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RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly
Vol. 5, No. 17, 2 May 2005

A Weekly Review of News and Analysis of Russian Domestic Politics

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By Victor Yasmann

The National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which is Russia's
oldest radical youth organization, was created in 1994 by radical
writer Eduard Limonov, Eurasianism ideologue Aleksandr Dugin (who
soon left the party), and rock musicians Yegor Letov and Sergei
Kurikhin, as well as other counterculture figures.
Although according to its own statistics the NBP has 30,000
to 50,000 members and branches in 24 key Russian regions as well as
in the Baltic states and the CIS, the party has no official status,
as the authorities persistently refuse to register it. It has a
network of regional and international websites and requests that its
new members possess Internet skills.
The NBP's leader and cult figure is Eduard Limonov, 62, a
man with an unusual history and one of the few Russian politicians
with no links to the Soviet and post-Soviet ruling elite. Born in
Kharkiv, Limonov was a member of the Soviet literary underground in
the 1960s. In 1974, he emigrated to the United States, where he
became close to American Trotskyites and anarchists. It was there
that he wrote his best-selling novel "It is me, Eddie," (Eto ya,
Yedichka), which has been translated into 15 languages.
Limonov soon moved to Paris, where he became a member of the
French avant-garde literary salons and joined forces with French and
European leftist and neo-rightist political radicals, including
French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. In the late 1980s, he
began to publish his articles in the national-patriotic press in the
Soviet Union and in 1992 moved back to Russia. In 1994 Limonov
launched the extremist ultranationalist newspaper "Limonka," which
quickly began to attract various groups of young people frustrated by
the hardships of reforms and embittered at the West.
Armed with his political experience in the West, Limonov
proposed the creation of "revolutionary party of a new style" that
could attract young people with a combination of extremist
ultranationalist propaganda and "direct action" as practiced during
the Maoist student protest in France and other European countries in
1968. Limonov suggested calling the new party the National
Bolsheviks, as he believed that the word "communism" had been
compromised by the reactionary policies of the Communist Party, which
he also blamed for "losing the USSR."
While Limonov became the leader of the NBP, its chief
ideologue was Aleksandr Dugin (see, the
main standard bearer of the neo-imperialistic doctrine of
Eurasianism. Dugin was also a proponent of the idea of a
"conservative revolution" pitting Eurasia against the Atlantic powers
of Great Britain and the United States. Dugin was also an editor of
the party newspaper, "Limonka."
Looking back at the NBP's activities in the 1990s, the
leader of the rival Communist Party-controlled Young Left Front, Ilya
Ponamarev, told on 4 April that "the organization never was
or is a youth movement at all."
"It is a postmodernist aesthetic project of intellectual
provocateurs [in the positive meaning of the word] in which many
bright and nontrivial personalities like Eduard Limonov, Aleksandr
Dugin, Sergei Kurikhin, and [analyst] Stanislav Belkovskii were
involved," Ponamarev said. "It was an effort, and, a quite successful
one, to mobilize the most passionate and intellectually dissatisfied
part of society (in contrast to the Communist Party, which utilized
the social and economic protests of the leftist electorate). For this
mobilization, the NBP used a bizarre mixture of totalitarian and
fascist symbols, geopolitical dogma, leftist ideas, and
national-patriotic demagoguery."
In 1998, Dugin and his followers left the NBP. After
Dugin's exit, the NBP quickly moved to the left wing of
Russia's political spectrum, accusing Dugin and his group of
being fascists.
At that point, the NBP began having considerable problems
with the Federal Security Service (FSB), since the special services
always favored Dugin's Eurasianist philosophy. Or as 102-year-old
KGB Foreign Intelligence veteran Boris Gudz claimed in the 2004 book
"Geniuses of Intelligence," Eurasianism was invented in the 1920s by
the OGPU, a predecessor of the KGB. Consequentially, the FSB regarded
all opponents of Eurasianism, including the NBP, as enemies.
The conflict between the FSB and NBP was exacerbated by the
tactics of "direct action," in which NBP activists publicly attacked
people they considered symbols of the regime or domestic or foreign
allies of the Kremlin. The NBP's favorite tactics were throwing
mayonnaise or tomatoes at prominent public figures. Since 1998, such
people as former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, NATO
Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, Central Election Commission
Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, and film director Nikita Mikhalkov
were subjected to such attacks by the NBP, while former Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev and Great Britain's Prince Charles
were hit in face with bunches of flowers.
For these and other nonviolent actions that the NBP calls
"velvet terror," many of its activists have been arrested and
sentenced to serious prison terms. According to the NBP website
(, more than 100 of its members have been in
Russian prisons since the party's creation, while 47 are still
serving sentences or awaiting trial.
In April 2001, Limonov and a group of his followers were
arrested by the FSB in Altai under accusations of terrorism and
preparing an armed rebellion in Kazakhstan.
Limonov awaited trial in jail until February 2003, when he
was sentenced to four years in prison. Limonov pleaded not guilty and
sought political-prisoner status. "We do not deserve to be called
extremists. In the West, we would occupy a place between Greenpeace
and Amnesty International, being a legal party and real political
force, " he said, according to
In prison, Limonov wrote the book "The Other Russia," in
which he dropped much of the radical dogma of national bolshevism and
changed his mind about the past and future of Russia. For example, in
the mid-1990s NBP activists shocked people with chants of "Stalin,
Beria, Gulag," but after personal experience with modern Russian
prisons, Limonov and his followers stopped romanticizing
state-security organs and began calling President Vladimir
Putin's Russia a "police state."
Under pressure from State Duma deputies, Limonov was released
in June 2003 and continued his political evolution toward a coalition
with democratic forces and the left-wing opposition against the
Kremlin. The product of this evolution was the new NBP political
program released in 2004, containing almost identical points to
Yabloko's, for instance.
According to the program posted at, the
new goals of the party should be the development of civil society and
restriction of state interference in public and personal life,
facilitation of the registration and activity of political parties,
development of independent media and allowing criticism of the
president and government on state-controlled television, civilian
control over law enforcement and the FSB, restoration of the
social-security network, curtailing of bureaucracy, and the end of
the war in Chechnya.
Since late 2004, the NBP has protested the cancellation of
the direct election of governors and the botched monetization reform
and enthusiastically supported the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. On
11 April the NBP together with the Communist Party, Motherland,
Sergei Glazev's For a Decent Life party, and supported by
Yabloko, organized an initiative group for a national referendum on
social and political reforms "with a human face," Russian media
If the political orientation of NBP in the last couple years
changed visibly, the tactics of direct action remain unchanged and
became even more provocative.
On 2 August 2004, a group of NBP activists broke into the
office of Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov and
occupied it for several hours, demanding Zurabov's resignation
for his responsibility for the unpopular social-benefits reforms, the
NBP's website announced. Using flash-mob tactics, the NBP called
its followers to gather around the office to support the action.
Eventually, FSB arrested most of the participants of the action and
on 12 December seven NBP activist were each sentenced to five years
in prison for the "seizure of a government office and mass
On 14 December 2004, an even bigger group of NBP members
occupied the presidential-administration visitors' room in much
the same manner, to protest Putin's political reforms, reported. Thirty-nine members of NBP have been arrested
and are still awaiting trial. They have been accused of "attempting
to seize power and organize a mass disturbance." If convicted, they
could face two to eight years in prison. They are scheduled to face
trial in August.
Meanwhile, the NBP continues to defend the "right of the
people to revolution." The weekly "Limonka," No. 271, declared on 16
April that Russia is on the eve of revolution. "The people awoke
during perestroika, and fell asleep for a while, now they have
awakened again to discover what kind of moral monsters are governing
them. And they rebel against these monsters. Moral complaints against
the authorities are the main engine of the colored revolution."
Some political analysts believe that the only kind of
revolution that can happen in Russian is a leftist-socialist and/or
nationalist-patriotic revolution. If that is indeed the case, NBP,
with 10 years of experience in confrontation with government, its own
list of political prisoners, and tactics of direct action, will
likely be at the eye of the revolutionary storm.



