One of the principal “nationalist” advisors of Gennady Zyuganov – the principal adversary of Boris Yeltsin during the June 16th presidental elections in Russia – granted us an exclusive interview on May 28th in Moscow: he’s Alexander Andreyevich Prokhanov, also the director of the national opposition paper Zavtra, the former director of Den (banned after the days of October 3-4 1993) and Sovetskaya Literatura, a monthly magazine before Perestroika, published in many languages where Russian literature progressively left the Marxist yoke to full rediscover its Russianness. This interview with A. A. Prokhanov will help our readers see the mysteries of Muscovite politics more clearly and also better understand the strange alliance between nationalists and socialists, between the “browns” and the “reds” as the sensationalist press said, which is being sealed in Russia, and could, in the case of “national-communists” victory, overturn the present relation of forces in Europe. (Loukian Strogoff)
Loukian Strogoff: In general you are considered by Western media as one of the principal “nationalist” advisors of the candidate Gennady Zyuganov. Russian national identity is always difficult to define for Westerners, who don’t recognize the divides to which they’re accustomed. Certain Russian nationalists prefer the definition of an “ethnic nation”, founded on the idea of a “majority people.” Such or such city or village would be Russian because it’s populated by a Russian majority. Other nationalists define the Russian nation as the heir of imperial Russia’s history. They call for the defense of Russia’s “traditional interests.” Is your reference the ethnic nation or the imperial nation?
Alexander Andreyevich Prokhanov: I quite prefer the second definition. For a long time, I’ve tried to understand why Russian nationalists haven’t united in a major movement. I have made efforts myself in favor of a Russian national conservative movement, but without any success until now. I believe that Russian man cannot rid himself of the imperial tradition. The purely ethnic approach raises more problems than it solves. What are we to think about millions of mixed marriages, interweaving peoples and languages. We’d also have to return territories where Russians are in the minority. The partisans of a “pure” ethnic nation are not numerous and form “exotic” groups. In general, Russian nationalism is synonymous with imperial consciousness. Nationalist and “imperialist” movements have dispersed their support to all candidates except Grigory Yavlinsky, who would be, from a certain point of view, the only candidate representing an “ethnically pure movement.”
Strogoff: How would you analyze the power relations between the “nationalist”, “social democratic”, and “orthodox communist” political forces that support Zyuganov’s candidacy?
Prokhanov: There are practically no “strict obedience” Communists and there hasn’t been for a long time. All the political and ideological elite firstly betrayed the Party by becoming “liberal” and forming the “democratic” camp. The people with pragmatic ideas, imbued with the ideal of a grand Soviet state remained in the Party. For them, the USSR represented communism. In particular I’m thinking about scientists, “builders,” the military. That’s the type of communist that predominates today in a Party where there are no longer ideological discussions as in the years 1905-1917. The present Party no longer pretends to have a monopoly on the truth. From this point of view, we can qualify it as parliamentary and “social-democratic.” I do not doubt that in the case of victory it will retain this orientation. It’s in a period of transition. Bit by bit, it’s becoming the party of Russian interests, where the idea of justice and social harmony dominates and in which people who perceive the world in a rational, but also irrational manner, I mean believers, are found. Provisionally, we can effectively qualify it as “national-communist.” Two sources of energy animate it: the energy of the wounded nation and the energy of social suffering.
Strogoff: They’ve accused Zyuganov of antisemitism because in his book “I Believe in Russia”, he wrote: “The Jewish diaspora traditionally controls the financial life of the continent and increasingly becomes the principal inspiration of the Western socioeconomic system every day.” Do you think that Zyuganov is antisemitic?
Prokhanov: In Russia, as in Europe, a situation has been created where anyone who intends to speak about the relationship of Jews to society is qualified as antisemitic. Relations between Russians and Jews are indeed troubled, as they’ve always been, because there has been much suffering on both sides. Zyuganov, as a political analyst, speaks about questions that are beyond the scope of Russia. But he’s not antisemitic. As a statesman, he must take into account all the forces of the country and try to restore justice and harmony wherever they’ve been trampled.
Strogoff: Yeltsin is clearly the foreigner’s candidate, [the candidate] of globalist financial forces. But what about Yavlinsky? Should he be considered the foreigner’s backup candidate? Is the continuation of his candidacy explained by an order from abroad or simply by the fact that he’s shown himself to be too greedy during his haggling with Yeltsin?
Prokhanov: Two types of politicians gravitate around Yeltsin; the first we can qualify as “national capitalists” and the others I like to call “compradors.” The conflict between them is permanent. At a certain moment, Yeltsin separated from the radical liberals. He filled his administration with the national-capitalists and, in this sense, we can no longer say that he’s absolutely a creature of the United States. And the interests of the radical liberals actually find themselves represented by Yavlinsky who is thus not a backup candidate but an autonomous creature, a “pure product.” The conflict between Yeltsin and Yavlinsky arises from two different visions of the world. It’s a conflict between divergent capitalist clans and interests. Today, the national-capitalists, the “hardliners,” the “defense ministers” around General Korzhakov, are the pillars on which Yeltsin leans to counterbalance the influence of the other pole constituted by the “compradors” like his economic advisor Livshits and his prime minister Chernomyrdin. This second pole is close to Yavlinsky.
Strogoff: Already during the summer of 1995, Oleg Boyko, speaking in the name of a certain number of bankers, asked for the postponement legislative elections in exchange for financial support for the highest levels of the state. In a way, he wanted to “privatize” the presidency of Russia and the federal government. He declared: “The choice is between capitalism and democracy.” Today, “the letter of 13” (bankers and major businessmen) demands a historical compromise and a national unity government that would preserve their interests. They’re using civil war as blackmail. What do you think about this development? Should Gennady Zyuganov agree to discuss such a compromise before the elections?
Prokhanov: The threat of civil war is not an abstraction. If it was a myth, it would not be used as an instrument of psychological war. The situation is so hostile that it prevents any rebirth of the country today. The present opposing forces cancel each other. These 13 bankers that we call the “13 vampires” have a motivation hidden from public opinion: the fear of a new coup by Yeltsin relying on the “national capitalists.” This group would then be in a position of major strength and the clan of the “compradors” around Chernomyrdin, who serves these 13 bankers, could be the next victims of a sort of “right wing fascism.” We must remember the conflict last year between General Korzhakov and Vladimir Gusinsky, president of the financial and media group Most, recently elected president of the Russian Jewish Congress after a few months of exile in Russia. It’s this fear, not of the “national-communists” but of the “national-capitalists” that has forced them to formulate compromise proposals between different political forces.
Strogoff: In the case of Gennady Zyuganov’s victory, what would be the urgent priority measures that your biweekly paper Zavtra would demand from the new government
Prokhanov: We aren’t seeking vengeance. An amnesty would be necessary to recover social peace. We will honor our dead. Vengeance will only come from God and mercy, from the head of state.
Strogoff: You were the quasi-official chronicler of the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan. How do you judge the advisability and the results of the Russian military campaign in Chechnya, in particular in light of the “cease-fire” that was just signed in the Kremlin?
Prokhanov: The conflict in Chechnya is the result of the development of a criminal world, in Grozny as in Moscow. In fact it’s a settling of scores between mafia groups. That’s why this war wasn’t really a war. It was “instrumentalized” by the oil, drug, etc lobbies. To my knowledge, they are the emissaries of Chernomyrdin who has agreements with Chechen leaders about a new re-allotment of profits from existing and planned oil pipelines. For the moment Yeltsin has stopped the war and can derive an electoral benefit from it, but nothing is essentially resolved and the criminalization of the Caucasus has been boosted by this war. Criminal empires don’t have the right to exist.
Strogoff: Evgeny Primakov seems to have given a certain coherence to Russian diplomacy. The minister of the interior, Anatoly Kulikov, also gives the impression of being a serious and upright man. Could these two ministers, in your opinion, retain their posts in the context of a new administration?
Prokhanov: It’s possible. Knowing Gennady Zyuganov well and his prudent approach in matters of change, he could only appreciate a specialist like Primakov, a brilliant representative of the Soviet diplomatic tradition. He’s doubtlessly unique. He could reestablish the situation after the departure of Kozyrev, the pawn of the Americans. So he could be very useful. Kulikov is also a good specialist. We haven’t forgotten how he killed many of our friends on the 3rd and 4th of October 1993. Nevertheless he has certain merits. The most important is having refused to participate in the planned coup last March 17th that started with the occupation of the Duma for a few hours. His declared intention at the start of the year to control the anti-national banks and his attempts to fight against corruption in his ministries could also plead in his favor.
Strogoff: Certain Western European countries, in particular France, strive to free the European Union from American tutelage. Should a new government in Russia support such a path towards a “Europe for Europeans?”
Prokhanov: All that has come from Europe to Russia has been negative. For us the West is a synonym for evil. Politicians are interested in a move away from a United States of Europe, because American withdrawal would weaken it. There are knots of contradictions that would fortunately handicap its influence on Russia. For the most part, the European Union is an illusion as the contradictions between France and Germany on the occasion of the conflict in the Balkans, which Russia played a part in, show. It will continue in this way. The refocusing of American policy towards Asia could make the United States a partner of Russia in this region.
Interviewer: Loukian Strogoff