The Russian people never cease to fascinate me, in large part because their history is a fascinating and utterly instructive window into the darker corridors of human nature. If asked to name two reasons why the Russians are the way they are, I would point the finger of blame at geography and the Romanov dynasty. The former effectively isolated the Russian people from immediate proximity to the cultural, economic, political and social evolution of Western Europe (they didn’t acquire a universal standard alphabet until the late 9th century) while the latter – which governed without interruption for roughly three hundred years – effectively embedded a serf mentality into the national consciousness, imprinting onto the character of the people an instinctive attraction to authoritarian rule – whatever its shape or form.
The transition of power from the Romanov Dynasty to the Bolshevik Commissariat in the early 20th century was, in substance, little more than a transfer of power from one oligarchic group to another with one notable exception: by way of comparison, life in the Soviet Union was far more horrible in terms of liberty and prosperity than it ever was at any time in Czarist Russia.
But what of Russia after the fall of communism in the early 1990s? Is it not today a thriving laboratory of democracy? In a word: nope. To be sure, the trappings of a Democratic government are certainly present, but they amount to little more than window dressing in what has become the biggest Potemkin Village in human history. The REAL power in Russia still rests in the hands of an oligarchic kleptocracy managed by the Slavic quivalent of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra with Vladimir Putin cast perfectly in the role of Capo de Tutti Capi.
But even this arrangement is weak and in danger of being upended by what appears to be a hideous composite of the worst characteristics of Czarism and Bolshevism. Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova explain:
Within hours after Anders Breivik’s July 22 bombing and shooting spree in Norway, Russia’s ultranationalist underground was buzzing with sick approval. On vkontakte.ru, the Russian answer to Facebook, no fewer than 10 user groups sprouted, with titles like “Breivik Is the Hero of the White Race,” each with hundreds of members. One admirer was Aleksandr Belov, founder of the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), which was banned by the Russian government earlier this year. “In Russia there are thousands of unsatisfied people ready to take up a weapon and do something real … ready to become warriors in a holy war,” Belov told NEWSWEEK, praising the Norwegian terrorist as “an effective manager.”
As Norway’s tragedy showed, paranoid and violent minds can lurk in the calmest, most prosperous countries. But the cancer of ultranationalism has found a particularly fertile breeding ground in the frustrations and resentments of young Russians. Belov claims to have predicted his country’s future as far back as August 1991. Manezh Square, in the shadow of the Kremlin, was thronged with Russians celebrating the sudden collapse of Soviet communism; to most, the evening marked the birth of Russian democracy. But Belov, who was there with a friend, distributing pamphlets for the anti-Semitic Pamyat organization, says he saw something else. “We knew that these liberals would fail,” he says. “And that their failure would fuel our rise — the rise of the right.”
It’s an eye-opeing article and I recommend you read it. However, take the writers’ use of the words “right” and “far right” with a grain of salt, as they appear to labor under the mistaken belief that ultra-nationalist fascism occupies a place on the right side of the political spectrum when, in fact, it properly belongs on the left side.
This instructional video should help clarify what I mean: