A rebel with a cause - 2007

                You should read the books of Eduard Limonov.

They are even better than the LIMONOV of Emmanuel Carrère.

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                     A rebel with a cause


Author and politician Eduard Limonov, who will take part in Dissenters’ Marches this weekend, has a new publishing deal.



Published: November 23, 2007 (Issue # 1326) 

Eduard Limonov. Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

 Eduard Limonov, the controversial politician whose National-Bolshevik Party, NBP, has been recently banned by a court as “extremist,” has been busy working with chess champion and oppositionist Garry Kasparov in The Other Russia, a coalition that aims to revive and defend Russian democracy. Limonov has been demonstrating with Kasparov and others in the Marches of Dissenters, anti-Kremlin rallies that have often been brutally suppressed by the police.

Arrested in 2001, he spent more than two years in prison on charges of unlawful acquisition, possession and transportation of firearms and ammunition.

Despite his political activities, Limonov’s other self as an uncompromising author, seen by some as Russia’s best living writer, remains in the spotlight.

The local Amphora publishing house has announced it will republish many of his books, including the irreverent semi-autobiographical novel It’s Me, Eddie (Eto ya, Edichka). The book brought Limonov, then a political émigré in New York, international notoriety when it was published in English in 1979 in the U.S. (French and German editions followed.) Amphora will also publish a new book entitled Smrt, devoted to what is perhaps Limonov’s most questionable period, when he was a volunteer on the Serbian side in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

“I’ve just finished it a month ago, actually. It’s an absolutely new book,” said Limonov, 64, speaking by phone from his home in Moscow on Wednesday.

“I just had no time to get to this subject, though at that time I published some dispatches. But now it’s high time. I had a break in the summer and I had finished this book by autumn. It’s not really a collection of short stories; it’s some episodes from the war.

“It’s called Smrt, which is Serbian for ‘death.’ It’s just like the Russian smert, but they write it with no vowels. It’s something abrupt, like the blow of a saber. The Serbian death is shorter than the Russian one.”

To be published in January, Smrt will be preceded in December by Inostranets v smutnoye vremya (A Foreigner in a Time of Troubles). The book is Limonov’s 1990 account of the final years of Gorbachev’s perestroika and the Soviet Union. It is based on his impressions when he returned to Moscow after years of living abroad.

Although both volumes have little to do with today’s Russia, Limonov’s last published book was Limonov vs. Putin, his savage critique of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin politics.

“I am the author of many tomes. I don’t know how many — 45 books already or more. I wrote eight books during my time in prison,” said Limonov.

“I write as needed about what gets on my nerves most at that particular moment. Putin got on my nerves, so I wrote Limonov vs. Putin. The book came out in 2006. No publisher wanted to deal with it, so I had to publish it myself.”

Although the book is not available in Russian bookshops, it can be downloaded free of charge from NBP’s website.

“It’s because there was only one distributor that agreed to take it. Perhaps they changed their policy, because they don’t seem to have sold anything and some copies just got stuck there.”

Limonov, who said he has just written another book called Eres’ (Heresy) that he has not yet shown to a publisher, is busy organizing the Marches of Dissenters with his partners in The Other Russia, the coalition of different political groups that borrowed its name from Limonov’s 2003 book. The marches will take place in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

“It’s not simply that I will participate in them. I am the chairman of The Other Russia’s executive committee, so I’m rather the ranking person,” said Limonov.

The rallies will be held to oppose Kremlin-imposed restrictive legislation concerning elections to the State Duma, which will take place on December 2. The new rules all but guarantee the victory of the main pro-Kremlin party, United Russia.

“[The main slogan of the rallies] is Down with elections without choice,” said Limonov. He and Kasparov are banned from appearing on Russia’s state-controlled television channels.

“Down with elections in which four fifths of political parties don’t participate. It’s like the elections at a concentration camp: you are allowed to choose only from the officers guarding the camp. It’s the only thing it can be compared with.”

In The Other Russia’s newspapers, specially published in advance of the Marches, Limonov describes the upcoming elections as a “national shame.” The newspapers also feature articles by Kasparov and Putin’s former economics adviser Andrei Illarionov. Some activists have been detained by the police for distributing the newspapers, and many copies have been confiscated.

“Of course, the elections are a national shame, because no freedom-loving nation would tolerate this. The big question arises, why do we tolerate this — this big lie when some scumbag, pardon me, from United Russia makes a speech and claims in a squeaky voice that the majority is behind them,” said Limonov.

“What majority? It’s like in a camp: you don’t allow people to participate in elections but instead beat them up and hide them somewhere in a punishment cell. What do you expect? You’ve culled everybody and take part in the elections all by yourselves. It’s natural that you’ll win.”

As opposed to the massive events staged by United Russia, The Other Russia’s rallies are frequently dismissed because the number of marchers is low. However, the first March of the Dissenters in St. Petersburg, on March 3, drew an estimated 6,000-plus protesters.

“Many people think this way because they sit with their asses stuck to their chairs, waiting for their heads to be chopped off. That’s why we have small turnouts,” said Limonov.

“If all of us followed this pessimistic, slavish philosophy that says there aren’t many of us . . . Well, get out, get off your ass, think about your children, think about this shameful nineteenth century that we live in now — this smooth-tongued crowd, allegedly applauding Putin, Putin himself whom everybody is sick of beyond all measure.

“They created a virtual reality, a giant lie. While it’s clear that in free elections United Russia would not only not come first but would hardly to get on the list at all.

“But when all rivals are destroyed, there is only the fruit called United Russia at the marketplace.”

Although Limonov’s NBP party was declared “extremist” by the Moscow City Court, which forbade its activities within the Russian Federation in April (a decision that was later upheld by the Supreme Court), the banned party’s members take part in opposition rallies.

“According to the Ministry of Justice and the other bodies, the party doesn’t exist, but our people do exist and those people work within The Other Russia,” said Limonov, whose party flag was lambasted for its alleged resemblance to the flag of Nazi Germany. The NBP flag, however, sports a hammer and sickle, not a swastika.

“It’s risky to go out with the flags of the banned NBP. The flag wasn’t banned actually, but as the party is banned, its charter is obviously banned as well. And the charter includes the red flag with a black hammer and sickle inside a white circle. Now we go out with different flags. It’s not the same flag anymore.”

Considered an extreme nationalist in the 1990s, Limonov now openly advocates democracy and civil rights. He once described NBP as a cross between Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

“It’s because this liquidated, banned party used exclusively non-violent means for bringing its ideas to the masses,” he said.

“We have always demanded [democratic freedoms]. As early as Feb. 23, 2000, even before Putin became the president, we marched down Tverskaya [Moscow’s main street] carrying a 15-meter long banner that read, ‘Down with autocracy and royal succession.’ And the second banner read, ‘Putin, we didn’t invite you. Go away.’ That was in 2000. Let any other party boast that it started to oppose the present president so early.”

Despite the evident change in rhetoric since the 1990s, Limonov claims his views have not changed.

“Absolutely nothing has changed,” he said.

“We demanded freedom, demanded to be allowed to take part in elections, and advocated a certain ideology as we do now. Nothing has changed.

“The other thing is that they created a disgusting image for us — the media did it. Although Yeltsin’s Kremlin didn’t like us any more than Putin’s Kremlin does. I still think that Yeltsin was a super-negative person, the man who dug the Soviet Union’s grave. He’s something like Judas in Christian history or much worse than [the Ukrainian Cossack Hetman Ivan] Mazeppa, who is seen as the greatest traitor in Russian history.”

Regretting the fate of the Soviet Union, Limonov describes himself as a socialist.

“I am not a Marxist and not a Leninist, and especially not a Stalinist, but I think that the country’s wealth should be distributed within the country more or less equally. This does not mean ‘war communism’ or the absence of businessmen, the absence of a middle class or absence of rich people. It means that state policy should focus on the majority of citizens, rather than on oligarchs.”

