Monday, June 9, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalists Hope to Exploit Medvedev-Putin Split to Take Power

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 9 – Four Russian radical nationalist groups have formed a united front to exploit both growing Russian anger at migrants and other minorities and what they see as the tensions between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to force new parliamentary elections that will in their view allow them to take power on their own.
Yesterday, the leaders of the four – the unregistered Great Russia Party, the openly xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), and the equally extreme Russian Social Movement and Narod Movement -- signed a “pact” in which they pledged to work together toward for their common goal of “a Russia for the Russians.”
Unlike numerous earlier efforts by nationalist groups there to form an alliance, this meeting was carefully prepared, in order to eliminate fringe elements and to produce what one participant called “a new ‘scientific nationalism,’ free from an anachronistic worship of the land and schizoid Judophobia” (
That makes the appearance of this new grouping potentially more important and frightening and thus worthy of the closest attention, something it has gained already in the Russian blogosphere (See a partial listing at and in the Russian media but not yet in Western outlets.
Today’s Vedomosti ( and Gazeta ( provide extensive discussions, as do several portals. (See, among others, and
But the only English language offering so far on Google News is from Russia Today, which downplays the event in an article entitled “Sex toys and protests: day one of new nationalist group,” a reference to an action by opponents of the group who threw sex toys on the stage before they were “escorted” from the hall (
Convinced that “70 percent of people in Russia are spontaneous nationalists,” DPNI leader Belov said that ethnic clashes in Moscow and other cities will continue to increase in intensity (, an inflammatory remark given three such street fights in the last week in the Russian capital (
But as frightening as that prediction is, given DPNI’s involvement in such clashes in the past, far more disturbing are the political calculations and plans of the leaders of the four groups as laid out in their speeches at the meeting in Moscow yesterday and in the joint pact and declaration they all signed.
“We should unify with the left and the liberals in order to have elections which we will win,” one of them said. And others indicated that they had “already developed conditions” for supporting President Medvedev: “the retirement of the Putin government,” the restoration of the election of governors, and the end of anti-Russian actions by the authorities.
In the words of Vladimir Golyshev, the leader of the Narod Movement, “dual power [in Russia today] gives the nationalists a unique chance” not only to enter the mainstream of Russian politics but even to take power on their own.
The joint declaration is somewhat less expansive as is the unity pact. According to the former, the four nationalist groups say that they “are not under any illusions about Dmitry Medvedev. But under definite conditions, they are prepared to support him in order to reestablish a strong institution of presidential power” – including having Moscow take control of Chechnya.
And according to the pact – see its text at -- the new allies while maintaining their organizational independence, “recognize the need for active participation in elections at various levels and agree on mutual coordination of [their] efforts” in such electoral activities.
One of the new alliance’s backers, Konstantin Krylov of APN, spoke for many who share this group’s view when he said “We are not conservatives and we are not retrogrades. Russian nationalism speaks for modernization, progress and development. [Consequently,] we do not support any power in an unqualified way, but neither do we struggle with it as such.”
Instead, he concluded, “we ourselves must become the power,” a prospect that one hopes will never be realized given the group’s intolerance toward minorities and democratic principles but one that could become more likely if people of good will both in Russia and the West do not make it clear that such programs are both immoral and totally unacceptable.

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