Vienna, January 20 – Ilya Goryachev, coordinator of the radical Russian nationalist group, “Russky obraz,” says that “the point of no return has not yet been reached” in the relations between his movement and the powers that be. And that it is still possible to prevent violence, “but time for that is running out.”
In an interview in “Novaya gazeta” today, one timed to coincide with the anniversary of the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, an action with which his group has been linked, Goryachev talked about “Russky obraz,” its goals, and its relations with the powers that be in the Russian Federation (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2010/005/02.html).
Asked about the reasons his group had arisen, Goryachev said that “the lack of political choice and of the chance to struggle for one’s views … the impossibility of getting into parliament by legal means has pushed many honest and sincere Russian people into the underground.”
“The solution to this problem,” he continued, “can only be political,” noting that “conflicts in [Northern Ireland] and Chechnya only became more intense when [those in power or even more when the left-wing opponents of the nationalists] attempted to put them down by force.”
Asked whether there is “a network of Russian nationalist underground militant organizations which will try to achieve their political goals by means of individual acts of terror,” Goryachev said that in his opinion, “such a network does not exist in Russia -- At least so far.”
“The point of no return has not yet been passed, and force can be stopped by political methods,” if the powers that be are prepared to act. But given the activities of the Wahhabi jamaats and left-liberal forces,” Goryachev said, the time for such forceful action is rapidly coming to an end, implying that at that point the Russian nationalist would act.
Now and in the future, he continued, the main direction of his organization’s activities is “the struggle for power,” not so much with those who are in the Kremlin “but with ideological opponents.” Young Russians today, he suggested, have many of the same impulses and same opportunities that students groups had in “old” Europe in 1968-69.
Asked about his group’s allies, Goryachev said that “Russky obraz” has been in contact with the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) since 2002 and that relations between the two organizations are ones of “healthy competition. “Russky verdict” is a legal defense group close to “Russky obraz.” But his group has no contacts with the NASHI organization
Goryachev said that the program of his group is “a utopia, a description of an ideal society for us, a kind of ‘City of the Sun’ of Campanella updated for contemporary life. This program,” he insisted, “is written by us for ourselves” rather than as a recruiting poster to attract others to the cause.
He acknowledged that the program calls for the creation of reservations for non-Russians living inside Russia that would resemble “the Bantustans in South Africa before the end of apartheid,” places where people who “do not want to live by Russian laws” but by the shariat or something else could do so.
But when residents of these places leave them, they will have severely restricted civil rights, Goryachev said. For example, because they have chosen to live according to “their own laws, they will not have the right to participate in elections or serve in the highest offices that other citizens [of Russia] will have.”
Goryachev said that the more than 1,000 Russians who have been charged or convicted of ethnically based crimes must be seen as “political prisoners” rather than simple “bandits.” The difference between the two concerns “the motivation of his action.” The bandit acts “out of selfishness” while “the political soldier acts from his political and ideological convictions.”
Intriguingly, the “Russky obraz” activist said that “left-liberal activists” more than the Russian powers that be “have attempted to begin a campaign aimed at the discrediting” of his group. And he singled out for special criticism in this regard the SOVA Center, Panorama and the Russian branch of the Anti-Defamation League.
Asked about his group’s relations to religion, Goryachev stressed that it is “a political organization not a religious one,” but he added that “with many good pastors from among the clergy of the Russian Orthodox church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, we have long had good relations.”
At the same time, however, he said “there will never been representatives of followers of destructive cults, that is, sectarians, or Muslims” in “Russky obraz.”
To put Goryachev’s comments in some context, “Novaya” journalist Ilya Nikitovich did his own research about the group in order to show what kind of organizations and individuals are suspected to have been connected with the murders of Markelov and Baburova a year ago (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2010/005/01.html).
Drawing on materials from the website of “Russky obraz” -- rus-obraz.net/ -- Nikitovich noted that the group styles itself “not as a band, not as a propaganda agency and not as a political party” but rather “as all three together.” It arose in the last decade, and Goryachev, its coordinator, specialized as a graduate student on Serbia.
In the early and mid-2000s, the group published eight issues of a journal, and its members, the “Novaya” journalist says, were among the founders of DPNI and continue to provide many of that group’s most active foot soldiers. At the same time, “Russky obraz” activists got involved with communist and nationalist parties.
But having recognized that the market for “racist ideas” was not large and that without the growth of such attitudes its chances for political success were limited, the group sought legitimation by its attacks on left-liberal groups and by “re-qualifying itself” as a structure providing a bridge “between the powers that be and the Nazis.”
To that end, “it has positioned itself as an ultra-right nationalist group that is friendly to the Kremlin and thus set itself apart from the Slavic Union and DPNI.” But Nikitovich said that it is difficult to say whether these groups are “competitors in the ultra-right sector or that this is a spectacle being played out for the powers that be.”
Goryachev plausibly claims that the group has approximately 1,000 members and 22 regional sections, the “Novaya” journalist concludes, noting that little is known about where the group gets its money –Goryachev himself says it is “self-financed” unlike liberal groups which receive assistance from abroad. And the group regularly organizes demonstrations and “actions.”
“Russky obraz” asserts that “it is not a fascist structure” and threatens to sue anyone who says otherwise, but it maintains close ties with “such openly Hitlerite and militant structures as Combat 18, United Brigade 88, and autonomous nationalists” that its claims in this regard must be treated skeptically, Nikitovich implies.
Until it was linked to the Tikhonov-Khasis case, few had heard of “Russky obraz.” But since this “its popularity among the Nazis has sharply risen.” At the same time, however, the “Novaya” journalist continues,” the group has also begun to attract more attention from the special services, who are concerned that these “legal nationalists” may have violent plans.