Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vladimir Putin’s Allies in the European Far Right

By Richard Arnold

One of the stories that in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis has escaped the notice of journalists and analysts alike is Vladimir Putin’s attempts to build support amongst the European Far Right. Perhaps the most notable instance of this was the meeting in January 2014 of the leader of the French Front Nationale Marine Le Pen and senior figures in Russia politics Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dmitry Rogozin ( The meeting with Rogozin was particularly noteworthy as in the past Rogozin served as the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and currently holds a senior position in the government, overlooking the defense industry. In the meeting, Le Pen argued that “France is not a democracy” and praised Putin for saving Bashar al-Assad in Syria. While Le Pen has been generally thought of as trying to make the Front Nationale respectable as a way into politics in France, such flirting with the enemy is sure to damage her career.

However, Le Pen is not the first European far-right politician to have had contact with the Russian establishment. The Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik is also known to have links to the Kremlin. In 2013, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona met with Eurasianist ideologue and sometime fascist Alexander Dugin (; Dugin was an advocate of Ukraine’s dissolution into a confederation and the absorption of certain parts, like Crimea, into Russia ( The recent events in Ukraine do indicate that Dugin’s star is rising in the Kremlin. “Observers” from the European Far Right (including Spanish far-right leader Enrique Ravello, Bela Kovacs from Jobbik, and three members of the Dutch party Vlaams Belang) were present at the Crimean referendum, purportedly to ensure its neutrality ( In 2011, British far-right leader Nick Griffin, famous for his denial of the Holocaust and currently suspended from a two-year prison sentence for inciting racial hatred, also visited the Kremlin. Griffin visited three polling stations in Russia and found the vote there to be democratic. Likewise, former member of the Polish Sejm from the nationalist-populist agrarian “Self-Defense” (Samoobrona) party Mateusz Piskorski visited Russia in 2007, ostensibly to observe the Duma elections ( It is also worth remembering that Norwegian far-right mass murderer Anders Bering Breivik praised Putin lavishly. Russia, it seems is becoming the hope and focus for extreme nationalists all across Europe.

Indeed, this was the hoped-for outcome of the 2006 conference “on the future of the white world” which was held in Moscow and had white supremacists and extremist nationalists from all across Europe and even David Duke from the United States in attendance (Richard Arnold and Ekaterina Romanova, “The White World’s Future” in Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 2013). While there was no suspicion of Kremlin involvement with this conference at the time, in light of later events it seems very convenient that such a conference was held. The conference was organized by the far-right organization Atheneum and concluded by calling on Russia to unite the Aryan race under “white Eurasia.” The statement on Crimea from the Alliance of European National Movements ( indicates that someone in this movement is taking seriously the construction of a pan-European racist organization.

In light of all this, the Kremlin’s denunciation of Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor, the Ukrainian far right-wing movements involved in the ouster of Viktor Yanukovich, is all the more noteworthy. After all, one would assume that the Ukrainian far right would be welcome in a pan-European alliance of far-right movements. On the other hand, Svoboda have been largely outside the process of European racist collaboration and the anti-Russian content of their ideology prevents them from being natural bedfellow for the Russians.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cossackia Re-Emerges as an Issue

By Paul Goble

Few subjects were addressed so furiously by Soviet propagandists as any mention of Cossackia, or “Land of the Cossacks,” in the United States’ 1959 law on captive nations. The Soviets referred to US support for Cassackia as an indication of what they described as the absurdity of support for all the nationalities of the USSR, which, according to Moscow, already lived in a state of “friendship of the peoples.” A major reason Soviet officials attacked the idea of Cossackia was that their reports on it were often picked up by and enjoyed the support of Western analyst and commentators.

On the one hand, many in the West and even more in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) accepted the Hollywood version of the pre-1917 Cossacks as a kind of proto-fascist and anti-Semitic force that deserved to be thrown into the dustbin of history, even though that characterization was inaccurate and tendentious in the extreme. And on the other, more knowledgeable people pointed out that there was no obvious “Cossack land” because there were Cossack communities spread out across the Soviet Union from Ukraine to the Pacific. How, many asked, could one unite them, especially since they were officially a “social stratum” and not a “nationality?”

But three developments since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 have led to the re-emergence of Cossackia as an idea and even a goal. And these developments have been exacerbated by Vladimir Putin’s moves toward the Anschluss of Ukraine’s Crimea and the extent to which that has highlighted divisions among people that many in both Moscow and the West have assumed can be collectively grouped as Russians (

First of all, the Cossacks have re-emerged as a public force. The 12 voiskas or “armies” are not only seeing the coming out of many who never forgot their Cossack roots despite Soviet oppression, but also the emergence of a neo-Cossack movement among Russians who look to the Cossacks as a model of discipline. Second, Moscow has not handled the Cossacks in a sophisticated fashion. As long as the Cossacks are prepared to be an ethnographic curiosity willing to do what the center wants, the Russian authorities tolerate or even support them; but when the Cossacks advance their own agenda, Moscow has been unprepared to meet them even half way. And third, an increasing share of those who call themselves Cossacks say they are not just a “social strata” as Moscow insists but rather a nation in their own right and that they have the right to national self-determination up to and including the formation of their own republic or republics.

Putin’s Crimean adventure has intensified such feelings and made it obvious that an increasing fraction of Cossacks today do not view themselves as part of the Russian nation but rather see themselves as a nation of their own that has rights and is ready to reach out to other nations within and beyond the borders of the Russian Federation to gain support. They may not succeed, but they can no longer be dismissed by anyone as simply figments of their own imaginations or a joke. Instead, they bear watching.