Inside Russia’s National Liberation Movement With Pavel Merzlikin

Image edited by Kevin Rothrock

The following text is a translation by Lincoln Pigman, a Russo-American student of War Studies at King’s College London, and also a freelancer featured in The New York Times and IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review. The original text, written by Pavel Merzlikin, first appeared on April 24, published by the Russian website Bumaga.

Inside Russia’s National Liberation Movement
by Pavel Merzlikin

Over the past four years, Russia’s largest cities have gotten used to the National Liberation Movement (NOD). Almost daily, its activists organize protests, praising Vladimir Putin and calling for Russia’s liberation from American occupation. According to the movement’s leaders, 160,000 Russian citizens belong to NOD, but little is known about how it is organized.

Who belongs to NOD and why? Are its activists paid to support Putin? What is the movement all about? To answer these questions, a journalist from the Russian online newspaper Bumaga infiltrated NOD and spent a month living as a rank-and-file activist.

How I Joined NOD

On the corner of Lomonosov Street and Fontanka Embankment in Saint Petersburg sits a branch of the Russian Central Bank. Every Friday, from 16:30 to 18:00, NOD activists picket outside the building. They suspect the Central Bank of working for “Russia’s enemies.”

On March 3, there were only three NODovites picketing: a plump 45-year-old woman wearing a baggy fur coat and a hat with a fur flower on the side, and two elderly men in shabby puffy jackets. One looked to be around 60 years old, the second much older and sporting a long gray beard.

They were visible from afar, handing out newspapers with a portrait of Putin on the front page, screaming “For Russia’s sovereignty!” at passersby, and waving black and orange flabs (the colors of Saint George’s ribbon). The people of Saint Petersburg hardly reacted. Students giggled at the newspapers, while adults simply walked past. Most often, it pensioners who approached the activists. On one occasion a group of pensioners walked up the activists and sparked a conversation about Russia’s fate.

“Why are you standing here?” asked an older woman, glancing from activist to activist.

“We’re here for Putin, supporting him.”

“Why? Everyone supports him anyway. My acquaintances, my friends—we all voted for him.”

The activists nodded approvingly. The discussion turned to the latest news, and the activists began talking about [opposition leader Alexei] Navalny’s latest film on corruption at the highest levels of the Russian government, He Is Not Dimon to You. They were sure it was all a lie.

“Navalny was educated in the United States. He’s an American agent, and it’s clear whom he works for. We pay tribute to America as it is. A billion a day, can you believe it?” explained the activists.

“A billion a day? Why?”

“That’s the law.”

After discussing the “tribute to America” and today’s “dead” youth, the pensioner took a copy of the official NOD newspaper, which described Russia is an American colony, and left. I took her place and said that I wanted to join the movement.

With no questions asked, I was handed a worn-out poster that called on the Central Bank to decrease the base lending rate to zero. A minute later, I found myself standing next to Tatiana, another activist. She held a poster stating that [Belarusian President] Alexander Lukashenko is working with “Ukrofascists.”

With all the attention I got, it felt as though the NODovites had gathered there just to meet me: they shook my hand, took turns taking photos with me, and within a few minutes, older members of the group started referring to me as Pashenka—the diminutive of my name.

The rest of the protest was casual: we handed out newspapers and took photos together another dozen times. At 18:00 sharp, the activists, as if on cue, put away their flags and posters and began slowly moving towards the metro. Tatiana told her aged comrades: “See, the youth are turning up. We aren’t standing around for nothing.”

Thus began my month in NOD.

What NOD Protests Are Like

Vladimir had dreamed of the sea since his childhood but never managed to become a sailor. Over the course of his life, he changed professions 10 times, doing everything from overseeing cargo handling to servicing medical equipment. At 70 years old, he became a pensioner just a few years ago. As he admitted himself, he is devoted to only two things in life: getting his grandson to school in the morning and fighting for Russia’s sovereignty as a rank-and-file member of NOD. All that remains to remind him of his dreams of the sea is an anchor tattooed onto his wrist in his youth.

The elderly Saint Petersburg resident joined NOD about a year ago after coming across its website, though he only recently began participating in protests. It took the movement months to contact Vladimir after he filled out a form online.

Now, you can find Vladimir on Lomonosov Street every Thursday, or on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Malaya Sadovaya at NOD’s Sunday gatherings.

I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladimir at three separate protests, each of which followed the same script. Around 13:00, we quickly erected a battered multi-meter banner reading “Putin is our national leader,” grabbed a stack of propagandistic newspapers, and began trying to hand them out. If we didn’t feel like distributing newspapers, we could always grab an old and cracked poster from the pile. The ones I held said things like “America, hands off Kievan Rus’” and “How is our Alaska doing,” the latter being accompanied by a photo of Putin in a fur cap. It was an uncomfortable experience.

“Putin is our national faggot” [pidor, which rhymes with lider, which is Russian for leader], yelled out a punk as he was walking by the protest.

“Get out of here, provocateur. Just look at him,” answered the activists.

The punk didn’t want to leave. He began singing a Noize MC song, “Out of a Window,” waving his messy hair right in front of Putin’s portrait.

Other passersby reacted more calmly. Intellectual-looking types would approach us, trying to shame us. We called them “white ribbon-ists” [white ribbons are associated with several earlier protest movements in Russia]. Every hour, no fewer than three tourists from Europe and China took selfies in front of us. Sometimes, policemen came up and took photos of us. We treated them extremely politely, and, once they had left, told one another that they probably supported NOD in their hearts.

Only children and pensioners took our newspapers. Most of the thousands who walked past us on Nevsky Prospekt in the two hours that we protested paid us no mind. Almost all of us at one point or another carried a large flag with the colors of Saint George’s ribbon and a poster about American oppressors. It felt as if there were at least fifty of us.

In practice, between three and six people would join our pickets. Even on our best days, when seemingly all of NOD’s St. Petersburg members showed up, we had no more than 15-20 activists in our ranks. Just under half of them are pensioners with lots of free time and nostalgia for the Soviet Union. There were also a few modestly-dressed Saint Petersburg 40-somethings and a couple of student-patriots.

We also had a few semi-mythical characters join the organization, including “Tolyana,” a 40-year-old man who wore shorts even in 3°C weather, and the famous gay-basher Timur Bulatov, who held [Vkontakte founder] Pavel Durov and LGBT activists responsible for the Saint Petersburg metro bombing. In my month in NOD, however, our paths never crossed.

Though they may appear exciting, NOD protests are in fact extremely boring. The atmosphere mostly brings to mind a gathering of pensioners at a dacha. The activists do not discuss politics, and usually remain silent. If they do speak, it is about back pains and how their grandchildren are doing at school.

“You know, my niece lives in Amsterdam, another relative of mine in the Hague, others in the United States,” Vladimir, the would-be sailor, told me at one Sunday gathering.

“Yes, you told me last time.”

“My niece moved there more than 20 years ago and works as the head programmer at some office,” he continued.

“And what’s it like abroad? Don’t they want to come back and fight for Russia with you?”

“No, they like it there. It’s good there.”

What NODovites believe

The first NODovites appeared on Russia’s streets in the autumn of 2012, shortly after the Bolotnaya Square case. The ideology of the movement, which Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov created, can be summed up in one sentence: America is to blame for all of Russia’s woes.

America raises tariffs, introduces new taxes, controls the media, forces the Duma to pass laws that are unfavorable to Russians, and gets children to take part in anti-government protests. NODovites believe that Ukraine’s Euromaidan Revolution and the War in Donbass are products of America’s open war against Russia. NOD activists are convinced that the Saint Petersburg metro bombing is another example of this war. Their sources say the American security services were involved in organizing it.

The theory of Russia’s omnipotent foe accounts for all of Russia’s problems and always follows the Kremlin line. Discontent truckers are labeled as Ukrainian terrorists, student-protestors as Satanists, and anti-corruption crusaders as American agents. For both the government and NOD, Syria has become the war against America’s primary front, and [U.S. president Donald] Trump, once a Russian hero, is becoming viewed as a traitor.

In NOD’s view, America’s broad remit in Russia is in fact supported by law: after the Soviet collapse, Russia accepted a constitution written by “Western advisers” and became an American colony. The Americans control Russia with the help of a vast “fifth column,” the Central Bank, the media, and the opposition.

A number of Russians resist occupation, but their main champion in the fight against the Americans is Putin, according to NOD mythology. In his 16 years in power, he has accomplished much, but is physically incapable of liberating Russia for good. “The Americans would immediately overthrow him. Even the Duma, where a ‘fifth column’ has taken hold, would never let it happen,” explain the NODovites in their propaganda, calling Putin a revolutionary.

