Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mr Putin is not Stalin?

"Mr Putin is not Stalin," observed The Economist in its report on the supression of the Other Russia demonstration in Moscow on April 14, 2007. Even so, The Economist felt, "the brutal suppression of peaceful protests" showed that "the ruthless paranoiacs who run Russia are utterly unfettered in what they choose to do." A similar line was taken by most Western newspapers, and by some Western politicians.

Little noticed was the role played by Edward Limonov and the National Bolshevik Party (NBP). The Economist did mention him by name ("Eduard Limonov, the leader of another banned organization, was arrested") but did not identify the organization in question--understandably, perhaps, since naming it would have some required rather complicated explanations.

Almost the only publication to examine the significance of Limonov's participation was The National Interest, commenting on a news report in The Washington Post:
In their April 18 article . . . both the text and the photographs present a highly misleading picture. The photographs show Garry Kasparov appealing to the menacing-looking police officers. It also shows the police in anti-riot gear overwhelming a long-haired, bespectacled young man. Talking about the organizers of the marches, [the Washington Post correspondent] refers to Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov—and nobody else. He does not mention at all that another organizer—and a key ally of Mr. Kasparov and Mr. Kasyanov—was Eduard Limonov, leader of the nationalist and militantly anti-American outlawed National Bolshevik Party. As the photographs accompanying this article show . . . a significant, and the most assertive, part of the demonstrators marched under the Nazi-style banners of the National Bolshevik Party. . . And some of the demonstrators did not just march. . . In a number of instances they also attacked the police.
A summary of recent events:

  • In 2004, the NBP staged an audacious anti-Putin protest/provocation, breaking in to the presidential visitors' room in the Kremlin.
  • In 2005, the registration of the NBP was cancelled by the Supreme Court.
  • During 2006, the NBP staged several more protests, including entering the Finance Ministry, "throwing leaflets and demanding that bank deposits lost in the turbulent 1990s be returned to their owners" and "trying to enter the State Duma building to attend a parliamentary session, citing the Constitution, which says parliamentary sessions are open to the public" (quotes from Novosti). Limonov's sense of humor is evident.
  • On March 3, 2007, the NBP participated in the Other Russia protests in St Petersburg, allegedly attacking police officers. Limonov said afterwards that "the activists of the National Bolshevik Party have fully justified our hopes. They really were on March 3 the avant-garde’s strike battalion, a hot shell, in all confrontations the first and most militant" (quote from The National Interest).
  • On April 14, 2007, the NBP participated in the Moscow protest, police reactions to which might well (as the National Interest alone suggested) have been in anticipation not of the likely behavior of a former chess champion and a former prime minister, but in anticipation of the likely behavior of the NBP.
  • On April 26, 2007, the Moscow City Court declared the NBP an "extremist organization" (a decision which, according to Gazeta, was announced in the government-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta before it was announced in court!). This decision renders members of the NBP subject to a fine of 200,000 rubles or two years in prison merely for belonging to the NBP.
  • On April 28, 2007, Limonov announced he planned a further march.

Although the NBP's provocatons achieved little during its earlier, semi-Traditionalist, anti-Yeltsin phase, then, they seem to be rather effective during its current phase.

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