The Fiscal Times is the latest outlet to call Putin an aspiring fascist dictator. Enough already.
The description of Putin’s Russia as a fascist state by Rob Garver, writing in The Fiscal Times, is not only deeply ironic — considering the concern expressed on many levels in Russian society on the growth of fascism in Ukraine and the Baltic states — but shows incredible ignorance regarding the structure and mechanisms of the modern Russian state, which is arguably built on Soviet and Tsarist foundations. Unfortunately the article by Mr. Garver seems to be yet another attempt from an ill-qualified keyboard warrior to comment on today’s Russia.
His suggestion that “‘fascist’ can be a simple way of insulting somebody” is laughable. It that what happened to the six million Jews in the holocaust? Merely insulted? Many forget, Russia lost at least 20 million people fighting Nazism — the embodiment of fascism — and to see its rise in Europe once again is frightening. It’s a very real presence in Europe today, particularly in Ukraine, the Baltic States and Germany. This chart illustrates this very point:
Unfortunately, it seems Mr Garver needs to go back to school. He is altogether confusing Nationalism with Fascism. Nationalism has historically been propagated in Russia, not only during the Tsarist period, but indeed during the Soviet era as well. Stalin used the concept of nationalism to create identities in new states such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan with the Soviet policy of Korenisatsiya. In fact, had it not been for this policy of promoting native languages, culture and traditions in these regions, they themselves would not have become the nations they are today. This is often overlooked in the West, while only the negative aspects of the system — such as the gulags and deportations — are focused on.
The fundamental difference between the Communist approach and the Fascist one is tolerance of ethnic diversity. As Rogers Brubaker has thoroughly researched, the Soviet Union was ‘unprecedented and unparalleled’ in its ‘institutionalised multinationality’. This celebration of ethnic diversity not only explains the success and longevity of the Soviet Union, but also explains how Russia has survived as the largest country in the world for centuries — not by suppressing ethnic groups within its borders but by embracing them and (broadly speaking) giving them the freedom to exist as they are. This policy can be juxtaposed with that of European imperialism of the 18th and 19th centuries, which conquered such areas as North America and Australasia, leaving a trail of genocide and cultural decimation in its wake; native communities of "proper western democracies" have not fared well — and that's an understatement. And I haven’t even touched on slavery yet.
In contrast, President Putin in April this year reinstated the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs (disbanded 14 years ago) in an attempt to give ethnic affairs ‘more attention’. He stated: “Russia is a multi-ethnic nation, home to over 100 ethnic groups, and certain matters are a cause for concern.” In addition, an initiative has begun in Moscow to offer Russians the chance to learn Central Asian languages, which is proving popular.
I don’t need to elaborate on the fascist approach. It is currently being experimented with in Ukraine today --- supported by the U.S. --- with devastating results. As for another aspect Graver associates with ‘fascist’ Russia — increased military spending — I have news for him. His own country, the United States, constituted 48% of total global military spending in 2014 at around $711 billion. Russia, the largest country in the world by area, made up 5% at around $70 billion. So who’s fascist?
I rest my case.
Johanna Ganyukova is a graduate from the University of Edinburgh in Russian Studies and is currently completing an Msc at the University of Glasgow in Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies. She is RI’s Russian Media Editor.
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