Manifesto of the Nationalist Russian Liberation Movement – NAROD
Full English Translation of the Russian Text
Presented below is a full English translation of the Manifesto of the Nationalist Russian Liberation Movement - NAROD (NAtsionalnoye Russkoye Osvoboditelnoye Dvizheniya). NAROD was a political movement founded in June of 2007, ahead of the State Duma elections in December of that year and the Russian presidential elections in March of the following year. NAROD was conceived as a network of activists that would unite members from across Russia’s eclectic opposition under a National Democratic (Natsdem) umbrella.
The most famous signatory to the Manifesto and one of three founding co-chairmen of the movement, alongside Sergei Gulyaev and Zakhar Prelepin, is none other than Alexey Navalny.
I have included a brief discussion after the translated text that gives some context and introduces this newsletter, but first comes first. Here is the full text (the original Russian can be found here):
Manifesto of the Nationalist Russian Liberation Movement – NAROD
(NAtsionalnoye Russkoye Osvoboditelnoye Dvizheniya)
Russia stands face to face with national catastrophe. In a time of peace, in a favorable economic situation, in the world’s largest country by landmass with the world’s richest repository of natural resources, the population is dying off and being degraded.
The absence of a societal reaction to an unheard of level of corruption, to official lies, to ubiquitous bribery and theft, to bureaucratic disorder and to the cynical relations of those in power to the people, prolongs the days of the rotten handful of people who have torn themselves away from their society, and usurped power in the country. Therefore, it is necessary to finally recognize that the intertwined interests of government officials and oligarchs, which today rule Russia, are in direct conflict with the interests of the country and the people.
The attempt to establish a modern democratic state on the territory of the former RSFSR has fallen through. All the principal attributes of democracy: the division of powers, the institution of free elections, the federal system, local self government, and the independence of the judiciary — have been practically liquidated. These have been replaced by a “vertical monopoly on power” – a set of commercial clans, who have usurped the functions and offices of the government, and see governing not as a public service, but as an instrument to feed their personal greed. The alteration of election law and the appointment of government officials, judges and prosecutors based merely on personal loyalty, corporate interests, family ties, and nepotism created a fertile breeding ground for corruption and gave birth to the present day kleptocratic regime, whose members do not tie their own personal future to that of Russia.
The leadership of the country is meticulously replicating all the worst elements of the USSR, while simultaneously tossing aside like an unneeded ballast the real, social, intellectual, technological and cultural accomplishments of the Soviet era. Those in power are consciously cultivating cynicism and social apathy in society. The number of officials – with epaulettes and without – in the Russian Federation has long ago exceeded the analogous numbers for the whole of the USSR. Their level of corruption, incompetence, and impunity is on par with the more undeveloped countries in Africa.
Due to this, Russia remains the largest fragment of the USSR that has yet to become an independent state. If Russia does not undertake a nationalist program for the future of the country, the country will fall apart and disappear from the political maps of the world.
Our history proves that the Russian people are capable of mobilizing and overcoming both internal and external threats and challenges. The uplifting of national consciousness has always been our answer to attempts to divide us, enslave our country, and deprive us of freedom, independence, and territory. Across our thousand year history, a consciousness has taken root among our people, that we are a conquering people, capable of handling any calamity and any foreign enemy. A conquering people capable of rallying together and answering any call to action. With all of this in mind, every generation must work to reaffirm our rank as a “Great People” with their hard work and their accomplishments. Russia needs a new ruling power that is nationally minded and socially responsible. The representatives of today’s elite, despite whatever slogans they hide behind, are in no condition to bring the country anywhere except to a final breaking point and a historical collapse. The most important task of the movement that we are founding, “NAROD” is the fight for a radical changing of the guard among the elites. We are the first National-Democratic movement in the new history of Russia. The main principles that we are advocating for are:
We are convinced that a Russian national renaissance is only possible on the path of justice. A particular and acute understanding of justice is inherent to Russians, and is one of the most important aspects of our national tradition. A society in which a few dozen people acquire the lion’s share of the wealth, while man is a wolf to man (homo homini lupus), is inorganic and unnatural to Russia.
