Category Archives: Politics & Religion

The Other War in Ukraine

 

In north eastern Italy an Orthodox Ukrainian Church leader in Budinay (SP) is leading a revolt by his flock of Ukrainian and Russian immigrants against its mother church in Moscow to join the Istanbul based Orthodox church instead whose leader has criticized the war. The leader of the Russian based church has taken a very different approach. There are roughly 100 million Russian Orthodox, the largest church within Orthodox Christianity. Their leader is “Patriarch Kirill who has framed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in holy terms.” Kirill has been publicly preaching against the decadence of the western world including its excess consumption, “gay pride parades.”  He said, in talking of the Ukraine war “we are talking about human salvation. Andrey Sonitsyn from Russia says “Krill is supporting the war in Ukraine.”

 

Father Cyril Hovorun said “the church is the main supplier of Putin’s ideology.”  He was ordained by Krill. He says the weapons for the war come from the Kremlin but the ideas come from the church. He believes that for Putin this was is  “a sacred operation…a mission from God to purge the world of the western ideas and western values.” He saw this ideology emerging when he worked in Russia. He protested against that but lost that battle.  During the Communist era, the church was required to push Soviet ideals and it is widely believed in Russia that Kirill was in fact a member of the KGB.

 

Hovorun believes that Krill was not enthusiastic about being part of the Soviet government. He calls it a “marriage of convenience not love.”  They have to tolerate each other because each uses the skills and resources of the other. Rather than fighting each other, they co-operate with each other, “each for their own end.”

 

The resources of each of those two major powers in Russia are vast. Sergei Chapnin  also worked for Kirill. According to him, Kirill is “by rough estimations a billionaire and is in fact one of the oligarchs.” He sees him as just like the other oligarchs with financial interests.  He also sees the church as “a state propaganda machine spreading Putin’s message as the defender of conservative values against a morally corrupt west. Chapnin even sees his expansionist ambitions as even exceeding those of Putin.”  He thinks Krill’s main goal is power and influence.

So power and influence is being purchased by a church leader joining forces in an unholy matrimony—sounds like Christian fascism to me as Timothy Snyder called it in his book The Road to Unfreedom.

All of this proves once again, that when politics and religion mate they can breed monsters.

Christian Hate

 

To me it is a fundamental position that Christians should not hate. They should love. Yet often that is not true. Often they hate.

In the United States far right groups traditionally attack racial minorities, but those are large groups. If you want support from non-whites you have to attack smaller groups such as trans-gender Americans. That is what the current far right is doing in America. Many of those are of course Christians. Take almost any hated group and away you can go. It does not take much for Americans to join an anti-racial parade. Vilify a small group and soon you will have wide-spread support for your cause.

If you attack a tiny group you can gather a large group  against them.  This is what Americans have been doing.  Then you can gather a lot of people to join our hateful attacks on very small minorities. Unfortunately, there are often many Americans who want to do exactly that.

As Jason Stanley an American philosopher and expert on fascism said,

“In the United States the audience includes white nationalists who very prominently want to return to a white state that prioritizes white Christianity. So they say they have black Americans who join them in their antipathy against LGBT citizens. It is always about gathering a larger coalition by ever greater vilification  of a small minority while winking to the large  part of the coalition that this is really helping. In the case of the United States that would be white Christianity.”

 

One should never underestimate the power of hate among small groups. Smart politicians know how to enlist such power and amplify it. Often such tactics are used to enhance the interests of white Christianity. Hence we get what Timothy Snyder referred to as Christian fascism which often attacks small sexual groups that are easy to dominate and quick to catch the attention of haters.

There was a recent piece in the New York Times by Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham that reported on The growing religious fervour in the American right. They call it a Jesus movement.”  The far-right movement is increasingly drawing in devout Christians.

As Stanley said,

“That’s because the global fascist movement presents itself as a defender of traditional values. And this is not new. This is textbook fascist politics. If you look at Joseph Goebbels’s speech, “Communism with the masks off,” in 1935, Goebbels says that Jewish Bolshevism is threatening religious faith in Christianity and that the only protection is National Socialism.”

