Staunton, November 22 – The Russian defense ministry has rejected an appeal by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the LDPR, to do away with the five-pointed star because of its links to the Soviet past. Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said there was no reason to do that because the star has far more ancient and significant meaning.
In a letter to Zhirinovsky reproduced online, Pankov says that “the five-pointed star is a most ancient symbol of defense against dark forces, of the protection and security” of those who use it, “including Orthodoxy.” Moreover, he says, it was used to mark “the transition of the Roman Empire to the true faith, Christianity” at the time of Constantine the Great (znak.com/moscow/news/2014-11-20/1031779.html).
The deputy minister acknowledges that some have had problems with it because of its associations with the Masons, but he suggests that these “satanic associations” have never been significant. Given the true associations of “the symbol of the red star,” he argues, there is no reason to dispense with the five-pointed star now.
Zhirinovsky’s proposal and Pankov’s rejection of it are part of a larger back and forth between the flamboyant leader of the LDPR and the Russian authorities about Soviet era symbols, one that is certain to attract a certain amount of media attention but not to lead to any changes (apn.ru/news/article32689.htm).
But if that proves to be the case with Zhirinovsky’s latest foray into the media, Pankov’s arguments are nonetheless extremely disturbing. Russian nationalists have often used the term “dark forces” to refer to Jews and to justify pogroms and other actions against them. Indeed, that term was a regular feature in Black Hundreds propaganda a century ago.
For a senior Russian government official to be using it now and to be putting it in the same context that anti-Semites did at the end of the imperial period is disturbing because it sends a signal about what the powers that be in Moscow are really thinking and about what they may be about to do next.