Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russian National Movement ‘Doesn’t Exist,’ Disappointed Veteran Says

Paul Goble

Baku, January 16 – At present, a serious Russian National Movement “does not exist,” is unlikely to win support from the population, and will not be able to challenge the Kremlin for power, according to someone who passed through the ranks of many groups that believed they could form the nucleus of such a movement.
Instead, its would-be leaders are incompetent, uncertain and penetrated, its tactics of limited use when not completely counterproductive, and its ability to reach out to the increasingly cynical population almost nil, Aleksandr Bol’shakov says in an essay posted online yesterday (
Bol’shakov would appear to know whereof he speaks. He notes that he spent “more than a decade” in what most people think of as the Russian movement, participating in Russian National Unity (RNE), the Slavic Community, Rodina, and Great Russia, as well as cooperating with Patriots of Russia, Rus’ and other groups.
Now, the disappointed activist writes, “it’s time to draw some conclusions” about what this was all about and whether it in fact will lead to anything. At least to judge from this article and assuming that he is not acting as an agent provocateur as many in the movement, Bol’shakov’s “conclusions” are entirely negative and merit close attention.
Any movement, he says, must do three things: It must “define and defend its idea.” It must introduce it to as many people as possible. And it must make its idea the one that defines the course of the country. Looking ahead to Russia’s presidential vote in March, he notes, it is obvious that Russian nationalists have not done any of these.
Those who call themselves Russian nationalists are deeply split, Bol’shakov continues, and many of them are more concerned with anathematizing other Russian nationalists than with forming a united front, winning support in the population, and taking power.
Were any one of these groups to take power, they would not only destroy the state but in their pursuit of enemies within the Russian nationalist camp would visit even more chaos and disaster than that which occurred “at the beginning of the last century when ‘you-know-who’ destroyed Russians.”
But that proposition is not going to be tested, Bol’shakov says, because “we [Russian nationalists] will not come to power.”
The reasons for that are both obvious and damning, he argues. Most of the nationalist groupings and parties are small, with incompetent leaders and a followers that consists of marginal losers unprepared to do anything much, fools who do not understand what they are involved with and government agents provocateurs who exploit both.
Moreover, “there is no money [the lifeblood of any political group], and there isn’t going to be.” No one would give any without some hope for a return, and Russian nationalists cannot promise any. And those involved in the movement directly seldom are in a position to earn the money the movement would need to grow.
(In this comedy, Bol’shakov suggests, Vladimir Zhirinovskiy’s clowning, which attracts the attention of the media, may be the only sensible strategy for people in this part of the Russian political spectrum. After all, the media coverage his antics get brings his ideas such as they are to a broad public.)
But even if money somehow magically appeared, Bol’shakov suggests, his own experience indicates that these groups do not know how to reach out to the masses. Russians today “have already gotten used to the idea that they are being constantly lied to.” And consequently, they tune out almost everything.
As a result, Russian nationalist leaflets and web pages seldom reach anyone except those already convinced, thus guaranteeing that the movement not only will not grow but also that it will gradually die. And its actions, small demonstrations and marches, have the effect of signally not how strong the movement is but how weak. And as for the so-called leaders of the Russian national movement, he says, they fall into three categories: First, the fools, most of whom are honestly concerned about the fate of their nation and country but who lack the means or understanding to do anything about it
The worst of these are those who sit at home, worry about “worldwide problems, and “almost daily adopt resolutions of the type “Concerning the incorrect nature of the actions of NATO in Iraq.” Such people are a threat to no one, Bol’shakov adds, other than perhaps to themselves.
Second, the businessmen, people for whom “the struggle is a business” that they engage into advance their careers. And third, the provocateurs, “all of whose actions are directed … at discrediting the Movement,” splitting it into smaller and smaller fractions more easily controlled, and driving its members away.
Unfortunately for the movement, Bol’shakov says, “it is practically impossible to distinguish the provocateur from the ideologically committed – their words are the same and their actions are similar. Consequently, one is always asking oneself whether someone is a fool or a provocateur?!”
“The ambitions of these little Fuehrers and little Napoleans [from all these categories] do not allow for the achievement of anything even resembling unity.” And those who believe unity is essential lack the means to fight back when such leaders inevitably work to discredit them.
Given the appearance of stability in the country, the government’s clever deployment of provocateurs and its use of Russian nationalist themes, and “the lack of support” from the population, the numerically small Russian national movement is not in a position to do very much at all, let alone think about taking power.
In these circumstances, Bol’shakov argues, Russian nationalists have “only three options”: First, they can give up, turn to the bottle and behave “like Soviet dissidents sitting in the kitchen and shedding tears about the Russian people.” In reality, many Russian nationalists are already doing exactly that.
Second, they can support the current president or an “Orange” revolution in the hopes that things may get worse and thus provide them with an opening. “Or” – and with that word, Bol’shakov ends his article, implicitly suggesting that neither he nor his former comrades in arms have much of an idea.
Bol’shakov’s comments are important not only because they show how poorly organized Russian nationalists as a group are but also that those who identify themselves as members of that group do not like Vladimir Putin who many believe has “weakened” the Russian nationalist movement by adopting many of its ideas.

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