arguments in this article only represent the opinions of the author,
and, in the interest of fairness, are overly critical of all three countries
The word “fascist” is getting thrown
around left and right these days – in reference to Putin’s Russia, to the new
Ukrainian government in Kiev, or even to the expansionist policies by USA and
their allies. This begs the question – what does “fascist” actually mean, and
do these regimes fit the description?
The historical definition of fascism is rather murky, further complicated by
the fact that most people equate fascism and nazism (which was but one kind of
fascism; so, for example, someone who does not hate Jews is definitely not a Nazi, but may still be another kind of fascist, that hates some other out-group).
Broadly speaking, classic fascism is a totalitarian, repressive form of
government used to counter leftist/communist views. It’s the “haves” turning
the country into a police state to prevent the “have-nots” from taking power.
<see Note 1>
A myriad technical and political details can be debated, but most of it is
actually irrelevant to this discussion. We are not discussing this subject
because we are historians or political scientists interested in fine parallels
between the 1930s and today. It’s because “fascism” is bad, and we want to see
if certain countries have its bad features and deserve the bad name. So we only
need to concern ourselves with the negative symptoms of this type of regime.
So, what are some of the negative things about fascism?
1. For starters, it usually comes to power through violent means, using various
far-right paramilitary organizations or fascists within the military and law
enforcement, and retains this capacity for extrajudicial and arbitrary
2. By definition, it’s always formed to suppress discontent of a large portion of
population, so it’s the most repressive kind of government.
3. The official ideology permeates all aspects of society and is based upon hatred
of some ethnicity, culture, or belief group.
4. As fascism is intensely intolerant of disagreement or free thought, and is
based upon the idea of other ethnicities/views/beliefs being inferior, their
views and lives not worthy of consideration, fascist regimes tend to be very
militarized and aggressive in their foreign policy.
Of course, virtually every country believes that their way is the best way, has a
military force with some offensive capability, has pro-establishment NGOs and
political parties, power struggles between government and political dissidents,
as well as other features that point in the “oppressive/collectivist”
Therefore, the actual question doesn’t have a yes/no answer, but should rather
be phrased as “How strongly and consistently does a country demonstrate the
symptoms of fascism?”
Let’s compare Russia and USA vs Ukraine:
It may be surprising I tend to group Russia and USA together, as I consider one
an authoritarian regime, and the other a plutocratic republic (see article on
that HERE), but both countries are similar in that
they lack certain features of fascism.
Symptom 1: Coming to power by using far-right paramilitaries, keeping these “brownshirts” and other means of extrajudicial
Putin and Obama didn’t come to power through using violent paramilitaries, but
more by consensus among the elites. Sure, Obama had a huge popular movement
backing him, but it wasn’t violent and didn’t stick around.
And yes, Putin may have had weaker candidates put up against him, but Obama was
also running against the likes of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and McCain <see
Note 2>. Putin and Obama even won the same percentage of the vote when being
elected – 53%.
On the other hand, the new Kiev government, variously called “usurpers”, “coup
government” and “junta” by their opponents, came to power via a violent coup using
ultranationalist paramilitaries from rural West Ukraine and a false-flag sniper attack
that killed dozens of protesters, many police officers, and forced the elected
government to flee.
These extremist nationalists kept their power after the coup and were bused
around to converge on, and brutally suppress opposition rallies in the East
(most polls indicate only about half the population
supported the coup), which was accompanied by several mass murders –
notably in Odessa, Kharkov, Korsun. Later, when these paramilitaries got
armed, they fired into the crowds of protesters in Krasnoarmeisk and Mariupol, killing unarmed
civilians (no one was convicted for this, or for earlier murders).
Now, they are integrated into the official power structures as the newly
created “National Guard”, and their crimes that are reported by international
organizations or surface during internal squabbling for resources are truly
shocking – kidnapping, torture, rape, murder, mass graves.
<fighters of ”Azov”, now officially part of the police forces>
Symptom 2: Intense repression against political dissidents, jailing activists
on political charges, police and secret services targeting anyone who steps out
Russia and US aren’t truly “fascist” in terms of levels of repression –
disagreeing with the party line does not normally result in problems.
There are some counter-arguments to be made:
One can point out that, by various counts, Russia has from a dozen to around 50
“political prisoners”, and
US maybe 2-3 times that number.
Also, USA has the highest rate of incarceration in the world and probably the highest number of citizens killed by
police, while Russia has its share of similar problems.
And, of course, it is known that CIA kidnaps and tortures people by the
hundreds, and US maintains a “kill list” of people, including US citizens, that
are targeted worldwide without due process. In Pakistan alone, just over the
period of 2004-2012, about 3000 people were targets of these
extrajudicial killings. We can assume Russians do similar things,
although on a much smaller scale both numerically and geographically.
