A Farce to Be Reckoned With

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

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More than anything else, it is the image of a deeply resentful human being, as reflected in his writings and speeches, that inspires critics to compare Zhirinovsky to tyrants like Hitler, whose self-pitying laments Zhirinovsky echoes when he writes: "Life itself forced me to suffer from the very day, the moment, the instant of my birth. Society could give me nothing." Having portrayed his life, and especially his childhood, as plagued by deprivation and rejection, Zhirinovsky has learned to project these sentiments from the personal to the national scale, elevating them to a world view that has resonated in this impoverished country.

No matter what his new colleagues in parliament may think of him, Zhirinovsky's success in vote gathering will almost certainly allow him to treat Russia's national legislature as a personal soapbox from which to promote ideas that are making the rest of the world shudder. In the end, those ideas, and the resounding response they have elicited, say as much about Russia as they do about Zhirinovsky.

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