Russia, December 2000:
There have been new developments in one of Russia’s biggest and most radical fascist organisations – the Russkoje Nationalnoje Edinstvo-Russian National Unity (RNE) – this autumn.
From Mara Vladimirova in St. Petersburg
Four days after RNE members attacked a Jewish school in Ryazan on 17 September, the leaders of sixteen local RNE groups held a crisis meeting in Moscow at which they accused their leader, Alexander Barkashov, 47, of wrecking the organisation. The meeting was the result of an internal row which had already led to a walk-out by twenty-six local groups.
Details of the showdown were given to the press by Barkashov’s deputy, Oleg Kassin who, on 23 September, was proclaimed leader of a new national-patriotic movement, Russkoje Vozrozhdenije (Russian Regeneration), together with Andrei Dudinov and Yuri Vasin. Kassin, born in 1965, works as boss of a paramilitary club called Varjagi in Kirov. Vasin, 39, leads a nationalist club Vitjazi (Russian for mediaeval knight) in a small town close to Moscow. Both were candidates in last December’s parliamentary elections in December 1999. Dudinov is from Stavropol, a nationalist stronghold, in southern Russia.
The leaders of the new movement plan to continue with the RNE’s programme but will concentrate more on the values of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its main task will be “to struggle legally for political power,” said Kassin. Around two hundred leaders of local RNE groups from 48 regions of Russia took part in the founding conference of Russian Regeneration.
The involvement of journalists and the very public dismissal of Barkashov by his fellow nazis indicates the depth of the crisis in an organisation that was supposedly secret and built on the führer principle. Whether these events mark the definitive the end of the RNE or merely a new trick in the the movement’s long-running game with the Russian authorities remains unclear.
Certainly, the RNE’s role has been thrown into question. Though founded in 1990, the RNE only really appeared on the political stage in October 1993 when its members were involved at the White House in Moscow during the armed conflict between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament.
Because it fought on the side of parliament, Yeltsin banned the RNE for a while but the party recruited new people attracted by its “heroic” image with the result that candidates from the RNE were able to participate in elections in 1994 and 1995.
The RNE’s programme and principles were outlined in its newspaper Russkij Porjadok (Russian Order) which was published irregularly until 1997 when it was outlawed. The ban on the paper did not deter the RNE from spreading propaganda by distributing leaflets in the streets and at underground stations and gluing them on walls as in St. Petersburg. In Moscow, the RNE uses underground railway stations for its meetings because it is prohibited from having office premises.
Though the RNE is notorious in Russia, it has little real social support. Nevertheless, it has a positive reputation amongst Russian ultra-nationalists. At the beginning, RNE members avoided using the term “fascist”. Now, they proudly proclaim themselves “Russian fascists”, attributing their swastika symbol and ideology to Slavic history and, going even further back, by reference to Sanskrit and Buddhist philosophy. Astrology and Buddhism were Barkashov’s personal passions.
On one hand, the RNE’s ideologists babble about karma, the energy of Universe and the dark forces of occultism and, on the other, about the salvation and regeneration of Russia, in an attempt to create an impression of being “Spiritual Warriors”. Consciously or unconsciously, they view themselves as the political descendants of similar organisations in the past like the “oprichniks” (repression troops) of Tsar Ivan the Terrible or the antisemitic Black Hundreds at the beginning of Twentieth century.
Always militaristic, the RNE adopted black uniforms and was organised in regional groups according to a strict order of rank. Mainly men, the RNE’s members trained in sport clubs and on bodyguard courses, but some also worked in the paramilitary police force, OMON.
According to RNE ideology, the organisation’s members were “always on alert” to act in conflict situations but most of their violence was directed at anti-fascists or, more often, the police.
Politically, the RNE was a catastrophe zone, failing to stand in last December’s elections to the Duma because party members had been busy forging signatures on their registration papers. Though some Russian anti-fascists like to issue apocalyptic warnings about the RNE, the party mainly complains about its “persecution” by the authorities who in 1999 banned it in Moscow.
Though the RNE has characteristics that are general across Russia, there are some regional peculiarities which are important. For instance, in St. Petersburg, the organisation is not hounded by the authorities and police. Nevertheless, the local group there has remained small and ineffective.
The RNE’s former St. Petersburg leader, Mikhail Lalochkin, comes from Voronezh, a town in so-called “red zone” of Russia. His brother, Eugeny Lalochkin, is the boss of Voronezh RNE. Mikhail Lalochkin, who is 29-year-old, was on the RNE’s candidates’ list for the parliamentary elections in December 1999 before he moved to Moscow.
The precise size of the RNE’s membership in St. Petersburg organisation is unknown but many of the organisation’s cadres have been identified by anti-fascists. Among them is V. Stepanov, a lawyer, who has defended members of the RNE on several occasions.
RNE members are not very visible in the city centre of St.Petersburg, preferring to focus their activities on the suburbs where they hold internal meetings but seldom try to recruit people from the street. Attempts to talk with RNE members about their organisation, membership, structures and ideology are greeted with instant suspicion because they are paranoid about “infiltration by enemies”. Most of them do not appear to have a clear view of their own ideology which is an eclectic mixture of national socialism, pagan symbolism and Russian Orthodoxy.
After the RNE’s paper was banned, the organisation tried to launch a new one, Novaya Systema (New System), to publish news about the party. Novaya Systema has been published every two to three months in St. Petersburg since 1998 and is run by Tamara Mischenkova, who is its main editor as well as appearing to be the author of most of its articles.
In general, Novaya Systema is anti-democratic and demagogic, violently attacking political leaders like Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Gennadi Zuganov, head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, slamming the mass-media and laying into the Americans and Western culture. The USA it regards as the headquarters of “World Zionism”.
Novaya Systema is also full of pseudo-scientific material on psychology, medicine astrology, genetics and mixed marriages. A good example of this junk was a series of articles about American meat produced with hormones, claiming that men who eat this meat get female breasts and high-pitched voices. Using this meat, the paper alleged, the USA has started a secret war against Europe for the leadership of the world.
Simplistic material like this is a good basis for the easy absorption of RNE ideology which appears to be identical to the positions expressed in Novaya Systema. There have already been five editions about the RNE. In the first edition, the articles were written by Mischenkova, but since then RNE members have been doing much of the writing.
Articles written by Lalochkin explain the RNE’s use of the swastika and its Hitler-salute greeting, linking them with ancient Slavic rites. Other articles boast about“unbelievable increases” in membership, which according to the the RNE, stands at a grossly inflated count of 300,000 “heroes”…all well-trained mentally and physically”.
An article devoted to the results of the December 1999 election campaign blames a rabbi from Moscow for the party’s failure. But for him, says the article, the RNE might have won forty-five million votes. The same article tries to prove the “undemocratic” ways of St. Petersburg mayor Yuri Luzhkov by using the example of an antisemitic demonstration, permitted by the Swedish authorities, by the National Socialist Front in Stockholm.
To explain away its electoral flops, the RNE talks about its “special” tactic of waiting for “the right moment” and the need for a slow preparation of the population for the victory of the “Russian Idea.” Issue 13 of Novaya Systema even carries the RNE’s main slogan ‘Glory for Russia!" By playing with the “unofficial” Novaya Systema, the RNE has been able to avoid a repeat of the ban on its official paper.
Novaya Systema shows that state restrictions have not choked off the distribution of extreme nationalist propaganda in Russia. Russian anti-fascists have came to the conclusion, though, that the RNE’s notoriety is far bigger than the organisation itself – events like the attack in Ryazan, notwithstanding – and that to exaggerate the organisation’s importance can only cause political confusion.
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