Staunton, May 21 – Both before the 1917 revolution and since 1991, Russian liberals and their foreign backers have often feared that genuine elections, ones in which the outcome was not determined by those in power who supposedly were committed to reform might lead either to a return to communism or the rise in fascism.
In fact, Andrey Piontkovsky says, it is precisely the absence of such free votes by the population and reliance on the supposed reformist views of those in power that is likely to power the rise of fascism as anyone who studies Germany in the 1930s or Russia over the years of Vladimir Putin’s rein can attest (svoboda.org/content/article/27745331.html).
If there was any doubt of this even after the manipulation of votes in 1993 and after before 2014, there could be no doubt of that afterwards, Piontkovsky says. On March 18 of that year, Vladimir Putin gave a speech about Crimea that so closely paralleled Hitler’s on the Sudetenland that one booster of the Kremlin leader, Andrannik Migranyan, had to talk about the difference between “the good Hitler” before June 22, 1941, and the bad one after that.
Putin in the form of “the good Hitler” in that speech “declared that Russians were a divided people and proclaimed not only their right but their holy obligation to defend throughout the entire world not merely citizens of Russia (every state is required to do that) but ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and in further interpretations descendants of the citizens of the USSR and the Russian Empire.”
As Piontkovsky observes, it was “precisely this idea” which “underlay the foreign policy of the Hitlerite Reich and led to World War II.”
Before that speech, Moscow’s goal was to “block the European choice of Ukraine” with the annexation of Crimea being the means. But after that, Moscow’s goal was much broader and included the recreation of the entire Soviet Union or even the Russian Empire and the presidency for life of the Kremlin leader.
But two years on, it is obvious that Putin’s project for “a Russian world” has completely failed – and it has failed because ordinary Russians have rejected it. It lost first and foremost among the ethnic Russians of Ukraine who refused to accept what Putin was offering, preferring to remain loyal to Ukraine and to that country’s European choice.,
“By an overwhelming majority, the ethnic Russians in Ukraine rejected the myths of Novorossiya and ‘the Russian world.” As Piontkovsky describes the situation, “Putin tried to unleash an ethnic conflict but he got instead a worldview conflict between the heirs of Kievan Rus and the Golden Horde.”
But Putin’s “’Russian world,’” the Russian analyst says, suffered an even greater defeat in Russia itself,” as should have been expected by the way in which Russians behaved in 1991 when they chose not to go the way of Serbia under Milosevic but to try to free themselves from the past without enslaving others.
The August putsch in that year, Piontkovsky continues, “was not a communist action but rather an imperial one,” but its defeat was a near thing given that some on the other side of the barricades like Gavriil Popov wanted to partition Ukraine then in exactly the same way Putin did two decades later.
The defeat of Putin’s program by the reaction of the Russian people was likely “above all because the mentality of Russians had not changed over these years.” Their enthusiasm for the annexation of Crimea,” the analyst says, “did not mean a sanction to ‘the father of the nation’ to conduct an endless hybrid war in ‘defense of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.’’
Putin is thus doomed and even though his successors will rapaciously seek to hold on to everything they can, Piontkovsky says that the reaction of the Russian people to his defeat means that they will begin to say “Comrade Putin committed serious miscalculations on the Ukrainian question” – or express themselves even more forcefully at least in private.