Paul Quinn-Judge covers national security issues for The Boston Globe. From 1989 to 1992, he was Moscow bureau chief for the Globe, and from 1986 to 1989 headed the Moscow bureau of the Christian Science Monitor.
The author. Vladimir Zhirinovsky was born in 1946, in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, and seems from his own account to have been ill-disposed towards Turkic peoples from his childhood. He depicts his early life in Central Asia as one of unremitting deprivation, and portrays himself as an outsider. Despite his dislike for non-Russians, he studied Turkish at Moscow University's Africa and Asia Institute. If his knowledge of Turkish is of the same level as the other foreign languages he claims to speak--pidgin--his studies were not very successful.
An early brush with the law in Turkey led to the first allegations of Zhirinovsky's links to the KGB, something he has consistently denied. Further, though he claims never to have been a member of the Communist Party, Zhirinovksy was a political officer in the Transcaucasian Military District, where he seems only to have deepened his distaste for the people of the southern Soviet Union and Central Asia. It is rare to be a political officer without being a party member, especially because, as Zhirinovsky notes, his duties involved some intelligence work.
Despite his claim to be an outsider, Zhirinovsky's career looks very much like that of someone with good political connections--a commission in the Soviet Army, followed by work as a lawyer in Moscow until, in 1990, he founded his opportunistically named Liberal Democratic Party. This is, of course, one of many inconsistencies in his life--another is the fact that he is both anti-Semite and half-Jewish. Perhaps the most disturbing paradox in Zhirinovsky's life, however, lies in his political career so far. While regularly dismissed as a joker, both in Russia and the West, he has doubled his vote in two consecutive elections.
The book. Published in 1993, Final Surge South has sold some seventy-five thousand copies, a moderate amount for Russia today. It appears to be a rehash of many of his speeches, occasionally updated and augmented by autobiographical confessions.
For all the crudity of Zhirinovsky's ideas, the paucity of his language, and the outlandishness of his prescriptions, most of his thinking is very much grounded in contemporary Russian reality. He frequently presents in extreme form opinions that are current not only in the market place but in parts of the mainstream political spectrum. In its currently weakened state, Russia is particularly susceptible to paranoia. Zhirinovsky knows this and exploits it--he has frankly and publicly acknowledged that his success depends on continuing turmoil and demoralization in Russia.
Zhirinovsky's diatribe against the Turks and other southern peoples, excerpted here, is no exception. The reader should not conclude that a Russian government will soon--or ever--make a last surge south to the Indian Ocean. But neither should he overlook that Zhirinovsky's writings here, stripped of their rhetorical overlay, reflect two important, interrelated domestic and foreign policy issues: deep hostility toward the inhabitants of the southern rim of the old Soviet Union, many of them of Turkic origin; and the fear of "southern" expansion into the Russian heartland.
First, anti-southern racism in Russian society today is strong and perhaps growing. For example, in the wake of the October 1993 uprising in the Russian White House, the government declared a state of emergency in the capital and introduced an anti-crime drive. The most visible result of this drive was the arrest and expulsion from the city of some 7,500 people described as being of "southern" origin. Though criticized by human rights activists, the measure was, according to news reports, generally welcomed by the public. In short, Zhirinovsky's views on Turks, particularly Azeris, cannot be dismissed as fringe racism.
Secondly, Russians widely believe that the most likely threat to their security in the foreseeable future will come from the south--from fundamentalist Islam or territorial expansion by such regional powers as Iran or Turkey. It is tempting to theorize that some of the suggestions Zhirinovsky puts forward to blunt the threat from the south--support for Kurds in Turkey or the encouragement of Azeri irredentism, for example--are those ideas discussed in Russian military and security circles. Indeed, Zhirinovsky is suspiciously prescient. In the extract below, he criticizes Georgia over its alleged repression of the Abkhaz. As Zhirinovsky's book was going to press, Russian troops supported, more or less covertly, the Abkhaz rebels.
Even what seems on first sight to be one of the weirder aspects of Zhirinovsky's writings--his muted but consistent sympathy for Iraq--is far from being a marginal view. Elements of the Soviet military felt unabashed sympathy for the Iraqi viewpoint during the Kuwait war. Nationalists who once clustered around the monthly journal Molodaya gvardiya, and who would indignantly deny much of an affinity with Zhirinovsky, nonetheless have expressed their support for Iraq's anti-American, anti-Israeli view, as well as its laudible lack of "pollution" by Western popular culture. Zhirinovsky, of course, likes to go one better than his rivals. In early 1994 he reportedly invited Saddam Husayn to attend the Liberal Democratic Party's annual conference.
The attacks on southerners found in the excerpt below are to some degree an expansion and justification of racist remarks made earlier in his book. At one point, for example, Zhirinovksy writes of "southerners"--people from the southern republics of the former USSR--crawling north "like cockroaches."
Zhirinovsky feels no embarrassment or inhibitions about his rantings in Final Surge South. In fact, when the late Richard Nixon visited Moscow in March, Zhirinovksy presented him with a copy of the paperback book and asked him to pass it on to President Clinton.
The extracts that follow derive from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Posledniy Brosok Na Yug (Moscow: Liberal Democratic Party, 1993), pp. 129-136. Italics in the following passages follow the Russian text. All footnotes were added by the translator and MEQ editors.
Russia's move south is above all a defensive measure, a response; for today the threat to Russia comes from the south. From Afghanistan, which is already attacking Tajikistan; from Tehran, which is planning the Pan-Islamic seizure of massive stretches of land; from Ankara, where plans for a Great Turkish State have long been ready. Pan-Turkism threatens Russia because of its large population of Turkic speakers, Muslims, and Persian speakers--a fertile soil, an attractive bait that entices Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey northwards to create a Great Afghanistan, a Great Iran, a Great Turkey. At the very least, Turkey is dreaming of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, Georgia, in order to create a country with four seas--the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caspian and Marmara, and even the Aegian. While Russia will lose everything--"the great and talented" Turkish people deserve to live in the center of the world, in a fragrant region, in the shores of six [sic] seas, while the weak powerless Russian nation must die. Is that what the history of mankind has ordained? No, this is impossible.
Nothing would happen to the world should the whole Turkish nation perish, although this is not something I wish upon them. But let the Turks remember how they came to Asia Minor, barbarously seizing Constantinople, looting it, massacring and subjugating all the peoples of Asia Minor. Let them remember how they massacred 1.5 million Armenians in April 1915. Let them remember this, and let mankind's conscience tremble at the way a whole people can be massacred in the space of three nights.1 And millions of Kurds are groaning under the Turkish yoke and are unable to live in their own Kurdish state. A bitter fate has divided them. A large part of them live in Eastern Anatolia, on Turkish territory; some are in Syria, northern Iraq, western Iran, and the Transcaucasus. This is a people of thirty million. It has the right to its national freedom. Who can give them this? Only Russia.
It is impossible today to place victim and aggressor on one set of scales. We finally have to understand who brought civilization to this world. Who conquered the cosmos--and who seized others' lands, looted other peoples, drove them off into slavery, burned and turned Christian churches into mosques.