NOD sees one way out: holding a referendum on amending the constitution—specifically on eliminating articles referencing the primacy of international law and the absence of a state ideology. Putin must also be granted emergency powers, for instance, to subject officials who refuse to break with the Americans and carry out Putin’s orders to criminal punishment.

Since Trump’s election, the conflict with America has only escalated further, the NODovites believe. Recently, activists claimed to have prevented a “coup driven by Trumpomania.” The main conspirator, they say, was [Kremlin propagandist-in-chief] Dmitry Kiselev.

Who Created NOD?

NOD and its muddled ideology, is the work of Yevgeny Fyodorov, a Duma deputy with the look of a high school computer science teacher.

The United Russia politician was born and raised in Leningrad. He completed military service in Afghanistan and the city of Baikonur, and entered politics in 1989 at the age of 26. Since then, Fyodorov has been elected to five terms in parliament and held several positions in government, among them, deputy atomic energy minister.

In Fyodorov’s words, he has always understood that the Americans control Russia. “Yes, the Duma only accepts laws written in the West. But this has not prevented me from doing my job, just as it has not prevented me from getting up in the morning and shaving,” explains Fyodorov.

It is not Fyodorov’s extensive public service that has made him famous, however, but rather his poor showing in a debate with Navalny, during which the phrase “party of crooks and thieves” made its first appearance; his role in establishing NOD and his active involvement in creating several resonant laws, including the Dima Yakovlev Law [Russia’s ban on the adoption of children from Russia by American citizens, imposed in response to the Magnitsky Act], the foreign agent law, and the ban on “gay propaganda.” Fyodorov calls these laws the fruits of his labor in the “rear of the enemy” and the first steps on the path to Russia’s liberation from the “American yoke.”

Fyodorov attributes most changes in Russia’s situation to himself and his movement. NOD’s leader asserts that the movement’s activists have prevented several conspiracies and revolutions in Russia, overcome the “fifth column,” and even been involved in some media-related scandals, for instance, the reshuffle at RBC last year.

Other than Fyodorov and his faithful helper, Maria Katasonovaya, who is occasionally mentioned in the press, there are no prominent leaders in NOD. A kind of power vertical exists within the movement.

On paper, NOD contains an “ideological committee,” a legal service, a newspaper, and even a (barely active) party, the National Course. But according to NODovites, the committees meet only every few months and the movement is largely driven by its rank-and-file activists.

Who belongs to NOD

Every weekday, mixed martial arts expert Vasily Veselov wakes up at six in the morning and leaves for the ironworks where he works. But his main devotion in life is the organization of patriotic protests—a task that is part of his job as deputy head of NOD’s Novosibirsk branch.

Veselov joined NOD after Maidan in Ukraine, seeking to prevent such an uprising in Russia. “It’s important to reduce protest potential in the city. Modern Russia is not independent,” Veselov asserts. “We pay tribute through money, children, scientists, resources. Our media are trying to destroy the people. We have a 50 percent divorce rate, most children suffer from mental disorders, teenagers don’t respect their elders. All in all, our culture is being degraded. That’s why I’m in NOD.”

NOD branches exist in virtually all major Russian cities: activists attend protests in Moscow and Novosibirsk, picket the American consulate in St. Petersburg, and come to opposition protests in Barnaul to argue with participants.

Sometimes such arguments escalate into fights. In the past few years alone, the media have written about NOD attacks on Alexey Navalny, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, the Saint Petersburg-based photographer David Frenkel, and even schoolchildren. NODovites refute any and all accusations, distancing themselves from the attackers. They claim to fight to change Russia using only legal methods.

There are more than 200 NOD branches across Russia, and the overall number of activists exceeds 160,000, say the movement’s leaders. Fyodorov and his supporters argue that the real number of members is even higher. For instance, they count the siloviki and Vladimir Putin—whom they call the movement’s true leader—as allies.

At a glance, NOD appears to unite the most disparate of people. We surveyed activists from eight regions and found out that the movement’s members include a 24-year-old female baker from Nizhny Novgorod, a 28-year-old artist whose sculpture of a gazelle decorates a Krasnoyarsk Krai train station, and a 38-year-old hunter from Voronezh. NOD’s supporters also include hipsters from Moscow, who sometimes receive low-level posts in parliament through Fyodorov, and lonely pensioners from Vladivostok. All consider themselves revolutionaries and “truth-bearers” and are determined to defeat the United States.

