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The NATO Defence College review of the book ‘Enemy of the People’ by Dmitry Rogozin

Posted by Kris Roman on February 25, 2009

 

http://natomission.ru/en/society/article/society/artbews/32/

logo_rogozin_vrag_narodaThe curious reader might do well to start Ambassador Dmitri Olegovich Rogozin’s book by looking at the comments about him which the author has chosen to include as an annex – essentially abuse from prominent Russian political figures, including the leader of the LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky (whose father Rogozin pointedly identifies as being named Edelshtein): “Rogozin is an agent three times over – of the Kremlin, the KGB and the Comintern. He is a villain three times over.” Anatoli Chubais, formerly head of electricity monopoly RAO UES, and whom Rogozin identifies as the “spiritual guru” of the liberal SPS party and author of the concept of “voucher privatization”, describes Rogozin as a National Socialist. The author records other attacks on him by some of his favourite targets of abuse.

It would be natural to suppose that these quotations were recorded by Rogozin in a spirit of irony. It would also be wrong. There is so far as I could teil no trace of irony or self doubt in what Rogozin writes in this account of his political development and ideas. He means every word. It is natural enough that an autobiography should centre on its subject’s actions. This one is deeply personal. The only people mentioned in it who come out consistently well are Rogozin himself, and why not, for it is his story; Rogozin’s distinguished military father (General-Lieutenant Oleg Konstantinovich Rogozin, Hero of Socialist Work, Doctor of Technical Sciences and professor); and Vladimir Putin – who has yet to earn Rogozin’s despair. The introduction to the fourth edition of the book, sent for publication as Rogozin was about to take up his appointment as Russian Ambassador to NATO in January 2008, records his view that Rodina “won” the 2003 Duma elections (Rogozin’s word, presumably implying a moral victory since the party did not come near to winning a majority of the recorded votes, even if its showing was better than the Kremlin had anticipated). Since then, he says, vital elements of Rodina’s programme have been adopted by the Russian government. Putin’s real convictions, (page 5) says Rogozin, are those of the patriotic opposition. His book is dedicated to President Putin, as he then was.

 

The first set of Rogozin’s ideas would not al! be easy to square with Putin’s actions as President or Prime Minister, though some arguably have elements in common with Putin’s sentiments. Rogozin complains at various points in his book of the way that the media are constrained, the legal system is manipulated and elections are fixed. In so doing, he draws on personal experience. “The ability to lie to your face is the visiting card of power (vlast) today.” (An apt quotation from page 14). His writing is even more impassioned in his attacks on the “thieves” who have stolen, and steal, from Russia, whether bureaucrats or ‘oligarchs’. But then, “Bonapartism is always and everywhere partnered by stealing from the treasury…the consolidation of the Vertical of power’ has led to a real epidemic of theft.” Much of the book is a cry of pain for what has happened to Russia since Stalin’s death in 1953, and particularly since 1991, with the failure of the August putsch that year. Rogozin’s admiration for Stalin is for what the author sees as his success as a national leader who instilled discipline, not as the builder of’socialism in one country’.
The remedy sketched by Rogozin for Russia’s present ills is not what might be expected from his attacks on the way the present state of affairs rests on arbitrary controls. It is for the power of the centre to be increased, under the condition that the exercise of absolute power be governed by absolute responsibility, borne personally by the leader himself. He does not explain exactly what this might mean. He would no doubt be enraged by the suggestion that it is a doctrine that notorious figures of the middle of the 20th Century would instantly accept.
Rogozin argues for increased national ownership of critical economic factors. He does not explain how such a system could work, or how it would prevent what he sees as the treachery and incompetence which brought the USSR to needless and tragic collapse being repeated under another centrally directed government of Russia. His domestic policy prescriptions are however often declarative rather than analytical, for instance in his lengthy and agonised account of Russia’s demographic problems. Russia should be, he writes at one point, aiming at a population of 500 million, without giving a clear idea of how this degree of reproductive fervour could be brought about
That should not be read as a sneer. Rogozin’s despair at what he sees as his country’s fall deserves better than that. He records his academic achievements, but his book is not that of an educated sceptic. In one striking passage, following on Rogozin’s account of the Chechen mentality, he tells of an interview with Putin in which he offered to go to Grozny as Presidential Representative. The President’s response, which Rogozin saw as “very significant” was that Putin wanted him to stay for the time being in the Duma. That, thought Rogozin, was a missed opportunity. Had he taken charge in Grozny the bloodshed would have been minimal. It does not seem to have occurred to him that the President may have been less confident than Rogozin of the latter’s ability to sort things out Putin’s ability to keep others under the impression that he sympathises with their aspirations even when he does not is again illustrated at other points in Rogozin’s account.

