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Popular Russian nationalist in government creates new movement

February 27, 2012, 16:01 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

A new national-patriotic movement has been created in Russia at the initiative of one of the most charismatic politicians in the Vladimir Putin team, Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin, in charge of the defense-industrial complex, until recently Russia’s envoy to NATO. The movement has received support from the Russian Orthodox Church. It looks like in the context of inter-ethnic tensions in Russia the authorities are trying again to create a “healthy” nationalist movement. However, according to some analysts, the constituent congress looked more like an anti-opposition rally.

On Sunday, Moscow saw the constituent congress of the Volunteer Movement of the All-Russia People’s Front in support of the army, the navy and the defense-industrial complex. Activists of the Rogozin-led Congress of Russian Communities, employees of the defense-industrial complex and the Cossacks have formed the backbone of the new movement.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin initiated the congress with reliance on support from Vladimir Putin. The latter sent a message of greeting to the participants, saying the creation of a new organization was an “exceptionally important and useful business.” The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, addressed the congress, too.

Central to the movement’s program is Vladimir Putin’s newspaper article Russia: the Nationalities Question. The main tasks of the movement are the revival of the defense-industrial complex and military science in Russia; creation of an advanced and effective system of military-patriotic upbringing of youth; unification of the sound public forces on the basis of the national-patriotic ideology, the principles of democratic development and scientific-technological progress.

“Our policy must be that of a steel fist in a velvet glove. Our policy should be able to beat enemies into partners, partners into neutrals, and neutrals into allies and friends,” said Rogozin. “No one should have any doubts inside this glove there must be a steel fist, firm and ready to crush any aggressor or group of aggressors, should they dare attack Russia.”

The congress looked more like an anti-oppositional rally against the threat of a “color revolution”, says the daily Kommersant. Patriarch Kirill promised to pray for God’s protection of the Russian people from deceitful, disgusting and slanderous propaganda. And Rogozin has suggested countering the white ribbon – the symbol used by oppositional demonstrators – with the victorious orange-and-black striped ribbon of the order of St. George.

“How very mean and disgusting this liberal anti-Russian propaganda really is,” Rogozin said to draw a storm of applause.

Patriarch Kirill, for his part, warned that even with a good economy and army the country may lose “freedom, sovereignty and independence.”

“Historical Russia, which we had called the Soviet Union, fell apart without a single shot fired, and the once great country is no more,” he said to have warned that there is such a threat now and that “well-organized and coordinated information flows” are working against the masses.

“The information impact,” said Patriarch Kiril, “is continuing inside the country and outside it,” and young people are most vulnerable to it. These days, he said, the mass media and the Internet are propagating an ideology of “consumption and richness.” “All this discussion went into high gear in the run-up to the elections. There is a risk that all those who share these ideas of unrestrained consumption and wealth, the idea the Motherland is there where you get paid more and where life is easier, these forces may come to power in Russia some day. I am praying to God for protection from deceitful, ugly, disgusting and slanderous propaganda.”

In its resolution the Volunteer Movement’s congress proclaimed as the main task the revival of the defense-industrial complex, promotion of patriotism and support for Vladimir Putin in achieving the goals he had identified. Rogozin said he had no immediate plans for reforming the movement into a political party.

Rogozin has long positioned himself as a campaigner for the rights of the Russian people. Back in 1993, with reliance on the Russian communities in the CIS and the Baltic countries, and also in Russia’s ethnic autonomies Rogozin created a people’s patriotic movement called the International Congress of Russian Communities (CRC), which incorporated practically all Russian diasporas and public and political organizations and centers of ethnic autonomies of Russia, the other former Soviet republics and some other countries. In the subsequent years he actively campaigned for the protection of the rights of Russians in the Baltic countries, Yugoslavia and the CIS countries and participated in the liberation of several dozen hostages in Chechnya.

Then in 2004-2005 he led the Rodina (Motherland) faction in the State Duma, and then a party of the same name. Experts say Rodina had been created with the Kremlin’s blessing in order to take votes away from the Communists. However, the party’s strong national-patriotism and the popularity and poor controllability of Rogozin, who began to ignore instructions from above, scared the authorities and in 2006 the Rodina project was in fact closed down, and Rogozin himself found himself on the sidelines. In 2007 he declared the intention to back the initiative of creating a party called Great Russia. The constituent congress of the new party took place, but the party was not registered.

Nevertheless, Rogozin was forgiven and in 2008, appointed Russia’s envoy to NATO. He held the position until his new appointment as Russia’s deputy prime minister responsible for the military-industrial complex. Rogozin’s imminent return to Russia’s big politics has been rumored for a long time – after all, the country has not very many charismatic politicians so sincerely loyal to the national leader. These days, on the eve of the presidential election, experts say, Rogozin’s nationalism and aggressive mode of expression is in greater demand than it has ever been.

MOSCOW, February 27.