Status: 10/05/2022 7:02 p.m.
The Russian government itself is increasingly shaped by fascism, which it constantly blames on the West, says Russian expert Meister in an interview. The country is turning into a closed society.
tagesschau.de: Russia is fighting fascists in Ukraine – the message has been repeated time and time again by Russian leaders since February. Putin’s speech on “Victory Day” on May 9 was also influenced by this. How serious is this reinterpretation of history?
Stephane Meister: One element is the fight against fascism and National Socialism, which creates the identity of a large part of Russian society. And if you – in the interest of the Russian leadership – continue this fight against Ukraine, you can create a certain mobilization in Russia.
On the other hand, it is of course very problematic that the term fascism and its history are misused to wage some sort of imperial war in a neighboring country – and that as a regime around Vladimir Putin, which becomes itself more and more fascist if you look at the definitions of fascism look.
And to accuse Ukraine of exactly this and use it as a justification for this war and at the same time abuse the victory over National Socialism in the Second World War – this is really a crude view of history and a distortion of history which is highly problematic and also opens doors to other discourses. If Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is now raising allegations of anti-Semitism against Jews in Israel, it has to do with this historical picture.
To no one
Stefan Meister is Head of the Program for International Order and Democracy at the German Society for Foreign Relations. His areas of interest include Russian foreign and security policy and Russia-EU relations.
tagesschau.de: In Putin’s worldview, what does it make of World War II allies, i.e. the United States, Britain and France, who were not parties to the conflict in Ukraine today, but who nevertheless sided with Ukraine?
Master : There is more to come. Putin says he’s waging a sort of proxy war with the US and NATO in Ukraine – and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and so-called fascists are essentially NATO and US henchmen . The West is one with these fascists, so to speak – so it is a partisan and uses the so-called fascists to weaken, conquer and hold Russia down.
Putin not only equates Ukrainians with fascists – that’s the most absurd thing of all: calling a whole people fascists, so to speak – but in some way also the West as a supporter of these so-called fascists.
“Another negative image of Germany”
tagesschau.de: Who are today’s Germans in the eyes of the Kremlin? Despite ever-increasing differences, the deep mutual connection has been invoked for years…
Master : Hard to say. There used to be a very positive image of Germany and a kind of reconciliation between Germans and Russians. In principle, what we are witnessing now is an attempt to reverse this: defining the Germans as opponents who also support the so-called fascists in Ukraine, and thus undermining a reconciliation process that has already begun and creating a negative image again of Germany. in Russia – which is partially successful.
In this vision of the world, the Germans are above all the henchmen of the Americans – there is this fixation on the USA as the main adversary and the Germans, who are not strong enough to oppose this American imperialism. We see that here, in principle, different discourses are superimposed and nothing really fits together. It’s amazing that people believe it.
tagesschau.de: Since the end of Soviet communism, Russia has been looking for a unifying and meaningful idea, and in the meantime has even announced competitions. Is linking wars of aggression with the past as a victorious nation an answer to this?
Master : This is perhaps what works best in Russian society. The question is: what can we be proud of in the last hundred years of Russian history? What can you build a positive narrative from? There is the victory over National Socialism, which was the great success: as a totalitarian state, which was the Soviet Union, it nevertheless succeeded in overcoming this danger for Europe and for Russia. That’s something most Russians would agree with – and there isn’t much else that Putin is proud of in recent Russian history.
Otherwise, he thinks in an imperial way, he thinks in a more tsarist way and finally wants to restore the old tsarist empire with its sphere of influence, the “Russian world” – and he relies on this at the same time.
“Elements of a Totalitarian State”
tagesschau.de: How do you assess the fact that Soviet imagery is reappearing more and more – like the statues of grandmothers installed in cities and holding the flag of the USSR or the St. George’s ribbon not only on May 9?
Master : It is a retrograde development: it becomes a closed society, pluralism decreases. Russia under Putin has become an almost totalitarian state in recent weeks. We have seen a trend towards authoritarianism since 2014, but I would say the way the media is treated, the opposition and any other opinion – these are elements of a totalitarian state. You’re also borrowing from the Soviet Union and trying to capture people on that level: these are the images they know and maybe also arouse nostalgia for the older generation – or so it believes. elite and what happens apparently also to some extent functions.
Many people in the polls agree, at least superficially, with this parallel world, this new reality that Russian propaganda has created. But that, too, is an element of a totalitarian state: that people say what they think the speaker wants to hear – in this case, endorsement of war and endorsement of Putin. It is also reminiscent of the Soviet Union and Stalinism – not in 1980s Russia, so to speak, but perhaps in 1930s Russia.
tagesschau.de: What does this mean for the long-term development of Russian society? Where is Putin directing them?
Master : On the construction of an enemy image of black and white: we are on the side of truth and justice, the others are on the side of darkness. For society, of course, this means that it is pushed back into a system of servitude, even in thought. That there will be a regression, not only economic, but also social. This fear will increasingly shape Russian society. And either people leave or they adapt.
This is of course a very depressing prospect for a society which has slowly opened up, which has slowly begun to come to terms with its own past and also to bring justice to victims and perpetrators. This is now buried again by this black and white view of history; the traumas experienced by Russian society are filled in instead of worked on. And that also makes it a vulnerable and manipulable society. This cult of violence, inherent in this society, is also increasingly cultivated. Of course, all this makes Russia a very problematic country in Europe – with a society that has few opportunities for development.
The conversation was led by Jasper Steinlein, tagesschau.de.