February 19, 2015 1 Comment
No, I am not and was never going to make a “Night Wolves” counter for Ukrainian Crisis. But this is part of an interesting story. I recently finished reading Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, a look at the utterly (and deliberately) surreal and disorienting mirrored funhouse that is Putin’s Russia. There is an interesting page or three about the Night Wolves and their transformation from hooligans to State-sponsored enforcers.
And one more thing – why do the Night Wolves (and Putin) ride Harleys? Shouldn’t they be riding Urals, or maybe Dneprs? (Okay, maybe not Dneprs…)
Alexander Zaldostanov, Russian biker, makes Canada’s sanctions list
Leader of the Night Wolves, a pro-Putin motorcycle gang, targeted by sanctions
By Evan Dyer, CBC News Posted: Feb 19, 2015 4:03 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 19, 2015 4:57 PM ET
Ties to the Kremlin
Around the same time, Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya and a close ally of Putin, became a full-patch member of the club. Putin has appeared with Zaldostanov at numerous public events, as well as riding with the club on his own Harley-Davidson three-wheeler on more than one occasion. In 2013, Putin presented Zaldostanov with the Russian Medal of Honour for “activity in the patriotic education of youth.”
In one recent speech, Putin told the assembled bikers, “You do not just ride your motorcycles; you also perform military-patriotic work. Historical memory is the best cement that binds people of different nationalities and religions into one nation, in one powerful country — Russia.” The Night Wolves, in turn, have offered their 3,000-strong membership to the state as an unofficial militia. Zaldostanov joined a group of Russian nationalist politicians in setting up a pro-Putin movement called “anti-Maidan,” a reference to the protests in Kyiv that led to the fall of the previous, Russia-aligned Ukrainian government last year. At the group’s inaugural event, the Zaldostanov warned that his bikers would crush any attempt to launch a “colour revolution” street protest against the Putin regime on Russian soil. “The ‘orange beast’ is sharpening its teeth and looking to Russia,” said Zaldostanov, suggesting the anti-Maidan group could adopt “Death to Fags” as an alternative name.
Defenders of Orthodoxy
Zaldostanov’s Night Wolves have moved so far from their outlaw rebel roots that they now proclaim themselves protectors of the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoys close ties to the Kremlin in Putin’s Russia.
Following the arrest of members of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who shot an allegedly blasphemous video in a Russian Orthodox church, Zaldostanovled a parade of bikers through Moscow carrying balloons with Orthodox symbols and pledged his bikers would defend holy sites. “I am against the ‘possessed’ who humiliate the believers,” he said. The Night Wolves have also announced a definitive rupture with the international biker movement, declaring on their website: “We do not want to belong to foreign bikers’ traditions that are not able to give good fruits to our Slavic Orthodox country! We Night Wolves are proud that we were born in the land of the great people, the land of Slavs, the rebellious Russians, land of undefeated heroes, the land which does not let the rest of the world sleep since the Roman Empire or even earlier.” Zaldostanov, who was already sanctioned by the U.S. in December, has welcomed his new status as a pariah in the West. “I would very much like to thank [U.S. President Barack] Obama for recognizing my modest services to the motherland. And I promise that I will do all I can so that his concern for me only grows.”