An interview with Rusian nationalist Alexander Belov

Alexander Belov: “A caste society is developing in Russia. The bureaucracy is at the top. Members of this caste are connected by marriage and business dealings. And our society cannot fight illegal immigration, or anything at all, as long as this situation persists.”

Alexander Belov, leader of the controversial Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI): who is he, really?

Question: Last week there was talk of the Karelian law enforcement agencies summoning you to testify. Are you really facing any threat of criminal prosecution?

Alexander Belov: I’m facing the threat of stupidity and powerlessness on the part of the state’s repressive apparatus. The directive to find something on me came from the very top. That’s why the Karelian Prosecutor’s Office was forced to open a criminal case, at the FSB’s instigation.

Their complaints focus on some statements I made on national television – about the brutal acts of Chechen bandits in Kondopoga. Allegedly, this incites ethnic hatred. In other words, brutalities and murder don’t incite hatred, but telling people about such things does. I’m certain that if the investigation abides by the Criminal Code, all allegations against me will be withdrawn.

Question: Could the DPNI be described as an organization of a new type?

Alexander Belov: Indeed, various analytical reports do note that there’s no other organization in Russia like the DPNI. This organization was not established for election campaign purposes. It was not established by a group of oligarchs. It was not established by the presidential administration.

It started as a grass-roots initiative from ordinary people. And this became possible as a result of the Internet. Guys communicated on various online forums and found that they had similar ideas about immigration and the position of Russia’s native population. And they concluded that it would be good to start some sort of organization.

Then, in 2002, there was a quarrel between members of the Armenian community and local youths in the town of Krasnoarmeisk near Moscow. Practically the same situation as in Kondopoga.

About a thousand people rallied outside the municipal administration, but no one was able to formulate the grievances against the authorities. Unfortunately, people in Russia are hesitant to take responsibility. In general, I’d say that many problems are due to people being afraid. But there’s nothing to fear, really.

Well, I spoke at that rally. Even though I didn’t represent any organization. And we managed to formulate the people’s demands. The municipal administration accepted them and complied.

After that, we started our website.

Question: That site drew a stormy reaction immediately – and a rather strange reaction. Some media immediately accused you of being neo-fascists.

Alexander Belov: Such perceptions are remnants of the Soviet era. In America there are many organizations like ours, and nobody calls them neo-fascists.

It’s worth noting that we have managed to achieve something since then. There has been a fundamental change in the national leadership’s attitude to illegal immigration.

But this has cost us some damage to our image. Certain people in the presidential administration decided that some sort of “undermining forces” might use us as tools, so they started making entirely groundless allegations against us.

Question: Well, everyone knows that you’ve been hired by the oligarchs to bring about an Orange Revolution…

Alexander Belov: Indeed, rumors started spreading that the DPNI is being paid by Boris Berezovsky and Leonid Nevzlin, in the interests of the West, to provoke inter-ethnic unrest – with the help of Stanislav Belkovsky.

Question: But it’s a neat theory, do admit.

Alexander Belov: The only reason it might seem convincing is that it’s repeated like a mantra. But there’s no rational kernel in it. The real threat to the authorities actually comes from hushing up inter-ethnic conflicts.

The hierarchy of governance as such is an entirely positive phenomenon. The problem with it is that lower-level officials fear to report the truth to their superiors. A distorted picture results. And then an order comes down from the top: “Well, if everything is calm, then those who raise ethnic issues must be extremists, so you should take punitive measures against them.” But there are no grounds for punitive measures. But the lower-level officials are too scared to refuse to follow unlawful directives, since they might be punished by corruption charges – the whole bureaucracy is mired in corruption.

A caste society is developing in Russia. The bureaucracy is at the top. Members of this caste are connected by marriage and business dealings. And our society cannot fight illegal immigration, or anything at all, as long as this situation persists.

Here’s a concrete example: the president issued an order to ensure that there are places at produce markets for traders who belong to Russia’s native ethnic group. Bureaucrats call a meeting with business owners who aren’t from the native ethnic group at all, and tell them: “Re-register your companies to make it seem like they’re owned by people with ethnic Russian surnames. Round up some vagrants and pay them to use their names.” And that’s it – problem solved.

I’m constantly approached by Slavic businesspeople who used to manage produce markets when the markets were owned by municipalities. But now the markets are being sold off. Local Russian business owners are unable to raise the sums required to buy them, but ethnic communities can. So they’re buying up the markets.

And this situation inevitably poses a threat to the food security of Moscow itself.

Question: So you’re not the Kremlin’s enemies?

Alexander Belov: We have never regarded ourselves as such. Some bureaucrats gave us that label, for some reason. On the contrary, we have always tried to obtain legal permits for our protest rallies, so that they won’t turn into “Russian revolts, senseless and merciless.”

Question: But you have a special attitude to one particular official in the presidential administration. Your verbal attacks on Vladislav Surkov have led some analysts to suggest that the DPNI is being used as a tool in the notorious power-struggle between Kremlin factions.

Alexander Belov: You know, after the Russian March I happened to read some analytical reports about the march and measures taken against it. Reports written by the special services. And this left me asking: who initiated the pressure on the march organizers? It’s hard to work out whether that impulse came from the administration or whether the special services just presented us in that light. Surkov may have been tricked, so he had to use his powers to forbid the march.

So I’m seeing the situation in a different light now. Before the march, however, I was convinced that the pressure was coming from that particular official.

Question: So you’re prepared to cooperate constructively with the authorities?

Alexander Belov: Of course – who could “restore order at produce markets” better than us? Is that supposed to be a task for the same police who were running protection rackets for ethnic crime groups at the markets, only yesterday? People should be given the opportunity to solve their own local problems.

It should always be remembered that the sole structure enabling the Russian state to exist is the Russian people. If Russians cease to be aware of their identity as Russians (russkiye) – if they turn into “Russian citizens” (rossiyane) – then Russia will cease to exit. Inter-ethnic conflicts will start – Bashkirs versus Tatars, and so on.

Russia has a dominant group: the Russian people, the guarantor of calm. As soon as this people loses its dominant status, problems erupt.

And it’s impossible to treat everyone equally. Look at the demographic problem, for instance. Should everyone receive assistance? Yes, they should. But Russians should get top priority – for one simple reason. There are no demographic problems in Chechnya or Dagestan, but there are in the Tver or Tula regions. So those regions need to be supported.

Question: I’ve heard that your brother was killed in the confrontation of October 1993.

Alexander Belov: Yes, Oleg was killed outside the government building, when a sniper’s bullet severed his spine. My other brother was injured, but survived, thank God.

Question: What was your family like? How did all three brothers come to be Russian patriots?

Alexander Belov: I was raised in a family where we got a lot of love. My father taught at the Lumumba People’s Friendship University, where he met my mother. We were never poor, but never well off either – just an ordinary Muscovite family. Living in a communal apartment, then a housing cooperative. Both my parents were from peasant families in the Tula and Nizhny Novgorod regions. But the family didn’t observe any traditions – no religion, no nationalism.

So my convictions were shaped by chance, really. I was led to them by curiosity and a heightened sense of justice and fairness. At first my interests displeased my father, but the force of my conviction gradually did its work. Actually, I can’t understand politicians who can’t convert their own friends and family to their cause – but still attempt to convince the rest of the world. All my nearest and dearest are now participating in our movement’s activities to some extent.