Radical Populism on the Volga

Russia's Neo-Nazi Opposition

On May 8, 1995, President Boris Yeltsin addressed an auditorium filled with gray-haired war veterans, their chests bedecked with rows of ribbons and medals, and told them of the cost of victory in the Great Patriotic War. Citing new archival research, Yeltsin revealed the "terrifying figure" of 26,549,000 Soviet citizens "lost" in the war against "Hitlerite fascism." Yeltsin then closed his speech with remarks that may have seemed cryptic to some observers. "Many in Russia and beyond its borders are now wondering," he claimed, "why, half a century after the collapse of fascism, immunity to fascist and racist ideas in our society has weakened. . . . We must purge Russia of the fascist plague, completely and forever."

It may be that Westerners believed Yeltsin was referring to the bombastic Vladimir Zhirinovsky or, perhaps, to the "redbrown" neocommunists who had done so well in the December 1993 elections and who were already campaigning to expand their influence in the State Duma. But the immediate cause of Yeltsin's concern was probably something else, a relatively new, and far more radical, force whose activities had prompted the president to issue a decree early last year on combating "fascism." This force, dubbed the "new opposition" by Russian journalists, is more willing to resort to violence than the old "red-brown" opposition. Like...

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