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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 14:10 GMT
Viewpoint: Pro-Putin cheerleader
With just days to go before Russia's parliamentary election Andrei Tatarinov, an activist for the youth wing of the United Russia party, explains how he came to be a Putin loyalist.

Andrei Tatarinov stands by the Mayakovsky monument, Moscow
Andrei Tatarinov says his revolutionary chic phase is over

Mr Tatarinov, 19, is a Muscovite journalism student and head of "counter-propaganda" for the Young Guard, United Russia's youth wing. He believes Vladimir Putin has a key role to play even after his presidential term ends in 2008.

I used to be a follower of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party. I was going through a rebellious phase, reading books about Che Guevara, Trotsky, the Russian Revolution.

I continued to mix with the opposition, with the liberals, until I finally decided to quit altogether because I could not understand why Russia was supposed to hand back the Kuril Islands to Japan and Karelia to Finland.

Today's opposition are either anarchists or they want to drag us backwards - to the chaos of the 1990s or to the communist past
Andrei Tatarinov

Here was a guy [Vladimir Putin] no longer swayed by beautiful banners and the rebel aesthetic but starting to understand ideology. Gradually I found myself agreeing with our government's course, and finally I joined the Young Guard.

Incidentally, two weeks ago I was in a restaurant in central Moscow when somebody smashed the side window of my car. They left a note saying "We know where you are". I think the opposition see me as their personal enemy.

Sovereign nation

One aspect of the Young Guard's ideology is defence of national sovereignty, whether political or cultural.

Reads: The Bible
Listens to: Ramstein
Watches: The Godfather Part I
Drives: Seat Ibiza
Drinks: Caffe latte

One of our problems is that we [in Russia] eat at McDonalds more often than we go to church. McDonalds is fine, but we have let ourselves be overwhelmed by Western culture.

Ukraine and Georgia are countries which lost their sovereignty. It's just not right when you can't take a decision without having to consult Washington first.

I agree absolutely with Putin that the collapse of the USSR was, in geopolitical terms, a disaster. I regret losing such a great and vast country but I am not sorry we lost the communist system.

Unfortunately, ill-educated people find it hard to distinguish patriotism from nationalism. Of course, the Young Guard is against racism and nationalism, which are impermissible in a country with an ethnic mix like Russia's.

I have friends from the Caucasus but here is one interesting point: if a Russian hits a Caucasian, it is fascism, yet when a Caucasian hits a Russian, it is not called fascism but something else.

At ease with power

Nashi [the best-known pro-Putin youth group] are our partners. The difference is that they are involved in social projects while our projects are purely political.

Andrei Tatarinov at the wheel of his damaged car
A board covers the broken window of the activist's car for now

I do not feel like a Komsomol [the USSR's communist youth movement] member. For me the typical Komsomol member was some browbeaten boy seeking to please his bosses.

We in the Young Guard would just laugh at the idea of trying to suck up to our peers in United Russia.

I'm not afraid that United Russia might turn into a political monster. It is a skilled political instrument, without which we would wallow in populism.

I would like to see a two-party system in Russia eventually, like in Britain - two strong parties.

But today's opposition are either anarchists or they want to drag us backwards - to the chaos of the 1990s or to the communist past.

After the vodka

Is United Russia bigger than Putin? United Russia is Putin.

Putin has become more than a president, more than a leader. We were like a nation without a father.

Russia used to be seen as all vodka and bears but thanks to Putin it is now regarded as a heavyweight. And Putin has brought Russia stability.

He will leave the presidency but he will remain a national leader.

For now it remains a secret what new position he will occupy. He has given us hints but we are not revealing anything!

In any case, everything will be within the framework of the constitution.

Interview taken by Patrick Jackson, BBC News, Moscow.

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