Thursday, January 10, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Influential Izborsky Club has No Time for Liberalism, Human Rights or Diversity, Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 10 – The Izborsky Club, whose members influence Vladimir Putin and many others in the elite, seeks to unite “two Russias,” the “national Bolshevist Russia of the Stalinist type” and “the Orthodox-monarchist” one so that their “united forces” can destroy liberalism, according to a Moscow commentator.

            In an article in yesterday’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Sergey Gogin just how out of place a Russian liberal feels at a meeting of the Izborsky Club: “like ‘an enemy of the people’ in a dormitory for ‘the socially close,’” “like a white in a McDonalds in a black section of Washington,” or like “Stirlitz in Himmler’s waiting room” (

            Participants at Izborsky Club meetings say some amazing and disturbing things, Gogin continues.  At a recent on in Ulyanovsk, Archpriest Aleksandr Menyaylo, the rector of the Ivan Ivan Urals Business Institute, said “the Russian language is divine” and cannot be translated into English and that Russians must not copy American economic theory but come up with their own.

            “It would be interesting,” the “Yezhednevny zhurnal” writer suggests “to examine a textbook of Russian Orthodox physics, chemistry, and biology -- and especially one on the Russian Orthodox English language.”

            Among the most well-known participants of this club are the Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin, nationalist writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, economist Sergey Glazyev, Russia’s current cultural minister Vladimir Medinsky, retired general Leonid Ivashov, commentator Mikhail Leontyev, and television commentator Maksim Shevchenko.

            They were among the Izborsky Club members who met in Ulyanovsk at the end of December at the invitation of oblast Governor Sergey Morozov, an invitation that led some of them, Gogin writes, to suggest that Ulyanovsk should be declared “the conservative capital of Russia.”

            Of course, calling these people and their ideals “conservatives” is “too soft,” the commentator continues. Their ideas are those of the national Bolsheviks “armed with Orthodoxy and Eurasianism.” Not surprisingly, they sometimes include anti-Semitism, given their “mix of nationalism, Stalinism and Orthodoxy.”

            Founded in September of last year, the club has already achieved a great deal. It is not “an assembly of freaks,” Gogin says, but an assembly whose members have already exerted their influence on the most senior members of the Russian political establishment, including most importantly, President Vladimir Putin.

            In his December 12 speech to the Federal Assembly, Putin sounded several “typically Izborsky-Eurasian themes” – “preserve our national and spiritual identity,” “connect in one [the country’s various] historical eras,” unite around a “state civilization” built by the Russian people, and “the vector of the development of Russia is development toward the East.”
            Indeed, Gogin suggests, it is entirely reasonable that “Putin as a Russian nationalist autocrat and anti-Westerner should be given honorary membership in the Izborsky Club” especially given the “repressive laws and ‘anti-Magnitsky Act’” the Kremlin leader pushed through over the past six months.

            Other Izborsky Club members would certainly welcome him. Dugin, for instance, said in 2007 that “there are no longer any opponents of the Puin course, but if there are, they are mentally ill and need to be sent to the hospital. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything. Putin is absolute. Putin is irreplaceable.”

             “If one recalls,” Gogin says, “that Dugin is considered the unofficial ideologue of the United Russia Party and is a member of the experts’ council attached to the chairman of the State Duma,” such statements are more than worrisome because “it turns out that the Izborsky Club is our present and, if God does not prevent it, our future.”

            For  the Izborsky Club and those inspired by it, “Russia is two colors, red and white.”  The “blue” symbolized on the Russian flag, however, including “those who are for human rights, freedom of speech, division of powers, a transparent government, an independent judiciary, supremacy of law and the like” are not part of their vision.

            There are 30 to 40 million of these “blue” people.  What is to happen to them “if the Orthodox Stalinists triumph?” Will they be sent to Kolyma? With regard to foreign policy, “the Izborsky Club welcomes the restoration of the empire in the borders of the USSR and considers this inevitable.”

            But there is a certain “cognitive dissonance” among the Izborsky group and its followers: They “preach a Eurasian even Asiatic fate for the people, but for themselves, they select a European one.” The recent adoption of the Anti-Magnitsky Act is “a clear confirmation of this” duality, Gogin argues.

             The Moscow commentator concludes that it is possible to extract something useful from the Izborsky Club and that is “the idea of the recognition of a common history of the country, a striving for national accord regarding its particularly turbulent periods, the continuity of historical consciousness, and also the integration of [these] various Russias.”

            But Gogin insists that in contrast to the views of the Izborsky Club, “Russia is not red and white; it is multi-colored, multi-national, multi-confessional and naturally pluralist.”  And no one should want to experience another disastrous outcome for Russians to “feel themselves a single nation.”

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