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
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk