LIMONOV FOR DUMMIES
The eXile - Moscow - July 10, 2003
Edward Limonov is a great writer and a heroic figure.
of these distinctions might be forgiven; the
combination has made him one of
the most envied and
hated men in Russia. But Limonov thrives on combat,
and has just emerged from more than two years in
prison looking healthier and happier at 60 than most
Limonov's whole life has been a struggle between his
"iron will" and the rest of the world. Born Edward
Savenko, Limonov grew up in the tough lumpenprole
Saltovka district of Kharkov. As he recounts in his
Podrostok Savenko (translated into
English as "Memoir of A Russian Punk"),
decided after being beaten up by a tougher classmate to
become a hooligan, the first of the self-transformations
which have marked Limonov's life. A few years later,
Edward reinvented himself again as an avant-garde
poet, making the jump from Kharkov to underground
his "boring Ukrainian name" Savenko
along the way and re-christening himself Limonov.
Limonov was already an admired poet in the Moscow
when he was expelled from the USSR in
1974. Alone in New York, abandoned by his beloved
girlfriend Elena and ignored by the American literary
"mafia," Limonov transformed himself again, seeking
out the most abject sexual roles he could imagine on
the streets of Harlem. He described this free fall in his
first novel, "It's Me, Eddie", one of the biggest Russian
books of the late 20th century and one of the few
memoirs in any language which can
with Rousseau's. In all, Limonov has penned over 60
novels, books and short story and poetry collections,
and has been translated into over 25 languages
throughout the world.
He returned to Russia in 1992, after reporting on and
participating in several ethnic conflicts from Yugoslavia
to Moldova and Abkhazia, and became involved in
radical Russian politics by aligning himself with Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party. By 1994 he split
with Zhirinovsky and formed, along with the notorious
right-wing intellectual Alexander Dugin, the National
Bolshevik Party, drawing a young fierce cadre around
In April 2001 Limonov and a dozen of his NatsBols were
arrested in Altai, charged with planning to raise and
army and invade
Northern Kazakhstan. Virtually
everyone in Russia expected Limonov to be sentenced
to life in prison, but Limonov's iron will was unshaken.
In his two years of confinement, he produced eight
books and resisted all attempts to cut a deal with a
state he considers illegitimate.
In April, 2003, a judge in Saratov astonished Russia by
declaring Limonov innocent of the more serious charges
against him, finding him guilty only of conspiring to buy
firearms. The Chekists were stunned and outraged.
scrambled to lionize the man they'd
cheerfully slandered as a dangerous extremist.
Berezovsky sent him a congratulatory bottle of cognac.
Once again, Limonov's iron will had stood alone against
the world -- and won.
Limonov has been a regular contributor to the eXile
since our paper's first issue in February, 1997. His
columns were only interrupted by his arrest and
detention. This issue, we at the eXile are as happy as a
cop stopping an unregistered blackass with a pocket full
of hundred-dollar bills to welcome our mentor Limonov
out of prison and back into the
To celebrate, we're offering you Limonov's first written
account of how he won his freedom.
THE EXILE - Moscow July, 10 2003
----- ----- ----- -----