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Constantin von Hoffmeister explores the multifaceted life of Zakhar Prilepin, a renowned Russian author, former National Bolshevik Party member, soldier, journalist, and political pundit, who was targeted in a car bombing.

In a bewildering twist of fate, a notable Russian nationalist has suffered a premeditated attack.

Zakhar Prilepin, a 47-year-old celebrated author and former nationalist fighter, who has held a distinguished status in Russian politics for many years, was the target of a car bombing that wounded him and killed his driver. Prilepin is a zealous proponent of President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The bombing took place on May 6 while Prilepin was traveling through the Nizhny Novgorod region, situated east of Moscow. Numerous Russian news agencies, citing local officials, have reported that a bomb had been attached to Prilepin’s car and detonated.

Initially, Prilepin’s press service provided an account of the incident, in which the author’s condition was reported to be “okay.” However, it appears that there is some discrepancy in the details of his injuries. According to the governor of the region, Gleb Nikitin, Prilepin had sustained minor fractures, which were not deemed to be life-threatening. This update comes in contrast to the earlier report from emergency responders who had described Prilepin as seriously injured. The situation remains shrouded in confusion and the extent of Prilepin’s injuries is still uncertain.

Within hours of the attack, the Russian authorities arrested a 28-year-old man, who was previously involved in criminal activity, on suspicion of carrying out the terrorist act. The Interior Ministry has not disclosed the suspect’s identity or provided any additional information.

In a worrying development, a Ukrainian group calling itself Atesh has claimed responsibility for the attack. Atesh is a partisan movement comprised of ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars that has previously claimed responsibility for several attacks in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. Atesh posted on social media that it had tracked Prilepin since the start of the year and “felt that he would be blown up sooner or later.”

In the wake of the assault, Russian authorities immediately pointed the finger at the West, with Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, asserting that the US and UK were in cahoots with Ukrainian terrorists and had formed another international terror cell – namely, the Kiev regime. Prilepin, a staunch supporter of the Special Military Operation in Ukraine, has found himself the target of an attack that has shocked many, although it is not the first of its kind. In August of the previous year, Daria Dugina, the daughter of Eurasianist theorist Alexander Dugin, died in a car explosion outside Moscow. In April of this year, a bomb went off in a St. Petersburg cafe, claiming the life of popular military blogger and Donbass native Vladlen Tatarsky. Moscow has squarely placed the blame for both incidents on Ukrainian special services.

Despite facing criminal charges in Ukraine for terrorism and being added to the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture’s list of security threats, Prilepin has remained steadfast in his beliefs. A key advocate of Russia’s imperial foreign policy, Prilepin was elected to Russia’s parliament in 2021 but declined the position amid rumors of having presidential ambitions. He has been instrumental in popularizing Russia’s Special Military Operation on Telegram, where he has amassed over 300,000 followers.

After the tragic car bombing that took the life of Daria Dugina, Prilepin was quoted as saying that such actions have become commonplace due to the West’s influence on Ukraine. Like Putin, he laments the fall of the Soviet Union and how it has left many Russians feeling estranged from their own country. Prilepin’s novels have been praised for their foresight in predicting the development of radical political groups and the government’s strategy in combating them.

In the twisted tale that is Prilepin’s novel Sankya, we are plunged into a dark world of societal chaos and moral decay. The eponymous protagonist, Sankya, must navigate a labyrinthine landscape of violence and corruption in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. As he clashes with the authoritarian riot police, we witness the bitter struggle of a lost generation, floundering in a world where traditional values have been eviscerated and new ones have yet to emerge. Prilepin’s haunting narrative paints a bleak portrait of Russia in the early 1990s, where the young must confront an unforgiving reality and make heart-wrenching choices simply to survive.

The multifaceted Prilepin, whose birthplace was the rustic village of Ilyinka in the western reaches of Russia, boasts a storied past replete with myriad experiences. After having dutifully served in the armed forces, he proceeded to embark upon a profession as a law enforcement officer during the 1990s and subsequently found himself stationed in Chechnya during the stormy separatist and Islamist insurgencies. Eventually, Prilepin’s varied trajectory led him to carve out a thriving path as both a journalist and novelist, garnering acclaim as one of Russia’s foremost literary luminaries. In a survey by pollster VCIOM, Prilepin was voted the most popular author of 2022. His crime thriller Break Loose was adapted into a movie and his historical novel Abode into a TV show.

In Abode, Prilepin delves deep into the heart of a remote Soviet prison camp in the 1920s, where life is anything but easy for the hapless inhabitants. A group of political prisoners are at the forefront of this tale, fighting tooth and nail to survive the brutal conditions of their confinement. Their daily struggle for survival includes hard labor, malnourishment, and unspeakable abuse at the hands of their jailers. The novel captures the very essence of the harsh realities of life in the labor camps, with stark descriptions that spare no details of the cruelty and injustice of the Soviet system.

Not content with just writing, Prilepin has also established himself as a prolific political pundit. He frequently appears on TV and radio and even hosted his own show on the Russian TV channel NTV. In 2019, he founded his own conservative party, For Truth, after previously being involved with famous writer and political activist Eduard Limonov and his National Bolshevik Party.

Limonov founded the National Bolshevik Party in the tumultuous year of 1994. This political organization, which held far-right and Marxist-Leninist beliefs, derived its ideological basis from an amalgamation of communism, fascism, and nationalism. Its followers were largely composed of disillusioned youth who perceived the post-Soviet government as corrupt and viewed mainstream political parties as treacherous. The party’s radical ideology rejected the values of liberal democracy and capitalism in favor of a strong centralized state. The party was outlawed in 2007, but its influence is still felt in Russia, especially in the Dugin-dominated multipolarity movement, and other countries.

Prilepin’s unwavering stance on foreign policy has earned him a reputation as a hardliner, particularly due to his ardent advocacy for the integration of the whole of Ukraine into Russia. He lent his support to the 2014 Donbass rebellion, which rejected the Western-backed coup in Kiev that year and declared independence from Ukraine as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Prilepin rose to the rank of major as deputy commander of a DPR military unit before resigning in 2018 to concentrate on his writing. In September 2022, both Donbass republics (the DPR and the Lugansk People’s Republic) officially joined Russia following a referendum. Earlier this year, Prilepin joined the Russian National Guard and returned to the frontlines, claiming he had returned to the same battlefield where he had first arrived in 2014. However, his controversial views were not received well by the Ukrainian government, which banned his books in 2018. The EU also blacklisted him last year as part of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its military operations in Ukraine.

Prilepin, seeking to engage a younger audience, composed a series of tunes in 2015 that convey the atmosphere of 1940s Soviet war melodies, as well as his own sentiments about the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In addition, he strongly supports Russia’s yearly military celebrations on May 9, which is known as Victory Day, to commemorate the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany. While a number of municipalities have called off their festivities this year due to security reasons, the grand spectacle in Moscow’s Red Square remains slated to proceed.

As Prilepin noted, Victory Day is not just a day in history, but an event in the life of his family. His grandfather’s scar tissue from war wounds on his shoulder and palm serve as a reminder of the great sacrifice made by the Soviet people. This visceral feeling is absent from Europe’s Memorial Days, as it was only in Russia that the war affected everyone. Back in his younger days, every festive gathering started with a war toast, he recalled, and everyone present was well aware that their very existence was owed to the fact that their forefathers had managed to survive the harrowing times. In other words, the memory of the war was deeply ingrained in his upbringing and remained a part of his consciousness throughout his life.

With the battle cry of the archetypal warrior and the pen of a writer, Zakhar Prilepin weaves stories of individuals pitted against the vast, oppressive forces of the world. His characters are vulnerable, all-too-human, but fight against the powerful tides that threaten to crush them. Prilepin’s work is shot through with irrepressible beauty and the promise of redemption, and his tales are filled with fearless heroes fighting to survive. He has experienced the horrors of war firsthand, having fought in Chechnya and Donbass, and used his life as the basis for his work. Prilepin revels in the rituals and bonds of male camaraderie, and he sees war as the ultimate test of manhood. He has faced adversity and come out stronger, utilizing his experiences to create masterpieces of the written word.

Addendum: The Russian Investigative Committee released a video purportedly showing the suspect in the case of the bombing attack on Prilepin. The man introduces himself as Alexander Permyakov and claims to have been recruited by Ukrainian security services in 2018, saying he was born in Ukraine in 1993 and came to Russia in 2022 “with the aim of killing Zakhar Prilepin.” Russian investigators allege that Permyakov planted an explosive device on the street, which he detonated remotely. The video ends with the man expressing regret for his actions.

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Constantin von Hoffmeister

Constantin von Hoffmeister studied English Literature and Political Science in New Orleans. He has worked as an author, journalist, translator, editor and business trainer in India, Uzbekistan and Russia. You can subscribe to his newsletter here:

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1 year ago

Excellent news coverage and background on Zakhar. Let’s hope he recovers quickly. He is a national and world anti-globalist treasure. The rare combination of objective literary genius and devoted fighter. May his attacker suffer the harshest hells of Russian prison as an enemy of Russia.

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