not within 72 hours, 72 days, nor 72 weeks.”rnVZ: “History will tell.”rnZhirinovsky’s game plan is very simple. His army of mentalrncripples is already huge, and its ranks multiply every day of Russia’srnunbearably hopeless existence. Jobless, homeless demobilizedrnsoldiers, refugees from the republics who have suddenlyrnfound themselves foreigners in their own countries—this continuousrndisplacement brings millions of potential recruits.rnThe goal, as he says, is to unite them under his banner andrnbring them to the ballot boxes.rnZhirinovsky is perhaps the only Russian politician whosernelection campaign is already in full swing. He has traveledrnthrough all of Russia with election speeches and has set uprncampaign headquarters in dozens of the country’s regions. “Irnjust came back from Vologda,” he told me. “If you asked peoplernto vote today in Vologda, I’d get 60 percent of the vote.rnWithin a year or two I’ll get the same percentage in the otherrn82 regions I’m now the only one who’s traveling around therncountry, the only one whose name is known. You ask ten peoplern—eight will name me, and two will name Yeltsin. They’llrnsay: ‘Yes, there’s Zhirinovsky and Yeltsin,’ and that’s it. Andrnthey’ll say ‘We don’t want Yeltsin.’ ‘Who do you want?’ ‘Zhirinovsky.'”rnOf course, he exaggerates. A poll of potential voters taken inrn13 cities at the end of June 1992, subsequent to our conversation,rnshowed that Yeltsin would still get 33 percent of the voternand Zhirinovsky only 5 percent. However, one cannot denyrnthat his campaign brings results. As in 1991, he is again aheadrnof all his opponents, including Nikolai Ryzhkov (3 percent) andrnSpeaker of the Parliament Ruslan Hasbulatov (3 percent), notrnto mention such favorites of the Russian right-wing press asrnGeneral Albert Makashov (2 percent) and the most influentialrnof the M.P.’s, Sergei Baburin (1 percent).rnIf Yeltsin is out of the game by 1995, as he promised, Zhirinovskyrnwill undoubtedly be the most popular opposition leader.rnA recent poll among the peasants of the Volga region astonishedrnsociologists. Answering the question as to whomrnamong the Russian politicians they would like to see as president,rnthe overwhelming majority named three people:rnMalenkov, Brezhnev, and Zhirinovsky! The only one of thernthree who is still around is our hero. But Zhirinovsky is not inclinedrnto wait until 1995. He believes that there is a goodrnchance the election will be held earlier: “They’re now collect-rnLIBERALARTSrnNUTRA-SWEET REVENGErnA judge recently threw out a lawsuit filed by three WashingtonrnState inmates who contended that the “nutra-loaf”rnthey were served constituted cruel and unusual punishment.rnNutra-loaf, which is served to inmates who throwrntheir food or who are “extremely assaultive or volatile,” includesrna variety of vegetables, beef or chicken, apples,rneggs, and potatoes. A nine-ounce slab is considered arncomplete meal and is less dangerous and easier to clean uprnthan other prison entrees.rning signatures to impeach Yeltsin. If they succeed, then wernhave new elections. Or if he dies.”rnHis short-term prognosis was as follows: “The situation willrnget worse. If not by October, then by March [1993] there willrnbe a different political regime in Russia. The patriots will comernto power.” Zhirinovsky certainly erred in his chronology.rnWhat happened in March was just a perilous constitutional crisisrnand a near-impeachment of President Yeltsin rather than arnchange in regime. Still, the “patriots” are indeed immeasurablyrnstronger now than at the time of his prognosis. To be sure, theyrndon’t like Zhirinovsky any more than the democrats do. Yet hernis certain they’ll come to him because, without Yeltsin, there isrnno other politician in Russia of comparable national stature.rnSo perhaps, after all, Zhirinovsky’s presidency is not thernoutrageously unlikely fantasy it seems at first glance. A journalist,rnVladimir Nazarov, comments: “Even if Zhirinovskyrnhimself disappears tomorrow, the Zhirinovsky phenomenonrnwill not disappear with him. His place will be taken immediatelyrnby someone who is smarter, shrewder, and more stable.rnBut he will inherit Zhirinovsky’s program and his image of arnman of the people. He will come forward and say, ‘Don’t believernanybody. Believe me. I am the only one who knows howrnwe can get out of this mess.’ And the people, frustrated andrntired, will take the bait.”rnI am not sure Nazarov is entirely correct. It is not easy to createrna national reputation, and the revolutionary years 1990 andrn1991, when Zhirinovsky created his, were extraordinary. Now,rnthere are people among the opposition leaders who are smarter,rnshrewder, and more stable than Zhirinovsky. Yet none ofrnthem can measure up to him. Why not? Precisely becausernnone of them has such a “lumpen” disregard for logic, such anrnamoral philosophy, such a total lack of decency, and further,rnsuch charisma, as Zhirinovsky. I think that until the total crisisrnin which Russia finds herself today is overcome, Zhirinovskyrnwill be on stage. This, despite the fact that in Augustrn1992 the government dealt him a major blow, declaring thernregistration of his Liberal Democratic Party illegal, i.e., outlawingrnit. But after all. Hitler had worse setbacks. He was evenrnimprisoned for a time. And did it stop him?rnAdd to this that law enforcement in Weimar Russia is weakerrnthan it was even in Weimar Germany. Just consider whatrnZhirinovsky has been able to accomplish since his party was officiallyrnoutlawed: the number of its newspapers has grownrnfrom one to five; detachments of armed “Zhirinovsky Falcons”rnhave been dispatched to help Iraq and Serbia; a shadowrngovernment with Zhirinovsky occupying the positions of PrimernMinister and Minister of War has been announced.rnIn parting with me Zhirinovsky proclaimed, “Give me onernbillion dollars and in a year from now I’ll be the president ofrnRussia.” Whether with a billion or not, given all his recent expensesrnsomebody from abroad seems to be supporting himrnhandsomely. Meanwhile he behaves as if he were alreadyrnpresident: on a recent trip to Munich to meet the Germanrnhard-right leadership he declared the Molotov-RibbentroprnPact of 1939 legally in force.rnWeimar Russia is no less a powder keg than Weimar Germanyrnonce was. And although it is right that the West shouldrnpromote democracy and a free market in Russia, it shouldrnperhaps—while democracy is not yet there but the missiles stillrnare—consider how to protect itself with something more sophisticatedrnthan paper treaties and humanitarian aid for therncurrent unstable regime. trn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn