Who is Zakhar Prilepin: “Chechen”, writer, nationalist, oppositionist, Donbass volunteer and politician – May 6, 2023
Zakhar Prilepin, who survived the assassination attempt on May 6, is a bright and, without exaggeration, multifaceted figure. In parallel with politics and fighting in the Donbass (where he, however, left in 2018), Zakhar Prilepin writes a lot, makes music as a rap artist and acts in films and plays in the theater. Fontanka traced his path from the Nizhny Novgorod OMON almost to the very village of Pionerskoye, where his car was blown up.
Zakhar Prilepin was born in the small village of Ilyinka, Ryazan Region, into a classic intelligent family: his father is a history teacher, and his mother is a medical worker. Later the family moved to the Nizhny Novgorod region. It was there that Zakhar Prilepin drove on May 6 in an Audi Q7 to meet with his relatives.
Prilepin did not follow the parental path. By education, it just so happened that he was a policeman: after the army, he went to study at his local Nizhny Novgorod University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (now an academy), at the same time he served in the OMON. However, attempts to cling to the beauty of a young man in a helmet, with a club and bulletproof vests resulted in admission to the philological faculty of UNN. However, in 1996 he ended up in Chechnya as an OMON officer. It was already at the end of the war, but then his unit often fell under distribution. The Nizhny Novgorod riot police also worked in Vedeno, and broke through ambushes on mountain “serpentines”, and fought off one of the last militant raids in that war into Grozny in August. Compatriots from SOBR Nizhny Novgorod got it harder – in March, during the attack of separatists, many died. Zakhar Prilepin was lucky, and he returned home alive.
Nizhny Novgorod OMON in Chechnya in 1996
However, the harsh life of the riot police did not extinguish in Zakhar Prilepin that same craving for beauty. After business trips, he still managed to graduate from the philological faculty. He decided to drastically change his life and become a writer. As a writer as he could, and as his, by that time, 24-year-old guy with his difficult life experience, readers expected to see.
Prilepin managed to wait for serious publications only at the beginning of the 2000s. The first to publish it was Vladimir Bondarenko, editor-in-chief of The Day of Literature, who could well be called an associate of Alexander Prokhanov. It is not difficult to guess what the young riot policeman wrote at first. However, already by the title of the first novel “Pathology”, one can easily get an idea about Zakhar Prilepin’s attitude towards the war.
Simultaneously with literature, political life also began to spin. Having joined the party of the now banned National Bolshevik Party, Prilepin actively participated in its activities. A close, albeit difficult, relationship with Eduard Limonov continued until the death of the fiery revolutionary in 2020, however, having collapsed in the end into a series of squabbles and accusations. However, mostly quite intelligent.
“There is such a French expression “tourner mal”, that is, one who turned out unsuccessfully in the end. It’s about Prilepin…
Eduard Limonov, politician
“Prilepin is a thick-legged, muzzy, fashionable guy, a kind of Dud, belongs to the same category of show business stars as Ksenia Sobchak,” the late Eduard Limonov spoke about him.
Fun fact. Politics in Nizhny Novgorod in the 2000s was such a strange phenomenon that at one time even Alexei Navalny was among Prilepin’s associates. Not exactly close, but they knew each other well. Being in tough opposition, Zakhar Prilepin marked himself in movements against the current government.
Another hypostasis of Prilepin in the 2000s and 2010s, for which he was fiercely criticized both as a politician and as a writer, was nationalism. Critical literary reviews of his books for some reason invariably fell into accusations of chauvinism, anti-Semite phobia, and God knows what else. Which, of course, had nothing to do with literature.
The turning point for Zakhar Prilepin was 2014. Without leaving his leftist convictions, he announced a “truce with the authorities.” The rejection of ostentatious confrontation gave rise to an already serious political career. In 2017, he almost ran for the presidency (he lost the primaries of the Left Front to Pavel Grudinin), then created his own movement For Truth (it retained Prilepin’s traditional national-patriotic features and leftist in essence, but now close to the “general line” criticism of liberal ideology) and joined the United People’s Front. It was then that he had to break with Eduard Limonov and, in general, with the marginal spectrum of Russian politics.
Prilepin, who once demanded Putin’s resignation, joined the working group on changing the Russian Constitution in 2020. In 2021, he was awarded a presidential honorary diploma “for his great contribution to the strengthening of Russian statehood and active social activities.” And then his “For the Truth” merged into the parliamentary association “A Just Russia – For the Truth”, where he became co-chairman, along with Sergei Mironov. The appearance of Prilepin in the party, represented in almost all regional parliaments, caused a storm of emotions among his political opponents on the ground. Today, his election to the State Duma on party lists can be considered the crowning achievement of his political life, although he refused the mandate, apparently claiming something more.
Zakhar Prilepin had this more in the Donbass. From the very beginning of the armed conflict there in the spring of 2014, he actively took part in it, first as a journalist, then as a volunteer, and then as a combat officer of one of the special forces units of the official DPR army under the personal supervision of the late Alexander Zakharchenko. Although, however, little is known about the actual military achievements of the Prilepin battalion.
“No matter what they say, but I managed a combat unit that killed people. In large quantities.”
“I know this well, and how can I deal with it later?.. These people just died, they just lie in the ground, they are simply killed. And there are many. It’s just that not a single unit from the Donetsk battalions could compare with my battalion in terms of performance. Everything that we did was a goofy chaos that we did, ”- said Zakhar Prilepin in an interview.
It was 2019.
Denis Lebedev, Fontanka.ru