06MOSCOW1974, RUSSIA’S RODINA CONTENDS WITH KREMLIN PRESSURE AND

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06MOSCOW1974 2006-03-01 08:55 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3025
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1974/01 0600855
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 010855Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1431
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 001974 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI PINR RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA'S RODINA CONTENDS WITH KREMLIN PRESSURE AND 
INTERNAL DISSENSION 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 152 
     B. 05 MOSCOW 14930 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
 Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  The Rodina Party has embarked on a campaign 
to polish its image, softening (but not completely 
eliminating) its harsh criticism of minority migrants, while 
focusing on economic opportunity and social justice as the 
primary avenues for "transforming nationalism into 
patriotism."  The overall goal is to unite the hodge-podge of 
public organizations and small parties that currently 
comprise the Rodina movement into an effective political 
opposition capable of challenging United Russia's (YR) grasp 
on power.  The Kremlin seems to be taking no chances, 
however, with Rodina or its charismatic leader, Dmitriy 
Rogozin.  Having reportedly created Rodina to drain votes 
away from the Communist Party during the 2003 parliamentary 
electoral campaign, the Kremlin now appears to be engaged in 
lessening Rodina's influence by engineering internal party 
strife and manufacturing reasons to shut out its candidates 
from upcoming local elections, and some commentators believe 
the party may be liquidated.  Recent media reports suggest 
the possibility of Rogozin's overthrow as party leader, which 
could occur as early as the next party congress on March 25. 
However that turns out, many are skeptical that, despite 
Rodina's attempt to soften its image, the nationalist tiger 
will be able to change its stripes and expect that, however 
seductive the packaging, Rodina's fundamental strategy will 
continue to highlight societal differences and rely on 
heightened emotions to increase its popular appeal.  END 
SUMMARY. 
. 
----------------------------------- 
OFFERING NEW WINE TO THE MASSES ... 
----------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Recent conversations with Rodina suggest that the 
nationalist party is reeling from Kremlin pressure but 
intends to press ahead with a new campaign designed to smooth 
some of its hard edges and broaden its popular appeal.  Party 
leader Dmitriy Rogozin took a step toward moderating Rodina's 
image when he publicly condemned an anti-Semitic attack on a 
Moscow synagogue in January (Ref A).  Mikhail Demurin, a 
member of the Rodina Party's political council, told us that 
the public could expect more such statements in the future 
either from Rogozin directly or through the party's public 
relations department.  Demurin explained that the initial 
decision to communicate to the public more effectively had 
been taken during the party's 5th congress last June but had 
not been fully implemented until the party was banned from 
competing in local elections in Moscow in December.  (NOTE: 
As reported Ref B, the Central Elections Commission took 
Rodina candidates off the ballot after the party aired 
political ads on TV that were understood as allusions to 
migrant workers from Central Asia as street trash.  END NOTE.) 
 
3.  (C) Demurin acknowledged that the ads, which prominently 
featured Rogozin, were a "mistake."  Although designed 
intentionally to create controversy, the backlash they 
provoked was unexpected, Demurin said, which persuaded party 
leaders of the need to step up efforts to improve Rodina's 
image.  The party intends to tone down, though not entirely 
discard, its criticism of illegal migrants and to cast itself 
as a credible member of the "socialist international" 
coalition.  The basic goal, Demurin continued, was to 
"transform nationalism into patriotism" and unite the loose 
coalition of center-left, socialist, and patriotic 
organizations that currently form the backbone of the Rodina 
movement into a genuine political opposition.  (NOTE:  The 
term "Rodina" can be confusing since it represents both the 
political party led by Rogozin and a broader social movement 
of the same name, as well as a dissident faction led by 
former Rogozin ally, Sergey Baburin.  Demurin's comments 
referred principally to the Rodina Party, although he made it 
clear that the longer-term goal was to bring all 
Rodina-affiliated organizations under the party umbrella. 
END NOTE.) 
 
4.  (C) Much of the revamped strategy will revolve around 
"social justice" and economic themes, according to Demurin. 
Convinced that the party's future lies in increased support 
for Russia's nascent middle class, Demurin claimed that 
Rodina's membership rolls had been bolstered by owners of 
small businesses, military officers, bureaucrats, and members 
of academia, all searching for a new sense of identity in 
post-Soviet Russia.  It was a "protest electorate" that 
objected to the current focus on wealth accumulation and 
centralization of power at the expense of average citizens. 
Demurin said Rodina would continue to insist that the state 
 
MOSCOW 00001974  002 OF 005 
 
 
discharge its social responsibilities to citizens, including 
increased official investment in "human capital" and support 
for trade unions and worker-oriented associations, as part of 
a wider effort to "de-mo
nopolize" the economy.  In this 
context, Demurin said, the party was not intolerant of 
diversity and did not oppose members of non-Slavic ethnic 
groups, but it objected to the importation and use of foreign 
labor instead of recruiting and training Russian workers from 
poor regions of the country.  He added that Rodina's message 
would now focus more on the economic aspects of this argument 
and less on the ethnic dimension. 
 
5.  (C) Rodina also proposed introduction of a fifth national 
priority to complement initiatives articulated by President 
Putin last year to develop the housing, agricultural, 
education, and health care sectors.  Demurin referred to 
Rodina's proposal as the "Preservation, Development, and 
Growth of the Nation."  He noted that Rodina did not 
generally oppose the basic goals of the four original 
priorities but predicted they would be insufficient to 
improve conditions for average Russians and, in any case, 
were designed simply as electoral ploys to win votes for YR 
and other Kremlin-supported candidates in next year's 
parliamentary elections.  He maintained that Rodina's goal 
was longer-term; its proposal included measures for 
stimulating birth rates, reducing mortality, fighting 
poverty, and taking greater care of the destitute and 
homeless.  It also called for legislation aimed at 
eliminating illegal immigration and more effective control 
over migrants and the nation's borders. 
. 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
... WHILE THE KREMLIN TURNS UP THE PRESSURE ... 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
6.  (C) Turning to internal party issues, Demurin 
acknowledged that the situation was tense.  During the 
February 2 political council meeting, some senior party 
officials had taken Rogozin to task for being too 
nationalistic.  That had provided further impetus to tone 
down the party's ethnic rhetoric.  Demurin was not confident 
that the rift between Rogozin and former ally Baburin would 
ever be resolved.  Referring to Baburin as a corrupt 
politician who had been a divisive influence within Rodina's 
Duma faction and had constantly challenged Rogozin's 
leadership, Demurin said Baburin had "sold out" to the 
Kremlin last June when he and a handful of supporters broke 
away from the main Rodina faction to form a smaller group 
within the legislature.  Demurin characterized that action as 
a Kremlin maneuver to undermine the growing popularity of 
Rogozin and Rodina in general. 
 
7.  (C) Other forms of pressure from the Kremlin were also 
taking their toll, he said.  Officials in several 
jurisdictions where local elections would be held March 12 
had "bowed to Kremlin demands" to find various reasons to 
deny registration to Rodina Party candidates.  In spite of 
such official pressure, however, Demurin claimed that the 
party was growing.  Membership stood at 140,000 and was 
represented in 80 administrative jurisdictions throughout the 
country.  The party had also done well in previous regional 
and local elections, taking a consistent average of nine 
percent of the vote, with an additional 5-6 percent of the 
electorate expressing support "in principle." 
 
8.  (SBU) Rodina Duma Deputy Mikhail Markelov, as well as 
recent media reports, fleshed out Demurin's remarks about the 
challenges facing the party.  Local authorities in the 
Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug reportedly refused to register 
Rodina's proposed list of candidates for March 12 elections 
in that jurisdiction because of "incorrect information" about 
some of them, while the Orenburg elections commission 
similarly rejected Rodina's list because of alleged 
complaints from some members of the regional party 
organization that they had not participated in the selection 
process.  Kaliningrad was the most recent location to deny 
registration to Rodina candidates.  In Nizhniy Novgorod, 
Rodina candidate Andrey Klimentyev was arrested for theft, 
and some Rodina members are reportedly trying to exploit 
Rogozin's alleged links to Klimentyev to their own advantage. 
 Within the party, Oleg Denisov, Deputy Chairman of the State 
Duma Committee for Education and Science, reportedly has 
emerged as one of Rogozin's critics and might be a 
front-runner to take over the party leadership should Rogozin 
step down or be forced out.  Media reports attribute the 
internal strife to Kremlin manipulation but also suggest that 
the party might soon fall apart even without outside 
interference.  In any case, the leadership question will 
reportedly top the agenda at the party's upcoming congress on 
March 25. 
. 
 
MOSCOW 00001974  003 OF 005 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
... BUT THE MESSAGE LOOKS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
9.  (C) The differences embodied in the "new" campaign that 
Demurin outlined might be too subtle for the average Russian 
to grasp and are probably more tactical than strategic.  A 
number of our non-Rodina contacts dismissed the whole effort 
as "cosmetic" and believe that Rodina's basic philosophical 
underpinnings will not significantly change, nor will it 
mitigate Kremlin pressure to reduce the party's influence. 
At the same time, our contacts warn that Rodina's message of 
patriotism, strong family and cultural values, and equality 
of social and economic opportunities resonates positively in 
a Russian population still trying to find its place in the 
world.  These observers generally note that many Rodina 
members applaud Putin's restoration of stability after the 
turmoil of the Yeltsin era, while criticizing the increasing 
corruption and unequal distribution of material wealth, as 
well as Putin's failure to prevent the further erosion of 
traditional values. 
 
10.  (C) Galina Kozhevnikova of Sova, a research association 
that monitors nationalism and extremist trends, and Leontiy 
Byzov, head of the Social and Political Analysis Department 
of the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, are among 
those who acknowledge Rodina's popular appeal but told us 
that the party will continue to spark controversy and 
highlight societal differences as a basic strategy to recruit 
members.  Among the more susceptible to Rodina's nationalist 
appeal were young people, especially in smaller cities and 
rural areas, where many poorly educated and underemployed 
youth had become alienated.  Kozhevnikova, in particular, 
emphasized that point but noted that Rodina could not be 
considered an "extremist" organization since it did not 
espouse violence, despite a strident nationalistic message 
that clearly sought to marginalize ethnic minorities.  She 
stressed that the campaign against the immigration of migrant 
workers from Central Asia, legal or otherwise, was a veiled 
effort to preserve the dominance of the country's ethnic 
Russian character.  In Kozhevnikova's view, calling on 
authorities or business interests to offer jobs and training 
to ethnic Russian workers from the co
untryside (instead of 
importing Central Asians) was probably a non-starter from an 
economic perspective, but it enhanced Rodina's image among 
the disenfranchised. 
 
11.  (C) Byzov echoed Kozhevnikova to a large extent.  He 
said Rodina's gains came mainly from the provinces, where the 
organization's "anti-intellectualism" plank was especially 
welcome.  In some non-urban locations, Byzov thought Rodina's 
increase in support came at the expense of the Liberal 
Democratic Party (LPDR), despite the more widely shared view 
that the Communist Party (KPRF) was Rodina's chief rival. 
Kozhevnikova noted that while some Rodina members might be 
extremists, especially concerning anti-Semitic issues, the 
organization on the whole did not support such attitudes. 
However, tacit acceptance of those who did so allowed it to 
embrace current and prospective members looking to assign 
blame for their own or Russia's failings.  Of the two Rodina 
factions in the State Duma, Kozhevnikova thought the Rogozin 
group was more moderate than the smaller faction led by 
Baburin.  She described Rogozin as a polished, experienced 
politician who knew how to extend the limits without pushing 
too far.  He was more a populist than a nationalist, whose 
charismatic propaganda skills were capable of enhancing both 
his personal popularity and that of Rodina.  The socialist 
elements of the Rodina message would be particularly 
attractive and could broaden the party's base of supporters. 
 
12.  (C) Byzov characterized Rodina (mainly the Rogozin wing) 
as an effective organization in terms of its appeal to the 
population's growing interest in preserving Russian culture, 
language, and ethnicity.  That was a message intentionally 
designed to divide society, in his opinion.  Rodina also 
sought to cast itself as a party that promoted social 
protection and equal economic opportunity -- "recreating the 
Soviet Union without the communists."  Many supporters turned 
to Rodina because of its positions on maintaining ethnic 
superiority and reversing the country's worsening demographic 
position (the latter point, in Byzov's view, was Rodina code 
for keeping ethnic Russians on top).  Without its ethnic 
theme, Byzov believed that Rodina was not a very deep party, 
intellectually, and lacked the broader perspective needed to 
be perceived as a more serious political contender.  He 
predicted that the Kremlin would continue to promote internal 
strife in the party and that Rodina would be wracked by 
scandals, manufactured or otherwise. 
. 
--------------- 
WHAT IS RODINA? 
 
