How racist and xenophobic is Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Vladimir Shirinovsky

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When a bulky man with short gray hair, a loose tie and haunted facial expressions threateningly shakes his index finger on Russian television, you can be quite sure: it's Vladimir Shirinovsky, and he's angry. These outbursts of passion can affect anyone and everyone, but Shirinovsky prefers to direct his anger at the supposed enemies of Russia and the Russian nation. The nationally known political clown is the first and only conceivable head of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPRLiberalno-Demokratitscheskaja Partija Rossi) and at the same time a highly decorated public servant. He regularly pushes the boundaries of what can be said with racist attacks. In short, the Russian public would be different without Vladimir Shirinovsky.

Wladimir Wolfowitsch Shirinowski was born in 1946 in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. His family was poor, his stepfather didn't care for him. The father who moved away was of Jewish descent; Shirinowski gave up the surname Eidelstein at the age of 18. When asked about his parents, Shirinowski once replied with the legendary sentence: "My mother was Russian, my father was a lawyer."1 To study he went to the Moscow State University, where he studied oriental languages ​​(he speaks fluent Turkish) and later law - and this is where the rumors begin at the latest. He had his first jobs in state institutions that were under the strict supervision of the KGB secret service. When asked about it by the journalist Vladimir Posner, he denied personal ties to the secret service, but did not deny that his own political project was being promoted by the state apparatus as an "independent alternative" during perestroika.

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This is how Shirinowski found his way into politics in the late 80s and early 90s; his LDPR has been constantly represented in parliament since 1993. Right from the start he successfully presented himself as an alternative to the dusty party bureaucrat: he was loud, had a coarse but apt humor and spoke in short, understandable sentences. In 1990 he declared: "My program is like everyone else's: Perestroika, free market and democracy!"2 and established contacts with liberal parties in Western Europe3. But soon he discovered the nationalist niche for himself. The impending collapse of the state, economic hardship and disorientation prepared the ground for the need for order and old strength. Shirinowski promised that. To this day he advocates an aggressive great power policy4 and sees the Russian nation threatened from all sides: from within by Yeltsin's "false democrats" who wanted to degrade Russia to the world's resource depot,5 and from outside optionally through the Muslim world, Zionism or the USA. His contacts in the western right-wing extremist scene (including the then DVU boss Gerhard Frey), his slogans of an Atlantic-Israeli conspiracy against Russia and his provocative proposals to redistribute the territories of Central Eastern Europe earned him the nickname "Adolfowitsch".

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Even though right-wing extremist sentiment is a constant of Shirinowski and the LDPR, which he fully controls, he occasionally surprises with socio-political positions that do not quite fit into the image of the chauvinist. He declared homosexuality to be part of human nature, predicted the introduction of same-sex marriage in Russia6, and recommended that the Russian population refrain from consuming meat7 - According to his own statements, he has been a vegetarian since 2013. Less than his socio-political liberality, however, such statements demonstrate Shirinowski's ideological invulnerability and his self-image as someone who relentlessly says what he thinks - regardless of the expected consequences. This also includes letting your emotions run free. And so Shirinowski can be seen regularly insulting and physically attacking others in front of the cameras - his juice attack on Boris Nemtsov is an example8 from 1995.

As grotesque as Shirinowski's figure may seem, it is anything but ridiculous. Because Shirinowski, who has run in every presidential election since 1991, fulfills an important function in the political system. On the one hand, he engages in rhetorical frontal opposition to Putin's (domestic) policy and thus attracts nationalist protest voters to his side. On the other hand, he leaves his faction with the ruling party United Russia(Jedinaja Rossiya), takes Putin's foreign policy under protection and keeps the protest voters in the system: Shirinowski, the reliably unpredictable demagogue, is Putin's buffer to the right.

1. Eatwell, Roger (2002): The rebirth of right-wing charisma? The cases of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, in: Totalitarian Movements & Political Religions, 3(3), pp. 1-23
2. Golosov, Grigorij (2004): Political parties in the regions of Russia: Democracy unclaimed, Boulder, p. 24
3. Luchterhandt, Galina (1994): The unleashing of the puppet: Wladimir Schirinowski and his LDPR, p. 122, in: Eichwede, Wolfgang (ed.): The Schirinowski effect: where is Russia drifting ?, Reinbek near Hamburg, p. 117-142
4. See e.g. B. his book Poslednij brosok na jug (German The last breakthrough to the south), which was reprinted several times.
5. Foreign Affairs: The Zhirinovsky Threat
6.Doždʼ: Vladimir Žirinovskij: zakon ob odnopolych brakach kogda-nibudʼ primut i u nas
7. Ria Novosti: Žirinovskij: partija LDPR postepenno perejdet na vegetarianskuju pišču
8 The attack was preceded by a provocation by Nemtsov, who spoke about Shirinowski's sexual behavior from a Playboy article.

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