Staunton, January 20 -- The Russian government’s repression of extreme right groups has little chance of intensifying because Moscow has successfully marginalized these groups by monopolizing the imperialist theme and arresting their leaders; but in contrast to groups on the left, right-wing extremists nonetheless could reemerge, Aleksandr Verkhovsky says.
In a lengthy interview with Maksim Polyakov of the 7x7 regionalist news agency, the head of the SOVA Information-Analytic Center says that the Kremlin was prepared to play with the extreme right rather than seek to eliminate that trend until the Kondopoga clashes in 2006 convinced the regime that rightist groups were a threat and not just hooliganism.
That campaign intensified after Vladislav Surkov shifted his focus to Ukraine. He was behind the policy of working with these extremists rather than simply repressing them as the regime has done since 2011, Verkhovsky says (7x7-journal.ru/articles/2020/01/20/direktor-centra-sova-aleksandr-verhovskij).
The wave of arrests had the effect of frightening off new recruits and leaving the right-wing organizations with fewer people willing to come out in support of them. Then, Moscow’s moves into Ukraine had the effect of splitting the nationalist camp with some backing the Kremlin and others supporting Ukraine.
As the number of followers of the extreme right has fallen and as leaders have been unable to attract new people to their meetings, Verkhovsky says, the right has tried a new tactic: it has begun attending the meetings of others, including of those who it would seem are extremely far removed from them ideologically.
But unlike the extreme left, which has no future, Verkhovsky says, the extreme right may make a comeback. Its initial positions in the 1990s were nostalgic and not that effective, but then it turned to the issue of immigration, something easier for more people to understand – and that issue can certainly reemerge.
Making that prospect more likely is the fact that nationalists now are spending less time on intra-movement disagreements than on opposition to the regime, an approach they share with the Russian opposition in general at present, the SOVA analyst says. But working against it is the state’s monopolization of imperial nationalism
For the Russian right wing, differences among those in this sector or even more broadly are now secondary. What has become more important, Verkhovsky says, is that “people are against the regime.” How this will play out, and who will influence whom among the regime’s opponents, very much remains an open question.