But overall, both countries are yet far from the kind of country-wide,
pervasive repression of millions of their own citizens characteristic of
fascism. Domestically, they’re not even up to the level of Pilcudski’s Poland,
which had thousands of political prisoners.
<demotivator: Russia vs USA on human rights>
<picture removed due to being NSFW>
<it compares Pussy Riot getting assaulted by Orthodox activists in Soci to mass torture in Abu Ghraib – you get the idea.
See it in the article on LiveLeak >
On the other hand, the new “revolutionary” regime that took over Kiev arrested
a huge number of Ukrainian citizens on political charges <see Note 3>.
The new government prosecutes people for posting youtube videos protesting
illegal forced conscription <Note 4>, and even for speaking up at “free speech” rallies set up by the military
There are billboards on the streets
asking people to report their neighbors who like Russia (so-called “household
separatism”) and promising such dissenters 7-12 years in jail, and a myriad
In addition, both police and nationalist extremists are used to disperse
non-political protest against the rising taxes and state-owned utility company
charges, and to target the leaders of such protests for kidnappings and “forced disappearances”.
All of these repressions have the combined effect of forcing opponents of the
regime to flee the country, which has the same desired result of silencing
Of course, it is impossible to estimate the number of Ukrainians who fled the
country primarily due to political reasons, rather than primarily due to
economic collapse, forced conscription, and violence.
However, the total numbers are stunning: it is estimated that 2.5
million Ukrainians are currently in Russia and a very large number
fled to EU as well, with about 400,000 in Poland alone. If
we add the internally displaced persons (1.3 million according to the UN),
it can be said that the “revolution” displaced over a tenth of the population,
presumably those most active and most opposed to the new government.
Third symptom: The official ideology permeates all aspects of society and is
based upon hatred of some ethnicity, culture, or belief group.
In either Russia or US, the official ideologies are not “totalitarian” or
“collectivist”, in that they do not demand political involvement of every
Yes, Russia’s authoritarian regime may look “one-party” at a glance, with
Putin’s “Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia)” party dominating the political life,
but in reality only about 2% of Russia’s eligible citizens are members, and
it is widely seen as a meaningless front for the small ruling elite.
Moreover, not only does Russian government shy away from any notion of Russian
ethnic nationalism, Russia lacks any clear official ideology at all. The
“government line” is limited to vaguely glorifying Putin and drawing on
obsolete Soviet and Tsarist symbols, such as victory over Nazi Germany and
“Orthodox Christian values”.
While this ideological vacuum is seen by many as a problem for the country, it
certainly doesn’t match the usual fascist “collectivist” ideological
domination, where everyone in the country is ideologically active and/or a
ruling party member (again, read HERE about what I mean by making the distinction
between “authoritarian” and “collectivist” governments).
By comparison, nearly 30% of eligible Americans are members of either of the
two ruling parties (which are similar enough, especially in foreign policy,
that they could easily be renamed “right-wing and left-wing of Glorious America
Party”). And unlike the disillusioned Russians, most Americans actually buy
into the “democratic” ideology, and believe that being allowed to “choose”
between two similar figureheads once every four years somehow means they are in
charge, even though research shows this is objectively not true.
But despite all that, American system doesn’t qualify as “fascist” on
ideological grounds because the ideology isn’t hate-based, and those who don’t
buy the “democracy” story aren’t persecuted – the fact that mass media is
controlled by only six corporations, all of them “pro-establishment”, makes silencing critics, even
famous ones, easy and painless (in
Russia, by the way, the connection between media and state is even more direct,
but ultimately their propaganda machine works worse because it hasn’t yet
mastered pretending to be “private” and “unbiased”).
On the other hand, modern Ukrainian nationalism was focused on hating other
nationalities since its inception around a century ago <see Note 5 for brief
Ukrainian nationalists were declaring “Ukraine for Ukrainians” ever since their
emergence as a real political force, and Ukrainian nationalist forces were
already responsible for killing tens of thousands of Jews
in 1918-1921 period.
Racial hate builds up over time, so when nationalists came back 20 years later
during WWII, their extermination campaign was much more widespread, targeting Poles and Russians in addition to Jews, and
victims were in the hundreds of thousands <Note 6>.
Suffice to say that in 1938, before the Germans and Ukrainian nationalists came
to L’vov, the largest city in West Ukraine, it was 63% Polish and 24% Jewish,
and only 11% Ukrainian.
By the time the Red Army took the city back, half the Polish population and
4/5ths of the Jews either fled or were exterminated; today, Jews and Poles,
taken together, make up about 1% of the population, and Ukrainians are 88%.
These recent stories of providing Lebensraum for the Great Ukrainian Nation through
massacres directly affect what happens today: the “cleansing” during WWII
fundamentally changed the composition of West Ukraine, while hatred and guilt
radicalized the population, leaving it a hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism.
In fact, those that died fighting to overthrow the elected government in 2014
were overwhelmingly nationalists bused in from those West Ukrainian regions –
if we go by casualties, which is the only reliable estimate we have, more fighters were natives of L’vov
area alone than Kiev, despite L’vov oblast’ having far less
population, and actual “revolution” taking place half a country away, in Kiev.
Once those nationalists took over, the glorification of Ukrainian Insurgent
Army (which was the entity that carried out the WWII massacres) has been
enshrined into law, while the symbols of the Red Army, that defeated them and
their Nazi masters, have been banned.
<SS veterans being re-buried with full military honors – Ukraine>
The “Glory to the Nation” – “Death to Enemies” salutes, torch rallies of
nationalists carrying the portraits of WWII nationalist leaders, referring to
political opponents as “colorado beetles” or “Downbass” (= Down syndrome basin,
rather than Donbass basin), complete indifference the Kiev side shows towards
suffering of Donbass residents – all of those are the external symptoms of a
deep xenophobia that runs through current ideology.
<Slogan: Race. Nation. Socialism.>
The divide is both ideological and ethnic, because “Russian” and “Ukrainian”
are more self-chosen labels than
clear races in modern Ukraine, but at the same time, the hatred is rather
This can be clearly seen in policies from both sides: while the Kiev side openly
tries to starve the rebel republics via a blockade of food and medicine
deliveries, cuts water, power, and all other possible services, and constantly
implies their “wrong” opinions and culture fully justify the suffering
inflicted upon them, neither rebels nor Russia do anything of the sort.
While there are certainly instances when civilians on the Kiev side of the frontlines
get hit by the rebel artillery, or suffer the horrors of war in some other way,
the rebels never claim the people on nationalist-controlled side somehow
“deserve” it. Neither rebels nor Russia attempt to engage in “starvation”
warfare of the sort Kiev is waging; in fact, rebels continue to supply Kiev
with coal the people of Ukraine need to survive the winter, and Russia
continues to supply natural gas and electrical power to its troubled neighbor.
Many more pages can be written on the subject, e.g. about schizophrenic
rhetoric coming out of Kiev, which officially declares the population of
Donbass to be victims of “foreign terrorists” and “Russian occupation”, but at
the same time professes deep contempt for their needs and wants, and their very
survival – but I will leave this elementary exercise up to the readers <also
see Note 7>, and move on to the final symptom.
<Kiev nationalists vs ISIS: Which is which?>
Fourth symptom: Repressive ideology based around hating outgroups makes fascist
regimes extremely dangerous and aggressive in their foreign policy.
Here, there are some notable differences between Russia and USA: in terms of
foreign policy, USA is indeed extremely aggressive – one can easily argue that
e.g. Hitler had far better reasons to wage war on Poland (it was a warlike
dictatorship on his border, it was oppressing ethnic Germans to an extent, it
actually had WMDs) than USA ever had to invade Iraq or attack Yugoslavia,
Libya, Vietnam, etc., and Americans are a lot less apologetic about their past
foreign escapades than modern Germans.
However, it is worth noting that, unlike “classic” fascism, the official
American ideology doesn’t treat those being invaded and subjugated as
sub-humans. The official propaganda maintains that USA comes in to “liberate”
people <see Note 8>, and the fact that, since WWII, their invasions or meddling
brought untold suffering to millions of people in about 50 countries, is
either downplayed or portrayed as accidental.
So, on the foreign policy dimension, USA may not be fully “fascist”, but
certainly fits the bill a lot better than modern Russia <see Note 9>.
Well, unless we take the lead of the US State Department and blame Russia for
“invading Crimea” – the “heinous” act that was supported by the vast majority
of locals, 80% of Ukrainian battlegroup on the island (which promptly joined
the Russian army), and involved less shooting than an average evening in
Atlanta (not to mention USA’s own very tenuous relationship
with international law).
<another poster poking fun at Western view of Ukrainian conflict>
Of course, there is also the issue of helping the Donbass opponents of the Kiev
regime, but helping one’s relatives across a border can hardly be considered
“foreign intervention” – it is similar to, and a lot more justified than, US
help to Texas settlers, for example <See Note 10>.
When it comes to the nationalist government in Kiev, it is of course in no
shape to be invading other states, yet. However, the nationalist’s policies
when dealing with those they are capable of attacking have been extremely
heavy-handed and hawkish, especially compared to the elected president
Yanukovich and the previous government, which fled the country rather than
start a civil war.
One final issue:
Of course, these and other “fascist” traits that I mentioned above could be
explained away by saying “Ukraine is in a civil war, war does this to
countries”, and to some extent that is true.
But it would be putting the cart before the horse.
Fascists illegally seizing power and massacring those that disagree is what
precipitated the civil war in the first place – just like Franco caused a civil
war, Hitler essentially did too (street battles with communists involved hundred-thousand-strong paramilitaries, tens of
thousands injured, dozens killed), and in fact the pattern of nationalist
extremists coming to power and plunging the country into civil war has been
repeated dozens of times – in Georgia (Abkhazia, Ossetia), Moldova
(Transnistria), Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc.), Cyprus (Greeks vs
Turks), Azerbaijan and Armenia, etc. etc.
Also, Russia and US could similarly explain away their “fascist” traits by New
Cold War, War on Terror, War on Drugs, War on Common Sense, etc. For example,
Russia can easily claim that the reason it doesn’t have “free” media is because
they immediately get bought by foreign agents and start working against the
interests of the country, and to a large extent that is true. USA can (and
does) claim “terrorism” about its surveillance apparatus and aforementioned
worldwide campaign of extrajudicial kidnapping, torture, and murder, even
though its global interventionism is the primary source of anti-American sentiment
worldwide. etc. etc.
So, what are our conclusions?
If we understand that the negative traits of fascism are a continuum (North
Korea more “fascist” than China, which is more “fascist” than Australia, which
is more “fascist” than Lichtenstein), then we can conclude that US and Russia
have a similar level domestically: both are “non-oppressive but unchangeable
plutocracies” at home. The difference is that Russia has one group of
plutocrats, whereas US has multiple corporations cooperating within the so-called
“checks and balances” framework (again, see the expanded discussion of state
However, US is quite a bit more “fascist” than Russia in its foreign policy.
As for the new nationalist regime in Kiev, Ukraine, while still a ways from the
scale of genocide seen at the height of the Third Reich, it is obviously far
more “classically fascist” than USA and Russia.
How do we use this knowledge? Well, that discussion is beyond the scope of this
I presented the evidence to you, but I don’t claim to have a sure-fire recipe
for fixing the problem. It’s easy enough to say
Ukraine’s national ideology could “just stop hating their compatriots” (some
discussion of that – in this article), but that is
ignoring other underlying reasons that created the problem in the first place –
East and West Ukraine having different economic interests, foreign puppet masters playing the sides against
each other, or over-centralised state apparatus making the side that captures
Kiev masters of the whole country.
But at the very least, now, if you see the name “fascist” being thrown around
improperly – you have this article to refer people to.
* Jewish war correspondent in Ukraine: ‘Either you
consider all people equal, or you’re a fascist.’
* Ukrainian senator Elena Bondarenko shut off for
speaking out against civil war
* An opposition activist who fled Putin visits
Ukraine: “That’s fascism”
* Between War and Peace: Government-controlled Donbass
* Symptoms of Fascism in Ukraine
There are documentaries about “fascism” in Russia too, e.g. “From Russia with Hate”. As best I can tell, the
marginal nationalist group RNE it reports on has been in decline for the
past decade or so, and their last “hate crime” was burning an unoccupied
railroad cargo platform back in 2008.
<Note 1> Posters like this one, explaining one of the defining features
of fascism, appeared after the new Ukrainian government banned the communist
party, which represented about one-seventh of the voters
according to last free&fair election.
<Note 2> I.e. a filthy rich city Mormon with “progressive” views and all
the personal charm of an angle grinder – trying to appeal to a voter base that
wasn’t any of these things, an ex-governor of Alaska who had to resign over
ethics investigations, and a pilot most famous for being shot down and
imprisoned, now advocating solving any and all international issues by bombing.
<Note 3> In April, just one of the rebel republics – DPR – reported they
have received 545 prisoners in exchange for government POWs, and the majority
of prisoners were not combatants (protesters with anti-government views, people
who gave rebels food or medical aid, suspected sympathizers, etc.). How many
more have been exchanged to LPR, are still imprisoned, or died in detention, is
impossible to tell, but certainly a greater number.
<Note 4>Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, who posted a Youtube video with a
statement saying that his conscience does not allow him to go murder his own countrymen, has been accused of
“treason” and is still sitting in jail now, half a year later. Worth noting
that the NeoNazi who probably murdered famous journalist Oles’ Buzina, or the
one who was captured on video gunning down police and protesters in Odessa,
walked out on bail within a week.
