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Why do Russians use the term «Nazis» against Ukrainians, does Russian propaganda work today and how to punish the totalitarian regime in Russia – Ukrainian historian and politician, former head of the Institute of National Remembrance, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, explains these issues in his column.
Nazism is one of the totalitarian ideologies and practices of the 20th century, which was formed in Germany with the participation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany led by Adolf Hitler. The fact that it came to power was one of the reasons for the Second World War and the killing of millions of people, including Ukrainians. Nazism involves the elimination of any democratic institutions, the cult of the leader, and the use of violence.
If we briefly name the signs of Nazism, then they coincide with what we can observe today in the Russian Federation. Rashism, which now reigns in Russia, borrowed a lot from Nazism. There is, of course, communism and Russian imperialism, but a major role is played by Nazism – the way Russians perceive themselves as a nation that has the right to decide the fate of others, deny the right of other nations to exist, and can dominate the world. For this, it’s enough to look at some of Putin’s speeches today and compare them to Hitler’s in the 1930s in Germany: many things coincide, in particular, in symbolism, such as with the letter Z. Therefore, Nazism has a very strong influence on Vladimir Putin.
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Why did Russians start calling Ukrainians Nazis? The fact is that the Soviet Union from the very beginning wanted to monopolize its victory over Nazism in the Second World War, denying the contribution of all other countries. And the communist authorities did it in order to hide their cooperation with Nazism in 1939-41, to hide all the crimes committed by the Soviet Union after the defeat of Nazi Germany, because repression, mass destruction, genocide continued on the territory of the USSR, so the latter always wanted to present itself as the main fighter against Nazism.
It was, in fact, borrowed by the modern Russian government, which wants to hide the current crimes of the Russian government by defeating Nazism. In order to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine, it came up with the idea that Ukraine is a Nazi state and that it needs denazification, and that Russia is the only «real» state that is a fighter against Nazism and supposedly has the right to destroy Ukraine as a Nazi state. The main audience of such propaganda was Russians.
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Obviously, the world made sure that there is no Nazism in Ukraine, and the most embarrassing thing for Putin is that even the Russians themselves did not understand this, they didn’t get what was meant by denazification. Therefore, this term began to disappear from space and is now almost not used in Russian propaganda, as it was at the beginning of the invasion. Denazification was announced by the Russian authorities as one of the prerequisites for some negotiations, but it didn’t work.
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I will remind you that decommunization took place at the initiative of society itself, in order to get rid of the legacy of communism, and denazification took place at the initiative of the states that defeated it. Today, it is Russia that needs denazification, and I believe that it’s possible. Today, Russian society does not have the strength to get rid of this Nazi legacy, but Russians must undergo this denazification under the supervision of the states that will defeat Russia in this war. The Germans did not want to fully accept it either, but in the end, it worked and after the diseases of Nazism, they were able to organize a democratic developed state. This is the only way to change something in Russia.
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Today, Russians are confused. If in 2014 they used the fact that they supposedly «protected» Russian-speaking Ukrainians as a reason for the war with Ukraine, in 2022 they used denazification, but it did not work, and now they have no ideological explanation for why they invaded Ukraine.
By Volodymyr Vyatrovych, translated by Vitalii Holich
The author’s column is a reflection of the author’s subjective position. The editors of «Your City» do not always share the opinions expressed in the columns, and are ready to give those who disagree the opportunity for a reasoned answer.
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