An interview with Dmitri Rogozin

Russia’s chief nationalist, Dmitri Rogozin, has revived the Congress of Russian Communities and become its leader. He intends to develop it into a new parliamentary party. In this interview, Rogozin discusses the national priority projects and the meaning of Russian nationalism.

Russia’s chief nationalist, Dmitri Rogozin, has revived the Congress of Russian Communities and become its leader. He intends to develop it into a new parliamentary party.

Question: So the Motherland (Rodina) project has been shut down?

Dmitri Rogozin: Shut down, though not by the choice of its organizers.

Question: But everyone believes that the Motherland party was organized by the presidential administration.

Dmitri Rogozin: There are a lot of people in the Kremlin, and they don’t all think alike. Motherland owed its birth to Vladimir Putin, Sergei Glaziev, and myself. All the Kremlin hangers-on were against it, of course.

Question: Did you come up with the party’s title?

Dmitri Rogozin: Yes, but that’s not really important. The important point is that 2003, when we organized ourselves into a unified bloc for the election, was just about the last year for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It was followed by the clamp-down we’re seeing now. Still, it would be wrong to say that the “obscurantists” from the presidential administration are to blame for everything.

Question: So who is to blame?

Dmitri Rogozin: Journalists themselves – or rather, media executives. After all, the authorities rarely issue direct recommendations or prohibitions to media outlets. There is such a thing as self-censorship. In theory, the Kremlin administration ought to protect citizens’ constitutional rights, but the problem is that state officials favor the lackeys and lickspittles among media executives. And we can see the results of that on Channel One (ORT) – as the Russkii Kurier newspaper recently noted. Yes, it does get high ratings. But porn sites on the Internet are very popular too, after all. Is that really what we expect from our country’s leading television network?

Question: So why did your efforts to defend Motherland fail?

Dmitri Rogozin: This project, started with the President’s personal support, soon took on a life of its own. Riding the wave of criticism of the authorities’ actions in the Beslan school hostage crisis and the monetization of benefits, the project broke the umbilical cord attaching it to the Kremlin. The presidential administration grew jealous and started intriguing against Motherland, since it didn’t want to be criticized or see the rise of a powerful patriotic party, capable of truly competing for power. Eventually, the full resources of the government of a huge nuclear power were directed into breaking up and smothering Motherland.

Question: But you’ve retained your contacts with Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration. It’s said that you visit him weekly to receive your instructions.

Dmitri Rogozin: That’s a lie. Yes, the party and the Duma faction were taken away from me – I was defamed and vilified – but on the other hand, I gained complete independence. Now, as a politician, I have to decide how to use that independence. Of course, I’ve never ceased to have contacts with the authorities and the opposition – apart from last summer, while I was writing my book, “Enemy of the People.” It’s become a best-seller – a kind of political manifesto for the Russian nationalist movement – and I’m glad of that.

Question: And are you meeting with Putin?

Dmitri Rogozin: I’m sure that such a meeting will take place soon. For reasons I don’t understand, the President threw me to his “guardsmen” – but he’s started to implement my ideas. He has identified the Saving the Russian People program as the chief national project. The state has started taking measures against illegal immigration and the ethnic mafia. It is implementing a project aimed at encouraging Russians from other post-Soviet countries to relocate to Russia. It has taken the first steps in fighting corruption. These are all our policies, the reasons why we were attacked, why attempts were made to destroy us, why we were called “xenophobes” and “racists.” So we see that Putin himself is moving in the right direction, and we’re bound to meet up with him. Saying the right words is one thing, but it’s quite another matter to put together a team of people with the ideas and skills required to turn those words into real action. We’re the only ones who have that kind of team, and Putin knows it.

Question: You describe yourself as a nationalist. But you always speak out against the national projects.

Dmitri Rogozin: I’m not against the national priority projects. What I oppose is the attempt to portray what ought to be the routine work of the government as some sort of “great feats.” Raising the wages of state-sector workers – that’s what we should expect the government to do all the time. There’s no reason to turn it into a publicity stunt. At long last, our leaders have stopped doing nothing at all – and now they want applause for that. Yes, Russia’s revenues exceed its spending substantially these days. But we can’t let this surplus destroy the national economy.

