The day of May 9 still occupies a special place in the state mythology of Putin’s Moscow. Russian propaganda uses the myth, which is politicized up to paroxysmal dimensions, of the so-called great patriotic war for claiming the special role of Russia in the victory against fascism in World War II, diminishing concomitantly the contribution to the victory of its allies from the Anti-Hitler coalition. In time, the victory over Hitlerism, which was confiscated by the Moscow propaganda, was put in the service of the Russian imperial revenge and is used in the ongoing war against Ukraine, which is accused of being controlled by nationalists and Nazis, with the denazification being one of the goals of this war.
Dramatic change in public perception of Russia state
The war that is being waged by Russia on Ukraine is an unprovoked war that was planned to end with a quick victory for restoring the Russian empire within the borders of the so-called “Historical Russia”. But Ukraine refused to be an inoffensive victim and heroically and very efficiently resists the Russian aggression. In fact, this Ukrainian resistance represents permission, in the historical meaning of the word, to become a fully-fledged member of the Europeans Union and of the international community in general. Ukraine shows to the world that the independence declared in 1991 is not only something that fell over it accidentally, but is a logical result of the history of the collapse of the last empire on the map of Europe.
Russia until February 24, 2022 had been generally perceived as a country that goes through a period of authoritarian tendencies and also a country with which cooperation relations can be established, trade can be performed and together with which common political projects can be implemented. After Russia started the war against Ukraine, it has been perceived as an aggressor country that turns into an unpredictable and dishonest partner on the international arena, which is led by a leader who is wanted by international courts of law. So, the war started against Ukraine produced a dramatic change in the perception of the Russian state. It is enough to look at the number of diplomats or spies disguised as Russian diplomats who are now expelled from different countries, at the travel bans imposed on Russian officials. These are only a small sign of the way in which Russia under Putin’s regime became a toxic element in the international community.
“Rashism”, a combination of “Russian” and “Nazism”
Putin’s Moscow tried to justify the military aggression against Ukraine by invoking the fight against Nazism in this country. But no one in the world believed this invention that, for its part, caused a diriment reaction for the Moscow regime itself. The international community, stupefied by the aggravating disrespect shown by Russia with regard to international law and the interstate rules of conduct accepted in the civilized world, attentively examined the essence of the current political regime in Moscow. The made discovery was astounding. Renowned scientist, like the professor of history at Yale University, Timothy Snyder, speak about elements of fascism in the current Russian political system and such an interpretation of Russian politics has an echo in the term “Rashism”. “Rashism” is a term used by the Ukrainians against the Russian occupants, a portmanteau word of “Russian” and “Nazism”.
Even the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine introduced the concept of “Rashism” in the legislation so as to determine the ideology used by the Russian authorities, this term defining distinct realities of the Russian political life today. On this occasion, the Ukrainian lawmakers earlier this month adopted a statement entitled “Declaration of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the defying of the political regime existing in Russia as Rashism and the condemnation of its ideological principles and social practices as totalitarian and misanthropic”. The explanatory note to the statement contains the following justification of the necessity of adopting it: “The brutal, unprovoked war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine revealed to the whole world the real essence of V. Putin’s political regime as imperial, totalitarian neo-dictatorship that inherits the worst practices of the past and embodies the ideas of fascism and nationalist socialism in the modern version of Russian fascism (Rashism)”.
Parallels between Rashist ideology and practices and fascist regimes
The Rada’s statement is addressed to the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the foreign governments and parliaments and calls on them to condemn the ideology and political practices of Rashism. It is considered that such an approach to the Russian politics will enable to determine the forms of aggression and will encourage the condemnation by the states of the world of the Russian Federation’s policies that lead to the commission of war crimes and genocide against the people of Ukraine.
The similarities between the ideology and practices of Rashism and the fascist regimes are primarily tied to level of control over the public space and the mass media in general, to the cult of the leader in society and to particular narrative elements. With regard to Ukraine, the Rashist ideology denies the existence of Ukrainians as a separate nation. Under this concept, the Russians and Ukrainians are one nation. At the same time, this Rashist ethnic and cultural model does not admit at all that the Russians are actually as the Ukrainians are. It is deduced that the Ukrainians are an allegedly Russian ethnic community that has yet a deformed national conscience and it is therefore an ethnic community that is somehow inferior and the use of war methods against it is allowed. Such an approach that is typical of the Fascist and Nazi ethnic cleansing policies in the practices of Rashism in fact correlates with elements associated with and borrowed from the specific features of the Russian imperial thinking, which shows there is a tradition in this return to the imperial times of the 19th century.
The resorting to the Russian imperial tradition, to the historical mythology is the preferred method of the Russian propaganda that uses primarily the politicized myth of the Great Patriotic War to fight against Ukraine. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, attended the military parade staged in the Read Square on May 9, when Moscow traditionally celebrates the Day of Victory against Nazi Germany. In a short speech, Putin reiterated the main propaganda themes of the Kremlin by which he justified the war against Ukraine, presenting the West as the supreme evil that presumably relapses with Nazism and aims to destroy Russia. Putin, who is the main promoter of the ideology of Rashism, in his speech full of untruths maximally revitalized a law of propaganda of Goebbels (chief of Hitler’s propaganda), who liked to say “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”.
The dramatic decline in the post-Soviet space of the number of fans of the Victory Day celebrated on May 9, in accordance with the ideological perceptions of Moscow, was an unexpected effect of the war against Ukraine for the ideologists of Rashism. In current Ukraine, only 13% of the citizens still believe the Kremlin’s narrative about the Victory Day. In Ukrainian society, as in many other post-Soviet societies, the war gave birth to a profound mental movement towards the notion of World War II instead of the Great Patriotic War and also to a movement about the fact that May 9 is a commemoration occasion, a day of mourning instead of what is called “frenzy of victory” in Russia style.
In Chisinau, in spirit of ideology of Rashism
In Chisinau, this year as well, the pro-Russian forces on May 9 traditionally staged crowded street marches in the spirit of the ideology of Rashism, abundantly using the Russian war symbol – the bicolor ribbon. Last year, owing to the law that prohibited the use of the ribbon under the warning of heavy fines, the ribbon of Saint George was almost eliminated from the public space. But this year, profiting from the recent Constitutional Court decision, the pro-Russian parties hurried to announce the massive return of the bicolor ribbon to the streets of Chisinau on May 9. They even resorted to defying gestures and in the May 9 march in Chisinau posted the portrait of Stalin, whose political regime was responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Moldova eastward the Prut by organized famine, mass deportations of the population, state terror and forced denationalization.
It should be noted that unlike the case of the Republic of Moldova, which experiences the destabilizing influence of the Russian war symbols, in other former Soviet republic these practices are ended by the authorities. For example, in Estonia they adopted a law that allows the police to harshly react to the symbols of war propaganda and aggression on May 9. In Latvia, they banned the celebration of the May 9 holiday, with any public events, except for those associated with Europe Day, being cancelled. It is noteworthy that most of the leaders of the CIS countries that are Russia’s allies, who attended the military parade in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9 alongside Putin, gave up wearing the ribbon of Saint George, placing ribbons in the national colors in the lapel.
European idea vs. Rashist idea
In Moldovan society, the May 9 demonstrations of the pro-Moscow forces, which openly propagate the war symbols embodied in the bicolor ribbon, defying the laws of the Republic of Moldova and using the street marches for political purposes of electoral mobilization, became one of the most threatening proofs of the ideology of Rashism. The conclusion about the conceding by the pro-European government and the pro-European parties in general of the political street space to the anti-European and pro-Russian forces, ensuring this way an evident advantage for them in the future elections, is valid in such conditions. Against such a background, the event of the pro-Europeans set to take place in Chisinau on May 21, which by its size should prove the European idea’s capability of beating the hostile ideology of Rashism in the competition for the minds of the Moldovan citizens, becomes even more important.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.