You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve spent some time following the Moscow mayoral race.
On Friday, Mikhail Degtyarev, the Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate, indulged in some apocalyptic thinking and said he believes Russia will lead the world in vanquishing the Antichrist. But when it comes to Degtyarev’s political shenanigans, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Meet the man who not only would like to lead Moscow in battle against Satan, but would also like to give women two days leave from work every month during menstruation.
For Degtyarev, the battle between good and evil is one that plays out in intensely nationalist terms. "I can say as a believer that I believe in the apocalypse from the point of view of faith. And I think we must prepare," Degtyarev said on Friday. "I believe that we’ll defeat the Antichrist — I’m sure of it — and that Russia will lead the fight against the Antichrist."
But Degtyarev has no patience for the portended apocalypses of other religions. Late last year, he launched a campaign to stop Russian media from reporting on the possibility that the end of the Mayan calendar foretold the end of the world. "In our compatriots’ interests, we ask you to pay attention to the dissemination of pseudo-scientific information about the end of the world in your media," he said in addressing the coverage.
Incidentally, Degtyarev serves as the deputy head of the science and technology committee in the Duma.
But Degtyarev isn’t just a kooky crusader for Christ. He’s perhaps best known for his initiative to give women paid leave during menstruation. Last month, he introduced a bill in the Duma that would require employers to provide their female employees two days off every month during what he called their "critical days."
"In this period, the majority of women experience psychological and physical discomfort," Degtyarev said at the time. "Often the pain for the fair sex is so intense that they are forced to call an ambulance."
The language of that legislation reads like something of an homage to male condescension: "Strong pain induces heightened fatigue, reduces memory and work-competence and leads to colorful expressions of emotional discomfort. Therefore scientists and gynecologists look on difficult menstruation not only as a medical, but also a social problem."
Though Degtyarev is a fringe candidate in the coming Sept. 8 mayoral election (he’s currently only polling at about 2.3 percent — far behind the two leading candidates, the Kremlin-backed Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny), his campaign puts a religious and socially conservative spin on a nationalist trend in Russian politics. The current mayoral campaign has been filled with anti-migrant rhetoric, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently embraced the Russian Orthodox Church in supporting legislation banning so-called gay propaganda.
Degtyarev’s nationalism was on full display earlier this week during a visit to a traditional Russian bath house, where he made a shirtless appearance before the cameras clad only in a towel and a traditional Russian hat. In an interview, which you can view below, he declared that when the plague struck Europe, Russians were largely immune to the effects of the disease because of the restorative properties of the banya. Such are the powers, Degtyarev claims, of traditional Russian culture.