Saturday, January 31, 2015

Putin’s War in Ukraine Opening the Way to Fascism, Shlosberg Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 31 – The war Vladimir Putin is conducting in Ukraine is leading not just to the economic destruction of Russia but to its moral destruction as well, and that in turn is opening the way for the rise of fascism, Lev Slosberg says. In fact, he argues, Russia today is becoming “ideally ready” for that horrific system.


            In an article in the current issue of “Pskovskaya Guberniya,” Slosberg, who represents the Yabloko Party in the regional legislature, argues that the course of war “chosen in essence by one man” is costing everyone enormously and that “many have already paid with their lives” (


            Despite these costs, the deputy continues, “Putin has chosen for himself and his country ‘precisely this path of ‘consolidation of Russian society,” one based on the notion that “’the besieged fortress of Russia’ is ready to fight with the entire rest of the world. War for it is life; peace for it is death.”


          The longer this war goes on, the more serious its consequences will be, he continues. “One year of war has been sufficient for the destruction of the economic successes of the past ten years,” has already “thrown Russia back two decades,” and is continuing to do so.


          “Russia has neither the forces nor the means to continue this war for another year,” Slosberg says, but “everything is being thrown into this pyre of war.”  And Putin is not stopping because he believes he can gain strength by using military force to suppress Ukraine.


          But what the Kremlin leader is doing has nothing to do with seizing land. It is all about taking revenge against Ukraine for everything its people have decided on – “for the European choice of the majority of society” and for the ouster of the Kremlin’s man on the scene, Viktor Yanukovich.


          And for Putin, taking that revenge on Ukraine is absolutely necessary now before a generation arises in Russia which will make the same choices and thus put an end to his own rule, Slosberg says. To prevent that from happening, he continues, Putin will pay “any price” in Ukraine.


          He will do so, the Pskov deputy says, because he is “certain that Russian society supports him in his desire to take revenge on Ukraine. He is certain that his people are ready to pay any price, including with their lives, for his policy,” a conviction that arises from his having raised in Russia “a people of war.”


          Putin believes as well that if he wins militarily, no one will judge him. Only losers are judged in his understanding. And tragically, he has managed to convince many Russians who today are the people of war to share that view. “The people of war greets the president of war.”


          As horrific as the economic consequences of Putin’s war have been, the moral consequences of this kind are still worse: “since the end of the USSR, Russian society was never in such a horrific moral state as it is now. Russia today is a country ideally ready for fascism.”


          Fascism, Slosberg continues, “is when millions of people are happy as a result of hatred, when antagonism shapes the attitudes of the people and when those who think differently become state criminals.”


          “Fascism is when the state raises a people of war,” when there is a ministry of propaganda which is what “in essence the entire Russian state power” has become, and when people become convinced that they must never question the leader’s policies or his wars, when as now “the people of war” predominate “over the people of peace.”


          Most Russians think that the Nuremberg trials were only about the military crimes of the Nazi regime, “but in the framework of [that process] was studied how the fascist state was created and how an entire people” at the center of Europe fell under its spell.


          At Nuremberg, it was shown that “even a great people of science and culture does not have immunity against fascism. Fascism burned up public morality in Germany with the speed of fire,” and the result was horrific. Its “centuries’ old culture did not save it from fascism.”


          “The people of war do not need culture” because “the fuel in this conflagration became the lie, the all-embracing state lie,” with the burning of books symbolizing that reality.


          Putin has raised up a people of war because in reality “it is very easy to become a people of war. One need only hate more than love, wish one’s neighbor not good things but destruction, think that the greatness of the Motherland requires the denigration of other peoples, and be gladded by participation in their denigration.”


          “A people of war is capable of destroying its own Motherland because hatred and lies destroy any state and any society,” Slosberg says, and “the Russian state is rapidly moving toward its own Nuremberg process, through war,” a movement that is “taking place each day and each hour.”


          “It is very difficult to stop,” he continues, as difficult as stopping a train coming out of the mountains out of control. And at present “there are very few people in Russia who are trying to stop this insanity.”  Is there any chance that they will be able to do so?


          “This is the question for the people of peace,” who in Russia today are far less numerous than “the people of war.”  But they should take courage from the following fact: “a soldier at war always listens to the voice of peace because he wants to live.” Because that is so, “it is wrong to be silent.”


Radical Islamists Seeking to Join and Use Tajikistan Communist Party

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 31 – Shodi Shabdonolov, the head of the Communist Party of Tajikistan, says that followers of the Salafi trend of radical Islam have been trying to join his organization in the hopes of using it as a Trojan horse to advance their own interests against Dushanbe.


            In an interview with the Tajik Service of Radio Liberty, Shabdolov said that his party does not prevent Muslim believers from joining but will not admit anyone known to be a follower of a radical trend, especially one that has been illegal in his country since 2009 (


            The communist leader said that Salafis had many times attempted to join his organization’s ranks but that they had always been met with suspicion and not admitted. He said that he and his comrades want to do what they can to prevent the Salafis from acquiring yet another platform for disseminating their radical views.


            Radio Liberty noted that on Thursday, an Iranian news organization had reported that “members of extremist groups had been directed to penetrate officially functioning political organizations of Tajikistan in order to propagandize their views.” It is also possible that some of the Salafis involved in this effort may be Tajiks coming from Afghanistan.


            At present, the Communist Party of Tajikistan is the third largest party in that Central Asian country, behind the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the Islamic Party for the Rebirth of Tajikistan.




Russian Occupiers Making Crimean Tatars Feel as Jews Did in Nazi Germany, Activist Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 31 – The Russian occupation authorities are treating the Crimean Tatars in a manner which fully corresponds to “the Nazi spirit” because the authorities define them as “’a lesser race’” that “’the country doesn’t need,’” according to Ayder Muzhdabayev, a member of the Union of Crimean Tatars and a Russian journalist.


            In a Facebook page that has been widely reposted, Muzhdabayev says that he “wants to say that the attitude which the authorities in Crimea are displaying toward the Crimean Tatars is Nazi in spirit” (


            What is on display in occupied Crimea, he says, is “the attitude of ‘a higher race’ to a lesser’ one. In unofficial conversations, this is no longer being concealed,” he continues, and Russian officials openly say: “’You are a small people the country doesn’t need. It would be better if you didn’t exist. You must subordinate yourselves to our orders and keep quiet.”


            Muzhdabayev says that he wants the world to know that “the Crimean Tatars feel themselves in Crimea [today] just the way Jews in Germany felt during the period of the establishment of the Nazi system: as people without rights who have been clearly given to understand that anything can be done to them depending on what the authorities want.”


            The limits on that, he says, “are constantly broadening and apparently will broaden still further.” The appeals of Crimean Tatars to the international community concerning the arbitrary actions of the occupation authorities and “the armed nationalists connected with them” have remained “without a response.”


            “I never thought,” Muzhdabayev says, “that the Crimean Tatars both those [he] knows and those [he] doesn’t, would write and phone him to say: ‘This is becoming impossible to bear,’ ‘they don’t consider us to be people,’ and even ‘it is better to die than to suffer such indignities.’”


            It may seem “horrific,” he continues, but he feels compelled to say that he is “happy that [his] grandmother, grandfather, and many other older relatives who were repressed by Stalin in 1944 did not live to this present time.”


            Everyone around the world must recognize that “what is going on with the Crimean Tatars and their representatives and social structures in Crimea is systematic mass intimidation and persecution on the basis of nationality, a moral genocide, accompanied with threats to personal security, health and life, baseless judicial and extra-judicial repressions.”


            Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, echoed Muzhdabayev’s words. Speaking in Kyiv yesterday, he said that the great horrors of the 20th century – the Holocaust, the Terror Famine and the deportation of peoples – all begin with lesser horrors “to which the world did not react” (


            Insisting that he is not “dramatizing” the situation, Chubarov said that in Russia, there is now “no good sense. Putin is the Hitler of today, and if his own society does not stop him, then the next step will be the construction of camps in the vastness of Siberia and the dispatch there of all those who on the territories he controls who are inclined against him.”


            That the Crimean Tatars are being subjected to an intensified campaign of persecution has been documented by the SOVA human rights organization in a new report ( And that no one has yet come to their aid is becoming the occasion for ever more anger.


            In remarks in Kyiv yesterday, Valeriya Lutkovskaya, the Verkhovna Rada’s plenipotentiary for human rights, said that “without the participation of international organizations, Ukraine will not be able to defend its citizens on the territory of Ukraine” and that so far, they have been anything but active (


            She said that she had called on the OSCE to organize a mission to Crimea but had not yet received an answer. And when she asked the Council of Europe to do so, officials there said that “if the Russian side in Crimea would be ready to accept such a mission, then [the Council of Europe] would be ready to send one. However, there is still no answer from the Russian side.”

Half of All Russians under Arrest Tortured Before Trial, Petersburg Criminologist Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 31 – Between 40 and 60 percent of Russians under arrest are tortured by their jailors before they are convicted, according to St. Petersburg criminologist Yakov Gilinsky. And that means, he says, that approximately four percent of the entire population of the country is subject to torture every year.


            Speaking in Moscow last week, Gilinsky said that he and his colleagues had studied the situation regarding torture in five regions of the Russian Federation – St. Petersburg, Komi, Pskov, Nizhny Novgorod and Chita – in 2005-2006 when they came up with these disturbing statistics (


            The St. Petersburg criminologist said that he understood perfectly well that he couldn’t ask people “where and how were you tortured?” To do so would have meant that he and his colleagues would have been forever denied access to jails and prisons and thus would not have been able to monitor the situation.


            Instead, Gilinsky said, his researchers asked “what is torture?” and “”how should it be defined?”  We told respondents what torture was and then asked “if you in the course of the previous year … had been subjected to this as formulated and written down on the questionnaire, then tell us about it.”


            He said his survey was as representative as others conducted in Russia because it involved more than the usual number of respondents: In St. Petersburg alone, Gilinsky said, he and his colleagues talked to more than 2,000 people and in the other four regions a similar number, far more than the 1500 most polling agencies use.


            “More than that,” the criminologist continued, he said he had “been involved in practical work for many years” in this area. Today, he works in the Academy of the Office of the Procurator General, and thus it comes as no surprise to him that torture is going on “throughout the entire territory of the Russian Federation.”


            “That is how it was in 2005-2006,” Gilinsky said. “Today the situation has not improved.”


            What should be done?  According to the criminologist, a major first step would to decriminalize half of the actions listed in the Criminal Code. Some of them should be classified as administrative violations and others should simply be eliminated altogether.  That would reduce the flow of people through the criminal justice system.


            Other actions that should be taken, Gilinsky said, are the elimination of the death penalty, the creation of an independent judiciary not controlled by the administration and capable of supervising the jails and prisons, the establishment of a separate juvenile justice system, and “of course, the formation of a liberal democratic sense of justice in the population.”


            Moreover, he said, “it is necessary to conduct many [other] reforms: the reform of the police, the reform of the penal system from top to bottom,” and the effective introduction of minimal standards of the treatment of prisoners as proclaimed in Russian and European legislation.


            “It would be naïve to hope for the achievement of all these proposals in contemporary Russia,” Gilinsky said. “But let us hope that all this will be achieved in a future one.”



Putin Adopting Gorbachev’s Last Line of Defense -- and It’s Working, Ogryzko Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 31 – In 1991, when the Soviet Union was living out its last days, a cartoon appeared in an American newspaper which perfectly captured the spirit of what was happening in Moscow and in the West. It showed Mikhail Gorbachev holding a gun to his head and saying “If you try to stop me, I’ll shoot myself.”


            Fears in some Western capitals that any “pressure” on Gorbachev, even after he ordered the killings in Lithuania and Latvia, might lead to the collapse of his regime and even the disintegration of the Soviet Union certainly acted as a constraint on those governments, although they did not prevent Gorbachev from being ousted and the USSR from falling apart.


            Now, according to former Ukrainian foreign minister Vladimir Ogryzko, some in the West are infected with similar fears that any imposition of serious sanctions on Vladimir Putin for his aggression in Ukraine could lead to the collapse of his regime and his country (


            Commenting on the decision of the EU to keep existing sanctions in place and its promise to toughen them “if the situation deteriorates,” Ogryzko says that this position has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, it shows that Moscow’s hopes for a Greek veto on the extension of sanctions were misplaced.


            But on the negative side, he points out that “unfortunately, the EU sanctions have turned out to be quite weak and are not hitting Russia as they should after all that has happened. What is especially disturbing are the comments of some that the EU may do more if Moscow launches a frontal attack on Mariupol or other Ukrainian cities.”


            “It seems to me,” the Ukrainian diplomat says, “that this goes beyond all possible and impossible limits. After the terrorist acts in Vonovakha, Donetsk and especially in Mariupol to speak about the introduction of sanctions ‘in the event that the situation deteriorates’ is simply to help the aggressor” because it gives Moscow no reason to stop.


            “The reason behind such weak decisions,” he continues, “is that people in the West fear an instantaneous collapse of Russia which would be completely possible if serious economic sanctions were introduced,” sanctions like the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT banking settlement system.


            Various Russian commentators have suggested that more serious sanctions could lead to a Russian collapse. And “apparently,” Ogryzko says, “the economic interests of the West do not allow it to take this step. Now, [its member governments] will wait until the latest ‘if,’ the next Mariupol, the next attack of Russian forces.”

Friday, January 30, 2015

Putin’s ‘Conservative Revolutionaries’ Dreaming of National Socialist Utopia, Morozov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 30 – The old left-right continuum in Russian politics with its differences between conservatives and reformers ceased to be relevant as the basis for analysis and understanding with Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea and the formation of a populist left-right alliance of support, according to Aleksandr Morozov.


            In a commentary in “New Times,” he argues that “with the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in the east of Ukraine, all the political space of the Russian Titanic together with its tables, chairs and orchestra slid to one side” and came together in ways few expected (


            “All the old political distinctions lost any meaning before both former reformers and former conservatives and even national Bolsheviks and national organizations like Barkashov’s and socialists like Kagarlitsky found themselves in one multi-voiced crowd shouting ‘Send the tanks to Kyiv! Fascism will not pass!’”


            “The so-called ‘peace party’ in such circumstances,” Morozov continues, “cannot possibly be qualified as liberals. What kind of liberalism is in there in wartime?  In wartime it can be only ‘a fifth column’ and ‘traitors to the motherland.’”


What has formed instead is “a broad left-right populist consensus,” one that is quite familiar to historians of interwar Europe and especially of Germany and Italy. Leftwing political thought has always characterized fascism as “reactionary and conservative,” but there is more to it than that as recent analysis has shown.


 Today, many historians are more inclined to talk about the movements of that time in terms of populism rather than in terms of a left-right continuum. Indeed, it seems, Morozov says, that “each new stage of globalization and the inclusion in communications of new masses generates a reaction in the form of an epidemic spread of populism.”


However that may be, he continues, “one must not say that this was or is an exclusivey conservative reaction.” In the Russian case now, “the populist synthesis includes within itself both former revolutionaries like Eduard Limonov and such died in the wool state types like Ramzan Kadyrov.”


“The fate of this ‘post-Crimean populist consensus,” Morozov says, “is still unclear. It may break apart or it may form the basis of a new state system.” It may lead to “Italian fascism or Hitlerism” or it may go off in another direction altogether.  “The next three years,” he suggests, will provide the answer.


One of the reasons for uncertainty is that past analogies are useful only up to a point and “populism mutates” regularly.  Putin’s “’post-Crimea consensus’” is in the very early stages, and where it will lead to could vary from judicial pressure on the Sakharov Center to the smashing of its windows by mobs while the police look on.


Russia’s current “post-Soviet ‘rightists’ always were not completely conservative because they called not for the preservation” of a real past in the present but rather for the construction of something “impossible, a kind of conservative utopia” be it “Stalinism, Byzantium or the Russian 19th century.”


            “All of them conceive the war in the Donbas not simply as a war for territory but as a struggle for the construction of a new society corresponding to their national socialist idea in a separate gubernia.”  As such they are truly “conservative revolutionaries” who join together both left and right ideas.


            “Now, this right-left consensus works in the following way.” It draws on popular support from below and uses television from above, and it is seeking to form “a new social fabric based on anti-Americanism, the opposition of Putin to weak Western leaders, support for Russian values against the degenerate West, state sovereignty, and the militarization of public life.


            As one can see, Morozov says, “the right, like the left, has dissolved in this post-Crimea consensus.”


            “The ‘televized Ukraine’ has been transformed into a field of virtual war with the West and the United States for millions while the Donbas is a real war for several thousand citizens with Russian passports. No one knows what this new populism will become when it matures.” But one thing is clear: “the degeneration of society is proceeding very quickly.”




Putin Calls on Russian Regions to ‘Independently’ Struggle with Crisis

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 30 – In a move that recalls Mikhail Gorbachev’s times and that the current Kremlin leader may come to regret, Vladimir Putin has called on Russia’s regions to “formulate their own anti-crisis plans and independently search for sources of financing for new infrastructure projects” (


            Those words which recall Gorbachev’s outline of his thinking in December 1984 before he came to power and which signaled the end of massive Soviet interregional transfers of resources played a major role in triggering not just new thinking about economics but also about the future political relationship between Moscow and the now-independent union republics.


            Yesterday, Putin called on the leaders of Russia’s federal subjects to come up with their own “action plans” to cope with the crisis in the way that they did in 2008-2009. “Now, it is necessary to do the same thing.” He added that Moscow will support those it can but that the regions will also have to look for their own funding as well.


            Two Russian experts with whom the BBC’s Russian Service spoke were quite dismissive of Putin’s suggestion, seeing it as a reflection of his being out of touch with the situation in the country and at best too little too late.


            Natalya Zubarevich, director of regional programs at Moscow’s Independent Institute for Social Policy, said that Putin’s remarks show that he “poorly understands what is taking place in the regions,” a reflection of a breakdown in communications between the Kremlin and regional leaders.


            Were the Kremlin leader aware of the actual situation, one in which the regions can do little because they are facing rising debt, falling tax revenues, and cuts in federal subsidies, he would know, Zubarevich continued, that there was no possibility for the regions to take the kind of steps he called for.


            And Karen Vartapetov, deputy director of Standard&Poors for Russia, agreed, noting that the regions face the challenge of extinguishing far more debt in the coming year than they have the capacity to do on their own and that Moscow is doing far too little to help them whatever the Kremlin suggests.


            This situation has arisen, the ratings analyst said, because of Putin’s directives in May 2012 which, in the face of slowing economic growth, “imposed on the regions greater obligations” for social spending. That in turn has led to a structural imbalance in regional budgets equal to 1.5 to 2.0 percent of the country’s GDP as a whole.


            Neither addressed the political consequences of these economic problems, but they are obvious: if Moscow is cutting the regions lose to face their own problems as far as the economy is concerned, at least some people in some of the regions of the country may begin to think seriously about cutting themselves off politically from a capital so obviously out of touch.



Pro-Moscow Groups Launch Websites for ‘Peoples Republics’ in Latvia and Lithuania

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 30 – Pro-Moscow groups have launched websites for a so-called Latgale Peoples Republic in southeastern Latvia and a so-called Vilnius Peoples Republic around the capital of Lithuania, steps that represent no real movements in either case but that create serious problems for the governments of the two countries.


            On the one hand, if Riga and Vilnius dismiss these actions as inventions, that will likely trigger a nationalist backlash among some members of the titular nationalities, thus creating or exacerbating relations among the ethnic groups of those countries and under mining social cohesion.


            And on the other, if the Latvian and Lithuanian governments come down hard on these Internet developments, many in Moscow will present such overreactions as evidence that these regimes are not the stable democracies their EU and NATO allies know them to be and thus call into question the support these regimes enjoy in the West now.


            Because Moscow or at least the Putin regime wins if either of these things happen, it is almost certain that these pages were launched not by homegrown minorities who may see the Donetsk and Luhansk “peoples democracies” as a model but by the Russian backers of those ideas whose paymasters view them as a means of destabilizing Russia’s neighbors.


            To date, as the Delfi news agency reports, Latvia and Lithuania are carefully watching these sites but not overreacting in the way many in Moscow may hope for (  and


            The Latvian security police point out that the Latgale site is promoting secession and thus benefits Russia rather than Latvia, and Edgar Trusevic, a leader of the Polish community of Lithuania in the name of which the “Wileńska Republika Ludowa” site has been launched, views this site as a Russian provocation with which no one in Lithuania would have anything to do.


            Yet another indication that Moscow is behind both these measures is the media campaign about these two sites and the response of the two Baltic governments that has begun in the Russian capital. For an example of this, which also includes citations to other articles, see


            Also suggestive of Russia’s direct involvement with these sites is an article by Anton Grishanov, a Moscow analyst, who argues that the Donetsk and Luhansk peoples republics constitute a new model of secession as a form of integration that can and should be extended elsewhere (


            Although no analogous page has yet been launched for some entity in Estonia, those behind such ideas have not forgotten the northernmost Baltic country: This week, the Donetsk Peoples Republic appealed to predominantly Russian-speaking city of Narva in northeastern Estonia for assistance against what it said were Kyiv’s “crimes.”


            Despite Narva’s status as a sister city of Donetsk, the city government turned them down flat saying that “there is no mandate to open communications with the new powers,” although one city official, Vyacheslav Konovalov, indicated that Narva might be ready to help the population in Ukraine (

Most Russians ‘Too Lazy to Hate Anyone for Very Long,’ Moscow Ethnographer Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 30 – Russians like other people are “too lazy to hate anyone for very long,” according to Moscow ethnographer Igor Savin. Instead, “after a few months,” they will shift the object of their xenophobia from one group to another, sometimes as a result of official actions and other times as a result of their own experiences.


            A few people do hate this or that group more or less permanently, the researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies says, but most, while they seem to need to focus on some kind of enemy to define themselves, seldom do so, shifting the object of their dislike or hatred from one to another over time (


            Consequently, their current “hatred” of Ukrainians is unlikely to last more than a few months, just as their earlier hostility to immigrants from Central Asia or hatred of Georgia in 2008, Savin told the Moscow paper’s Elena Racheva in the course of an extensive interview in today’s edition.


            The ethnographer’s conclusions are the product of his participation in a year-long study he and his colleagues have carried about concerning relations between native Muscovites and Central Asian gastarbeiters, a study that involved more than 40 focus groups as well as in-depth interviews with members of both groups.


            “Everyone has always had the need to channel hatred,” he says. The difference in how that happens often depends on whether “government and social institutes extinguish it” by one means or another or “in our case, use it” for their own purposes and thus legitimize and intensify it.


            “The level of migrantophobia has declined” over the past year, he says, with “half of the phobia and that not to a high degree now directed at Ukraine,” a shift he says that has little to do with the experiences of people but rather with the efforts of the media to direct anger away from one group and toward another.


            There are no non-xenophobes, Savin argues, because “people who do not experience some form of distrust to other groups, real or imagined, do not exist.”  Russians have been unwilling to face up to that fact in large measure because they continue to “exaggerate the internationalist quality of Russia” that supposedly was inherited from Soviet times.


            In reality, he continues, “in the USSR there were so few ‘others’ present” in Russian cities that “all Soviet nationalism was controlled.” There were simply too few targets of opportunity as it were. Immigration has only been a serious thing over the last decade, and “people still haven’t reached an understanding as to how they should think about it.”


            The government could help calm the situation if it would be honest and say that “’we have few citizens and we need new human material, however cynical that sounds.”  Immigrants thus play a valuable role, and “if they do not violate the law, then they are equal to us in the rights but also equal in their responsibilities.”


            “I also say to colleagues: we do not need migrantophilia or migrantophobia; we need migrantorealism. Migrants are also people: they act according to the very same laws” that others do.  Moreover, he says, migrants in Moscow typically say they are being treated “better than is in fact the case” because they do not want to exacerbate the situation.


            Asked who is the object of Russian dislike now, Savin cities the findings of a 2013 poll.  At that time, Russians identified Belarusians and Russians as those closest to them and against whom they felt the least hostility. “Following them were the Jews, then the Armenians and the Georgians. Then, the Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Tajiks.”