We believe the Russian people have wholeheartedly earned the right to live in a democracy. We need genuinely free elections. Those that proclaim that Russians “haven’t matured enough” for democracy, insult the national dignity of our people. Those that say this, are those that want to preserve the total omnipotent power and disorder of today’s ruling Kremlin kleptocracy.
The ruling regime that is destroying Russia is trying to use patriotic sentiments for their own personal ends. On the other hand, nationalist provocateurs undermine the state with xenophobia and calls to violence against “foreigners” and ethnic minorities. These provocations paint nationalists in a negative light.
Despite this, today millions of people that were raised in the Russian culture, but not of ethnic Russian extraction, refuse to recognize the chimera of “Russianness” (rossiyanstvo).* Instead, they see themselves fully as Russian people.
The unity of the nation, its power and blossoming will be strengthened only if we are able to establish equality under the law for all citizens, regardless of their ethnic background, where they live, or their social status.
We want to free our nation from corruption, lies, despotism, and treasonous rule. We are calling for a national liberation struggle against a perverse political system, founded and ruled by oligarchs in league with government officials, whose only purpose is to increase their personal wealth (capital) no matter the cost to the nation. They are willing to use all sorts of empty rhetoric in order to preserve this system – whether it is ultra-liberal or hyperbolically patriotic they don’t care.
The principles we are defending are as follows:
The primary task of the Russian government is to put a full stop to the process of degradation of Russian Civilization, and to cultivate the right circumstances for the preservation of the Russian nation, its culture, its language, and its historical territory. All the indigenous nations and ethnicities of Russia are considered a part of Russian Civilization, having tied their fate long ago to the fate of the Russian nation. National and ethnic minorities have both the opportunity to successfully assimilate, and by the same token the right to preserve their national identity.
It is necessary to reestablish and reaffirm the organic unity of the Russian past, present and future, and to officially declare today’s Russia the legal successor to every past form of Russian statehood – from Kievan Rus’ through the Novgorod Republic to the USSR.
Russians are the most populous divided nation in Europe. Every Russian must have the right to receive Russian citizenship and be guaranteed the ability to return to their homeland.
The people must be reinstated as the sole actual source of power in the nation. The President, the heads of the regions, the members of the Federation Council and the deputies of the State Duma must be elected in free and fair, direct elections.
Our alternative to the criminal “vertical monopoly on power” is – civilian control over every institution of power, wide ranging political reform, and the reestablishment of actual constitutional separation of powers as a system of checks and balances.
Judges, prosecutors, and police chiefs shall be independent, and elected. We are for the dismantling of the disgraceful and corrupt law enforcement system. Jury trials should be one of the foundations of our system of justice.
Everyone has a right to self-defense. Any law abiding citizen of Russia has the right to freely own a handgun.
Unilateral acts of amnesty for participants in the military conflict in the Chechen Republic are unacceptable. Those who took part in military conflict on the part of the federal forces must be granted immunity from criminal prosecution.
Those in government that have been responsible for the passing and implementation of legislative acts and other actions, that have damaged their government and harmed their fellow citizens must be held accountable. We consider it necessary to pass a lustration law.
We consider it necessary to prioritize domestic debts over foreign ones. Russian citizens must be compensated for any deposits (savings) that were lost in the years 1991-1992.
“The Big Privatization” that took place between 1992-2006 was unjust and unlawful. A full review of the outcomes and ramifications of the loans-for-shares auctions, as well as all sizable privatization deals, must be conducted and resolved by the government purchase of the privatized enterprises at their original (bargain basement) sale price.
A reasonable immigration policy is a government priority. Those that come into our own home, but do not wish to obey our laws and traditions must get out.
Russia must officially recognize the sovereignty and right to self-determination of countries who are our historical allies, for instance: Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It is necessary to legally forbid government corporations and natural monopolies to control mass media.
The idea of Russia as an “Energy Superpower” is a myth. In reality Russia is merely an appendage to the globe providing raw material and natural resources. Excess profits, derived from the oil and gas boom must be put towards technological modernization, which would be impossible without a significant increase in government investment in science and education.
