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In the new book by nationalist writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, a dynamic Russian leader known as the "Emperor of the Polar Star" comes to power after winning a war against proud mountain-dwellers in the Caucasus.
The book is a collection of essays calling on Russia's elite, liberals, and patriots alike, to unite to construct a new Eurasian empire -- a successor to the Soviet Union and Tsarist Russia. Prokhanov's book, which he says is the most important in his life, has reportedly been translated into English, Chinese, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Latvian.
"One can see signs of emerging empire almost everywhere," Prokhanov writes. "In events such as the building of new types of ships and submarines...launching the new 'Bulova' missile...or the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline."
The author is ebullient about Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom: "It gathers together Russia, by merging companies, connecting pipelines, extending its steel tentacles to the terminals of St. Petersburg and Nakhodka, laying [new pipeline] tracks at the bottom of the Baltic Sea and to China and stitching together the tissue of the former Soviet republics."
The book is likely to sell well. Prokhanov's previous best-selling novel, "Mr. Gexogen" (2002), was a thinly fictionalized account that maintains that the 1999 apartment-block explosions in Moscow and other cities, the renewal of fighting in Chechnya, and the election of Vladimir Putin as president were all the result of a conspiracy led by veterans of the KGB.
"Mr. Gexogen" won the prestigious National Bestseller Prize and Prokhanov, who had previously been a fringe nationalist figure largely ignored by the mainstream media, became a pundit on a number of national television channels and the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Nikita Mikhalkov, an Oscar-winning filmmaker known for his pro-imperial and monarchist views, presided over the launch of Prokhanov's new book, "Symphony Of The Fifth Empire," on October 24. While the event was largely unreported by the mainstream media, it received prime-time coverage on the state-controlled Channel One and RTR television networks and in the semi-official "Rossiskaya gazeta."
Politicians from across the political spectrum attended the bash, including Leonid Gozman and Boris Nadezhdin from the liberal Union of Rightist Forces; former Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Kolesnikov from the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party; Vladimir Zhirnovsky, a co-leader of the national-patriotic Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; and Sergei Glazyev from the nationalist Motherland party.
Speaking at the event, Prokhanov, who also publishes the savage anti-Western weekly "Zavtra," said that he sees Russia's future as a new superstate, which he refers to as the "fifth empire." Russia's revival has already begun, he says, under Putin. "The first Russian empire was Kyivan Rus, the second was the Moscow Kingdom, the third was the St. Petersburg Empire of Romanovs, and now we are witnessing the emergence of the 'fifth empire.' It is still invisible but its inauguration has taken place," he said.
Prokhanov's ideas -- a combination of nostalgia, nationalism, and revanchism -- are nothing particularly new. Anatoly Chubais, then the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces, spoke in 2004 of a "liberal empire" based on energy resources.
In 2005, leftist writer Maxim Kalashnikov published his book "Forward To The USSR-2," in which he popularized an unrealized scenario for the reform of the Soviet Union that dates back to the early 1980s and which was attributed to then KGB Chairman Yury Andropov. According to this scenario, the Soviet Union should be transformed from a country with a clumsy socialist economy into a smart, aggressive, and strong-willed imperial state -- a kind of Red Star Inc.
And in 2006, a group of Russian monarchists linked to the state-security community anonymously published a widely circulated book, "Russian Project," in which they called for the restoration of the monarchy and the Russian imperial order.
But such ideas, which years ago might have seemed outlandish, are now gaining more currency among Russian elites.
Russia has accumulated a number of black marks in recent years for its dubious democratic credentials -- dubbed "sovereign democracy" by Kremlin ideologists. The suppression of mass media, restriction of NGO activities, and the abolition of gubernatorial elections have all alarmed critics in Russia and abroad.
But, of late, "sovereign democracy" has acquired more chauvinist overtones.
While the Kremlin cannot be accused of supporting Russia's growing neonationalism, Putin has certainly set the tone. The wave of anti-Georgian violence following a spy scandal in September was fuelled by the Kremlin's rhetoric. In October, the Russian president called on regional authorities to clean up markets and give more quotas to ethnic Russians instead of migrants.
Moreover, controversies around the unsolved killing of critical journalist Anna Politkovskaya took place in what art critic Aleksandr Panov told U.S.-based "Newsweek" is a "new climate of barbarism."
Add to that Russia's more confrontational foreign policy, driven by both a new sense of entitlement based on oil wealth and an old sense of historical injustice. In recent weeks, this has manifested in questionable behavior over the Sakhalin-2 gas production-sharing agreement, barring foreign investors from the Shtokman project in the Barents Sea, and refusing to ratify the European Union's Energy Charter.
At Prokhanov's book launch, journalists asked film director Mikhalkov, who is also the president of the Russian Cultural Foundation, whether Russia's political elite subscribes to an imperial ideology. With "the problems we are confronting today and those that may arise tomorrow, politicians will be forced to accept it," he said. "In the last 15 years we've been experimenting with the free market and other things and have decided that Russia is a crossroads, where political power is vertical and the economy is horizontal."
FORMER UKRAINIAN GOVERNOR DEPORTED FROM U.S.. Volodymyr Shcherban, former governor of Sumy Oblast, was deported from the United States to Ukraine on November 4, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Ukrainian prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Shcherban in 2005, charging him with vote fraud, extortion, and abuse of office. Scherban was detained in Florida in October 2005 on charges of being in the United States illegally. Scherban was not taken into custody after returning to Kyiv because several deputies from the ruling coalition signed a pledge that he will show for interrogation whenever prosecutors summon him. Shcherban has vowed to return to politics. "I think I will not disappear because my colleagues and friends are in power now. Therefore I think that they will find a place for me as well," he said in a television interview on November 4. Among his friends Shcherban named Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and financial mogul Rynat Akhmetov from the ruling Party of Regions. JM