Contemporary Russia is remarkably similar to post-World War I Germany. Both countries emerged from imperial collapse and regime change and experienced massive economic hardship and political chaos. Their populations felt humiliated and their imperial identities were battered, and they responded by blaming their enemies, former colonies, disloyal minorities â€” and democracy. Both countries turned to nationalist, chauvinist, revanchist and neo-imperialist rhetoric, and embraced charismatic leaders promising to reestablish national glory, rebuild state power, and command international respect. Both rulers promptly abandoned democracy â€” to the applause of the majority of their populations.
These similarities suggest that it may be time to abandon such terms as managed or sovereign or hybrid democracy for todayâ€™s Russia. Even the term â€œauthoritarianâ€ may not be fully adequate. There are good reasons to think that Vladimir Putinâ€™s Russia is acquiring all the characteristics of a fascist state.
What is Fascism?
Fascism is typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic, by way of a strong, single-party government for enacting laws and a strong, sometimes brutal militia or police force for enforcing them. Fascism exalts the nation, state, or group of people as superior to the individuals composing it. Fascism uses explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness; and demands loyalty to a single leader, leading to a cult of personality and unquestioned obedience to orders. Fascism is also considered to be a form of collectivism.
Exploring the “Weimar Russia” Analogy
The “Weimar Russia” analogy is based on a comparison between the failures of the Weimar Republic in Germany (1918-33) and the current problems of post-Soviet Russia. The premise of the analogy is that initial advances toward democracy and economic stabilization might fail and that an authoritarian leader might assume power, rearm, and destabilize the Eurasian continent. The comparison has been the subject of academic conferences, books, journal articles, news stories, and miscellaneous comments. This thesis examines the following elements of the comparison: Defeat in War: Revolution as the Internal Cause; Loss of Territory and Resources; Economic Turmoil; Political Systems, Governments, and Leaders; Decline of the Military; The Diaspora and the Desire for an Ethnically-based Nation-State; Revanchism and Irredentism; and Fascism and Anti-Semitism. While some analysts question the validity of the comparison, the “Weimar Russia” analogy commands attention from experts in Russian affairs and government officials concerned with the future of Russia.