Since ‘fake-news’ is all the rage these days it seems only appropriate that there’s a strange law on the books of the Russian Federation that criminalises discussions of the Second World War that harms the Russian image. Apparently, ultra-nationalist supporters of Vladimir Putin take exception to historians or journalists reminding Russian citizens that the ‘Great Patriotic War’ against Nazism actually began with a joint invasion of Poland by Hitler’s Germany and its ally, Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Determined to shield the country from the humiliating truth that the USSR sought to divide up Europe between itself and the monstrous Third Reich, this law has been used to criminalise those who freely investigate and discuss the facts of history. Russia is certainly not the only country to put its fingers in its ears and suppress knowledge of sordid past deeds, others are equally if not more guilty of denialism.
What makes this law so bizarre is the far-right, and in many cases, the neo-Nazi far-right, profess their admiration for Putin and Russia and that this admiration is returned in kind. During the Ukrainian crisis, RT made much of the ghastly presence of neo-Nazi elements amongst the anti-government protesters, a point that had some legitimacy. But outside the war zone that is Ukraine, the far-right has emerged as one of Putin’s most dedicated and certainly sinister bases of support.
The original operating premise of European fascism was anti-Russian chauvinism and specifically, communism originating from Bolshevik dominated Russia. Far-right forces (outside of Russia) had typically imagined Soviet Russia as a Jewish controlled and ungodly entity. Ironically it was Russia under the Tsars that invented much of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories fascist parties and neo-Nazi groups espouse.
The far-right once adhered to the ideological divide of the West versus Communism but they are now more concerned with ethnic pride, segregation, historical revisionism and opposition to Islam. In all these things Putin’s Russia is a fellow traveller (at least on the surface) and a representation of what they aspire to do with their own countries and cultures.
The French political commentator Alexander Del Valle has written on the emergence of a Red-Green-Brown Alliance in Western political systems. The red (extreme left), the green (Islamists) and the brown (extreme right) find common cause when it comes to authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, anti-democracy and hatred of the modern liberal West. More on the Islamists later but Russia and the far-right have an increasingly warm relationship and one that is becoming more active.
The Movement for a Better Hungary, or Jobbik, began as an anti-Communist ultra-nationalist party that was founded by participants in the 1956 Budapest uprising against the Soviet occupation of Hungary. The party also retains its vicious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and memorialises the pro-Nazi wartime leader of Hungary Admiral Miklós Horthy whose armies invaded Russia alongside the Wehrmacht. Many of its members have protested Jewish gatherings in Hungary and voiced support for Hamas against Israel. In more recent times it has served as an apologist and outright defender of the Russian occupation of Crimea and the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
It was this support for Russian aggression in Ukraine by Jobbik and other member parties of the far-right Alliance of European National Movements that triggered the withdrawal from the European political group of the Ukrainian Svoboda Party. Founded in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, the All-Ukrainian Union or Svoboda (Freedom) Party has blatant Nazi sympathies, its leader Oleh Tyahnybok once declared that Ukraine was run by a Russian Jewish cabal. To better mask its pro-Hitler ideological foundations the party changed its name from its former designation The Social-National Party, a clear reference to ‘National Socialism’ the official ideology of Nazi Germany.
Despite a common worldview and hatred towards Jews Svoboda departs company from its extremist brethren in Europe by being utterly opposed to Russian aggression in Ukraine and uncompromising in its Russophobia. A number of far-right ultranationalist parties in the Baltic States take a similar anti-Russian position to Svoboda owing to the more antagonistic history with their Russian neighbour. As more and more European parties on the extreme right align with Moscow there is a noticeable division between the pro-Russian far-right and their anti-Russian counterparts.
Nick Griffin, formerly of the British National Party, has emerged as a prominent champion of an expansionist Russia despite a long life circulating in neo-Nazi and white supremacist circles. Griffin had scored for the BNP some minimal victories by ostensibly shifting the party away from its violent thuggish origins but has since swung back to his past values since his expulsion from the BNP over internal politics. Now Griffin consorts with Europe’s most unabashedly racist parties through his membership of the European Alliance for Peace and Freedom. Typified by violent, anti-Semitic Hitler admirers the ‘alliance’ includes Greece’s Golden Dawn, the National Democratic Party of Germany, the Slovak Kotleba and formerly the Party of the Swedes all of whom have expressed their support for Hitler’s Germany. Now they have extended their admiration and loyalty to the very enemy Hitler was attempting to annihilate.
This sort of political schizophrenia has led far-right parties to make other bizarre associations besides Vladimir Putin. The rationale of the far-right in recent times has been that Islam and hyper-multiculturalism have replaced communism as the common enemy. Putin has successfully convinced such groups that he and Russia represent the bulwark of opposition to the dangers of radical Islam and is the defender of Western traditionalism and national patriotism. Pat Buchanan, who has opposed the prosecution of alleged Nazi criminals, has been a staunch defender of Vladimir Putin and stated that Russia under Putin is ‘on God’s side’.
It is not clear to what extent the support for Putin is genuine rather than mere opportunism. Russia is still a Slavic nation which would put it into the non-‘Aryan’ category, according to the Nazi-inspired race theories many of these parties adhere to. Russia’s territorial ambitions often overlap those of other European ultra-nationalists putting it at odds with many of its far-right protégé parties in the long run.
But in the not too distant past Europe’s far-right community was more than willing to reach out to dictatorial leaders in the Muslim world. Nick Griffin once famously tried to strike up a profitable friendship with Muammar Gaddafi then denied it, many of these parties receive a warm reception on their visits to Iran when Holocaust denial is on the menu and the National Democratic Party of Germany has strong associations with Islamist groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir based on a common hatred of Jews and Israel.
Apparently, admiration for Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin is something that can be squared by the modern far-right. Even though Hitler sought Russia’s complete destruction and the extermination of its Slavic population and Russia glorifies its defeat of the barbaric Nazi armies, Russian nationalists and Nazi sympathisers have joined forces against their perceived common enemies. And apparently in the spirit of ‘inclusion’ radical Islamism, of the kind the far-right normally disdain, is not completely out of bounds when it comes to political alliance building.
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