According to Limonov, his views do not contradict Kasparov’s.

“Gary and I have never disagreed on political matters and never argued on these subjects. If we’ve had arguments, they were technical arguments about how The Other Russia should develop,” he said.

In the upcoming elections, The Other Russia urges voters to write the coalition’s name on the ballots, thus making them invalid. It hopes that the number of such invalidated ballots will define the number of its supporters. It thus discourages Russians from voting for liberal parties Yabloko and SPS, which have little chance of passing the seven-percent threshold set by new Russian electoral laws as the minimum necessary for taking seats in the Duma.

“Yabloko and SPS don’t suit us — we’re different,” he said.

“Yabloko and SPS were in the State Duma already. And my views — I don’t know about Kasparov’s views, whether they coincide in some ways with Yabloko and SPS — but I have few points in common with Yabloko and SPS. Neither do my supporters.”

Unlike Kasparov, Limonov is not frequently profiled in the international press. He recently responded to a British critic for the Observer by writing a column called “Limonov vs. Western Journalists,” ***    which was published in the Moscow-based ex-pat newspaper the eXile.

“I don’t crave the affections of the western press. I absolutely don’t need it,” he said.

“I have no interest in the western press at all. I want the public opinion of other countries, both western and eastern, to be on our side. I want them to support us in our struggle against our country’s tyrannical government.

“But that doesn’t mean I should ingratiate myself to western journalists. I think they don’t understand me and are rather afraid of me.”

Liberal parties Yabloko and SPS refused to take part in the Marches of the Dissenters. They pointed to the views of Limonov and his followers as well as the party’s symbols as the main reason for their refusal.

However, the Petersburg branch of Yabloko has participated in all the local marches and has announced that it will take part in the upcoming march as well. Under attack from the authorities for escalating its criticism of the Kremlin, SPS has this week also announced it will join the rallies.

Despite all the contradictions and criticisms they generate, Limonov is sure that the Marches of the Dissenters are vital for political change in Russia.

“It gives people courage. Everything will be okay here when people start acting courageously. When people stop making excuses — ‘I can’t march with this guy, I can’t march with that guy’ — like capricious children. We should all go out and fight for our freedom — Russians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, whoever. Let’s go out and at least finally organize a decent political system.”


               Sergey Chernov - The St. Petersburg Times - 2007


Eduard Limonov’s Smrt (Death) will be published in January 2008. Inostranets v smutnoe vremya (A Foreigner in a Time of Troubles) will be published by Amphora Publishing House in early December.

           *** Limonov vs. Western Journalists.


I am thinking now that I am working for “Exile” as reporter,


being in same time active participant and even architect of


Russian History. Thus, the first Congress of “Other Russia”


held in Moscow’s Izmailovo Hotel on September 30 was


planned and executed by Garry Kasparov and me.


As to the idea of participation in the comping Russian



parliamentary elections it was entirely my idea. I expressed


that idea two years ago, and steadily, have promoted it inside


of the Other Russia coalition. Finally it was accepted by my


colleagues in the coalition.


On October 1st, Kasparov and me, we visited Central


Electoral Commission and have handed over the list of


candidates for elections of deputies of a State Duma.


What I want to say, that I am reporter who is reporting on activity of


Edward Limonov–who is oppositional politician. Unusual


situation, isn’t it?


As to the Western journalists, reporting on activity of

“Other Russia” they see what they want to see. Very

often what they see has nothing to do with reality.


“The Observer” for example, in its article on October

1st, have written such rubbish: “In the past, Limonov

have suffered of alcoholism and have written novels in

the style of Charles Bukowski…Solzhenitsyn with disdain

called him ‘insect’ and called his writing ‘a pornography.’

After living some time in the US, Limonov have founded

in 1994 National-Bolsheviks Party and have called to put

all the liberals in the camps.”


When I read above quoted sentences, I said to myself,

“The men who write it is an idiot. And degree of his

idiocy is exceptional.


Sure, I never suffered of alcoholism, you have mixed me

up with Bush.



