Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), State Duma Deputy
Vladimir Zhirinovsky was born on April 25, 1946 in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan). A Russian by nationality. Zhirinovsky's mother was a housewife who at one time had worked in the canteen of the Veterinary Institute in Alma-Ata. His father was a lawyer.
When asked about the nationality of his parents, Zhirinovsky once replied with a sentence that almost instantly became proverbial: "My mother is a Russian while my father is a lawyer". An Associated Press journalist discovered in Alma-Ata documents that confirmed that till June 10, 1964 Zhirinovsky had his father's surname - Eidelstein. Volf Isakovich Eidelstein was a planner at an enterprise that produced garments and footwear. Vladimir Zhirinovsky always claimed that his father's patronymic was Andreevich. The first husband of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's mother was Andrei Vasilievich Zhirinovsky, an NKVD officer who headed the Security Department of the Leningrad railway. He was dismissed from the NKVD for some petty misdemeanors and died 18 months before Vladimir Zhirinovsky was born. As to the lawyer in the family, as determined by Maureen Ort, a correspondent of the American magazine Vanity Fair, it was not Zhirinovsky's father or his mother's first husband, but his uncle Aron Isakovich Eidelstein.
From 1964 to 1970 Zhirinovsky studied at the Institute of Oriental Languages at Moscow University (renamed Institute of Countries of Asia and Africa in 1972) because his dream was to become a diplomat. He studied Turkish and in his final year was Secretary of the Komsomol Bureau of his class. Concurrently, in 1965-1967 he studied at the Department of International Relations of the University of Marxism-Leninism. In 1967 he tried to join the CPSU but failed to get a recommendation from the Bureau of the Komsomol Committee of Moscow University.
For his pre-diploma practice in 1969-1970 Zhirinovsky was sent for one year to Turkey to work as a trainee translator for the State Committee for External Economic Ties at the metallurgical plant in Iskanderun. During this practice he was arrested "for communist propaganda" - he gave his acquaintances as souvenirs Soviet lapel pins (Zhirinovsky says that those were innocuous pins with scenes of Moscow while the police claimed that they were subversive because they depicted Lenin and Karl Marx). Zhirinovsky was expelled from Turkey and this ruined his further career in the Soviet Union: despite his graduation with honors and active work in the Komsomol he was denied membership in the party, was not allowed to become a postgraduate student and denied for many years a possibility to travel abroad. So, after graduation he was placed "at the disposal of the USSR Ministry of Defense".
In 1970-1972 he served in Tbilisi in the Transcaucasian Military Area in the capacity of an officer at the Area Headquarters.
In 1972-1975 he worked in the Sector of Western Europe of the International Department of the Soviet Peace Committee. After that he got a job at the Economics Department of the Higher School of the Trade Union Movement as an International Student Adviser. That was from January 1975 to May 1977. At the same time he was a night student at Moscow University's Law Department which he graduated in 1977.
From 1977 to 1983 he was on the staff of the Ministry of Justice of the USSR in the department dealing with legal cases involving foreigners or foreign countries. Then from 1983 to 1990 he was senior legal consultant at the Mir Publishing House.
In November 1990 he became a salaried functionary of the Liberal Democratic Party.
According to official Israeli data, in the mid-80ies Zhirinovsky requested an invitation for permanent residence in that country but did not avail himself of it.
According to Zhirinovsky, he started to engage in politics from April 1967 when he sent a letter to the CPSU Central Committee addressed to Leonid Brezhnev about the need of reforms in education, agriculture and rural life. Soon after that he was summoned to the Department of Establishments of Higher Education of the Moscow City CPSU Committee where it was explained to him that his proposals "are unrealistic for financial and certain political considerations". He also claims that in 1977 he was to join a new underground political party headed by Anatoly Anisimov, but "it was disbanded by the authorities" before he managed to do this.
In reality he became involved in politics during the time that he worked in the Mir Publishing House.
On February 28, 1985 (that is several days before the death of Konstantin Chernenko and the election of Mikhail Gorbachev to the post of General Secretary) an open party meeting was held at the Mir Publishing House to discuss a resolution on personnel policy adopted by the Central Committee. At the meeting Zhirinovsky took the floor and proposed that personnel policy should be based not on criteria of party loyalty and nationality but on ability. Since Zhirinovsky was not a member of the party it was his immediate superior, a member of the party, who was punished for what Zhirinovsky said.
