Eddie's right-wing chapter shocks Russian readers: Helen Womack in Moscow meets a Soviet rebel author now free to fly his true colours

THE courageous confessions of a Russian exile in New York, in a book called I Am Little Eddie, made its author, Eduard Limonov, an underground hero in the Soviet Union of the early 1980s. Now his erstwhile fans are astonished to see Little Eddie back in his native country, rising as an extreme right-wing nationalist politician.

He claims to be inspired by the Serbs, for whom he has fought as a volunteer in Bosnia, and models himself on the early 20th-century Italian thinkers who inspired Mussolini. One former Limonov fan lamented: 'For me, this was a bigger shock than learning that Lewis Carroll was probably a paedophile.'

At the shabby headquarters of his newly founded National Radical Party last week, Mr Limonov, dressed in black from head to foot, said: 'I am not a fascist. I am a nationalist. There is a difference.'

Mr Limonov quit his post as security minister in the shadow cabinet of the rabidly nationalist politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who he felt was 'too passive'. He advocates Serbian-style ethnic cleansing to protect Russians in the independent, former Soviet republics. Otherwise, he retains his New York cool.

How could everyone have been so wrong about Little Eddie, the working-class lad from Ukraine's Russified city of Kharkov, who became a counter-culture poet in Moscow in the 1970s and so annoyed the Communist authorities that they expelled him in 1974?

In retrospect, his development is perhaps logical. He was always patriotic - he even wrote an 'Ode to the Soviet Army' - but used to complain about the lack of artistic and personal freedom in the Soviet Union. And he would criticise the leading dissidents of the time while rejecting the label of dissident for himself.

'I was saying then - you can look back in my writings and see this is true - that their experiments would be dangerous for the whole Russian population. I meant people like (the late Andrei) Sakharov. They were dangerous because they idealised the West and were pathologically hostile to their own country.'

Mr Limonov was angry that the Soviet Union expelled him and made him choose between life in 'the forests of Canada or the jungle of New York'. But he was equally displeased with America which, he said, 'proved hostile to me'. It took him four years to write I Am Little Eddie, his first book; then came His Butler's Story, an account of how he served an American millionaire, and The Teenager Savenko (Limonov's real name is Savenko), a memoir of his youth.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr Limonov, the son of a military officer, found himself drawn to Mr Zhirinovsky, the chairman of the misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party. Actually an overtly racist organisation, it advocates the establishment of a Greater Russia within the boundaries of the old Tsarist empire, and threatens any likely to resist, such as the Baltic states, with having nuclear waste dumped on them or worse. 'I found we had ideas in common, so when Mr Zhirinovsky enlarged his shadow cabinet, I accepted a post,' Mr Limonov said.

But the writer, who would have become responsible for the equivalent of the KGB in any Zhirinovsky regime, said he became dissatisfied because the LDP leader talked too much and did nothing.

So last November, Mr Limonov formed the break-away National Radical Party. Its founding congress was attended by 'a few hundred people', and two weeks ago it was officially registered. It intends to put up a candidate against Mr Zhirinovsky in the election for Moscow's mayor next month.

The new party's policy is quite simple: 'to reunite Russians in one state', as Mr Limonov puts it. This means not that the Soviet Union will be revived but that areas of other republics where Russians live will be annexed. The writer said it was intolerable, for example, that Russians being driven out of Tajikistan were having to pay huge bribes to cross Uzbek territory to their Motherland; and that Russians in the Baltic states were facing what he called 'conditions worse than apartheid'. (The United Nations has given the Baltic states a clean bill of health over their treatment of the Russian minority.)

Mr Limonov says the West has far more to fear from the chaos in the former Soviet Union than from attempts by people such as him to restore order and prestige to Russia. But liberals think he is more dangerous than the ranting Mr Zhirinovsky because he is intelligent, sexy, popular for his writing, and has fought in two ethnic conflicts.

Mr Limonov sees no contradiction between being an artist and a soldier. Hemingway and Orwell both combined writing and fighting, he noted. A journalist as well as a poet and novelist, Mr Limonov first strayed from what most correspondents would consider proper activity when he helped the Cossacks in the war in Dnestr last June. Then in October he went to the former Yugoslavia as a guest of the Serb Socialist Party, met Slobodan Milosevic and joined a Chetnik regiment in Bosnia.

Did he kill anyone? 'It's hard to say,' Mr Limonov said. 'I was shooting with 9mm and 12mm machine-guns and Kalashnikovs.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick