The Black Hundreds of 1917 have returned to Russia

Russian Orthodox procession with protest signs against the film Mathilda in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 2017. (Image: vedomosti.ru)

Russian Orthodox procession with protest signs against the film Mathilda in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 2017. (Image: vedomosti.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

In a classical example of Russian suggestions that “everything new is the well-forgotten old,” Nakanune commentator Elena Kiryakova suggests that the challenges Russia faces now echo the threats it encountered a century ago, but with one essential difference.

The notorious xenophobic and anti-Semitic Black Hundreds of the late imperial period have returned in force, she says; but the centrist and leftist forces that opposed them a century ago have not, thus opening the way to a truly horrific future unless something is done and done soon.

She cites with approval the conclusions of Russian historian Aleksandr Kolpakidi that

Russia now faces “the very same threats and internal contradictions which the empire encountered on the eve of the October Revolution” but lacks any “’heirs of the Bolsheviks’” and so is drifting toward the extreme right, something that will provoke an explosion.

Kolpakidi says that today “the difference between rich and poor in the country is growing, and this gap will soon be just as enormous as it was in tsarist times. This is obvious. Then the overwhelming majority of the population – 90 percent – were ‘second’ or even ‘third’ class. The very same thing is true now.”

A Black Hundreds procession in Russia, 1907 (Image: Wikipedia)

A Black Hundreds procession in Russia, 1907 (Image: Wikipedia)

Kiryakova for her part suggests that Natalya Poklonskaya, a Russian State Duma deputy and the leader of the campaign against the film “Mathilda” has become “the informal leader or voice of this mass of ‘Black Hundreds people 2.0’” and continues to “tilt at windmills” even though she has not yet sparked the kind of violence that the tsarist-era Black Hundreds were notorious for.

Poklonskaya has reached back to Black Hundreds mythology, however, to threaten vengeance on all those who attacked or attack the tsar because they represent the same “dark forces” that destroyed the Russian Empire and sparked the murder of the Russian Imperial Family.

According to Yekaterinburg activist Ilya Belous, she has picked up her most notorious ideas from extreme right Russian émigré writers whose works have been circulating in the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate since it entered into communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Her activities and those of others like her make it imperative that Russians recall what the Black Hundreds were and what they represented. “Representatives of extreme right organizations in Russia from 1905 to 1917 who operated under the slogans of monarchism, great power chauvinism and anti-Semitism were called Black Hundreds people,” Kiryakova writes.

The remains of the minivan used in a terror attack against a cinema showing the film Mathilda. The vehicle was loaded with canisters full of propane and gasoline. It was rammed at front doors of the cinema and set on fire using a bottle with Molotov cocktail. The perpetrator was charged with hooliganism and property destruction. September 2017, Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Image: vedomosti.ru)

The remains of the minivan used in a terror attack against a cinema showing the film Mathilda. The vehicle was loaded with canisters full of propane and gasoline. It was rammed at front doors of the cinema and set on fire using a bottle with Molotov cocktail. The perpetrator was charged with hooliganism and property destruction. September 2017, Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Image: vedomosti.ru)

At first, the Nakanune journalist continues, such people called themselves “‘the true Russians,’ ‘patriots’ and ‘monarchists,’” but then they accepted the term Black Hundreds because that originally referred to the units Kuzma Minin assembled which “led Russia out of its Time of Troubles.”

Among the organizational forms this movement took a century ago were the Russian Monarchy Party, the Black Hundreds, the Union of the Russian People, and the Union of the Archangel Michael, to name just a few.

Kolpakidi says that those who support such ideas now are a threat, although as dangerous as they may be, they won’t necessarily overthrow anyone. In 1917, there were approximately two million people enrolled in various Black Hundreds groups, “but in February 1917, not one of them came out to defend their tsar.”

At the same time, Leonid Lyashenko, a Moscow historian says, one should not underestimate the impact of such groups now and in the future. They represent an attempt to “split society,” first between believers and non-believers, then among all faiths, and on to other possible divisions as well.

“Nothing good will come from this,” he argues, noting that calls to impose Orthodoxy on the non-Orthodox portions of the population will do nothing but spark protests. But despite the obviousness of that, Lyashenko continues, the Black Hundreds of today are calling for “Orthodoxy above everything else.”

Kolpakidi adds that this is leading to another rewriting of Russian history one that will replace the liberal one of the 1990s and the Soviet one of earlier decades. And he says that despite the Moscow Patriarchate’s claim that it is opposed to all this, in fact the church hierarchy is actively supporting it.

