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limonovka

The National Bolshevik (NatsBol) meeting was at the Monument to the Heroes of the Revolution of 1905-1907, festooned with the black-red flags of movement, though the chiliastic chic of Limonov’s monthly rant was somewhat checked by the Mickey D. golden arch and the skyscrapers of the Moscow financial district in the background.

daughterland-calls Eduard Limonov is a most idiosyncratic figure. A dissident Jew (or maybe not; it’s unclear) who emigrated to New York and spent the 1970-80s doing drugs and having trysts with powerful Negro studs, Eddie returned to Russia in the 1990s where he took up the banner of the red brown alliance – with far more punk, homosex, and an unusually good female-to-male ratio by 1488 standards.

He published the book Another Russia in 2001, calling on youth to dig into the bunkers and wage a total war against the bureaucrats, businessmen, and assorted bugmen of the modern world. Unlike other nihilist philosophers, who are a dime a dozen, he actually proceeded to follow up his words with actions, attempting to foment a Russian insurrection in north Kazakhstan, for which he did a stint in jail.

After spending the 2000s in rabid opposition to Putin, after the reunification with Crimea and the war in the Donbass he finally learned to love the Leader.

Clearly a most “passionary” fellow, so I thought it worthwhile to come check out what he had to say.

The introductory slogans were simple: “Stalin, Beria, gulag.” “Confiscate and divide.”

Unlike your typical kremlinoid bugman, who speaks of rossiyane citizens or even “inhabitants of Russia,” Limonov is unafraid to speak to and about ethnic russkie. (In general, the russkie/rossiyane ratio is a good proxy for how based a Russian politician is).

natsbol-industry Re-Ukraine. He seems to identify the Russian World with the geographic areas where the Russian language is predominant – that is, the eight oblasts of prospective Novorossiya. The rest of the Ukraine he proposed to divide with Romania, Poland, and Hungary – in a process also detaching them from the EU, which is “sending them nothing but migrants.” The latter reflects a rather serious detachment from reality. Romanians were unenthusiastic even about their lost Wallachian provinces, i.e. Moldova, to say nothing of territorial ambitions in the Ukraine. As for the EU, it sends all of those countries the yearly equivalent of more than a thousand Euros’ worth of welfare payments per capita; in return, all they ask of them is to take in some token number of refugees, who all proceed to go on to the richer gibsmedats pastures of Germany and Sweden anyway. Seriously, I doubt even a dozen of the recent Syrian immigrants ended up permanently settling in any of those countries. In the meantime, they get to entertain themselves by sticking a middle finger to the Eurocrats.

More geopolitical comments. Trump and his $110 arms deal with the Saudis – Russia can’t compete with that kind of money, because its not rich enough, because of its cold climate (past instances of “confiscate and divide” obviously not mentioned as contributory factors).

He is a big fan of Kurdistan, thinks Russia should support it more actively. Wants a bigger military contingent in Syria, including ground forces. Very boomer mindset.

Macron is fat, but “fancies himself a D’Artagnan” – original line of attack, if a somewhat strange one (is Macron actually fat? Never noticed). Claims that he was owned by Putin. My impression was that it was rather the other way round – Macron received Putin at the Palace of Versailles. The last foreign dignitary to be given a reception there was Gaddafi in 2007 under President Sarkozy, who in a few more years met a sticky end thanks in large part to Sarkozy himself. The impression that this was a deliberate slight was reinforced by the post-reception press conference, where Macron called RT and Sputnik journalists propagandists to Putin’s face and said that France would bomb Syria if it were to use chemical weapons again. But no matter – according to Limonov, Putin subdued Macron, and made him “respect” him, laying the foundations for improved relations with France. So much so that perhaps in the near future Russians “will be able to go France to help beat up immigrants.”

natsbol-girl-with-gun Now I am personally not a fan of beating up immigrants. Document checks and deportations seem to be the more civilized and effective policy. Still, if you are a nationalist of some sort, and want to beat up immigrants, shouldn’t you prioritize the ones in your own country? E.g., the up to 10 million illegals in Russia?

*crickets*

I mean, I don’t want to be too tough on Limonov, who at least is red-pilled on race (in another part of his speech, he said the US has a lot of Negroes, “half of whom are on welfare”). This alone places him far closer to the American Alt Right than Greater Turkestan proponent Dugin. Even so, this tendency to notice “problems” in Western countries while studiously not extending the same analytical framework to their own country seems to be a defining feature of the Russian nationalist boomer mindset. Is this due to a generational cognitive blind-spot, a concern about alienating their audiences, or fear of possible legal repercussions?

This is something I’m trying to figure out myself.

Re-Navalny. If he were to die today, and the oligarch Usmanov (with whom Navalny is currently feuding) were to die tomorrow, Limonov would “not be sad.” Skeptical about whether the Americans are financing him, but that said, he does ask where does the money for Navalny’s extensive network of regional election HQs come from? Complains about state persecution of nationalists, citing one “Yura” who got three years for non-violently defending a female journalist from the police, while Navalny is walking free despite having two suspended sentences. The unspoken implication is that Limonov thinks the Kremlin is in cahoots with Navalny.

At this point Limonov wraps up the lecture, everyone claps, and a few people go up to him to have books signed and to discuss things further (including the American fan of Limonov and Unz Review reader who brought me out there).

The next speaker was some NatsBol activist with a boring jeremiad about “economic justice” and the “social lifts of Soviet society.” Limonov, inane as he often is, is at least entertaining. Those activist ideologue types never are, so we left.

***

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• Category: Ideology • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, Russian Nationalism 
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One of the more frustrating misconceptions Westerners have about Russia – including even many of the more well meaning ones – is that Putin is some kind of nationalist.

He is not. Nor was he ever.

It appeared he might be sort of leaning in that direction in the heady days after Crimea’s return into Russia. For the first time, he even started using the term russkie – ethnic Russians, as opposed to the multiethnic, and about as fictional as “Soviet,” nationality called rossiyane – in some of his speeches. But since then he moved back into old forms and familiar habits, and the wholesale “regathering of the Russian lands” that many (but far from all – it’s complicated) Russian nationalists were salivating after in mid-2014 wasn’t to happen.

This is not, of course, to say that Putin is a bad leader, or anti-Russian, like the real Russian nationalists have always claimed. It is not exactly a secret that yours truly believes he is objectively better for the Russian nation and its ethnic minorities than any plausible liberal or Communist opposition alternative. But apart from being a patriot, Putin is also an ethnic blank slatist. No nationalist of whatever stripe would have allowed large-scale Central Asian immigration into the Slavic Russian heartlands, which even many of my decidedly anti-nationalist and cosmopolitan acquaintances in Russia have complained about.

And most nationalists would have supported Novorossiya to the hilt, Western sanctions and ostracism be damned. Ironically Putin might get damned either way. It doesn’t much matter if you steal $10,000 (Crimea) or $10 billion (Novorossiya and Malorossiya) from a bank. Either way, the (world) police is going after you. I personally don’t fully buy this argument 100%, but it should be stressed that this has been one of the main domestic criticisms of Putin’s Ukraine policy from the Right (which in Russia includes the Hard Left, i.e. the Communists). And these criticisms are arguably far more potent and potentially dangerous for Putin than criticisms from pro-Western liberals for going against the West.

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Egor Prosvirnin, the chief editor of Sputnik i Pogrom, the closest thing Russia has to a US-style Alt Right.

It is in this context that we the see the police search of Egor Prosvirnin’s apartment, and the confiscation of his computer and other electronics.

Egor Prosvirnin is the chief editor of Sputnik i Pogrom (SiP), a Russian nationalist glossy magazine. Unlike most of the Neo-Nazis and liberal nationalists, they are ardent supporters of Novorossiya, and tend to idolize Tsarism and the White movement. Prosvirnin has met with Igor Strelkov on several occasions and SiP has been responsible for raising several millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and in organizing “vacations” to the lush resorts of the Donbass. In this sense, their Novorossiya policy is in line with that of the Communists and the Eurasianist imperialists, and (to a far more limited extent) to that of the Russian state proper.

It is also the closest thing Russia has to a US-style Alt Right, though as with all European nationalist movements, it does not have the Americans’ preoccupation with race, and is far less literate on IQ matters. Its writers tend to be young, socially liberal, supportive of free speech, and unusually familiar with Europe and the US. It has been called “Russian nationalism for hipsters” by several commentators. One anecdote to illustrate this: Dugin, their “Eurasian” antithesis, appears to believe “transhumanism” is some particularly deviant variant of transgenderism. The SiPers, in stark contrast, are familiar with Ray Kurzweil and write articles about Russia’s potential role in the technological singularity.

Sometimes this familiarity with the West leads them down some very questionable avenues in which they overestimate Western wisdom and intellectual vitality. I got the (possibly mistaken) impression that Prosvirnin believes that the European immigration crisis is a devious plot by Germany to enhance its power in Europe, as opposed to Merkel being her usual dithering and feckless self. He is a militant atheist who wouldn’t be out of place at /r/atheism. He regularly cites Stratfor, and more or less reprints its geopolitical analysis. Now Stratfor might be very good at marketing itself as a “shadow CIA” but it is far less competent at actual geopolitics, or even password security for that matter. And the SiP guys are positively obsessed with the concept of “Putinsliv,” that is, the idea that Putin is going to “flush” Novorossiya anytime now. In this obsession, they are a somewhat ironic mirror image of Ukrainian “svidomy” who harp on about peremogi – victories, and zrada – betrayals, and the endless ways in which they morph and coalesce between each other.

But such minor quibbles aside, SiP is an excellent resource that regularly produces quality articles on Russian history and culture as well as on more loaded political topics, and (for Russian speakers) it is well worth its $50 annual subscription price. Its name regardless, it is not particularly anti-Semitic. It just don’t care about Jews very much (which admittedly is equivalent to anti-Semitism in many Western and Russian liberal circles).

Nor, until recently, did SiP appear to have particularly big problems with the Russian state.

What happened?

Russia does not have the First Amendment. It does have Article 282 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes hate speech, like in most European countries. But it is a tool that has been wielded selectively, mostly against politicians of the Neo-Nazi persuasion. Incidentally, the Neo-Nazis as well as the “liberal nationalists” (mostly Krylov and the more famous Navalny) have for the most part been the Russian nationalists most against Novorossiya, seeing it as a sovok creature and praising the Ukrainian junta as the new citadel of the White Nationalist global revolution. (Asking them what they thought of this White nationalist paradise having a Jewish oligarch as Fuehrer and an Armenian sci-fi nerd as Goering was a reliable and entertaining way to trigger them).

Anyway, Article 282… a tool that has been wielded selectively… until now. In that its application against a public figure with no obvious Neo-Nazi connections and a history of support for Novorossiya is unprecedented.

Now to be fair, Prosvirnin has always been staunchly – even rabidly – anti Putin. But this never got him into legal trouble before, so that is unlikely to have been a key motivator now.

The pessimistic explanation – and one advanced by Prosvirnin himself – is that Putin is indeed plotting some great “zrada” (betrayal) against Novorossiya. Naturally, this would excite massive opposition amongst most Russian nationalists, so in this interpretation the confiscation of Prosvirnin’s computer equipment – especially were it to lead to further arrests and prosecutions of Novorossiya supporters – could be the Russian state nipping potential opposition in the bud.

Here is the opinion of one SiP writer, Kirill Kaminets:

Now it should be noted at the outset that SiP doesn’t have a great predictive record. It is been predicting Putinsliv for more than a year now, but during this same period the DNR and LNR have consolidated themselves as functioning states, and the Novorossiya Armed Forces are far more powerful today than they were even in early 2015 during the Battle of Debaltsevo. It would be strange of Putin to have enabled all this, only to “flush” it all down later on. In any case, the Minsk Agreements are failing on all fronts – most of all thanks to helpful Ukrainian nationalists who are the main obstacle to Poroshenko implementing his side of the deal. With Minsk II in its death throes, it would be exceedingly difficult for Putin to commit his “zrada” in any plausibly face-saving way.

And yet… and yet…

If that is indeed the plan, to decisively close up the Novorossiya project, try to make amends with the junta, and hope they and the Western “partners” forget and forgive Crimea, this is pretty much what I’d be doing in Putin’s place: Harassing and seizing the computers of Novorossiya supporters, using that to build criminal cases against them, discrediting them in the media, and sending them off to prison. So this might conceivably be Step 1 of such an operation. Or it might not be. It probably isn’t.

But then again… back in July of this year, Prosvirnin on his Facebook page – I can’t locate it now, but it was certainly there – predicted that Novorossiya would soon be betrayed (nothing new) and replaced with a propaganda campaign in favor of Russian involvement in Syria, including boots on the ground (very new!).

He even argued that this would be a way of mending US-Russian relations, which certainly cuts against the conventional wisdom – both in the mainstream and the altsphere – that the West and Russia are fundamentally at odds in Syria and that the US is committed to seeing Assad go.

In effect, Russia would doing the “dirty” work of wrapping up the Syrian Civil War with the quiet acquiescence and approval of the West and the Gulf Arab states while they get to wash their hands of it, condemn Russia, take meaningless symbolic actions against it (e.g. requesting that Greece close its airspace to Russian military cargo only for Greece to promptly refuse it), and otherwise quietly shake Putin’s hand and congratulate him with the restoration of order in the Levant and, in the Europeans’ case, for helping end the refugee crisis.

And for all my, and the Saker’s, prior skepticism… some of this does seem to be happening.

Russians tanks and gunships are appearing in the Alawite heartlands. Bases are getting expanded. According to the latest reports from gazeta.ru (an anti-Kremlin publication), Russian military contractors are being sent to Syria to fight for Assad against their will.

It looks increasingly that Prosvirnin must have either guessed very, very well… or that he had very, very senior informants in the Kremlin.

If this version of affairs is in any way accurate, then it appears that Putin is setting himself up for a fail of epic, 1989-like proportions.

My operating assumption is that the US does not tend to honor those of its commitments that are not both written and binding (just ask Gorbachev about NATO expansion). Imagine that Russia “sorts out” Syria, assuming onto itself the opprobrium of keeping “bloody Assad” in power and doubtless taking some military casualties in the process to boot. Assume it also betrays Novorossiya, as Prosvirnin has been insisting it would for over a year now. Assume it does all this on some promise from the US to drop sanctions, accept Crimea, and help reintegrate Russia into the international (read: Western) community.

But why would it?

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on… shame on you, as that old Texan saying somewhere in Tennessee goes. If Putin falls for a trap this obvious, he will have nobody to blame himself. And with an approval rating now presumably in tatters, he will find both nationalists and liberals coming at him with knives unsheathed (unless, perhaps, he takes care of them beforehand).

But it is also this very obviousness that is also the best argument against it. Say what you will of him, but one thing Putin definitely is not, is stupid.

The alternative explanation, and one in line with the theory of the “mnogokhodovka” – the idea or faith amongst pro-Kremlin commentators that Putin has a very devious, multi-step plan for final victory in Ukraine – is that Putin does plan to walk into this trap but to then spring it on the US itself. If so, it would be fascinating to see this play out.

The third, and in my opinion likeliest scenario, is that both Prosvirnin and I are overanalyzing things, that the case against Egor is just what it says on the tin (alleged hate speech in one of SiP’s articles), and that nothing particularly radical is happening in either Syria or Ukraine.

Though in fairness to Prosvirnin, he at least has the benefit of his conspiracy theories being given weight by the heavy, arbitrary hand of the Russian justice system.

 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.