At a general meeting of the labor collective of the Mir Publishing House in the spring of 1988 Zhirinovsky announced that he wanted to stand for election to the Dzerzhinsky District Soviet. Despite resistance of the party committee the meeting decided to nominate Zhirinovsky. Nevertheless he was not registered as a candidate and could not stand for election.
It was in the spring of 1988 at "Peace and Human Rights" seminars held at the Soviet Peace Committee that Zhirinovsky for the first time attracted the attention of the "informal world" of politics. He began to attend various meetings of informal groups at which he usually suggested the idea to set up a political party.
On May 7-9, 1988 he took part in the Constituent Congress of the Democratic Alliance (DS). At the concluding meeting he urged the congress to delete the words "the CPSU led the people by criminal methods" from the Declaration of the Democratic Union, but failed to persuade it. He was elected to the Central Coordinating Council of the Democratic Union. But late in May, when arrested by the militia at a meeting together with some DS members, he denied in their presence his membership in this party and thereby, in accordance with the DU Charter, ceased to be its member.
In May 1988 he wrote a one-page draft program of the Social Democratic Party and handed it out to activists of informal groups in Moscow, in particular the Free Inter-Trade Association of Working People (SMOT) and the club Democratic Perestroika. A summary of this program was printed at the time in the samizdat newspaper Hronograph.
In the second half of 1988 he took part in the attempts to establish a legal Jewish national movement. In particular, late in 1988 he was a speaker at the constituent meeting of the Society of Jewish Culture (SJC) in the Shalom theater and was elected a member of the SJC board along with the former First Secretary of the CPSU Committee of the Jewish Autonomous Region Lev Shapiro and the Zionist activist Yuli Kosharovsky. As a member of the SJC board Zhirinovsky was charged with the supervision of the work of four sections: the section of humanitarian and legal matters, the section of philosophy and religion, the section of history and the section of external economic ties (but actually as an organization the SJC never really got off the ground).
Early in 1989 Zhirinovsky tried to get himself nominated for election as a People's Deputy of the USSR once again by the labor collective of the Mir Publishing House, but on realistically comparing his chances with those of the Editor-in-Chief of the Ogonyok magazine Vitaly Korotich, withdrew in his favor (subsequently Korotich was denied registration and it was Yury Skokov who was elected Deputy from that constituency).
In the summer and autumn of 1989 Zhirinovsky jointly with Vladimir Bogachev, who withdrew from Lev Ubozhko's Democratic Party (still earlier both Bogachev and Ubozhko were expelled from the Democratic Alliance), set up a group that proclaimed the aim of establishing a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The party adopted the draft program of the SDP that Zhirinovsky penned in May 1988. In that draft the word "social" was replaced by the word "liberal". In fact, it was whited-out in the typed text and the word "liberal" printed in its place.
On September 3, 1989 Zhirinovsky took part in a meeting of Igor Sychov's Pamyat movement in Luzhniki Stadium in defense of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states. Zhirinovsky devoted most of his speech to the food crisis in the country and said that to cope with the problem the export of sausages to Africa should be stopped.
On December 13, 1989 Zhirinovsky and Bogachev held in Bogachev's apartment an organizational meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Zhirinovsky was elected Chairman and Bogachev as the Main Coordinator of the party.
In February 1990 Zhirinovsky nominated himself a candidate in the elections of the director of the publishing house but lost, getting only 30 of the 600 votes. At the same time he wanted to be nominated a candidate for election as a People's Deputy of the RSFSR, but the meeting that was convened to nominate him was invalid because there was no quorum.
Together with Bogachev he conducted on March 31, 1990 the constituent congress of the party which became known as the Liberal Democratic Party of the Soviet Union (LDPSS). Membership cards along with credentials of congress delegates were handed out to whoever wished to have them.
It was announced at the congress that the LDPSS unites "more than 3,000 people in 31 regions of the country and is the first opposition party in the USSR". All the national newspapers and the Vremya television program reported the creation of the LDPSS. At the congress the delegates were told that the LDPSS has like-minded persons among the People's Deputies of the RSFSR - Yury Afanasyev, Father Gleb Yakunin and Valentina Linkova, a journalist from Noginsk. All three, on learning about this, soon announced that they did not have the privilege of being acquainted with Mr.Zhirinovsky and had learned about his party from the newspapers.
On the initiative of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Vladimir Voronin (Sakharov Union of Democratic Forces), Alexei Brumel (future self-styled Emperor of Russia) and Valery Skurlatov (leader of the Russian People's Front) a "moderate-radical Centrist Bloc of Political Parties and Movements" was formed on June 8, 1990. In the course of several months it was in the constant attention of the official press as a "third" political force supposedly on a par with the confronting Democrats and Communists.
In late September and early October 1990 Zhirinovsky together with the leaders of the dwarf parties - mostly from the Centrist Bloc - took part in consultations held at the country house of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in Petrovo Dalneye and then in the meeting with Nikolai Ryzhkov in the Kremlin on November 29, 1990 to discuss the possible formation of a "national unity government".
In the Russian presidential elections Zhirinovsky got 7.81 percent of the vote (more than 6,211,000 votes) and placed third after Yeltsin and Ryzhkov. In the course of his election campaign Zhirinovsky promised, among other things, to stop the disintegration of the Soviet Union and to cut vodka prices. On his ticket as a vice presidential candidate was Andrei Zavidiya, who sponsored his election campaign.
When a state coup was attempted in August 1991 Zhirinovsky openly approved of the actions taken by the GKChP. The investigators into the case of the GKChP prepared charges against Zhirinovsky on six counts, but no action was taken.
In December 1991 Zhirinovsky condemned the agreements reached by Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Shushkevich in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and conducted meetings in protest against the disintegration of the USSR.
He took part in the activities of the former People's Deputies of the USSR who refused to accept the disintegration of the USSR (the 6th Extraordinary Congress of People's Deputies and the gala meeting on December 30, 1992) and, as admitted by the chairman of the Standing Presidium of the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR Sazhi Umalatova, financed them.
In October 1992 Zhirinovsky submitted documents for the registration of his party under the name of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. The LDPR was registered in December 1992.
In the same year Zhirinovsky formed a "shadow cabinet" consisting of some 20 ministers including the writer Eduard Limonov, who became security minister, the musician Sergei Zharikov (leader of the DK punk group) who was offered the post of minister of culture and the naval officer from St. Petersburg Mikhail Ivanov, known for his opposition to zionism, who was given the post of first deputy premier.
In the period from 1990 to 1993 Zhirinovsky traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, the United States, Turkey and Bulgaria. During his visit to France in September 1992 he had a meeting with the leader of the ultra-rightist National Front Jean Marie Le Pen. He also had contacts with German right-wing radicals. Late in November 1992 he paid a visit to Iraq. In his speeches there he declared that an alliance with Middle East countries is desirable for Russia but "first they should repay their debts to us in kind".
In the summer of 1993 he took part in the Constitutional Conference convened by President Yeltsin and supported the "presidential" draft of Russia's new Constitution.
Zhirinovsky supported Yeltsin's dissolution of the Congress of People's Deputies in September 1993. Asked about his attitude to the events around the Ostankino television center he said in an interview during the night of October 3-4, 1993 that in the conflict between the "pink reds" from the Kremlin and the "red reds" from the White House he chose the lesser evil and sided with the former.
He ran for the State Duma at the head of the LDPR list. The LDPR list placed first and in addition to this Zhirinovsky was elected to the Duma in the majority Shchyolkovo district No 114 in Moscow Region. He became the head of the LDPR faction in the Duma and in this capacity became a member of the Council of the State Duma.
Oleg Novikov, Zhirinovsky's rival in the election, challenged the results and the court in Shchyolkovo declared the elections invalid, but the Moscow Regional Court overturned this ruling.
After his victory in the elections Zhirinovsky went on a foreign trip. He was expelled from Bulgaria for insulting the President of the country and barred from entering Germany. Since then he has been expelled from quite a number of countries or refused entry.
In March 1994 he went to Poland to attend the first congress of the National Self-Defense Front (it was renamed at the congress as the Polish National Front) on the invitation of its leader Janusz Bryczkowski.
In the winter of 1994 the General Prosecutor's Office initiated criminal proceedings against Zhirinovsky on charges of propaganda of war. One of the reasons for this was an analysis made by Kronid Lyubarsky of Zhirinovsky's book "The Final Thrust to the South", published late in 1993, and his conclusion that in it there were direct calls for military advances towards the Indian Ocean.
On March 27, 1995 Defense Minister Pavel Grachev promoted Captain (Reserve) Zhirinovsky to Lieutenant-Colonel (Reserve), skipping the rank of Major, something that is extremely rare in peace time.
On December 17, 1995 he was elected to the new State Duma at the head of the LDPR list, which placed second after Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
At a congress of the LDPR in January 1996 he was nominated a candidate for the post of president of Russia. The authorized representatives of the LDPR were registered by the Central Electoral Commission on January 22, 1996.
In 1993 Zhirinovsky described his political views as "liberal-conservative", "right-wing conservative" and "national-patriotic". He qualified his attitude to Viktor Chernomyrdin's government as one of "constructive opposition". Speaking of countries whose state arrangement is close to his ideal he named France, Germany as well as Austria which seems to him to have "the best political and economic organization".
Zhirinovsky opposes the participation of women in politics.
He describes the creation of CIS as "an international provocation against Russia and Russians" and expressed conviction that "its organizers will end up like Hitler and Napoleon". He regards as illegal both the formation of the USSR in the early 20-ies and the setting up CIS in 1991. In his opinion, it is necessary "to recreate the Russian state within the borders of the USSR (by 90 percent)". The Kurile Islands, he insists, definitely should remain part of Russia. He comes out for "a multi-party system, a mixed economy and a presidential system of government", as well as for "an expansion of Russia's sea borders".
He regards the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin as his ideological and spiritual mentor and shares the political ideas of Count P.D.Kiselev, N.A.Milyutin, S.Yu.Vitte and P.A.Stolypin.
Among contemporary Russian politicians he likes best Aman Tuleyev and Viktor Alksnis.
He respects Saddam Hussein "as a man who cherishes most of all the wellbeing of his country". Zhirinovsky condemned the pressure put by the United States on Iraq and supported Serbia.
He regards as a pillar of support the army and the KGB - "the most powerful political police in the world". "We will not do like Yeltsin", Zhirinovsky stated in one of his speeches. "He undermined the army, the KGB, the law-enforcement agencies, destroyed our industry and started implementing conversion. We will do it the other way round".
Zhirinovsky says that lies are acceptable in the name of lofty ideals. The execution of statesmen is the worst of crimes, he remarked when Ceausescu and his wife were shot by a firing squad. He is afraid of accepting flowers from admirers: "I do not want to share Radjiv Gandhi's fate".
He repeatedly sued media outlets and individuals for defamation, in particular, when he was charged with collaborating with the KGB and when it was claimed that his party resembles a fascist one.
In the history of Russia he admired most of all the creation of a powerful state "in the course of wars of liberation".
Among his hobbies are hunting, target shooting, hiking and volleyball. He likes to talk to children. He used to like foreign travel but now has tired of it. In his younger year Zhirinovsky wrote poetry.
Zhirinovsky regards alcohol and drugs as incompatible with a politician's career.
He likes to read philosophical books and political memoirs. He says he likes not writers but individual works by them, for instance, Stefan Zweig and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ("Matryona's Homestead"), Yevgeny Yevtushenko's poem "Fears". Among films he likes "Tarzan", "Wedding With a Dowry", the Swedish film "In Search of Matches".
Zhirinovsky holds monthly meetings with the population near the Sokolniki metro station in Moscow. He is not against being ridiculed, given that this is not done with malice. The Mayak Radio once broadcast a song "Oh, Vladimir Volfovich" by the group "Popugai" (Parrot). Zhirinovsky sent a letter of gratitude to the radio and started inviting the group to his functions.
Zhirinovsky knows English, French, German and Turkish.
Zhirinovsky's wife is a lawyer by training. Her father is the retired General Aleksandr Lebedev. Zhirinovsky met his future wife in 1968 and they married immediately after he completed his service in the army. His son Igor Lebedev (1972) works in the State Duma as an assistant to his father.