Monday, 11 August 2014

Strelkov: more biographical details

Renata Lis has published a long article in the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, which pieces together some more biographical details about the mysterious Igor Strelkov. Here are a few of her findings:

Strelkov models his distinctive look on the Russian General Alexander Arkadyevich Suvorov (as painted by the Prussian artist Franz Krueger). This is not the famous Suvorov of the Napoleonic Wars, but his grandson who took part in the crushing of the Polish uprising of 1830-31.

Strelkov fought in Transnistria, Bosnia and the two Chechen wars.

His friend Mikhail Polikarpov wrote a book about their adventures in Bosnia, Russian Wolves. Strelkov appears as the character Monarchist, obsessed with the Russian Civil War and happily shelling the houses of "Turks" (i.e. Muslims) with a mortar. (Recently, the Bosnian media has alleged that Strelkov was a comrade of the Serbian paramilitary Boban Indic and took part in rapes and killings in Visegrad).

In the late 1990s, Strelkov published The Bosnian Diary of Igor G. (i.e. Igor Girkin = Igor Strelkov).  Both Visegrad and Boban Indic are mentioned. The author tells of his delight at seeing Orthodox churches from the time of the White Russian emigration in Belgrade and his contempt for Serbs who fail to live up to his Pan-Slavic ideals.

In Moscow Strelkov belonged to the Markov Club, a military re-enactment society named after the White general Sergei Markov. Strelkov was even more fascinated by another White general, Drozdovsky, who famously marched across Ukraine, from the Romanian town of Iasi to the Don. [NB: Lis doesn't mention it, but Drozdovsky's men later allegedly buried him in a secret grave near Sevastopol].  Strelkov spent such a fortune on his hobby that Lis suggests this may have been the reason his wife left him. One of the biggest expenses was a heavy machine-gun, which Strelkov used in re-enactments of the Russian Civil War and both World Wars. He preferred to play the role of junior officers.

By most accounts, Strelkov is a teetotaller. In Polikarpov's novel, the Strelkov character uses the radio handle "Vodka", but this is probably ironic. Although the Russian military re-enactment clubs are notorious for their heavy drinking, Strelkov abstained and chose non-drinkers as part of his machine-gun crew.
Next post: Strelkov's fantasy novel for children


  1. Thanks for the link to Lis' piece. I've managed to read it, partly in the original Polish, partly with the help of Google Translate. She uses some colorful language like "big-breasted camp followers", who are contrasted with the very young girls adored by Strelkov's characters (in a vaguely Victorian, rather than Nabokovian fashion, something is telling me).

    The title nails it painfully: there is no D'Annunzio or Marinetti among the separatist leaders. Their ideas and writings are derivative and third-rate. Not that I've read Strelkov... but the chance his fiction might turn out decent is close to zero.

    As for Drozdovsky, I don't think he fought in Crimea but his body was reburied there in 1919 or 1920. He was of Ukrainian descent - his father's estate was in Priluki, a 100-mile drive from Gogol's Sorochintsy. His grandfather was the first in his father's line to attain nobility, through civil service. His father was a career soldier, starting as an NCO and retiring as Major General. Drozdovsky chose a military career too, eventually graduating from the Academy of the General Staff in St. Petersburg. As a colonel in the disintegrating Russian army, he recruited volunteers from Russian troops fighting Austrians in Romania and marched across the steppes to capture Rostov from the Bolsheviks. He left diaries.

  2. If I remember rightly, Lis is a specialist in Ivan Bunin. Reading the works of Fyodor Berezin and Igor Strelkov must be a punishment for her.

    Yes, the new fantasists are certainly not D'Annunzio or Marinetti, even though Donbas is their Fiume. The fascists and extreme nationalists used to muster some literary talent, but these days they seem to have given up. I imagine Berezin's oeuvre is closer to "The Turner Diaries", though I have no plans to put my hunch to the test.

    (PS: I've changed the details about Drozdovsky per your information. Thanks.)