Sergei Shargunov announced the death of the writer and dissident Eduard Limonov today, at the age of 77, on the Russian opposition site mediazona, an announcement confirmed by a brief communique from the political party Drugaya Rossiya (The Other Russia), founded on July 10th 2010 by Eduard Limonov, after the ban on the National Bolshevik Party, in 2006. “Today, March 17th, Eduard Limonov died in Moscow. All details will be given tomorrow,” the party explained in a messaged published on its Internet site.
Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko, better known as Eduard Limonov was born on February 22nd 1943, in Dzerzhinsk in the USSR. A journalist, we discovered him, about thirty years ago through his prodigious punk reports in the late Jean-Edern Hallier’s L’Idiot international. Then he returned to Russia. To attempt a coup d’etat, which he failed. He succeeded at other exploits. Limonov experienced everything. Prison and great books. An old fellow traveler of Éléments, the Russian writer came to greet the editorial team during his last Parisian trip, in June 2019, on the occasion of a report on the Yellow Vests. Limonov came to Paris to meet them, see them, learn directly from them. “There is a “left-right” mixture with them that pleases me,” he confided to us in his last interview, published in September 2019, which we publish below.
ÉLÉMENTS: What has Putin done to make you hate him so much? Has he not accomplished more than the author of “The Manifesto of Russian Nationalism” could hope for? Has he stolen your dream: the restoration of Russian power?
EDUARD LIMONOV: For his first term in 1999, Vladimir Putin was an altogether classic liberal politician, of which we’ve had far too many, who surrounded himself with liberal playboys like Berlusconi or your president Sarkozy. So I had every reason to be against him. And no, he didn’t steal my dream because our social and economic system still remains deeply liberal. Putin should settle this contradiction. Today, Russia is a more unequal country than India! 1% of the population possesses more than 60% of the national wealth. In the United States, not an especially egalitarian society, the richest 1% only possesses 35% of the national wealth. So long as that’s true, the National Bolshevik Party will defend the idea of a less unequal society. That said, Putin has changed. He has aged. He has become wiser, more serious. There was evidently a turning point after Dmitri Medvedev’s shift as president. I don’t detest Putin. My opinion on him has evolved. As chief of state, he’s better than Boris Yeltsin. But he remains the leader of a bourgeois state where the oligarchs have all the rights and the citizens have very few. Nevertheless we must recognize that, in the present cold war against the West, he holds patriotic positions.
ÉLÉMENTS: One has the impression that your opinion on the Soviet Union has changed. Before the fall of the regime, you didn’t spare it your criticisms, but it was different when it collapsed: you started to miss certain aspects and show a certain nostalgia. Was it your opinion that evolved or instead should we view it as a way of remaining faithful to your status as an opponent of both regimes?
EDUARD LIMONOV: I’m much less nostalgic than any other political reader! I never dwell on figures like Stalin, in order to keep him to myself. I never considered the Soviet model in model terms. I’m not really nostalgic, my soul is too practical. I think to the future instead.
ÉLÉMENTS: Are you the leader of a party or the leader of a literary school?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Alas I consider myself a failed politician! I reminded my country of a few important ideas, like patriotism, in an era when the government was completely under the liberal scythe.
ÉLÉMENTS: Would you prefer a coup d’etat to succeed instead of your books?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Certainly for a coup d’etat to succeed. I was forced to hide myself behind my books.
ÉLÉMENTS: Physically, you’re often compared to Trotsky. What’s your opinion on this personality who, according to you, succeeded with his coup d’etat?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Trotsky was an important personality in the Russian Revolution, perhaps more important than Lenin, a brilliant tactician, founder of the Red Army. Malaparte was right to say that he was the genius of the coup d’etat. But these comparisons with personalities from the past are very approximate and ultimately reveal nothing about me. It’s been fashionable since Emmanuel Carrère’s novel: one day I’m a Russian Jack London, then the next a sort of “Soviet Barry Lyndon.” Ultimately that means nothing.
