Vladimir Zhirinovsky


Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky ( _ru. Влади́мир Во́льфович Жирино́вский, born April 25, 1946 as Vladimir Volfovich Eidelstein) is a Russian politician, founder and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vice-Chairman of the State Duma, and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Despite its name, LDPR is often described as an ultra-nationalist party. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7102153.stMoscow Diary: Campaign circus] BBC News, 20 November 2007] [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9115420/Zhirinovsky-Vladimir "Zhirinovsky, Vladimir" Encyclopædia Britannica Online] ] [ [http://en.rian.ru/russia/20071213/92278399.html Russian ultranationalist Zhirinovsky nominated for president] RIA Novosti, 13/ 12/ 2007] [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,980142,00.html Zhirinovsky Beat Russia's top ultranationalist had a busy week abroad] "Time Magazine", Feb. 14, 1994]

Early life and politics

Zhirinovsky was born in Alma-Ata, the former capital of the then-Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. In July 1964, Zhirinovsky moved from Alma-Ata to Moscow, where he began his studies in the Department of Turkish Studies, Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University (MSU), from which he graduated in 1969. Zhirinovsky then went into military service in Tbilisi during the early 1970s. He would later get a law degree and work at various posts in state committees and unions. He was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophy by MSU in 1998.

Zhirinovsky, whose father was a Polish Jew, began his formal political career in the Shalom Cultural Society, a Jewish organization given support by the Soviet government in order to compete with independent Jewish groups which sprang up during the era of "glasnost" under the tenure of Mikhail Gorbachev in the latter part of the decade. [ [http://www.jcpa.org/cjc/cjc-satanovsky-s02.htm Organized National Life of Russian Jews in the Late Soviet and Post-Soviet Era: a View from Moscow] ] [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE4D81239F935A25751C1A965958260 In Moscow, Zhirinovsky Is Remembered as Jewish Advocate] , "The New York Times", December 16, 1993 ] (On a private visit to Israel in June 2006, Zhirinovsky paid his first visit to the grave of his father, Wolf Isakovich Eidelstein, who is buried in Holon, Israel.cite news|first=Yossi|last=Melman|url=http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/732918.html|title=The Jewish Side of the Family|publisher="Haaretz"|date=2006-06-30] )

Although he participated in some underground reformist groups, Zhirinovsky was largely inconsequential in Soviet political developments during the 1980s. While he contemplated a role in politics, a nomination attempt for a seat as a People's Deputy in 1989 was quickly abandoned. [ [http://www.panorama.ru/works/oe/zhirinoe.html Zhirinovsky Vladimir Volfovich] Panorama.ru]

Liberal-Democratic Party

In 1990, Zhirinovsky, along with Vladimir Bogachev, took initiatives which led to the founding of the Liberal Democratic Party, the second registered party in the Soviet Union and therefore the first officially sanctioned opposition party. This party was a joint project of Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) leadership and the KGB according to former CPSU Politburo member Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev. Yakovlev wrote in his memories that KGB director Vladimir Kryuchkov presented the project of the puppet LDPR party at a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev and informed him about a selection of the LDPR leader. According to Yakovlev, the name of the party was invented by KGB General Philipp Bobkov. However Bobkov said that he was against the creation of this "Zubatov's pseudo-party under KGB control that directs interests and sentiments of certain social groups". [ Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev "Time of darkness", Moscow, 2003, ISBN 5-85646-097-9, page 574 ( _ru. Яковлев А. Сумерки. Москва: Материк 2003 г.). The book provides an official copy of a document providing the initial LDPR funding (3 million rubles) from the CPSU money]

Zhirinovsky's first political breakthrough came in June 1991 when he came in third at Russia's first presidential elections, gathering more than six million votes or 7.81%. Afterwards, the LDPR garnered a reputation as an ineffective vehicle for opposition against the government, and one that lacked either credibility or authenticity, particularly given Zhirinovsky's vocal support for the Soviet coup attempt of 1991. This view was further encouraged by rumors, denied by Zhirinovsky, that he was an agent of the KGB and that the LDPR was a farcical creation meant to either discredit or distract earnest opposition to the government. Such impressions would last even as the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Communist Party itself was thrown into an opposition role.

Nonetheless, the Liberal-Democratic Party remained an important force in Russian politics. At the height of its fortunes, the LDPR gathered 23% of the vote in the 1993 Duma elections and achieved a broad representation throughout the country - the LDPR being the top vote-getter in 64 out of 87 regions. This fact encouraged Zhirinovsky to once again vie for the presidential office, this time against incumbent Boris Yeltsin. The fact that Yeltsin's candidacy seemed seriously challenged by Russian nationalist groups and a rejuvenated Communist Party alarmed many outside observers, particularly in the Western world, who were concerned that such developments posed a serious threat to the survival of Russian democracy, already in a very fragile state. Zhirinovsky became a focal point of harsh criticism and seemed to be the living embodiment of authoritarianism and militarism in modern Russia.

For his own part, Zhirinovsky has done a great deal to foster a reputation as a loud and boisterous populist who speaks on behalf of the Russian nation and people, even when the things he says are precisely what many people, at home or abroad, do not want to hear. Zhirinovsky infamously promised voters in 1991 that if he were elected, free vodka would be distributed to all. Similarly, he once remarked, during a political rally inside a Moscow department store, that if he were made president, underwear would be freely available.cite news|first=Kevin|last=Fedarko|url=http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,979889,00.html|title=A Farce to Be Reckoned With|publisher="TIME"|date=1993-12-27] He has on several occasions been involved in altercations with other politicians and debate opponents. As a candidate, Zhirinovsky also took part in the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections, promising a "police state". [http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,538403,00.html Nuclear Threats and Busty Ladies in the Race for Second-Place in Russia] "Der Spiegel", February 28, 2008]

Controversies

Zhirinovsky has been widely accused of anti-Semitism (he also suggested that Jews were often to blame for anti-Semitism) for statements in which he accused Jews of ruining Russia, sending Russian women to foreign countries as prostitutes, selling children and organs to the Western world, and provoking the Holocaust. He repeatedly denied his father's Jewishness until he published "Ivan Close Your Soul" in July 2001, describing how his father, Volf Isaakovich Eidelshtein, changed his surname from Eidelshtein to Zhirinovsky. He rhetorically asked, "Why should I reject Russian blood, Russian culture, Russian land, and fall in love with the Jewish people only because of that single drop of blood that my father left in my mother's body?" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1446759.stm Zhirinovsky admits Jewish roots] BBC News, 19 July, 2001]

Zhirinovsky is well known for his boasts pertaining to other countries, having expressed a desire to reunite countries of the ex-Soviet "near abroad" with Russia to within the Russia's borders of 1900 (including Finland and Poland). He also said he's dreaming of a day "when Russian soldiers can wash their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and switch to year-round summer uniforms", [http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/12/08/1070732141347.html Ultra-right gains in poll] "The Age", December 9, 2003] following the Russia's conquest of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey and occupation of the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_n4_v10/ai_14800970 Zhirinovsky is Russia's big bad wolf - success of Vladimir Wolfovich Zhirinovsky in recent Russian elections - Column] ] Zhirinovsky has advocated forcibly retaking Alaska from the United States (which would then become "a great place to put the Ukrainians"), turning Kazakhstan into "Russia's back yard", dumping nuclear waste in Germany and in the Baltic states, provoking wars between the clans and the peoples of the former Soviet Union and occupying what will remain of it when the wars are over, and using nuclear weapons and naval blockade-imposed starvation against Japan. [http://www.acs.brockport.edu/~dgusev/Russian/vzbio.html Vladimir Zhirinovsky] Information Technology Services at SUNY Brockport]

In July 2007, in response to questions about Russian troops carrying out extensive war games which reportedly included rehearsals of a Baltic invasion, Zhirinovsky, who encourages separatism within the Russian minority in the Baltic states, endorsed the forcible re-occupation of these countries. [ [http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/18220/ Russia threatens Baltic missile build-up] "The Baltic Times", Jul 05, 2007] Russia’s southern neighbor Georgia has been another frequent target of Zhirinovsky’s rhetoric. [ [http://english.pravda.ru/world/ussr/5516-0/ Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Georgia brings trouble to Russia.] Pravda.ru. May 10, 2004.] Highly critical of Georgia’s pro-Western line, [Teresa Whitfield (2007), Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict, p. 155. US Institute of Peace Press, ISBN 1601270054] he is an energetic supporter of the Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia. In a high-profile incident in August 2004, he departed on a campaign to promote a tourist season in Abkhazia, accompanied by dozens of his party activists and Russian journalists aboard a cruise ship which was briefly intercepted by a Georgian coast guard vessel. [Inal Khashig (August 19 2004), [http://iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=159919&apc_state=henicrs2004 Abkhazia Revels in Nationalist’s Visit.] Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Reporting Service No. 247.] He also declared Bulgaria should annex the Republic of Macedonia. About Romania, he said it is an artificial state supposedly created by Italian Gypsies who seized territory from Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Zhirinovsky hailed what he described as "the democratic process" in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, whom he supported strongly. The friendship dated at least until the first Gulf War in 1991, during which time Zhirinovsky sent several armed volunteers from the "Falcons of Zhirinovsky" group to support the Iraqi president. Allegations have dogged Zhirinovsky closely since the fall of Baghdad that he personally profited from illicit oil sales as part of the Oil-for Food scandal, a charge investigated in 2005 by the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Oil-for-Food Programme (Volcker Commission) and the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). [PDFlink|http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate/pdf/109hrg/21438.pdf|78.0 MiB ] Zhirinovsky is also close to the Serbian ultra-nationalist leader and war crimes suspect Vojislav Šešelj. He reportedly even praised Adolf Hitler's ideology of Nazism and befriended Edwin Neuwirth (an Austrian industialist and a "proud" former officer of the Waffen-SS who has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews during World War II), leading the German press to denounce him as the "Russia's Hitler". [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979934-1,00.html Hello, I Must Be Going] "Time Magazine", Jan. 10, 1994]

Zhirinovsky has expressed admiration for the 1996 United States presidential election contender Pat Buchanan, and referred positively to a comment in which Buchanan labeled the United States Congress "Israeli-occupied territory". Zhirinovsky said that both countries were "under occupation" and that "to survive, we could set aside places on US and Russian territories to deport this small but troublesome tribe." Buchanan strongly rejected Zhirinovsky's endorsement, saying he would provide safe haven to persecuted minorities if Zhirinovsky were ever elected Russia's president, eliciting a harsh response by Zhirinovsky: "You soiled your pants as soon as you got my congratulations. Who are you afraid of? Zionists?" [http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/3063/edition_id/54/format/html/displaystory.html Russia's Zhirinovsky now blasts Buchanan as 'crap'] "Jewish News Weekly", March 1, 1996] Previously, during the 1992 visit to the United States, Zhirinovsky called on television "for the preservation of the white race" and warned that the white Americans were in danger of turning "their country" over to black and Hispanic people. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03EED6153EF935A35752C1A962958260 The World; Here Comes the Clown. No Joke.] "The New York Times", November 6, 1994] Besides expressing his hatred for Turks and Caucasians, he also called for the deportation of all Chinese from Russian Far East. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=SX4B7pNG3W8C The Beast Reawakens] By Martin A. Lee]

In 1999, at the start of the Second Chechen War, Zhirinovsky, the ardent supporter of the first war in Chechnya in the mid-1990s, advocated hitting some Chechen villages with tactical nuclear weapons. [ [http://www.rferl.org/specials/russianelection/archives/07-171299.asp Russian Parliamentary Election 1999] RFE/RL, 17 December 1999] In 2006, in answer to the Ramzan Kadyrov's support for polygamy in Chechnya, he said it should be applied across Russia. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4610396.stm Polygamy proposal for Chechen men] BBC News, 13 January 2006] To eradicate bird flu, Zhirinovsky proposed arming all of Russia's population and ordering them and the troops to shoot down the migrant birds returning to Russia from wintering. [ [http://news.rin.ru/eng/news///6243/ Action for protection of birds from Zhirinovsky to be held in Moscow] ] He has also threatened to remove restrictions on arms sales to Iran and proposed to sell the disputed Kurile Islands to Japan for $50m. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/667745.stm Zhirinovsky: Russia's political eccentric] BBC News, March 10, 2000] Among his early threats, Zhirinovsky claimed Russia possesses "Elipton," a weapon of mass destruction supposedly more powerful than nuclear weapons.

In 2005, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan declared Zhirinovsky "persona non grata" on the territory of his historical homeland, due to the politician's controversial speech about the change of the Russia-Kazakhstan border, in which he questioned the Kazakh people's place in history. Zhirinovsky maintains his view, claiming that his position is backed by a number of academic works on history and geography. [ru icon [http://lenta.ru/russia/2005/02/10/zhirinovsky1/ Жириновскому запретили приезжать на историческую родину] from Lenta.ru] As of 2006, Zhirinovsky was "persona non grata" also in Ukraine following his statements regarding the January 2006 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute (this was revoked in 2007). In reaction to Condoleezza Rice's criticism of Russian foreign policy during the dispute, Zhirinovsky stated that "Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers [and] needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied." [ [http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/16724_Condoleezza.html Condoleezza Rice's anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems] "Pravda", 11.01.2006] In the past, Zhirinovsky has been expelled from Bulgaria for insulting its president and was also barred from entry to Germany.

On the November 2006 death by poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, Zhirinovsky said: "Any traitor must be eliminated using any methods. If you have joined the special services to work, then you should work, but to betray, to run away abroad, to give up the secrets you learned while working - all of this looks bad." [http://www.ebru.tv/en/News/a.503.html Former KGB Agent Dies] Associated Press, 24 November 2006] [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061124/spy_kremlin_061125/20061126?hub=TopStories Dead ex-spy claimed Russian agent monitored him] CTV, Nov. 25 2006] Sergei Abeltsev, Zhirinovsky's former bodyguard and State Duma member from the LDPR, added: "The deserved punishment reached the traitor. I am sure his terrible death will be a warning to all the traitors that in Russia the treason is not to be forgiven. I would recommend to citizen Berezovsky to avoid any food at the commemoration for his crime accomplice Litvinenko."ru icon cite web
title = Address to Duma by Sergei Abeltsev
publisher = Duma
date = 25 November 2006
url =http://wbase.duma.gov.ru/steno/nph-sdb.exe?B0CW%5bF11&24.11.2006&F11&&F11&&F258&^&%5dH2512
accessdate = 2007-11-20
] In the 2007 election, political patronage from Zhirinovsky enabled Litvinenko murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi to win election to the Russian parliament and thus the formal parliamentary immunity. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/7252639.stm Interview with Lugovoi] BBC Hard Talk, 19 February 2008] During the resulting political row between the United Kingdom and Russia, Zhirinovsky accused Great Britain (according to him "the most barbaric country on the planet") of, among other things, fomenting the World War I, the October Revolution, World War II, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, [ [http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?story_id=24823&action_id=2 Zhirinovsky Engages in Street Theater] , "The St. Petersburg Times", January 25, 2008] and suggested dropping nuclear bombs over the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to flood Britain.

Zhirinovsky also has a history of igniting personal violence in political contexts. In his notorious debate with Boris Nemtsov in 1995 a "juice fight" broke out. [ru icon [http://www.vesti.ru/news.html?id=34546 Жириновский снова брызнул соком] from Vesti.ru] In 2003, Zhirinovsky engaged in a fistfight after a television debate with Mikhail Delyagin. [ [http://www.eng.yabloko.ru/Publ/2003/PAPERS/11/031124_mt.html Zhirinovsky Gets Into Fistfight After Televised Election Debate] "The Moscow Times", November 24, 2003 (mirrored by yabloko.ru)] In 2005, Zhirinovsky ignited a brawl in the parliament by spitting at a Rodina party legislator, Andrei Saveliyev. [ [http://newsfromrussia.com/main/2005/03/30/58932.html Flamboyant Russian lawmaker in parliament chamber brawl] News from Russia] In 2008, he has showed himself shooting a rifle at the targets representing his political rivals. During the 2008 televised presidential debate, he threatened Nikolai Gotsa, the representative of Democratic Party of Russia candidate Andrei Bogdanov with violence, saying he's going to "smash his head" and ordering his bodyguard to "shoot that bastard over there in the corridor". Gotsa sued Zhirinovsky in civil court for 1 million rubles (approximately US$38,000) in damages and eventually received a judgment of 30,000 rubles (approximately US$1,150). [cite news|url=http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?docsid=1033615|title=Vladimir Zhirinovsky chose 30,000 rubles' worth of expressions|date=2008-09-30|publisher=Kommersant|accessdate=2008-10-03]

While some observers were inclined to consider such controversies as stark efforts to drum up nationalist support and should not be viewed as anything more serious than electoral fodder meant for domestic consumption, there was great consternation at the fact that in February 1996, months before a presidential election, Zhirinovsky placed second in opinion polls, behind Communist Gennady Zyuganov and ahead of Boris Yeltsin. In the end, however, Zhirinovsky placed fifth with a 5.7% share in the first round of voting. Since then, the party's fortunes have somewhat stabilized, with the 2003 election seeing a LDPR vote share of 11.7%, while the effect of Zhirinovsky's personality only increased his irrelevancy in successive presidential elections. (In 2004, Zhirinovsky declined to even be nominated by the party, leaving that role to Oleg Malyshkin, who received a nearly negligible portion of the vote.) While some commentators call Zhirinovsky a fascist (or a neo-fascist), [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5037/is_199312/ai_n18302450 Zhirinovsky's A-Z. (Russian parliamentary elections favored Vladimir Zhirinovsky's fascist Liberal Democratic Party)] "The Economist", December, 1993] [ [http://www.nato.int/acad/fellow/96-98/f96-98.htm The New Russia of Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Fascist Tendencies in the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia] NATO] [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE6DC1730F934A25751C1A965958260 Abroad at Home; When You Appease Fascism] "The New York Times", December 17, 1993] some others dismiss him as a mere "clown" and the Kremlin's willing political tool to neutralize the right-wing voter potential - and, for a time being, also a radical "bogeyman" for the West.

References

External links

* [http://www.ldpr.ru/ Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Website (in Russian)]
* [http://www.sras.org/the_world_according_to_zhirinovsky Zhirinovsky's 2007 political manifesto (in English and Russian)]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979934-1,00.html Hello, I Must Be Going] "TIME", Jan. 10, 1994
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/667745.stm Zhirinovsky: Russia's political eccentric] BBC News, March 10, 2000
* [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/10/bloomberg/name.php The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs in Russia] "International Herald Tribune", July 10, 2007
* [http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,538403,00.html ZHIRINOVSKY'S FOLLIES: Nuclear Threats and Busty Ladies in the Race for Second-Place in Russia] "Der Spiegel", February 28, 2008
* [http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/z/vladimir_v_zhirinovsky/index.html News about Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, including commentary and archival articles] "The New York Times"


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