Diptych: Adolf Hitler (1938) vs. Vladimir Putin (2014)

12 March 2014

While reading recent publications on «Crimean Crisis» and surfing Ukrainian social networks, one can’t help but notice that the most popular trend for the last two weeks is an undying Putin/Hitler comparison. On March 5 Aaron Blake in his post has published a non-exhaustive list of politicians, scientists, artists, activists who allowed themselves to draw this univocal parallel.

This list includes Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Zbigniew Brzezisnki, Stephen Harper, Garry Kasparov, Stephen Fry, and many others. Notably, this opinion is simultaneously articulated on numerous occasions in Ukrainian blogosphere and has taken various forms. The most spectacular of which, in my humble opinion, is Ukrainian strike posters: these were made by young Ukrainian writer and blogger Strongowski. There are more at “Ukrainska Pravda” selection and “Poster Museum” page.

How come Vladimir has pushed Josef Stalin off the stage and gained the priority in being compared to German dictator?

Subsequently to Ms.Clinton’s attempt to give “a little historic perspective”, media competed in explaining a background and introducing yet another interpretationto her statement (though, this opinion was quite popular even earlier). In short, it is now widely discussed whether Russian military intervention in Ukraine resembles Adolf Hitler’s European aggression ahead of World War II, in particular annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in 1938. In this respect, social networks are helpful for providing this frequently shared chart with the self-expalnatory summary of facts in chronological order:

1991 – Russia lost the Cold War. Russia, as the successor of the USSR, lost a large territory and got partially demilitarized.
1918- Germany lost WWI. Germany, as the successor of the German Empire, lost the significant part of its territory, was partially demilitarized and obliged to pay reparations.
1991-1997- Gaidar’s “shock therapy”, the attempt to overcome negative effects of the collapse of the USSR, hyperinflation, the struggle against separatism (Chechen war), and attempts to overthrow the government (1993 Political Crisis)
1919-1928 – liberal reforms, the attempt to overcome negative effects of the war, hyperinflation, the struggle against separatism (Bavarian Soviet Republic 1919) and attempts to overthrow the government (Communists’ speeches)
1998 – the global economic crisis
1929 – the global economic crisis
1999 – in the wake of revanchist sentiments Yeltsin appointed young KGB colonel Vladimir Putin as Acting President, who  subsequently won the 2000 presidential election
1933 – in the wake of revanchist sentiments young leader of the NSDAP Adolf Hitler came to power
2000s — consolidation of the ruling party “United Russia” (Edinaya Rossiya) members in all branches of government
1930th- consolidation of NSDAP party members in all branches of government
2001- entering the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”
1935 – signing of the “Anti-Comintern Pact”
2000s – rapid economic growth, an increase in funding combined with modernization of defense industry
1930th- rapid economic growth, an increase in funding combined with modernization of defense industry
2014- hosting Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia wins overall Olympics medal title
1936 – hosting Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany wins overall Olympics medal title
2014 – introduction of troops and establishing control over the Crimea under the slogans of defending Russian-speaking population
1938 – Anschluss, in which Hitler annexed largely German Austria, and  the annexation of the Sudetenland, a predominantly German part of Czechoslovakia, under slogans of defending the German-speaking population

Charles Lane brings another insight to our attention comparing personalities of two leaders. While interpreting historical circumstances described above, he emphasizes that both leaders “zealously served their countries on the front lines of international conflict”, were “cast adrift” after the fall of the empires, and “considered [their] nation[s] no more culpable than any other for the global conflict that precipitated its downfall”. However, he also argues that “whereas Hitler was an ideologue and a charismatic movement leader, Putin is an opportunist, a political mafioso who schemed his way to power and clings to it for its own sake”. Lane also suggests that compared to Hitler Putin appears to be more of a “rational actor” with regard to the powers arrayed against him, including the USA, formally obliged to defend its NATO allies and equipped with a “nuclear argument”.

Anton Shekhvostov analyses the comparison and pleads for the ideological similarity of the two regimes, as well as reflects on the contemporary European sentiments towards Russian “cult person.” Regardless of the radical anti-Russian mood of the post coupled with labeling 2008 Georgia events as mere “testing” before Crimean invasion, Shekhvostov post deserves closer attention since it brings focus on the crucial issue in this dispute: strong support and approval of Putin’s actions by European far right activists, including Nick Griffin (British National Party), Gábor Vona (Hungarian nationalist political party Jobbik), Marine Le Pen (French National Front). This remark must definitely ring a bell for reluctant Western community. As well this post helps to clarify the picture of Russian-Ukrainian confrontation flooded with fascist rhetorics on both sides.

Let’s assume that historical summary, personality sketch and ideology review are convincing enough to say that Putin/Hitler analogy is justified. It’s also necessary to admit that Putin’s autocracy is comparable to Hitler’s dictatorship, but on much smaller scale. Where’s the catch? The catch is “yet”. Recent surveys reported that after significant downfall in 2013 Putin’s political rating boosted after Olympiad and Crimean invasion higher than ever before. And that disturbs me a lot: since when military aggression is welcomed by population of a de jure democratic society?



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