09 February 2009

On the Outskirts of Russian Politics

As the Russian government grows increasingly concerned about the rise of extremism, both on the left and on the right, Russia Profile has done observers the favor of publishing a collection of articles reviewing the contemporary state of non-mainstream political movements in a special issue, "The Face of Russian Radicalism."

Dmitry Babich writes about federal legislation against extremism and its effects on the political spectrum. Sergei Balashov's "Out With the Aliens" gives a short history of the xenophobic wind-bags at DPNI (Movement Against Illegal Immigration). In "From Imitators to Fanatics," Yevgeny Proshechkin details some current sociological explanations for the rise of racist violence in Russia and Semyon Charny explains how racists make use of the internet. MGER (The Young Guard of United Russia) gets the treatment from Roland Oliphant, who argues that "the Young Guard seems to be moving into the territory of radical nationalism." The general picture is that right-wing activism is on the uptick and increasingly extreme.

On the left, historian Semyon Ekshtut writes up a backgrounder on the rise of nineteenth-century Russian radicalism hypothesizing that the communal silence of Russian society in the nineteenth century allowed disgruntled students to "contribute to the accumulation of negative energy in the community, feeding extremist tendencies." (Huh?) The political theater of Eduard Limonov and the National Bolshevik Party get a rambling rundown as well, though the characterization of the NBP as a leftist movement strikes me as curious. I've never known exactly where on the political map to put this fusion of charismatic leadership, fascist aesthetics, bizarro nationalism and counter-culture sensibilities; and, to tell the truth, this article didn't really help. (See image to the right for a picture of a "typical" NatsBol kid, from the NBP website's photo archive.) Actually, what may be most notable in Russia Profile's review is the relative absence of left-wing radicalism in Russia, a problem recently pondered over at Sean's Russia Blog.

Overall, if you are already an avid watcher of Russian politics, there probably isn't a lot of news in this Russia Profile. But if you're a novice and you want a quick overview of the political margins of Russia, this spate of articles isn't a bad place to start.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Calling for radical opposition victory, isn't Sean afraid of the consequences?

After the last revolution we attempted to unite the world under red flag.

If a new revolution happens, I guess we will try to destroy the world... At least we will break a number of existing world institutions to provide space for reorganization of a certain piece of the world based on our principles.

Personally I would enjoy victory of such opposition, which would create social institutions of the Fourth Ethical System, leading to establishment of block of civilizations "North", based on principles different from either West, East or South. Regretfully the idea is not popular these days..

Evgeny.

defrosted said...

There are small groups around such as the, I think, anarcho-syndicalist trade union network known as the Siberian Confederation of Labour, but any protest or struggle is going to be local no matter the complexion of the politics of any "oppositionists". The NBP are odd. What with the Nazi flag with a black hammer and sickle in place of a swastika. Do they still hold to a "Eurasianist" position? As for the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, I think representatives of that organisation were involved in the ethnic clash that happened in the city of Kondopoga, in September 2006.

Buster said...

Defrosted, You are right, of course, that there are lot of small leftist bands. At one point last year, I was working on writing up all the little anarchist 'zines and counter-culture artifacts I had tried to collect in Moscow. Some of them are actually quite interesting, though few have much support or longevity. I wasn't surprised that Russia Profile didn't write these up, though I thought more could have been made of the antifa activists and various left environmentalist groups.

On the NBP, I would be really curious to see ethnographic work on the NatsBol kids. Everyone focuses on Limonov's antics and the twists of his personal history. But I sense that the kids show up at meetings and protests for a diverse set of reasons, and there are probably some interesting local stories. In my fantasy world, there's some Dick-Hebdige-meets-Detlev-Peukert-meets-Clifford-Geertz academic working on this book and it's just about to be published. Back to the real world, does anyone know of anything even in that ballpark?

defrosted said...

I've assumed, but this is probably more so my prejudices, that the Natsbol activists are students from relatively well-off families. It'll be a little more complex than that though. Stuntism by those kind of people is probably seen as a waste of time and energy by those with more economic demands for improving their immediate living conditions.