It is exceedingly easy to join NOD’s ranks. It is enough to fill out a form online or attend one of NOD’s many protests, of which there are four to five a week in St. Petersburg alone.

But there are no major accomplishments for new activists to look forward to. NOD’s activities are limited to almost-daily protests attended by 3-15 people shouting slogans like Motherland! Freedom! Putin! and Our country, our laws! and to vitriolic political debates on social media.

NOD’s official page has more than 10,000 subscribers, while Yevgeny Fyodorov’s has fewer than 80. There, activists praise Stalin, discuss dark international conspiracies, curse “Navalny’s fighters” and the fall of the Soviet Union, argue about whether Putin has made clones of himself or simply manages without them, and complain that their relatives, at best, do not share their passion for NOD, at worst, consider them thrall to conspiracy theories.

There are also other pages, such as those of the separate branches. There is no limit on how many NOD cells can exist in a single city, and all it takes to make your own is to find three other like-minded people. In St. Petersburg, there are two branches, of which the larger one is run by the 46-year-old businessman Alexey Stepanov.

Who leads rank-and-file NODovites

The head of NOD’s Saint Petersburg branch looks nothing like a NODovite. He runs several book shops, knows John Locke quotes by heart, and compares his life with that of Dostoevsky.

Alexey Stepanov was born in Perm and came from a mining family. In his childhood, he was a Pioneer and a Komsomol member, taking an interest in politics from an early age. “In tenth grade, I led a politinformation group at school. Once a week, I took to the radio to attack capitalism and the American bourgeoisie,” he recalls.

After finishing school, Alexey chose to continue the family business and moved to Saint Petersburg to study engineering at the Gorny Institute. But the Soviet Union collapsed, reducing demand for engineers. Instead of mine shafts, Stepanov opted for books, which he and his children adored.

“In the 1990s, I worked in the book business, specifically, purchasing books. I sent books to acquaintances and relatives in other cities, received 500 dollars a month for it. I rented a one-room apartment and lived quietly. I found myself through entrepreneurship,” he explains.

In the 2000s, Russia began experiencing economic growth and the future NODovite’s family came to do better and better. It was now able to afford vacations to Thailand and Switzerland, a car, an apartment. Stepanov attributes these fortunes and those of Russia during this time exclusively to Putin.

The path to NOD was a long one for Alexey. The first of these involved the autobiography of economist John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Critics attacked it for its factual errors and conspiracy thinking, but Stepanov totally believed its story of how American agents penetrate and destroy foreign economies, shutting down major companies abroad. Today, the activist maintains that the same took place in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

After the book about American agents, Stepanov became enamored with the ideas of Nikolay Starikov. Then, in 2012, Stepanov joined NOD. He now holds that “human stumps” live in the United States, and that his movement is saving Russia.

“NOD is more of an ideology. We are politically active, and help spread good ideas. Our general idea unites half of Russia. I always find time for NOD, and do so not at odds with my family, but for them. My children have to live here, but how can they live normal lives in an occupied country? I don’t want them to be beggars or die under shell fire in Donbass,” he says.

Stepanov admits that in an economic crisis, involvement in pro-government movements like NOD can have material benefits.

“By working with NOD, I improve my prospects. I might be offered some sort of political or public office—I’d be happy to take it. I don’t see anything difficult in politics. I could go into it, but I wouldn’t want to do what today’s Duma deputies do—it’s representative politics. Someone is promised something, elections held. No, of course, if I’m told that the country needs it, I’ll do it all. But I want to do something actually helpful, genuine,” he explained, stressing that he feels equally negatively about all Russian parties. After all, both United Russia and “Navalny”-ists are financed from abroad, Stepanov is convinced.

How much I spent during my month as a NODovite

Valery, a not-too-tall but strong builder of 55 years of age, agrees. He regularly attends protests, despite his health problems and the many months of sick leave that he has taken. He has been a NODovite for more than a year, having joined the organization after a stint in another patriotic movement with a proclivity for conspiracy theories: Nikolay Starikov’s Great Fatherland Party (PVO). He calls the fact that NOD membership costs nearly nothing one of his main reasons for leaving PVO.

“In PVO, I spent almost 50,000 rubles, can you believe it? Here, there are no contributions I have to make, nothing,” he complained when we stood together on Nevsky Prospekt with posters glorifying Putin.

Indeed, I paid only 500 rubles during my month as a NODovite, gifting it to one of the female activists on March 8. During that time, I was given a free flag and a collection of propaganda items—pamphlets and newspapers—weighing a kilogram.

But NOD is not without funding problems. Experienced activists pay for most printing jobs out of their own pockets. As a result, they come out to protest with the same posters time and time again, and hand out old newspapers. In March 2017, we distributed propaganda made the previous year.

“Our principle is a lack of centralized funding. NOD is a bottom-up movement,” explained Yevgeny Fyodorov. The deputy, on the other hand, may have such funding.

How NOD’s leader is connected to multimillion ruble grants

At Bumaga’s request, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International analyzed NOD’s finances. Here’s what it found.

Specialists note that NOD-like pro-government movements claiming to have no centralized funding often receive money through a network of non-public non-profit organizations and grants: examples include the Set’ initiative or Officers of Russia. Such a financing scheme permits organizations to conceal the actual sums received and spent.

A number of the organizations to which Yevgeny Fyodorov is connected have received presidential grants, among them, the Institute of Economics and Jurisprudence. It is frequently mentioned on Fyodorov’s official site and has thrice been the recipient of grants: a 6.5 million ruble grant in 2014; more than 6 million rubles in 2015; and 4 million rubles in 2016.

Others—Rus’, a Moscow-based democratic reform-oriented movement, and the Center for Scientific and Legal Support to Subjects of Customs Law—have also received grants. Not a single one has a website of its own or publicly-available information about its activities. Fyodorov claims that NOD does not use these grantees’ resources.

NOD collects donations through two bank accounts, but does not publish any financial statements. According to the movement, NOD receives between 47,000 and 329,000 rubles a month, to be sent as aid to Novorossiya.

Transparency International notes that nothing about this financing scheme is illegal. However, it creates an opportunity to conceal one’s resources.

“When organizations are financed through non-public non-profits, taxpayers are effectively unable to determine how effectively and how exactly resources were used. This points to NOD’s poor transparency. Openness about one’s financing, by the way, always improves the flow of donations from physical and legal entities,” Transparency International explains.

Anti-corruption crusaders point out that NOD does not need more money to sustain its current activities. According to Transparency International, 300,000 to 400,000 rubles a month would suffice.

The head of one NOD branch largely agreed with that assessment, citing the figure of 200,000 rubles a month in conversation with Bumaga.

“NOD’s central branch can only provide us with books, leaflets, posters, and flags. That said, we make most of our own: each item sets us back 50 to 100 rubles. That’s spent on printer cartridges, paper, so on and so forth. No one is paid anything” he stressed.

Indeed, if the movement’s leadership has multimillion ruble grants at its disposal, none of that money reaches rank-and-file NODovites. During my month in the movement, I was never offered any financial assistance.

How NODovites celebrate March 8

March 8 differed from the weekend and the holidays before it—for one, NOD’s usual meeting on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Malaya Sadovaya was not held. Instead of brochures featuring portraits of Putin, pamphlets with slogans about the exploitation of women were handed out. Several hundred feminists replaced 15 pro-government activists. Haircuts dyed in poisonous-looking colors, bright clothing, and posters saying things like die, patriarchy abound at the Saint Petersburg intersection.

The feminists never applied for the city’s permission to protest, and so the round-up began almost immediately. The first woman to be put into the avtozak [a van in which detainees are taken to police stations for processing] was a 20-year-old with pink hair and an overcoat with Love written in red on the back. Despite the possibility of arrest and threats from the police, the activists marched down Nevsky Prospekt and even reached Dvortsovaya Square, where they quietly dispersed and left for their homes.

The NODovites made no attempt to disrupt the feminists, whom they commonly refer to as “Satanists.” Instead, the five or six of us—a few pensioners, some forty-somethings, and I—stood quietly on Marsovo Field.

In the cold, we did our best to hand out newspapers while I argued with Andrey, an experienced NODovite and a physics and informatics teacher. Among other things, Andrey condemns rock music and Disney cartoons and thinks the Rothchilds rule the world.

“Listen to me, are people living or dead?” he asked me.

“Living, of course.”

“Do you want me to prove that they’re dead? The human being cannot reproduce itself—only a family can do that. From a biological point of view, therefore, the human being is dead. Only a family is alive.”

“But that’s just a form of reproduction. It doesn’t mean that he’s dead.”

“[EXPLETIVE], I keep telling him, but he doesn’t understand, [EXPLETIVE]. Do you understand that [EXPLETIVE], sometimes, there are people who just won’t get it, even if you explain it. When you piss, is your urine also living?”

Continuing to curse, the physicist began to say that lonely people, feminists, and businessmen are bio-robots and unhappy, that they live pointless lives. He explained this using the examples of internet protocols and motherboards and incorporating lots of jargon.

He was less forthcoming about his involvement in NOD.

“You know why we stand here? So that Russia’s enemies, the opposition, and LGBT people cannot get their own protests approved and stand in this spot. We are standing on guard, for enemies are everywhere,” he told me, as one of the forty-somethings turned on music using a cassette deck. For some reason, we wrapped up our March 8 protest to the sounds of “The Sacred War,” the Russian anthem, and Putin quotes.

Yevgeny Fyodorov has also spoken of NOD’s duty to “occupy the streets.” Moreover, he has credited NOD with “banishing the fifth column” from the streets over the past four years by holding 15,000 protests a year.

In practice, any remotely popular protest held by NOD’s ideological opponents baffles the movement. Such was the case on March 8, when the NODovites stayed away from Malaya Sadovaya, occupied by the feminists, and on March 26, when the largest protests in years broke out across Russia. NOD called the latter the start of Russia’s Maidan, a process that the activists say may culminate in November 2017.

How NOD fought back against the March 26 protests

On March 26, anti-corruption protests took place after the release of Navalny’s investigation, He Is Not Dimon to You. In Saint Petersburg, between 3,000 and 10,000 people took part in a demonstration on Marsovo Field. The demonstration did not go unnoticed by NODovites, a surprisingly large number of which—thirty to fifty activists—showed up.

However, their intention was not to criticize the government. Instead, after setting up a stage, the activists began loudly discussing the necessity of Stalinist repression, the accomplishments of Putin, and the stupidity of liberals and of Navalny in particular.

Once the center of the field became packed full of people, the anti-corruption demonstrators came over to meet the NODovites and to ask what they thought of corruption in Russia. Displeased by the unexpected attention they were receiving, the NODovites confusedly but politely argued with their opponents. Cossacks, wearing wet hats and policing the anti-corruption protest, looked on disapprovingly at the spontaneous discussion groups. People with sneakers and rubber ducks around their necks mixed with those sporting Saint George’s ribbon, a bizarre carnival of sorts. In the end, they didn’t appear to agree on anything.

Yet, on social media, the NODovites presented what had happened very differently. Official accounts of the counter-protest held that most of the anti-corruption demonstrators who spoke with the NODovites came around and shortly joined NOD.

Why NOD can’t mobilize thousands of demonstrators

NOD has a hard time mobilizing people for its own demonstrations. That was the case on March 18, when Saint Petersburg NODovites tried to celebrate the two-year anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. But no more than 20 people showed up, and the result was a series of one-man pickets along Nevsky Prospekt. The next day, NOD organized another protest on Malaya Sadovaya, where the speakers casually accused America and its spies of everything and anything, declared the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic holy lands, and demanded the return of Alaska to Russia. Only 15 people attended the protest.

“Why are there so few of them?” asked a 30-year-old activist.

“People don’t come to protests, they sleep at home instead. When was the last time you showed up?” answered one NODovite, who never misses a single demonstration.

“In 2015.”

An explanation for the Crimean protest’s poor showing was quickly found: the Americans were to blame. “They told [Saint Petersburg governor Georgy] Poltavchenko not to allow anything too large,” said one activist to me, adding that spies had penetrated the movement and were sabotaging its efforts to mobilize activists. Fyodorov agrees with NOD’s rank-and-file activists, and believes that only one or two years remain until “NOD’s decisive victory.”

The NODovites remain determined even after the opposition’s successful protests. “They’ll attract ‘Navalny’s fighters,’ gays, Satanists, ‘white ribbon’-ists, and the ‘fifth column.’ Of course, the protests are a victory for the opposition. They have won the battle. But we will win the war. With each protest of ours, Russia comes closer to its sovereignty. Only a year remains. If Putin becomes president in 2018, that’s it for the Americans,” said the aged Valery, who, after complaining about his sore legs and a row with the wife, left for home after yet another protest.

So ended my month as a NODovite.

The above text is a translation by Lincoln Pigman, a Russo-American student of War Studies at King’s College London, and also a freelancer featured in The New York Times and IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review. The original text, written by Pavel Merzlikin, first appeared on April 24, published by the Russian website Bumaga.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.