By Claire Bigg

In his state-of-the-nation address on 25 April, Russian
President Vladimir Putin surprised the West by calling the Soviet
Union's collapse the "biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the
century." Putin said, "For the Russian people, it became a real
drama. Tens of millions of our citizens and countrymen found
themselves outside Russian territory. The epidemic of disintegration
also spread to Russia itself."
Outside Russia, Putin's declaration has sparked debate
over the gravity of the Soviet Union's demise compared to other
geopolitical catastrophes such as World War II.
Some Western publications have suggested that the rise --
rather than the fall -- of the Soviet Union might have been the real
catastrophe of the 20th century.
In Russia, however, Putin's statement has failed to
create much controversy. Instead, it has been met largely with
indifference, tacit agreement, and even enthusiasm.
Boris Kagarlitskii, the director of the Institute of
Globalization Studies in Moscow, said he tends to agree with the
Russian president.
Kagarlitskii said the fall of the Soviet Union and its
ensuing chaos affected, at least initially, tens of millions of lives
across a massive territory. And the changes, he argued, were not
always for the best.
"It is very clear that for the great majority of Russian
people, the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a personal
catastrophe," Kagarlitskii said. "It was also a catastrophe for a
tremendous majority of people in Tajikistan, quite a lot of people in
Uzbekistan, and so on, including many people in Ukraine. Because
families were divided, people's lives were ruined, living
standards collapsed, the minimal standards of human justice, and very
often of freedom, were also neglected."
Another reason Putin's statement has failed to surprise
Russians is the fact that it comes from a former member of the Soviet
secret services.
Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Center in
Moscow, said Putin's comment indicates some personal nostalgia
for the Soviet Union, since its collapse marked the end of his career
as a KGB officer.
Putin's declaration, he said, was mainly intended as an
olive branch to Russia's elderly and veterans ahead of the 9 May
celebrations in Moscow to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of
World War II.
The reform in January of Soviet-era social benefits had riled
pensioners, thousands of whom had staged protests for weeks across
the country.
Petrov said Putin's Soviet nostalgia would have found a
receptive audience in older Russians who have seen their living
standards steadily decline since 1991.
"[Putin's declaration] has to be understood in the
broader context of the president's address, which was pronounced
in such a tone as to be pleasant to all categories of citizens,"
Petrov said. "Such thoughts are particularly popular among the
elderly and the veterans, in whose eyes Putin's image was greatly
tarnished by the monetization of benefits at the beginning of the
Traditionally, the state-of-the-nation address is devoted to
reviewing the government's performance in the past year and
outlining its future course.
Analysts were therefore perplexed by the prominence of
historical events in Putin's speech, and why he sought to place
the fall of the Soviet Union in a global context.
Petrov said Putin is obviously concerned by the recent
protests that toppled governments in former Soviet republics Georgia,
Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia had been very critical of the
protests, but had failed to curb them.
"I think that [Putin's declaration] is definitely linked
to the events that are taking place on post-Soviet territory," Petrov
said. "It is in part a reaction to global tectonic processes, changes
-- to the transition from a post-Soviet existence to a fundamentally
new life on this territory."
Putin also used his state-of-the-nation address to make clear
he would not tolerate similar events on Russian territory. He said
authorities would react to any unrest with what he called "legal but
tough means."



By Jean-Christophe Peuch

Just days ago, Moscow and Tbilisi blamed each other for
scuttling talks on the withdrawal of Russian military bases in
Georgia. But now both sides are reporting progress on the issue.
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili said on a visit to
Moscow yesterday that Russia is now willing to vacate both facilities
by 2008. Although there is still no formal agreement on a pullout
date, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested yesterday that
a compromise is in sight.
Zurabishvili said the fate of Russia's military bases has
been "all but decided."
The Georgian envoy told Georgia's Rustavi-2 private
television channel yesterday that she and Lavrov and agreed in
principle the pullout should be completed by 1 January 2008.
She also suggested that Moscow might begin vacating the two
facilities as soon as the presidents of both countries sign a final
agreement on the withdrawal.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has suggested that,
without a firm agreement on a withdrawal date, he might not join his
Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in May to attend ceremonies
marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The Georgian president addressed the issue of the bases while
speaking at the 22 April GUUAM summit in the Moldovan capital
Chisinau.Tbilisi for the past five years has demanded that the Batumi
and Akhalkalaki bases be vacated as soon as possible. Russia has
claimed it does not have enough money to pull out before the next
"Russia's military bases are stationed in Georgia against
the will of the Georgian people. They do not serve the interests of
either Russia or Georgia; nor do they serve the interests of our
bilateral relations and regional security," Saakashvili said. "We
hope we will be able to agree on a [mutually] acceptable, civilized,
and gradual -- yet final -- withdrawal of the Russian military bases
before the Moscow summit."
At a 1999 summit of the Organization for Cooperation and
Security in Europe (OSCE), Russia was requested to clear the four
ex-Soviet military bases it had been maintaining in Georgia. The OSCE
said the Russian bases violated international disarmament treaties on
conventional weapons.
In 2001, Moscow vacated the Vaziani airfield, near Tbilisi,
and handed it over to Georgian authorities. Claims that it also
withdrew from the Gudauta military base in Georgia's breakaway
province of Abkhazia have not been independently verified.
Far more problematic has been the fate of the two remaining
They are located respectively in Batumi, the capital of the
autonomous Republic of Adjara, and in Akhalkalaki, in the
predominantly Armenian southern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti.
The issue has been a major hurdle in talks over a new
Georgian-Russian bilateral treaty.
Tbilisi for the past five years has demanded that the Batumi
and Akhalkalaki bases be vacated as soon as possible. Russia has
claimed it does not have enough money to pull out before the next
The Georgian parliament on 10 March adopted a nonbinding
resolution suggesting that the government should force the withdrawal
of Russian troops by year's end if the sides fail to reach an
agreement by 15 May.
Lavrov yesterday indicated Moscow might be willing to
accelerate the withdrawal by starting to pull out part of its
military equipment in the months to come. He also said Russia will
continue to hand over Soviet-era plants and other facilities that are
not part of the bases.
"We agree that the withdrawal should be progressive and could
begin already this year, provided corresponding accords are reached,"
Lavrov said. "This concerns heavy military equipment; this concerns
those military facilities that are not part of the Russian military
bases, and this also concerns questions related to the joint use of a
number of facilities that are part of the Russian military bases in
A major concern for Moscow is that NATO hopeful Georgia might
authorize the deployment of U.S. or other allied troops on its
territory once Russian forces leaves.
Tbilisi has said it has no intention of allowing in any
non-Georgian troops after the Russian pullout. But it refuses to meet
Moscow's request that its legislation be amended accordingly. It
says decisions about foreign military bases are not Russia's
But the two sides have shown signs of cooperating on other
issues. Giving few details, Lavrov hinted yesterday that progress had
been made on setting up an antiterrorist center in Georgia.
"In line with a decision reached by our two presidents, it
has also been agreed that, in parallel with the pullout of the
Russian bases, a Georgian-Russian antiterrorist center would be set
up," Lavrov said. "Negotiations to that effect have already started
between representatives of the secret services of both states. [These
negotiations] will continue in the near future."
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has demanded the
antiterrorist center be set up at the Batumi and Akhalkalaki
facilities and used to train army and border-guard joint units.
But Georgian officials claim the proposal is a pretext for
maintaining Russian troops in the country. They say any antiterrorist
center should be based in Tbilisi and operate more as a think tank
than a military training site.
Zurabishvili implied yesterday that there is much to be done
before a comprehensive bilateral agreement can be made, saying, "The
devil is in the details."


6-8 May: Federation Council Chairman Sergei
Mironov to visit Minsk for talks with Belarusian legislators
6-8 May: Working Russia movement to hold anti-war rallies
near US embassy, according to leader Viktor Anpilov
8 May: CIS heads of state will gather in Moscow for a summit
9 May: Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of
World War II
10 May: Russia-EU summit to be held in Moscow
10 May: Latvian, Russian officials to sign Russia-Latvia
border agreement
11 May: Federation Council will consider law on election of
State Duma deputies
16 May: Moscow court will deliver its verdict in trial of
former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii and co-defendants
18 May: Monument to Tsar Aleksandr II to be unveiled in
26 May: Constitutional Court expected to rule in a case filed
by the Federal Tax Service, which is seeking to overturn the current
three-year statute of limitations on tax-related crimes
30-31 May: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit Japan
end of May: Union of Rightist Forces party congress to be
19 June: Referendum in Samara on dismissing Mayor Georgii
23 June: Yukos shareholders meeting
24 June: Gazprom shareholders meeting. Date by which merger
of Gazprom and Rosneft to be completed, according to RBK
4 July: 750th anniversary of the founding of Kaliningrad
6-8 July: G-8 summit in Scotland
10 July: Early presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan
August: CIS summit to be held in Kazan
September: First-ever Sino-Russian military exercises to be
held on the Shandong Peninsula
1 November: New Public Chamber expected to hold first session

2006: Russia to host a G-8 summit in St. Petersburg
1 January 2006: Date by which all political parties must
conform to law on political parties, which requires at least 50,000
members and branches in one-half of all federation subjects, or
either re-register as public organizations or be dissolved.

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Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

This "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" was prepared by Julie A.
Corwin on the basis of a variety of sources. It is distributed every

Direct comments to Robert Coalson at [email protected]
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