What is NBP ?

Andrei Dmitriev: Who Are the National-Bolsheviks?

By ROBERT AMSTERDAM | Published: AUGUST 22, 2007
[While I was attending the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum in Helsinki in early July, Grigory
Pasko introduced me to an intelligent, articulate young man named Andrei Dmitriev, one
of the leaders of the banned National-Bolshevik Party. I have been interested in the
NatsBols” ever since I met their charismatic leader, Eduard Limonov, several years ago in
Moscow, and have been carefully watching developments in Russia as the Kremlin has
methodically turned the screws on this organization, destroying it with merciless cruelty.
When I asked Andrei what the West should know about the plight of the opposition in
Russia, he burst into an impassioned litany I immediately realized would make a wonderful
article for the blog. I told Andrei that if he put his thoughts down on paper, I would get
them translated so they could reach a wider international audience. Here then is the result.
In his article, Andrei Dmitriev addresses himself primarily to the people of Europe, but his
observations and challenges are applicable to all of us who are concerned about what is
going on in Russia today. - Robert Amsterdam]
 
 Who Are the National-Bolsheviks and What
Do They Want to Say to Europe.
By Andrei Dmitriev, National-Boshevik Co-Coordinator of the Coalition
«The Other Russia» in St. Petersburg
 
 Never Be Pronounced. That’s what the abbreviation NBP
(National-Bolshevik Party) now stands for in the Russian mass
media. Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme court of the Russian
Federation issued a decision on its final and definitive
prohibition as an extremist organization.
dmitriev0822.jpg
National-Bolshevik Andrei Dmitriev was one of the speakers at the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, held in Helsinki in early July. (Photo by Grigory Pasko)
 
According to the legislation of the RF, participation in the
activities of a prohibited organization is punishable by a term of
up to 4 years of deprivation of liberty, leaders can get up to 12
years in jail. The NBP has become the first political organization
in relation to which such a harsh law has been applied. And this
is not surprising – during the time of the rule of Vladimir Putin,
it had become the most irreconcilable opponent of his system of
“managed democracy”. It is enough to mention that more than a
hundred National-Bolsheviks have been in jail. At the same time,
the European mass media and human rights organizations are
effectively ignoring the repressions in relation to the “NatsBols”.
 
Thus, Amnesty International has not declared a single one of
them a political prisoner. And the prohibition on the party
likewise has not become even remotely significant news. It is
natural that western public opinion would have a hard time
understanding the NBP phenomenon. The name of the party, its
controversial and confrontational insignia, certain slogans look
unconventional to many Europeans. However, we will try to
make sense of the essential question: just who exactly are the National-
Bolsheviks?
 
 The NBP was founded by Eduard Limonov in the year 1994 as
an opposition patriotic-leftist organization. At first this was more
a phenomenon of the youth subculture than of politics. Starting
with the year 1998, the National-Bolsheviks regularly submitted
documents for the registration of the party to the ministry of
justice. However, six times the bureaucrats denied them. In such
a manner was the right of citizens of Russia to create a political
party, to influence the fate of their country, trampled on. The
party acquired broad fame under Putin, when the National-
Bolsheviks became the first to speak out against the dictatorial
manner of the new power and ended up becoming its first
victims.
 
Eduard Limonov, thrown by the new power in jail, directed a
letter to the Russian public and opposition, calling on all – right
and left – irrespective of political differences, to “wake up and
fight for political freedoms”. And it was just this struggle for
freedoms that became the main substance of the party’s
activities in the eight years of Putin’s rule. (And Limonov’s call
was realized only in five years, when the coalition «The Other
Russia» was founded, uniting the most disparate forces, close
cooperation began between the National-Bolsheviks and Garry
Kasparov’s United civic front, the Marches of the Discontented
started being conducted through joint efforts).
 
The NBP became famous for its “direct action campaigns.” This
is street demonstrations, blocking of roads, sit-ins at the offices
of bureaucrats, hanging up banners and the like. Something
similar in the west is done by Greenpeace and the
anti-globalists. Probably the most famous campaign of this type
was the takeover of the office of minister of health and social
development Mikhail Zurabov in August of the year 2004, from
the window of which the NatsBol Maxim Gromov threw out a
portrait of Putin. (The corresponding Associated Press photofound its
way around the world).
 
An analogous campaign took place in December of that same
year in the reception office of the administration of the
president. Thirty-nine National-Bolsheviks came there with
books of the Russian Constitution, demanding the holding of
free elections and the resignation of Putin. By analogy with the
insurrection of the year 1825, they were called «Decembrists». It
is important to note that all the NBP campaigns bore an
extremely peaceful, non-violent character. Not a single drop of
blood was spilled, not a single piece of glass was broken.
 
Participants in this sort of thing in the countries of the European
Union face either a fine or administrative arrest for several days.
In Russia, everything is different. Such actions are equated with
terrorism and attempts at a violent seizure of power. Maxim
Gromov and the other participants in the campaign in Zurabov’s
office were sentenced to three years of deprivation of liberty, the
«Decembrists» got analogous terms. A large part of the time
prisoner Gromov spent in the Karzer [best translates as “dungeon” in
English—Trans.] – this is the revenge the Russian president exacted
from him for the incident with the portrait. At a press conference
after release from jail he told of the monstrous conditions that
prevail in the Russian “zones”, about the tortures, abuses and
humiliating and degrading treatment that are an everyday
reality. The repressions in relation to the NatsBols bear a
multiple-level character – this is legal prohibitions on
participation in elections, beatings by the OMON in street
actions, and visits by officers of the special services at studies or
to the workplace and so on and so forth Many, many thousands
of young men and women have gone through this. In the case of
the National-Bolsheviks (just like in Chechnya), the Russian
Constitution and legislation are non-operational. Lawlessness
rules here. This is why those who criticize the NatsBols for an
“incorrect” flag and name would do well to understand that
Maxim Gromov and friends did far more for the cause of the
struggle for the freedom of Russia than the functionaries of the
old democratic parties like Grigory Yavlinsky or Boris Nemtsov.
 
The National-Bolsheviks have proven their right to the slogan
“Russia will be free” by their daily resistance to the regime.
Today the country is entering the season of duma and
presidential elections. The scramble for power has begun. What
they fear most in the Kremlin is that events will unfold on the
Ukrainian model, where the people, coming out on Maidan
Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square—Trans.], refused to allow the
falsification of the results of the voting. In order not to allow a
“Russian Maidan” to take place, they need to neutralize the
most active part of the opposition – «The Other Russia» and the
National-Bolsheviks. It is precisely for this reason that the
decision on declaring the NBP an extremist organization was
adopted with such haste.
Dmitr-20822.jpg
Andrei Dmitriev sharing a panel at the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum with the head of the St. Petersburg branch of the United Civic Front, Olga Kurnosova. In April of this year, Kurnosova was fined a thousand rubles by decision of the magistrate’s court of St. Petersburg for publishing an article by Dmitriev in the newspaper «Marsh nesoglasnykh» [March of the Dissenters]. (Photo by Grigory Pasko)
 
And so, what exactly in these conditions, in a period of decisive
trials for Russia, would we, the National-Bolsheviks, like to
convey to European society? First, we want an honest and objective
approach to the processes taking place in Russia. Very often, one gets the
impression that for European elites, questions of political
freedoms are merely a bargaining chip in relations with
Moscow. Their eyes blinded by cheap oil and gas, they ignore
the processes taking place in Russia of the degeneration of the
administrative system and the transformation of the country
into a police state. One gets the impression that there is some
sort of unspoken pact between the European elites and the
Russian ruling establishment. This despite the fact that the
Putinite raw-materials state (or, as they call it, “energy
superpower”) is dependent on western governments and has no
choice but to heed their opinion. In these conditions, only civil
society can give an appropriate assessment to what is taking
place and to influence the governments of their countries. Second,
direct dialogue between the Russian opposition and the civil society of Europe is
essential. It is known that the Kremlin is attempting to present the
opposition and the National-Bolsheviks in particular as
extremists and fascists. The logic is like this: “Yes,” say the
Putinites, “We are far from ideal. We have our problems with
democracy, with human rights, with poverty. But if not us, then
these horrid extremists will come.” It’s not important that this is
a lie from beginning to end. Like Dr. Goebbels used to say – the
more outrageous the lie, the more readily people will believe in
it. Which is exactly what we’re seeing on the example of the
European Everyman, hypnotized by Putin’s propaganda. In
general, we need to talk directly, and not look at one another
through the foggy glass of Kremlin propaganda and layers of
various myths. Third, facts of political repressions in Putin’s Russia,
including in relation to the National-Bolsheviks, must be roundly condemned
on the part of European structures. Extremely important in this regard
is the examination of the case «NBP v. RF» in the European
court of human rights. Several complaints against the actions of
the Russian authorities from the National-Bolsheviks have
already been combined into one proceeding in Strasbourg. The
case has been assigned a priority character. The Kremlin too is
attaching no small significance to this trial. Speaking to which is,
for example, the hysterical article by the head of the committee
of the Federation Council of the RF for International Affairs,
Mikhail Margelov, with the characteristic title «We need to know
how to defend European values», in which he attempts to besmirch the
NBP in the eyes of European society. The senator’s apprehension
is understandable – if the arguments of the National-Bolsheviks
will be accepted by the court, this fact will break the entire
system of managed democracy in Russia. So the decision of the
ECHR will be historic in any event, no matter what it will be.