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How Russia Became a Fascist State

Russia's decline into fascism

Russia’s genocide against Ukraine is not only the work of an insane dictator. A February 2022 Levada poll found that 58% of Russians support the war. Many are more concerned by the lack of availability of Western brands or the demonetization of their Instagram and Tik-Tok accounts than by their military’s atrocities against Ukrainian civilians.  While some have resisted the war, their numbers are relatively few for a nation of 144 million.  How did it happen that so few resist lies and injustice in such a large country?

Whereas Putin has claimed to be "anti-fascist," it has been widely recognized that Putin's Russia is a fascist state.[1] Its crude propaganda invokes Soviet gaslighting and projection in falsely accusing others of doing what they are doing.  By some metrics, Putin's Russia in 2023 is at least as fascist as Germany in 1938, and arguably more.

Hitler lost the German presidential election in 1932 with 36.8% of votes.  In 1933, 43.8% of Germans voted for the Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) party, which did not gain a majority in the Reichstag (parliament). Hitler became president after Hindenberg’s death in 1934. A majority of Germans never voted for Hitler or the Nazis. No national election was held again until after Hitler’s defeat.

In contrast, 77.53% of Russian voters supported Putin in 2018, 64.35% in 2012, 71.91% in 2004, and 53.44% in 2000. Most opposition votes went to similarly extreme fascist or communist candidates. When Putin could not stand for election in 2008, his fascist “United Russia” party won 71.25% of votes.  Putin’s popular support in Russia has grown, notwithstanding his openly fascist ideology.

Both Hitler and Putin engaged in crude propaganda to deny and disguise atrocities. Yet Russian state media has openly called for genocide against Ukrainians.  Russia has publicly honored perpetrators of war crimes against Ukrainians and has declared amnesty for those who commit crimes in its interest against the Ukrainian people.

In late May 2022, a Levada opinion poll found that 77% of Russians expressed support for the war against Ukraine,[2] compared to less than a quarter before the war.  A September 2022 update showed little change.[3] After a year of war, Russian support continued to harden.[4]  Notwithstanding irrefutable evidence of Russian atrocities and absurd lies from Russian leaders and state media that even a child can discern, more Russians than ever support the war.

Russian moralist and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed that whereas Germany underwent extensive “denazification” after the World War II, Russia was never cleansed of its Stalinist past.  The killers of tens of millions lived openly without reproach. Solzhenitsyn wrote in 1970:

  • 'From the most ancient times justice has been a two-part concept: virtue triumphs, and vice is punished.  We have been fortunate enough to live to a time when virtue, though it does not triumph, is nonetheless not always tormented by attack dogs. Beaten down, sickly, virtue has now been allowed to enter in all its tatters and sit in the corner, as long as it doesn't raise its voice. However, no one dares say a word about vice…Yes, so-and-so many millions did get mowed down — but no one was to blame for it. 

  • We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future.

  • When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is for this reason, and not because of the “weakness of indoctrinational work,” that they are growing up “indifferent.” Young people are acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth, that they always bring prosperity.'[3]

Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine reflects its own moral degeneration. The values of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn and “true Russians” have vanished from its contemporary society. Its moral values are represented by Patriarch Kirill, a lifetime KGB agent and Prigozhin and Kadyrov, mafia bosses. Truth is punished and the lie reigns supreme. Language exists only to deceive and manipulate. As Solzhenitsyn warned, such a country has no future.


[1] Snyder, Timothy. "We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist." New York Times, May 19, 2022.

[2] Dickinson, Peter. "More than three-quarters of Russians still support Putin’s Ukraine War." Atlantic Council, June 6, 2022.

[3] "Conflict with Ukraine: September 2022." Levada Center, October 7, 2022.

[4] "Russian Support for Putin’s War in Ukraine Is Hardening." Bloomberg News, February 22, 2023.

[5] Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. The Gulag Archipelago. London: Harvill Press (2002), Chapter 4.

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