Russian lawmakers are strange people. In mid-September the
Geopolitics Committee of the Duma spent two hours debating whether or
not to nuke the Chechens. Some observers might think they weren’t
serious, but according to the committee chairman, Alexei V. Mitrofanov,
“We discussed it as a perfectly workable option.”
Of course they did.
Splattering small countries is always a workable option, but hurting
small animals is not. On Dec. 1 the Duma passed an animal rights bill.
When Boris Yeltsin signs this bill, Russians will no longer be allowed
to eat their pets. The new Russian law also prohibits individuals from
performing unnecessary operations on “animal companions,” or killing
them for fur. The bill was passed 273 votes to one.
Like most legislative bodies, the Duma knows what the country wants.
Kommersant, a Russian daily, ran a story on Dec. 2 entitled, “Russia
will be able to buy Alaska legally.”
On the same day Russian lawmakers passed a 22-page bill protecting
animals, they were also passing a draft bill that would open the door to
enlarging the Russian Federation. In other words, the Duma has proposed
a “legal” mechanism for increasing the number of Russian subject
territories. This is sinister insofar as Russia has been mobilizing and
perfecting its military machine in recent months.
The Crimea was mentioned in the Kommersant article as one of the
territories Russian lawmakers would like to “fight for.” But let’s not
be fooled. This sort of talk is probably clever misdirection, especially
since like-minded Communist oligarchs — in democratic garb, of course
— run both
Ukraine and Russia (the two countries that lay claim to Crimea).
According to Vladimir Lopatin of the Russian Regions faction, the new
law for adding new territories would enable Russia to expand the
federation, opening the way to the absorption of former Soviet republics
“that are now looking where to join in.”
Are these lawmakers serious? Russia’s democratically elected leaders
don’t act or talk like Western leaders at all. Their rhetoric has a
brutal ring to all but animal rights activists. A popular joke in Russia
maintains that “if building Communism is like taking an aquarium and
making fish soup
of it, then building capitalism from Communism is like taking the fish
soup and trying to reconstitute the aquarium.”
Perhaps the most notorious Duma member, and Russia’s foremost
political clown, is Vladimir Wolfovich Zhirinovsky. He is a funny guy,
and one in a long line of Russian political buffoons. We should recall
that even Soviet leaders sometimes acted like clowns. General Secretary
Khrushchev, for example, once removed his shoe at the United Nations and
banged it on the table. Even more funny, while traveling in Yugoslavia
he once fell into the mud, wrestling with his driver over who would get
to change a flat tire.
Zhirinovksy was born in the capital of Kazakhstan, now called Almaty,
in 1946. He studied Oriental languages specializing in Turkish. Later he
went to Turkey as part of a Soviet trade delegation, and it is believed
he was working undercover for the KGB. At least that’s what Turkish
believed, because they unceremoniously deported him for “spreading
In March 1991 Zhirinovsky founded the Liberal Democratic Party of the
Soviet Union. This is a humorous enough name for a party whose leader
has KGB credentials and who postures as a fascist. After all, Communist
propaganda has long maintained that liberal democracy is essentially
in its tendencies. So why not invent a Liberal Democrat in accordance
with stereotypical Communist thinking?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union Zhirinovsky changed his
party’s name to the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In the December
1993 elections Zhirinovksy’s party received more votes than any other
Zhirinovksy’s political platform is simple. He wants to reoccupy the
republics of the former Soviet Union. But why stop there? He also wants
Russian soldiers to “wash their boots” in the Gulf of Oman and the
Arabian Sea. “The majority of mankind,” says Zhirinovksy, “is interested
in dissecting the Muslim world. The Muslim peril has to be eliminated.”
Zhirinovsky’s attitude toward Turkey is quite negative. He has said that
if Turkey ceased to exist nobody would care.
Zhirinovksy loves the Serbs. “We are one nation,” he said to them.
“We have one religion.” Zhirinovksy also says that “Russians … should
have holidays on Adriatic beaches.” On Czech TV, Feb. 8, 1994,
Zhirinovksy said, “To bomb Serbian towns is the same as bombing Russian
Zhirinovksy has talked openly of mass destruction warfare. “If
certain Western circles were to provoke a civil war in Russia, nuclear
and chemical weapons might get out of control.” Zhirinovsky also says
that “Russia has far more dangerous weapons than nuclear weapons.” It is
Zhirinovksy was the first Russian politician to utter the battle cry now
repeated by the leading Russian generals. Five years ago he said that
“NATO is drawing close to Russia’s borders. It wants to send its troops
to the Baltic countries and Transcaucasia, the Black Sea, the Barents
Sea and the Balkans.”
In 1992 Zhirinovksy was several years ahead of his time. He was also
the first Russian politician to suggest the annexation of Alaska. The
United States, he suggested, would not offer resistance when Russia
reclaims Alaska. In fact, the U.S. “will perish of its own accord. …”
Zhirinovksy says that President Clinton is “a weakling.” This, of
course, is a gift to Russia. “We will not gloat,” he says, “when
California joins Mexico, when a Negro republic is created in Miami and
when the Russians take back Alaska.”
Clowns, of course, are supposed to be funny. The whole Russian
parliament, in this sense, is an occasion for humor. A little over a
week from today there will be elections in Russia. New Duma members will
arrive to pronounce new jokes. Russia’s electoral circus will present
yet another show. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Russia hails from the
ranks of the secret police. The General Staff is mumbling about nuclear
God willing, next year we will be entertained by Russia’s
presidential elections. Russia’s dipsomaniac president, Boris Yeltsin,
will then step down.
Russia is a strange country.