Russian, European Far-Right Parties Converge in St. Petersburg

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber - Mar. 22 2015

The first International Russian Conservative Forum took place in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
dr_tr / Flickr
ST. PETERSBURG — High-ranking members of some of Europe's most controversial parties descended on St. Petersburg on Sunday to participate in the first International Russian Conservative Forum, an ultranationalist convention glorifying Russia as a refuge for the world's most marginalized far-right political forces.

The forum's speakers collectively ticked off all the boxes of intolerance and anti-Western sentiment, egged on by the enthusiasm of the audience filling a conference room at the St. Petersburg Holiday Inn. Through the course of the day, U.S. President Barack Obama was called a Nazi, white Christians were urged to reproduce, gays were referred to as perverts and murdered Russian opposition activists were said to be resting in hell.

United in their contempt for all things EU and their yearning for a socially conservative society, Russia and the extremes of the European political spectrum have forged a tacit alliance. Far-right leaders' periodic visits to Moscow, combined with Russian banks' magnanimity toward political entities that European creditors have shunned, have suggested that these parties' gains in popularity could shift EU policy in Russia's favor and undermine the union's stance on the crisis in Ukraine.

Ties between Europe's far-right and Russia became a little more concrete on Sunday, when radical right-wing party Rodina ("Motherland"), the organizer of the forum, adopted a resolution on the creation of a permanent committee to coordinate Russia's and Europe's conservative political forces.

The resolution was the culmination of a full day of 10-minute speeches by more than 30 ultranationalist commentators and the leaders of radical right-wing parties from seven European Union countries, including Greece, Italy, Germany and Britain. They blamed the United States for the Ukraine crisis, deplored the erosion of traditional values in the West and praised President Vladimir Putin's peacemaking skills.

"The American way of life is not at the center of our politics, nor are gays and lesbians," said Udo Voigt, a member of the European Parliament and the former head of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party. "Our focus is on our families and our children."

The parties rushed to sign the resolution after the Holiday Inn received a bomb threat some 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the speeches. Organizers, who announced the evacuation order, claimed that their "enemies" had called police to sabotage the event. The origin of the bomb threat remains unknown.

A police van stood idle in the hotel's front parking lot throughout the course of the International Russian Conservative Forum. Security personnel and bodyguards with dangling earpieces scrutinized participants. A handful of Cossacks equipped with leather whips, members of a quasi-militant group presented as guardians of traditional values, secured the entrance to the conference room.
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