Putin’s Regime Is Acquiring Features of Nazism

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 51

(Source: San Diego Tribune)

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Vladimir Putin regime has been increasingly compared to Hitler’s Nazi Germany. At the end of last year, the Russian television channel Dozhd (now based in the Netherlands and known as “TV Rain”) released a long two-part documentary about the similarities in propaganda, aesthetics and the formation of the Putin regime as compared to the Third Reich (YouTube, December 5, 2022).

However, several researchers note that it is not entirely correct to compare Putin’s government to German Nazism, arguing instead that the current Russian government is more reminiscent of Italian fascism from the Mussolini era. For example, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev believes that Putin is “in fact, today’s Mussolini,” as there are “a lot of fascist slogans” in his speeches. However, the analyst notes that these expressions cannot be called “Nazi” or “nationalist.” As Inozemtsev stipulates, “Putin understands that he is in charge of a very multinational country. And his imperialism is much stronger than nationalism” (Lsm.lv, March 23, 2022).

Nevertheless, Putin himself has repeatedly emphasized that any person of any ethnic origin can consider themselves Russian if they so choose, just as ethnically Russian people are able to identify themselves with representatives of other nationalities. “I want to say: I am a Lak, I am a Dagestani, I am a Chechen, an Ingush, a Russian, a Tatar, a Jew, a Mordvinian, an Ossetian,” the Russian president declared shortly after the re-invasion (Newprospect.ru, March 3, 2022). Propagandists have echoed this sentiment: “Russia has been based on the opportunity to become Russian while remaining yourself, for centuries (E-news.su, May 7, 2015).

The same principle applies to the Russo-Ukrainian war. While destroying Ukraine as a political nation, the Kremlin benevolently handles collaborators—that is, Ukrainians who “realized themselves” as part of the “Russian world” and agreed to work for Moscow. However, as the war goes on, Putin’s regime, contrary to the messaging about the prevalence of personal choice over origin, is starting to exhibit features of Nazism.

In particular, this became clear from the way in which the recent mobilization was conducted, since representatives of ethnic minorities were the first to be called up and sent to the front. Human rights activists have noted that men from occupied Crimea, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and other national republics were sent to the front most often (Idel Realii, September 30, 2022).

George Varos, a United States–based analyst, agrees with this point of view. In an interview with a Ukrainian television channel, Varos stated that the Russian authorities are sending mainly representatives of national minorities to Ukraine, avoiding the recruitment of ethnic Russians (Thepage.ua, July 25, 2022). The former mayor of Yakutsk, Sardana Avksentieva, also noted the disproportionate numbers in mobilization statistics in different regions. According to her, 0.9 percent of military-age men were drafted in Kursk region, 0.27 percent in Novosibirsk region and 1.41 percent and 1.66 percent, respectively, in the minority regions of Kalmykia and Yakutia (T.me/RealSardana, September 22, 2022).

In addition, elements of Nazism are increasingly being incorporated into the modern quasi-ideology of Moscow. Of course, radical nationalists have always existed in Russia, who talk about the “genetic” difference between Russians and Ukrainians and conclude that this is why “it is necessary to achieve unconditional surrender and occupation of Ukraine for many years” (Ruskline.ru, April 4, 2022). However, these same people are now becoming the mainstay of the Putin regime, which allows them to spread and strengthen this ideology more actively (see EDM, February 28, 2022).

For example, in late January 2023, the website Military Review, which is close to the Russian Ministry of Defense, published an article under the heading “Wars and Genetics.” The article’s argument centered on trying to prove that Russia supposedly “saved the gene pool of France” and Europe as a whole. In addition, the author assured readers that the Russian people do not have the gene of the Mongol-Tatar conquerors, since, historically, in the case of pregnancy from a Tatar, the Russians killed both the child and the mother. Such behavior is presented by the author as something positive, since, during wars, “human society gets rid of potentially dangerous members of society that prevent everyone else from living in peace” (Topwar.ru, January 21). Previously, such opuses could only be accessed on the websites of Nazi extremists, not of a popular Russian military resource.

Meanwhile, extensive pseudo-scientific treatises appear to exploit the theory of Soviet philosopher Lev Gumilev regarding “passionaries”—that is, energetic people striving for a higher goal and moving society forward. According to the authors of another Military Review article, “passionarity” is a mutation that can be inherited, and Russian people have that trait as well. Furthermore, after many pages of pseudo-biological and pseudo-economic research, the authors conclude that “the turnover of power is a mechanism for eliminating a competing organization,” which “allows for the destruction of the state.” And, in this, Russia needs a different path “with an effective management system—meritocracy” (Topwar.ru, March 8).

Similar hybrid versions of Russian nationalism bordering on Nazism as well as demands for the return of communism are increasingly found in works by other authors. For their part, pro-Russian propagandists in Serbia have been using Nazi arguments to identify opposition to the Putin regime, pointing out that the new wave of anti-war Russian emigrants are not Russians at all, since most are ethnic Jews (Ruskline.ru, January 25).

In hopes of preserving Russia, popular Russian “experts” call for a return to Soviet values, curbing “wild capitalism” (Rueconomics.ru, March 13), as well as a return to the ideology of socialism and a “state-based planned market economy” (Newizv.ru, January 9). In parallel with this, some Russian nationalists are continuing not merely to whitewash but outright exalt the Soviet dictator Stalin (Topwar.ru, March 6).

Moreover, while there are serious doubts that the Russian economy, which is built on corruption, can be reformed in any meaningful way, it is becoming more apparent that the new Russian ideology is increasingly reminiscent of the infamous German “national socialism,” with Moscow’s own take on it. And in truth, all this in concert points to the potential for increased repression of ethnic minorities and radical sentiments in Russian society.