<5> Brief history lesson:
Modern Ukrainian “national idea” arose a little over a century ago, and was
fairly marginal until Germans took interest in undermining Russia and forming a
separate Ukrainian state during WWI, and took to re-educating some of the
After the Russian empire collapsed, they sent 450,000 troops to prop
up a puppet nationalist government in Kiev – to fight the Soviet republics
formed in Donetsk, Kharkov, Odessa, and Crimea (the story explained in detail here; worth noting that
this doesn’t make Ukraine “fake”, as there are plenty of nations that are
recent creations of one great power or other – Ukrainian nation is certainly as “real” as,
The second main driver of the Ukrainian nationalism were, surprisingly, the
Bolsheviks. The Tsarist Russian empire was built around Russian culture and
Orthodox religion, so in order to compete with Tsarism, Bolsheviks took the
course for supporting nationalists around the union – as long as they were
Bolsheviks not only joined a lot of lands to Ukraine (including historically
Russian “East Ukrainian” lands, dismantling their Donetsk-Krivoi Rog republic
that formed during the Civil War), but undertook a comprehensive campaign of Ukrainization, made Ukrainian language mandatory
in schools, published a huge amount of literature and periodicals in Ukrainian,
and put ethnic Ukrainians in all key positions within Soviet Ukraine. The drive
was reversed somewhat during the times of Stalin, especially after Ukrainian
nationalists collaborated with the Nazis during WWII, but never really stopped.
One of the most ironic things about the modern Ukrainian conflict is that
nationalist fools toppling Lenin monuments all around the country are attacking
the images of the one man most responsible for the existence of a modern
<6> Nationalists often claim that Jews were not targeted by Ukrainian
nationalists as Germans exterminated Jews before nationalists started acting as
independent armed detachments. First of all, this is factually untrue, and second, the “German”
massacres were often carried out by Ukrainian collaborator units, which were
largely staffed by nationalists.
The frequent claims that nationalists “fought” Nazis are along the same lines:
first off, Ukrainian nationalists collaborated with the Nazis from 1939 to
beginning of 1943, and from late 1943 to 1945, and second, in the brief period
that they were at odds, UPA position can be best described as “purely
<7> One can also note that, online, pro-Kiev users usually deny their
opponents the possibility of having their own opinion – they instantly assume
that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a “bot” or “paid propagandist”. On
the other hand, pro-Russians tend to assume their opponents are honest idiots –
even though, unlike Russia, Ukraine has a huge “Ministry of Truth” (Ministry of
Information Policy) that specifically recruits thousands of people into their “online
army” (yes, there are also rumors of Russia having a small “online platoon”,
but they were never proven by anything other than the words of some dubious
journalists). Also, on that note – tell me which of two countries has a
“Ministry of Truth”, and I’ll tell you which one is closer to fascism.
<8> One can point out that Nazis also claimed to be “liberating” Slavs
from “Bolshevism”, even as millions of them were massacred or
forced into serfdom, but the difference is that they officially proclaimed
Slavs to be an inferior race, whereas USA’s disdain for the suffering of
“towelheads” is not officially sanctioned (very much present, though).
<9> Before anyone makes the statement that Russian actions in Chechnya
are no different than those of US in Iraq or Kiev government in the Donbass,
let’s point out that the reasons for Russian invasion were not ideological or
geopolitical. Russia’s mythical “right” to Chechen soil or some murky
“democracy”/”WMD” concerns were never the reasons for the first or second
In fact, Russia did NOT invade Chechnya when it declared independence, or
seriously try prevent its nation-building.
The war started 3 years later, and the reasons for it were genocide of ethnic
Russians in the republic (~20,000 killed, the rest had to flee), crime-based
economy of the region preying on Russia, strategic concerns over oil transit
and production, and supporting the constitutional
government in its civil war against dictator Dudaev.
Also, while Russia’s methods in Chechnya were often deplorable, compare
Chechnya 12 years after Russian invasion to Iraq 12 years after American
invasion… or even Ukraine one year after nationalist takeover.
Finally, one should note that virtually all forces within the Russian society were far, far less accepting of the Chechen wars than Ukrainian nationalists – of killing their countrymen in the East (more on that here).
<10> Donbass was Russian land that was administratively joined to
Ukrainian SSR district in 1920s by the Bolsheviks, whereas Texas was originally
Mexican; Texans fought, in a large part, to preserve slavery, whereas DLPR
fight largely to have their interests respected, after the constitutional
government they voted for has been overthrown.