The heart of Rogozin’s book, whether he is recording his efforts as a dogged and immovable defender of his country’s true interests, or setting out his political creed, is the need to revive Russian national feeling, and thereby to restore Russia to her rightful status, as he would see it, as a Great Power. He makes it very clear, though not in a consistently specific manner, that this aim entails Russia’s borders enlarging to include all the territories that have been hers over the course of Russian history. He refers on page 145 to the national idea enshrining the right for Russians to be the formers of the state not just in the present territory of the Federation but also “inherently Russian lands beyond its borders. Crimea, Little Russia, Belorussia, the Cossack steppes of Kazakhstan, TransDniestra, the PriBaltic – these are the native lands of the Russian nation.” Russians brought civilisation to the peoples who fell under her control, and they now share her destiny as a beneficent result. “It is inadmissible to remain silent while the country that gave you life is robbed and humiliated. If even a drop of Russian blood runs in our veins we should be readying ourselves to fight….It is on our bones that Europe prospers today” (page 443). And so on throughout the book- often.
Rogozin’s political programme is mystical rather than practical, despite the fact that he recounts his involvement in many of the political dramas over the last couple of decades of his country’s history. He vents his frustration at being balked of the success he is sure was his in Duma and Moscow elections. The administrative barriers in the way of setting up independent parties are excoriated. He nonetheless sees the revival and channeling of Russian nationalism as essential to the nation’s survival, and achievable through disciplined action by a committed elite. He seems to take it for granted that the restoration of true patriotic feeling, and the direction of affairs by true patriots, would restore harmony as well as greatness to his country, and that it would be thoroughly democratic too.
This is all disputable, and the*fenguage in which it is conveyed is in places disreputable too. But Rogozin’s book is honest in its efforts to convey what he really thinks, and innocent of guile. There are many other Russians, and decent ones too, that share his prejudices to a greater or lesser degree, and who reach too readily for the language of abuse when others do not accept them: a Pravda inheritance, maybe. Many Russians for instance seem genuinely to believe that they have a better sense of what other formerly Soviet people – and particularly those of Slavonic origin – truly want and need than what these people choose for themselves through their elected leaders. When Rogozin says that Sevastopol is “ours”, and that that is a “fact” (page 129), he is only giving more emphatic expression to a view that others of greater authority than he have set out more cautiously. When he laments the treatment accorded to Russia by her enemies, internal or external, he is giving his own version of the sense of national(ist)
grievance that has developed so strongly in recent years. There was a contrast to be drawn in the 90s between Serbia’s haunted sense of wrong and Russia’s efforts to make a new and post imperial start. The parallels between Serbian nationalism then and Russian feelings now, as illustrated by Rogozin’s book, can be uncomfortably close.

The aim of restoring, as its advocates term it, Russia’s status as a Great Power runs beyond the “patriotic opposition” invoked by Rogozin. It is deeply felt to be legitimate, and necessary, by Russians who are far more liberal in their outlook than Rogozin, and has been articulated in various forms by the highest leadership, including by the former and current Presidents. But while there is no doubting its emotional appeal to many Russians, if to few of their neighbours, Rogozin in his book has been no more able than others to set out exactly what it means. If Russia is a Great Power, then presumably there are others, and presumably they have parallel rights. No one knows exactly who these other “Great Powers” might turn out to be. It would also seem to follow that “Great Powers” have greater rights than lesser ones, a proposition that is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations, and unacceptable to those relegated to the second or perhaps third division. The aspiration to be recognised as a Great Power, which runs so clearly throughout Rogozin’s book, in short, is a lament for past glory to return, not a practical guide to policy. It is not however the less compelling for those who would pursue it because it is incapable of definition, or perhaps even of cure.

 


ON
 THE NATO DEFENCE COLLEGE REVIEW OF THE BOOK 
‘ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE’ BY DMITRY ROGOZIN

The very fact that a major agency of NATO’s educational system got down to reading such an alien book dedicated to Russian domestic affairs means a lot. The author of the review has taken the reading seriously, and building upon his knowledge he made an attempt to analyze what was written by Dmitry Rogozin. There is no doubt that NATO is primarily interested in political views of the ambassador it is dealing with rather than Russian domestic policy as such.

It is quite another matter that it is a tough job for a Westerner to give a fair assessment of those views; the temptation to slide down to stereotypes (Putin as the sole ruler of the country, patriotic views as an extreme form of xenophobia, etc.) is too big. The author of the review attempts to disregard details about Russian domestic policy, however, he delightfully quotes Rogozin’s criticism of the Russian bureaucracy and in the end he reduces everything to the ‘favourite’ common denominator of Western analysts – that Russia is yet again aspiring to become an empire and a great power, while it lacks either rights or good reasons for that. In the author’s opinion, such an aspiration lacks “legitimacy”, and he notes that Rogozin is just one among many Russians who want to see their country regain its greatness. The author argues that allegedly there is no ‘cure’ for this concept that has basically become the ideology Russian policy is guided by. Apparently, neither is there a cure for the aspiration of the Westerners to not let Russia become a great country again, just as for any form of maniacal schizophrenia. He particularly bridles at Rogozin’s ideas of uniting inherently Russian lands, and the role of the Russian nation as a civilization factor triggers nothing more than an ironic smile.

Nevertheless, this review seems in general to be quite well balanced and serious. The author admires Rogozin’s sincerity and consistency, his concerns over the present situation in the country, even though the style he chooses does not always seem justified to the author.

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