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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Exotic Future vs. Wallpaper




Eduard Limonov (born Eduard Savenko), best known for his novel "It's Me, Eddie" (Eto ya, Editchka), emigrated to New York in 1975 after being expelled from the Soviet Union. He later became a French citizen, then returned to Russia in 1990. He is now 57, the chairman of the National Bolshevik Party and editor of the newspaper Limonka (Russian slang for "hand grenade"). He spoke with Alexander Bratersky about writing and politics.


Q:


You are the author of more than 29 books and essays. Yet you are no longer interested in writing?


A:


Literature isn't cool anymore. [Joseph] Brodsky died. He should have died long before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The time when you could sit in a rocking chair and read Brodsky is gone. ?


I became the winner in a never-openly declared war between me and dissident writers. To build your novels on your dislike of Soviet society and on your relationship with that society is a big risk. Then the Soviet system disappeared; the opponent was gone. And all of those vulgar complaints from dissident writers about the Soviet system because it was not built the way they wanted are gone too. ?


I built my books on deeper values: love, death, sexual desires. Those values never get old; they are eternal. And if my books have survived this storm, they will survive the next. As far as my literary activity, I have completed my program and it is not interesting for me anymore.


? During my first year abroad I tried to write articles relating to Russia. I offered them to The Village Voice and The New York Times. I wanted to present a different view of Russia. I wrote that Russia is a boring old country in a state of collapse f while in the West, the popular view was that it was a bloody dictatorship. It was a view influenced by the publishing of "The Gulag Archipelago," which came 25 years late.


Q:


Is it true that your radical political activity was the reason both Western and Russian publishers stopped publishing your books?


A:


That happened mostly in France after the local Socialist party, together, I think, with the security services, began a massive [smear] campaign against the National Bolsheviks [and other radicals] in the summer and fall of 1993. ? The union between the right and left that could have taken place was killed at the very beginning. ?


My last book, "Assassination of the Guardian," was published in 1995 in France. I became involved in it out of despair. I understood that all of my political ideas, which I was trying to publicize, were not teaching anyone anything. I understood that new politicians are needed to create new politics, because those who exist are not able to see anything.


My first experience was involvement with Vladimir Zhirinovsky. I even became a minister in his shadow Cabinet in June 1992. But I soon distanced myself from him when I saw all the vices that brought him to the very minor role he plays today: dishonesty, lies, moneygrubbing.


That contributed to the fact that in November 1994, I, together with [nationalist philosopher] Alexander Dugin, [punk musician] Yegor Letov and many unknown young people, established our own paper, Limonka. And then in spring of 1995, the National Bolshevik Party was established.


Q:


This new political party was created by a few intellectuals?


A:


It took long years of struggle and study. I learned everything from scratch: how to establish a paper, how to survive. Now I am only involved with politics. I have found that becoming a politician is a very difficult occupation. Not a politician like Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin, who sits on a bag full of money. He is allowed to be tongue-tied and to make idiotic statements. But I am not. For me, politics is labor, just like for someone loading trucks or a welder.


Q:


How would you describe National Bolshevism?


A:


It is "red nationalism." It has three main tasks.


The country has gone through the privatization of property, which was grabbed by a minority of former Communist Party bureaucrats. We are not satisfied with that. It is a revolutionary duty [to return the improperly privatized property]. ? Russia must go through this in order to achieve prosperity. Let's hope that this process won't be that painful. But if necessary, it would be possible to use some violence against those who resist.


We also think that the current bureaucratic ruling class should be denied power. We are not saying that they should be killed; they should just go, because they have developed bad habits. They have become accustomed to stealing and lying. Democracy hasn't had a victory in our country; communism has not returned; but bureaucrats are the ones who won the battle between the democrats and communists.


The third is a purely nationalistic task, to change Russia's borders since they do not include more then 25 million Russians living abroad. Territories that have more than 50 percent Russian populations, like Narva [in Estonia] or Northern Kazakhastan or Sevastopol should become part of Russia. It can be done through a referendums in those territories.


Those actions sound rather shocking for the narrow-minded. But to sweep away the illusions of narrow-minded people is not our task. ?


It was our party that first drew attention to the case of Vasily Kononov [a former Soviet partisan convicted in Latvia of World War II-era crimes against civilians]. Today everyone is talking about it, but when we started this action, nobody cared about it. We blocked Latvian government computers from the Gazprom server. Our people started to boycott Latvian goods. Accompanied by the TV 6 television crew, our party members visited shops to find out if they sold Latvian-made goods. We, of course, influence Russian politics.


For example, no one is paying attention to the situation in Kazakhstan. Putin smiled happily while meeting with [President] Nursultan Nazarbayev. But this is disgusting when 14 Russians accused of attempting a military coup in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk are locked in prison there.


Q:


How is your party funded?


A:


Our party, which has about 8,000 members, suffers from a lack of funding. There are no rich people in Russia who finance radical parties, so we depend on donations.


Q:


Why did your party members throw eggs at film director Nikita Mikhalkov?


A:


It was because of Mikhalkov's support of Nazarbayev in the 1999 elections, when Nazarbayev extended his term to 2007. Almaty is still decorated with posters showing Mikhalkov standing with Nazarbayev. They made a mockery of voters, since [Mikhalkov] has a reputation as a cultural figure and patriot. This patriot has ignored the many people who have died in Nazarbayev's prisons.


Q:


Why do you say Russia is turning into a police state?


A:


Today everyone is talking about it. NTV [television] started to talk about it, then their own tail was cut off. But they have fewer reasons to talk about this than we do.


When police searched our headquarters after the Mikhalkov incident, the papers didn't really cover this. Wasn't it a true violation of our rights? NTV doesn't like it when those things happen to them, but they don't really care about us. They don't misinform, they simply give out a very small amount of information about us. After that, they want freedom for everyone. I would have gone to the meeting [to defend NTV], but I didn't go because for years they haven't spoken up for us even though we write about the other side.


In our paper we wrote about Andrei Babitsky, and while we stated that we do not share his position [on the Chechen war], the way he was treated was an absolute violation of both human and journalistic rights in this country.


Q:


But isn't the former NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria, whom you made a National-Bolshevik symbol, also a symbol of a police state?


A:


Beria was the creator of the country's military complex. He was also responsible for the development of Soviet atomic power. He saved many of our scientists from death, not because of some humanistic ideas, but because of pragmatism.


He knew that Russia needed their skills and genius. He was a man just like his time f tough and maybe not a very nice person f but we should give him credit for his energy. If not for the military complex and railways, Russia would have already collapsed.


Sooner or later society will understand his role in the state's achievements. Men like him simply couldn't be part of the stories invented during Khrushchev's time about how he picked up girls on the street. That is just as untrue as the stories that he was a British spy and it reminds me of stories about vampires.


Q:


What do you think of the Young Beria Followers in Volgograd? [See Insight, pages IV-V].


A:


[Their existence] is mainly due to their own initiative, with the help of our local party representative, Maxim Anokhin. But we are very interested in them. If we had money, we would start more groups like that.


? It is understandable that youngsters are joining the [National Bolshevik] party.


The party promises an exotic future, a future of struggle. Sometimes they will end up in prison, like many of our comrades today. We hope to win someday, and that is also an exotic future f while what they see at home is their parents working all day long to buy new wallpaper.