The Bitter Taste of Forbidden Fruit

6 November 2012 

By Aleksandr Podrabinek


The nationalist-led “Russian March” turned out to be quite informative. It clearly showed that the nationalists are still few in number, that they’re still unwise, gloomy and aggressive, and are therefore not likely to receive widespread support. The most perceptive of them see their own shortcomings, and have made efforts to appear respectable and European-like in public.

The concepts of democracy, market economy and rule of law have left nationalism without any hope of a future. The idea that one national group is superior to another is incompatible with the equality of rights inherent in a democratic state. Of course, people who attribute their failings to the schemings of ethnic minorities instead of to their own inadequacy, will probably never integrate into the democratic system. However, their political success would be possible only in a country that disregards the main principles of democracy and of modern civilized legal systems. That’s why the strategic calculation of the nationalists is to have a lawless government, one in which they could establish a system of social preferences based on ethnic identity.

Conscious of their small numbers and ineffectiveness, the leaders of Russian nationalism, inwardly suppressing their disgust and stepping on the throat of their own song, have begun to seek a union with the liberals, whose level of public support is significantly higher. According to polls by the Levada Centre, approximately 63 percent of those who participated in this year’s winter protests had liberal or democratic leanings, while nationalists made up only 10 percent. In this way, we can see the nationalists’ position in this situation is clear—something that can’t be said about the protests’ liberal organizers. Their reasons for uniting with such a small-numbered, aggressive and unattractive group can only be guessed at. What’s more, this alliance has alienated a significant number of the protest movement’s potential supporters, who were willing to join the street protests not out of desire for political gain, but out of a sense of moral decency.

Whatever the reasons, the unnatural alliance was formed. A look at the two sides’ positions is amusing and informative. The liberals have maintained an embarrassed silence regarding the antics of the nationalists, and have dutifully overlooked their fervent nationalism, with its anti-Semitic outbursts and fascist rhetoric, at protest marches and rallies. They have carefully combed through the brown masses in a search for something decent or reasonable, some kind of leader with whom they could talk and agree.

Seek and ye shall find; these leaders were discovered. If they hadn’t been found, they would have been created. As true politicians, in every auditorium these peope said what the audience wanted to hear. At the “March of Millions” they angrily denounced the regime, flavouring their performance with only a tad of nationalism, to taste. At the “Russian March” they could take a break from hypocrisy and let it all out, with the sole exception of not making any personal jabs at the liberal leadership. In any case, their nationalist comrades successfully did it for them.

During the 4 November march, the nationalist Ivan Mironov in his speech in front of Moscow’s Central House of Artists laid out, in bright and candid language, what the nationalists see as the benefits of working with the liberals.

“We have to go to protests organized by other people because these are our streets and our squares, and we have to make them ours,” Mironov said. “We will turn the general so-called ‘March of Millions’ into a ‘Russian March.’ Take the squares, take the podium.”

Speaking after Mironov, not one of the members of the recently elected Coordinating Council of the opposition disavowed his call. The nationalist Vladimir Tor condemned the authorities for not letting Russians live as they wanted, while Ilya Konstantinov condemned the regime for the fact that it is not itself Russian. But what reason would they have to contradict Mironov? This is precisely the nationalists’ strategy: to take advantage of widespread rejection of the Putin regime and rise to power on the wave of public dissatisfaction, so they can establish the nationalist order so dear to their hearts. A new order.

The shape of this new order was very colourfully outlined in a speech by the Nazi Roman Zheleznov: “We must unite, and unity starts when people of one blood unite behind one idea. One belief, one leader and one nation. We have a belief. Our belief is national socialism. Our belief provides a decisive answer to any question. We will build a new society… Our goal is to create a society based on social justice. Our guiding principal is, to each their own.”

Nazi apologism angers a lot of people. It angers them to the point that many human rights activists plan to file a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office; others are calling for a complete ban on the “Russian March.” Kommersant reported that the president of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ludmila Alekseeva, along with representatives from the Federation of Migrants of Russia spoke out against the march in Moscow city centre. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights plans to file a complaint with the Prosecutor General.

However, to ban the “Russian March” would be to violate the citizen’s right to protest. Outlawing nationalism would mean violating the rights to freedom of speech and self-expression. At its core, Russia is a land of extremes. Where the politicians don’t have enough conscience, the activists don’t have enough brains. Instead of leaving the nationalists to roast in their own juices, granting them full civil rights and the freedom to recruit supporters, the activists have either brought the nationalists into a political alliance or have demanded that they be banned and subjected to discriminatory measures. Self-restraint, high ethical standards in politics, or respect for the rights of the opponent — these are not qualities you will find much in evidence among us.