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Russia's Demagogues Just Can't Get Along

Zhirinovsky (on the left) debating Maksim Shevchenko on "The Duel." YouTube screenshot.

Zhirinovsky (left) debating Maksim Shevchenko on “The Duel.” YouTube screenshot.

Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky often serves as a kind of Kremlin bellwether, a role he adopted in the early 90s when his KGB-conceived Liberal Democrats became a party of nationalist loyal opposition in the Duma. His seemingly outrageous statements often preface actual reforms in the same vein — only less radical. In this way he makes the new course more palatable by comparison, and at the same time gives marginalized sectors of society an outlet, allowing the Kremlin to placate them.

So it was hardly surprising when Zhirinovsky ranted about natives of the North Caucasus on the popular debate show “The Duel”, on October 24 [YouTube] — mere weeks after the ethnic riots in Biryulyovo [Global Voices report] and a suicide bombing in Volgograd [Global Voices report]. As usual, his rhetoric was bombastic:

Они должны рожать столько детей, сколько рожает в среднем человечество, два, один, все, за третьего — штраф. Не хотят — ограничим, окружим колючей проволокой, закроем все, что можно, пусть сидят там. 15-20 детей пусть сами кормят, сами дают работу. Но убивать в России никому не позволим. Вот этот автобус Москва-Махачкала надо закрыть немедленно. На этих автобусах уже неоднократно приезжали террористы, убийцы, криминал.

They should give birth to a number of children that matches the universal average, two, one, that’s it, for a third one you're fined. If they don't agree — we will confine them, surround them with barbed wire, close down all that we can, let them sit there. Let them feed 15 to 20 children themselves, let them employ themselves. But we will not allow anyone to kill in Russia. The Moscow-Makhachkala [capital of Dagestan] bus needs to be shut down immediately. Terrorists, murderers and criminals have visited us repeatedly on these buses.

The Chechen branch of the LDPR at first denounced Zhirinovsky’s statements, but then later backtracked, implying that his statements had been made under duress. The Russian blogosphere meanwhile, reacted in true form — someone immediately photoshopped Zhirinovsky as Hitler.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky as Hitler. Anonymous image distributed online.

Crude, yet effective, photoshop of Vladimir Zhirinovsky as Hitler. Anonymous image distributed online.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin posted Zhirinovsky’s Dagestani campaign poster, where the politician is wearing a traditional Caucasus woolen hat and holding a rifle. Yashin noted the irony:

Zhirinovsky wants to fence the Caucasus in with barbed wire and limit their birthrates. During the elections in Dagestan he said otherwise.

Leader of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, himself a pro at using hyperbole for political effect, responded almost immediately on both his LiveJournal [ru] and Instagram [ru] accounts. Both entries included a picture of Zhirinovsky wearing a clown wig. In an impassioned bit of rhetoric Kadyrov ridiculed Zhirinovsky and at the same time reaffirmed his loyalty to Putin and to the Russian state:

Я знаю, что президент страны Владимир Путин никогда не позволит развязать межнациональные и межрелигиозные конфликты. Это наша с вами страна, уважаемые россияне! Жириновский может жаждет, чтобы воцарились хаос, смута! Но этому не бывать. Жириновские приходят и уходят, а Россия остается.

I know that President Vladimir Putin will never let ethnic and religious conflicts to be unleashed. This is our country together, dear Russians. Zhirinovsky may be eager for chaos and turmoil! But this is not to be. Zhirinovskies may come and go, but Russia abides.

Russian nationalists, however, aren't buying this vision of Russia united. Opposition nationalist Vladimir Tor addressed Kadyrov on his blog:

Жириновский, конечно, ещё тот марципанчик – но никакой общей “нашей с вами страны, уважаемые россияне” в природе не существует. И никаких россиян – мифической общности, где русские братаются с чеченцами – тоже нет.
Это всё бредовые фантазии в голове Путина и Кадырова.

Zhirinovsky is, of course, a fruitcake – but in general there can't be any “this is our country together, dear Russians.” And there are also no civic Russians — there is no mythical community where Russians are brothers to the Chechens. These are simply delusional daydreams in Putin's and Kadyrov's heads.

  • Vasilis Papageorgiou

    It is really diss appointing the huge luck of will for cooperation by any of the members that appart the Russian apparatus.
    It would be better for the Chechnians to dessacosiate themselves from the wider Islamic fanatic and frantic terrors.!!!
    It would be great for the Putin oligarchy to give some space for existence and recognition to all minorities…. Ecc
    But Russia is Russia and it seems that they will sort out their problems in a Russian way no matter what others seem fit.!

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