sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

October 26, 2015

Incubating National Bolsheviks

Filed under: immigration, politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:37 pm

National Bolsheviks were not on the radar of most Americans until, in the fallout of Ukraine’s Euromaidan, the Kremlin warmed up to the fascist Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin.  Dugin was one of the founders of the political party, although by then he left his comrades and, in any event, the party was banned in 2007 (regrouping as The Other Russia).  Recently they were allowed, flaunting Russian law, to set up booths to recruit combat volunteers for Eastern Ukraine off the streets of Moscow.  Those volunteers fight the central government the United States supports militarily and financially.

Still many NazBols can legitimately claim prosecution, and they most certainly were vocal in opposing Putin in 2010.  It’s no surprise that at least two of them found themselves seeking refuge on American shores.

Among them Mikhail Gangan:

He became a member of the banned National Bolshevists [sic] Party when he turned 15. Later, he led its branch in Samara (the sixth largest city in Russia). In 2004 he took part in a local anti-government movement called “A Peaceful Takeover of the Reception Office of the Presidential Administration.” About 40 activists walked into the office of Putin’s representative in Samara and presented a list of 12 complaints. Among the accusations were elimination of political freedoms, destruction of independent media in Russia, the lack of autonomous judiciary system, and punitive actions against the opposition.

All protesters were arrested and accused of taking a deliberate action to take control of the government. If these charges were pressed, they would spend up to 20 years in prison. The charge was later changed to a lesser allegation of mass rioting. While under investigation, Gangan spent a year in Butyrka, a prison known for its poor living conditions that became known internationally after the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Finally the Court sentenced Gangan to 3 years probation and he was released.

Forcing themselves into government buildings is a popular tactic of National Bolsheviks.  In 2006, 50 of them were arrested at State Duma following one such direct action designed to test the boundary between the legal and the illegal.

In 2007 Gangan led another anti-government action called “March of Protesters” during the Russia-EU Summit and he was accused of violating his probation. Before he was arrested, Gangan fled to the Ukraine. It was the only country that he could enter while on probation.

Later, he was captured and was about to be deported to Russia. Ukrainian and Russian human rights activists asked Ukrainian authorities not to give up Gangan but to grant him the status of a political refugee. In the summer of 2008, he got asylum in the Ukraine. The UN Refugee Agency offered Gangan political asylum in America, where he moved in 2009. A year later he was given the official status of political refugee in the U.S.

“I had no problems with assimilation in Ukraine. There is no language barrier, same mentality; Ukrainian life just slightly differs from Russian. Here [in the U.S.] everything is different and adaption has been quite difficult for me. I still can’t figure out what is what here. But it’s obvious that if you really want to make it here, it’s possible. All refugees get good benefits. The U.S. government provides us with an apartment for the first 6 months and even covers the cost of college education. For now, I got a job as a cook,” said Gangan.

Mikhail Gangan in customary National Bolshevik red and black garb

Good thing he got the benefits because, as one of his comrades explained:

Misha lived a life of a professional revolutionary, ridiculing the common busywork of work and study.  Often times he didn’t have the change to take public transport, but when money wondrously appeared, he, like a true hussar, blew it with friends in some kind of cafe.

Congratulations to the American taxpayer on adding a National Bolshevik variety to his collection of dependents!

Another NazBol fleeing for the US via Ukraine is Anna Ploskonosova.  Ploskonosova’s comrade and fiancée died after a beating administered, according to his friends and family, by Moscow militsia.  When in 2007 Ploskonosova left Russia, she was facing charges of vandalism and, rather unbelievably, assaulting a cop.

Anna Ploskonosova. National Bolshevik flags in the foreground

Settling in Ukraine, the young woman quickly found an outlet: she was arrested and fined 204 hrivnias for insulting then-president Yushenko.  What constitutes the insult?  Evidently, she participated in a May Day demonstration during which she chanted “Yushenko out!”   With Yushenko was voted out in short time and the now-deposed Yanukovich taking the oath of office, Ploskonosova though it was prudent to ask for asylum in the United States.

I have no idea what she and Gangan are up to these days, or even if they are still in the country –Gangan said he wasn’t interested in staying.  National Bolshevik founder Eduard Limonov once lived in the US; he hated it with a passion. So maybe the next generation of NazBols didn’t take to us either.

Gangan and Ploskonosova were still very young at the time they arrived to the US, so it’s possible that they matured and outgrew their specific Russian delinquencies.  Maybe they are now upstanding individuals.  But maybe they found Occupy, and maybe they found white nationalists. I have no doubt that their fear of prosecution was real, but I just don’t see why my country needs to take a chance on individuals of questionable moral character.

Having said that, letting NazBols settle here is nothing compared to giving refugee status to the Tsarnaevs.  It’s not obvious what either group has to add to our culture apart from diversity, but back in Russia they can one day ferment a revolution. Our immigration policy should not be designed to release the internal pressure on Putin.

October 21, 2015

The Last Crusader

Filed under: politics, Russia — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:01 am

Last October, as the West piled layer after layer of “targeted sanctions” on Russia, Senator John McCain thought it’s prime time for insults:

Look, Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” McCain said. “It’s kleptocracy. It’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important.

The bit about kleptocracy and corruption is just as true about our newest ally Ukraine (or most other blotches of solid color outlined on a political map) as it is about Russia.  Still, Russian exports are dominated by the energy sector and the largest employer in the country is the state energy magnate Gazprom.  Yet the former US presidential candidate and Amnesty proponent might want to entertain a thought that there is something more that goes into being a country than an solid economy.

Thus after we bailed out of Mesopotamia, Russia moved in, propping up their SOB Assad and building an alliance that includes both Iran and Iraq.  And if the Kremlin reasserted its power in that region, it’s because they got Ukraine exactly where they want it to be — in frozen war.

Its economy is very much second world, demographically Russia looks doomed, and yet its performance on world stage today defies expectations.  Perhaps “[not] a country” is a silly thing to say about a country in the midst of imperial revival.  Russians today are not shy to admire Stalin who expended their sphere of influence across Europe and made the USSR feared worldwide.  Putin’s challenge is to live up to the expectations of resurgence.  That the youth of the Russian Federation, the least ethnically Russian age-group, are his biggest fans should give us something to think about.

How’s Russia managing it?  With confidence and resolve.  Russians seem awfully sure of who they are and what’s good about their country.  Look at the Sochi Olympics, for instance.  Staged in the explosive Caucuses, it ended without a terrorist incident, defying critics and demonstrating Russian will.

At the Olympic ceremonies Russians paraded their contributions to civilization, sometimes inflating them (but, hey, at least they value civilization enough to inflate their contributions) — they showed us their cannon — ballerinas, space flight and famous writers.  Our answer to ballerinas, space flight and famous writers is open borders.  We have no cannon.  Our children are taught that diversity is our strength; recycling replaced civics.  Political power is derived through passive-aggressive mind games.

Last year, amidst sanctions, pundits laughed that economic weapon is our best weapon — because what else do we have the nerve for? What they forgot is that Russians, who are not averse to suffering to begin with, had lived through much harder times in the 90’s.  They are not the kind of people whose vice presidents tell them to go shopping in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack.

In terms of affecting Putin’s behavior, sanctions achieved results the opposite of intended.  Russians, 40% of whom have relatives in Ukraine, saw their worst suspicions confirmed when the West supported the overthrow of Yanukovich. They rallied around Putin, and the popular opinion of the United States reached the all-time low.  Anti-Americanism in Russia today is like nothing I remember.

Having failed with sanctions and realizing that Russian quagmire in Syria is unlikely, our best bet is that Saudi Arabia will flood the market with oil hurting Russian energy exports.  Only it’s doubtful that the Saudis, themselves besieged by economic troubles, will go on very long, especially considering that the Saudi pet project ISIS is poised to be obliterated.  Once it is, what is the rational for the use the oil weapon?  Anyhow, it’s a sad state of affairs when our leverage in the Middle East is all but gone and we are reduced to hoping that Al Qaida will destroy Russia there.

Meantime, a participant in a recent state TV talk show opined (to some laughs) that Syria is Russian land because Orthodox Christianity traces its roots to Syria:

Now, that takes guts.  I wonder who is the intended audience for that crusading outburst.  Was it for domestic consumption because or to show the world just how far is “Putin’s” Russia from Merkel’s Germany or Obama’s America?  If, under Putin, Stalin or Nicolas, the Russian idea is self-sacrifice for the state, the West no longer broadcasts rule of law, freedom and prosperity.  Our ideas are dwindling economies and vanishing national identities.

Amazing to watch pundits, all in agreement that Putin is the personification of evil, scramble as to how to appropriately save face vis-a-vis the Kremlin.  The first step, it seams to me, should be to acknowledge that with each passing day we are looking less and less like a country and more like a collection of uncertain loyalties.

We’ve grown wobbly over the last quarter century.  When our so-called hawks went to Iraq for the second time, they thought it was necessary to first ask the UN for permission.  Putin also went to the UN, but only after his coalition-building work was already done behind the scenes, and to admonish us.  His is a common sense approach, and the results are predictable.  Over 70% of Britons support his Syria campaign.  When I look at number like that I wonder if, in a purely hypothetical scenario of NATO bombing ISIS, 70% of Britons would support it — or would they flood the streets of London in protest and somehow deduce that it’s all Israel’s fault.


There is a shade of McCaine’s “gas station” comment in Kissinger’s assessment that the West’s involvement in Ukraine was an attempt to break up Russia.  Ordinary Americans balk at this type of geo-political pronouncements, but Russians and Ukrainians readily discuss which one of their countries is going down first and how it will be carved out.  Having lived through the break up of the USSR a mere quarter century ago, they don’t shy away from geopolitical macabre.

“Country 404”: “Country is not found”. Because Russian-leaning Donbas produced a good chunk of Ukraine’s GDP, the meme above became popular in the wake of Donbas’s vote for independence in 2014. Number 404 superimposed against the Ukrainian flag, resembles the country’s insignia, the trident

What is it about Western self-hate?  It seems to me, the answer to resurgent Russia starts not in Syria, but in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.  We need to rethink our immigration policy, rediscover our founding principles, fall back in love with American culture because only then will we be in a position to revamp our posture in the world.  If not –I remember Soviet Union going 404, quickly and unexpectedly.  Russia might just have the last laugh.

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