Friday, April 16, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s ‘Symbiotic’ Ties with Radical Russian Nationalists Worrisome, Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 16 – Yesterday, “Novaya gazeta” was given a warning by Russian media officials concerning the publication of an article on “legal nationalists” that explored the “symbiotic” relationship between the powers that be and radical Russian nationalists and that the officials said violated the law by provoking “social, racial and national” tensions.
That is just the most recent example of “the paradoxical situation” Moscow commentator Tatyana Stanovaya says, “when an independent and liberal publication which raises the issue of the ‘legalization’ of nationalists turns out to be more dangerous [in the minds of] the powers that be than the penetration of [such] nationalists into the powers that be.”
Despite the murders of Federal Judge Eduard Chuvashov and journalists that Russian law enforcement officials have linked to radical nationalists, Stanovaya says, “the powers that be do not see for themselves a political threat in the Nazis, focusing instead on the extra-systemic opposition” against whom the radicals work (
Human rights monitors in Russia have noted that there has been “a certain reduction” in the number of nationalist crimes but have pointed out that “at the same time,” the crimes the radical nationalists do commit are often more violent – a view that both the courts and the law enforcement agencies appear to share.
But the powers that be, Stanovaya continues, do not appear to agree. Over the last decade, as many have pointed out, Vladimir Putin has played with the nationalists not only by his comments about Chechnya and his actions against migrant workers and Georgia but also by his apparent desire to find allies against a possible “orange” threat in Russia.
One such example, the Moscow analyst continues, is provided by the NASHI movement which, even though “few remember it now,” was set up as part of the broader “anti-fascist movement” but directed not against “the right radicals but against liberal groups like SS and Yabloko.
Not surprisingly, Stanovaya says, “the liberals in turn always have accused the powers that be of being fellow travelers to the real nationalists,” pointing out that the anti-Yabloko “Svobodnaya Rossiya” Party included “Yegor Kholmogorov, one of the ideologues of the Russian nationalists” and that the loyalist LDPR has among its deputies Nikolay Kuryanovich.
These links between the powers that be and the Russian extreme nationalists have become the focus of more media attention recently. Two months ago, “Novaya gazeta” launched a series on this, Stanovaya says, and now the powers that be have decided to go after that liberal publication precisely because of that.
This action by the regime, she continues, suggests that the powers that be continue to view “the nationalists as their political allies,” as individuals and groups “who do not represent a threat, and who even more than that offer alternative possibilities and instruments for the struggle with the extra-system threats” that the powers that be see coming from elsewhere.
But that policy, which Stanovaya calls “symbiosis by inertia” is “leading to the growth of major crimes and the radicalization of methods of struggle of the nationalists which for the first time have gone after a high status individual in the system of government administration, a federal judge.”
That in turn, the Moscow commentator says, raises an even more disturbing question not only for liberals but for Russia as a whole: “What price is the Kremlin prepared to pay for the existing symbiosis of nationalists and the powers that be?” Clearly she hopes, along with others of good will. that the powers that be will decide they are paying too much.

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