Vladimir Zhirinovsky

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His Excellency
Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Wladimir Schirinowski crooped.jpeg
Vice Chairman of the State Duma[verification needed]
In office
18 January 2000 – 21 December 2011
President Vladimir Putin
Dmitry Medvedev
Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Mikhail Kasyanov
Viktor Khristenko (acting)
Mikhail Fradkov
Viktor Zubkov
Vladimir Putin
Viktor Zubkov (acting)
Dmitry Medvedev
Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
Incumbent
Assumed office
14 December 1992
Preceded by party created
Personal details
Born Vladimir Volfovich Eidelstein
(1946-04-25) 25 April 1946 (age 67)
Almaty, Kazakh SSR, USSR
Nationality Russian
Political party Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
Spouse(s) Galina Lebedeva
Children Igor Lebedev
Alma mater Moscow State University
Occupation politician, founder and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vice-Chairman of the State Duma
Profession lawyer
Religion Eastern Orthodox
Signature
Military service
Awards Order of Merit for the Fatherland (4th class), Order of Honour, Medal of Zhukov, Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow", Medal of Merit in the Russian Population Census, Medal "In Commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of Saint Petersburg", Medal Anatoliya Koni, Order "For Personal Courage" (DMR), Order of Honor and Glory (Abkhazia), Distinguished Lawyer of the Russian Federation, Diploma of the President of the Russian Federation, Honorary Railwayman

Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky (Russian: Влади́мир Во́льфович Жирино́вский), born Vladimir Volfovich Eidelstein (Russian: Влади́мир Во́льфович Эйдельште́йн) on 25 April 1946, is a Russian politician and political activist. He is a colonel in the Russian Army, founder and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe[1][2][3][4] and was twice, in 2000 and in 2004, elected deputy speaker of the Duma.[2]

Zhirinovsky is often viewed as "a showman of Russian politics, blending populist and nationalist rhetoric, anti-Western invective and a brash, confrontational style".[5] According to Reuters, "Although nominally part of the Russian opposition, he is widely seen as a servant of Kremlin policy, used to float radical opinions to test public reaction."[6]

Early life and politics[edit]

Zhirinovsky was born in Almaty, the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, modern-day Kazakhstan. His father, Volf Isaakovich Eidelshtein (or Wolf Andreyevich Eidelshtein), was a Polish Jew, and his mother, Alexandra Pavlovna (née Makarova), was of Russian background.[7][8][9][10] Zhirinovsky himself is an Eastern Orthodox Christian.[11]

In July 1964, Zhirinovsky moved from Almaty 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 PhD in philosophy by MSU in 1998. Although he participated in some 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.[12]

Founding of the Liberal-Democratic Party[edit]

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. According to the former CPSU Politburo member Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, this party was a joint project of Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) leadership and the KGB.[13][14] Yakovlev wrote in his memoirs 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".[15]

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,[2] 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 Russian 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. While some observers were inclined to consider his controversial statements 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%. 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.

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.[16] Zhirinovsky has on several occasions been involved in altercations with other politicians and debate opponents. As a candidate, he also took part in the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections, promising a "police state",[14] and to institute summary executions. While some commentators call Zhirinovsky a fascist, or a neo-fascist,[17][18][19] some others dismiss him as a mere "clown"[20][21][22] 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.[14]

Views[edit]

Zhirinovsky speaking on a pre-election meeting in 1999

Identitarianism and anti-Zionism[edit]

Zhirinovsky has expressed admiration for the 1996 United States presidential election contender Pat Buchanan, referring positively to a comment in which Buchanan labeled the United States Congress "Israeli-occupied territory" and said that both countries were "under occupation" and that "to survive, we could set aside places on U.S. and Russian territories to deport this small but troublesome tribe." Buchanan strongly rejected this 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?"[23] Zhirinovsky 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?"[7] Another frequently cited quote from Zhirinovsky is "My mother was Russian and my father was a lawyer".

Besides expressing his concern for Turks and Caucasians displacing the Russian population from their native territory,[24] Zhirinovsky also advocated for all Chinese and Japanese to be deported from the Russian Far East.[25] 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.[20]

Foreign relations and military excursions[edit]

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 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", and provoking wars between the clans and the nations of the former Soviet Union and occupying what will remain of it when the wars are over.[26] Zhirinovsky, who encourages separatism within the Russian minority in the Baltic countries,[14] endorsed the forcible re-occupation of these countries and said nuclear waste should be dumped there.[26][27]

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.[28] He has also advocated using nuclear weapons and naval blockade-imposed starvation in a case of Russia's war against Japan.[26] In 2008, during the resulting political row between the United Kingdom and Russia, he suggested dropping nuclear bombs over the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to flood Britain.[14]

Zhirinovsky hailed what he described as "the democratic process" in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, whom he supported strongly. The friendship dated at least since the first Persian 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).[29] He is also close to the Serbian nationalist leader and war crimes suspect Vojislav Šešelj.[26]

Zhirinovsky 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"[30] following Russia's conquest of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey and occupation of the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.[24] He also declared that Bulgaria should annex the Republic of Macedonia, and said that Romania is an artificial state supposedly created by Italian Gypsies who seized territory from Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary.[21]

Russia’s southern neighbor Georgia has been another frequent target of Zhirinovsky’s rhetoric. After Aslan Abashidze was ousted from power in 2004 as leader of Ajara, an autonomous Georgian region, Zhirinovsky worried that similar revolutions would occur in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[31] Highly critical of Georgia’s pro-Western line,[32] 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 aboard a cruise ship which was briefly intercepted by a Georgian coast guard vessel.[33] After war broke out between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Zhirinovsky argued in favor of Russian recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence. "We should have taken the whole territory of Georgia under control," he complained, and "arrested all Georgian officers and taken them here, like to Guantanamo, arrested Saakashvili and handed him over for trial by a military tribunal and gone to the border with Turkey."[34] In 2009, he called the decision to hold NATO military exercises in Georgia during Soviet Victory Day celebrations in Moscow a "total revision of the history of the Great Patriotic War" and suggested that Russia should respond by conducting large-scale joint military drills with Cuba and Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.[35]

Zhirinovsky has been expelled from Bulgaria for insulting its president and was barred from entry to Germany.[36] In 2005, 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 Kazakhs' place in history.[37]

In 2006, Zhirinovsky became persona non grata also in Ukraine, following his statements regarding the January 2006 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute (this ban 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."[38] At the film premiere of the film Taras Bulba in 2009 he stated: “Everyone who sees the film will understand that Russians and Ukrainians are one people – and that the enemy is from the West".[39] In February 2010 Zhirinovsky claimed that Eastern Ukraine would become part of Russia “in five years" claiming that "the population is largely Russian” and called President-elect of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych “basically Russian” (Yanukovych's father was an ethnic Polish-Belarusian, and his mother Russian)

On the November 2006 death by poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, 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."[40][41] 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."[42] 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.[22] He also accused Great Britain (according to him, "the most barbaric country on the planet") of fomenting the World War I, the October Revolution, World War II, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[43]

Writing about Marine Le Pen he said that she could outdo her father because "Instead of saying that Islam is terrorism, she simply insists that France is a secular nation that will not stand for hundreds of thousands of Muslims practicing their religious traditions. With this argument, Marine has cleverly defended the French people's right to a secular nation." In that vein he said that she has the "chance to represent the French majority."[44]

In 2013, when asked about former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said, "Yulia Tymoshenko, I'm sorry, is a woman. I don't like them, as it's easier to persuade a woman. [...] Women are more compliant, and it's dangerous."[45]

Controversies[edit]

Violent controversies[edit]

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.[46] In 2003, Zhirinovsky engaged in a fistfight after a television debate with Mikhail Delyagin.[47] In 2005, Zhirinovsky ignited a brawl in the parliament by spitting at a Rodina party legislator, Andrei Saveliyev.[48] In 2008, he showed himself shooting a rifle at the targets representing his political rivals.[14] 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).[49]

Donkey video for 2012 presidential election[edit]

Other controversies[edit]

In 2006, in answer to Ramzan Kadyrov's support for polygamy in Chechnya, Zhirinovsky said it should be applied across Russia.[50] To eradicate bird flu, he proposed arming all of Russia's population and ordering them and the troops to shoot down the migrant birds returning to Russia from wintering.[51] He has also threatened to remove restrictions on arms sales to Iran and proposed to sell the disputed Kurile Islands to Japan for 50 billion USD.[36]

In the wake of the February 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, Zhirinovsky was quoted by the Russian International News Agency as claiming “It’s not meteors falling, it’s the test of a new weapon by the Americans.”[52] [53]

On 4 April 2014, in the wake of the 2014 Crimean crisis, the franchises of the fast-food restaurant McDonald's, were unable to continue because they had been cut off by their Ukrainian franchisor. Zhirinovsky suggested that McDonald's "should be evicted from Russia" for the affront.[54]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Diary: Campaign circus, BBC News, 20 November 2007
  2. ^ a b c Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Russian politician) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica.com (26 April 1946) – note: nothing there, or any other primary source, about "vice-chairman of the Duma"
  3. ^ Russian nationalist Zhirinovsky nominated for president, RIA Novosti, 13/ 12/ 2007
  4. ^ Zhirinovsky Beat Russia's top nationalist had a busy week abroad, Time Magazine, 14 February 1994
  5. ^ Profiles of Russia's 2012 presidential election candidates BBC
  6. ^ Alissa de Carbonnel; Alessandra Prentice (28 February 2014). "Armed men seize two airports in Ukraine's Crimea, Yanukovich reappears". Reuters. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Zhirinovsky admits Jewish roots, BBC News, 19 July 2001
  8. ^ "Will the real Zhirinovsky stand up?". 18 December 1993. 
  9. ^ "RUSSIAN EXTREMIST'S ROOTS TRACED ZHIRINOVSKY RECALLS MANY PETTY SLIGHTS HE EXPERIENCED IN TEENS". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 6 February 1994. 
  10. ^ Vladimir Zhirinovsky - enfant terrible of Countryn politics » News from different disciplines. Yqyq.net (25 April 1946).
  11. ^ Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Religion in Russia — Predvestnik. Forerunner.com (1 May 1996).
  12. ^ Zhirinovsky Vladimir Volfovich Panorama.ru
  13. ^ In Moscow, Zhirinovsky Is Remembered as Jewish Advocate, The New York Times, 16 December 1993
  14. ^ a b c d e f Nuclear Threats and Busty Ladies in the Race for Second-Place in Russia, Der Spiegel, 28 February 2008
  15. ^ Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev Time of Darkness, Moscow, 2003, ISBN 5-85646-097-9, page 574 (Russian: 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.
  16. ^ Fedarko, Kevin (27 December 1993). "A Farce to Be Reckoned With". TIME. 
  17. ^ Zhirinovsky's A-Z. (Russian parliamentary elections favored Vladimir Zhirinovsky's fascist Liberal Democratic Party), The Economist, December, 1993
  18. ^ The New Russia of Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Fascist Tendencies in the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (NATO)
  19. ^ Abroad at Home; When You Appease Fascism, The New York Times, 17 December 1993
  20. ^ a b The World; Here Comes the Clown. No Joke. The New York Times, 6 November 1994
  21. ^ a b Hello, I Must Be Going, Time, 10 January 1994
  22. ^ a b Interview with Lugovoi, BBC Hard Talk, 19 February 2008
  23. ^ Russia's Zhirinovsky now blasts Buchanan as 'crap', Jewish News Weekly, 1 March 1996
  24. ^ a b Zhirinovsky is Russia's big bad wolf – success of Vladimir Wolfovich Zhirinovsky in recent Russian elections – Column. Findarticles.com (24 January 1994).
  25. ^ The Beast Reawakens By Martin A. Lee Page 328
  26. ^ a b c d Vladimir Zhirinovsky Information Technology Services at SUNY Brockport
  27. ^ Russia threatens Baltic missile build-up, The Baltic Times, 5 July 2007
  28. ^ Russian Parliamentary Election 1999, RFE/RL, 17 December 1999
  29. ^ "OIL FOR INFLUENCE: HOW SADDAM USED OIL TO REWARD POLITICIANS UNDER THE UNITED NATIONS OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM". PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS UNITED STATES SENATE. U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 
  30. ^ Ultra-right gains in poll The Age, 9 December 2003
  31. ^ Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Georgia brings trouble to Russia., Pravda.ru, 10 May 2004.
  32. ^ Teresa Whitfield (2007), Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict, p. 155. US Institute of Peace Press, ISBN 1-60127-005-4
  33. ^ Inal Khashig (19 August 2004) Abkhazia Revels in Nationalist’s Visit. Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Reporting Service No. 247.
  34. ^ Duma and Fed. Council for Secession, Kommersant, 26 August 2008.
  35. ^ Russian MP proposes Caribbean drill response to NATO exercises, RIA Novosti, 6 May 2009.
  36. ^ a b Zhirinovsky: Russia's political eccentric, BBC News, 10 March 2000
  37. ^ (Russian) Жириновскому запретили приезжать на историческую родину from Lenta.ru
  38. ^ Condoleezza Rice's anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems, Pravda, 11 January 2006
  39. ^ Barry, Ellen (12 April 2009). "A Wild Cossack Rides Into a Cultural Battle". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  40. ^ Former KGB Agent Dies Associated Press, 24 November 2006
  41. ^ Dead ex-spy claimed Russian agent monitored him CTV, 25 November 2006
  42. ^ (Russian) "Address to Duma by Sergei Abeltsev". Duma. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  43. ^ Zhirinovsky Engages in Street Theater, The St. Petersburg Times, 25 January 2008
  44. ^ Volfovich, Vladimir. (21 April 2011) #ixzz1SZxuRVNL. Time.com.
  45. ^ Interfax-Ukraine (28 January 2013). "Zhirinovsky about Tymoshenko: 'Women can't be in power'". KyivPost. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  46. ^ (Russian) Жириновский снова брызнул соком from Vesti.ru
  47. ^ Zhirinovsky Gets Into Fistfight After Televised Election Debate, The Moscow Times, 24 November 2003 (mirrored by yabloko.ru)
  48. ^ Flamboyant Russian lawmaker in parliament chamber brawl News from Russia
  49. ^ "Vladimir Zhirinovsky chose 30,000 rubles' worth of expressions". Kommersant. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  50. ^ Polygamy proposal for Chechen men BBC News, 13 January 2006
  51. ^ Action for protection of birds from Zhirinovsky to be held in Moscow. News.rin.ru.
  52. ^ Kuzmin, Andrey. "Russia cleans up after meteor blast injures more than 1,000". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  53. ^ "US tested new weapon, no meteor in Chelyabinsk – Russian LibDem leader". Russian International News Agency. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  54. ^ telegraph.co.uk: "McDonald's 'should be evicted from Russia' after Crimea shutdown" 4 Apr 2014

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