Zhirinovsky finds a soul-mate in Le Pen
Monday 12 February 1996
The second is with his latest political bedfellow, Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's far right, who was the only guest of honour. A day earlier the two pledged to form a European union of ultra-nationalists with the self-proclaimed aim of defying historical precedent and using their ideology to "prevent war in Europe".
First things first. When Mr Zhirinovsky said he would provide Moscow's homeless with a "sea of vodka" for his anniversary festivities, we thought cunning old Vladimir was trying to upstage Boris Yeltsin's announcement - expected this week - of his candidacy in June's presidential elections.
But the event was not one of the finer moments in Mr Zhirinovsky's long repertoire of political theatre. Hundreds rather than thousands pitched up in sub-zero temperatures to watch him and his wife draw up in a carriage drawn by three white horses and disappear into the 300-year-old church of St Michael the Archangel. The onlookers found not a sea of vodka, but a puddle.
Mr Zhirinovsky, whose burly frame had been coerced into a tuxedo and bow tie, and his wife renewed their vows in a Russian Orthodox ceremony in which they kissed icons, held candles and paraded under crowns. "They seemed to have no idea how to behave," said one witness, "They spent most of the time muttering to each other, and waving to their friends."
Outside, a long queue of hopeful elderly Russians formed outside a bus dispensing drink, rolls and meat pies. Many got nothing at all, and had to make do with Mr Zhirinovsky and his aides throwing 500 rouble notes (value: 7p) into the crowd, like a tsar dispensing favours to serfs.
Some relished the event and spoke admiringly of their host; others did not. "I can't stand Zhirinovsky," said one woman, as she left an earlier church service. "I am afraid he could come to power. I am ashamed he has come to our church. We love this church, and we don't want him here."
In the end it was all about television publicity, an art in which Mr Zhirinovsky outstrips all his competitors - last December his Liberal Democratic party came second in Russia's parliamentary elections to the Communists.
The same motive almost certainly inspired Mr Zhirinovsky's sick answer to a question about how he and Mr Le Pen would react if their two countries went to war. "We will send in the Chechens. France will send her African negroes. Jean-Marie will be in Paris drinking French wine and I will be in Moscow drinking vodka. From time to time, we'll phone each other to tot up how many Chechens and negroes have been killed."
None of this sheds much light on the larger and more disturbing questions raised by the Zhirinovsky phenomenon. What if he means even half of what he says? What if he makes it to the Kremlin in June?
- 2 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Ball pool for adults opens in London
Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...