From anarchist to MP. How American fighter Jeff Monson became member of Russian ruling party?
American fighter Jeff Monson, who in June became a deputy of the United Russia party of the Krasnogorsk city duma, has been building a political career in Russia. In 2013, he recorded a video in support of anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov, then joined the Communist Party.
"He's definitely not a freak"
In early August, a video with a provocative title "Jeff Monson attacks a resident of Krasnogorsk” was published on a YouTube channel of the volunteer movement A. Y.Ready in support of the governor of the Moscow region Andrei Vorobyov. The video shows a dispute between several men, one of which throws garbage from a car and tries to leave. Suddenly famous MMA fighter and anti-fascist Monson appears saying: "You cannot leave your garbage, we stand for the clean suburbs!" This argument worked, as the man picks up the trash bag and leaves, and the message says "Vote for the clean suburbs."
There is another video with Jeff Monson speaking in support of Andrei Vorobyov and complaining about rubbish in the suburbs, which the governor, in the opinion of the fighter, is trying to fight.
Jeff Monson is running for the deputy of Krasnogorsk, the Moscow Region, as a United Russia member. He is the fourth in the list of the party headed by the mayor of the city, former deputy head of the internal policy department of the presidential administration Radiy Khabirov. In May 2018, Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to the American fighter. He started his political career, saying that he intended to become a Krasnogorsk MP, and soon a State Duma deputy.
"My goal is not to be elected, but to do lives of those who live here better," said Jeff Monson.
Mayor of Krasnogorsk Radiy Khabirov told Kommersant that the United Russia party made Monson an offer to work in politics: "He is a very active person. We decided that the coach's work would not be enough for him, and we offered such an opportunity. " According to Khabirov, he and Jeff Monson knew each other before. Now the fighter works as a coach in the sports club Zorkiy (with Radiy Khabirov as the president), runs his own section of martial arts for children and holds open seminars.
"In Krasnogorsk, Jeff wants to teach self-defense for children. In addition, he offered to start courses for firefighters and policemen, "- says the mayor.
The fighter moved to Krasnogorsk with his wife Eugenia in 2017, where he bought an apartment. Then Monson noted that he chose Krasnogorsk, because Radiy Khabirov convinced him.
Of course, it is strange to see the tattooed foreign MMA fighter as the United Russia party member, however, representatives of the Krasnogorsk party seem to be happy about this fact. "Jeff will not become a freak. During the official events, a lot of people come to him, they respect him very much, he certainly is not a freak. Despite the fact that Jeff is a media person, he is very kind professional. He works with children, he does not care who are their families, he is a professional psychologist and understands how to communicate with a person and raise personality, "Elena Prochakovskaya, head of the local executive committee, claims.
"Two months ago, we published a video with a request to send a video with criticism or wishes to Governor Vorobyov. We asked for constructive criticism. People also could send gratitude to Governor Vorobyev. Jeff sent his video, it was his initiative," the coordinator of the movement A.Y. Ready Alexander Pechenegin told.
It was not easy for Monson to become a member of the ruling party of Russia. Previously, he had been one of the iconic figures for the anti-fascist and anarchist movement and supported Communists. Commenting on the political career of the fighter, the mayor of Krasnogorsk says: "I knew his convictions and considered them some sort of exotic, but when I met Jeff in person, I realized that in fact he was just a very honest and kind person."
Workshops with Russia’s Centre E
Jeff Monson’s first highlight in politics was in the U.S. when he was accused of vandalism. In 2009, the U.S. Court confiscated his passport after images featuring Monson drawing anarchist symbols on the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. hit the web.
His career in politics in Russia was launched over seven years ago when he started to support Russian antifascists. In 2011, he taught them a grappling master class. During the workshop Russia’s Centre E (Department for Countering Extremism) and Special Police Force officers approached the building. According to an anarchism activist Alexei Sutuga aka Socrates, initially it was antifascists themselves who found the American mixed martial artist. ‘We’ve heard of him since 2008-2009. We have ties to American anarchists, and Monson was a public figure in Wobblies. In 2011, we learnt that he was going to have a fight against Fedor Emelianenko. We got in touch and arranged about the training workshop he would teach our supporters.’ - Sutuga says.
It was not Monson’s loss and Emelianenko’s win the fight is best remembered for but rather the fact that the fans started to hiss disapprovingly. And it is hard to say whether the hiss was aimed at Monson who lost the fight or then-the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who was present at the match.
Jeff Monson vs. Russian mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko at 2011 M-1 Global. Photo courtesy of Vladimir Astapkovich (RIA Novosti). Фото: Владимир Астапкович, РИА Новости
In 2013, Monson made a video in support of Aleksey Gaskarov, leader of antifascist group and one of those to be arrested in the Bolotnaya Square case. By the time Gaskarov got out of jail in 2016, Monson, as explained by Gaskarov, had already broken ranks with antifascists. ‘When he made that video, I was in jail. I was told about the video and shown a number of articles by Monson. Then I thought it was a great thing! As for his further action, it looks more like a psychological disorder,’ - Gaskarov said to Kommersant daily. Gaskarov says that ‘all Monson is doing these days is getting into some sort of gloomy stories and bringing discredit on everything that had been done before.’ ‘What he did when he was in the U.S. and what he started doing after he left it are completely opposite things. What he’s doing now is nothing but shame!’ Gaskarov says.
As for Monson, he explained that he really supported several ideas by Gaskarov - just the same way he supports a number of ideas in any party. Nevertheless, he follows his own ideas and takes all measures to ensure that they are being implemented. In answer to a question about the reasons Monson no longer keeps in touch with antifascists, Socrates states that Monson’s antifascists’ views have always been different from what they are in Russia. ‘Jeff used to side with the USSR and be in sympathy with those ideas. His perception of anarchism ideology was altered. When we noticed that for the first time we thought it was some sort of American point but it was not.’
Sutuga takes the view that Monson’s alliance with United Russia is predictable. ‘He signed for M-1, and it is commonly known that Vladimir Putin frequents its events. All these promotions are friends with the President of Russia. Jeff realizes the fact that United Russia is the only way to build his career in politics in this country.’ Sutuga says. According to Monson, he still keeps in touch with antifascists from all over the world and continues to hold that it is necessary ‘to promote nonviolence and equality.’
After he left antifascists and joined United Russia, Monson went through an interim stage - communists. In 2016, among the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) it has transpired that Monson made an application to join the party. Monson confirmed this fact through a video message. In 2012, before his fight against Denis Komkin, he came out to the audience to the national anthem of the U.S.S.R. Again, the fight was watched by Vladimir Putin. After a few months he used a song Combat by a Russian band Lyube (a band with patriotic themed songs) for his ring entrance when he had a fight against Alexander Emelianenko. What he used in 2014 for his ring entrance was a song called Vstavaj, Donbass! (Get up, Donbass!)
CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov (left) and Jeff Monson at the flower-laying ceremony at Mausoleum on Red Square arranged to coincide with the 146-th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin in 2016. Photo courtesy of Gleb Shchelkunov (Kommersant daily).
‘He found my number himself and called me. We made an appointment. We had several sound and positive tutorials with Jeff and then a meeting with Zyuganov (CPRF leader). Jeff expressed his attachment to our party and we went into business with him,’ CPRF chief spokesman Alexander Yushchenko shares with Kommersant daily. According to him, CPRF is still keeping in tough with Monson, and as for his ties to the United Russia, ‘it’s up to him.’ ‘He’s quite responsive and warm-hearted. He’s got a moral certainty. No matter what party he clings to, he has never changed his views,’ Alexander Yushchenko said.
As for Monson, he states that he is out of conceit with CPRF. According to him, being a part of the CPRF he wanted to work on sports-related projects with children. However, these projects were not accomplished. He also noted that he expects to work with the party in future in order to help needy children.
Around the same time, Monson managed to get a passport of the unrecognised self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic. In 2016, he addressed a head of LPR Igor Plotnitsky and asked for a passport. Monson became a special representative of a sports club of CPRF and went to Donbass. ‘When someone goes to Donbass, this is his own choice. No one ever made him do it.’
Fighter and citizen
Before his career in sports and politics, Jeff Monson was a psychologist. He took doctor's degree and worked in his degree field for several years. ’This experience helps me a lot when I work with children. And this is my primary focus.’ Monson shares with Kommersant daily. When asked whether professional knowledge in psychological studies helps in communicating with politicians, Jeff Monson said that he wants to be honest and straightforward while working with them.
In 2016, Russia Today (Russian international television network) announced a new sociopolitical online project called Monson. As part of the project, the fighter was expected to comment on world events and show how they are covered in different media. Videos with Jeff Monson were on Facebook and VK (Russian social network). The promo featuring Monson at the wheel singing Viktor Tsoy’s Peremen (We need changes) in Russian reached over half-million views.
Jeff Monson said that he is really fond of both Viktor Tsoy and Lyube.
The party of changes that set up Rostislav Murzagulov (Radiy Khabirov’s Deputy Chief) as a candidate for the municipal government of the town of Krasnogorsk challenges the legitimacy of setting up Monson. Subsequently, they removed him from the list. ‘Jeff Monson, an American, can not be a candidate for the city parliament of Krasnogorsk! Alternatively, he will have to provide to us with a paper of renunciation of the U.S. Citizenship,’ Timur Valeev, Head of Executive Committee of the party, wrote on his Facebook page. He invoked a precedent with Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian opposition politician, who was turned down as a candidate for the Moscow Oblast Duma by the Constitutional Court due to its alleged illegitimacy.
Monson’s wife, Evgenia, explained that he made a declaration of alienage and surrendered the U.S. passport in May. After that, the U.S. immigration authorities said that the question is going to be brought to decision as soon as they are provided with papers from fiscal authorities. According to Evgeniya, ‘at the present time, there is no documentary evidence that Monson has the nationality of any other countries, so he can be a candidate for deputy.’
Despite the fact that election propaganda is gaining traction in the city, Jeff Monson is holding off on that.
Monson explained that he has not joined any party because he identifies himself as an independent candidate and wants to meet people independently.
According to Elena Prochakovskaya, Head of Executive Committee of the town of Krasnogorsk, Jeff Monson’s views always changed, but ‘it is natural for a human to change views due to social development and various external impulses.’ ‘That’s okay to change a party. It doesn’t mean that this person is bad or this party is bad. It just happens, ‘ the representative of the ruling political party says.