20 years under Putin: a timeline

The harsh prison sentence handed to Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, a prominent Russian nationalist leader, was met with near-uninamous condemnation in Russia’s opposition (including liberal opposition) circles. In contrast, IMR Advisor Alexander Yanov, a well-known historan of Russian nationalism, believes that Kvachkov deserved his punishment.



On February 8, the Moscow City Court completed hearings in the case against Vladimir Kvachkov. The charge was rare and eerie: masterminding an armed coup to seize power in the Russian Federation. The prosecution had demanded a 14 year sentence for  Kvachkov; he received 13. Unfortunately, only a few people in the democratic opposition have heard about this trial and know who Kvachkov is.

I say “unfortunately” because Kvachkov is as significant a figure for Russian nationalists as Mikhail Khodorkovsky is for Russian democrats. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, Alexander Prokhanov, head of the national-patriotic Izborsky Club, described Kvachkov as “a martyr and a hero.” But, for some reason, Russian nationalists have been unable to turn their hero and martyr into a second Khodorkovsky.

Long before coming to power, the German Nazis managed to make Horst Wessel, someone not dissimilar to Kvachkov, a “hero and martyr” and a symbol of the brownshirt “revival”: mass demonstrations and torchlight processions were organized in his honor. His Russian counterpart is in prison, yet only Prokhanov’s colleagues from the Izborsky Club mourn over his fate. Strange, is it not?

It looks even stranger given the recent statement by Garry Kasparov that “the masks are off – fascism has come to Russia.” Especially considering that Kvachkov may be the most consistent ideologist of the Black Hundred movement, without which there can be no fascism in Russia. Until now, Russian fascism has never succeeded – not in 1905 (“Union of the Russian People”), nor in 1988 (“Memory”), nor in 1993, when only Barkashov’s “brownshirts” responded to Alexander Rutskoi’s call to storm the Ostankino television center and the Kremlin.

Russian nationalists have been unable to turn their hero and martyr into a second Khodorkovsky.

So, maybe after all, “fascism” has not “seized Russia”(as Kasparov went on to say) no matter how much the State Duma raves, and no matter how outrageously the Investigative Committee behaves. Maybe it is not the time to cry “wolf,” as did the luckless boy from a well-known fairytale, and as do Kasparov and his sympathizers (such as Evgeny Ikhlov and Andrei Piontkovsky.)

However, it is probable that the reader does not recall the “martyr and hero,” and is at a loss as to whom I am talking about. I will remind him.


A bit of history

Vladimir Vasilevich Kvachkov is a retired colonel of Russian Military Intelligence (known as GRU). In 2005, he was accused of an assassination attempt on former privatization czar Anatoly Chubais, and was (naturally) aquitted by a jury three years later. It was in 2005 that he gave Prokhanov a very frank interview which included this revealing passage: “The moment of truth consists of whether one recognizes the current Russian government as an occupation force or not. For me, it is clear that Russia is occupied by a foreign government. That is why it is unacceptable to equate the attempts to liquidate the occupation’s most sinister organizers with common crimes. Their liquidation will be the first armed step of the national liberation war… The destruction of occupiers and their collaborators is not a crime, but a duty of every defendant of the Fatherland…regardless of whether he fights openly on the frontlines or takes action on the occupied territory of his country.”

As the reader realizes, the key words here are “war against a foreign government.” It is noteworthy that Kvachkov is talking about Putin’s Russia. Answering Ekho Moskvy anchor Olga Zhuravleva’s straightforward question — who “has conquered the Russian people” – Prokhanov named Chubais and the late Yegor Gaidar. Does it mean that Putin is Gaidar’s “ally?” One must admit that it all sounds crazy. Crazy a la Black Hundreds.


The Trial

Of course, Kvachkov is not being tried for his beliefs. In 2009, as the head of the Minin and Pozharsky Public Militia group, he wanted to organize a march of  provincial residents who, in his opinion, would all be of a Black Hundred mindset, on the “foreign government” in Moscow—in other words, to recreate the early 20th century Union of the Russian People. He did not succeed. Russia remained deaf to the Black Hundred appeals. The colonel changed tactics—he began to prepare an armed uprising in the city of Kovrov in the hope that the fire of a “national liberation struggle” would start from this spark. It was proven that Kvachkov’s supporters underwent military training for this purpose.


In his final statement before the court, Colonel Kvachkov insisted that Russia is currently under “Jewish occupation.”


In 2013, while in the dock, Kvachkov insisted that there is “a right to uprising” in Russia. A veritable Black Hundred maniac; although he sees that the country is not responding to fascist rhetoric, he still persists. “They should make nails out of these people,” said Nikolai Tikhonov, at the time a well-known poet. The problem is that Kvachkov does not want to be a nail, he wants to be a leader of the “patriotic cause.”

Indeed, it looks like he lives in a parallel world. What “right of uprising” is he talking about, when today’s Russia is deprived even of the simple right to change the government by means of a fair election? As far as I know, no sane person would accuse Central Electoral Commission chief Vladimir Churov of stealing votes to please some “foreign government.”


What follows?

Nothing special. Except maybe that while Kvachkov is in prison and not in the Kremlin, there is no point in scaring ourselves and each other. No, fascism has not “seized Russia;” the democratic opposition has not been crushed; it is not the time for the opposition’s Coordinating Council to raise the white flag and go underground. It is not public demoralization that is on the agenda, but maximum self-discipline.

While Kvachkov is in prison and not in the Kremlin, there is no point in scaring ourselves and each other. No, fascism has not “seized Russia.”

Self-discipline is needed because the comparatively “mild” authoritarianism of recent years is degenerating into a cruel one before our eyes. We must prevent what happened after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, when autocracy under Alexander III degenerated into a dictatorship, and “Pobedonostsev unfurled his owlish wings over Russia.” The poet Alexander Blok witnessed what happened then: “Pobedonostsev… had grabbed the helm of the state’s ship, and did not let go of it for a quarter of a century. Through his terrifying actions and the entrenched, sepulcral coldness of his theories, he became known as the old vampire.”

For those who have forgotten our country’s history, Konstantin Petrovich Pobyedonostsev, chief procurator of the Holy Synod, de facto ruled Russia from 1881 to 1905. I am not drawing analogies, though many remembered Nekrasov’s verse “there were worse times, but never fouler” during the Pobedonostsev era. That was a period of social stagnation and hopelessness, which lasted for an entire generation.  That is what today’s opposition has to deal with—after all, we are living in the 21st century. But it was not fascism either.

As for fascism, it is a very interesting academic topic, which I am ready to discuss even on these pages – calmly, without panic or mockery a la Leonid Radzikhovsky1. In fact, last year I published a small book entitled Why there will be no Fascism in Russia, in which I tried to summarize the experience of three unsuccessfull attempts to introduce fascism in Russia. In this small essay, I wanted to remind the reader of a fourth one—that of Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov.


1 A prominent pro-Kremlin columnist in Russia