994, "A Survey of Radical Right-Wing Groups in Russia," in "The Politics of Intolerance," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, no. 16, pp. 28-37.

RFE/RL Newsline, 1997, 1999.

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, Ukraine Report, 1999. Tolz, V., 1993, "Russia's Parliamentary Elections: What Happened and Why," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-8.

Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 1997, Antisemitism in the Former Soviet Union: Report 1995-1997 (Washington: Union of Councils for Soviet Jews).

Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 1999, Antisemitism, Xenophobia and Religious Persecution in Russia's Regions 1998-1999 (Washington, D.C.: Union of Councils for Soviet Jews).

Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 2000, "Press Release," 30 June.

Verkhovskii, A., 1997, "Shortcomings in Law enforcement in Russia," in Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, Antisemitism in the Former Soviet Union: Report 1995-1997 (Washington: Union of Councils for Soviet Jews), pp. 91-99.