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Who Are You Calling Fascist?

Putin’s Russia is in no position to criticize Ukraine.

Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 29 • By CATHY YOUNG
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All this would make Dugin merely an odious crank if, by the mid-2000s, he had not emerged as a leading “intellectual” in Russia’s Putin-era political establishment, with ties to top politicians and members of the official media. Dropping the word “fascist,” he began to style himself a “traditionalist”; he also procured a Ph.D. and became the head of the Center for Conservative Studies at Moscow State University. In 2009, his International Eurasian Movement counted among its board members Alexander Torshin, Duma vice speaker and a leading figure in the ruling United Russia party, and Nikolai Yefimov, editor in chief of the army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star). Dugin was cited as an intellectual guru by Ivan Demidov, who headed United Russia’s ideology section in 2008, and currently serves as an adviser to the chairman of the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin.

Dugin has long been a staunch foe of Ukraine’s independence and a champion of reclaiming Crimea for Russia. New evidence points to his direct involvement in fomenting unrest elsewhere in Ukraine. On March 31, a Eurasian Youth Movement leader, Oleg Bakhtiarov, was arrested in Kiev on charges of plotting attacks on the parliament; two days earlier, a video turned up online that showed Dugin giving tactical advice to Ekaterina Gubareva, a separatist activist in Donetsk, in an intercepted Skype conversation. (Gubareva’s husband, Pavel Gubarev, in detention after leading the takeover of a local government building, is an ex-member of Russian National Unity, a militant group with black uniforms and a swastika-like symbol.)

Amidst Russia’s current patriotic fervor, rhetoric with scarily fascistic overtones has gone increasingly mainstream. In his speech on the Crimea annexation, Putin called antiwar dissenters not only a “fifth column” but “national traitors,” a phrase that sounds as odd in Russian as it does in English and that some bloggers traced directly to Hitler’s “National-Verräter” in Mein Kampf. At times, this rhetoric has specifically singled out Jewish dissidents. In one eyebrow-raising moment, TV talk-show guest writer Alexander Prokhanov (a notorious peddler of anti-Semitic “journalism”) voiced bafflement at the Ukrainian revolution’s Jewish supporters who could be “bringing on a second Holocaust”—to which host Evelina Zakamskaya replied, “They brought on the first one, too.”

The Putin regime’s flirtation with fascism is not just domestic. A recent article by Northeastern University political scientist Mitchell Orenstein in Foreign Affairs documented extensive ties between the Kremlin and the nationalist extreme right in Europe, including Hungary’s Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn. The “international observers” Moscow invited to the referendum in Crimea included Belgian neo-Nazi Luc Michel and former Polish MP Mateusz Piskorski, currently head of the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis, identified in a 2006 Anti-Defamation League report as a former “translator and publisher of hardcore Nazi material.” According to an exposé in a leading Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, Piskorki’s magazine Odala, published in the late 1990s and early 2000s, openly praised Nazi Germany, featured Holocaust deniers, and called for a united Slavic empire as “the only hope for the White Race.”

In a particularly bizarre twist, Piskorski—a member of Dugin’s Eurasian movement—showed up as a speaker at a March 30 St. Petersburg international conference called “Neo-Fascism in Europe: 70 Years Later,” which, Novaya Gazeta reports, had a transparent agenda of promoting the myth of a neofascist takeover in Ukraine. Presumably with a straight face, he declared that “fascism is rearing its head worldwide.”

If Ukraine’s fledgling democracy survives the Russian threat, its extremist problem will likely be contained. Not so in Russia, where the rot of far-right nationalism currently starts at the top.

Cathy Young is a columnist for Newsday and Real Clear Politics and a contributing editor to Reason magazine.

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