Eduard Limonov

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Eduard Limonov
Eduard Limonov in 2016
Eduard Limonov in 2016
BornEduard Veniaminovich Savenko
(1943-02-22)22 February 1943
Dzerzhinsk, Gorky Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died17 March 2020(2020-03-17) (aged 77)
Moscow, Russia
OccupationWriter, poet, essayist, publicist, leader of The Other Russia, former leader of the National Bolshevik Party, editor of newspaper Limonka
CitizenshipSoviet (1943–74)
Statelessness (1974–87)
French (1987–2011)
Russian (1992–2020)
Alma materKharkiv National Pedagogical University
GenreNovel, poetry, short story, autobiography, political essay
Literary movementPostmodernism (Russian postmodernism)
Notable worksIt's Me, Eddie
His Butler's Story
A Young Scoundrel
Memoir of a Russian Punk
The Book of Water
The triumph of metaphysics
The Other Russia
PartnerAnna Rubinshtein
Yelena Shchapova
Natalya Medvedeva (1983–1995)
Yekaterina Volkova

Eduard Limonov (Russian: Эдуард Лимонов, real name Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko, Russian: Эдуард Вениаминович Савенко; 22 February 1943 – 17 March 2020) was a Russian writer, poet, publicist, political dissident and politician.

He emigrated from the USSR in 1974 and earned the fame of a scandalous writer abroad, in particular, due to obscene language and pornographic scenes in his first novel It's Me, Eddie.

In 1991, he returned to Russia and soon founded the controversial National Bolshevik Party that was banned in the country in 2007 (it was superseded by The Other Russia party). A fierce opponent of neoliberal policies in Russia,[1] he was arrested in 2001 and convicted for illegal possession of weapons. In the 2000s, he was one of the leaders of The Other Russia coalition of opposition forces.[2] However, he supported Putin's foreign policy following the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine.[3][4][5]


Early life, 1943–1966[edit]

Limonov was born in the Soviet Union, in Dzerzhinsk, an industrial town in the Gorky Oblast (now Nizhny Novgorod Oblast).[1] Limonov's father—then in the military service – was in a state security career and his mother was a homemaker.[6] In the early years of his life his family moved to Kharkiv in the Ukrainian SSR, where Limonov grew up. He studied at the H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University.

By Limonov's own account, he began writing "very bad" poetry at the age of thirteen and soon after became involved in theft and petty crime as an adolescent hooligan.[6] Limonov adopted his nom de plume for use in literary circles during this time.[6]

Konkret poets in Moscow, 1966–1974[edit]

In 1966,[7] together with his first actual wife, Anna Moiseevna Rubinstein, (their marriage was not registered officially)[8][1] he first came to Moscow, earning money sewing trousers (Limonov "dressed" many in the intelligentsia; sculptor Ernst Neizvestny and poet Bulat Okudzhava among others), but later returned to Kharkov.[7]

Limonov moved to Moscow again in 1967, marrying a fellow poet, Yelena Shchapova, in a Russian Orthodox[6] ceremony in 1973.[8] During his period in Moscow, Limonov was involved in the Konkret poets' group and sold volumes of his self-published poetry while doing various day jobs. Having achieved a degree of success in this manner by the mid-1970s, and he and his wife emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1974.[6] The exact circumstances of Limonov's departure are unclear and have been described differently. Reportedly, KGB secret police gave him a choice either to become a snitch, or leave the country.[9]

Literary exile in New York, 1974–1980[edit]

Although neither he nor Shchapova were Jewish, the Soviet Union issued permission for the couple to emigrate to Israel, but soon after the couple arrived in the United States.[6] Limonov settled in New York City, where he and Shchapova soon divorced.

Limonov worked for a Russian-language newspaper as a proofreader and occasionally interviewed recent Soviet emigrants.[6] Like Eddie, the immigrant protagonist of Limonov's first novel It's Me, Eddie, Limonov was drawn to punk subculture and radical politics. Limonov's New York acquaintances included Studio 54's Steve Rubell and a Trotskyist group, the Socialist Workers Party.[10] As protagonist Eddie finds out as a consequence, the latter is a political target of the FBI.[11] Limonov was himself harassed by the FBI.[12] As he later recounted, the FBI interrogated dozens of his acquaintances, once asking a friend about "Lermontov" in Paris when he had resettled in France.[13]

I did not find the freedom to be a radical opponent of the existing social structure of the country which pompously calls itself the 'leader of the free world,' but neither did I notice it in the land which represents itself as the 'future of all humanity.' The FBI is just as zealous in putting down American radicals as the KGB is with its own radicals and dissidents. True, the methods of the FBI are more modern. . . . The KGB is, however, studying the techniques of its older brother and modernizing its methods.[13]

The first chapter of It's Me, Eddie, was published by an Israeli Russian-language journal.[6] Finished by 1977, it was consistently rejected by publishers in the United States and only brought out a few years after becoming an instant success in France in 1980.[6] In interviews, Limonov says this was because the book was not written with anti-Soviet tones, like other Russian literature admired in the United States.[6]

In New York, Limonov also discovered another side of the American Dream. After being a dissident, he lived a poor life due to his low revenues. He managed to afford a room in a miserable hostel and spent time with homeless persons, some of whom he had casual sexual intercourse with, as related in the memoir The Russian Poet Prefers Big Blacks[14] published in France under the title Le poète russe préfère les grands nègres. He then found a job as a butler for a millionaire in the Upper East Side. This period of his life led him to write autobiographical texts, including His Butler's Story.

Limonov's stay in Paris, 1980–1991[edit]

Finally, disillusioned with the country he termed "a damned outhouse bereft of spirit or purpose on the outskirts of civilization", Limonov left America for Paris with his lover Natalya Medvedeva in 1980, where he became active in French literary circles. He swore to never return to the United States, and never did. Having remained stateless for thirteen years, he was granted French citizenship in 1987.[13][1] Limonov and Medvedeva got married in 1982; the pair split up by 1995.[1]

Return to Russia and the foundation of NBP, 1991–2000[edit]

In 1991, Limonov returned to Russia from France, restored his citizenship[1] and became active in politics.

Limonov was a strong supporter of Serbia in the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia and participated in a sniper patrol in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. Paweł Pawlikowski's film Serbian Epics includes footage of Limonov travelling to the front lines of Sarajevo in 1992 with Radovan Karadžić, then the Bosnian Serb president and later a convicted war criminal, and firing a few rounds with a machine gun in the direction of the besieged city.[15][16][17][18] When asked about the incident in 2010, Limonov claimed he had been shooting at a target range and that Pawlikowski added an extra frame to make it appear he had fired on an apartment complex. This explanation has been challenged.[19] On another occasion, Limonov said that he "celebrated his 50th birthday in Kninska Krajina [...] by firing from a Russian-made heavy gun at Croatian Army headquarters."[20] During the 1990s, he supported Bosnian Serbs in the Yugoslav wars; and Abkhaz and Transnistrian secessionists against Georgia and Moldova, respectively.[21]

Limonov was also initially an ally of Vladimir Zhirinovsky and was named as Security Minister in a shadow cabinet formed by Zhirinovsky in 1992.[22] However Limonov soon tired of Zhirinovsky, accusing him of moderateness and of approaching the president and consequently split from him, publishing the book "Limonov against Zhirinovsky" (1994).

In 1993, together with figures like Aleksandr Dugin and Yegor Letov, he founded a controversial political party called the National Bolshevik Party which started to publish a newspaper called Limonka (the Russian nickname for the lemon-shaped F1 hand grenade; also a play on his pen name Limonov).[23]

In 1996, a Russian court judged in a hearing that the NBP paper Limonka had disseminated illegal and immoral information: "in essence, E. V. Limonov (Savenko) is an advocate of revenge and mass terror, raised to the level of state policy." The court decided to recommend issuing an official warning to Limonka, to investigate the possibility of examining whether Limonov could be held legally responsible, and to publish its decision in Rossiiskaia gazeta.[24] After that, a criminal case was launched against him on charges of incitement of ethnic hatred.[1]

On the Ukrainian Independence Day 24 August 1999, Limonov along with 15 other supporters from the top of the city's clock tower in Sevastopol publicly called to review the status of the city and not to ratify Treaty about Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine by the State Duma.[25]

Jail and protest activities, 2001–2013[edit]

Limonov was jailed in April 2001 on charges of terrorism, the forced overthrow of the constitutional order, and the illegal purchase of weapons. Based on an article published in Limonka under Limonov's byline, the government accused Limonov of planning to raise an army to invade Kazakhstan. After one year in jail, his trial was heard in a Saratov court, which also heard appeals from Russian Duma members Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Alexei Mitrofanov and Vasiliy Shandybin for his release. He maintained that the charges were ridiculous and politically motivated, but was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment for the arms purchasing, while the other charges were dropped.[26] He served almost two years before being paroled for good behavior.[27][1] He wrote eight books while in jail.[1]

In 2006, Limonov married the actress Yekaterina Volkova.[1] They had a son, Bogdan, and a daughter, Alexandra. They split up in 2008.

On 19 April 2007, the Moscow City Court banned the National Bolshevik Party as extremist. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.[28]

Limonov in front of the Strategy-31 banner, March 2010

Limonov continued his political activities as one of the leaders of The Other Russia,[1] along with liberal politicians. He took part in various protests and was one of the organizers of the Dissenters' Marches.[1] In particular, on 3 March 2007, Limonov was detained by police in the very beginning of the rally the first Saint Petersburg Dissenters' March;[29] on 14 April 2007, Limonov was arrested again after an anti-government rally in Moscow;[30] on 31 January 2009 was detained again in Moscow.[31]

In July 2009, he helped organise the Strategy-31 series of protests.[1]

In April 2010 a video was posted that showed Limonov, Viktor Shenderovich, and Alexander Potkin having sex with the same woman in the same apartment. Shenderovich described this as a honey trap arranged by the Russian government.[32]

Soon, Limonov split up with the liberal opposition. In July 2010, he and his followers established The Other Russia political party, as the informal successor to the NBP.[33] It was denied official registration in 2010 and in 2019, after it got re-established without Limonov as formally part of its leadership.[34]

Later life and death, 2013–2020[edit]

Since 2014, Limonov supported the annexation of Crimea, the unrecognized DNR and LNR, and encouraged Russians to take part in the War in Donbass on their side.[3][4][5][35]

He died on March 17, 2020 in Moscow.[36] It was reported that Limonov had been battling cancer; complications from 2 surgery procedures such as throat problems, struggles with oncology, and inflammation were cited as the direct cause of his death.[37]

Literary work[edit]

Eduard Limonov in Samara, 2018

Limonov's works are known for their cynicism. His novels are also (to an extent fictive) memoirs, describing his experiences as a youth in Russia and as émigré in the United States.

In 2007, the Swiss novelist Christian Kracht wrote to American businessman David Woodard, "Solzhenitsyn has described Limonov as 'a little insect who writes pornography,' while Limonov described Solzhenitsyn as a traitor to his homeland who contributed to the downfall of the USSR. Ad Marginem publishes my friend Eduard Limonov’s novels. Your obedient servant—Christian Eduard Kracht (truthfully my middle name)"[38]

Limonov's works were scandalous for the Russian public, once they began to be published in the USSR during the late perestroika era. Particularly noted is It's Me, Eddie, which contained numerous pornographic descriptions of homosexual acts involving the narrator. The author later argued that such scenes were purely fiction; however, his fellow Russian nationalists were nevertheless appalled by such descriptions in Limonov's work. Thus, the Neo-Nazi leader Alexander Barkashov remarked to a journalist of Komsomolskaya Pravda concerning Limonov: ″Если лидер педераст, то он родину продаст.″ (″If the leader is a pederast, he will betray the fatherland″)[39]

Russian film director and screenwriter Aleksandr Veledinskii's 2004 feature film Russkoe ("Russian") is based on Limonov's writings.

Since the late 1990s, Limonov has been a regular contributor to "Living Here" and later to the eXile, both English-language newspapers in Moscow. These are the only known sources where Limonov has written articles in English. When he joined as a contributor, he specifically asked the editors of the paper that they preserve his "terrible Russian English style." Although most of his featured articles are political, he also writes on many topics, including "advice for ambitious youngsters."


Limonov expressed that his favorite poet was Velimir Khlebnikov.[40] Japanese writer Yukio Mishima is noted, by some observers, as an influence on Limonov's writing.[41]

Works about Limonov[edit]

Eduard Limonov's life is related in details by Emmanuel Carrère in his 2011 biographical novel Limonov.[14] and in the Adam Curtis documentary series Can't Get You Out of My Head.[42]

Selected bibliography[edit]







See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Эдуард Лимонов. Биографическая справка" (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 4 May 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Kasparov on Voronezh: If This is a Democracy, Let Us March". The Other Russia. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Ukraine crisis: Crimea is just the first step, say Moscow's pro-Putin demonstrators". Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Famous Kremlin Critic Changes Course, Says Putin Not a Monster (Limonov)". 12 October 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b Bershidsky, Leonid (30 December 2014). "Putin Goes Medieval on the Russian Opposition". Retrieved 2 December 2016 – via
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hayes, Karen L. (1995). Contemporary Russian Satire: A Genre Study. pp. 101–105. ISBN 978-0-521-47515-0.
  7. ^ a b LIMONOV Edward Veniaminovich, photo, biography. Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  8. ^ a b Lyle, Justin. (22 July 2010) BackGround People – LIMONOV, Eduard Veniaminovich Archived 27 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Russia Profile. Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  9. ^ Литературная Россия Archived 10 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  10. ^ Meier, Andrew (2 March 2008). "Putin's Paraiah". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  11. ^ Limonv, Edward. It's me, Eddie: A Fictional Memoir. New York: Random House. p. 91. ISBN 0-394-53064-0.
  12. ^ Rogatchevski, A. (2003). A Biographical and Critical Study of Russian Writer Eduard Limonov, Studies in Slavic Language and Literature, 20 . Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-7734-6847-1
  13. ^ a b c Limonov, Edward (1990). "Thirteen Studies on Exile". In John Glad (ed.), Literature in Exile. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. pp. 49–58. ISBN 0-8223-0987-4.
  14. ^ a b Ioffe, Julia (25 December 2014) "'Limonov' by Emmanuel Carrère", The New York Times. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  15. ^ Karadzic – The Marketplace Massacre And Radovan Karadzic | The World's Most Wanted Man | FRONTLINE. PBS. Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  16. ^ "HU OSA 304–0–16". Archived from the original on 19 February 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2006.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link).
  17. ^ Finding Karadzic: How Karadzic's poetry helps to prove his genocidal intent Archived 9 July 2012 at (5 December 2006). Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  18. ^ Kako je ruski pisac Limonov pucao po Sarajevu (video) – Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  19. ^ Marc Bennetts, "Eduard Limonov interview: Political rebel and Vladimir Putin's worst nightmare", The Guardian, 12 December 2010, accessed 27 August 2012. See also Bernard Besserglik, "A Novel Treatment," The Times Literary Supplement, 2 March 2012, p. 1.
  20. ^ Holdsworth, Nick (29 March 2003) "News of the World," The Times.
  21. ^ Meier, Andrew (2 March 2008), Putin’s Pariah. The New York Times. Retrieved on 10 July 2008.
  22. ^ Лимонов, Эдуард. Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  23. ^ "BBC – Adam Curtis – THE YEARS OF STAGNATION AND THE POODLES OF POWER". 18 January 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  24. ^ "Signs of the Times". Post-Soviet Media Law & Policy Newsletter, Issue 30–31. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 30 May 1996. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  25. ^ Bazak, O. Leader of the Other Russia again ended up in trouble. UNIAN. 17 September 2007
  26. ^ "Maverick writer freed". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2004.. 30 June 2003.
  27. ^ "What is Limonov to Do with His Freedom?". 21 June 2003. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2005.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Novaya Gazeta via English 21 June 2003.
  28. ^ "Russian Court Upholds Ban On National Bolshevik Party". RFE/RL. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  29. ^ Police Clash With Anti-Kremlin Protesters. (3 March 2007). Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  30. ^ "Dozens detained at Russia rally". Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). 15 April 2007.
  31. ^ "Thousands protest across Russia". BBC. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  32. ^ "Sex Video Continues Smear Campaign Against Russia's Opposition". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  33. ^ "Лимонов создал партию" (in Russian). Interfax. 10 July 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  34. ^ "Минюст объяснил отказ в регистрации партии "Другая Россия"" (in Russian). Interfax. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  35. ^ "Эдуард Лимонов призвал участников акции "Стратегия 31" на Триумфальной идти добровольцами в Донбасс". (in Russian). 1 November 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  36. ^ "Russian politician, writer Limonov dies at the age of 77 – Interfax". Reuters. 17 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  37. ^ "Умер Эдуард Лимонов". Meduza (in Russian). 17 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  38. ^ Kracht, C., & Woodard, D., Five Years (Hanover: Wehrhahn Verlag, 2011), 218.
  39. ^ Компромат.Ru / Compromat.Ru: "Приятно удивлен результатом". (16 April 2003). Retrieved on 22 February 2014.
  40. ^ "Никем не видим..." 6 June 2016.
  41. ^ "Бунт красоты. Эстетика Юкио Мисимы и Эдуарда Лимонова". 1 May 2009.
  42. ^ "BBC - Can't Get You Out of My Head - Eduard Limonov". Can't Get You Out of My Head: Key Characters. BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2021.

External links[edit]