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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Too Extreme Even for the Extremists

As in many theater companies, there was no room in the Liberal Democratic Party faction for two star performers.


The rocky 18-month alliance between faction leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Vyacheslav Marychev, who was No. 3 on the party list when the Liberal Democrats took the State Duma by storm in December 1993, came to an end over the weekend.


Marychev resigned Friday after Zhirinovsky described him to reporters as "rubbish." Marychev responded in the same style Monday in an interview, calling Zhirinovsky's election promises "verbal diarrhea."


The two politicians' flamboyance was unmatched amid the boredom of the Duma's plenary sessions, but their styles were radically different.


Zhirinovsky earned his outrageous reputation by railing against "foreign agents" in the government and calling for many borders to be redrawn. But Marychev's performances were always more down-to-earth, involving a wardrobe of brightly colored jackets and T-shirts and featuring off-color jokes about the women in the chamber.


In fact, Marychev explained why he quit the faction mainly in terms of play-acting.


"Zhirinovsky's performance is getting stale," Marychev said, speaking by telephone from his constituency in St. Petersburg. "You cannot play Othello all the time: in the end people learn by heart where you're going to walk off the stage, or fall, or say something."


Marychev, on the other hand, has never been predictable.


A liberal deputy once suggested that he be sent home to change after he took the floor in a purple suit and a Megadeth T-shirt. Yegor Gaidar, leader of the Russia's Choice faction, was incredulous when Marychev presented him with a big bunch of roses for his birthday. And the Women of Russia faction was outraged when he suggested that one of its leaders may have caught a venereal disease on a trip to Amsterdam.


For the latter remarks, the Duma judged that he had gone too far and banned him from speaking at several sessions. But when he reappeared after the suspension, gleefully announcing, "I'm back," few groans were heard in the chamber.


Half-hearted attempts have been made to suspend him for his other escapades, and a Communist deputy from the Caucasus Mountains once darkly threatened that "one day someone will stab Marychev."


Zhirinovsky told a press conference Friday: "Marychev is unmanageable. He always needs a stage. He keeps putting on funny hats, so one wonders when he's going to try different panties or cufflinks. The faction can no longer put up with his clowning."


Marychev, 55, once donned a policeman's cap in parliament to demand more funding for the police. At another session he appeared in a military cap to discuss the lack of benefits for servicemen.


But, himself never one to miss a chance to wallow in the stage lights, Zhirinovsky added: "We understand Marychev, though. There are no normal people in this country, everybody has some flaw or another."


Marychev suggested in the interview that a fellow showman's jealousy was the main reason for Zhirinovsky wanting him out of the faction.


"Zhirinovsky wants to be noticed, too," Marychev said. "He is just afraid that they show me more on television."


Marychev said Zhirinovsky has been ungrateful for the votes Marychev had brought him in St. Petersburg by his populist campaigning. Marychev has frequently tried to be help his community, pushing through a bill on privileges for the survivors of the German siege of Leningrad and maintaining a busy office where he listens to people's complaints.


"Zhirinovsky and all the other party members sit in Moscow, and I am here all the time," Marychev said. "I bring back all kinds of problems, and I present them the way I do because I want people to pay attention."


The battle between the two LDPR stars has deep roots. During a party congress last year, where Zhirinovsky declared himself the Liberal Democrats' leader for the next 10 years, guards publicly threw Marychev out into a snowdrift. Zhirinovsky apparently feared Marychev would dispute his claim.


On another occasion, Marychev said, Zhirinovsky threw his luggage off a plane in the Far Eastern city of Magadan on an LDPR campaign trip.


"Someone told me that I was making more speeches than he was, so he told me to find my own way home," Marychev said.


However, similarities in the two men's political views may yet bring them together, says Igor Brumel, a Moscow assistant to Marychev who tried to make peace between his boss and Zhirinovsky last week, but failed when Marychev refused to come back without an apology from the party leader.


"Marychev is a strong personality, and he feels Zhirinovsky has suppressed him," Brumel said. "But then, Marychev sometimes suppresses me. He is a kind of mini-Zhirinovsky, too."