In the 1990s, the “voice of Russian nationalism” was Vladimir Zhirinovsky. I was not the first to notice that his antics and incoherence was working in favor of Yeltsin. His real name is Edelstein. The consummate showman, he would appear whenever Yeltsin was in trouble or the opposition against him in the west grew. He would scream something about “nuking New York” for no reason, usually while in a speedo. This happened so many times that it was clear they were working together.
Mr. Edelstein removed all Orthodox nationalists from his organization, the Liberal Democratic Party he foudned. His son says he’s Mossad. He’s worth billions of dollars, but not a penny has been spent on real Russian needs. In the 1980s, he was an activist for Zionist interests in the USSR. He quickly became the American media’s “crown prince” of the Russian right wing. His 1993 campaign was to give “free vodka” to Russian men and “better underwear” for women.
When Yeltsin was in trouble, Zhirinovsky was on a Russian TV show, barking at the host and threatening the Jews with extinction for no reason. He usually would then praise both Hitler and Lenin. When the Chechen war went south, Zhirinovsky, on cue, said a victorious Russia will “sell Georgians as slaves.” Then, he advocated for the invasion of the Middle East and the reoccupation of Afghanistan. He threatened to kill Condoleezza Rice over and over again under the Bush presidency. Yeltsin would then say to the west, in effect, he’s what you get if you stop supporting me.
In the meantime, of course, legitimate, articulate nationalists of all stripes were invisible to the average American. The typical American journalist, smug, pompous and narcissistic, began defining “nationalism” as whatever Zhirinovsky said. His political manifesto was conveniently entitled Mein Kamph for maximum emotional effect in the west.
In 1992, as privatization first began showing its grim consequences, the American press ran a quote from him that read: “Russia must preserve the white race!” This is odd because he’s never said anything racial in his career. In December of 1993, The New York Times ran the headline, “In Moscow, Zhirinovsky Is Remembered as Jewish Advocate.” In fact, he was the director of “Shalom,” powerful Soviet-era Jewish interest group. The article states, “Julia Pelikhova, who was also an original member of the board of directors of Shalom, said she remembers Mr. Zhirinovsky as ‘a very active supporter of the democratic Jewish movement.’ She said he led the battle against the pro-Communist majority.”
Alexander Smukler was one of the founders of the first independent Jewish movement, Vaad. He says that he stopped working for these causes only when he went into politics. In other words, he radically changed his persona when he ran for office. Few in the organization believe his change of heart was authentic. He says of the Liberal Democratic party “That party was the first political party to be formed outside the Communist Party, and it was close to the K.G.B. at the time.”
Stephen Shenfield’s very bad book on Russian fascism toys with the idea that Zhirinovsky is a “closet liberal.” He mentions this partly in that he condemns Hitler’s Germany and praises much about the USSR. He rejects this notion, but concludes that Zhirinovsky has no political views and is little more than an opportunity. His former friends at Shalom and Vaad say the same.
More recently, the Washington post ran the headline: “Politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky Orders Aides To Violently Rape” Pregnant Reporter Stella Dubovitskaya.” Comments like this are highly suspicious. Not even the worst kind of loose canon speaks like this. It is a deliberate attempt to discredit nationalism. Any other politician, speaking like that, would see his career over. But Vladimir has been saying that sort of thing for two decades without normal consequences. This alone is strong evidence he’s a fraud.
Vladimir’s party sponsored no major legislation in his long history in the Duma. In 1990, Zhirinovsky was a part of the “Democratic Union” advocating privatization and the free market. It was then he was tapped to become the political clown to buttress Yeltsin’s failed state. On more than one occasion, his absurd comments forced the dissolution of his party’s regional branches. This apparently, did not irritate the party’s leader.
He now supports gay rights, eugenics, electronic implants and bigamy (at least for Islamic citizens). Certainly, much of his media exposure was hostile, but other, far more articulate and knowledgeable nationalist leaders were ignored. Why this public buffoon, often seen drunk in public, could reach over 30% of the presidential vote a decade ago received no western attention. It occurred because the press in Russia was determined to make him “the voice for nationalism” in Russia. Even when the New York Times showed that he had just been the head of a major Zionist organization the day before he ran for office impressed no one. It was ignored, and one can only say it was deliberate.
In the 1992 volume of the LDP gazette, he stated that “new elections were needed to avoid another Pinochet coming to power. . . I don’t want to see these dark forces in power in Russia.” He advocated the free market in the Duma, but when this was endangered, he went on TV and called for a return to central planning. He then went back to his old position in the legislature. We also read:
Unless Zhirinovsky has multiple personalities, he is a consummate opportunist who does not believe a word he says. Suspicions of KGB ties, strengthened by the murky sources of his funding, have dogged Zhirinovsky for most of his political career. When his party was launched, the communists still ruled and opposition parties were not viewed kindly; yet the LDP’s founding convention was covered by state TV. The party was widely seen as a stooge for the Soviet regime, particularly since, while preaching “liberal values,” Zhirinovsky condemned anti- communism as divisive and urged democrats to cooperate with the ruling oligarchy.
This pretty much settles the issue. Yet, these facts were well known to journalists covering Russian affairs. Yeltsin was banning Russian TV from running spots for opposition candidates with the blessing of Washington. Somehow, Zhirinovsky escaped the censor. He backs United Russia in all initiatives, but still tries to organize all opposition parties against Putin.
In 1994, during the election campaign, Russian newspapers had headlines warning of “fascist dictatorship” if Zhirinovsky was elected. This was certainly for the west to see and only for western eyes. Yeltsin’s forces were mobilized and his poll numbers suddenly boosted. It was more than obvious to many nationalists at the time, myself included, at the time that Zhirinovsky was working or Yeltsin and doing so fairly explicitly.
His program is suspicious. Going through his party’s website, you’ll see no typical nationalist ideas. No royalism, no syndicalism, no federalism; he advocates for total centralization, rejects foreign nationalism (which no real nationalist does), and most of all, has no support in the church. All nationalists accept the political aspirations of other ethnic groups as equal to one’s own. Zhirinovsky normally screams for their annihilation without clear reason. He has none of the trappings of nationalist political action and even has zero support in military circles. He has no support among other nationalists who all see him – unanimously – as a “controlled opponent” of liberalism.
He was even said to have a “shadow cabinet” under Yeltsin. He was the only functional opposition to him, along with the ailing communists in the 1990s. His votes were not genuine, but his electoral success came from anti-communists refusing to back Yeltsin. His position in state controlled media as “the nationalist opposition” was never questioned. Of course, he’s now a minor player in the age of Putin. He loves to be called a “fascist,” and that’s part of his shtick, yet, he has no idea what it means and mentions none of its talking points.
Its rarely mentioned that in the 1970s, Vladimir tried to join the communist party in Kazakhstan, but was rejected. In 1988, he created his party, the Liberal Democratic party. He called it this because he advocated for western-style liberal democracy. Only later did he adopt the lucrative persona that gained him attention. One of his first acts was to accept an invitation to address a conference, “Peace in the World” in Switzerland. His talk was firmly liberal and cosmopolitan. His party was firmly centrist.
His 1991 election manifesto said:
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a politician of the liberal-democratic orientation. He’s in favor of the natural-historical path of development, for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the State, for the observance of civil rights and freedoms for all throughout the country. The leitmotif of the campaign: “I will protect Russian and small nations on the entire territory of Russia and the Soviet Union” (quoted from Andryev’s book, Furious Zhirinovsky (from the Russian)).
His campaign speeches also included:
Already since July 1, 1991 I will achieve most of the removal of restrictions from any form of economic activity need to balance in all types of property rights. You, the citizens of Russia, really will open the doors for business. You will become the owner, business or prefer to enter into it. You have no time and even become profitable to go on strike and hold meetings. The rise in prices will continue, it is difficult to stop, and inevitable in a market economy. But to begin, and wage growth. And the growth of pensions and other social benefits. I promise you this, because it is inevitable (ibid).
This is Russian code for being in favor of privatization and hence, oligarchy. He was always in favor of this and even now will not say too much against it. Using the term “inevitable” more than once is another tell-tale sign he was deep into the enemy camp: Once liberalism failed miserably, the claim that it was “inevitable” and “necessary” gave its promoters freedom from actually having to defend it. It became like a force of nature rather than the result of personal decisions.
Making the claim that Zhirinovsky is a fraud is an easy one, but its not been done in English before. This might be because his buffoonery makes him an easy target, but his success at the ballot box in the 1990s went way beyond this. Vladimir Zhirinovsky was part of the political arsenal of Yeltsin’s failed experiment with liberal capitalism in the 1990s. As his approval ratings dipped below the margin of error (3%), “extrajudicial” means were needed to gain support. The creation of this “spokesman for nationalism” was a big part of it.