THE subject matter of Walter Laqueur's pioneering new book,
"Black Hundred: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia," is a
phenomenon that is less marginal in today's Russia than the Ku Klux
Klan and the John Birch Society are in the United States.
The book helps to explain much that is otherwise inexplicable:
why, for example, the Russian right has been sending hundreds of
volunteers to help its Serbian brothers in their task of "ethnic
cleansing" and why the weak government of President Boris Yeltsin
has scarcely tried to inhibit them from doing so.
The hard-right groups that Laqueur describes favor
authoritarianism, a strong state, collective rather than individual
values, and a much larger Russia than the reduced one of today.
They believe in the existence of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy
aimed at subverting the Russian state and culture, and implemented
mostly by the US, Israel, and the West. They hold that these
countries and their agents - Yeltsin's government and most of
Russia's intelligentsia - suffer from a Russophobia so acute that
it motivates them to destroy Russian civilization.
By contrast, most of the moderate conservatives, whom Laqueur
briefly discusses, contend that democracy is admirable in
principle, but that each country has to find the institutions that
accord with its history and traditions.
Laqueur is concerned mainly with the ideas, not the actions of
the various groups on the extreme right, and with the roots of
these ideas in the Russian and the European past, and in the
philosophy of the contemporary "Nouvelle Droite" in France.
Thus, Laqueur examines the origins in the 19th century of the
belief that Russia has a manifest destiny and mission different
from and superior to those of the West. He shows how the
ultra-right "Black Hundred" movement emerged at the turn of the
century and, with generous government financing, supported the
czar, attacked his opponents, and organized pogroms against the
Jews. He describes the complex processes that led to the forging of
the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which purported to expose
global Jewry's plans to rule the world. And he demonstrates the
support received by the radical right from powerful elements in the
With the collapse of czarism and the rise of Bolshevism, Laqueur
traces the development of these trends after they had been forced
into exile abroad. He shows how Stalin made Marxism more palatable
to some Russians by incorporating into it elements of nationalism.
Also, from the early 1960s, the Communist rulers developed
anti-Semitism in public by issuing thousands of ostensibly
anti-Zionist publications attacking Jews. Simultaneously, a
moderate Russian nationalism was allowed to appear in works of