"When Vladimir Putin unleashed an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24,
2022, the Ukrainian media, public and policymakers almost unanimously began
calling the Russian president and the state he leads “rashyst.” The term is a
hybrid of a derogatory moniker for Russia – “rasha” – and “fascist.”
Ukrainians did so for two reasons. First, they were countering Putin’s absurd
insistence that the Ukrainian authorities – including Ukraine’s Jewish
president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy – were Nazis and that Ukraine needed to be
“de-Nazified.” Since Ukraine’s tiny number of right-wing extremists are about
as influential as the Proud Boys in the United States, what Putin really had in
mind was Ukrainians with a distinct Ukrainian identity. De-Nazification thus
Second, Ukrainians were drawing attention to those features of Putin’s Russia
that indicated that it was fascist and thus in need of “de-Nazification.”
Putin’s Russia was aggressive, anti-democratic and enamored of Putin himself.
Unsurprisingly, his Russia’s resemblance to the regimes built by Mussolini and
Hitler had not gone unnoticed by Russian and Western analysts in the last
decade or so.
Few policymakers, scholars and journalists listened, however, as the term
fascism struck many as too vague, too political or too loaded to serve as an
accurate description of any repressive regime. Having written about Putin’s
Russia as quasi- or proto-fascist already in the mid-2000s, I know from
personal experience that few took my claims seriously, often arguing
tautologically that Putin had constructed a “Putinist” system.
But as a political scientist who studies Ukraine, Russia and the USSR
empirically, theoretically and conceptually, I believe Putin’s brutal invasion
of Ukraine suggests that a reconsideration of the term’s applicability to
Russia is definitely in order."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics