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Putin's Ugly Demagoguery
German Media Hears Fascism in Putin's Words

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent speeches “offer clear evidence that his points of reference originate in fascism,” writes Jan Fleischhauer for Der Spiegel:

“It seems to me that the Russian person or, on a broader scale, a person of the Russian world, primarily thinks about his or her highest moral designation, some highest moral truths,” [Putin] said in the interview. In contrast to this is a West that is fixated on personal success and prosperity or, as Putin states, the “inner self.” In the view of its president, the battle Russia is waging is ideological in nature. It is a fight against the superficiality of materialism, against the decline in values, against the feminization and effeminacy of society — and against the dissolution of all traditional bonds that are part of that development. In short, against everything “un-Russian.” […]

[W]hen Putin evokes the myth of Moscow as a “Third Rome,” it is clear he is assigning the Russian people with an historic mission. Responsibility is falling to Russia not only to stop Western decadence at its borders, but also to provide a last bastion for those who had already given up hope in this struggle. But he is also saying that Russia can never yield.

“Death is horrible, isn’t it?” Putin asked viewers at the end of his television appearance. “But no, it appears it may be beautiful if it serves the people: Death for one’s friends, one’s people or for the homeland, to use the modern word.” That’s as fascist as it gets.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this charge, and Putin isn’t the only one to be labeled a fascist during the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Russian media have justified Moscow’s aggression by arguing that it somehow fulfills a duty to confront fascists in Ukraine. But as Andrew Wood recently wrote on this very site, if anyone should be called fascist (and seemingly anyone can be, these days), it should be Putin. Often photographed shirtless or on horseback, Putin relies on “personal charisma” and stokes resentment of the West over its supposed betrayal of Russia. A cult of personality and belligerent nationalism are among the trademarks of a fascist ruler.

Wood concludes that “it would be a stretch to describe today’s Russia as fascist,” but it certainly seems to exhibit some of the typical traits.

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  • Fred

    I agree with everything Putin said about the West, and I believe it is noble to give your life to defend your home and people. I guess I’m a fascist. Who knew?

    • Jim__L

      If you want a really eerie experience, listen to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” with the idea that Rolf is also a fascist.

  • Curious Mayhem

    What Putin said isn’t “fascist.” The problem is his agitation about ethnic Russians in bordering countries, something that sounds an awful lot like Hitler agitating about ethnic Germans in bordering countries 80 years ago. This is the aspect that causes anxiety in Germany and elsewhere, and it should.

    Putin isn’t a Hitler. But his agenda does threaten the peace of Europe. Others have compared him to Milosevic, a better (although still overdrawn) analogy. Putin was one of those Russians who really hated what happened to Yugoslavia and Serbia.

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