Thursday, August 12, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Radical Right Increasingly Violent and Widespread, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 12—The arrest of a radical right group in Orel oblast which was led by a former officer of the Federal Protective Service and had used violence against both non-Russian immigrants and Russian officials is “unfortunately no surprise,” given the nationalist history of that region and the increasing violence of such groups, a Moscow analyst says.
In a comment posted on yesterday, Galina Kozhevnikova, who has long tracked extremist groups, points out that “Orel was one of the centers” where the extremist Russian National Unity (RNE) organization operated a decade ago and where its offspring are now taking things to a new and more violent level (
That development, she continues, reflects a confluence of two developments. On the one hand, officials there have regularly insisted that “we have a remarkable region and we have no problems,” an attitude that has led them to play down this problem and contributed to the sense among the radicals that no one will block their activities.
And on the other, when the powers that be began their recent crackdown on “the neo-Nazi milieu,” that world “began to react” in a way that was both “predictable” and “a little childish.” The radicals, Kozhevnikova suggests, “consider that they can deal with the regime” by using arms despite the overwhelming power of the state.
Their “final” goal, she sees is a revolution which will “allow them finally to realize their longstanding dream of driving out all non-Russians.” That is their only goal; they “have no positive program.” But they somehow believe that by attacking the representatives of the state, they will be able to gain the power to expel the non-Russians.
In Orel and in many other places, Kozhevnikova writes, “there are particular groups who declare their readiness to move to anti-government terror. With each day, these become ever more numerous and larger because the strong pressure [the state is bringing to bear on some of them] is not felt everywhere.” But where it is felt, there begins “a process of radicalization.”
Given this pattern, she says, it is obvious that for the radical Russian right, “the powers that be are not the main enemy the main enemy is the non-Russians.” That means in turn that there has not been and is unlikely to be “a systematic shift toward anti-government terror” at least in the short term.
But the shift “from knives to firearms [as has taken place in Orel] is simply a natural development” of what is taking place in many places in Russia now, she says. And the radicals in Orel thus exemplify a broader trend, one that highlights both the growing violence of the radical right and the inadequate response of the powers that be.
The Orel “partisans” as many are calling the group, given its nod to the partisans in the Far East, have attracted a great deal of attention, especially perhaps because of their links to a former officer and physical fitness instructor and because of the amount of guns that officials found in his possession (
But despite the evidence that the authorities have offered against this group, at least some local activists are suggesting that the whole thing may be a provocation by the powers that be designed to provide justification for some kind of sweeping action against all those who oppose the current rulers (
Consequently, even if Kozhevnikova is correct in her analysis of the trend of which the Orel “partisans” appear to be a part, they may also be part of an even larger political game, one in which the nature of the divide between the radical right and the powers that be may in fact be somewhat different than she suggests.

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