ÉLÉMENTS: What became of the National Bolshevik Party? Why the split with Alexander Dugin? Is it because you do not share his great Eurasian dream? To be honest, for us readers of authors in the National Bolshevik galaxy, it’s rather mysterious. We imagine you’re a hundred times closer to Zakhar Prilepin and Alexander Dugin, but you admittedly followed Gary Kasparov, a liberal, for a time. Why?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Firstly, Kasparov is an idiot and a coward. Secondly, the reasons for my split with Alexander Dugin have no importance in my opinion. He’s a estimable thinker, but not the leader of a political party. As for the rest, I’m not interested in origin mythologies. It’s certainly interesting in the world of ideas, but politically speaking, the Eurasian idea is no more defensible than Pan-Slavism for example. Eurasianism was a dream of a few politicians and exalted savants, who failed in Prague.
ÉLÉMENTS: What memories do you retain from your Parisian visit in the 1990s.
EDUARD LIMONOV: Principally, the meetings of the editorial team of L’Idiot international at the place des Vosges, in Jean-Edern Hallier’s big apartment. For the first time in France, writers of the left rubbed shoulders with writers of the right. I met Alain de Benoist there for the first time too…
I remember one day, while we waited for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the boss of the FN, and Henri Krasucki, the boss of the CGT, Philippe Sollers was at the piano playing L’Internationale. Curious, no? The France of that time wasn’t accustomed to such a “red-brown” salad in the same dish.
ÉLÉMENTS: Since the death of Jean-Edern Hallier, is there still something to do in France?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Ah Jean-Edern, I miss him! He wasn’t courageous, a bit weak, his head was always somewhere else, but I miss him. Of course, there is always something to expect from the French people, the Yellow Vests for example. They represent a hope, an example for us Russians. I came to Paris to meet them, see them, learn from them directly on the spot. There is a “left-right” mixture with them that pleases me, a bit like the National Bolshevik Party that we created in 1992, with Alexander Dugin. We were early. Today France is catching up with us.
ÉLÉMENTS: How do you view the “great Western hospice”? More than ever as a nursing home, a holiday resort club, a tomb?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Curiously, I was more pessimistic for Western Europe at the time than today. I thought Europe was lost. I crossed the whole of Paris with an enormous crowd of Yellow Vests, which reminded me of the great demonstrations in Moscow in the 1980s. I was impressed by the crowd. I follow every act of the Yellow Vests and I reported on them this Sunday in Russian papers and websites.
ÉLÉMENTS: You were also close to the writer Patrick Besson at the time …
EDUARD LIMONOV: A lot of talent, but always a bit timid politically. He became a sort of bourgeois writer, no? Big and fat with bourgeois thoughts that go with it. He always thought in terms of bourgeois success, too sarcastic and ironic to have a political mind. One day, he came to Moscow for an article. He was only preoccupied by useless details of life and his translator’s eyes. Typically bourgeois. Like his reactions. He thought that politics was a “side” career for me, “not serious.” Hold on Besson, we have seventeen dead! I was condemned to four years in prison. And you say that politics isn’t serious! Every year, I go to the cemetery for my comrades.
ÉLÉMENTS: Where do you situate yourself politically? Are the red and the brown still your trademark colors?
EDUARD LIMONOV: I’m still a radical. I still say to my friends that we must be more radical now than we were twenty years ago. I even predict: “Your children will be worse off than you!” Furthermore, it’s an ordeal to wrench them from their computers!
ÉLÉMENTS: Is violent action still on the agenda? Do you continue to read chapters of the Nobel Prize biologist Konrad Lorenz’s “On Agression,” and celebrate raw force, vital spirit and energy? The barbarians? The Golden Horde?
EDUARD LIMONOV: Violence is more necessary than ever. Aggression is political.
Interview published in the August 2019 issue, Éléments n°179