by Vladimir with Todd Bludeau Kartsev ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 11, 1995
An intriguing look at Russia's most talked about politician. Kartsev (former director both of the Mir publishing house and of publications at the UN), with former Mir editor Bludeau, presents a colloquial account of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who for a time was legal counsel at Mir. The central question that frames the book is ""How was the Zhirinovsky phenomenon possible?"" Zhirinovsky and his misnamed Liberal Democratic Party won 25% of the national vote in December 1993, according to Kartsev, because of the debilitating and bewildering effects of bespredel. The word, which has no English equivalent, means ""laissez-faire gone mad...the abrogation of tradition, the rules of the game, the rules of conduct and, at times, even fundamental decency and common sense."" Like many 20th-century demagogues, Zhirinovsky has always been an outsider and never subtle in his professed hatred for the ""system."" As a populist, he tailors his words to his audience, but a common denominator in all his rhetoric is Russian nationalism. Kartsev claims that in his autobiography, Zhirinovsky writes about nationalism ""with dignity""; this is difficult to reconcile with his more outrageous claims on Alaska and desire to see Russian soldiers ""washing their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean."" Zhirinovskry's philosophy of Russian history likens events to sexual perversities: The Stalin era ""can be compared to homosexuality, the Khrushchev years to masturbation, and Brezhnev to impotence."" The virile Zhirinovsky promises the Russian people ""a real orgasm for the first time in your lives."" Perhaps the strongest asset of the book is not so much the profile of Zhirinovsky, but the illumination of the contemporary Russian landscape where the rush to embrace capitalism has transformed privatization into piratization and spawned a vicious form of organized crime. If, as this insider argues, bespredel represents socialist morality in reverse, then Zhirinovsky mirrors the disturbing realities of that reversal.
Pub Date: May 11, 1995
Page Count: 205
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995
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