Friday, July 9, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Radical Right Views Putin -- But Not Medvedev -- as ‘One of Their Own,’ SOVA Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 9 – Many members of Russia’s radical and often violent extreme nationalist right believe that Vladimir Putin, unlike his predecessor Boris Yeltsin or successor Dmitry Medvedev, is “fulfilling [their] minimum program” thus is “one of their own,” according to a leading Moscow specialist on extremist groups.
In an interview published in “Svobodnaya pressa” today, Galina Kozhevnikova, the deputy director of the SOVA Analytic Center, says that the views of the Russian right in this regard reflect both their own evolution and changes in the approach of the Russian powers that be to politics in general (
In the first post-Soviet decade, she says, “the right-wing radicals directed their efforts toward public politics which existed at that time. Few of them,” she continues, were “then prepared to propagandize the use of force, even more racist force and still more to carry it out.” There were some people ready to do so, but these were largely “open bandits.”
“Now,” however, “the situation is different. The radical right of the Putin era, unlike that of the Yeltsin period,” Kozhevnikova says, “does not strive to take part in public politics,” which have become less significant thanks to his approach and which, thanks to greater technical skills, are making use of the Internet to promote their agenda.
At the beginning of Putin’s presidency, she says, “there was an enormous crisis in the right-wing radical milieu.” For them, Yeltsin had been “an absolute enemy. But when Putin came to power,” they took some time in adjusting to the new reality, one in which their relationship to the powers that be had changed.
“Intuitively, they from the start considered Putin as one of their own,” a view she says that it is “not important whether they had a basis to do so or not.” And after about 18 months, the right-wing radical nationalists publically declared their “support of Putin because he is a Russian and is carrying out the minimum program of the Russian nationalists.”
She adds that “by the way, Medvedev does not have such support among the radical right-wing nationalists.”
In other comments, she said that violence by racists and neo-Nazis had declined in Moscow and St. Petersburg because the militia had stepped up its campaign to arrest them. But, Kozhevnikova points out, “throughout the rest of Russia, the situation has not changed,” and attacks continue against people from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Moreover, the SOVA analyst says, her research has shown that over the past year or so, “the tendency of anti-government terror has continued,” with rightist media outlets even featuring regular discussions about just what this terror should involve and what its goals should be.
But she adds that what “disturbs” her and her colleagues is that “everyday xenophobic force has increased radically.” Such attacks are not the work of neo-Nazis but rather that of people “who in a normal situation would not turn to force. But in extreme cases, for example after the explosion in the Moscow metro, they allow their fists to speak for them.”
Kozhevnikova said that SOVA welcomes the actions of the authorities to bring any and all of these people to justice, noting that today, “the number of sentences” in such cases is 50 percent greater than in 2008. But “on the other hand,” it is disturbing that many of these sentences are suspended, thus leading many to conclude they can act with impunity.
Some commentators now talk of “a period of stagnation” in nationalist violence, but Kozhevnikova insisted that “there is no stagnation; the milieu [that gives rise to such attitudes] is developing.” But unfortunately, she adds, “we are gradually losing the sources by which we can follow the development of this milieu.”

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