            And the three groups Russians at that time said they felt the greatest xenophobia aobut were the Chinese, the Chechens and the Roma. “Certainly,” their attitudes toward Ukrainians have changed, Savin says, “but what is surprising is something else. In 2007-2008, there was an anti-Georgian campaign, and it seemed that Russians would hate Georgians forever.”


            But only a couple of years later, most Russians viewed the Georgians in a positive light, and almost none of them saw that Caucasian people as an enemy.



‘Hybrid Truth’ as Putin’s New Reality

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 30 – Yesterday, in “Der Spiegel,” that German publication’s Moscow correspondent Benjamin Bidder asked the question: “Does Putin Believe His Own Propaganda?” and suggested the best answer to that riddle has been provided by Moscow cartoonist Sergey Yolkin, who described Putin’s statements as an example of “hybrid truth.”


            During his first and second terms as Russian president, Bidder says, Putin impressed many Western leaders with his knowledge of details and as “a difficult but all the same reliable partner in negotiations.” But those times are now “long past” (; in Russian, at


            Since returning for his third term, Putin has made dishonesty and lies “practically a daily element of Russian policy,” employing “the big lie” as part of a conscious effort to define the situation and “small lies” in the Kremlin leader’s speeches which raise the question: “Is he only poorly informed or does he believe his own propaganda?”


            In the summer of 201, Putin tried to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel that protests against him in Moscow were “manifestations of ‘the sexually deformed’” and that those involved in the Pussy Riot actions were “anti-Semites,” statements so at variance with reality and so unnecessary that his German audience was shocked.


            Most recently but in the same key, Bidder continues, Putin told students in St. Petersburg that pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas were “fighting not with the Ukrainian army but with ‘a NATO legion.’” One might expect such things from lower level propagandists but “not from the senior leader of a major nuclear power.”


            According to the German correspondent, “it is unclear what stands behind such expressions.” Was Putin consciously lying? Was he poorly informed? Or has he fallen under the spell of his own propaganda?  There are cases which can provide evidence for all of these possibilities, Bidder suggests.


            Putin has clearly lied about key events in the course of the Ukrainian conflict, denying what he had to know was true or asserting things that he had to know were false, Bidder says. But he has also said things which show that he has been poorly briefed – his assertions about the number of Ukrainians in Russia, for example – or believes his government’s own propaganda.


            But whatever is true in any particular case, one thing is clear, Bidder argues. “In this way, the Kremlin sets the tone, and the Russian media follow, in the big lies and the small. To the extent that Putin knows he is lying, that is one thing – lies can be deployed as part of state policy – but if he doesn’t, that raises an even more dangerous possibility: he doesn’t know what he is saying and doesn’t care.


            That he doesn’t know about many things, Bidder says, is suggested by the following: Putin as is well known doesn’t like the Internet, but as “The Guardian” reported last summer, he doesn’t want reports that are longer than three pages in 18 point type. “This cannot be true,” the German writer says.


            But he adds: “Putin himself has said that he doesn’t have the time to read newspapers” and gets most of his news and information from subordinates, although he does “watch television.”  That means, Bidder says, that “reality reaches the leader of the Kremlin only after being filtered through his own propaganda.”


            And that in turn means, although Bidder doesn’t say so, that Putin is seeing his own lies multiplied and confirmed rather than challenged and corrected, a dangerous situation for anyone but especially dangerous in the case of a ruler who has invaded a neighboring state and put his own country at odds with the world.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Russia’s Turn to Fascism Should Not Surprise Anyone, Yampolsky Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, January 29 – No one should be surprised that Russia is rapidly turning to fascism, according to Mikhail Yampolsky. It is simply “the delayed reaction to the disintegration of the empire,” a delay occasioned by the growth in consumption made possible by high oil prices. As such, Russia today is simply recapitulating what happened in Weimar Germany.


            But that recapitulation is taking place not simply at the systemic level, the Russian analyst says, but at the psychological level as well – and an appreciation of the recapitulation at that level helps to explain a great deal of what is going on in Russia at the present time (


            “It is well known that Nazism also was a reaction to defeat in war, the disintegration of an empire, and the rapid loss of Germany’s significance in the world,” Yampolsky says. “Fascism and a sense of national denigration are closely connected phenomena,” and the psychoanalytic perspective on this offered by Melanie Klein is suggestive.


            The late Austrian psychoanalyst demonstrated that “weakness, poverty and a sense of denigration leads to a so-called projected identification” that in turn is linked to a paranoid-schizophrenic position” in which individuals or groups project unto others the very qualities they do not approve of or want to face in themselves.


            Thus, Yampolsky says, Russians today “systematically accuse Ukrainians of fascism,” while “their own movement toward fascism is excluded by the fictional idealization of its form.”


            But the ways in which the current Russian situation resembles that of Germany in the 1920s are “not exhausted by that,” the analyst says. Russia’s pace now is “complicated by the paradoxes of post-imperial victimization,” even though Russia viewed from the side doesn’t appear to fit “the role of victim.”

            Nevertheless, Yampolsky points out, “Russia constantly asserts that it is the victim of aggression. The former republics having gained their independence feel themselves as it were much better. Ukrainians, the victims of Russian aggression, for example, are experiencing a period of growth of self-consciousness and a moment of birth of a feeling of their own worth,” even as Russia is mired in a sense of being denigrated by others.

             According to the Russian analyst, Russians are finding it easier to do so because of a shift in historiography in Europe over the last two generations.  In the past, it was common ground that history is always written by the victors and the victims are forgotten. But after World War II, as a result of the Holocaust, history increasingly has been written about the victims rather than the victors.


            That has had an impact on Russian thinking. Yampolsky gives as an example the fact that “ever more books” are appearing about “how Soviet soldiers in occupied Germany raped and stole, and these ‘unwelcome’ researches are becoming if you will no less significant than an analysis of the strategy of Marshal Zhukov.”


            Such dramatic shifts from warrior to victim, “from war to civilian life are accompanied by a shift in the understanding of sovereignty” and to the significance which those in the Kremlin give it.  In the past, sovereignty meant the right to change laws and begin war, but now, those opportunities have been seized by sub-state actors like Al-Qaeda and ISIL.


            It is in this context that the Russian campaign to overcome its “post-imperial trauma” has arisen, and that helps to explain “the extraordinary significance of Crimea to Putin” because of “the absence of victims” and the role of “’the polite men,’ victors who did not shed innocent blood.”


            The Donbas campaign immediately called that into question, and it quickly became apparent that it “could not produce a single heroic figure” who could be used to promote the Crimean goals. That is because “the formation of fascist consciousness needs an esthetic phase” with marches, films, and “a demonstration of force and unity.”


            “The contemporary era,” Yampolsky points out, “is completely insensitive to making aggression and force heroic.”  And that has led to what appears internally inconsistent but in fact is totally consistent: “the present-day Russian fascist is all-powerful” at least as presented by propaganda “and at the same time a victim being pursued.”


            The Russian analyst makes another important point about the specific features of the rise of fascism in Russia as far as the individual personalities of its population are concerned. He begins by observing that human beings are members of groups but their identities and behaviors are determined by the nature of groups of which they are members.


.           He cites the observation of British psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion who suggested that groups can be divided between “working groups” and “basic assumption groups.”  The first is directed at fulfilling a specific task, presupposes cooperation, and is the predominant form in democratic societies.

            That dominance, Yampolsky suggests, “explains their ability to engage in mass actions of solidarity such as that recently demonstrated by the manifestations in support of Charlie Hebdo.”

            Russian society, however, “cultivates ‘basic assumption groups,’” in which the paranoid-schizophrenic position Klein described dominates, in which “illusion rules” and where the members reject the differentiation which is accepted from the outset in the working groups of democratic societies.

            The primary task of these “’basic assumption groups’” is “the rejection of one’s own ego and fusion in some narcissistic and undifferentiated unity.” The members of such groups are intolerant of any deviation “from united thought and behavior” and thus are often infantile, given to leader worship, and enormously destructive.