|Fascist Rolf Harris lookalike sticks his tongue out.|
When commentators berate Russians for their stubborn support for Putin, Medvedev and United Russia, they rarely touch upon the alternatives. The truth is that the opposition in Russia comprises a sorry, rag-tag bunch.
‘The Other Russia’ was a coalition of anti-Putinists including, most prominently, the liberal chess player Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, an iconoclast writer, whose ’National Bolshevik’ party is banned.
A party has now been formed using the Other Russia name, in order to fight parliamentary elections, led by Limonov.
His eccentric ideas are easy to dismiss as a joke and the National Bolsheviks were indeed renowned for their Dadaist exploits. However their leader was sincere enough in his ’red brown’ Eurasianist beliefs to travel to Bosnia in order to fight alongside the Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic. And he was arrested for leading an attempted ’invasion’ of Kazakhstan, a territory which Limonov believes should be annexed to Russia.
The Other Russia’s leader is an extreme nationalist who, in most regards, would be considered a fascist, yet he is also connected intimately to ‘liberal’ figures in the opposition.
Now his new party has launched a typically whacky manifesto which includes a plan to relocate Russia’s capital to Siberia, in order to counteract ‘westernisation’.
Meanwhile the Solidarity opposition movement, which emerged from the Other Russia coalition too and is closely linked to Kasparov, also intends to stand candidates at the election. Its lead figure, Boris Nemtsov, recently launched a vicious polemic attacking Putin.
A batch of ‘Putin. The Results. Ten years.’ was seized by police in St Petersburg, providing Solidarity with much needed publicity, and later returned, after its contents were found not to constitute ‘extremism’.
The liberal wing of the opposition is described as a collection of ’scrubby little organisations’ with ’no future’ by its own leaders. It cannot fairly be described as ’extreme’.
But liberals have coordinated their efforts with Limonov and others, who, in any society would be considered extremists. The new party, fronted by a National Bolshevik, might well be intended to draw a response from the authorities, who can invoke extremism legislation.
The best strategy for the Kremlin would be to ignore the group as an irrelevance.