2006-03-01 08:55:00
Embassy Moscow
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DE RUEHMO #1974/01 0600855
P 010855Z MAR 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 001974 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2016


B. 05 MOSCOW 14930

Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine.
Reasons 1.4 (B/D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 001974



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2016


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

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.

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-monopolize" 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.
-------------- --
-------------- --

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

-------------- -
-------------- -

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 countryside (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.

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

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.

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.