Russia: “Completely Different Other Russias”

Riot police just off Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow during the June 11 Dissenters’ March – photo by LJ user msmetana

On Dec. 6, 2006, Maria Gaidar, leader of the Da! (“Yes!”) youth movement and daughter of former acting premier Yegor Gaidar, and Ilya Yashin, leader of the youth wing of Grigory Yavlinsky‘s Yabloko party, featured in a Global Voices translation that dealt with their intrepid attempt to protest a bill that abolished minimum voter turnout (20 percent) for all elections in Russia: they had spent an hour and a half suspended on ropes from a Moscow bridge facing the Kremlin, flying a 10-meter banner that said: “GIVE THE ELECTION BACK TO THE PEOPLE, BASTARDS!”

Earlier this month, following the June 11 Dissenters’ March in Moscow, both Gaidar and Yashin briefly found themselves in the Russian blogosphere's spotlight again – and here's why.

There was no police “overreaction” during the opposition's latest Dissenters’ March in Russia's capital – possibly, because the organizers decided not to follow up the rally on Pushkinskaya Square with the actual marching. Everyone made their speeches – or so it seemed, until the blogosphere offered a not-so-pleasant revelation: Maria Gaidar was prevented from addressing the crowd by, allegedly, Eduard Limonov, leader of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) and Garry Kasparov‘s close ally in the Other Russia anti-government coalition.

Ilya Yashin (LJ user yashin) happened to be among the first whistleblowers when he wrote this (RUS) on his blog on June 12:

Attended the Dissenters’ March yesterday.

To be honest, I'm not very happy. Too many hammers and sickles, too many [Russian Imperial flags], too many fervent “Long live Russia” chants… Some guy was saying from the stage that “democracy ended in 1991″ – and was booed by part of the crowd. And when the [National Bolsheviks] started yelling “Russia is all, the rest is nothing,” my mood was ruined completely.

But I do not regret having attended. And I'll come next time, too. First, because it's stifling in the country, and the Dissenters’ March has the spirit of freedom. Second, after the April beatings it was impossible not to come.

I'd like to say a few words about the following.

[Maria Gaidar] was supposed to speak at yesterday's rally. Half an hour before the beginning, both she and I were offered to say something by the organizers. But Eduard Limonov learned about it and issued an ultimatum: if they let Mashka speak, he's leaving. The organizers apologized to Gaidar and she ended up without an opportunity to make an address.

So here goes. Eduard Veniaminovich, you… how to say this politely?.. you are taking too much upon yourself.

Have you forgotten what you were yesterday? Have you forgotten about Stalin-Beriya-Gulag? About how you were calling Yeltsin to initiate bloodshed in Chechnya? About how you demanded the dispersal of anti-war rallies of the 1990s?

We are going against our principles after this, when we stand next to you on stage and tolerate your emblems, which imitate Hitler's banners.

And you should appreciate it that many people believe that you really do not subscribe to your past cannibalistic convictions anymore.

Respect the people, Eduard Veniaminovich.

Maria Gaidar (LJ user m_gaidar) offered her perspective (RUS) on the incident on June 13:

I feel obliged to comment on the situation, since a scandal has broken out because of my failure to speak at the Dissenters’ March.

Before the rally, Aleksandr Osovtsev came up to me and suggested that I speak. I agreed. About five minutes before the rally began, he apologized and said that Limonov is categorically against my address, that he had threatened to leave.

I am not part of the Other Russia, nor was I one of the organizers of this rally, and I think that the organizers have the right to decide who will speak and who won't. I didn't want to [make this incident public] because I knew that everyone would immediately attack the Other Russia and the Dissenters’ Marches. That's why I only told several people about it, those I came there with, those who knew that I was to speak at the rally. And I asked not to spread this information…

It's a pity that this ugly episode has become public.

I, like many of you, am not comfortable with Limonov. I'm not comfortable with their emblem, with their rhetoric. I'm not comfortable when those on stage say that democracy ended in 1991 and yell that “Russia is all, the rest is nothing.” The only reason I try to ignore this is because there are real political prisoners in the ranks of NBP. These people are in jail for this slogan: “Respect our Constitution.”

The traditional myth circulated by the [National Bolsheviks] is that [they] are the vanguard of the marches. We held a rally two years ago, also on June 12. There was no Limonov there – but there were as many people (or even more). I am absolutely convinced that the main body of the marches is made up of the liberal-democratic public that has to make quite an effort to tolerate Limonov.

But! Right now, the Dissenters’ March is the main oppositional platform. And not because Limonov and NBP are there, but because people who wish to express their protest come there – and no one except the organizers of the marches offers them such an opportunity. If you want to organize the Dissenters’ Marches without Limonov – just do it.

The Dissenters’ Marches are not controlled by the Kremlin, at least. That's why I suggest that we, first of all, fight against Putin's bloody regime (TM), and not against Limonov, no matter what he does.


Yashin posted another comment (RUS) on the situation, also on June 13:

A few more words on yesterday's discussion on Limonov. Please believe me, I'm not trying to exacerbate the contradictions, but there are important issues that shouldn't be ignored.

So here. I ran into a couple of comments by NBP activists regarding the situation.

New York-based (!) [National Bolshevik] Sasha Lenina writes:

[National Bolsheviks] are not renouncing any of their views. Those who carried out the “shock therapy” are in for “stalin, beriya, gulag.” Ichkeriya will be cleansed according to Beriya's method.

The whole active of the marches are the [National Bolsheviks]. You can dislike Limonov. And it's natural that your associates (the liberal part of the Other Russia, the real cannibals) are the ones who can't stand him. But do they really have a choice?

And Moscow-based [National Bolshevik] Pavel Zherebin continues his colleague's thought:

It's simple: you keep silent about Yeltsin, your favorite USA and “Israel,” about the Russian “fascism,” about your support of gay pride parades, about the totalitarian [Soviet state], about the fight against international terrorism, about Lukashenko, etc. Then we'll keep from voicing our opinions on these issues, too, and will concentrate on the criticism of Putin's regime.

The rest of it we'll discuss in the Parliament of the Free Other Russia.

[…] [Let the likes of Maria Gaidar] act in “Israel.” It's Russia here, even though it's [the Other Russia].

Listen to me carefully, friends.

I've been involved in politics since 2000, joined Yabloko in 2001. In these seven years, I've never renounced a single slogan of mine. All that I said, all that I believed in seven years ago is still relevant for me today.

And you, [National Bolsheviks], have gone a long way during this time. You've publicly renounced the cannibalistic slogans, you've changed your program and are using my – liberal – slogans.

Your comrades are behind bars not for their “Stalin-Beriya-Gulag” – but for [Andrei Sakharov]'s “Respect the Constitution” addressed to the presidential administration. And through this your comrades have earned everyone's respect.

Today you declare your support for the fight for the free election, for independent courts and against censorship of the mass media.

First of all, I'd like to remind you that all these values were born thanks to the ideologues of the liberal movement, which I'm honored to belong to. Today, all the adequate ideological movements (conservatives, social democrats, and all the rest) accept these values as the fundamental ones. And it is these values that have earned the liberal ideology its right to exist and a place in history. And you have to respect this.

Second, you can't fight for civil rights and freedoms while also keeping your “traditional” National Bolshevik convictions. It's impossible to simultaneously “torture and hang, hang and torture” and demand fair elections to the independent parliament. […]

I find it offensive to hear slogans like “Russia is all, the rest is nothing” at a rally I'm taking part in (this is how it was at the latest March). This isn't patriotism, it's pure Nazism. Patriotism is the love for your country and respect for other countries and cultures. Nazism is the propaganda of the national superiority and contempt for those around you.

And one more thing. It's hard to accuse me of being [against Limonov]. You know that I've taken part in rallies to support NBP's political prisoners more than once, and I wrote letters to judges, and I helped your lawyers […]. I really respect many [National Bolsheviks] and consider them decent people, and some – real heroes.

But you'll have to renounce all the ugly stuff that you propagated in 1990s. Otherwise, guys, we have completely different other Russias with you.

Soon after Yashin blogged about his views, members of the “adult wing” of Yabloko spoke against any kind of alliance with the Other Russia and announced their intention to nominate Grigory Yavlinsky as their 2008 presidential candidate – a move that, among other things, further emphasized the Russian opposition's famous lack of unity.


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