Monday, June 22, 2020

Putin Remains Deeply Mired in Weimar Syndrome, Yudin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – In  the 1990s, many in Moscow and the West worried that Russia after the disintegration of the USSR might experience the same “Weimar complex” that led a defeated Germany in the 1920s to want to strike out and seek revenge and ultimately led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

            Most have gone on to other conceptual frameworks, but one man remains very much attached to the Weimar analogy, Grigory Yudin says; and that is Vladimir Putin, whose new essay on the origins of World War II is written less from the perspective of Russia than of Germany (

            In his article which has been published in English in the United States, the Kremlin leader blames “England, France, Poland, Vlasov, Bandera, Lenin and one and on and even with qualification’s Stalin’s USSR” for the tragedy that engulfed Europe from 1933 to 1945.  But he leaves out Germany and the entire Nazi-Fascist bloc, the Shaninkha scholar points out.

            Of course, Yudin says, it is possible to view Germany’s guilt as self-evident and thus not worthy of attention. “But this is not what Putin wants to say” and what in his new essay he makes very clear.

            “From its very beginning, he adopts the point of view of Germany, the theory according to which World War II was preordained by the dishonest and denigrating conditions of the Versailles Peace Treaty after World War I.” There is much truth in that perspective, but Putin isn’t a historian and he isn’t interested in that truth as such.

            He has raised this issue only because he suffers from “a Weimar complex” as far as post-Soviet Russia is concerned. It was mistreated and humiliated by the West and so it is no surprise that it wants revenge and that its desire for revenge is not Russia’s fault, just as it was not Germany’s, but the Western democracies.

            Germany was mistreated by foreign powers and so its domestic situation developed as it did, in Putin’s view. And consequently, Russia’s more recent mistreatment by the West is to blame for any actions the Kremlin takes at home or abroad that the West doesn’t like, Yudin argues.

             Putin “isn’t a Nazi and doesn’t sympathize with Hitler,” the Moscow scholar continues. “But the appearance of national socialists in power and the fascisization of German society for him looks completely natural, predictable and of little interest.” What happened inside Germany was entirely due to what happened to it internationally.

            In making this argument, Putin adopts a radically different position than the Europeans have, most of whom have spent the last 75 years trying to figure out how to prevent the rise of a new monster in their midst. But Putin has no problem explaining what the Nazis did: it was all the fault of foreign countries who mistreated Germany.

            This is not a special case, Yudin says. Putin believes that “domestic policy is simply a projection of foreign policy.” And that in turn means that “if there are disorders in the streets, look for foreign money; if fascists come to power, search for who offended the nation.”

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