Natsbols

Limonov’s Phone, Books, Chairs, and Heater Seized

While everyone is focused on Medvedev’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, life goes on as usual in Russia .  Perhaps, all too usual.  Yesterday, court agents seized National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov’s property and forbade him from leaving the country. The move was to figure out how much the writer owns so he can pay the 500,000 ruble “compensation” for “damaging the honor, accomplishments, and business reputation” of Moscow mayor/oligarch Yurii Luzhkov. Last November Moscow’s Babushkinskii Court ordered Limonov to pay the mayor for disparaging remarks he made in an interview on Radio Svoboda.  It was there that he made the audacious statement that Luzhkov controls the Moscow courts.  Limonov clearly hit to close to home because he found himself in court shortly thereafter.

This is the second  property seizure (at least that I’m aware of) of a National Bolshevik in the last month.  The first occurred on 7 August, when authorities raided the apartment of Natsbol activist Maxim Gasovich. The authorities raided the apartment looking for another oppositionist named Darya Isayeva, who was suspected of “extremism” for a stunt she and several members pulled at a Moscow Yolki-Palki.  According to the Moscow Times, the group of Natsbols skipped out of a 1,500 bill, and instead left leaflets saying “Eat for free!” on the table.  The activists say that the stunt was a protest against rising food prices.  I have to say that I find something endearing in the stunt.

Isayeva and another activist were detained but released later that evening.  However, in an effort to find Isayeva again (if the cops wanted her, why did the let her go in the first place?) they raided Gasovich’s apartment a week later. The cops didn’t find her (surprise) and confiscated Gasovich’s computer and books by Eduard Limonov.  In response to the incident the author said about the confiscation of his books,  “These are published books. Only uneducated cops would think they could be used as evidence against us.”

Well, now Limonov’s books are getting seized.

What does he have in his apartment?  Here is Kommersant‘s description:

Mr. Limonov lives in a apartment on Nizhni Syromiatnicheskii street (according to the author he doesn’t have another apartment). . . [He and his lawyer Aleksei Orlov] waited for the court officers in a small room which has a bed, a pair of chairs with leather upholstery, a desk with an old typewriter and shelves with books.

Not much by way of value.  But the agents did their best.  They took Limonov’s mobile and stationary phone, heater, the chairs, and several books (even the Soviet ones).  The total worth amounted to a whopping 14,850 rubles.

The only question is how will they turn these items into cash? Even Marina Iliushchenko, the court’s press secretary, can’t answer that one.  “I don’t even know what to do with these items,” she told Kommersant.  “Who would want them is almost incomprehensible.”

Mass Graves, Football, Labor, and Prisons in Russia

As regular readers can see, my blogging has been sparse over the last few weeks.  I just finished a three week teaching blitz of a Western Civilization course at Santa Monica High School.  The class was part of Santa Monica Community College’s dual enrollment program which allows high school students to take classes for college credit.  The class was everyday, 8-11 a.m.  I haven’t woken up so early since I worked in a stove factory over fifteen years ago.

Rushing through 500 years of history has never been so daunting. The class was enjoyable and the students remarkably bright.  One thing that struck me about the high school is how it resembled a prison.  I guess Gilles Deleuze was on to something when he wrote that modernity initiates,

The organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first the family; then the school (“you are no longer in your family”); then the barracks (“you are no longer at school”); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the preeminent instance of the enclosed environment. It’s the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini’s Europa ’51 could exclaim, “I thought I was seeing convicts.”

******

So teaching was the main reason why blogging has been sparse. It will continue to be so.  On Thursday, I leave for Israel for two weeks.  I’m hoping to do so research for a few articles on the Russian diaspora there.  My big hope is to meet up with some Israeli neo-Nazis for an article for the newly relaunched eXile Online. (Yes, if you haven’t already heard, the eXile is back in virtual form. Mark has left Russia and word is the eXile is going to be less Russia focused. Look for its verbal assassins to set their sites on more victims.)  If the Israeli Nazi thing doesn’t pan out, I’m sure my travels will present a number of other topics.  So stay tuned.

Though I haven’t been keeping up with the Russian news as well as I normally do, there have been a number of interesting stories that have appeared. Some of them are directly Russia related, others are bit tangential.

First article to catch my notice was a report on the exhumation of a mass grave containing around 300 bodies in an asphalt plant in Chechnya.  The grave was discovered in 2000 but wasn’t uncovered until now.  The site dates to the Second Chechen War and according to the report “likely contains civilian victims of an attack by Russian forces.” The report of this mass grave follows the announcement a week earlier of another one found in Grozny containing an estimated 800 corpses.

Open Democracy has published several articles on Russia as part of their collaboration with Polit.ru.  Football fans should check out Lyubov Borusyak’s “Russia, Football and Patriotism.” Granted connecting football to patriotism, or what I’d rather call nationalism, is not new.  Sport is a uniting force and it is no surprise that in Russia’s so-called “age of stability” sport is making a national comeback.  Russia now appears as a winning nation to many of its citizens, and this is only reinforced by the fact that its teams have some victories under their belts.  But as Borusyak points out, its not just that Russian teams are winning.  In fact, the ultimate crown often alludes them.  This however doesn’t dampen the link between national enthusiasm and sport.  Just the opposite actually.  As she notes, “There are two kinds of patriotic rhetoric. On the one hand, our people are winning because Russia is ‘rising’. On the other, our people are losing because the whole world is against us. Until 2008,the second discourse predominated, as there were not many successes. But this year the situation changed.”

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With much of the world reeling from capital’s cyclical curse of overproduction, speculation bubbles, or to put it more kindly, “market corrections,” it begs the question of Russia’s economic prognosis.  Unlike the American economy, the Russian economy has not experienced shocks of similar magnitude. It’s banks aren’t collapsing, being bailed out or raided by the state. Corporate profits aren’t taking a hit.  Announcements of layoffs, buyouts, and wage slashing aren’t ubiquitous.  Like so often, American capitalists who love to spit on the state are the first to run to it for a handout.  It all proves once again that its socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else. As Robert Borosage reminds us, Wall Street’s “losses are socialized; their profits are pocketed.”

This is not to say that Russia’s economy is all bread and circuses for the average Russian.  Inflation is a particular bugaboo that is not just being fueled by high oil prices and general global inflation in commodities. Russian inflation more comes from the fact that, as Dmitri Travin notes, “millions of people, from oligarchs to cleaners really are benefiting from oil revenues.”  Of course, the spread of petrodollars contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Especially when you consider its effects on manufacturing. Travin writes,

From the point of view of manufacturing,this wealth is a terrible curse. An expensive ruble makes the goods we manufacture more expensive by comparison with imported goods. If the Central Bank does not stop the ruble from rising, many Russian producers will lose their competitive advantage and cease to exist. And along with them, many jobs will disappear. GDP will stop growing, and parts of the country will be plunged into crisis. In the long term, the Russian people’s unexpected wealth will turn into poverty.

What God giveth, God (might) taketh away. Again, the inevitability of overproduction is a real bitch to tame.

The losses of global economic crisis are not equal. There are winners and losers.  Take General Motors, for example.  GM executives plan to make some “difficult decisions” in regard to its American workforce.  This includes, according to the New York Times, “a 20 percent reduction in payroll for salaried workers, elimination of health care for older white-collar retirees, and suspension of G.M.’s annual stock dividend of $1 a share.” GM, like most car companies, are reeling from the slide in the American market.  No one wants their big gas guzzling SUVs and two-ton trucks anymore.  As a result, GM plans to make $10 billion in cost cuts.  And where will these cuts come from?  Why labor and benefits of course.

At the same time GM is slashing labor costs in the United States, it’s looking to expand in Russia. GM is currently in negotiations to up its production in Russia, where its market share has increased by 2 percent over the last year.  Given that Russia has a skilled, cheap workforce it’s ripe for exploitation.  The average wage for a Russian autoworker is about $1000 a month with few, if any, benefits.  An American autoworker makes an average of $5000 a month and that’s if you don’t include benefits. With GM sales rising coupled with the benefit of slashing labor costs, its no surprise that they and many other automakers can’t get to Russia fast enough.

Russian and American autoworkers know the score. Class war is heating up in both countries.  In the States, auto union are fighting against the “two-tier wage system” which looks to slash staring wages by half. In Russia, autoworkers are increasingly understanding their labor power and are putting collective pressure on automakers. This pressure is expected to grow.  As Aleksey Etmanov, the leader of a Ford auto union in St. Petersburg, said in a recent interview,

The creation of trade unions will increase. Even now there is simply a wave of new trade unions appearing. Today in our trade union there are approximately 1000 people, this is half of the workers of plant. In Taganrog the works manager hides in order not to obtain information about the creation of the trade union. Certainly, the pressure everywhere is being stepped up, and repression from the side of employers is increasing, they are sacking activists. Nowhere do the employers want to live according to the law (including Russia) but we are fighting back. In Toyota in the Petersburg area the manager, who, by the way, went there from “Ford”, is himself putting the workers in such conditions that we are confident, that very soon there will a trade union there too.

We are actively participating in the setting up of new trade unions in other factories of our industry, and we are developing inter-district unions of the Russian automobile industry, which, according to our plans, will be linked up as members of an organization covering all the car factories of the country, and we think we can do this towards the middle of next year. The Ford trade unionists are the most experienced elements in this association, and without us, probably the association would not have appeared. But all over the world the car workers trade unions are the strongest. The joint-combine committee draws nearer…

It is clear that the strength of the union is not only in the individual enterprise but is also in all the surrounding workplaces. Therefore we want to be combined with other trade unions, both with the Russian and in other countries. In particular, we closely collaborate with the international association of metalworkers. Now our interests can also be represented abroad. For example, when we struck, our American friends came to examine the headquarters of company “Ford” in Detroit…

I highly recommend reading all of Etmanov’s interview on In Defense of Marxism.

Finally, its not just Russian autoworkers who are organizing.  So are Russian prisoners.  ON July 6 over 100 former Russian political prisoners gathered for the First Congress of Political Prisoners in Moscow. The result was the formation of the Union of Prisoners, which in the words of Edward Limonov, “will gather, not only political prisoners, but will defend the rights of all prisoners and ex-prisoners.” Limonov also proposes the creation of A Day of Prisoners for September 14.  He also plans on turning his National Bolshevik Party toward organizing prisoners.  Limonov clearly knows his history.  Prison is indeed a transformative revolutionary experience.  Any bonafide Old Bolshevik did a stint in prison or exile.  Prison hardened the Bolshevik soul and spirit.  Apparently many of Limonov’s young charges are undergoing the same process. As Limonov says of Aleksei Makarov, who was recently released from prison. “Aleksei wasn’t yet 18 when he was arrested two years ago. He grew greatly in prison.”

If the Natsbol’s slogan is indeed “Yes, to death!” then nothing will harden that political will more than prison.

Russian prisons are of course nightmares.  They always have been and continue to be so.  For a run down on the conditions in prisons and the treatment of prisoners in Russia, I recommend checking out Robert Amsterdam’s excellent coverage of the issue. In particular, check out Grigory Pasko’s three part series “Life Behind Bars.”

(An)other Russia Rally

Things are looking bad for Russia’s floundering “opposition”. I say “opposition” because the Western media has declared the Russia’s liberal forces–Yabloko, SPS, and Other Russia–the true challengers to Putin and United Russia rather than the real opposition, the Communists. Be that as it may. Apparently, pumping up small and insignificant parties is far more agreeable to the Western political establishment than giving credence to Zyuganov.

It’s difficult to measure whatever strength, if any, the “opposition” has in Russia. If today’s rally is any indication, it’s not much. The Other Russia rally ranged between 1000 to 3000 participants depending on who you ask. About an hour into the rally, a band of 200 National Bolsheviks waving black flags with hammer and sickles broke away and began marching. This gave OMON the legal green light to move in and bust the whole thing up. Moscow authorities only sanctioned a rally. Scuffles ensued but eventually armor clad OMONtsy encircled the “dissenters.” And to the tune of billy clubs rapping against their shields, they snagged the most vocal of activists and hustled them into an awaiting van. Limonov, Kasparov, Maria Gaidar, Ilya Yashin and 100 others were arrested. The four faces of “opposition” were on their way to present a complaint to the Electoral Commission office. According to the Moscow Times, they barely made it to McDonald’s.

All were released shortly thereafter (Gaidar as a Duma rep for SPS has immunity) except for Kasparov who was charged with resisting arrest and organizing an illegal march. He is expected to sit in the slammer until Thursday. Given the paltry turn out, Other Russia should be happy that OMON was there to make their march relevant. Without arrests there wouldn’t have been anything noteworthy.

Things looked no brighter in St. Petersburg. There about 500 Other Russia supporters gathered in defiance of city authorities. OMON didn’t hesitate to round up all the rally’s organizers including newly named SPS presidential candidate Boris Nemtsov and local party head Nikita Belykh. Both were released. Again, its a good thing OMON showed up because then the Financial Times couldn’t call their action a “crackdown,” the Moscow Times couldn’t declare the march “quashed,” and RFE/RL would have to find another verb besides “crush” for their headline.

The Bush Administration issued a statement condemning Moscow’s “aggressive tactics.” That should provide Channel One, which called Other Russia a bunch of “aggressive extremists” and provocateurs looking to brainwash pensioners in its coverage of the march, with more xenophobic fodder. Its seems that the powers that be love the word “aggressive.”

The march culminates several weeks of police harassment of Other Russia and other oppositionists. On Friday, police raided their Moscow headquarters with a mandate to search for “weapons, drugs, and illegal literature.” The first two were nowhere to be found (probably to the cops’ disappointment), but the police were nonetheless able to walk away with some “illegal literature”: 300 stickers that read “Vote for the Other Russia List.” Wow, scary.

If Other Russia is in a bind, Yabloko is faring no better. Forget the fact that police blocked their offices the morning of the St. Petersburg march. And forget that Yabloko Ivan Bolshakov was detained a few days before. The real signal to the “dissenters” is the murder of Farid Babaev, Yabloko’s chief in Dagestan. Babaev was shot four times, including one “control shot” in the head, in his apartment vestibule on Wednesday. The assassins’ whereabouts, of course, are unknown and probably will remain so.

Will the suppression of the Russian “opposition” matter to voters? It will certainly harden the belief among the already converted that Putin is no democrat. But for most Russians Sunday’s events are par for the course. According to a poll conducted by RFE/RL the government’s pressure is exactly what they expect. Putin and his people will ensure their victory either through graft, influence, or plain old violence. The fix is already in and Putin is holding all the cards. Or as poli-sci prof Vladimir Gelman told RFE/RL,

“You can compare the situation to a football match in which the result is known in advance, the referee completely favors one team that is the preordained victor, and the spectators are not even interested in watching or in supporting one team or another.”

Putin the spread buster must really irk some bookies.

Samara Wages Preemptive War on Dissenters

By Dmitri Minaev and Sean Guillory

The biannual EU-Russia Summit is taking place today in the provincial town of Samara. European-Russian relations, the Middle East, Kosovo independence, and Iran will be some of the main topics of the talks. The Western media is reporting that Putin faces a tough go. Recent clashes with Estonia and trade standoffs with Lithuania and Poland, analysts suggest, have united the EU against Russia. Formerly, member powerhouses Germany and France negotiated deals individually with Russia ignoring the interests of East European member states. Now with new member states blocking EU trade accords with Russia, the rest of the Union seems to be standing firmly behind them. Some even suggest EU-Russia tensions threaten to unravel the Summit.

As with this EU Summit, Russia’s hosting or attendance to international summits have been marred by controversy. Putin’s luster from Russia’s taking the G8 chairmanship in January 2006 was dulled by Western criticism of Russia’s “gas war” with Ukraine. Then at the informal EU-Russia summit in Helsinki in October 2006, journalists hounded Putin with questions about the murders of Alexandr Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya. In addition to all the tension with foreign governments, Putin’s Samara showcase will also be met with yet another Dissenters’ March. A repeat of the heavy police crackdown on the Dissenters’ March in April will only further mar Putin’s image and possibly even relations with the West. But judging from the police’s preemptive action, it appears that the possibility of an increasing confrontation with Europe over how Moscow deals with dissent is hardly a concern.

Local Government Foot Dragging

On May 8, the organizers of the demonstration announced that they had agreed with Samara City administration proposals to shorten the planned route of the march. However, on the next day, the city administration denied this saying that they neither proposed any alternatives nor agreed on any terms with the opposition. Moreover, the city administration sent a letter to the Dissenters offering them to hold a rally in a remote stadium three days later, on May 21. To tell you the truth, I think that the organizers were being a bit provocative when they planned the march along one the city’s busiest roads in the city centre at the end of a work day. Despite this, negotiations between the protesters and the city continued during the week.

The city’s foot dragging spurred a response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She officially asked Russian authorities to allow the planned march and to show some tolerance toward the protesters. Tomas Steg, a representative of the German government, said: “The critics must have a way to express their point of view. In our discussions with the Russian president we always stress the importance of observing the basic human rights, including the right of assembly.” Concerns about “basic human rights” and the “right of assembly”, however, hasn’t stopped the German government from instituting its own protest ban, which includes erecting a 12 kilometer long fence, for the upcoming G-8 Summit in June.

Germany’s hypocrisy aside, whether the German government’s appeal affected Russia’s policy is difficult to know. But I think that it was a very important moment in the sequence of events. On 11 May, opposition leaders, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva, Roman Mishurov and Mikhail Merkushev were invited to the city administration and received official permission for the action. This time the agreement was given in the written form. So, the march will take place on 18 May at 17:00 local time. The planned route is very short, less than a kilometer and it will be followed by a rally on the embankment of Volga. Moreover, the administration of Chelyabinsk also gave their permission to hold a Dissenters’ March on May 19, although the route was changed too.

Silencing the Press

This is not to say that the agreement between the protesters and the city means an end to the harassment and repression of the former. The past weeks were full of events. On 3 May, at 8:00 the protest’s organizers arrived to the administration to file their application. At 11:00 they held a press-conference in the Hansa Hotel. During the press-conference, 15-20 policemen entered the hotel and blocked the exits. They demanded visitors (including journalists) to show their IDs and collected the names of all attendants.

Several journalists have been detained. Correspondents of Kommersant and Ren-TV who came to Samara to interview local opposition leaders were detained on the pretext that they did not have necessary identification.

On May 10, all the city’s newsstands were searched for printed materials of the opposition. Police also raided the office of Golos, a grassroots organization for voting rights and confiscated their computers. Golos’ leaders and staff were not present at the office during the raid. Earlier that day, Golos’ director, Lyudmila Kuzmina, had attended a radio program devoted to the upcoming Dissenters’ March. If she had been at the offices, she could have possibly prevented some of the seizures, and if not, at least document violations of the law.

The next day, police raided the office of a local newspaper Novaya gazeta. They confiscated three computers for the alleged use of pirated software. Later that day, tax police confiscated the newspaper’s financial documents. Their real crime? Novaya gazeta was planning to cover the march in its 14 May issue. In addition, Novaya’s editor-in-chief is Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev. His daughter, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva, is a member of the organizational committee of the Dissenters’ March in Samara.

Two days later on 13 May, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva and Yuri Chervinchuk, a member of the National Bolshevik Party, were detained by police. Police claimed that they had information that Kurt-Adzhiyeva had a hand grenade in her bag. When her father came to the police office the next day, he and a Novaya journalist named Mikhail Kuteinikov were also detained. The police officer who detained them refused to give his name and didn’t explain the reasons for their detention, reports Newsru.com and Kasparov.ru All of them were released the next day after a personal plea from Samara mayor Victor Tarkhov. No charges were brought against them.

Another journalist Dmitri Treschanin, who is also a member of the National Bolshevik Party, was apprehended at the railway station when he arrived in Samara. Police sent him to an army conscription point where he was drafted. The drafting officers said the he will be sent to Dagestan. Such are the methods of the local police, who have already promised that “all provocations will be severely suppressed.”

In response, the US-based organization Committee to Protect Journalists has issued an official protest against the prosecution of journalists in Samara. “We’re very troubled by these police actions, which appear timed to obstruct news coverage of a planned public demonstration,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “This harassment is preventing our colleagues from doing their jobs of informing the public, and it should stop at once.” The article also mentions some of the events described above.

Police Harassment, Preemptive Arrests

Journalists were not the only ones to feel the police’s wrath. Here is a list of other incidents of police harassment, detention, and abduction:

  • 4 May: Police attempted to detain one of the organizers, Mikhail Gangan, for unexplained reasons. He escaped and is still in hiding. Another activist of the “Prohibited Party Whose Name We Are Not Allowed To Mention” (i.e. the National Bolshevik Party, which has been banned by the Kremlin), Ilya Guryev, who was earlier sentenced to probation for his involvement in seizing an office of the presidential administration building, was arrested.

  • 9 May: Eight people who posted leaflets urging citizens to join the protests were detained. The authorities announced that the leaflets used Nazi symbols and provoked national hatred.

  • 12 May: Four people distributing leaflets about the Dissenters’ March were detained and accused of “non-compliance with the police orders.”

  • Local media in Samara has refused to air commercials about the march. On three occasions advertising departments gladly accepted the ads, only to then notify organizers that they could not run them. Two radio stations, Echo of Moscow in Samara and Avtoradio, and one TV station SKAT, did this.

  • Veronika Vinogradova, an activist of the Communist Youth Vanguard (AKM, sic! I find it hard to believe, but young communists also suffer from violations of human rights…) was abducted by unidentified men without explanation. Witnesses say that she was kidnapped from the hostel at Samara Aerospace University. She was pushed into a car and her current location is unknown. Her friends who tried to stop these men were beaten.

  • 14 May: Human rights activist Alexander Lashmankin was beaten by unidentified assailants armed with baseball bats. They stole his cell phone and escaped. Police are inclined to think that it was robbery.

  • 15 May: Police detained more people using methods that are often reminiscent of kidnapping. Mikhail Merkushin, a member of NBP, was pushed into a car by two unidentified men. He was taken to the police station for three hours. Police explained that he resembled a suspect who stole 800 rubles from a credit card. When he was detained on Friday, he was suspected of beating a child. Another activist, Yuri Chervinchuk, was detained in a similar fashion.

  • The rector of Samara Academy of Culture and Art, Margarita Vokhrysheva (whose name strangely reminds of the word vokhra, well known to the prisoners of Gulag. The word is an abbreviation of “armed guard”), stopped classes and asked all students to assemble in the academy’s auditorium. There she instructed them on the “correct behavior” during the EU-Russia summit. She threatened that students who participate in march would have problems on their exams. When a correspondent of the news website 63.ru contacted her, she said that there were no meetings and that she gave no instructions to the students.

  • The FSB has asked mobile providers to turn off the encryption of their signal. During the Dissenters’ March in St. Petersburg they went even further and allowed police to track the location of individual cell phones.

The Temperature Rises

What does all this mean for the Dissenter’s March? Will it take place as planned? It depends on how overcome a few obstacles. First, the violence in St. Petersburg (on April 15) started when protesters were already leaving the rally. This might occur again if the Samara march has provocateurs who will attempt to attack the police.

Second, more attempts to discredit the protest’s legitimacy are expected. For example, on 28 April, in Chelyabinsk, a small group of 30 protesters were joined by a group of blondes in red dresses, who held the slogans protesting against insufficient police attention towards blondes. Another group of youths came with skis and skates and “protested” against the coming summer. If the turnout of genuine opposition members in Samara is low, such provocation may turn the protest into a theatre of absurd.

Third, in my opinion, the opposition has made one major blunder. They scheduled the protest for 17:00 on a weekday when most people are still at work. The organizers are mostly university students so the time will not impact their numbers. But it prevents tens or maybe even hundreds of working people from attending the protest.

Despite these obstacles, the march is sure to get international media attention that will compensate for its lack of numbers. Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, Other Russia’s most internationally recognizable representatives, are slated to show up. In a statement to the media, Garry Kasparov said that the scale of the repressions against the organizers of the Samara rally exceeds what they had to face in Moscow one month ago. The Moscow activists decided to launch a picket at the building of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs demanding to stop the prosecutions of the opposition in Samara.

It will also be attended by leaders of two most respectable human rights groups in Russia: Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Helsinki Watch Group and Lev Ponomaryov of the movement “For Human Rights” arrived to Samara to monitor the events.

Dmitri Minaev lives in Samara. He runs the blog De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis.

Wither National Bolsheviks?

It was only a matter of time before this was going to happen. The Moscow City Court has ruled that the National Bolshevik Party constitutes an “extremist organization.” This ruling legally liquidates the NBP since authorities can now arrest anyone who participants in the group. Participation in an “extremist group” comes with the penalty of a 200,000 ruble fine and up to two years in prison.

NBP lawyer, Sergei Belyak, called the rulling “shameful and appalling, it is not based on law at all.” Eduard Limonov declared it a “farce.” That is, he backed away from any responsibility for leading the group. “An organization called NBP has not been registered with any state agency, and there is no evidence that I am leading any organization or party.” Now all of a sudden Limonov is no longer the leader of an organization that is wholly identified with him. “I am a famous writer and ideologist,” he told the court. “But I cannot be the head of an organization that does not exist.” He also apparently explained that “he now attends events as an individual and insisted he is no more than a symbol of the group.” Way to take a stand, Eddie.

Garry Kasparov is also under the “extremist” lens. The chess champion was summed by the FSB on Tuesday for a “meeting.” A statement on his website said that “the FSB was investigating whether, in a radio interview he gave before the protest and in a newspaper published by the opposition movement, he made calls for extremist action.”

The State Duma is also looking to add amendments to the extremism law. Amendments were passed a second and third reading on Wednesday that introduces “fines of 2,500 rubles for individuals and 100,000 rubles for companies that make, sell or purchase Nazi paraphernalia” and increased the penalty for “vandalizing property during political or ideological protests to a maximum of three years in prison.”

The amendments will surely make things worse for the rank and file NBPer. Their symbols and activities can easily be classified under both these amendments. And they don’t have the luxury, like Limonov, to declare themselves a “famous writer and ideologist” nor can they find sanctuary in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, like Gary Kasparov did, and cry injustice to the corporate intelligentsia. For a taste of how National Bolsheviks and other protesters are treated by the Russian police, I suggest reading Galina Stolyarova’s article “Brutality as Usual” on Transitions Online. She writes,

 

Andrei Dmitriev, National Bolshevik leader in St. Petersburg, says he has firsthand experience with the subject [of police abuse].

Dmitriev was taken to the police station for talks in the run-up to last July’s G8 summit in St. Petersburg. Since June the police had been pressuring opposition activists to “keep quiet” during the prestigious political event.

He said the talks swiftly turned violent. “The officers attacked me, handcuffed me, and ripped off my clothes,” he recalled. “They threatened to rape me and were saying all sorts of humiliating things, while also taking photographs of me crawling on the floor.

“It continued for five hours, and it was a nightmare,” he added. “If I had a choice I would probably have preferred being beaten.”

Dmitriev says torture is used systematically against members of protest groups and small opposition parties.

“After our men are detained and taken to police stations after a street protest, it typically involves an excruciating level of violence against us,” he said. “They beat us so hard there are puddles of blood on the floor at the scene.”

During the beating the police reportedly demand “cooperation,” seeking to recruit informants, try to obtain confessions, or even prevent a protest event.

This kinda throws Limonov’s and Kasparov’s “heroics” into a whole new light. As always, when leaders are dancing in the media limelight, the only stars the rank and file youths are seeing are those spinning around their bludgeoned heads.

National Bolsheviks Deemed Extremist

Moscow courts have moved one step closer to banning the National Bolshevik Party. According to Kommersant,

 

The group was engaged in activities that violate Russia’s anti-extremism laws, the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Officer said in statement on its official web-site on Thursday. National Bolsheviks are now barred from staging rallies, demonstrations, or any other public gatherings.

This is the second time the Natsbols have been banned. A Moscow District Court ruled in July 2005 that the organization didn’t qualify for registration as a political party. This decision was overturned, but then reinstated in April 2006.

But those previous rulings were based on political party registration law. Today’s ruling deemed the Natbols an extremist organization. The Putin government alluded to this possibility in October last year when the Federal Council met to discuss youth extremism. The National Bolshevik Party was named one of the organizations that was of chief concern.

The ban is a serious blow to Other Russia. The Natsbols are in that coalition and are the most radical and visible members of the movement. Today’s ruling makes any Natsbol appearance at the upcoming Other Russia protest in Nizhni Novgorod subject to arrest and up to four years imprisonment under the extremism law.

Russia’s Two Youths

Youth political activism in Russia is a tale of two youths. One stands in front of a line of police in riot gear in St. Petersburg, a black or red handkerchief over his nose and mouth to disguise his face. He is probably a member of Red Youth Vanguard (AKM), the National Bolshevik Party, an anarchist, or an environmentalist. He will most likely get beaten and then arrested. He will spend up to 10 days in jail or until the Russian authorities decide to release him.

In many ways he is lucky to get this far. Many activists protesting at the G8 Summit this past weekend, like St. Petersburg Natsbol leader Andrei Dmitriev and AKM leader Sergei Udal’?tsov were victims of preemptive arrests. According to Kommersant, Udal??tsov was scooped up with several other AKMtsy and taken to Moscow, where they were then released. On June 13, Dmitriev was arrested and taken by bus to Tver Oblast, where he was kept incommunicado for more than a day. His relatives made a complaint to the Petersburg prosecutor arguing that his disappearance was “comparable to abductions in Chechnya.”? Official charges against Dmitriev were never filed. He says that UPOB officers (the Department for the Struggle Against Organized Crime) told him that the leadership wanted him held until the end of the Summit. As of today the Russian State still holds 200 activists in prison without charges or for minor offenses of “disrupting the public order.”? Such is the nature of youth political dissent in Russia.

The other Russian youth is currently at Lake Seliger in Tver Oblast at the second annual Nashi summer camp. Last year this time, 3,000 Nashi commissars met for festivities and training. This year the camp holds 5,000 Nashi members from over 50 cities. If last year’?s camp more resembled the Soviet Pioneers, with Soviet songs drifting through the camp grounds and youths meeting with important officials from Putin’?s government, this year’?s Camp Seliger has taken more pages from the Soviet Komsomol rather than its younger charges. The youth at this Nashi Camp was treated to lectures in “Putin’?s Domestic Policies”? and the “?Ideology of Vladimir Putin”?. Putin has enjoyed a personality cult among the Nashisty from its inception. Adulations to Putin aside, the main focus of this years camp was much more nationalistic and militaristic. The main theme of the camp revolved around its new program called “?Our Army,”? which was adopted at Nashi’s Congress in April. Like the Komsomol before it, “Our Army”? specifically looks to encourage youths to join the army. They even get a taste of army life at the summer camp. “We must explain to the entire generation that the question of whether to serve in the army or not does not have a right to exist,” says then Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko.

Providing paramilitary training to Nashi members immediately raises the systemic problem of dedovshchina. I won’t belabor this issue again since I’?ve written about it several times before. It also can’t help Nashi’?s cause when two more brutal cases of dedovshchina came to light this week. The Kremlin has done nothing but give lip service to the problem, and it seems that, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the trial of Private Sychyov assailants has hit a roadblock because on the prosecutions “star witnesses,” one Artyom Nikitin, has recanted his testimony. Sychyov was severly beaten six months ago to the point where his legs had to be amputated because they developed gangrene.

Still, the fear of dedovshchina among Nashisty is probably fairly low. You can’?t sway the converted. For them, the culture of hazing in the Russian military is the result of a few bad apples and not a systemic culture that has been born, bred and tolerated, if not encouraged, but the authorities. Good, well trained and dedicated Nashisty, like their Komsomol forefathers, will simply solve the problem by their sheer presence in the armed forces. After all, members of “Our Army”? being trained at Segiler are addressing the question of hazing so that “it will not occur.”? After all, like in Soviet times, if the Party says “????!,” the Komsomol replies, “????!”

So there you have it, two youths. One anti-Putin to the core. The other ready and willing to act as his shield and dagger. There is a middle ground between them that is occupied by more moderate, and liberal forces. And like always, a mass of politically neutral, if not apathetic, Russian youth surrounding them all. We should not forget that even to Nashi’s right there are the skinheads and other anti-immigrant and racist youth groups like the Eurasian Youth League. These only help Nashi appear like they occupy the center and gave their antifascist slogans sincerity. In reality, they have more in common with these political undesirables than with the radical left.

While Nashi may conjure illusions to the Komsomol, the far left is not antithetical to the League’s history. Not all Komsomol members kowtowed to the Party. In fact, post-revolutionary militancy found a home in the organization. During the doldrums of the New Economic Policy in the 1920s, many Komsomols felt that the Revolution entered a Thermidor, as they were told to “learn”? communism rather than fight for it; and to tolerate class enemies rather than liquidate them and throw their remains into the dustbin of History. The Bolshevik Party appeared moribund and conservative, and after Lenin died in 1924, many Komsomol youth felt it was them and not the Party that carried the true banner of Leninism. These were the youths often took to Trotsky’?s message of anti-bureaucratism and the destruction of NEP. That is, until he was exiled and they were expelled in a wave of Komsomol purges in late 1920s. Ironically, these “bratishki” as they were called because of their adherence to Civil War methods, found solace when Stalin called on them to “?liquidate the kulak as a class”? and root out class enemies in his Revolution from Above. One gets the impression that if the tables were turned, and the Natsbols or the AKM were in the same position of power as Nashi, the Civil War myth of the bratishka would find a new audience.

Some may point to the fact that the present youth movement in Russia is marginal. Even Nashi has small numbers in relation to population. Enthusiasm, belief and will backed with power, however, can overcome most numerical deficiencies. The Komsomol was only 2 million in 1928 and it moved social, political, economic, and cultural mountains. Putin’?s camp as well as Limonov’s seems to understand this.

Even if groups like Nashi and the Natsbols are hatched from the same historical ilk, they are as reconcilable as Cain and Abel. The Komsomol had to squash its opposition on both the left and the right, and I would imagine that Nashi will try to do the same. There is already some indication that they are already making an attempt, if last August’s attack on a meeting of radical left youths near Avtozavodskaya is any indication. One would also suspect that the far right will be gradually assimilated. Skins and Eurasian Youths are not a contradiction to Nashi’?s ultimate goals; only their rhetoric is misguided.

As of now our two archetypical political youth are more standing face to face rather than fist to face. But opposing mass movements can??t withstand detente for long. Leftwing youth promise to push forward during the 2008 Presidential election. Nashi plans to push back and prevent any disruption of a smooth transition to Putin’s handpicked successor. As for the Russian security forces, they got to test out a variety of repressive methods this past weekend. In two years we just might see Nashisty next to them, cuffing and dragging away a Natsbol for a stint in the black hole of incommunicado.

Photos: Kommersant and Reuters.

Natsbols Banned Again and Russia’s Anti-Fascist Skins

It looks like Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party can’t catch a break. Once again the radical organization has been denied registration as a political party. The decision by the Taganka district court upholds the previous ruling by the Justice Ministry. This is the fifth time the NBP has been denied official registration as a political party since 1998. Under Russian law, political parties must have at least 50,000 members to register with the Federal Registration Service. Depending on who you ask, the NBP boasts a membership of around 15,000.

Once again, Limonov vows to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a move that will probably not amount to much. But Limonov must take a stand and besides mass actions by his organization, this is pretty much the only option he has.

However, the lack of registration has not deterred NBP activities. Last week several activists were arrested in Voronezh and Moscow at NBP protests calling for Russia to either recognize or incorporate break away regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

With all the talk about the rise of fascism in Russia and the news of more racial killings (RFE/RL has a timeline and articles here and here) and beatings (here and here) primarily in St. Petersburg, one wonders about the anti-fascist movement. By anti-fascist, I don’t mean the hollow proclamations by the government and Nashi against fascism. I mean the anti-racist skinheads and hardcore punks that fight the Nazi skinheads in the streets. A search brought me to a critical but revealing article about “Russian AntiFas.” Here’s an excerpt:

In theory, anti-fascism sounds hard as nails: anarchists, punks and skinheads running around and looking for brawls with Moscow’s Nazi-skinhead underground. When I first envisioned this story, I thought it’d be filled with Chopper-like braggarts, righteous, scar-covered thugs living in squats and in a constant state of war. After all, whatever you say about Russian fascists, they’re definitely scary. Last year according to the SOVA Center, which gathers info on racial attacks, they were credited with 28 murders throughout Russia. It’d seem like anyone looking to take them on would have to be equal parts crazy and tough. In other words, anything but dill.

Furthermore, it’s understandable why they’re a bit camera shy. The basic tenet of AntiFA is to challenge the growing neo-Nazi movement in Russia with force; they want to make it hurt to be a Nazi. But they’re vastly outnumbered by Moscow’s real skinheads, who according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights numbered 5000 two years ago, the last time anyone bothered to count. Last November, ultra-rightists mobilized up to 5000 to goose-step down Tverskaya holding racist signs in broad daylight. According to Dima, a skinhead I talked to who is neither AntiFA nor racist (boneheads, as enlightened Russian skins call their racist/fascist brethren), AntiFA activists on a good day can only muster a group of about 50 and their total number in Moscow is no more than 200. I figured they must have brass balls.

So, it was a bit of a surprise when Ukrop asked me to meet him at Bilingua. Nothing against the cafe, which is a favorite among bearded intellectuals and other assorted pencilnecks, but it’s not exactly the hard-assiest place in Moscow. Nor did his lunch of beer and grenadine add to the baby-faced punk’s intimidation-creds. By the time he started telling me that the fascists were on the decline and AntiFA was rising, I realized I’d been had.

AntiFA is just another western fad, no different than riggers, cigar-smoking, and sushi. Russia’s always had a minority of Westernizers in its capitals, looking to the West for trends that they blindly copy. The trend AntiFA’s membership is mimicking is the same soft stuff as the Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass crowd in the States. I got to know those two movements well when going to school in Minneapolis, one of the last places in the States where punk was practiced by people beyond high school. They’d do their thing, occasionally causing a traffic jam or starting an organic garden on an abandoned lot, and nobody would pay them any mind. They bought books at the local anarchist book store, ate vegan, espoused totally impractical politics, and spent their weekends crowding into mattress-lined basements to watch punk shows. They’re as unthreatening as someone with a shaved head can be. That, to the AntiFA crew, must seem like paradise.

"Puppeteers and Puppets"

I promised to write an update on Russian youth organizations, especially the August 29th attack on a meeting of the National Bolsheviks and other youth groups at a Communist Party office at Avtozavodskaia. But time has got the better of me. However, an article published and translated in JRL #9261, “Puppeteers and Puppets” by Andrei Vol’nov from Rossiiskie Vesti has saved me. Instead of writing something of my own on this issue, let me provide and comment on some of its key passages. Russian readers can find the entire article here. Pavel Pushkin did the JRL translation, from which these excerpts are taken.

The article speaks about the recent increase in Russian youth organizations at both the national and local level. According to the article, this rise is in part because “it’s become fashionable to use young people for either “revolutionary” or “counter-revolutionary” activity.” The most significant is Nashi (Our Own), which is pro-Putin and vows to prevent “orange revolution” in Russia. In addition, youth organizations have sprouted in Moscow, Civil Change, which is under the patronage of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov; and Youth Chamber in Kazan, among others. The basic logic behind these organizations is similar to what the Komsomol was: to funnel young and politically loyal members into city and regional political institutions. This seems to be one of the main thrusts behind Nashi as their week long retreat near Tver showed.

But some of these groups, especially Nashi seem to have “extra legal” intentions. Especially, with using football hooligans as shock troops. The article reads:

“It might seem unlikely that the reasonably law-abiding Nashi would have anything in common with aggressive groups of football fans from the outer suburbs. Nonetheless, according to leader of Dynamo fan club Alexander Shprygin, the football fans have rushed to join Our Own, a well-funded organization (in comparison with other youth groups). Shprygin added, “Nashi’s leader, Yakemenko, has said that if force is needed, he will provide it. He was referring to the football fans. It is known that Spartak fans were responsible for the attack on the National Bolshevik headquarters.”

And it is has been the repeasted attacks on the National Bolsheviks that has increased the tension between left and right wing youth organizations. The facts of the attacks on the Natsbols are narrated as follows:

“It should be noted that no definite connection has yet been established between the Nashi movement and the organized and pre-paid groups of “fans” who were ordered by someone to “sort out” the National Bolsheviks. We can only set out the evidence: on January 29, 40 men armed with baseball bats attacked the NBP headquarters; on March 5, 25 masked men destroyed ransacked the NBP office and assaulted NBP members with baseball bats; on February 12, ten NBP and Communist Party members were attacked by masked men on their way home from a rally. In all these cases, some of the suspects were detained and usually released “after a phone call from above.” No charges were issued against them.

The largest and most well-publicized attack by “organized fans” took place on the evening of August 29. This was an attack on the Communist Party headquarters on Avtozavodskaya Street in Moscow, during a meeting of National Bolsheviks, young Communists, and members of other left-wing organizations. According to various sources, there were about 40 attackers, wearing camouflage and masks, armed with baseball bats and pneumatic pistols. Several young leftists were injured: fractured skulls, concussion, broken bones. The National Bolshevik Party maintains that the attackers were members of a football fan group based on Yaroslavskoe Road, connected with the Nashi movement. NBP leader Eduard Limonov emphasized that members of his party recognized the faces of some attackers, recalling them from previous attacks. But Nashi leader Yakemenko denies any involvement of members of his organization in the incident. The law-enforcement agencies (they released the detained people with the bats again “according to a phone call from above”) keep silent mysteriously again. There is an impression that these are persistent attempts to change behavior and to “monitor” NBP members (now with assistance of football fans).”

When I’ve mentioned these attacks to friends, they immediately respond that it sounds like Germany in the 1920s when fascists and communists fought in the streets. While it does echo that, I’m a bit more guarded with such an analysis. If the left wing begins to strike back with equal intent, then I think a process will be unleashed that will certainly culminate during the 2008 elections.

There is, however, some from liberal/left groups who are calling for just that: battle ready detachments. NBP leader Eduard Limonov has hyperbolically called the attack at Avtozavodskaia the beginning of a “civil war.” Rodina youth leader Sergei Shargunov has called that it is time to organize “self-defense detachments” to combat Nashi. Other liberal/left groups are talking seriously about uniting under the name League of United Youth, or LOM. Don’t let the acronym pass unnoticed. The word “lom” (???) means “crowbar” in Russian. There are hopes that LOM will also include more radical left groups such as the Natsbols, the Communist Youth League, and Red Youth Vanguard.

The article is also presents a view that I have held since Nashi was formed earlier this year:

“It is very interesting to watch how the process of formation of the “pro-government” and “anti-government” youth groups coincide in essence (although not in form) with what the authorities are doing on a higher level of political parties.”

Indeed. What has struck me about all of this is how the center has either dropped out or has been redefined after the Ukrainian elections in November-December, 2004 and the pension protests in January this year. By February, the more moderate pro-Putin group, Walking Together, was liquidated, and the more ardent Nashi suddenly appeared. They now claim to be the “center.” The National Bolsheviks, as well, as other far left groups have increased their activities. The liberal electoral opposition in the form of Yabloko, though their initial presence should not be overestimated, has dropped out almost completely. Even United Russia has grown so large that it has split into left and right wing factions. But the article is also quick to point to the fact that,

“Along with this, it is necessary to say at once that there is no own activeness of the opposition, both rightist and leftist. All its actions have a nature of responses to external events (the terrorist act in Beslan, appointment of governors, monetization of social allowances or persecution of Khodorkovsky) along with complete absence of the own program. Diversity of the PR pretexts only emphasizes fictitious nature of existence of the opposition as a political player. Calling a spade a spade it is possible to say that the opposition is on the lead of the authorities and this lead had been put on voluntarily. In the current circumstances of transition to elections according to the party lists (accompanied with increase of the registered number of party members from 10,000 to 50,000 members) Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces, or Motherland may simply disappear having failed to recruit the necessary number of members.”

Where will this opposition come from? One possibility is that United Russia’s factions will cannibalize themselves and make a formal split. Another is that increased pressure from below, which is now represented by youth organizations, will coalesce into an opposition from outside the electoral process. This possibility is only made more likely with the escalating political polarization and the increased readiness to use violence and oppression against political opponents, whether they are youth organizations or not.

Suffice to say, this is far from the end of this story.

The Natsbols Rise Again [Updated]

It seems that many of Russia‘s opposition parties can now breath a sigh of relief. Today, the Russian Supreme Court overturned the Moscow Regional Court‘s banning of the National Bolshevik Party. If you remember, the Natsbols were outlawed in June for violating Russia‘s political party law. The Natsbols originally filed as a political party, but was ruled to be a social organization. They offered to drop “Party” from their name to no avail. The overturning of the ban is already being hailed as some sort of victory for Russian democracy. As a editorial on Gazeta.ru stated, “By reversing the ruling of a lower court to ban the National Bolshevik Party, the Supreme Court restored the rights not only of Eduard Limonov’s supporters, but of contemporary Russian politics as a whole.”

While I support the overturning of the ban, I am continually fascinated by all the attention the Natsbols get in the Russian media and how, it seems, Russian democracy is connected to their fate. They are a small, albeit radical group whose tactics have garnered a lot of attention. But it could be easy to simply write them off as a insignificant group of disaffected youths who’ve found meaning in Edward Limonov’s cult celebrity. But things don’t work that way here and the Russian government has a tendency to undermine itself. The ban is just one example. The show trial of the 39 Natsbol “Decembristy” is another. The trial has gotten a lot of sympathy from otherwise apathetic Russians. The State’s heavy hand has not played well with the public, many of who see the Natsbols as symbolizing the frustration of many youths. It’s the frustration that many see as the problem, not the youths themselves. Putin Administration’s persistence against these kids has in many ways created the Natsbols as much as Limonov did. Putin has played right into Limonov’s hands.

The Natsbols, however, do represent a brewing battle for Russia‘s youth. As I’ve written in other reports, there is an effort by pro-government groups like Nashi to assert themselves as the representatives of youths. If Nashi is one option for political youth, the Natsbols represent another. Yet, the scope of the Natsbol’s influence is difficult to measure. Some say there are only a few thousand members; the Natsbols themselves claim that they have up to 17,500 activists with the average age of 20. The real numbers are probably closer to a few thousand, maybe even hundreds. Despite the low or high membership numbers, the Natsbols as a political aesthetic goes beyond organization. In many ways, their radicalism and tactics makes them the most attractive group to disaffected youths. They have reached the zenith of cool.

The Natsbols also represents more. According to the editorial from Gazeta.ru, their presence in a country that has a history of political radicalism is a further sign of the weakness of Russian democracy:

 

“The NBP work for themselves, and for everyone else. Had there been a real opposition party in Russia that represented the opinion of those that don’t agree with the current regime, the NBP could have remained a small radical sect, as it was at the end of the 1990’s. But as it is, anti-Putin groups can consider themselves to be anything they want “parties, movements, interest clubs” but not real political forces. The popularity of the NBP and the sympathy it has from those people who would otherwise find the words “National Bolshevik” disgusting proves that there is something obviously unhealthy about the current state of Russian politics.

Once again the National Bolshevik Party is catapulted to heights that even itself doesn’t profess, but I’m sure, would not refuse. The editorial continues, the party in power, United Russia, is a “bureaucratic” party which is bent maintaining the status-quo. Further, since Russia‘s democratic institutions are merely “plaster casts,” that is they merely fake real ones, the Natsbols’ mocking of power and politics fits well in a system that already parodies itself. In a way, the Natsbols have become the real opposition because the “fake” one is not only without ideology, it is without will. And this difference of will, according to this editorial, is what gives the Natsbols real political meaning: “And that’s because the NBP is the only party that not only talks, but does something too. As best as it can, of course. “

That “best it can” has been more than many “real” (or is it “fake”?) Russian politicians have done to become an effective opposition. The Natsbols radical profile and antics have filled a vacuum of sorts by doing what Limonov created them for: to scream a big fuck you to power.

Update

It seems that the battle for the streets slated for the 2008 Russian Presidential elections is gearing up. According to Ekho Moskvy, as reported by Mosnews.com, Alexander Averin, a National Bolshevik spokesman, claims that six of its members were beaten by 30 members of Nashi with baseball bats and empty beer bottles. How does Averin know that they were Nashi? They were “trendily dressed young men.” Averin believes that the attack was associated with the overturning of the ban on Natsbols.

Perhaps there is something to Boris Kargalitsky’s recent opinion on how the political activities of Russia‘s youths are attracting more attention. And this attention has everything to do with the upcoming elections:

 

“Politicians’ recent interest in Russia‘s youth is inversely related to their interest in elections. The opposition has split into two groups: those who are willing to go to the polls and have already made their peace with defeat, and those who are ready to take to the streets and address disputed issues there. But the liberal elite that is fed up with President Vladimir Putin is not about to go and take a blow from a police truncheon themselves. Only the radical youth — whether they are on the far left or right is unimportant — will be hitting the streets in protest. No matter who wins the battle for political power in Russia, they will not be sharing it with these young people anyway.

Those in the Kremlin understand this all perfectly well, and they formed Nashi according to this very principle. When a bunch of policemen beat up some kid protesting on the street, the regime has done something wrong. But when two gangs of young radicals brawl in the street, it’s a minor riot. The authorities have no choice but to step in and reestablish order.”

Pieces on the chessboard of Russian politics. Kargalitsky is right when he says that it is unlikely that in exchange for their defense of the “nation”, Nashi will be given the country. He concludes, “The grown-ups who run the country have no intention of giving anything to anyone. They have kids of their own, after all, who would never stoop to fighting in the street.”

Despite decades of class consciousness being shoved down the throat of Russia‘s population, real class consciousness only embodies the minds of the ruling class. The millions that live to scrape by are once again abiding by the historical fact that nationalism always trumps class interest. Or one should more accurately state, for the ruling classes nationalism and class interest reinforce each other without contradiction. For everyone else, nationalism contradicts class interest. The blade of the former smites the latter.

One only needs to do a class analysis of Nashi and the Natsbols to see polarization in process. There is no doubt that Nashi’s ranks are filled with middle class youths who aspire to play a role in Russia‘s bourgeois future. The Natsbols, on the other hand, appeal to the “disaffected youth” a code word for Russia‘s new working class–little education, no prospects, and therefore no future. Time will tell if this symbolic battle between youths will become a real one. It looks like Nashi has their bats and bottles ready. Do the Natsbols? Will they soon trade in their eggs and mayonnaise for the weapons of their enemies?

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