Small businesses must become a feasible source of livelihood for millions of people. In order to achieve this small business must be freed from the burden of taxes, fees and government inspections.
NAROD is a supra-party structure, the members and leaders of which can belong to different parties and movements in addition to NAROD without ceasing to be a member or taking leave from such organizations.
NAROD is the first nonhierarchical political network with a decentralized membership structure.
In today’s Russia the old political parties are voluntarily refusing to fight for power, having made peace with the politics of national catastrophe. The country is on the verge of seeing the emergence of qualitatively new political forces, which will inevitably take power in the coming years. It is precisely for this purpose that we are founding the Nationalist Russian Liberation Movement (Natsionalnoye Russkoye Osvoboditelnoye Dvizheniya) – NAROD.
Sergei Gulyaev, Alexey Navalny, Vladimir Golishev, Pavel Svyatenkov, Pyotr Miloserdov, Andrei Dimitriev, Alexey Volynets, Zakhar Prilepin, Igor Romankov, Mikhail Dorozhkin, Evgeniy Pavlenko
*россиянства (rossiyanstva) which I have translated as “Russianness” is a term for citizens of the Russian Federation that does not carry the connotations of ethnic Russian Origin that the word “русские” carries.
The name NAROD is a clever acronym. Narod (Народ) is a multifaceted Russian word that can mean “the people”, “the nation”, or simply denote a crowd gathered for an event. The concept is similar to the German concept of “Volk” (the usage of the English equivalent “folk” is more obscure, and carries less connotations of the people as a group belonging to a nation state or ethnicity). “The Friendship of Nations” (Druzhba Narodov) was promoted as a key part of official Soviet state ideology in hopes of cementing ethnic and racial harmony among its many constituent nations and republics. Thus, the connotations of the word Narod are not Völkisch in the far-right Neo-Nazi sense.
However, the meaning of the acronym, “Nationalist Russian Liberation Movement” is an allusion to the Russian Liberation Movement an umbrella term for Russian Nazi-collaborationist groups during WW2. The most prominent of these groups was the Russian Liberation Army led by the turncoat Soviet General Andrei Vlasov. Too much stock should not be placed in this coincidence since this type of ambivalent naming of a political movement is somewhat typical of Russia. Eduard Limonov’s far-left party took the name National Bolshevik Party and had as its emblem a black hammer and sickle in a white circle on red field. On the other end of the political spectrum Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s far-right chauvinist political party is named the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. Regardless of whether it is mere coincidence or intentional allusion, this name piqued my interest in learning more about NAROD and Alexey Navalny’s involvement in the movement.
Navalny produced two infamous ads for the group that are still available on his inactive personal YouTube channel. The old channel is a far cry from the glossy and well-produced YouTube content that Navalny has become famous for in recent years. The most eye-catching clip, a pro-gun rights ad, caricatures Muslims as terrorists and compares them to cockroaches that need to be exterminated. (Version with English subtitles here.) The other clip features Navalny as a dentist and compares migrants to rotten teeth requiring extraction.
In addition to these two videos, Navalny’s history of racist and xenophobic comments has been bubbling up online since he has been in the headlines. As Navalny faces jail time, highlighting his flaws has angered people across the Twitter-sphere; especially at a time that feels decisive to some and the opposition in Russia faces political repression. People intimately involved in Russian politics have a right to feel some aversion when a Twitter-head half way around the globe, with no ties to Russia, post screenshots of this or that unsavory comment from Navalny. As controversial as this topic is, some of that stems from a lack of resources and informed discussion. This material has been well known and is often cited by Russians and in Russian outlets.
In English, NAROD, and Navalny’s involvement in it, has received some cursory discussion by the likes of Marc Bennets and Ben Judah in their profiles of the Russian opposition. The only serious academic writing that I have been able to find comes from Marlene Laruelle, who is a professor at GW’s Elliot School of International Affairs and has written extensively on Russian Nationalism. I’d recommend her work if you are looking to read an informative academic source on this subject. NAROD gets significant mention and the treatment is not heavy handed one way or the other. (A free Kindle version of her book that compiles some of these articles can be found here.) Apart from that, when the subject is brought up in major publications it is usually given a sentence or two, at best a few short paragraphs, before quickly moving on. Largely, this genre falls in line with Navalny’s own preference for dismissing the subject as old hat from a decade ago, while not retracting any of the political positions or backing away from anti-immigrant rhetoric.
With that in mind, since the turn of the year I have been working on researching and translating some materials from this period in Navalny’s life that are not widely available or widely discussed in the English language. Hence the translation above. I am in the process of writing a longer and more detailed discussion of the movement NAROD, the principles in the manifesto, the member’s diverse backgrounds and the variety of paths they have taken since. My explicit intention is to better inform an English-reading audience by bringing primary sources, such as the translation above, to light and discussing their context.
NAROD’s members hailed from an array of different groups. At the time, Navalny was a member of the liberal-democratic pro-free market party, Yabloko. The party and their liberal politics had been experience a waning influence in the State Duma since their peak in the 90’s. Another example is Pyotr Miloserdov who championed the phrase “Moscow for Muscovites”. Miloserdov was elected on a Communist Party (CPRF) ticket in local Moscow elections in 2005. On the other hand, he also maintained ties with Alexander Potkin (aka Belov) and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). Both Navalny and Miloserdov would be kicked out of their respective parties for their Nationalist associations, participation in NAROD, and their role in organizing the annual Russian March (Русский марш) that attracted all manner of right-wing extremists and skinheads.
Another cohort within NAROD includes Zakhar Prelepin, Aleksei Volynets, Andrei Dimitriev, and Evgeniy Pavlenko; all members of Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party. Volynets served as the longtime editor of the party’s underground broadsheet “Limonka” (Лимонка). At the time however, Limonov was one of the figures at the head of another movement that looked to unite various strands of the Russian opposition, “Other Russia” (Другая Россия). Limonov led “Other Russia” alongside Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Kasyanov and they attracted an even bigger, more diverse tent of oppositionists. There was some overlap between the two groups, and in an interview from 2007 Navalny highlights that they are separate entities but definite allies. (A union between the two groups never came to fruition perhaps in part because of personal animus from Limonov against the likes of Navalny and Miloserdov.)
I will be publishing a fuller overview of Navalny, NAROD and Russian Nationalism over the next few weeks. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, I will close the last tab in the endless stream of tabs I have open in Google Chrome. Later this week I will be putting out another translation of a political declaration made by NAROD and other nationalist organizations that will give further insight into the movement and its allies.
One good thing that our pandemic-ridden world has afforded me is a lot of free time to read and learn. As I mentioned above, the first few articles will deal with Russia and Russian subjects. Russia is a particular interest of mine as a first generation American born to Russian immigrants. In the future I hope to branch out to other subjects and areas of the world, including closer to home in Los Angeles, California. As I get this off the ground, the articles I write will be free to all. Subscribe, share and spread the word – any and all financial support is greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading!
P.S. I am not a person of many strong dyed-in-the-wool political convictions apart from one: that ethno-nationalism is a scourge on our world. Ethno-nationalism has been one of the greatest influences on the political geography of our world since the middle of the 19th century. As we move further into the 21st century, humanity continues to tear itself apart in the name of the glorious nation. Our “imagined communities” still regularly devolve into all-too-real tragedies. No wonder, it is hard to even imagine a world that transcends the petty ethnic, sectarian, and nationalist conflicts that have plagued us for far too long. My greatest motivation in writing this newsletter is maybe, just maybe, I will do my small part in imagining a world that does.
Writer and translator Katya Kazbek posted a twitter thread that gave a short summary and personal perspective on the topic of Navalny’s nationalism. Merely bringing up the topic of Navalny’s nationalism has provoked a strongly negative reaction and personal attacks coming from all kinds of sources. Others found the thread enlightening despite their differing political convictions with its author. Despite current residence in New York, Katya Kazbek is Russian and has been involved in alternative leftist politics in Russia. Navalny’s nationalism, history of racist remarks is a legitimate subject that deserves to be aired; especially at a time when prominent figures like Michael McFaul are promoting Navalny as the Russian equivalent of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and MLK (take your pick or roll them all into one).