Remains of one of the cars burned in an arson attack is seen near the Moscow office of lawyers for the director of the film Matilda. The film has drawn sharp criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church, radical Russian Orthodox and monarchist groups. Moscow, Russia, September 11, 2017. (Image: TASS)

Remains of one of the cars burned in an arson attack is seen near the Moscow office of lawyers for the director of the film Matilda. The film has drawn sharp criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church, radical Russian Orthodox and monarchist groups. Moscow, Russia, September 11, 2017. (Image: TASS)

And he ends with his own conspiratorial interpretation that echoes those of many in the Black Hundreds movement. “It is no secret,” he says, “that the CIA actively worked via the émigré church. Naturally contacts have been kept up. Perhaps, this was even done specially” for the current purposes.

After all, Kolpakidi concludes, “the Black Hundreds idea appeared in Russia just after the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church with the foreign church.”

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Edited by: A. N.

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  • focusser

    Interesting that Crimeans are arrested for one man protests, which is not against the law. Meanwhile in St Petersburg, nazzis are given permission to hold mass rallies, which is against the law. The conclusion to this, a nazzi is only a nazzi when they oppose the Russia.

    • Screwdriver

      “Meanwhile in St Petersburg, nazzis are given permission to hold mass rallies”
      What exactly you talking about ? “Svoboda” was given permission, or “Right Sector’ ?

      • focusser

        Read up about the black hundreds before commenting.

        • Screwdriver

          Checked the whole story, there is no single “Nazi” word in it.

          • focusser

            Xenophobic and anti-Semitic describes nazzis and Russians to a tee.

          • Screwdriver

            OK, you said it, not article, just wanted to make sure, thanks.

          • Микола Данчук

            Everyone said it!
            The article spells out the relationship of ideology prior to the establishment of the Nazi ascension. So it was a Russian ideology that created the Nazi culture, something every bolshevik honors and upholds, right?

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Read “The Russian Roots of Nazism” by Michael Kellogg, which goes into great detail how White Russian emigrés influenced Adolf and co. Alfred Rosenberg for instance, a Balt from Reval (now Tallinn), introduced Adolf to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, an 1890s forgery by the Okhrana.

          • Микола Данчук

            Strange how Screwy can misinterpret information, isn’t it?
            A bolshevik, claiming to be Jewish, promoting the glory of the “Black Hundreds”?

          • focusser

            He’s not named Screwy for nothing.

          • Rafael Hernandez

            Like Yarosh and Parubiy???

          • Brent

            So what do this words mean in your beloved Russian language?
            “xenophobic and anti-Semitic”

            Let me guess….in Russian that translates to
            “useless mindless terrorist sponsoring South Philly toilet cleaner”???

      • Brent

        You forgot to chant something else “Screwball”….

        BANDERA!!!! BANDERA!!! BANDERA!!!! No bonus for you this week…

        Funny that we rarely even hear of those groups anymore other than by stooges like you!!! Even Putin gave up trying to claim they were running Ukraine. You should request an upgraded propaganda playbook from your Kremlin masters….

        • Screwdriver

          You asked for it! I will give it you in French, to add some modern diversity flavoring to it. :-)
          Les partis politiques ukrainiens nostalgiques du nazisme ont organisé une marche aux flambeaux à Kiev, le 14 octobre 2017, en mémoire de Stepan Bandera, le fondateur de l’Organisation des nationalistes ukrainiens (OUN) de triste mémoire. Intégré aux réseaux stay-behind de l’Otan (Gladio) à la fin de de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Stepan Bandera fut en définitive assassiné par les services soviétiques à Munich, il y a 58 ans, jour pour jour.

          En tête du cortège, Oleh Tyahnybok (fondateur de Svoboda [1]), l’ancien partenaire du département d’État US lors du renversement de Viktor Ianoukovytch.

          Les nazis ukrainiens contemporains sont d’abord pro-Otan et anti-Russes. Entre 10 et 12 000 personnes ont participé au défilé. Ils fournissent des para-militaires au président Porochenko et à l’ambassade US et combattent au Donbass, mais s’abstiennent de jouer un rôle dans les institutions publiques

          • Brent

            Okay, so I will play your silly little Russo Nazzi diversionary game and send you my response in Arabic….

            كنت لا تزال منظفات المرحاض عديمة الفائدة بغض النظر عن اللغة التي ترسل لي الدعاية النازية

          • Rafael Hernandez

            Nice google translate 😀

        • focusser

          No better way to deflect attention from the fact that Russia is a fascist police state, than by accusing Ukraine of being full of Nazzis.

          • Ihor Dawydiak

            The Soviet Communists used that type of strategy throughout their history and through constant repetition hoped that naive individuals would believe in their lies. Now the Russian Putinistas have picked up where the Soviet Russians in particular left off.

  • Screwdriver

    Just a reminder – most of the news about antisemitism , nationalism are coming from Ukraine, Almost on a daily basis. Few days ago, Ukrainian teen was arrested while vandalizing Jewish cemetery , just now Pope monument in Kiev was vandalized with anti-polish slogans.
    EUmaidan press simply trying to divert attention from the REAL problems.

    • Brent

      “Screwball”, you’re the Russo Nazzi trying to divert attention away from the REAL PROBLEM. Your beloved Russia and your beloved Putin. Supporters of Donbass terrorists Nazzis that you helped fund, supporters of Hezzbollah. Supporters of murdering tyrant Assad and bombing of Syrian hospitals. Supporters of North Korea.

      I’ll bet you were even marching with the KKK in Charlottesville

      • Микола Данчук

        You give him too much credit. He’s just a con-artist getting by with total disregard of his actions just like any good bolshevik.

    • slavko

      From an orthodox Jewish publication and how anti-Semitism in Ukraine is a Russian generated myth:
      https://www.vosizneias.com/162077/2014/04/19/2336-donetsk-ukraine-rabbi-seeks-end-to-anti-semitism-row-in-vain/

      Here’s another article Ukrainian Jews are saying that Russia is making up stories (like you) about anti-Semitism in Ukraine:
      http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/187387

      And here’s one from the Jerusalem Post that is depicting Russia as anti Jewish:
      http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Russian-chief-rabbi-worried-about-anti-Semitism

      You see Screwball you are a Kremlin tool… So it seems that Jewish folks are feeling safer in Ukraine than in Russia especially when Russians tell the Jews that Russia is for Russians.

      • focusser

        You only need to go on the comments section on RT, to see who the anti-semitics are. Jews, nazzis, gays are all to blame for the Russia being a crap hole.

        • slavko

          O I have seen the anti-Semitic language in the comment sections of the Russian media. Vile, full of hatred and vicious! I have to shower after reading their comments. Those Ruskies know how to let loose their hatred for anyone who is not a Russkie.

          • Rafael Hernandez

            Yeah, you’re only seeing what you want to see. That can be applied to most of you Ukrainian trolls when it comes to Russia

          • slavko

            You know what’s really weird is that you ruskie trolls are constantly trying to make Ukraine look worse than Russia. You guys are pissed off that Ukraine has finally made a decision to turn away from Russian influence. And Russia keeps crying the blues to NATO and US that Russia has every right to have a “sphere of influence”. The reality is that the Warsaw Pact broke away from Russia, Eastern Europe cringes with Russian bad breath blown its way, the Baltic States all three of them want the least to do with Russia. And to the south… Georgia would like nothing better than it’s meddlesome Russian neighbor to just go away.

            So tell me exactly how everyone else in Russia’s neighborhood sees the same thing about Russia and not the same as you the Russia apologist?

        • Rafael Hernandez

          IDK most of the are Arabs who hates what the zionist elite in Washington and Tel aviv has done to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. Russia is a craphole who has 6x times better lifestandards than Ukraine. What does that make Ukraine? According to the Ukrainian trolls here a flourishing superpower 😀

      • Screwdriver

        I checked those links, none have any information about Kremlin agents who posing as Ukrainian vandals.
        “So it seems that Jewish folks are feeling safer in Ukraine than in Russia ”
        I can find you number of articles from Western and Israeli press where Jews state that they do not feel save in Ukraine, or they feel safer in Russia.
        Example :
        http://observer.com/2015/07/the-jews-of-crimea-feel-safer-with-russia-in-charge/

        • slavko

          Nothing new from you, a Kremlin apologist. So you post an opinion piece written by an ethnic Russian living in the US (hmm, why not in Russia). While the articles that I posted were written by Jews who live in Ukraine or have lived in Russia depicting the facts that Russian propaganda is using the Jews as a tool to vilify Ukraine.

