A Farce to Be Reckoned With

Vladimir Zhirinovsky taps into the dark side of a Russia feeling humiliation and loss of self-esteem

Several days before he shocked the world by becoming the most potent opposition figure in Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky stood in Moscow's largest department store to ballyhoo his candidacy for his nation's first freely elected parliament. In the midst of denouncing Boris Yeltsin's reform program, Zhirinovsky, 47, abruptly turned away from his audience, marched to a lingerie counter and seized an expensive brassiere. Twirling it on his fingers, he proclaimed that if he were voted into office, he would provide cheap underwear for his constituents.

That audacious act neatly summarizes the burlesque appeal of one of the most astute political grandstanders Russia...

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