MOSCOW 00001974  004 OF 005 
 
 
--------------- 
 
13.  (SBU) Rodina was initially born in September 2003 when 
three political parties -- Rogozin's Party of Russian 
Regions, the Socialist United Party of Russia with Aleksandr 
Vatagin its nominal chairman and Sergey Glazyev as 
"unofficial" leader, and the People's Will Party under the 
leadership of Baburin -- joined together to compete in the 
parliamentary elections.  Most political observers agree that 
the Kremlin encouraged the formation of Rodina to draw votes 
away from the KPRF, a tactic that ultimately succeeded. 
Rodina won approximately nine percent of the national vote 
and put 40 deputies into the State Duma, where they formed 
their own faction.  In the presidential contest in March 
2004, Rodina supported Putin, but not before Glazyev's 
self-nomination as a presidential candidate in January of 
that year ignited a conflict between him and Rogozin.  The 
two men eventually reconciled their differences to some 
extent, and Glazyev currently serves as one of several 
rotating leaders of the Rodina faction (Rogozin wing) in the 
Duma, while also maintaining a parallel leadership position 
in a left-patriotic organization called "For a Decent Life." 
 
14.  (SBU) A more serious dispute within Rodina's ranks broke 
out in early 2005 and culminated in Baburin's departure from 
the faction, along with a handful of deputies, and the 
subsequent establishment of a second, smaller Rodina faction 
in the State Duma.  Baburin told us at the time that he broke 
away because of Rogozin's "egotistical" leadership style and 
unwillingness to share power or to consider a consolidated 
political platform that was not based exclusively on his own 
ideology. 
 
15.  (SBU) Rodina is both a political organization and a 
social movement.  Its political character is represented by 
the Rogozin and Baburin factions in the State Duma, as well 
as by the individual parties (mainly Rogozin's Rodina Party, 
which was renamed in February 2004 from the Party of Russian 
Regions, and Baburin's People's Will) that comprise the two 
factions.  But Rodina is also a broad populist movement that 
includes various social and patriotic organizations.  Within 
the Rogozin wing, there is Glazyev's "For a Decent Life" and 
the All-Russia Rodina Association.  The Baburin side includes 
at least one member of the Socialist United Party, as well as 
most, but not all, of the deputies affiliated with People's 
Will.  In addition, Baburin maintains a close relationship 
with Gennadiy Semigin, leader of the Patriots of Russia 
coalition, who broke away from the KPRF and formed a "shadow 
cabinet" in March 2005 that includes Baburin as "Minister of 
CIS Affairs."  (Glazyev is the  "Minister of Finance" in the 
same shadow cabinet.)  While these ties seem illogical at 
first glance, both Rodina members and communists share a 
common belief in statist solutions to social and economic 
problems.  In any case, the array of loosely organized, 
shifting alliances offers maximum flexibility for the various 
individual players, serving to mask their true motivations 
and political loyalties. 
. 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
16.  (C) Rodina, particularly the Rogozin-led faction, will 
likely encounter mounting pressure from the Kremlin and GOR 
authorities.  Partly this is due to Rodina's (and Rogozin's) 
success in building up a significant following throughout the 
country that exceeded most expectations.  But, having 
achieved its intended purpose of thwarting the communists 
during the 2003 elections, the Kremlin appears to calculate 
that Rodina is now a more potentially disruptive factor than 
the communists, and needs to be put under firm control or out 
of business.  Some observers indeed believe that a Kremlin 
decision has already been made to liquidate the party, 
although that remains speculation. 
 
17.  (C) The extent to which the party's current internal 
strife is the result of Kremlin manipulation or 
self-destructive internal dynamics remains an open question; 
both media reports and our own conversations with Rodina 
stalwarts suggest that Rogozin's leadership style is the 
cause of much of the dissension, which likely would have 
occurred with or without Kremlin machinations. 
 
18.  (C) Rodina's difficulties also underscore the
 fragility 
of Russia's political parties, most of which are 
personality-driven.  For many observers, Rodina and Rogozin 
are indistinguishable, and his departure would deal a major, 
if not fatal, blow to the organization.  In the meantime, its 
campaign to improve its image might be self-defeating 
regardless of Rogozin's political fortunes.  The party staked 
out an assertive nationalistic position virtually from the 
 
MOSCOW 00001974  005 OF 005 
 
 
beginning, and to back away now from its strong ethnic and 
anti-immigration policies would probably undercut its reason 
for existence in the eyes of many of its supporters. 
BURNS

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