Solzhenitsyn never have said anything about me,

although yes, I have attacked Solzhenitsyn in my books

and articles. It was in the past, because Solzhenitsyn

belongs to the past, and in present he is slowly dying of

old age.


I am called by many a best living Russian writer, as such

I have many faces, and I disregard Charles Bukowski as

a boring Californian swine.



The United States is not an example or authority for me.

And I founded National-Bolsheviks Party after 14 years

long stay in Paris, France, not the United States.



But foundation of NBP (no party is banned) has nothing

to do with the US or France, I founded party out of

necessity, for purpose of political struggle. My party is

one of biggest and oldest and most disciplined political

structures in Russia, despite that party is forbidden.

That why Garry Kasparov made an alliance with me. I

never called for putting liberals in the camps, needless

to say.


My voice inside of coalition “Other Russia” is as

important as Kasparov’s. I am forced to say all this

because “The Observer” is not a first foreign publication

publishing idiotic inventions about me. I hope my angry

voice will be heard.


I’m stating: I am reasonable, pragmatic man,

experienced politician, polite as a diplomat. I have child,

young wife. I like French books, red wine, camembert

and especially oysters. I eat with a knife and fork.


What else? I am not a drug addict. I am good looking. I

am not overweight as most of Americans and English.

My fingers are long, my wrists are narrow. I am not a

bald. I know two foreign languages: French and English.

I am able to write in both languages, although with

slight errors. I am brushing my teeth every day.


I have spent 2-1/2 years in prisons, not for stealing or

killing, but for attempt to realize my political ideas. I

wasn’t broken by Russian prisons. No other Russian

politician have prison experience. If one has any

questions to ask, ask, don’t reprint idiotical inventions.

Just ask. Because you look stupid, dear foreigners,

stupid “Observer.”


And another thing: I was married few times to

exceptionally beautiful and talented women. Look at

your ugly wifes, assholes of journalism!


After that angry introduction I am ready to explain what

we are doing in “Other Russia” alliance. By procedure of

“primaries” which the alliance have held in 57 regions

around Russia, we realized democratical right of our

supporters to choose their candidates for the State

Duma elections. The primaries happened in August and

September. Finally on September 30, we have held 1st

Congress of “Other Russia,” where its delegates have

voted for the list of 365 candidates to the State Duma.


The delegates also have voted for the united and only

one candidate of opposition for presidential elections in


March 2008. Garry Kasparov was elected by

overwhelming majority.


On October 1, Kasparov and Limonov followed by

journalists and supporters, have deposited the list of our

365 candidates to hands of member of Central Electoral

Committee, Mister Raikov. Bolshoi Cherkasskii pereulok,

the street where the CEC is located, was surrounded by

forces of OMON and militsia forces. However, they let us

hand in our list. Raikov have promised to discuss our

demand to include our list, which is headed by three

figures: Viktor Geraschenko (former Central Banker),

Garry Kasparov, and Edward Limonov. We understood

that our demand will be rejected, but we wanted to

have an answer. We were challenging the Kremlin. It

was an historical challenge. We were refusing to play at

their dirty game, on that precise day of October 1st.


No matter what answer to our demand we will have, we,

“Other Russia,” will proceed with our electoral campaign.

We will stick leaflets and stickers to the walls of Russian

cities, will hold Marches of Dissenters, will lunch all

possible means of propaganda for our candidates. We

will irritate and challenge authorities up to the

December 2, the day of Duma elections. We will

summon our supporters to vote for the “Other Russia”:

they will be asked to write the letters “DR” (”Drugaya

Rossia” or “Other Russia”) across their ballots. Those

ballots with improper writing on them will be classified

by Electoral Commission as “damaged.” The amount of

damaged ballots will be our electorate: the “Other

Russia” supporters.


Our next steps I will not reveal to you now. In order to

not give the Kremlin time to prepare its forces for

confrontation. You will have some information on

politician Edward Limonov from reporter Edward

Limonov in due time.


Edward Limonov, The Exile