PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST
By Casey Michel, 20-12-2016
She spreads the words of Russia’s most virulent propagandist. He’s a leading racist hate-monger. Nina Kouprianova and Richard Spencer are a very different kind of power couple.
Nina Kouprianova is not a member of the racist alt-right. At least, that’s what she’ll say when you ask her. “I am not a member of any movement,” Kouprianova, who was born in the Soviet Union, recently told The Daily Beast via email. She added that she was “sympathetic” toward movements that “challenge the dominant and globally oriented post-Liberal ideology,” but white nationalism—that fracturing of the U.S., resulting in a white ethno-state that would salve the wounds of American racists—is not for her.
Still, the track record, both personally and professionally, of Kouprianova—who also goes by the nom de plume Nina Byzantina—casts a pall over her denials. This is, after all, a woman who elected to marry Richard Spencer, the longtime lodestar of American white nationalism and progenitor of the term “alt-right.” While the two are currently separated—as Spencer told TheWashington Post, his recent work has taken a “toll” on their relationship—Kouprianova hasn’t publicly distanced herself from the views of her husband, a man who has kept neo-Nazis enthralled with his views and who has expressed continued admiration for Vladimir Putin.
In fact, Kouprianova, who has a young daughter with Spencer, wrote a letter this week to the Flathead Beacon, one of their local papers in Montana. In it, Kouprianova compares the “witch hunts” surrounding her husband to Stalinist purges: “Threats and intimidation, which my current extended family continues to experience in Whitefish [Montana], remind me of the way my grandfather was forced to live [in the Soviet Union],” Kouprianova wrote. And to be fair, following Spencer’s rise to prominence, threats—veiled and otherwise—have risen alongside. But the notion that the environment circling Kouprianova and Spencer is in any form reminiscent of Stalinist repression is, of course, laughable. And while the Kremlin’s transparent support for Donald Trump and the white nationalists undergirding his campaign are both concerning trends on their own, it’s the links between the two—links that are only just now becoming apparent—that are cause for that much more concern. It’s those links that actors like Kouprianova have helped expand.
Yet Kouprianova’s connections with the alt-right don’t end with her marriage to the movement’s most prominent face. If anything, Kouprianova may play an outsize role in the internationalization of Spencer’s movement—especially as it pertains to Russia, which Spencer views, bizarrely, as the “sole white power in the world.” In addition to her prominent Twitter persona—offering the types of ironic barbs in defense of Kremlin machinations familiar to anyone who’s recently dealt with high-level officials from Moscow—Kouprianova has devoted her efforts to translating the works of Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin.
If Dugin’s name is at all familiar, it’s likely due to his neo-fascist screeds, posited as geopolitical analysis, that have begun swirling international trends. As Spencer is to the alt-right, so, too, is Dugin to the modern incarnation of “Eurasianism,” a geopolitical theory positing Russia as the inheritor of “Eternal Rome” and one of the primary ideological bulwarks pushing the Kremlin to carve eastern Ukraine into the fanciful entity of “Novorossiya.” While much of Dugin’s influence on the Kremlin has been over-hyped, Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics remains assigned to every member of Russia’s General Staff Academy. And despite Kouprianova’s claims that “there is no evidence of communication between” Dugin and Putin, Charles Clover, in his masterful history of Eurasianism, noted that Putin and Dugin met a few months after the former ascended to the presidency. “Soon,” wrote Clover, “there were sponsors, contacts, and open doors” for Dugin.
This relationship—and the perception of such proximity to the Kremlin—is one of the reasons Dugin landed on the U.S. government’s recent sanctions list. It hasn’t, however, kept Dugin from courting American white nationalists—those who’d fracture the United States in pursuit of whites-only nation. For instance, in 2015 Dugin hosted a lecture, via Skype, at the founding of the U.S.’s Traditionalist Worker Party. That party remains helmed by Matthew Heimbach, who has tabbed Putin as the “leader of the free world.”
Dugin also hosted a separate lecture, again via Skype, at Texas A&M in 2015, partnering with local neo-Nazi Preston Wiginton—the same white supremacist who, last month, invited Spencer to speak at Texas A&M. For good measure, when Wiginton traveled through Russia a few years ago, he sub-leased an apartment in Moscow from David Duke—the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard who not only believes Russia holds the “key to white survival,” but who has cultivated his own relationship with Dugin.
Kouprianova, who says she’s never met Dugin, nonetheless defended his work, noting that “the Western establishment is currently in the throws [sic] of a major anti-Russian hysteria” and adding that Dugin is a “well-educated scholar.” As she wrote via email, “Western media cherry-picks convenient quotations from decades ago splicing them with literally edited statements on the Ukraine crisis, in which some of his friends were killed, incidentally, while characterizing him with the usual character-assassination keywords.” (In 2014, Dugin called for a “genocide” of Ukrainians.) Kouprianova—who lists Dugin’s works as the only books she’s translated—added that she began working on translating Dugin’s works “as part of a volunteer effort,” although she’s “not even sure whether” her translations were eventually used.
But Kouprianova’s affinity for Russian expansionism doesn’t end with Dugin. Not only has she routinely papered over Russia’s local human-rights atrocities—“Like, OMG, Chechnya is, likes, totes oppressed by Putin!” she recently tweeted, plastering sarcasm over Russia’s domestic depredations—but she has referred, time and again, to Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine as a “liberation war.” Likewise, Kouprianova has been outspoken in defense of Russia’s domestic media landscape. Outsiders may critique Putin jailing, silencing, and even killing independent journalists. But to Kouprianova, the Kremlin “has chosen the path… of healthy debate.”
And in Spencer’s white-nationalist journal, Kouprianova went to bat for Russia’s premier propaganda outlet, RT. (RT, for what it’s worth, has referred to Kouprianova as an “independent scholar.”) Although her articles were recently removed, Kouprianova noted that RT, which has “become a welcome alternative news source for many,” also “provides great coverage of a variety of subjects.”
Interestingly, Kouprianova’s presence in Spencer’s life has caused notable schisms within the white-nationalist community in the U.S. While ethnic Russians are, broadly, considered part of the broader “European identity” pushed by American white nationalists, Spencer told Mother Jones that his wife is part Georgian. For some members of Spencer’s racist community, that makes something other than white. For instance, prominent white nationalist Greg Johnson, who doesn’t view Georgia as part of Europe, wrote in 2014 that “Richard is basically being dominated by Nina Nogoodnik, his Russian-Georgian wife.”
Johnson, as it is, says Kouprianova is not a white nationalist. And yes, Kouprianova may not share outright her husband’s views on ethnic cleansing. But given Kouprianova’s work with Dugin, her writings for America’s most prominent white nationalist journal runs counter to those claims—and helps build one more bridge in the ongoing relationship between Russia and America’s white nationalists.