Dimitry Rogozin is the permanent representative of Russia at NATO. He used to be the leader of the nationalist Rodina party, which was established in 2003. From the start, the party suffered from internal struggles between Sergei Glaz'ev who favored a course based on social-democratic idea's and Dimitry Rogozin who held strong nationalist believes. In the end, Rogozin won.
During the elections for the Moscow City Duma in 2005, the party campaigned with slogans to clean Moscow of all the "trash" with graphics pointing to people from the Caucasus. Some experts are convinced that the driving force behind the rise of Rodina and its nationalist ideas were people around Igor Sechin (the Siloviki), the powerful vice-prime minister. Rogozin proved to be a highly independent politician who was not prepared to play by the rules.
Vladislav Surkov, who is seen by many as the minister of political parties, feared an emerging, independent, nationalist movement. Such a movement, after all, could threaten the autonomy and existence of the current regime. In the end, the Kremlin engineered various splits and in October 2006 the Rodina party, together with the Party of Life and Party of Pensioners merged and formed the Just Russia party.
In a move, somewhat resembling the politics of the Brezhnev era, Rogozin was then promoted to a international post, safely far away in Brussels. Here he could represent the nationalistic sentiments of a part of the Russian population and thus keep things more "quiet" at home.
‘Nationalism, not NATO destroyed the Soviet Union’
Dimitry Rozogin fights against the demonization of nationalist ideology
Dmitry Rogozin has been stationed in Brussels for a long time but when it comes to armed opposition to nationalism, he has a clear opinion. During our interview with Rogozin, one other thing became clear: he still has not lost his political ambitions. The original article appeared in Ogonyok by Svetlana Suchova.
In your opinion, is there a demand for the nationalist ideology in Russia today?
It depends on what you mean with nationalist. In politics, there are three ideologies: liberal, social and national. Each has moderate and radical parties. After all, there are “liberals” like Chubais and others who are more like Yavlinsky. There are also different parties of “socialists”. There are social democrats, communists and Maoists. The nationalist ideas can be divided into xenophobic forms but there are also a moderate, national-patriotic forms. The problem is that if we drive nationalist protests underground (literally: in the cellar), it will inevitably manifest itself in xenophobic extreme forms. The very idea of removing any form of nationalist ideology is impossible: it has always existed and will exist in any society. But not all nationalists are the same. Remember, there are nationalists in Europe and in the US as well, among politicians and amongst inhabitants. There is ethnic nationalism (nationalism of blood) and there is political nationalism (protecting ones national interests and dignity). In any case, it is time to stop demonizing nationalism: it is part of the human nature. It is the call of ancestors and the firstborn of the prehistoric tribes.
How strong is this call now?
There are many different movements, there is no single center – there is no party or movement that consolidates the nationalist ideology. There are many different radical groups, with different ideologies with whom young people can easily identify. In Russia today, more than ever, there is a need of a strong nationalist movement. Of course, it should be put under control, our politicians should work with them and they should pay serious attention to what their opinions are. Otherwise, we will achieve one thing: radicalization and eventually this movement will be wrought with the idea of a permanent struggle not only to get power but also with the authorities itself. Whereas moderate nationalism is quite compatible with liberalism (“National Freedom”) and even with socialism (“National Justice”).
But if the nationalists are so divided, how can they become an important political force?
Flash action? I don’t take this question really seriously: there are people who are ready to actively participate in manifestations. People don’t spend their whole lives behind computers. You should appreciate the depth of national sentiments in society and the activity of existing organizations.
The organizational development of the nationalists is rather limited but many people in Russia share the ideology and opinion of these organizations. However, the popularity of these ideas is not the result of nationalist organizations. Russia’s problem is that nationalism became a mass psychological phenomenon. Much the same happened in the late 80’s in the Soviet Union, when ethnic nationalists came to power all throughout the political system, often through the ranks of the Communist Part. They smashed the Communist system to smithereens by raising their self-assertion “the great and mighty” by a series of bloody conflicts. We have suppressed this fact over a decade now. I say: ethnic nationalism, rather than NATO destroyed the USSR.
It is therefore dangerous, such an ideology. We should recall Germany…
Nationalism can not be bad or good. It is objective because it consists of natural ideas, thoughts and feelings of people. The Germans at one time made a tragic, unforgivable mistake by voting the Nazis in power. It is an indelible crime but at the same time a complex issue: Hitler did try to protect German interests and that is what the people wanted. Nowadays they have a national problem – all this is taboo. Today, the German national instinct is suppressed. Actually: it was suppressed until recently. Because it has been suppressed for so long, a huge Turkish community has formed in Germany, segregated from the native Germans. The Turks did not want to assimilate with the Germans, did not want to became the same, preferring it to be the other way around. And now we have the same happening in Russia: Russia needs to stimulate the fertility rate of its citizens, instead of allowing a flood of culturally alien elements to come in, who are not only a threat to our customs and traditions but also to our very country: most of them do not even speak Russian! The loss of national identity, the destruction of centuries-old way of life is a real security threat. I would like to add that I am not talking about migrants here. I am talking about illegal immigration as a process that creates new threats to national security and public safety.
If these nationalist ideas are not contained in time, they could crush everything. But you can target it and put it into a form called ‘unity in diversity’. This is something the new Russia tried to impose on its community after 1991. Instead of focusing on the question of a new historical community of Soviet people, they opted to go for a “nation of Rossians.” [The Russian language differentiates between Rossiyane, who are citizens with a passport of the Rossiiskaya Federatsiya regardless of their ethnicity and ethnic Russians or Russkiye. The use of the terms however is blurred. ] They advocated some kind of “abstract a-sexual Rossians” for whom they spoke. But who were these abstract Rossians and how did they go about it? Using national borders? No. They only told Russians to become ‘Rossian’ and this at a time when more than 25 million ethnic Russians found themselves having become foreigners overnight: they were left outside the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. [The part of the Soviet-Union which now makes up the larger art of the new Russia] Few people have suffered such a national loss. Therefore, the Russian has always thought that the word ‘Rossians’ was false.
We do not need to persuade the Russian to love Rossia. They should stop seeing their country through the Bolshevik idea that diversity is a manifestation of a “great power”.
We have enough ‘culture’ and ‘small-town national pride’. Now the time has come to think about the ideology of a national rebirth of a united and indivisible Russia in which every people, including Russians, can exercise their right to self-determination. The law and duties to the country arise from it.
That seems to contradict the realities of life
We need to fix the errors we made in the early 1990’s. By the way, if we look at the European statistics there is a large number of non-assimilated people. It is a known fact that many immigrants are not interested in communicating with the native population. So, I would ask: are we going to cut off the tails of this problem or the heads? ‘Acting tough on Manege Square’ [I assume he speaks of the reaction of the authorities, but Rogozin could also refer to the violence of the protesters ] is to fight against consequences but not against the causes. The causes are to be found in the public humiliation of the Russian people: the loss of indigenous lands after the break up of the USSR, the economic devastation and a heavy bias in migration policy, ignoring the social and employment interests of the Russian people…
But the Liberal Democratic part has been saying this for a long time…
The LDPR is not a serious party. As far as I am concerned, there is a lot of theatrics involved. I do not think that the LDPR can eventually transform itself into a truly national movement. Zhirinovsky has limitations as far as working with his own electorate is concerned. His victory in 1993 was more of a consequence of the disaster that befell Russia. It was not a trend. Another thing is that if a nationalist movement had been formed in Russia, I am convinced that the tradition of parliamentarianism and the logic of political compromises would have pushed them into the moderate mainstream of politics.
Just at the end of last week a Russian court banned the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). Its leaders have now announced the creation of ‘the organization of Russian nationalists.’ It will be known as “Russian” and one of its main objectives is ‘to establish authority of the national government and the proclamation of the Russian national state’. How do you evaluate this new group?
Well, re-branding itself has been a long time response of small nationalist organizations, permitting them to continue their work. There is nothing new here and its tactics are far from original. These kind of organizations can become more important, if their tactics are more refined. For comparison: the Congress of Russian Communities won a case when they defended several Russian human right activists, freeing several hostages from Chechen captivity and organized mass protests in the Crimea and the Baltic states to demand the right of national education in their native language. That is a program which is useful to the Russian people and can be called a ‘success story’.
Question remains: how popular is this national idea to the masses?
I think it is shared by about half of the electorate
Is there a party that would be capable of implementing these ideas and using it in the upcoming elections?
My concern is not really whether it should be formed. As a statesman, I am more concerned about why all the others, especially the current ones in the Duma have not been seriously engaged in this.
Which of the current parties might do it?
Not one. There was the Rodina party though….
But Rodina became part of Just Russia?
Rodina could not enter Just Russia, because a bear cannot sleep in a mouse hole
But the party can be reformed
Of course, but this is not cannot be done in Brussels. The party itself should see the need for reform. But nobody is considering this.
Would you like to go back into the world of domestic politics?
I am a political animal, but returning…. There is no party which suits me. I need a political platform that suits me, a platform which is consistent with my views. I could create something or reform an already existing party. But now, I do not have the desire to do it. I do not think that I have the time for such an adventure. I am busy with carrying out the orders of our government and the president to ensure the interests of our country in connection with the deployment of US missiles in Europe. This is a serious issue: it can eventually lead to a new arms race.
In 2006, Surkov said that Just Russia was expected to grow as a ‘second leg’ to the party of power. But it has some problems with growing. Maybe the process could receive a large boost if it was to adopt a national idea?
Vladislav Y. Surkov is a very clever and experienced man. He knows that Russia’s political system is not a lizard out of which something can grow if you cut or tear something off. The political system and society in Russia are a living organism. We cannot make experiments, we should refrain from using drugs, powers and other spells. Instead of a full blown leg we can only grow a shaggy tail and what do we do then?
You can always try it, create a party in Russia and make it mature. It can be done within a few months.
I have always been a good political scientist. I have always lead my own personal campaigns and I even led campaigns of others like General Lebed. I do not want to run a unprincipled campaign. Nowadays I receive hundreds of letters whilst I simply do not have the time to answer them. Everybody asks when I will return. I will of course make my comeback, I am not in exile! I am often in Moscow, but I do not fit in the current political culture. But when the time comes to make serious changes in Russia, I think that without me it will be difficult to cope with the realization of these changes.
How will the campaign end?
The course of the country does not depend on the parliamentary elections, but on the presidential elections. It will be much more interesting to watch the new alignment of political forces after the presidential election.
What would be the winning slogans in the upcoming elections?
There will be two: the protection of national dignity and the ruthless suppression of corruption. Both are maintained/solved by a sharp increase in political competition.