          • Screwdriver

            You just unaware of the situation. I gave you an example from reputable western source, and you trying to blame the messenger-author, who actually is not really voicing his personal opinion, but providing comprehensive information on the subject, with names, organisations, quotations. Can you catch him lying ? Maybe not.
            And if you want to hear from somebody who is in Ukraine, I can help you with that also.
            https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/opinion/what-ukraines-jews-fear.html

          • slavko

            another OP Ed. And by now you should be even clearer as to why Ukraine made the decision to get away from Russian influence. Let’s face it the Russian influence in Ukraine has dominated for centuries. And even today the Russian influence that they so much want to infuse into relationships continues to be a problem. Notice how the Muslim population in Crimea are very unhappy now that Russia has occupied Crimea.

            Here’s another take on that “Russian influence”… in the last 3 years there have been only 2 people on the world’s stage that have called for nuclear war. And those two people are Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia and Kim Jong Um, the President of North Korea. And we know that there’s a tremendous Russian influence on North Korea from the days of Stalin.

          • Микола Данчук

            Donald the F***en Moron should be added to that list.

          • Screwdriver

            “Ukraine made the decision to get away from Russian influence”
            Ukraine did not make any decision. Poor Ukraine was raped and hijacked by Western Ukrainian Nazis/extremists, Crimea and Donbas did not take any part in that “revolution”, and central Ukraine played very little part. While wild radicals in Western Ukraine captured government buildings, meanwhile in SE Ukraine there were mass protests against Maidan.
            Then Kiev was flooded with Western Ukrainians who grabbed the power and pretend now that they speak for all the Ukrainians. But no, this BS is not gonna fly.
            Find me somebody here, your supporter, who is from SE Ukraine, not some grandson of Galician Ukrainische Polizei from Canada or USA , – I would be greatly surprised!

          • slavko

            Hey… You know what? And the Martians are coming to invade the Earth. You just like the Kremlin paranoid sh*t don’t you?!

            Fact is Yanukovitch’s political base was for tighter European integration. And that was part of the platform that he ran on. His political base was in the Donbas and he won his presidency with the majority of the vote from Eastern Ukraine. And his own political party made the bold statement that he was an embarrassment to Ukraine with his policies. And I’m being mild here. I can certainly post their complete statement that shows what a complete a$$ he was in the eyes of his own constituency.

            And don’t embarrass yourself by stooping so low as to start with the name calling either. And the fact is that Russia and you are the rapists that are blaming the victim for your aggression. That’s what the real Bullsh*t is.

          • Screwdriver

            I did not say anything about Yanukovich. Yes, Yanukovich was no longer popular even in Donbass or Crimea, but that is irrelevant to what I wrote.

          • slavko

            It’s hard I know to understand any relevancy, when under the influence of paranoia. All this babble from your side…”The West is taking over… Look out for Nuland’s cookies… NATO wants Crimea…Kiev flooded by Western Ukrainians… Naazi this and Naazzi that.

            The reality is that due to Russian aggression, Ukraine has been pushed by Russia towards NATO and the West. You forget that Ukraine and Russia by friendship treaty shared Crimean harbors and that Crimea would remain under the sovereignty of Ukraine. And Russia broke that friendship treaty. Now add to that words from you about Western Ukrainians and Eastern Ukrainians is Russian babble… there are only Ukrainians and whether in the East or the West of Ukraine the populations are agreed to stay united NOT divided as Russia wants us to be.

            Also, the fact STILL remains that Russia acted illegally by invading Ukraine and annexed her lands. The Russian side should first stop blaming the victim for the rape that Russia committed. And you know I’m right.

          • Screwdriver

            “there are only Ukrainians and whether in the East or the West of Ukraine the populations are agreed to stay united NOT divided as Russia wants us to be.”
            Simply not true.

          • slavko

            I take this opportunity to disagree with your pro-Russian view. However, I’m sure that your buddies in the Kremlin Troll Factory & Fairy Tale Production Ltd in St. Petersburg Russia are busy working on “alternative facts”for you to publish. 😉

  • veth
    • Oknemfrod

      It is.

  • Eolone

    What brought about the Black Hundreds? Was is simply that they wanted to keep the liberated serfs down? Were the landowners furious that they lost control of their workers back 40 years ago and finally organized with other wealthy parties to form the Black Hundreds? The desire of Ukraine for independence does not seem weighty enough to have consolidated the right-wing.

    Author: “Kolpakidi adds that this [drive toward Orthodoxy?] is leading to another rewriting of Russian history one that will replace the liberal one of the 1990s and the Soviet one of earlier decades.”

    There was not a liberal period in the decades the author speaks of. Only in form. Totalitarianism does not look kindly to liberal ideas.

  • Ihor Dawydiak

    The Saudi Arabians have a perfect solution for sub-human vermin such as Natalia Poklonskaya. A stone pit.