What culture did the Turks bring to Asia Minor? Even today, Western tourists in Turkey are shown the remains of Byzantine culture. There is no Turkish culture--you don't have culture with an unsheathed sword. Who provided the basis of the Turkish army? The Janissaries. Who were they? Slav boys, captured along with their parents. The parents were killed and the boys were brought up in the Turkish spirit and turned into the core of Turkey's fighters.2 It's somehow strange that Slav boys destroyed Slav peoples while fighting under the Turkish flag. Who will answer for this? Who will pay for the desecration of Byzantine culture, of Slavic peoples? There was no Nuremburg trial to judge Turkey's genocide against Armenians. But where is the difference between the Turks and the Germans? The fascist regime was guilty for the deaths of fifty million people. The Germans had a population of seventy to eighty million. This is the same as when the seventeen million-strong Turkish nation wipes out 1.5 million Armenians. It is the same proportion. The Turks brought as much evil to mankind as the Germans. But the Germans, their party, and their ideology were put on trial. An international trusteeship was set up. Even now there are foreign troops in Germany. But no one punished the Turks. It turns out that you can wipe out the Armenians because they are a little people. But you can't do this to the French, Russians, or British, because then you'll be put on trial. But such political "hazing" won't work. All nations are equal. No one is permitted to engage in genocide. Today Georgia is wiping out the Abkhaz and Ossetians, but Europe is silent. Flatten Sukhumi with tanks. Dismember Abkhaz corpses. After all, your leader [Georgian president Eduard] Shevardnadze helped shake the USSR's position in Europe and destroy its military might throughout the world.3 And in gratitude to Mr. Shevardnadze for this he is allowed to engage in political banditry. There are not many Abkhaz, but they want to live on their own land, in freedom. But they are deprived of this right. This is genocide, racism, fascism, and it is happening today. Who will stop it?
And what about the confrontation between Azeris and Armenians? How much longer will this last? Until the annihilation of the Armenian people. But this time it's the Azeris, not the Turks. Another Turkic nation. But that's the key to the issue: Azeris and Turks are the same. In 1915, the Turks massacred 1.5 million. The Azeris have been doing this since February 1986, five years already [sic]. The Turks took three nights, while the Azeris will take fifteen years. And they will try to wipe out the Armenians completely in order ultimately to wipe out the Armenian state. Why? Because it is a Christian state. It hinders the linking up of two Turkic peoples, the Azeris and the Turks. What is Nakhichevan?4 An artificial creation. Azeris on Armenian territory. Armenia has always been there, was there from ancient times. The country of three seas--the Caspian, Black, and Mediterranean. And what is left of Armenia today? A little strip of land is all that is left of a great state, a state with a great culture, the first slave-owning state on the territory of present-day Russia.
Urartu.5 There a civilization began. Its own church, its own writing. But the Azeris are a Persian tribe who made their way up there by force of arms. At the same time the Turks came from the East. They Turkicized this Persian tribe. Who are the Azeris? A tribe living on the shore of the Caspian--the Khazer.6 This is not the name of a country, it's just a place name. The inhabitants of Sokolniki are not a nation, they're just residents of a Moscow district. It's the same with Azerbaijan. It's just an area of settlement on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
So the Russians cannot be blamed for anything. We are not preparing to punish the Turkish, Iranian, or Afghan peoples. But we want freedom for the peoples who live in the south. And today the south is covered in blood. Islamic guards wipe out dissidents in Iran. For ten years they fought with Iraq. For what? For ten years the Kurds' attempt at freedom have been suppressed. The Turks have bombed civilians, Turkish tanks have flattened populated areas. In other words, let the Kurdish nation, which is far from small, perish. Thirty million people. This a major state by European standards. But Europe is silent. It has profitable relations with Ankara. If we close our eyes to the Kurdish problems, the Turks will have good relations with the Europeans. And what did the Turks do to the communists? They tricked them onto boats, took them out into the Black Sea, massacred them and threw the corpses overboard. That's how you settle scores with the political opposition. Is this democracy? It's barbarism, savagery.
Lenin thought that Kemal [Atatürk] was a Turkish Bolshevik.7 He gave him guns and money. And what was the upshot of this? In the Second World War, the Turks were to attack the Caucasus. Our troops were there waiting for the assault. In the Turkish High Command all the plans were drawn up. Stalin's mistake was that he did not punish the Turks at the end of the war. Turkey should have been punished because many Russians died on the Klukhor pass and in other parts of the Caucasus. This is because [the Soviet secret police chief Lavrenti] Beria would not allow fresh troops to be moved from the Transcaucasus to help in the defense of the North Caucasus against the German forces that were pushing toward Grozny, Baku, Makhachkale--because of the threat of a Turkish attack. So in reality Turkey did take part in the Second World War, just as Japan did. We punished Japan. But only because the Americans wanted it. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Turks did not attack Vienna or Paris, so no one demanded that it be punished. . . .
There can be different opinions and viewpoints on this. And who will be judge of this? Will we Russians really be wrong to protect the Armenians, not only as Christians but as a nation that for centuries has been subject to annihilation from the south, east, and west? Will we be wrong to give freedom to the Kurds and Baluchis? Will it not be right to give Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pushtus, and Daris the right to live anywhere they like on the whole expanse of land from Tashkent to Kabul on the condition that they not form bands? Will they not be grateful to us for this? And will not southern Azerbaijan be grateful for the chance to unite with northern Azerbaijan? They are a single people. But there are about sixteen million of them living in northern Iran who are not allowed to speak their native language or consider themselves Azeris. And the Baluchis? And the Arabs in southern Iran? All of them will be grateful. Including the Persians. And even the Turks. Because today they live on Cyprus as if they are in a besieged fortress. This is a Greek island; it was never Turkish. And it must once again become Greek--either a free Cypriot republic or a part of Greece. Cyprus must not be occupied by Turkish troops. How many Greeks were wiped out? How many Greek women raped? They can tell you about that in Athens. And do the Dardanelles really belong to Turkey? They always belonged to Greece. And Thrace? This is Bulgarian and Greek territory. So why do the aggressors from the days of the great wars continue to be there? Now, when everyone is talking about regional coopeation, we can clear all this up. There should be no labels--aggressor, invader. The Turks can live throughout the area--they can go back to the area around Tashkent and Ashkhabad, to Karakalpakia and the Aral Sea, the areas which they originally left in search of better lands.
But you should improve the land where you were born and live, not seize other towns and countries, wiping out as you go the people who live there and their culture. Up to now they [the Turks] have not created anything in Asia Minor to replace what was once there. Asia Minor, Greece, Rome,8 Mesopotamia, Egypt--all this was under Turkish domination, was taken by force and for centuries groaned in slavery. And only Russia liberated North Africa and southern Europe from Turkish domination, from Ottoman rule.9 Even now, millions of people are grateful to Russia for this. So isn't Russia capable, should she not make one final gesture? One spurt, one small spurt south, so that Russian railway lines would be laid there, and Russian trains--Moscow-Delhi, Moscow-Kabul, Moscow to the coast of the Indian Ocean, Moscow-Tehran, Moscow-Baghdad, Moscow-Ankara--would be moving day and night along them, carrying freight and people, safely. All for the economy, for the development of culture.
1 One and a half million killed and three nights are both inflated numbers, even according to Armenian sources.
2 More exactly, Janissaries were Christian boys, only some of them Slav, living in the Ottoman Empire, who were enslaved by the Ottoman authorities, trained in the martial arts, and given positions of responsibility in the empire. The system began in the 14th century and was finally abolished in 1826. The boys' parents were neither captured nor killed.
3 Eduard Shevardnadze served as Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign minister during 1985-89.
4 An autonomous region of Ajerbaijan, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia.
5 An Assyrian name for Armenia in the 9th to 6th centuries B.C.
6 On the Khazars, see D. M. Dunlop, The History of the Jewish Khazars (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954).
7 Although Turkey and the USSR signed a Treaty of Friendship on March 16, 1921, Atatürk did not tolerate communism on his own soil. There is no reason to believe Lenin thought him a communist.
8 Ottoman forces conducted sea raids against Italy in the mid-16th century, but Rome never fell to Turkish rule.
9 Russia had no direct role in North Africa; perhaps Zhirinovsky means that its wars with the Ottoman Empire weakened the latter and so facilitated the French conquest.