The future of Europe, as per Raivis Zeltits, the secretary-general of the National Alliance (NA), a Latvian government coalition party, looks like this. First, the EU will dissolve into several regional blocs while retaining formal unity. Latvia will find itself in a bloc called Intermarium, which will stretch from Crimean beaches to the Gulf of Riga.
The collapse of Russia will follow, while Western Europe will be captured by Islamists. But Intermarium will remain as impregnable fortress of European civilisation and the core of a new formation, which Zeltits dubs the Europe of Nations. Moreover, it will expand eastward at the expense of disintegrating Russia.
This dramatic forecast is contained in his article published on the website The New Nationalism which positions itself as a “national-conservative” publication for “free-thinking people of Intermarium region”.
Besides Zeltits, the website features two other authors – Dace Kalnina, consultant to NA parliamentary faction, and Olena Semenyaka – the international secretary of the Ukrainian party National Corps, the political wing of Azov movement which grew out of Azov volunteer regiment. Created in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the regiment has attracted numerous far-right extremists from Ukraine and other countries, especially (and paradoxically) from Russia.
The idea of Intermarium was born during the collapse of Russian empire a century ago, but was soon forgotten. But Russian aggression in Ukraine and the wave of far right populism which engulfed Europe in last decade has returned it to life.
It’s hard to find more ardent supporters of Intermarium than the leaders of Azov movement. “Our idea is that we are neither East nor West, we are Intermarium, a union stretching from the Black to Baltic sea,” Azov founder and National Corps leader Andriy Biletsky told Ukrainian magazine Focus in 2016. The programme of National Corps says that instead of joining the EU, Ukraine should become “the core of Baltic and Black Sea union within the new European unity”.
Bellingcat project, which proved Russia’s responsibility for downing Malaisian plane in Ukraine and poisoning Sergey Skripal in Britain, has reported that some of Azov activists are openly promoting white terror and lionise far-right terrorists, such as Brenton Tarrant and Anders Breivik.
The 2019 State Department human rights report describes National Corps as a “nationalist group promoting hatred”. Freedom House 2018 report describes the organisation as extremist. Last October, 40 US congressmen signed a letter calling on State Department to proclaim Azov a terrorist group. On the list one finds also British neo-nazi group National Action which also had a ties to NA through Zeltits.
Thanks to their friends from NA, members of Azov movement have gained access to the Latvian General Staff, a Latvian military base and the national parliament. Zeltits refused to comment for the story, while Kalnina didn’t respond to requests. National Alliance’s co-chairman Raivis Dzintars told Re:Baltica that NA representatives engaged with Azov movement in their private capacity and that geopolitical views of NA’s secretary-general don’t reflect party’s politics and ideological settings. He also claimed that the Azovians have prevented Russia’s invasion of Latvia by stopping the enemy outside Mariupol in southeast Ukraine.
The only National Alliance’s representative linked to Azov who agreed to talk said that he doesn’t share his Ukrainian friends’ extremist views, yet he admits to believing in the possibility of interracial war in Europe and blames pro-immigrant polices of Western countries for acts of terrorism committed by the likes of Tarrant and Breivik.
An early 20th century proponent of Intermarium in Latvia was also one of the creators of the national army, Gen. Peteris Radzins. During Civil in the collapsing Russian Empire he served in the Ukrainian army of getman Skoropadsky. That experience inspired him to reflect on the common fate of Ukraine and Latvia, and therefore – the inevitability of their union.
These days, the role of Intermarium’s chief promoter is occupied by territorial defence officer and National Alliance’s member Agris Purvins, who heads Gen. Radins Society. Purvins visited Ukraine several times in the last few years. He names Azov’s Olena Semenyaka as his main contact there. “Young, energetic, smart. Komsomol member, beauty, athlete,” he says citing a catchphrase from the Soviet comedy film “The Prisoner of the Caucasus”.
Purvins says that the Azovians evoke memories of his own youth, which fell on the period when Latvia was restoring its independence. “They are spiritually close to what Zemessardze [territorial defence] was at the time”. This is why he doesn’t see a huge problem in their radicalism: “We also had different things. But of course Ukrainians are hotter than Latvians”.
For Azov ideologists like Semenyaka, Intermarium is a publicly acceptable packaging for their fundamental idea – that of Recoquista. This term harks back to the liberation of medieval Spain from Muslim rule. The Azovians regard Ukraine as the new Andalusia, from which the liberation of Europe from migrants, liberals and cosmopolitans will begin.
In her interview with Azov Radio’s programme Recoquista Live in 2015, Semenyaka defined Reconquista as a continental liberation war, which has already started in Ukraine and which will soon spread to Russia and the rest of Europe, including Baltic countries. “The slogan of Reconquista is – Ukraine today, Russia and the rest of Europe tomorrow”, Semenyaka says. The anchors introduces her as “the coordinator of Ukraine’s Reconquista”.
In July 2016, National Corps organised the first conference of the Intermarium Development Support Group. According to Semenyaka’s publication on Zeltits’ website, the attendees ranged from military attaches of four EU and NATO countries (Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania) to neo-nazis from Russia.
A notable participant in the conference, Aleksey Levkin, is a Russian political immigrant, a key personality of the neo-Nazi online platform Wotanjugend and the leader of NCBM (national-socialist black metal) band M8L8TH, which stands for Hitler’s Hammer. Back in Russia, Levkin served jail sentence for being a part of a neo-Nazi gang that murdered Central Asian migrants. When Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, he and dozens of other Russian far right activists, joined Azov and fought against Putin’s regime, which they regard as neo-bolshevik and russophobic.
Levkin is Semenyaka’s close collaborator responsible for a key annual event, which members of Latvia’s National Alliance happened to attend. In one of her posts Semenyaka describes him as “Russian volunteer of Azov regiment, responsible for the ideological education in the regiment”.
WotanJugend’s website and telegram channel clearly outline Levkin’s ideology. It is a distilled cult of Hitler and Third Reich mixed with the lionisation of white terrorism and its key personalities, such as Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in a New Zealand mosque last March. Almost immediately after the attack. WotanJugend published Russian translation of Tarrant’s manifesto.
On May 1, 2019 WotanJugend staged a vigil to commemorate Adolf Hitler. The ceremony started with a participant reading out a poem titled “Hitler for thousand years” and ended with M8Л8ТХ performing a song titled “It’s coming” and described by WotanJugend as an “anthem of esoteric Hitlerism”. WotanJugend promotes other radical channels in Russian, Ukrainian and English languages, which discuss practical aspects of terrorism, such as urban combat.
Pact of Steel
Three years ago National Alliance’s representatives got a chance to see the brainchild of Semenyaka and Levkin – the annual NSBM festival Asgardsdrei. The musical festival is combined with a conference which bears the name of the infamous treaty between Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy – Pact of Steel. Participants include far-right thinkers from the projected Intermarium, as well as from Scandinavia and the US. An article published by East Journa, an Italian publication, and translated by WotanJugend, suggests that the festival involved recruitment of Reconquista fighters who wish to “halt the decadence of Europe”.
It is this festival which members of National Alliance found themselves at in December 2016. Versions of what happen differ. In her article on The New Nationalism, Semenyaka claimed that Agris Purvins made a speech at Pact of Steel conference, which was titled “Intermarium – the civilisational stronghold of Europe”.
But Purvins says that he only caught the musical part of the festival and had no time for the conference. He says he passed the text of his speech to Semenyaka who read it out to participants. According to Purvins, the Latvian delegation only saw the end of the concert and a press-conference given by the musicians.
He says he had “little interest” in the musical part of the festival. “We wore formal jackets and dresses, but they are all heavy metal folks,” he smiles. Asked about the organisers’ obvious sympathy for German nazism, Purvins said that Nazi Germany shouldn’t be painted in black and white: “Even in the Soviet Union not everything was bad – it had the best ice cream. Same in Germany”.
The official reason for Latvian delegation’s visit to Kyiv, headed by Dace Kalnina and Agris Purvins, was to open exhibition dedicated to Peteris Radzins at the Latvian embassy. The ceremony was attended by ambassador Juris Poikans. Zeltits sent a video address to the participants in the embassy event, in which he sharply criticised “Brussels federalists”. He said Latvia could live without them: “We ourselves are Europeans, no less than those in Brussels. And we can create the Europe to come. We don’t want neither a tower of Babel, nor towers of Kremlin”.
Purvins claims that Kalnina had already been in touch with Azov at the time of the visit. “Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to organise the exhibition and so on. They had political connections, including with the embassy”.
Azov by the Riga castle
In April 2017, a member of National Alliance and former US army officer Konstantins Pupurs attended the second Intermarium conference. Pictures from the event published in Ukrainian media show both Pupurs and Levkin. Purvins says he couldn’t attend Intermarium conferences due to the lack of money and time.
In September 2018, Dace Kalnina and Olena Semenyaka featured as lecturers at the nationalist musical festival Goloseyevska Kryivka in Kyiv. The headliner of the festival, the Ukrainian band Sokyra Peruna has stylised swastika as the logo and performs songs with the names like “Heroes of the White Race” and “Glory to the Skinheads of Great Rus”.
A few days later, Semenyaka visited Latvia. After an excursion in the Latvian parliament, conducted by Dace Kalnina, Semenyaka made a speech, dedicated to Intermarium, in Bauska. She said that East European countries should have their own military doctrine, without seeking approval from NATO and the EU.
Purvins says that while in Bauska, Semenyaka expressed interest in the Latvian experience of organising territorial defence, so he offered help. This conversation led to cooperation between Purvins and Zemessardze in Latvia and Konovalets School in Ukraine, created by Azov to groom sergeants for the regiment and indoctrinate them in its far right ideology. Unexpectedly, it turned out that Purvins studied together with school’s first commander, Georgian officer Giorgi Kuparashvili, at the Baltic Defence College in Tartu and even keeps his thesis at home. In February 2018, Purvins visited Azov’s main base in Eastern Ukraine addressed students of Konovalets School in Kyiv.
In May this year, Purvins invited a delegation of Konovalets school led by its new commander, Kyrillo Berkal, to Latvia. The delegation was invited for a “coffer break” to the General Staff, visited a Zemessardze base and spoke to its commander Maj. Arturs Maksis. The visit culminated in a ceremony by the wall of Riga castle (Latvian president’s residency), during which the Latvian and Ukrainian military unveiled a memorial plaque dedicated to Gen Radzins. Speaking at the ceremony, Berkal said that Ukraine and Baltic countries “should create a powerful military and economic alliance modelled on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”.
Purvins didn’t expect that the visit of the Azovians would be so easy to organise: “I was even positively surprised. I made the proposal and General Staff okayed it.” Although Azov is a part of National Guard, the official status of Konovalets School is unclear. Its website says that the Azovians created it “without waiting for orders from the above”. The school is not mentioned among educational organisations that belong to the National Guard on its website.
Responding to Re:Baltica, Latvian defence ministry’s press office said that Latvia “supported, supports and will support those, who endorse democracy. territorial integrity and sovereignty in compliance with international norms”. It didn’t explain how Azov movement’s views comply with the said norms. Defence minister Artis Pabriks said that standalone facts say nothing, while helping Russia to accuse Latvia with harbouring sympathies for the nazis.
Zemessardze training base commander Arturs Maksis, who hosted the Azovians, said that they didn’t make any extremist statements during their visit and that their spirit is similar to that of the Zemessardze back in the early 1990s.
Despite National Corps rejecting the EU in its own programme and its scepticism regarding NATO (as expressed in Semenyaka’s Bauska speech), Purvins doesn’t consider members of Azov movement as opponents of Euroatlantic integration. As for himself, he says that he is “ardently” pro-NATO, although he is unsure about the long-term sustainability of the bloc. “As a military man I am always looking at the worst-case scenario and seeking a reserve plan”, he says. As for the EU, he says that the balance inside the union is shifted too far towards human rights, especially those of migrants, which damages the interests of nations.
Purvins told Re:Baltica that he doesn’t favour the extremist views of Аzov movement representatives, such as Levkin, and that he was appalled by their anti-Semitism. However, he regards Recoquista as an idea that is “close or parallel to Intermarium”. “In history, there was always struggle and between nations and religions, Purvins says. “It is the strongest who wins. This is the essence of humans and of nature. Enter the forest and you’ll see how trees and bushes are fighting for a place under the sun”.
He regards the migration of Third World people into Europe as a part of that same struggle for survival. African and Muslims, Purvins says, multiply faster than Europeans, which could lead to a brutal interracial conflict in near future. “If there is not enough resources and food, then there will be a terrible war,” he says. In his opinion, people of different races should live separately. He recalls how bad he felt living next to Romas in Dobele.
In his view, the rise of neo-nazism is a natural reaction to immigration of people of colour to Europe. “They let the black race settle down in large number and see who nazism is rising in East Germany, how they start talking about Hitler,” Purvins says.
Purvins considers white terrorism to be a harmful idea, but claims that it was provoked by pro-immigrant policies of Western countries: “This is created by the system. I remember attending military exercises in Norway at the end of the 1990s. At that time the number of aliens was below 2%, but there is loads of them. Breivik is the consequence”. He believes that Breikvik harmed the nationalist cause with his actions, but says that the responsibility lies with the governments of Western countries.
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Written by Leonid Ragozin, Sanita Jemberga
Illustration by Raivis Viluns
Infographics by Madara Eihe
Translated into Latvian by Andra Ceriņa