Question: But how is it destructive to invest in housing and communal services, healthcare, and agriculture?

Dmitri Rogozin: Go ask the state-sector health workers. Some of them have finally had their salaries raised – although all their bonuses have been taken away at the same time. In fact, we should have raised health worker salaries long ago. Now it’s been done, at last. But think about it: who is earning more now? Local general practitioners.

Question: What kind of national projects does Russia really need?

Dmitri Rogozin: I can see several real priorities for national action plans. First: saving the people, of course. We need to invest and make every effort to ensure that people are willing and able to have at least three children per family. At present, statistics show that our nation is dying out – a qualitative extinction as well as a quantitative extinction. Yet the whole point of the authorities’ functions is that our people should continue to exist.

Eliminating corruption – that’s another real priority project. We need to monitor the spending habits of state officials and bureaucrats. Not their income – that’s too hard to monitor – but their spending. It’s simply appalling to see a minister building a mansion worth $27 million. We should also make lie detector tests mandatory when hiring government staff, presidential administration staff, prosecutors, judges, and investigators. Candidates might refuse to be tested, of course, but they should know that a refusal will lead to a thorough investigation into their affairs.

Question: I don’t think that any lie detector can guarantee the honesty of Duma or Federation Council members. They’ll find some way to outwit the machine.

Dmitri Rogozin: Firstly, modern technology is good enough to prevent that. Secondly, we should revive and develop a public oversight system for the personal spending habits of state officials, bureaucrats, and their family members.

Question: What kind of project in the economy would you consider a real priority and truly national?

Dmitri Rogozin: Rebuilding a real economy. After all, we can’t really consider it successful when the indicators are mostly based on output of non-renewable resources – oil and gas. Oil is flowing our of Russia, while Russian industry is still flat on the floor. The fuel and energy indicators should simply be ignored – only then will we find out the real condition of industry and agriculture.

Question: And how can we counter the dominance of imports?

Dmitri Rogozin: Make them ours. Foreign producers should know that if they want to sell their goods in Russia, they should build their factories here.

Question: What about infrastructure – roads and so on?

Dmitri Rogozin: Ah yes, roads. Road-building might well be the chief national project. All of the abovementioned factors – plus housing, education, jobs – it’s all created around roads. Russia is a vast country with a cold climate. How can we do without modern roads? It’s vital for us to have a new transport development concept.

Question: Russia’s roads are said to be unprofitable.

Dmitri Rogozin: They’re unprofitable because they’re so bad, especially beyond the Urals. That is still the case, although the completion of the Trans-Siberian Highway was announced two years ago.

Question: You’re considered a nationalist – almost a radical. The recent Russian March, which you headed, caused some serious concern among the authorities and elsewhere.

Dmitri Rogozin: Of course people are concerned, what with all the anti-Rogozin propaganda. Many expected the event to turn into a pogrom. But we were only protesting against insults to the majority of our country’s population. The Russian population.

Question: Given Russia’s ethnic mixture, who can be considered Russian these days?

Dmitri Rogozin: Great Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and anyone who perceives themselves as Russian and accepts Russian history, culture, and language as their own. By the way, a prominent right-wing liberal activist – Georgy Satarov, president of the InDem Foundation – has made a public apology for signing the statement against the Russian March. He apologized when he learned the truth about this event. I am indeed a nationalist, in the sense of defending the interests of Russian people, wherever they may be and whatever their ethnicity. My credo: love what is your own, and respect what belongs to others.

Question: So your party is being revived?

Dmitri Rogozin: It might be too soon to call it a party, but the first steps have been taken. We held a conference on December 9 to re-establish the Congress of Russian Communities. I hope it will attract all the rational nationally-oriented organizations, in Russia and abroad. About three months from now, we’ll be seeking to re-register with the Justice Ministry. Then we’ll work on forming a parliamentary-type party. The Congress of Russian Communities has about 70,000 members, most of them young men and women. The Russian March took place in several dozen cities. Next year, we expect the Russian March to attract a million Russians. The authorities must acknowledge the existence of the Russian question. Failure to resolve it could create an explosive situation. Russian patriots should be recognized by the authorities as partners in dialogue. Only then shall we be able to restore order, democracy, freedom of speech – and eventually create the conditions for restoring Russia’s great power status.