On August 27th, in the wake of the horror of Charlottesville, I sat down to Skype with Nina Kouprianova, the Russian wife of the de-facto alt-right leader Richard Spencer, in her home in Whitefish, Montana. My goal was to ascertain as clearly as possible what she and her husband (who are separated but are, for all practical purposes, married and the parents of a very young daughter) actually wanted from American society. For all of the profiles I had read of Richard Spencer, it was difficult to get a concrete sense of what exactly he was fighting for and trying to accomplish—especially once you parse through all of his trolling—since much of what he says seems to be purely for the sake of enraging his detractors.
As a fellow Russian immigrant, I was also interested in what led her to marry a man who dreams of “an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” especially since many of his followers would argue that Kouprianova’s Georgian roots would somewhat preclude her from his so-called “new society.” We had a three-hour conversation on Skype that was off-the-record. Some of her answers surprised me. Some of them did not. Afterwards, as previously agreed upon, I sent her the same questions via email, and she responded much in the same way as she had via Skype, as follows.
(Editor’s Note: Nina Kouprianova’s answers do not in any way reflect the beliefs of the author or Observer. This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Let’s start with some basic information. Where were you born? When did you move to Canada? How did you meet Richard Spencer?
I was born in Moscow, Russia (then—the late USSR). My parents emigrated from Russia to Canada, upon being invited, in the mid-1990s when Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton, and Jeffrey Sachs oversaw the plunder and near-destruction of my homeland, thanks to neoliberal reforms and shock therapy. As scientists, my parents were part of the well-known brain-drain immigration wave of that period. Having studied English since childhood, I did not have trouble adjusting from that standpoint. Everything else—from losing access to friends, classmates, and the rest of my family to moving from a metropolis to the Canadian prairies—was a culture shock, in which I had no say.
I met Richard Spencer in 2009. At that time, he was editing the paleoconservative publication Takimag and had a certain level of interest in the Ron Paul movement.
How would you describe your political beliefs? You said you were reluctant to describe yourself as either “left-wing” or “right-wing” because you actually share a lot of left-wing values (i.e. universal health care, maternity leave, etc.). Can you list some of them?
The oft-used political compass is problematic. This Right, for instance, is limited to a U.S.-specific notion of the so-called “free” markets, limited government, etc., without accounting for other, more statist, definitions, as in Europe, or the philosophical, metaphorical foundations (e.g., order vs. chaos). In this sense, I can be described as being beyond Left and Right.
My support for “left-wing” economic issues, such as maternity leave, universal health care, or concern for the environment would have many a U.S. Republican cringing and calling me a “leftie!” At the same time, I am what some would call socially and culturally conservative.
How much trolling do you get on a daily basis? You said you get trolled a lot from both liberals and self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis, how so? How does your Georgian ancestry play into some of the trolling you get from the right-wing?
Since being doxed with smear articles in 2014, “trolling” comes and goes in waves. This ranges from sexual harassment and death threats on social media, to attempts to destroy my livelihood—and that of my extended family, far removed from anything political. Sometimes this occurs in daily life: My young child and I have been denied service at restaurants on a number of occasions.
If there were no real-life repercussions, online “trolling” could even be called “amusing.” After all, there are days when Liberals smear me as a “Nazi White Supremacist,” while self-described “National Socialists” call me a “non-white Communist” at the same time, presumably because I’m ethnically ~1/4 Southern European (Georgian). Most amusing of all are pro-immigration feminist Liberals who suspend their own values with xenophobic and misogynistic “Go back to Russia, mail-order bride!” slogans.
What is your idea of a utopia? Does it include people of many races and religions? Do you believe that people of European descent are superior to those of African descent?
I am a pragmatist, not a believer in utopias. A pragmatic world would be one of multipolarity, in which people of different ethnocultural backgrounds are able to embrace their respective traditions rather than be swept up by the Borg of homogenizing globalization.
It is difficult to measure superiority or inferiority of a peoples. What factors are we using and by whose standards? I am not referring to complete relativism of comparing abstract expressionism to Leonardo da Vinci, but rather about accounting for contextual differences. For instance, a highly intelligent American armed with a PhD would likely not survive deep in the Amazon for long the way its native tribes would.
This false principle of generalized superiority vs. inferiority is the same one that is applied to men and women: Many mainstream feminists pit them against each other rather than celebrating the fact that, in certain areas, each biological sex has its own power.
Do you consider yourself “racist” in the classic sense of the word?
No. The U.S. is a very unique place as a result of its history of slavery and various waves of immigration from around the world, which makes this a very American question!
I oppose institutional discrimination and, especially, “civilizing” initiatives—whether historic colonialism or contemporary “humanitarian” interventions by Washington and its allies to “export democracy” outside the West.
It is eyebrow-raising that Liberal pundits who oppose immigration restriction often support Washington’s worst warmongering initiatives. In their twisted world, curtailing immigration in favor of domestic workers is a sin worse than bombing and killing thousands of non-Western foreigners in their own homes.
That said, I am not American. Thus, it is not my place to lecture Americans about the particulars of their domestic politics—much like it’s not Americans’ place to lecture Russians about theirs.
To put it bluntly, do you think that people of other races should be eradicated in order to achieve the perfect society?
No. What a crazy question! I believe in multipolarity and true difference rather than unipolarity and false diversity, in which distinct-looking people espouse identical views within Liberal Postmodernity.
I know you’ve repeatedly said that you call for multipolarity and don’t believe in ethnic cleansing, but I’m confused as to how your husband can create the “ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” that he always talks about without eradicating other races. What is it that he’s trying to change?
You would have to ask Richard Spencer himself to clarify this position.
In my understanding, these comments are about a theoretic future—a dream—for people of European descent, per se, not concrete policy suggestions for contemporary United States, specifically, by any means.
This thinking is based on large civilization blocs (see various civilizational theories by Spengler, Huntington, Danilevsky, Leontiev, et al) and the way each indigenous peoples within those blocs could best assert their authentic identity (identities).
“Ethnic cleansing” is a very heavy, loaded term. There are some recent examples of fairly peaceful separations, as was the case of post-Soviet Czechoslovakia split, as well as some violent ones, for instance the ethnic cleansing of Russians from Central Asia and parts of the Caucasus after 1991.
What surprises me is that many pundits and members of the public show righteous outrage at the mere suggestion of a peaceful parting as an idea. Yet no such outrage occurs when various governments routinely engage in actually implementing such policies. For instance, Washington’s / NATO’s actions led and continue to lead to actual ethnic cleansing, be it what happened in the 1990s-early 2000s to the former Yugoslavia and the carving out of the organ-trafficking terrorist-breeding “state” of Kosovo in the middle of Europe with great and continued damage done to Serbs or the ethnic and religious cleansing of Christians in the Middle East as a direct result of Washington’s ongoing wars of intervention, starting with Iraq. To these pundits, words are more inflammatory than actions.
You said you are a promoter of “traditional values”? What does that mean? How do you feel about women who want to work and don’t want to have children? What’s your take on LGBT rights?
When I mention traditional values, I am not referring to the progressive caricature of living in a mud hut and giving up modern dentistry—or freezing time. I am talking about maintaining and passing on specific values and timeless ideas that were produced by and benefit each particular civilization. For the West and Russia, some of these values are rooted in their respective millennia-long Christian traditions.
Obviously, women shouldn’t be forced to have children. However, I believe that women achieve happiness when they are optimally fulfilled in three areas: as women, as mothers, and in the public sphere (career, sports, volunteering, engagement in religious institutions, etc.). Isn’t it better to provide them with options, such as a lengthy maternity leave—when the children require greatest care—that would allow them to reasonably pursue both public and private spheres if they so choose?
When it comes to LGBT+, there is a happy medium between criminalization, as is the case of Washington’s ally Saudi Arabia, and obnoxious parades with half-naked people.
I think a lot of people were horrified by this viral Vice documentary from Charlottesville because it sort of confirmed people’s worst fears about the alt-right movement in America. Here’s this white, heavily-armed man, who, because he feels marginalized, thinks blacks are the ilk of society and that Donald Trump shouldn’t have let his beautiful, fair-skinned daughter marry a Jew. Do you believe this man, whose name is Christopher Cantwell, is an appropriate spokesman for the alt-right movement? How do you feel about other people who label themselves as white supremacists or neo-Nazis?
Obviously, promotion of violence is unacceptable.
That said, in general, establishment media has a knack for selecting individuals that best fit specific negative stereotypes in order to generate hysteria around particular subjects du jour, when in reality these individuals may be unrepresentative of their respective movements, communities, etc.
When this generalizing and sensationalizing media strategy is applied to Muslim communities in the West after a terrorist attack carried out by Wahhabi / Salafi extremists, many call it “Islamophobia” and argue that most Muslims are peaceful.
Shouldn’t we use a similar careful approach in other cases?
What’s your take on Donald Trump? What do you like/dislike about him?
My primary interest is foreign policy, geopolitics, and international relations. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by Trump’s proposed Realpolitik during the 2016 presidential election. At the same time, I have always maintained that U.S. foreign policy has been quite consistent regardless of the country’s leader. At best, I hoped for a Kissingerian kind of pragmatism.
Likely due to various types of pressure from the neocon and neoliberal establishment, despite election promises, Donald Trump has expanded military presence (including airstrikes) in just about every combat theater that he inherited from the previous administration. This is obviously disappointing.
In general, it’s certainly enjoyable to watch Trump go after certain establishment-media sources. But apart from that, despite his financial independence and coming across as a different kind of presidential candidate, he appears to be business as usual: He failed to drain that proverbial swamp.
Why do you support Putin? What do you admire about him and what do you you dislike?
I support Putin for the same reason that over 80 percent of Russians do: He brought his country back from the brink of collapse of the 1990s.
I am generally supportive of his foreign-policy trajectory and promoting Russian interests on the international arena in the last decade.
However, at times, I consider his actions insufficiently assertive in the geopolitical realm, whereas domestic economic policies—are too (lowercase-“L”) liberal. In other words, my criticism of Putin is usually “from the Right” rather than from the ideologically Liberal-globalist perspective that the Western public is used to. I would like Putin and his successor to focus on Russia as a civilization rather than a corporation.
You said you had gotten in a lot of trouble for some comments you made about Ukraine. What were they?
Tweeting about the 2014 Washington- and Brussels-backed regime change in Ukraine was my entry into politics of sorts on public social media. Since Western political establishment overwhelmingly supported this bloody coup d’état—meant to separate this country that is deeply connected to Russia on a historic, ethnocultural, industrial, etc. levels—I am regularly criticized for this by the mainstream. Certain fringe elements in the Right also attack me about this subject because I oppose the negative identity of Ukrainian “nationalism” (i.e. ethno-nationalism from west Ukraine forcibly applied to the entire country) and its adherents’ killing civilians in Donbass.
Do you believe Russia is responsible for Donald Trump’s presidential victory? Do you believe Russia is trying to undermine Western democracy? Do you think there’s any connection between the alt-right and Russia?
No. Donald Trump was an unpredictable presidential candidate and remains an unpredictable leader for Washington’s establishment, hence the continued and concerted efforts to bring him down by various state institutions, echo-chamber media, and even the academia. The hysterical “Russian interference” narrative is one of the ways to resolve a domestic political crisis within the U.S. by relying on an imagined external enemy and Cold War-era stereotypes.
Similarly, major problems within Western democracy, per se, such as the worsening migrant crisis and the related rise of terrorism in the EU, were caused by the EU’s own domestic and international policies thereby expectedly triggering public discontent.
Do you think your being Russian has any relevance to why Richard Spencer wanted to marry you? Did he have any particular interest in Russian history or politics? Or do you think you just got along well for other reasons and things would have progressed in the same way if you were, say, Swedish or of some other European descent? What is it that drew you to him?
No. Richard is a well-educated, well-read person, which means that his knowledge of Russian history and culture is above average. However, he does not have any particular interest in Russia beyond this general knowledge base. Our initial communication relied on the fact that we had similar interests in literature, theater, art, travel, politics, and a similar educational background in the humanities.
How is his attitude toward women? I ask because there’s this interesting Rolling Stone piece, which says, “Spencer tends to see women as manipulative figures who are best when submitting to Alt-Right virility. Women, he tweeted during the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Trump, ‘should never be allowed to make foreign policy. It’s not that they’re ‘weak.’ To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds.’ Over drinks, he suggests that most women secretly crave Alt-Right boyfriends because they want ‘alpha genes’ and ‘alpha sperm.'” To you think this is a fair assessment of how your husband views women and sexual politics? Do you believe that a woman could or should ever be president in America?
Some of these comments are obvious trolling.
One of the main arguments that mainstream feminists use is that greater female representation in politics would give this realm more feminine, nurturing, peaceful qualities. However, looking at recent exemplars, such as Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and others, and their complicity in the destruction of ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, demonstrates that women—or, at least, these particular women—are no less warlike in positions of power than men.
That said, I prefer female rulers along the lines of Catherine the Great of Russia, even though I realize that we tend to romanticize the past.
Certainly, if an exceptional woman is qualified to be in a leadership position, she may become president in the U.S. and elsewhere.
You said that if a woman can become a world leader if she’s an “exceptional woman qualified to be in a leadership position,” but what are those qualifications? Are there any other female leaders that you admire, outside of Catherine the Great? Do you think a woman can be a leader and be tough enough to fulfill your criteria but also be feminine enough to still be considered “a woman” in the traditional sense? I know a lot of Russians love Margaret Thatcher but oftentimes the excuse there is that she was a great leader because she was hard as nails but “not really a woman, more like a man”?
Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova comes close to the “tough but feminine” definition of a woman in position of power, at least in terms of the public image she projects. She is an excellent, hardworking diplomat with a great sense of humor. At the same time, she flaunts selfies featuring her feminine outfits (these are frequently dresses and skirts, not pantsuits) at various events and workouts at the gym like many contemporary women with a social media account. Family is important to her, since her Facebook updates contain interesting anecdotes about her daughter without giving away too much personal information. She even seems to have the time to do a bit of gardening at her dacha on weekends! Zakharova would be my pick for a contemporary woman in a leadership role.
Diana Bruk has written extensively about dating, travel, Russia-American relations, and women’s lifestyle for Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Elle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Guernica, Salon, Vice, The Paris Review, and many more publications. As the former Viral Content Editor at Hearst Digital media and fellow at Buzzfeed, she also has a special understanding of the Internet and vast experience in human interest stories. You can learn more about Diana on her website (www.dianabruk.com) or Twitter @BrukDiana