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Title: Maschinengewehre und literarische Zerstörungsmaschinen: Der Prozess gegen Ėduard Limonov
Authors: Meindl, Matthias
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Matthias Meindl, "Maschinengewehre und literarische Zerstörungsmaschinen: Der Prozess gegen Ėduard Limonov", in: Slavica Tergestina, 13 (2011), pp. 42-80
Series/Report no.: Slavica Tergestina
13 (2011)
The first section outlines the March 2001 arrests of National Bolshevik
activists who had procured machine guns and explosives, obeying orders,
it was claimed in the ensuing investigation, of their party leader,
the cult-author Eduard Limonov, and Sergei Aksenov, editor in chief
of the party newspaper Limonka. The two were subsequently arrested
and accused not only of the illegal acquisition of weapons (Criminal
Code of the Russian Federation §222) but also of founding an armed
group (§205), of preparing acts of terrorism (§205) and of instigating
an uprising destructive of the constitutional order of the Russian
Federation. The section outlines media reactions to the arrest of “the
well-known writer Limonov” and examines a polemical open letter
composed behind bars by Limonov in which he accuses society of indifference.
By comparing his own case with that of Iosif Brodsky and
bringing discredit upon the latter, Limonov pursues the somewhat contradictory
goals of appropriating the symbolic capital of the dissident
movement and simultaneously destroying one of their central myths.
The “hypertrophied literary political nexus” (Parté 2004, 1) becomes
manifest in its most aggressive incarnation: the writer-revolutionary.
The second section goes back to Walter Benjamin’s characterization
of political radicalism among the bohemians of Baudelaire’s Paris. It
emphasizes Limonov’s deeply felt kinship with Baudelaire, asking
whether the former’s project can be viewed as an instance of radical
aesthetic subjectivity in the tradition of the avant-garde. To my mind,
to decide whether Limonov’s is really a political or merely an aesthetic
project is too complex a problem to solve satisfactorily at the present
time. Providing a summary of scholarly treatises on the problem,
I argue that Walter Benjamin’s notions of ‘aestheticization of politics’
and war in a fascist context can serve as points of departure in future
research. Another useful notion might be ‘myth’; it has been addressed
on the one hand by French philosophers Nancy and Lacoue-Lebarthe,
who further develop Benjamin’s above mentioned notions, and on the
other hand by Olga Matich in her psychoanalytically informed analysis
of Limonov’s more recent writing. Let me urge caution in the use of
these leads, as we are dealing here with aesthetics, however irrational
and repellent they might be, that are not state-controlled, but rather
serve young people, freely representing their marginality.
After thus bracketing larger questions, I devote the third chapter to
the core interest of the article: the question as to whether Limonov’s
terrorism was judged to be a gory reality or the trial was merely and
purposely addressing fiction. The strategy of the prosecution was to
treat speech acts as signifying a bloody reality, while Limonov, facing
several years in prison, suggested the speech acts’ rhetorical nature. The
court’s decision followed Limonov’s suggestion and acquitted him and
Aksenev of the charges of terrorism and instigating an insurrection.
Moreover it emphasized that the prosecution seemed rather inclined
to construe a conspiracy.
The last chapter explores in depth one of the main pieces of evidence
brought forward by the prosecution: the “Theory of a Second
Russia.” This text, which was attributed to Limonov by the prosecution,
but was in fact authored by a Latvian regional party leader, was
published in party bulletin NBP-Info № 3, devoted to the ideology and
political perspectives of Eurasianism. The text imagines an uprising
of the Russian minority in Kazakhstan and the building of a second
free and wild Russian state that would in the long run conquer the first
state. Limonov has emphasized that this text was received for a column of Limonka devoted to organizing a competition among proponents of
revolutionary projects. This competition was announced by the post-/
conceptualist poet Dmitry Pimenov, who himself contributed a couple
of very surrealistic revolutionary projects. The competition, in encouraging
imagination of the improbable, was a striking example of
the then virulent blurring of literary and political genres. The exotic
potential of the imaginary Second Russia imaginary is then further
developed in Limonov’s book of prison lectures, A Different Russia.
Limonov’s vision includes a touch of aestheticization of violence that
is analyzed at the end of the article. I argue that a state in Limonov’s
myth is a violent father figure admired and loved at the same time, an
ambivalence which makes positioning Limonov in the field of politics
a difficult task.
Type: Article
ISSN: 1592-0291
Appears in Collections:Slavica Tergestina 13 (2011)

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