OPINIONSrnA Walk on the Dark Sidernby Wayne Allensworthrn”Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.rn-Thomas AdamsrnBlack Hundred: The Rise of thernExtreme Right in Russiarnby Walter LaqueurrnNew York: Harper Collins;rn288 pp., $27.50rnConspiracy theories have found arnready audience in many countriesrnin many different times. When cataclysmicrnevents shock a country to itsrnfoundations, when people feel impotentrnbefore history’s tidal wave, when war orrneconomic collapse or political disintegrationrnmark the end of a historical erarnand, having rendered old points of referencernobsolete, signal the beginning ofrnan uncertain future, a certain segment ofrnany society will turn to the comfort ofrneasy, all-encompassing fantasies in orderrnto explain the heretofore inexplicablernand to find something, someone, tornblame. Disaster is far easier to digest ifrnan enemy, an evil foe whose destructionrnwill bring the solution of our ills, thernend of our pain, is apparent. The steadfast,rnthe loyal, and the strong can thenrnexorcise the demons of uncertainty, and,rnhaving identified the enemy, unite thernforces of light to strike back at the darkness.rnThe will to action will be satisfied.rnRussia, a long-suffering and, for muchrnof its history, isolated nation that hasrnbeen perplexed by any number of catastrophes,rnhas had a particularly pronouncedrntendency to seek answers inrnfantastic conspiratorial theories. In hisrnnew book Black Hundred: The Rise ofrnthe Extreme Right in Russia, Walter Laqueur,rna man who has spilt much ink onrnWayne Allensworth is an informationrnofficer at the Foreign BroadcastrnInformation Service in Washington,rnD.C. The views expressed are his alone.rnthe subjects of nationalism, Nazism, andrncommunism, attempts to describe thernorigins of the convoluted set of conspiracyrntheories that set Russia’s extremernnationalists apart from those of a morernmoderate and rational complexion. Mr.rnLaqueur further surveys the current extremistrnpolitical scene, on which thernBlack Hundred and its soulmate. NationalrnBolshevism, have emerged fromrnthe shadows following the collapse ofrnthe Soviet Union. These are the book’srnprimary tasks, which Mr. Laqueur completesrnsuccessfully. Where Black Hundredrnfalls short is in its attempt to expoundrnon the subject of Russian nationalismrnin general. The book is too longrnfor the first jobs, and too short and unfocusedrnfor the second.rn”Why concentrate on various fringerngroups, thus creating the impression thatrnall Russian patriots are chauvinists, villains,rnand madmen?” Mr. Laqueur asksrnhimself in the book’s introduction. Thernanswer to this question is apparent tornanyone familiar with the current Russianrnpolitical landscape: an extreme nationalistrnpresidential candidate (demagoguernVladimir Zhirinovsky) whornreceives six million votes, an extremistrnideology that has had adherents amongrnthe country’s topmost leadership (fromrnczarist ministers to Stalinist commissarsrnto various public figures in both Gorbachev’srnand Yeltsin’s governments), andrn”a political-literary journal [promotingrnthat ideology] circulated in hundreds ofrnthousands of copies” do not represent,rnwrites Mr. Laqueur, “a fringe phenomenon.”rnThe extremist ideology inrnquestion is not defined in exactly thernsame way in all times and in all places inrnRussia but is, rather, a loose set of ideasrnfocused on attempts by alien powers andrninternal collaborators, acting as part of arnworldwide conspiracy, to destroy Russia,rnto make her a colony of foreign enemies,rnand, ultimately, to carry out the genocidernof the Russian nation. Mr. Laqueurrncalls this ideology “Black Hundredism.”rnPerhaps it was inevitable that the ideologyrnwhich spawned the Black Hundred,rnthose extremist nationalist groupsrnat the turn of this century, should arise inrna country threatened as Russia was atrnthat time by the specter of revolution.rnGreat and Holy Russia had been defeatedrnin war by the Japanese, her armedrnforces humiliated, her czarist system exposedrnas inept and corrupt; wild-eyed,rnatheistic revolutionaries had assassinatedrn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn