Under the guise of celebrating the 77th year of victory over Nazi Germany, Russia has continued to deny its own home-grown brand of totalitarianism and to sanitize the savage brutality of the Soviet Union. Before Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the Soviets were allied with him and happy to wage war on Poland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine – and without Hitler’s attack, would probably have never stood up to Nazism. How could it, both systems were variants of fascism themselves.
Nevertheless, the Soviet Union was instrumental in defeating Hitler’s Germany, and this was a necessary victory. Yet it did not bring peace in Central and Eastern Europe, but expanded a realm of brutal and inhumane totalitarian dictatorship. When Soviet rule collapsed, a brief window of democratic opportunity appeared – and many of the European countries held prisoner by Soviet Russia joined the West. This is what Putin is trying to undo now, and he is using the same tools used by Stalin already: genocide, mass murder, forced resettlement, deliberate starvation – today even on a global scale –, and overall, the boldest of lies told with a straight face.
How convenient it is now to be able to hide your own truth behind the past achievements of the Soviet victory over Nazism. Yet while we are celebrating the heroic endurance of the people of Leningrad, savagely besieged by Nazi forces, Russia is now besieging Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, Crimea, and so many more – what cruel irony of history that the proud victor over Nazi cruelty is again proving that death is a master not just from Germany.
Putin has discovered that he can obscure his and the Soviet’s own red fascism behind the historical fight against Nazi Germany. Under the banner of the half-swastika, the Z, he is proving that when it comes to fascism, today it is Russia that is the master.
Putin is not Hitler, and fascism, national socialism and sovietism are not the same, but they are all built on violence, inhumanity, and terror. There can be more than one evil in the world, there can be more than one version of totalitarianism. You do not negate the horrors and evil of the Holocaust by pointing at Soviet crimes. You do not morally purify yourself just because your cause at a past moment was more righteous than the other. The West also is not innocent in everything – and we need to criticize Western crimes and hypocrisy as well.
But when it comes to fighting fascism today, to fighting the intellectual and methodical inheritors even of Nazism, these ideas are located in Russia today, and when it comes to who is fighting on the side of freedom, justice and humanity, it is Ukraine.
By pretending to fight Nazism, Putin is insulting and dishonoring the sole achievement of the Soviet people – which included Ukrainians, Belorussians and others. This time, Russia must not win. Putin and his new brand of fascism must be defeated, so that both Ukraine and Russia can be free.