Staunton, September 10 – It is widely assumed that the Russian siloviki tilt toward the radicals on the right and against those on the left because the former are closer to the views of the Kremlin. But a former KGB officer says that the organs are interested in the two more or less equally and only as a means of identifying “hot heads” among the Russian population.
That insight comes at the end of a 3600-word investigative article by journalists Igor Pushkarev and Nikita Telizhenko on an upsurge in the activities of extreme right-wing groups which has been overshadowed by the protests in Khabarovsk and Bashkortostan (znak.com/2020-09-10/kto_takie_russkie_nacional_patrioty_i_kak_oni_reshili_brat_vlast).
Many on the extreme right in Russia today have their roots in the Donbass fighting, where they became radicalized because of their belief that the Kremlin did not push hard enough against Ukraine, although others came to this part of the political spectrum because of earlier and different experiences. Almost all talk about seizing power at some point.
If Russia enters a new time of troubles, extreme right activists say, their ranks will grow exponentially and be able to challenge the existing powers that be more effectively than anyone else. They have military experience and discipline and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to come to power.
The article focuses on the ideas of people in this part of the political spectrum because groups and parties change so frequently and because it is difficult if not impossible to determine how much support these groups have because they have generally been electoral failures, either because they have allied with the party of power or stood against it completely.
Among the views most widespread on the right are the following, the two journalists suggest. They support the reindustrialization of Russia and an end to dependence on oil and gas exports, they want an official ideology to be imposed, and they believe that the USSR collapsed not because of any mistakes in communism but because the elites grew separate from the masses.
Some of the right believe that the next trigger for the growth of their movement will be popular opposition to attempts to require Russians to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Those opposed are likely to become their supporters; indeed, the rightwing says, their national patriotic ideas are accepted by Putin’s core electorate at least in the Urals.
One thing that keeps the right from uniting, in addition to personal squabbles, is a fundamental divide between those who want to push the Putin regime further in the directions it has already pursued (including followers of Vladislav Surkov) and those who believe that the Putin regime must be replaced by a genuinely national and patriotic government.
That may keep the right wing from becoming a threat, political commentator Gleb Kuznetsov says, because it reflects the fundamental divide among Russian patriots between those who love Russia as they are ordered to and those who love it on the basis of the feelings of their hearts.