Liberal Democratic Party of Russia

(LDPR)
   Political party. Known in Russian as Liberal’ no-Demokraticheskaia Partiia Rossii. Established in December 1989 as the Liberal Democratic Party of the Soviet Union (LDPSU), the LDPR has been led by the eccentric, and often unpredictable, nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky since its inception. According to some reports, the genesis of the party lay in a KGB attempt to establish a pseudo-party to compete with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the last days of Mikhail Gorbachev’s premiership; despite its origins, the LDPSU was the first political party to compete with the CPSU under perestroika, receiving legal status in 1990.
   Despite its name, the party is often described as illiberal and undemocratic due to its adoration of Joseph Stalin and objections to Western-style political pluralism and free-market capitalism. Its platform includes certain leftist planks, including the right to work, price controls, support of pensioners, state ownership of key industries, and state control of agricultural lands; however, the party is also known for its ultranationalism, geopolitical revanchism, and anti-Semitism. Reincorporation of Belarus and Ukraine as well as some other portions of the former Soviet Union is party doctrine. The party’s motto is “Freedom, Law, Russia.” Zhirinovsky’s “patriotic” or “national liberalism” promotes statism, lauds law and order (including the death penalty), and supports the military and neo-imperial adventurism, giving the party a quasi-fascist patina. The LDPR is particularly condemnatory of the oligarchs, linking them to Zionism and Western conspiracies to undermine Russia. However, the party has softened its harder edges, which were readily apparent in the first administration of Boris Yeltsin, placing some distance between the LDPR and the radical right-wing groups of neofascists, monarchists, and extreme nationalists. Rather than promoting the “Russian idea” based on a blood-based Russian nationalism, the LDPR borrows aspects of neo-Eurasianism to advocate for solidarity among all peoples united by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Romanov Empire before it, including Turkic Muslims, Mongolic Buddhists, and Finno-Ugric Christians. The LDPR, however, rejects exogenous, “fanatical” sects, particularly Protestant denominations, as incompatible with Russian civilization and lacking allegiance to the Russian state.
   The LDPR’s approach to respecting the diversity of Russophone Eurasia, while guaranteeing the ethnic Russians’ role as primi inter pares within that space, has been described as imperial liberalism. However, the party’s stated aim of dismantling Russia’s system of ethnic republics and other sovereign subjects is unpopular with many of the country’s national minorities. The LDPR rose to national prominence in 1991 when Zhirinovsky ran for the Russian presidency, placing third behind Yeltsin and Nikolay Ryzhkov with 7.8 percent of the vote. Two years later, the party’s fortunes reached their zenith, as popular discontent with Yeltsin’s actions during the constitutional crisis of 1993 benefited the bombastic Zhirinovsky. His advocacy of militarism and rejection of Russia’s Atlanticist course proved especially attractive to the Russian military. In the 1993 elections for the State Duma, the LDPR won a plurality of the vote (23 percent) at the national level, and was the most popular party in nearly three-quarters of Russia’s regions. The 1995 elections, however, saw that number cut in half. Still riding high as an individual political actor, Zhirinovsky represented the LDPR in the 1996 presidential election; however, despite a lead over Yeltsin in early polling, he finished in a disappointing fifth place. During the mid-1990s, the LDPR steadily transitioned from political nihilism toward moderate accommodation with the Kremlin. The first major shift occurred with its backing of the invasion of Chechnya. Yeltsin’s newfound enthusiasm for Russian military action, particularly when directed at the “South,” meshed well with Zhirinovsky’s geopolitical worldview, which dictated a push toward the Indian Ocean.
   The LDPR emerged as a major critic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) expansion and the war in Yugoslavia during the late 1990s, with both positions being echoed in the Kremlin by Yevgeny Primakov. Moderation failed to produce results, and the LDPR—running as the Zhirinovsky Bloc—returned a pitiful 6 percent of the vote in the 1999 Duma elections. With the presidency of Vladimir Putin, a second Chechen War, Russia’s return to great-power status, and the rise of the siloviki>, much of the LDPR’s political platform became reality. This proved a mixed blessing for the LDPR as it adjusted to its uncomfortable role as a pro-government party; however, the party did see its popularity rise in the 2003 Duma elections, doubling its take from 1999.
   See also Near abroad; Politics; Serbia.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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