By Paul Goble
United Press International

World Peace Herald
November 17, 2005
A group of extreme right Russian nationalists plans to re-establish the notoriously anti-Semitic Union of the Russian People next week on the 100th anniversary of a movement often referred to as the Black Hundreds by both its supporters and opponents.

The organizers have formed a committee, announced their program, and done what any aspiring political movement in the Russian Federation now does: they have launched a website, one whose contents provide a disturbing glimpse into the mental state of those proud to identify with that late tsarist era group. (srn.rusk.ru).

According to the appeal of the committee, its predecessor was “an all-strata organization that symbolized the collective unity of the Russian people … a unity based on the spirit of and faithfulness to the fundamental principles of Russian society and the Russian state: ORTHODOXY, AUTOCRACY AND NATIONALITY.”

The original Union of the Russian People, the site continues, was so successful in its actions that it was able to ward off the revolution that ultimately destroyed the Russian Empire for 12 whole years — an accomplishment that should be both a source of pride and an inspiration for today’s Russians.

“It is possible,” the site acknowledges, “that for some this will not be a holiday — for those whose hearts and minds are given over to the pursuit of material things, imprisoned by the idea of survival or enrichment and contaminated by the contemporary mass media to the point of losing national self-consciousness.”

“But the majority of serious Russian people,” it continues, “cannot pass by such an event with indifference especially since it is connected with the unique fate of our people in the 20th century” and because underscores the fact that while “one man can praise Russia,” the site points out, “only together can we save Russia.”

Since the collapse of communism, Russian nationalists have tried on several occasions to re-establish this group, but all have failed either because of official disapproval or more often because of squabbling among organizers as to just what the group should do under new conditions.

But now, those who want to see the revival of this notorious Union appear to have a better chance, both because the climate in official and public opinion seems to be going their way and because Russians on the extreme right appear to believe that only by getting organized can they achieve their goals.

Evidence of the new climate in which this group is operating includes a conference held at the end of October devoted to the centenary of the Union of the Russian People — the new site lists the papers given there — and the fact that the new group’s “restoration” congress is to occur in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

But an indication that its organizers have not departed from the original goals of their group’s namesake includes hypertext links to articles lauding Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Purishkevich — “He was better than his reputation” — and Shabelskiy Bork, the man who assassinated the father of Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov.

The meeting of the new Union of the Russian People next week is thus likely to provide the clearest indication yet of just how influential this odious trend in Russia has yet again become — whether those who share its ideas will remain on the margins of Russian life or seek to capture its center.

(Paul Goble teaches at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia.)