The clandestine Soviet UnionNationalist revanchism has been gaining momentum in recent years among various political groups in Russia and has been greeted with some sympathy from the Kremlin. In the past, this sentiment has taken the form of open calls for the restoration of the Soviet Union, but recently a more provocative set of ideas have been making the rounds in Russia.
Maksim Kalashnikov, author of The Broken Sword of Empire (1998) and Battle for the Heavens (2000) - books that glorified Soviet militarism and earned him the moniker "Russia's Tom Clancy" - gave new impetus to the revanchist movement with the 2003 publication of Forward to the USSR-2, a book that is subtitled The National Idea or the Direction of the Main Offensive. Kalashnikov's real name is Vladimir Kucherenko, and he is a former deputy editor of the online magazine Stringer and a journalist for Rossiiskaya gazeta. Forward to the USSR-2 has gone through several editions over the past 18 months and its popularity has become widespread.
Kalashnikov's vision of USSR-2 is a version of an unrealized scenario for the reform of the Soviet Union that dates back to the early 1980s and that is attributed to then KGB director Yurii Andropov. It was later popularized by the nationalist ideologue Aleksandr Prokhanov. "In 1980, the United States had a nightmare in which it saw the transformation of the USSR, a country with a clumsy socialist economy, into the smart, aggressive, and strong-willed super corporation Red Star," reads the cover blurb to Forward to the USSR-2. "It might have emerged as a creature never before seen in history, combining the most advanced Soviet defense technologies with billions of gas dollars and the incredible might of the Soviet secret services. The United States did everything in its power to make sure this scenario never materialized, but can we realize it now?"
Kalashnikov, who has rejected Western models of economic development for Russia, answers a definite "yes" to this question. Those who advocate Western liberal economics, Kalashnikov writes, argue that if Russia follows their policies the country will reach Western living standards within a few decades. "However, under the conditions of globalization, we do not have this much time," Kalashnikov writes.
Kalashnikov, however, also rejects calls for the restoration of the former Soviet system, describing the Soviet Union as "the country of the party's miasma ... Nationalizing Russia's old-fashioned and obsolete industry as the Communists suggest is absolute stupidity," he writes.
Likewise, Kalashnikov rejects economic-development models such as those pursued by China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico or Pakistan. He argues that Russia cannot become a cheap producer of consumer goods because it does not have a cheap labor force, inexpensive and accessible natural resources, or convenient means of transporting manufactured goods to world markets. He notes that Russian workers must pay as much on utilities and other costs associated with surviving in Russia's harsh climate as workers in the countries mentioned above earn each year. This fact alone is enough to make Russian goods non-competitive on international markets.
Kalashnikov also argues that basing the Russian economy on the export of mineral resources is shortsighted. He repeats the arguments that noted military economist Andrei Parshev put forward in his 2000 book Why Russia Is Not America. In that book, Parshev argued that once the Soviet-built economic and transportation infrastructure is exhausted, the extraction of Russia natural resources will become forbiddingly expensive.
The only way for Russia to thrive is through the dream of USSR-2, Kalashnikov argues, urging the country to adopt several innovative development strategies that he calls "miracles".
Kalashnikov's first miracle is financial. He argues that it is stupid to use oil revenues to create a stabilization fund to repay the debts racked up by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Instead, Russia should sue the West to demand the return of gold deposited in Western banks by the czarist government during World War I. Kalashnikov argues that Russia must make such cases before the years 2014-17 or the government's claims will expire.
Next, Kalashnikov calls for an ideological miracle. He says the state must put forward an ideology that will be broadly attractive and will help the country avoid "suicidal clashes" with China and Islam. Such an ideology must help the country develop previously unthinkable alliances, such as with Saudi Arabia, he writes.
The next step, Kalashnikov argues, is an "ethnopsychological" miracle. He writes that the new state cannot be created with the current mentality of the Russian people, who he says are "ignorant not only of national ideals, but even of their own self-interests ... Therefore, it is necessary to create a new nation from the remnants of the Russian people, a new race that possesses the novel psychological quality of seeing itself as 'a nation of super-creators and geniuses'," Kalashnikov writes, echoing classic Nazi-style rhetoric.
The centerpiece of Kalashnikov's project is the "organizational" wonder. He proposes creating a clandestine state behind the facade of the Russian Federation, a country he sees as "incurably ill and destined to perish". He describes the clandestine state as "a network that combines the features of a party, an army, a secret service, the mafia, a church, and a business community ... This kind of networked brotherhood should exist alongside the official Russian state, never openly warring with it," Kalashnikov writes. "The brotherhood should form a strategic union with the Russian president."
Kalashnikov argues that such a parallel state will be able to act where the official state cannot. Utilizing its covert status, it will be able to operate wherever there are Russian communities - in Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and even Europe and the United States. One of the first tasks of this secret state will be to regain control over financial resources controlled by the oligarchs and, more broadly, by the entire class of "new Russians". "Using psychological and other special methods, we will turn them into zombies, obedient to the will of the secret state and investing their money where the state tells them to," Kalashnikov writes in the foreword to Forward to the USSR-2.
"Superficially, nothing will change and the current business community, with its assets in Russia and abroad, will continue to operate," Kalashnikov writes, "but in reality, control over financial flows will be recaptured by the secret state. In this way, we will avoid accusations of violating civil and property rights and other such nonsense. There will be no mass arrests, no demonstrative transfers of confiscated money into state funds." He writes that it is sufficient to apply pressure successfully to one or two oligarchs in order to bring all of them into submission.
Leaving no doubt as to whom he has in mind, Kalashnikov writes in his latest book, Ride the Lightning (2003), about an oligarch named Samuil Modorkovskii and a company called Sokos, clear allusions to embattled oil giant Yukos and its former chief executive officer, Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Kalashnikov describes Modorkovskii as smart and energetic, but as someone who sees no future for Russia and who is looking to transfer the money gained from exploiting Russia's oil to the West. "Coercion and levers of fear should be used" against such people, Kalashnikov writes, seeming to justify the campaign against Khodorkovskii that was about to unfold. "God himself allows us to fight them with sophistication and acute cruelty."
As for geographic expansion, Kalashnikov argues that it should not be necessary to repeat the experience of the Soviet Union. USSR-2 will be a "federal empire" and the states of the South Caucasus, Ukraine and, especially, the Central Asian republics can enter the new USSR with their own sovereignty, legislation and currencies intact. "We should tell our former southern republics that friendship with the United States will bring them no good," Kalashnikov writes. He said that while the United States criticizes these countries for corruption and human-rights violations, Russia will not demand any liberalization and will not intervene into their internal affairs.
Instead, Russia will build military bases "that will defend both your and our security", Kalashnikov writes. Russia will build nuclear power plants and desalinization plants "for which you can pay with gold and uranium". In return Russia will ask little - "equal status" for ethnic Russians, unfettered access for "our imperial television channels", and a role for Russian capital in the exploration for and exploitation of local natural resources.
It remains uncertain exactly how influential Kalashnikov's books and ideas actually are in Russia's corridors of power. But it cannot be denied that many, many pages from his books echo the most frightening headlines in contemporary Russian news reports. Many scenes in his books seem like the latest breaking news from Moscow.
Victor J Yasmann is a senior regional analyst with RFE/RL Online and specializes in Russian and Central Eurasian affairs, foreign policy, and international security. He holds a master of arts in economics from the Kharkiv Engineering Economic Institute and joined RFE/RL as a Soviet affairs analyst in 1984.
Copyright 2004 RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036.