 

Once more, this is Christian fascism. So what Putin is doing is reviving these themes. He is saying liberalism is a threat to tradition. Of course liberalism is not a threat. Liberalism says my Orthodox Jewish brothers may live as they want and other people who aren’t religious can also live however they want. Tolerance for other views is the bedrock of liberalism. However, Christian fascism says Judaism is a threat to its hegemony and must be resisted.

 

Of course, this is not about truth. This is about creating fear among people who chose to live traditionally that they are under attack and this approach in the US, Russia and many other places has been very successful.  As Stanley said,

 

This is about persuading people that other people’s choices threaten them and in particular, threaten their children, and then they say to them, ‘Look they are going after your children. You need us to protect you.”

 

This is a very effective strategy and has been used by authoritarians and fascists many times. It is so effective because it is so easy for us to fear our children are in danger. In its most extreme and absurd recent incarnation this has been the strategy of QAnon followers.  They get people to believe their children are in danger of pedophiles. That is guaranteed to arouse quick and hostile response especially in countries where such fears are rampant such as the United States and Russia. Sexual insecurity adds an existential edge to such fears. It is so effective people are quick to believe totally absurd claims.

 

In both countries conservative members of society are easily convinced that their children are in danger because traditional values have been undermined by liberals. As a result, traditionalist are quick to abandon democracy in favour of the protection of a strong autocratic leader.

 

This is what Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on April 6, 2022:  “Democrats are the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophilia politics.”  It doesn’t matter that it is absurd. It matters that it triggers fear.

Hari Sreenivasan who interviewed Jason Stanley on PBS quoted this: “In a recent poll 49% of Republicans said it was definitely or probably true that top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings.”

These are now going viral in conservative Christian circles in particular in the US and elsewhere. This is not a small group of people in the US.  Congresswomen are part of it. This is widespread hair-brained thinking.

As Stanley reminded us, QAnon is clearly descended from “blood libel” and the “protocols of the elders of Zion”,  the conspiracy theories that Jews were stealing Christian babies for their religious rituals. It is a conspiracy theory that there is a global cabal of elites and they are seeking to conquer institutions to get at your children.

To these conspiracy theorist if “their men” cannot stand up to this they are not real men because they are going after women and children and all real men must stand up to defend them.  As Stanley said, “It is that level of fear and paranoia that has seeped into…and permeated much of American politics.”

 American Christian fascism, the ugly American twin of Russian Christian fascism.

 

Schizofascism and The Russian Spring

 

The Russian intervention in the Donbas in 2014 was called “the Russian Spring.” it  was so wildly inappropriate one might have thought George Orwell invented the description.  It was like saying War is Peace. Timothy Snyder in his book The Road to Unfreedom was much more accurate when he said, “It was certainly springtime for Russian fascism.” Russia of course tried to paint it as a liberation as they did again in 2022.

 

The fascist Alexander Dugin was happy for he saw it as the “expansion of liberation (from American’s) ideology into Europe.” Another fascist Alexander Prokhanov called a Ukrainian politician of Jewish origin a “ghoul” and as “bastard.”  He also said chaos in Ukraine was the work of Israel’s Mossad.  As if all that was not enough lies, he also said on TV that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the fault of Ukrainian Jews.

Snyder described this as follows: “This was a new variety of fascism, which could be called schizofascism, actual fascists calling their opponents ‘fascists’, blaming the Holocaust on the Jews, treating the Second World War as an argument for more violence.” The Soviet foreign minister in 2022 echoed this same type of thinking when he said Jews were some of the worst offenders during the Holocaust.  The fascist theory was that Russia was always innocent and thus could never be fascist. Russia’s enemies were always fascists.  Once more, this reminds me of the American proto-fascists who cannot tolerate the idea that America might not be innocent. That is what their fear of critical race theory for example, is all about. That is why they don’t want anything to say anything critical of America. To them, America is by definiiton always right and just.

During the Second World War Soviet propaganda identified the enemy as “fascists” and ever since, it is believed there  that fascists are their enemy. That is one of the reasons Russians in both Ukraine wars in 2014 and again in 2022 were so quick to accept Russian propaganda. They had grown up with such ideas.  During World War II it was of course true that the fascists were their enemy, but in time their own supporters became fascists in all but name. Soviet ideology also held that fascism arose out of capitalism, once again, not entirely without truth. From this beginning, Soviet propaganda turned the permanent enemy from the west into “fascism” even though they became much more fascist than their enemies.  When truth dies, lies become truths.

 That is why the assault on truth is so important and why it is vital to defend truth.

In 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin characterized himself as the Redeemer from beyond history. As Snyder pointed out, Putin characterized the invasion of Ukraine which was led by the “Little Green Men” who wore green uniforms without insignia, as “a spiritual defense against permanent western attack.” Putin sees himself as saving Christianity from Western perversion.  The west wanted to separate what was essentially one nation. This was the same line Putin used again 8 years later, in 2022, when he tried to finish the job he left unfinished in 2014. Malofeev described the Russian invasion as a war against eternal evil: “for those who do battle there, the war looks like a war waged against hordes fighting under the banner of the anti-Christ with Satanic slogans.” What could be more eternal than the campaign against Sodom?” That’s why Snyder refers to Russian fascism as Russian Christian fascism. They claimed to be Christian, but are actually fascists.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 they telephoned confederates in the region to help them plan a coups d’état.  They later used the same methods as a template around Ukraine. As Snyder said,

“A crowd would storm the regional state administration building,” and then some new assembly would coerced to declare independence and ask Russia for help. In Kharkiv, a crowd of locals and Russian citizens (brought by bus from Russia) did indeed break into the regional state administration building, after first storming the opera house by mistake. These people beat and humiliated Ukrainian citizens who were seeking to protect the building. The Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan refused to kneel and had his skull broken.”

 

Russian propaganda was so effective that from the 1970s on Russians by and large believed that the word “fascist” meant anti-Russian. As a result they don’t believe it is wrong to think that their enemies are all fascists.

In 2014 the Russian propaganda machine claimed that  the Americans had installed a “Nazi junta” in Ukraine, Just as 8 years later they said they had not invaded Ukraine they performed a special military operation to protect it from fascists.  They claimed that by invading Ukraine they were defeating an American occupation. To do that it was necessary for them to drive out the American ruling elite, as well as European bureaucracy and Ukrainian.  Just add perverts to that list and you have a complete list of “fascist” enemies.

 

Izborsk Club: Russia’s Republican Party

 

The Izborsk Club was the intellectual hub of the new Russian nationalism. Its founder was fascist novelist Alexander Prokhanov, Vladimir Putin’s friend. The club was endorsed by Putin. Many of Russia’s fascist ideas grew out of that club. It was created in September 2012. Taking their lead from Ivan Ilyin, the club manifesto contained the claim that “actuality was a Western weapon against Russia.”  Or to put it another way: Truth is anti-Russian. 2 years later the little green men invaded Ukraine.

 The club believed that there was a deadly threat at the centre of Russia and this, of course, came from liberal values. This was part of the war of liberal values against traditional values and the fascists were on the side of tradition, just like their American conservative counterparts.  As Timothy Snyder explained in his book The Road to Unfreedom, they saw liberal values as

“the lethal ideological and transformational ‘machine’ that destroyed all the bases and values of the “White” Romanov empire and then destroyed all the foundations  of the “Red” Soviet empire. The result was chaos. The liberal machine was supported by social scientists, anthropologists, historians, economists, specialists in “chaos theory,” and importantly, “masters of information wars.”

 

In other words, they were as anti-intellectual as those conservatives in America so well described by Richard Hofstadter in his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. With both American and Russian conservatives, anti-intellectualism paves the road to unfreedom. Or as Goya said, the sleep of reason brings forth monsters. The consequence of course, was the war on truth on both continents and both led by conservatives. As Timothy Snyder said,

“For the Eurasianists of the Izborsk Club, facts were the enemy, Ukraine was the enemy, and facts about Ukraine were the supreme enemy. An intellectual task of Izborsk Club was to produce narratives that transported any such facts toward oblivion. Indeed, the mission of the Izborsk Club was to serve as a barrier to factuality.”

 

Does that not sound exactly like the American Republican Party? Over and over again I am amazed at how Russian Christian Fascism is the twin of American Christian Fascism. In Russia it led to Ukraine. Where it will lead in the United States we can only speculate.

Vladimir Putin, Alexander Dugin, & Alexander Prokhanov: Political Fiction

 

Alexander Prokhanov was Putin’s companion in a radio program in 2011 where Putin had cited Ivan Ilyin. Prokhanov and also Alexander Dugin enlisted the idea of Eurasia as an alternative to the despised liberal west.  Both used this idea to try to bring back Soviet fascism. Like Hitler, Prokhanov blamed international Jewry (the typical fascist scapegoat) for inventing ideas of an enslaved homeland. As Timothy Snyder said, “Like Dugin, Prokhanov openly embraced political fiction, seeking to create images that would exude meaning before people had a chance to think for themselves.” People who think for themselves are the greatest enemy of fascism.

 

Like Putin and Ilyin, Prokhanov found an enemy in sexual perversion.  All them of them agreed that perverts were the enemy of Christian fascists although Putin of course never called himself a fascist. He considered himself an enemy of fascism, but he was a fascist. They all argued in favour of traditional values that were opposed to liberal perversion.  A good example of this was Prokhanov’s statement after a meeting with Barack Obama, for the Russians “it was if they had all been given a black teat, and they all suck at it with lust and mammalian smacking…In the end I was humiliated by this.” Blacks of course are the other standard enemy of fascists.

 

As Timothy  Snyder said,

“Prokhanov’s next move was to claim that factuality was hypocrisy: “Europe is vermin that has learned to call heinous and disgusting things beautiful.” Whatever Europeans might seem to be doing or saying, “you don’t see their faces under the mask.” In any event, Europe was dying: “The white race is perishing: gay marriages, pederasts, rule the cities, women can’t find men.”  And Europe was killing Russia: “didn’t get infected with AIDS, they deliberately infected us.”

Notice that  Russian white supremacists, like their American counterparts, try to stoke fears that the white race is perishing and needs to be saved. Just like the young American domestic terrorists in Buffalo last week who walked in to a supermarket with a gun to kill blacks and prevent blacks from replacing whites.  Fascism is similar the world over.

It seems strange that so often for fascists, a fundamental problem for them were the Jews and blacks Jews rattle the fascist cage and paid a heavy price for that in so many fascist states.

 

Timothy Snyder described the situation with Prokhanov this way:

“The fundamental problem, said Prokhanov in this interview (with the Izborsk) was the Jews.  “Antisemitism,” he said, is not a result of the fact that Jews have crooked noses or cannot correctly pronounce the letter ‘r.’ It is a result of the fact that Jews took over the world, and are using their power for evil.”  In a move that was typical of Russian fascists, Prokhanov deployed the symbolism of the Holocaust to describe world Jewry as a collective perpetrator and everyone else as the victims: “Jews, united humanity in order to throw humanity into the furnace of the liberal order, which is now a catastrophe.” The only defense against the international Jewish conspiracy was a Russian redeemer. Eurasianism was Russia’s messianic mission to redeem mankind. It “has to encompass the entire world.”

 

Prokhanov thought this would happen when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus merge. That is exactly Putin’s goal.  That is what he meant by Eurasia and Prokhanov acknowledged that Putin had declared this.

And of course, Putin saw himself as the Russian redeemer against the perversions of the west. And like so many redeemers, he brought ruin,  not paradise. Just like the young killer in Buffalo. And so many others.

 

Night Wolves and Little Green Men

 

Sometimes propaganda gets down right weird. This was one of those times.

During the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 an incredible thing happened. The country was invaded by “little green men.” At least so it appeared.

Beginning on February 24, 2014 approximately  10,000 Russian special forces, in green uniforms without any insignia, moved northward from their bases in the southern Crimea through the Crimean peninsula. They had the right to be in Crimea pursuant to a treaty that allowed them to have military bases, but the moment they left those bases their actions were illegal, since the treaties did not permit that.

Unfortunately, Kyiv military authorities were caught by surprise and in order to avoid further violence ordered Ukrainian soldiers not to resist and as a result by February 26 the “little green men,” as they came to be called, and who were actually Russian soldiers in disguise, had seized the regional parliament in Simferopol where they raised the Russian flag. On February 28 the Russian parliament approved the annexation of Ukrainian territory into Russia. On that day, for the first time President Obama made his first public statement about what was happening in Ukraine.

An amazing public spectacle was provided by a Russian biker gang (I kid you not—little  green men and a Russian biker gang). I told you sometimes things get weird in the world of Russian propaganda. The gang was called the Night Wolves. They were actually “a paramilitary and propaganda arm of the Putin regime,” according to Timothy Snyder in his book The Road to Unfreedom. The bikers had organized rallies in Crimea for years sometimes accompanied by President Putin. Earlier one of the Night Wolves had described their ideology this way:

“You have to learn to see the holy war underneath the everyday. Democracy is a fallen state. To split ‘left’ and ‘right’ is to divide.  In the kingdom of God there is only above and below. All is one. Which is why the Russian soul is holy. It can unite everything. Like in an icon, Stalin and God.”

 

As Timothy Snyder said,

“Here was Ilyin’s philosophy, Surkov’s geopolitics, and Putin’s civilization expressed in a few words.

            The Night Wolves found concise ways to translate sexual anxiety into geopolitics and back again. As a male-only club devoted to black leather, the Night Wolves naturally had a strong position on homosexuality, which they defined as an attack by Europe and the United States. A year later, celebrating the Russian invasion, the supreme leader Alexander Zaldostanov remembered their proud parade around Crimea in this way: “For the first time we showed resistance to the global Satanism, the growing savagery of Western Europe, the rush to consumerism that denies all spirituality, the destruction of traditional values, all this homosexual talk, the American democracy.” According to Zaldostanov, the slogan of the Russian war against Ukraine should be “death to faggots.” The association of democracy with gay Satan was a way to make law and reform foreign and unthinkable.”

 

This is what Timothy Snyder meant by “Christian fascism.”  The Christianity was surprisingly similar actually to American evangelicalism and that is no accident.

 Just as they did later in their second invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russian leaders claimed they were not invading Ukraine, because Russia and Ukraine were one. You can’t invade your own country. Thus Russia ignored 1,000 years of history and the referendum in Ukraine following the collapse of Soviet Russia in 1991 where they voted to be independent. Of course, as Snyder said, “this is the language of empire.” Not the language of truth. Putin explained that Ukraine’s problems were a consequence of having democratic elections which led to changes in power. He called democracy, “an alien American implant.

Russian international lawyers, who for years had been arguing obsessively that territorial boundaries and state sovereignty had to be respected, they changed their views, as lawyers sometimes do, and began to spread further confusion when they said because the Ukrainian state had withered away, invasion and annexation were justified. Of course, that chaos was caused by the Russian invasion, but somehow that was not relevant to these lawyers.

As Russian propagandists have done so often, (Including the invasion of 2022) they limited Ukrainian access to all independent media so that their own media could spread the false “truth” that Ukrainians had a choice between Russia and Nazism. As I write they are doing the same thing in Russia. The Russians thus arranged for a “referendum” where Ukrainians had 2 “choices” both of which affirmed the Russian annexation of Crimea by Russia. The first option was to vote for the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The second option was to vote for the restoration of the “autonomy” of Crimean authorities who had been installed by Russia as puppets and who requested annexation by Russia. The turnout for the vote was 30% and about half voted for each option. Then Putin announced that he would accept the will of the Ukrainian people as expressed in that vote.

Thus the boundaries of the Russian federation were extended because of the “will” of the Ukrainian people. In the world of propaganda that makes sense.

 

 

The Orthodox Oligarch

 

Igor Gurkin, a colonel in the Russian military intelligence GRU, was employed by Konstantin Malofeev known as the Orthodox Oligarch. He was an important person in Russia’s movement to quash Ukrainian resistance. According to Timothy Snyder, he was “an anti-sodomy activist and an outspoken Russian imperialist.” He believed, like Putin that Ukraine is part of Russia and he could not consider Ukrainians as other than Russians. He thought

 

“Ukraine had to be saved by Russia from Europe because otherwise Ukrainian citizens “would have to spread sodomy as a norm in traditional Ukrainian society. This was not true in any factual sense. Malofeev was expressing the orientation of Russian policy: to present Europe as a civilizational enemy, homosexuality as the war, and Ukraine as the battleground.”

 

Before the invasion of Ukraine in 2024, and after spending 2 weeks in Ukraine, Girkin recommended that Russia invade and then dismember Ukraine. A memorandum based on Girkin’s work brought forward the same ideas that Russia later used in 2022. This memorandum said that 3 propaganda strategies should be used to cover their intervention in Ukraine:

 

  1. Demand that Ukraine bow to the wishes of a supposedly oppressed Russian minority;
  2. Define opponents of the Russian invasion as fascists;
  3. Characterize the invasion as a civil war stoked by the West

 

As Snyder pointed out, The Russian propagandists “proposed that Russian television channels justify the intervention in Ukraine by the deliberate, premeditated fiction that ‘a fascist coup is coming; this would be a major line of Russian propaganda once war began.”

 

When I re-read Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine again, I could hardly believe that he had written that book in 2018. Russia used exactly the same lies over again! And even more amazingly, they worked again! Many in Russia were convinced and a few American conservatives, but few others.

 

Putin’s propaganda genius, Vladislav Surkov arrived in the Ukrainian province of Crimea and then flew to Kyiv to “formalize the idea that Russian civilization was an innocent body defending itself from Western perversion.”

Remarkably, Russia’s foreign Minister Lavrov repeated the ancient and similar claim of the fascist philosopher Ilyin that “society is ‘a living organism’ that had to be protected from Europe’s hedonistic ‘refusal of traditional values.’

 

Some of us may think such propaganda is absurd (which it is) but we should not forget that it is quite similar to Republican propaganda in the US.

 

As Snyder said, summing up what happened,

 

“Even as Russian troops were mobilizing to invade Ukraine and overturn its government, Lavrov presented Russia as the victim. The true aggressors according to Lavrov, were the international gay lobbyists who “propagated with missionary insistence both inside their countries and relations with neighbors.”

Once more what is most striking is how effective the propaganda was, proof, that when the ground is fertilized with enough lies, any lie can bloom.

 1 day after Surkov left Kyiv for Russia, the protesters on the Maidan were met with stunning violence. And many in the west were confused enough by the propaganda that they did not know what to believe. That is the modus operandi for Russian propaganda and is surprisingly effective.

Fake Sex Kills Truth in Ukraine

 

To deflect people from the truth, the Russians in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014 used the same tactics they had done in their own country in 2011. They lied. Just as they did in Russia they convinced the people that the  Ukrainian protesters were homosexuals. The Christians are the good guys, even though they are fascists,  and their opponents are all perverts. This is part of what Timothy Snyder referred to as Christian fascism in his book The Road to Unfreedom. He described what happened in Ukraine this way:

“After two years of anti-gay propaganda in the Russian Federation, the ideologues and entertainers were sure of themselves. Their starting point was that the European Union was homosexual, and so  the Ukrainian movement towards Europe must be as well…[they] claimed the EU “groans under the weight of the LGBT lobby’s domination.”

It didn’t matter that none of this was true.  When the fascists are Christians or not,  truth does not matter. What matters is that they are fascists. Starting in November of 2013 and continuing after that the Russian media that covered the Maidan protesters in Ukraine were constantly described as engaging in gay sex. As if that was all they did. As Snyder said,

“the Russian media sought to fascinate its readers by conflating Ukrainian politics with handsome men and gay sex. A social media page of Vitali Klitschko, a heavyweight boxer who led a Ukrainian political party, was hacked and gay material introduced. Then this was presented as a news story for millions of Russians on a major television station, NTV. Before Russians could apprehend that pro-European protests were underway in a neighbouring country, they were invited to contemplate taboo sex.

Right after students began their protests on the Maidan, the Russian television channel NTV warned of “homodictatorship” in Ukraine.”

Again, truth was irrelevant. Dmitry Kiselev was a leading figure in Russian television and he quickly latched on to the sex stories. He was appointed a director of a new media conglomerate in Russia that wanted to dissolve the Russian media pursuit of news in favour of what he called “useful fiction.” To fascists, useful fiction is always more effective than truth at getting out the message. Kiselev told his new staff that “objectivity is a myth.” It certainly is when you want to obfuscate the truth. As Hitler and Donald Trump both learned, if you want to dissolve the truth, all you have to do is spread enough lies that no one knows where the truth lies and then you can get the people to believe anything. When Ukrainian riot police beat Ukrainian student protesters, his media company said it was all “sexual geopolitics” and they were all “warriors of sexual perversion.”

Russian propaganda tried to convince Russians that they were innocents surrounded by perversions from Europe.  They were quite successful in persuading the people. Timothy Snyder described the results this way:

“One eternal verity of Russian civilization turned out to be sexual anxiety. If Russia were indeed a virginal organism threatened by the world’s uncomprehending malice, as Ilyin had suggested, then Russian violence was righteous defense against penetration.”

 

Of course, Russia was hardly innocent. When the leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, reneged on his promise to have Ukraine join Europe he claimed that both Europe and Russia wanted to pay him off. Europe refused, and Putin was happy to oblige. According to Snyder, “On December 17, 2013 Putin offered Yanukovych a package of $15 billion in bond purchases and reduced prices for natural gas.”

Putin made it a condition of paying that Yanukovych cleared the protesters from the streets of Kyiv. He tried to do that, but could not do it without help from Russian experts in suppression of protests. But the Russians miscalculated the will power of Ukrainian protesters, just as later they miscalculated the ferocity of Ukrainian defense to the Russian invasion of 2022. Yanukovych was ousted in 2010. After he refused to sign the agreement to join the European Union, which he had said he wanted to do. Many suspected that Putin had bought him off or pressured him not to permit Ukraine to join the Union.

The politics of Ukraine and Russia, like its sex, are never simple or transparent.

 

Putin: Ivan Ilyin’s Disciple

 

After he died Ivan Ilyin’s ideas were largely ignored for about 50 years. Then they were revived with vigour, by “post-Soviet billionaires.” The oligarchs in other words, found his ideas congenial. They found these ideas enormously convenient to justify the incredible inequality in Russia. As Timothy Snyder said,

“Putin and his friends and allies accumulated vast wealth beyond the law, and then remade the state to preserve their own gains. Having achieved this, Russian leaders had to define politics as being rather than doing. An ideology such as Ilyin’s purports to explain why certain men have wealth and power in terms other than greed and ambition. What robber would not prefer to be called a redeemer?”

Thus, the ideas of Ilyin became the ideology of Putin and his cronies. The ideology of Christian fascism replaced Marxist ideology. They are no more communist than the Chinese leaders. Of course, all of this was amazingly similar to the practice of Soviet power before the collapse of communism. All Soviet citizens had been educated in that system so this felt familiar and comfortable to them compared to the anarchic kleptocracy that followed a brief near neo-liberalism after the fall of communism. It came as a relief to Russians, as fascism came as a relief to Germans and Italians in the 1930s.

This brings me back to the politics of eternity.  As Snyder said,

“The politics of eternity cannot make Putin or any other man immortal. But it can make other ideas unthinkable.  And that is what eternity means: the same thing over and over again, a tedium exciting to believers because of the illusion that it is particularly theirs. Of course, this sense of “us and them,” or as fascists prefer, “friends and enemies,” is the least specific human experience of them all; to live within it is to sacrifice individuality.”

 

Once again, it is amazing how Trump fits in once more. He hinted he wanted to be president for life, like some of his dictator pals. He wanted to be added to Mount Rushmore. And he was serious. And of course, Trump saw the world as one of friends and enemies. Everyone who did not do and think like him was an enemy. Those who paid obeisance were friends, so long as they did not stop. Of course, the incredible inequality in Russia is mirrored in the United States.

 

Russian Christian Fascism

 

Timothy Snyder described Ivan Ilyin’s nationalism this way after the revolution of 1917:

“Ilyin thus portrayed Russian lawlessness as patriotic virtue. “The fact of the matter, “ he wrote, “is that fascism is redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.

 

Again, this is music to Putin’s ears.

 

Snyder sees religion as playing an important role in Russia fascism just as it does in American fascism:

 

“Ilyin’s use of the Russian word for redemptive, spasitelnii, which means released a profound religious meaning into politics. Like other fascists, such as Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf he turned Christian ideas of sacrifice and redemption towards new purposes.  Hitler claimed that he would redeem the world for a distant God by ridding it of Jews.  “And so I believe that I am acting as the almighty creator would want, “ wrote Hitler. “Insofar as I restrain the Jew, I am dong the work of the Lord. “  The Russian spasitelnii would usually be applied by an Orthodox Christian, to the deliverance of believers by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.  What Ilyin meant was that Russia needed a redeemer who would make the “chivalrous sacrifice” of shedding the blood of others to take power. A fascist coup was “an act of Salvation,” the first step towards the return of totality to the universe…To make war against the enemies of God was to express innocence. Making war (not love) was the proper release of passion because it did not endanger but protected the virginity of the national body…True “passion” was fascist violence, the rising sword that was also a kneeling prayer.”

 

All this follows from the core belief that that the  nation is pure, innocent and holy. Hence, in effect, Ivan Ilyin argued for Christian fascism. His fanaticism was theological. To love God meant to fight his enemies without restraint or limit.  Anything else was evil. The leader of that fight would be the redeemer. One can see how Vladimir Putin would find a fantastic role for himself. He would be the redeemer of Russia. The redeemer must be strong and uncorrupted. He must be a man like Hitler, Bolsonaro, or Donald Trump.

 

For these reasons Snyder said, “Fascism, however, is about a sacred and eternal connection between the redeemer and this people.” This was an idea later implicitly endorsed by Trump and Putin. As Snyder said, “A fascist presents institutions as the corrupt barriers between leader and folk that must be circumvented or destroyed.

 

Snyder described the fascist leader in a way that would include Hitler, Putin, and Trump:

 

“The redeemer should be regarded as “leader” (gosudar) “head of state,” “democratic dictator,” and “national dictator,” an assemblage of titles that recall the fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s. The redeemer would be responsible for all executive, legislative, and judiciary functions, and command the armed forces.”

 

I would submit that this is perfect description of what Hitler, Putin, and Trump have each tried to achieve, with varying degrees of “success.” According to Snyder Ilyin would make Russia a “zero party” state. This again was taken up by Trump in 2020 when the entire Republican Party platform was Trump. No policies were needed. Whatever Trump wanted was the platform. The Republican Party all but disappeared in the 2020 presidential campaign. If I thought Trump ever read, I would think he must have read Ilyin or at least got a précis from Putin. Ilyin thought Russians must overcome democracy “by political habits that excite and sustain Russians’ collective love for their redeemer.” The resemblance to Trump and Putin is remarkable. As Snyder said, “Voting should unite the nation in a gesture of subjugation.”

Ilyin had the same attitude to law as Putin and Trump:

“By “law” he meant the relationship between the caprice of the redeemer and obedience of everyone else. Again a fascist idea proved to be convenient for an emerging oligarchy. The loving duty of the Russian masses was to translate the redeemer’s every whim into a sense of legal obligation on their part. The obligation, of course, was not reciprocal. Russians had a “special arrangement of the soul” that allowed them to suppress their own reason and accept “the law in our hearts.” By this Ilyin understood their to suppress their own reason in favor of national submission.”

 

Isn’t this exactly the doctrine enunciated by Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz at Trump’s impeachment trial and later enthusiastically endorsed by Trump and his minion Rudy Giuliani. Whatever Trump did was lawful. What he wanted was lawful. And amazingly, only 1 Republican voted to impeach Trump and later, more than 73 million Americans voted for Trump in the presidential election that followed. More than73 million Americans voted for fascism!

 

In Russia this was all given a religious gloss. Here is how Snyder described it:

“The Russian nation, summoned to instant war against spiritual threats, was a creature  rendered divine by its submission to an arbitrary leader who emerged from fiction. The redeemer would take upon himself the burden of dissolving all facts and passions, thereby rendering senseless any aspiration of any individual Russian to see or feel or change the world. Each Russian would experience this immobility as freedom. Unified by their redeemer, their sins washed away in the blood of others, Russians would welcome God back to his creation. Christian fascist totalitarianism is an invitation to God to return to the world and help Russia bring an end to history everywhere.”

The sleep of reason leads to  treating the nation  and its leader as holy.