Vladimir Zhirinovsky

The Russian people have become the most humiliated nation on the planet. I will raise Russia from her knees.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 1995

Part I. The Lawyer

Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky was born on April 25, 1946, in the city of Alma-Ata. In 1969, he graduated from Moscow State University (Oriental Languages). His army service (1970-1973) took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. Between 1973 and 1991, Zhirinovsky held a sequence of jobs. First, he worked for the Soviet Committee for Defense of Peace as a reviewer. Then, while working for Injurcollegia, Zhirinovsky graduated from Moscow State University night school to become a lawyer. Later, he held the position of a prorector (vice-president) at the Higher School of the Trade Union Movement. After that, he became Chief of the Legal Service at "Mir" Publishers. Zhirinovsky is married and has a son.

Part II. Political Career

Vladimir Zhirinovsky started his political career in 1988, and quickly went on to become a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party. The first Congress of this party took place in March, 1990. The LDP became the second party officially registered in the USSR. (The first one was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that got disbanded by Yeltsin in 1991.) The LDP was eventually transformed into the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).

The stunning success of the LDPR in the December 1993 parliamentary elections lifted its leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to international fame. He has been a visible contender in the campaign for the elections to the State Duma. Having captured nearly one quarter of the vote in 1993, Zhirinovsky had predicted even greater success for his party in 1995. In fact, his party finished second in the party list vote (11.18%) and won 51 Duma seats (11.33%) in the December, 1995, parliamentary elections, so the LDPR now has the third largest Duma faction (behind the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and Our Home Is Russia).

Zhirinovsky's success in the December 1993 parliamentary elections astonished both Russian and Western observers. Polls had discerned a late surge in support for the LDPR, but the scale of Zhirinovsky's victory was staggering. Although it did not gain an absolute majority in any region of the Russian Federation, the LDPR received more votes than any other party in 64 out of 87 regions (the government of Chechnya refused to hold elections, while an "unofficial" boycott in Tatarstan kept turnout well below the 25% required for valid elections). In Pskov Region, the LDPR won 43% of the vote, with the second-place party ( Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Choice) gaining just 10%. Capturing roughly 23% of the vote nationwide (12.3 million votes in all), the LDPR was allocated 59 out of the 225 State Duma seats chosen from party lists. Although Zhirinovsky's party won only five out of the 225 seats contested in single-member constituencies, its 64 deputies made it the second-largest Duma faction, after Russia's Choice.

Zhirinovsky was not unknown in Russia going into the 1993 campaign. He gained about 6 million votes (7.8%) in the June 1991 presidential elections, finishing third (behind Boris Yeltsin and Nikolai Ryzhkov). Surveys carried out before and shortly after the 1993 elections indicate that support for the LDPR was highest in towns with a population of fewer than 100,000 (where support was estimated at 40%). Zhirinovsky gained about a quarter of the vote in rural areas and cities with up to 1,000,000 residents. Between 1991 and 1993, the fear of unemployment and the uncertainty generated by the collapse of the USSR and the Gaidar economic reforms rose substantially in such areas.

Part III. The Man Ahead of His Legend

Zhirinovsky's campaign effectively exploited the LDPR's niche, offering voters a "third path" between pre-1991 communists and and post-1991 liberal reformers. While criticizing the Communist legacy, he boasted that the LDPR did not include any former dissidents. With regard to the October 1993 events, he praised neither those who barricaded themselves in the parliament nor those who ordered the shelling of the building. Zhirinovsky found broad support among "contra" voters: that is, the LDPR electorate did not so much vote for Zhirinovsky as against the other political parties. Of the 13 parties on the ballot, the LDPR was by far the best positioned to capitalize on such a mood of protest.

But as the saying goes, you make your own luck, and Zhirinovsky's skillful campaign contributed a great deal to the late swing in support for his party. After the June 1991 presidential elections, Zhirinovsky embarked on a series of tours around the country between 1991 and 1994. Typically, regional LDPR workers would inform him about corruption in the local administration, so that he could denounce the most hated bosses by name, demonstrating to audiences that he understood their problems. Zhirinovsky spoke to voters in "ordinary" language, and his rhetoric ingeniously combined universally popular ideas such as lower-priced vodka with vague, passionate appeals, side-stepping the more controversial aspects of his party's program.

The authorities were unwitting accomplices to Zhirinovsky's late surge, running a counterproductive negative campaign against the LDPR leader in the state-owned media. This ill-fated strategy culminated in the now notorious decision to broadcast a long documentary about Zhirinovsky on national television on the eve of the elections. Zhirinovsky appreciated this factor. He said, "I have told them that if you want to ruin me, praise me every day. They are cursing me instead. People do not like this life, and they hear who are criticizing. And they begin to understand that I am the very person they need. Too much negative information often has a positive effect."

Zhirinovsky thus gained far more media exposure than he could afford to buy for himself. A study of 1993 campaign coverage carried out by the Russian-American Press and Information Center showed that the LDPR spent less money on paid political advertising than each of the following parties: Russia's Choice, Sergei Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord, Arkady Volsky's Civic Union, and Anatoly Sobchak/Gavriil Popov's Russian Movement for Democratic Reforms. Yet the LDPR won nearly as many votes as all of those parties combined.

Zhirinovsky praised Adolf Hitler's ideology of National-Socialism in an Izvestia article. One of his books, "The Last Thrust to The South", advocates military aggression against Russia's Southern neighbors as a way of achieving political stability in the region. Vladimir Zhirinovsky made headlines by threatening to take Alaska back from the United States, nuke Japan, and flood Germany with radioactive waste.

The LDPR believes the strength of the Russian Armed forces must be 3.5 million people, state security bodies 1 million people, and Interior Forces 1 million people. Zhirinovsky disagrees with those who assert that "Russia has no adversaries," saying "Russia always has an adversary, today these are the United States, NATO, China, and Turkey." In his April 26 interview to an Estonian newspaper, Zhirinovsky promised to take away independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. "You are standing in our way to the seaports", Zhirinovsky said.

Part IV. Friends Abroad

Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has put more effort into explaining its foreign policy position than any other party, publishing a 63-page pamphlet on the subject entitled Spitting on the West. In it, Zhirinovsky argues that Russia should focus on North-South relations rather than on East-West ties. He also suggests a new division of the globe into spheres of interest among the great powers and insists that Iraq is a key strategic ally for Russia.

Zhirinovsky set aside campaign activities in order to be in Iraq during an October 15, 1995, referendum on Saddam Hussein's presidency. Hussein greeted the LDPR leader at the airport, and Zhirinovsky later claimed that he came "to support the democratic process" in Iraq (Hussein gained more than 99.9% support in the referendum). (Earlier, during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, Zhirinovsky sent several volunteers from the group known as "Falcons of Zhirinovsky" to Iraq to help Saddam survive the "Desert Storm".)

On October 20, 1995, while in Belgrade, Zhirinovsky signed a cooperation agreement between the LDPR and Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party.

In February, 1996, Vladimir Zhirinovsky hailed Pat Buchanan's victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary. He wrote a letter to Buchanan, saying: ``You say that Congress is 'Israeli-occupied territory.' We have the same situation in Russia. So, to survive, we could set aside places on U.S. and Russian territory to deport this small but troublesome tribe.'' Zhirinovsky called Buchanan a ``brother in arms'' and wished him a ``convincing victory'' in November's U.S. presidential ballot. Buchanan rejected Zhirinovsky's endorsement. Zhirinovsky then changed tone. "I thought you were really defending the interests of your nation," said the letter, the text of which was released by Zhirinovsky's office. "And you've turned out to be just like Clinton and other corrupt politicians, moved by greed and vanity, not by love for the fatherland."

Part V. The Campaign

The LDPR's "unique uncorrupted status" among Russia's political parties remains a constant theme in Zhirinovsky's speeches. His outburst during a Duma delegation visit to Kaliningrad was typical: "Everyone is corrupt, everyone is linked to foreign intelligence services, mafias and so on. I am the only one clean." With the advent of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home is Russia, Zhirinovsky has modified his approach: he now presents the LDPR as the "fourth force," the first three being the "radical democrats" (Yegor Gaidar, Grigory Yavlinsky, Boris Fedorov), the "nomenklatura bloc" (Our Home Is Russia), and "left-wing forces" (the Communist and Agrarian parties). The LDPR leader called on women to "Persuade your husbands, friends and lovers to make the right choice in December. Your intuition will help you to choose the only political party in Russia which has never been splattered with blood."

Zhirinovsky's speech to the LDPR's sixth party congress in Moscow on 2 September led some political obervers to conclude that he had forsaken outrageous statements in favor of a more sober-headed image. In the speech, Zhirinovsky called for an end to discrimination on the basis of nationality and practically ignored the subject of the war in Chechnya (though he did repeat his familiar call for expanding the KGB to a million employees).

In the closing days of the parliamentary election campaign, Vladimir Zhirinovsky has returned to his favorite theme of a conspiracy to destroy Russia. On December 14, he told Radio Rossii, "NATO pilots are using the orthodox Serbs as practice for their military skills...There will be another June 22 [the date on which the German invasion of the Soviet Union was launched in 1941], when American soldiers will land on our air fields. They have already practiced in Ukraine. U.S. paratroops landed in Odessa. Novorossiisk will be next . . . They have been studying our airports under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid." He added: "These elections with their 43 parties are a myth to deceive you . . . There are only two parties: the LDPR and the rest." He accused the CIA of trying to kill President Yeltsin, as part of "a general, total war against Russia, which is being fought by the West, the USA, the CIA, Israel, and Mossad and our own fifth column."

The seventh congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia nominated Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a candidate in the presidential election of June 1996, Russian media reported on January 10. In his 45-minute address, Zhirinovsky asked President Yeltsin to napalm all Chechen rebel bases and promised to do so himself by July 1 if elected. He also said the LDPR was the true winner of the Duma elections, since the apparent victory of the Communist Party was only its "swan song."

On February 23, Zhirinovsky stated, "It is possible to end the war in Chechnya within three days by destroying bands and disarming by force those who do not want to surrender arms."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky was officially registered on April 5. The Central Electoral Commission approved more than 1.4 million signatures of support for Zhirinovsky. It said he had registered his 1995 income as almost 29.5 million roubles -- more than $6,000 at the end-of-year rate.

"The LDPR has always been and remains an independent political force which has spoken both against communists and democrats during the six years of its existence," Zhirinovsky told an Interfax parliamentary correspondent in the State Duma on April 23.

Campaigning in Stavropol, on April 28, Zhirinovsky said that the coming to power on June 16 of Democrats or Communists will be "the same evil for the country." This can be avoided, he said, if he is elected president. Speaking about other presidential candidates, Zhirinovsky described them as follows: Boris Yeltsin, he said, "is tired already and he should have a rest," Gennady Zyuganov "is a mere party functionary who thinks not about Russia but of his own interests," Grigory Yavlinsky "has made a grave mistake in his youth, when he devoted himself to boxing in Lvov because this affected his ability to think."

Speaking about the settlement of the situation in Chechnya, Zhirinovsky said that if he is elected president, he will issue an ultimatum to the militants demanding their full capitulation within ten days. If they reject the ultimatum, "Chechen villages and the entire Chechnya will be covered with blue clouds of smoke from missiles and projectiles."

In his May 12 speech given in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Zhirinovsky said, "I am the single honest contender for the post of the president whom it is impossible to buy or to frighten." If voters prefer Boris Yeltsin, Zhirinovsky said, "then we are really a country if idiots and there is nothing to do, this is the final diagnosis."

Zhirinovsky flopped in the first round (6%), finishing fifth. He is out of the race.


  1. Materials by Laura Belin and Scott Parrish of Open Media Research Institute.
  2. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, The Last Thrust to the South.
  3. S. Plekhanov, Zhirinovsky: Who Is He?
  4. Izvestia
  5. Maximov's Interfax Daily News Archive.

Links to More Information on Vladimir Zhirinovsky

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