By Paul Goble
Moscow historian Arkady Popov continues his examination of the eight myths propagated by Russia’s Krymnash notions with a devastating demolition of Russian claims that the Maidan in Ukraine was fascist and therefore Russia had no choice but to intervene (ej.ru/?a=note&id=28538).
(For his earlier articles in this series, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/07/none-of-eight-myths-in-putins-crimea-is.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/moscows-claims-of-historic-right-to.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/popov-demolishes-third-krymnash-myth.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/fourth-putin-myth-about-crimean.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/fifth-myth-of-krymnashism-ukrainian.html).
This week’s article in Popov’s series is especially important because he devotes particular attention not only to why the Kremlin has been pushing the falsehood that the Maidan represented some kind of “fascist junta” but also to why so many Russians, including members of the intelligentsia, have been willing to accept that absurdity.
The Moscow historian begins by noting that “the myth about the artificiality of the Ukrainian state” provided Moscow with what it considered legal justification for “the destruction of Ukraine” but “the myth about the fascist Euro-Maidan was more serious: it shows the necessity of [Ukraine’s] destruction.”
The most important feature of Putin’s hybrid war against Ukraine is the fact that “its information component exceeds its physical component geographically.” In such an information war, Popov argues, “success is measured not by the number of cities seized and soldiers of the opponent killed but by the number of victims in the population … that can be hung on it.”
That makes the charge of fascism so useful that it is “beyond any competition” because it “designates an evil without cause or motivation.” Popov cites the words of Russian journalist Andrey Lipsky who says that “for the overwhelming majority of Soviet people” who suffered from World War II, “fascism is an unqualified diabolical symbol of inhumanity, cruelty and aggression” (novayagazeta.ru/politics/62934.html).
Fascism is so evil that the usual rules about mercy and forgiveness do not apply, but it is also the case that at least in Russia, when fascism is mentioned, “the laws of cause and effect” don’t either, as when pro-Kremlin writers like Sergey Markov insist that pro-Moscow actions were the result of some action they deem necessary even though those actions happened before rather than after (inosmi.ru/sngbaltia/20141210/224829739.html?id=224836485).
Markov can invert the cause and effect relationships brecause he is dealing with a myth, and “myths are governed by their own laws.” In real live, in order to be good, it is necessary to do something good, and to be evil, it is necessary to commit something evil.” But in a myth, “this isn’t necessary.” In that world, there are good people no matter what they do and bad ones no matter what they do.
Putting the pro-Moscow militias in the former category means that they can do no wrong and calling the Ukrainians fascists means that they can do nothing right, Popov says. And repeating this often enough convinces some that this categorization is true even if the available evidence points in a very different direction.
Moscow does have a problem with all this, Popov says, and it lies in the fact that “in Russia itself, in the opinion of a growing number of analysts, ‘the present political regime is ever more strongly taking one aspects of Russian Nazism” and that “a significant part of [the Russian] public likes this ideology” (ru.krymr.com/content/article/26944664.html).
But Russians “know that to be a Nazi is a bad thing,” Popov continues, and therefore they deal with it by being willing to “project it on others” by denouncing those who are not fascists as exactly that, an inclination that the Kremlin has been all too willing to accept.
The more interesting question, the Moscow historian says, is why Russian propagandists feel compelled to call the Ukrainian government a junta. That is a term with a precise definition and one that has been applied fairly consistently in the past. Russians almost never used the term before March 2014, but they began to do so when Russian propaganda employed it.
Conformism explains some of this, Popov continues, especially for the population as a whole, as does the Soviet past, although neither the one nor the other completely explains why Russians including many in the intelligentsia have fallen in line with the idea that in Ukraine fascism headed by a junta exists.
Popov says that envy of those who were at the Russian level but have advanced more quickly and the anger that produces are part of it. He cites Andrey Amalrik’s observation in 1969 to the effect that “if the average Russian sees he lives badly but his neighbor lives well, he thinks not about what he must do to live as well as his neighbor but abuot how to arrange things so that his neighbor will have to live as badly as himself” (vehi.net/politika/amalrik.html).
Such feelings are intensified, the historian says, by the fact that “Ukrainians – from [a Russian] point of view – are very similar to us. These are not Czechs or Poles or Balts: they are ‘practically one of us’ or ‘like us’” and that makes their running ahead especially insupportable. Saying they are “fascists paid by the West” allows Russians to escape from that dilemma.
That fits in with another ideological theme, Popov suggests, that of the conspiratorial “’knife in the back.’” That idea, most familiar from German history after World War I, is in fact universal; but for Putin, “the role of the traitorous ‘people within’doesn’t work,” and the Kremlin leader has “replaced it with an external enemy, the Ukrainians.”
To make their argument that the regime in Kyiv is fascist, the Krymnashists have claimed that the Maidan was “a fascist putsch,” that its moving force consisted of “fascists,” and that the West and specifically the US financed this fascist take over and threat to Russia. None of these notions stands up to criticism.
What happened in Ukraine was a revolution and there were excesses as in all such revolutionary events, but where is the fascism in that, unless one is prepared to assert that “any revolution is a fascist putsch.”
Moreover, the radical right was a marginal force in the Maidan and afterwards. The Svoboda party received only ten percent of the vote, and the post-Maidan Ukrainian government had a Jewish deputy prime minister, an Armenian interior minister and two Russian ministers. “It is possible to call such a government facscist and nazi?”
“The overwhelming majority” of the Maidan participants were animated by “a civilized and anti-criminal” agenda, Popov says; and they not only had “no relationship at all” with the radical right but were deeply hostile to it because of what the majority saw as its opposition to :European liberal values of a civic nation and a legal state.”
And it is not the case that the Americans financed the Maidan: The US gave five billion dollars to promote democracy in Ukraine but that was spread over 22 years and not given just before the Maidan (vz.ru/news/2014/4/22/683263.html). If one is looking for someone trying to bribe the Ukrainians, albeit in a different direction, Putin fills that bill far better than the US.