'We have nothing to do with Zhirinovsky,' said Dmitri Vasiliyev, the leader of Pamyat, a small but ferociously militant group left over from the first wave of Soviet fascism. 'Vladimir Volofovich likes to call himself Russian but he is not, if we speak openly. He has been speaking on behalf of the Russian people but he is not Russian himself.'
Mr Zhirinovsky, the big winner in last month's parliamentary elections, is coy about his origins. He describes his mother as Russian and his father, almost certainly Jewish, as a lawyer. But Pamyat's main accusation against him is that he is a Nazi, not a fascist: 'Zhirinovsky preaches the ideas of nationalist socialism which has nothing to do with fascism. He discredits the idea of national unification and rebirth.'
With a silent nun and a dozen young men in tsarist uniforms on hand for a rare press conference, Mr Vasiliyev refused to give membership figures for Pamyat, denouncing 'questions of foreign intelligence agencies'.
Pamyat was formed in the early 1980s to protect Russian architecture and literature but veered into thuggish nationalism. Despite its early fame and then notoriety, it has been eclipsed by other groups promising national salvation; the most successful is Mr Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party.
Mr Vasiliyev rejected Mr Zhirinovsky's dream of Russian troops wearing summer uniforms and 'washing their boots in the warm waters' of the Indian Ocean. Russia's future, he said, lies not in southern expansion but along a different axis: 'We proclaim the Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo line, the realistic basis of political stability, as a geopolitical priority.'
Pamyat's claims of huge popular support have not been tested. Mr Vasiliyev said the group would field candidates but added: 'I don't believe in elections.'
His main concern was reviving the monarchy, serving God, halting 'servile dependence on multi-national corporations' and blocking a secret US plot launched in 1959 by Eisenhower. 'We are supposed to live like American Indians in reservations behind barbed wire and we will be shown to sightseers: 'These are Russians, that one is playing an accordion, another is doing something else.' This is what outrages us and creates an incredible force of resistance in the depths of Russia, a monstrous force of resistance.'
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