Interesting that in a 37-minute speech to justify Russia’s brazen annexation of four regions of Ukraine, Putin didn’t mention “Nazis” or “de-Nazification” once, these silly tropes that some gullible western lefties believed. Instead, it was all about the glories of 1000 years Imperial Russia, while appealing to the most reactionary segments of western society with a lot of mystical, religious, traditionalist nonsense like the following:
“They [ie, the western globalists] have already moved on to the radical denial of moral, religious, and family values. Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. Now I would like to return to what I said and want to address also all citizens of the country – not just the colleagues that are in the hall – but all citizens of Russia: do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, “parent number one, parent number two and parent number three” (they have completely lost it!) instead of mother and father? Do we want our schools to impose on our children, from their earliest days in school, perversions that lead to degradation and extinction? Do we want to drum into their heads the ideas that certain other genders exist along with women and men and to offer them gender reassignment surgery? Is that what we want for our country and our children? This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own. … This complete renunciation of what it means to be human, the overthrow of faith and traditional values, and the suppression of freedom are coming to resemble a “religion in reverse” – pure Satanism. Exposing false messiahs, Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” These poisonous fruits are already obvious to people, and not only in our country but also in all countries, including many people in the West itself.”
Indeed, the West is guilty of ‘Satanism’ and all these crimes against traditional religion and morality, and therefore … Russia should annex 15 percent of Ukraine! Because these regions are allegedly populated by Russians (well, most of the population are not ethnic Russians, but the majority of the population have been violently expelled or massacred) and it is the great historic mission of the glorious Russian Nation to lead the Crusade against this moral degeneracy of western society. If Putin thus sounds like any typical far-right US Christian fundamentalist or Trumpist or 21st century European fascist it is no accident, nor is it anything new for anyone watching: Putin has positioned his regime as head of the global far-right for many years now. Not just all this ‘moral’ bullshit, but also on the question of race, nation and ‘civilisation’; for many years he has espoused a version of ‘Great Replacement’ theory, warning the white race and European and Christian culture that it was in danger of disappearing due to immigration of lots of non-Europeans into the European heartland. No wonder he dropped the crap about fighting “Nazis” in Ukraine; while it might have fooled some lefties, his main audience were and are the western far-right, who probably found it a little confusing, especially all those Nazis everywhere in the world who have been waving the Putin flag for years.
If Putin’s hard authoritarian but ‘parliamentary’ state is still far from fascist in its rule inside Russia (as opposed to its murderous colonial rule in Donbas), Putinism is, nevertheless, fascist ideologically. That’s why it’s no surprise that Putin here quotes a genuine historical Russian fascist, Ivan Ilyin, who Putin calls a “true patriot,” with a lot of mysticism about “the spiritual strength of the Russian people.” That’s why today’s leading Russian fascist high priest, Alexander Dugin, praised Putin’s speech to the sky, proclaiming “This is a manifesto of Tradition. I can’t imagine how profound the consequences are. It was an eschatological, religious speech”
This goes together well with the glorification of The Russian Nation and Empire, the centrepiece of his speech he continually returned to. “The battlefield to which destiny and history have called us is a battlefield for our people, for the great historical Russia. (Applause.) For the great historical Russia, for future generations, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We must protect them against enslavement and monstrous experiments that are designed to cripple their minds and souls.”
While we sometimes hear that Putin wants to restore the USSR, he made it abundantly clear he wanted nothing of the sort. After denouncing the ‘elites’ who dissolved it, he explained “But it doesn’t matter now. … Actually, Russia no longer needs it today; this isn’t our ambition. But there is nothing stronger than the determination of millions of people who, by their culture, religion, traditions, and language, consider themselves part of Russia, whose ancestors lived in a single country for centuries.” Of course, Putin liked the size and shape of the USSR, because it was a very large country where countless other nations and ethnicities were dominated by The Russian Nation; but that had already existed for centuries before the USSR as the Tsarist Russian Empire, Putin’s ideal, his speech full of glorification of Tsars like Catherine the Great, talk of ‘Novorossiya’, the Tsarist Empire’s name for its colonisation of Ukrainian lands, and so on. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, still contained the fiction of an equal union of republics, of peoples, in its name, and that is what Putin hates, has been railing against for years, the original sin of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in recognising the right of self-determination of Ukraine and the other subject peoples of the old Russian Empire, as Putin here denounces “the [Bolshevik] government quietly demarcated the borders of Soviet republics, acting behind the scenes after the 1917 revolution.”
It’s true that this hard right and medievalist ideological rant was peppered with nods to the western left and the former colonial world with his denunciations of western imperialism. Putin quite rightly denounces the West for “the worldwide slave trade, the genocide of Indian tribes in America, the plunder of India and Africa, the wars of England and France against China,” for the “exterminat[ion of] entire ethnic groups for the sake of grabbing land and resources” and so on. Yet he somehow manages to omit the fact that Tsarist Russia was in every sense a key participant in these centuries of colonial expansion, plunder and extermination; the fact that Russian colonialism expanded by land, subjugating nations and ethnicities from the Black Sea to the Caucasus, central Asia and Siberia, rather than by sea, is irrelevant. Indeed, in the 19th century Marx and Engels considered the Russian Empire to be at the very centre of reaction in Europe. Putin does complete somersaults with reality by imagining a centuries-old ‘Russophobia’ by some imaginary collective ‘West’ (for most of these centuries Britain and France were mainly at war with each other, and with other Western states, at least one of which was always aligned with Tsarist Russia) that allegedly wanted to make Russia one of its colonies, but Russia resisted this “by creating a strong centralised state,” ie that of the Tsars.
Indeed it is only due to this Russian colonialism, carried out by this “strong centralised state,” that Ukraine (’Novorossya’) came to be under Russian control (aided in the 20th century by Stalin’s Holodomor in the 1930s, when 4 million Ukrainians were starved to death while its borders were sealed to prevent the starving escaping); and it was only due to Russian colonisation of Crimea and dispossession of its Indigenous Tatar population, finalised once again by Stalin’s genocidal expulsion of the entire Tatar population in the 1940s, that Putin was even able to conduct the previous fake “referendum” under military occupation there in 2014.
Somehow, Putin thinks a good way to fight centuries of imperialism is to be ultra-imperialist, to invade a country and conquer great chunks of it; from the start, this war had nothing to do with NATO, with “Nazis” or any other such nonsense, but has been entirely a war of pure and simple imperialist conquest, of the Black Sea coastline with its vast natural resources and strategic position.
These new “referendums” again take place under brutal military occupation, where those who “vote” essentially have guns to their heads; when the majority of the population of Donbas have fled or been driven out and hence get no “vote” (indeed half the population was already in exile before February, having fled during Russia’s occupation of parts of Donbas in 2014-22); after the Russian military have savagely bombed the Donbas populations for months; where there was not a single instance of Donbas crowds welcoming the Russian invaders as “liberators”; where no polls over the last 8 years have ever shown significant support for joining Russia; where ethnic Russians were just over a third of the population in two of the regions, and considerably less in the other two; and and even then, there is no way of knowing what the actual votes were, even given these entirely manipulated and violent conditions – they are almost certainly pure concoctions, as are all “votes” in “referendums” and “elections” throughout the world under dictatorship, terror and occupation.
Yet some people who should know better have been giving this murderous farce and blatant land theft the benefit of the doubt. We are expected to believe that those that Russia has been bombing into oblivion for months just voted to join their torturer. No doubt, as per Putin, out of fear of the West’s Satanism and gender-bending practices.