“The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 2

How Russia ‘fought against fascism’ – from 1920 until 1941 


Soviet and Nazi officers

For more than twenty years, Moscow’s closest ties in Europe were with Germany – starting in 1920 when Berlin supplied intelligence about the Polish Army to the Soviets. (And twenty years later, Stalin returned the favor when he had his radio stations in Minsk broadcast signals to the Luftwaffe to guide them to their Polish targets.) Everyone now knows about the secret 1939 Nazi-USSR Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, but even as late as October, 1940, Stalin was still  negotiating terms to join the Tripartite Pact with Italy, Japan, and Germany.

Karl Radek, fervent Stalinist and one of the authors of the new Soviet Constitution, wrote

“… only fools could imagine we should ever break with Germany… No one can give us what Germany can.”

Berlin needed oil, manganese, wheat – while Moscow needed machine tools, military materials, and equipment for their chemical industry. Soviet-Nazi collaboration extended past economic and into military cooperation, involving such firms as Krupp, Rheinmetall, Junkers aircraft , Walther firearms, and I.G. Farben for toxin chemical research.

Illegal Nazi-Soviet joint military operations were secretly conducted on Soviet territory during inter-war years. They included:

– Nazi-Soviet tank school at Kama, near Kazan

– Nazi-Soviet pilot training school at Litebsk

– Junkers fighter-plane plants at Fili (the largest enterprise of its time)

– Nazi-Soviet War poison gas and mists plants in Tomka, near Samara

Hoping to improve his relations with Hitler, Stalin returned to Germany Jews who had come to the Soviet Union expecting the promised ‘worker’s paradise’ . For their part, Nazi officers visited Soviet concentration camps to study how the Russians handled a common concern.


A fascist by any other name…

While still in bed with Hitler, Stalin annexed the Baltics, tore apart Poland and started a war with Finland. Why is this not ‘fascist’ if the Nazis were doing the same thing? And then, did Stalin’s subsequent horrendous acts suddenly stop being ‘fascist’ once Hitler became his enemy?

Back in 2008, Dr. Andreas Umland wrote that describing Russia as ‘drifting to fascism’ was “…crying wolf too early”. Significantly, he went on to add that in assessing Russia’s fate today and in the next years “we should reserve the label ‘fascist’ for only those that indeed deserve this most value-laden term of the 20th century.”

Most value laden?… Are some labels more equal than others?

So just why should we elevate ‘fascism’ to a preeminent position? After all, history is full of horrific cruelties and injustices. And Dr. Umland’s “most value-laden” F-word has served Russia very well for numerous pretexts, including its present invasion of Crimea.

Originally applied to Mussolini, ‘Fascism’ was used to describe a radical authoritarian nationalism. But why should it matter who does it – someone from the ‘right’, from the ‘left’ or little green men in Crimea?

The same media who repeat talking points about “fascism” in today’s Ukraine, never  mention the millions of Ukrainians who gave their lives fighting both ‘fascist’ Nazis and their former allies – the Soviets.


(Actually, the Soviets even got the label wrong when they started using it against Hitler. Perhaps if they had correctly defined the Germans as National Socialists (Nazis), the realization that their enemy were also Socialists would have struck a nerve?)

Right Sector and Svoboda party

The two most often attacked Ukrainian organizations are the Right Sector and the Svoboda party. Both Svoboda and Right Sector are very minor players on the current political landscape and have no realistic hope of any significant role in the coming government.

The leader of the Right Sector is Dmytro Yarosh, born and raised in the predominantly Russian speaking south-eastern city of Dniprodzerzhinsk. Yarosh was a member of the Young Pioneers and the Countrywide Leninist Communist Youth League  and served two years in the Soviet Army. One of the key forces during the Kyiv Revolution, the Right Sector has many Russian speaking members and has not been associated with any ‘fascist’ or anti-Jewish statements. In his first foreign interview, Yarosh told TIME that while the revolution needs to steer the country into a new direction, not dependent on either the West or East, he understands that any new opposition government is not likely to carve out a place for him and his men.

The Svoboda party was established in 1991 but only within the last four years attained a noticeable profile. Both Svoboda and Right Sector are very minor players on the current political landscape and have no realistic hope of a major role in the coming government. Svoboda members have recently bullied a TV journalist. Svoboda formally says it is not anti-European, nor anti-Russian, nor anti- Jewish but pro-Ukrainian.

Actually, the ‘anti-Semitic’ theme is now being played by Moscow at low volume ever since the chief Rabbi of Ukraine, seconded by every major Ukrainian Jewish organization, issued statements categorically affirming the freedoms Jews have in Ukraine and supporting the new Kyiv government. There are no instances of any Human Rights Watch organization reporting either Jewish or Russian “persecution” in Ukraine.

What the West does not understand about the “right”-ist groups in Ukraine is that they are here because the anti-Imperialist battle is not over, and they are not that frightening. They are certainly not saying “ban all foreigners…or Russians… or Jews” like Right groups in other European countries. What they are saying is it is time to save their culture and society which the Russians destroyed.

it is important to appreciate the reasons why the Svoboda party emerged on the scene so recently. First, they capitalized on the vacuum created when the “Rukh” movement (Yushchenko’s party) started to disappear after Yanukovych’s election. And perhaps more significantly, both Right Sector and Svoboda were part of a nation-wide uprising against the unprecedented centralization and isolation of Yanukovych’s government, under which the entire judicial system had for all intents disappeared, and the entire country was engaged in a deathly struggle with the criminal government.

Once a story gets out, the damage is done.

Today, TV commentators act as if they own this label. CNN ‘experts’ recently took umbrage at comparisons between Putin’s and Hitler’s Crimean and Czechoslovakian adventures. All three commentators were quick to point out Putin had not killed 6 million Jews, nor had he started a world war, so how dare anyone call him a fascist? And yet the very same media regularly labels “fascist” elements in Ukraine (Prof. Steven Cohen called the Kyiv Maidan a ‘fascist rabble’ on CNN).

Commentators from the West who pride themselves on their own Diversity and Tolerance, concluded for viewers that 60% Russian-speakers should de facto have a choice for separation of Crimea – (no one seemed to care what would happen to the remaining 40%  of non-Russians).  Are the ‘experts’ implying that poor dumb Slavs are just not up to the same Western ideals of diversity which their own, more enlightened nations live by? And how condescending, if not outright racist of the media to suggest that?

Once it’s put out there, the damage is done. On March 3 Chritiane Amanpour confronted CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for his unstudied ‘report’ repeating Russian Ambassador Churkin’s claims that “fascists and anti-Semites” were to blame for Ukraine’s unrest. Mr. Blitzer justified himself that he was merely ‘reporting’ someone else’s statement – but did not issue any correction for the record.

Words have meanings, and labels have consequences. However, when we create a hierarchy of values, and attach a greater emotional significance to terms like “fascism” – this often leads to an automatic reflex, selective outrage and muddies the waters – rather than an honest look.

Hollywood still keeps cranking out dozens of films about Hitler and the Nazis, but when was the last time you saw a movie about Stalin or any of the horrors under the Soviet Union?

Part 1 examined how the term ‘fascist’ has become almost meaningless today, how Russian ‘antifascists’ are the real ‘fascists’ and anti-Maidan propaganda.


By Adrian Bryttan, March 21, 2014


18 thoughts on ““The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 2

  1. Hi,

    I just read your story. I just want to point out something that is significant. Don’t believe that because you hear a couple of Western reporters/broadcasters/stations repeating Russian rhetoric. Majority of Westerners don’t believe them either.. CNN is not a popular news stations – rated last in United States.. FOX claims it is the most popular news station – ON CABLE. Heck we have right wing Republicans in Congress who make irrational claims. There are always going to be idiots. We just need to make sure that they remain in the minority.

    • yes, i agree that not all Westerners believe Russian agitprop… I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the mainstream generic news media does still create an ‘atmosphere’ of ‘accepted’ interpretations, which influences policymakers… the leaders in Washington when they see so much Moscow rhetoric in media would consider that it might be an ‘unpopular’ step to go against ‘accepted’ wisdom…. and this will influence their thinking and actions, unfortunately…

  2. No single word about Bandera, your fascist national hero?
    Svoboda and Right Sektor are big players now. Everybody chants UPA / Svoboda “Slava Ukraini”. SS Galizien, UPA, Svoboda, Right Sektor are good guys now.
    Volhyn genocide is taboo.

    In Europe parties like Svoboda (NPD, Jobbik, Golden Down, Front National) have no allies. In Ukraine they are part of government and their ideology is dominant.

    • Bandera had nothing to do with the SS Galicia Division – in fact, OUN ordered their men NOT to sign up. UPA also is a very complex issue in Ukrainian history. Yes, they killed but so did Armia Krajova, the Soviet partisans and most brutally the NKVD and Gestapo. The UPA was basically created to fill a void in the Volynian countryside when the Germans basically used terror to inflict their rules on a population that didn’t want any part of it (that’s why UPA began in Volhynia and not Galicia where Ukrainian nationalism was a larger influence). Bandera himself at that point was, I believe, still in a German concentration camp anyway – the Volhynian massacre began because of rouge UPA commander and was actually stopped once Shukhevych came into the role of Supreme Commander (anarchy breeds fear which breeds hatred, and that’s why Volhynia was in 1942-1943). The issue over the UPA and Poland however is one that needs to be played out by historians rather than politicians. As a Ukrainian from Poland, I know the history of both sides – and I know that if it wasn’t for the UPA, my grandfather would have been herded onto a train and transported, forcibly, out of our ancestral homeland. That’s why for many Ukrainians, the UPA is considered a positive rather than negative: its all about perspective in history (same reason why the Polish Home Army is considered in the negative light by many Ukrainians in Poland). What Bandera represents today is basically anti-Soviet views: the right for every country to have their own independence. He and his views were far more complex than what people believe (he himself was repeatedly tortured during German interrogation and refused to denounce Ukrainian independence in 1941, thus the concentration camp).
      Why is it that other countries can have their historical icons who persecuted other people (Pilsudski is one that comes to mind but Grabski and Dmowski are certainly in that category) is fine, but for Ukrainians to have their own historical icons its deemed the height of wrong?
      Svoboda is part of the current government because Party of Regions and the Communists basically boycotted it. They won’t win a majority of seats in the next election and know that – that’s why they took their chances and agreed to be part of the ‘suicide government’ since economic reforms are going to place Ukraine in a very tight spot. They know no one is going to vote for them in the next election – that’s why they’re taking this risk in the new government.

      • I wrote nothing about links between Bandera (OUN-B)and SS Galizien (OUN-M).
        I say: today in (western) Ukraine Bandera and SS Galizien are heroes and Ukraine have far-right (fascists) in their government; paramilitaries on streets, around parliament, beating prosecutor, in Yanukovych’s possesion, as National Guard.This is reality.
        Batkiwschina is closer to Svoboda than Udar. They are moderate nationalists and made Bandera national hero.

        Gestapo were murders and I can’t imagine Merkel chants “Sieg heil” and idolize Himmler or Heydrich. For Ukrainians Bandera’s monuments are normal.
        UPA killed about 70.000 polish civilians (men, women, children, babies). That was genocide!
        Pilsudski wasn’t saint, but there was no ethnic cleansing or mass murders in his era. Dmowski was nationalist dreaming about expulsion of Jews and assimilation of Slavs. But happily he could’t do anything.

        Hitler was anti-soviet and that don’t make him a hero.

        I don’t understans why Ukrainians support nationalists and praise bad guys.

    • There is as big a difference between Svoboda/Right Sector and NPD, Jobbik, Golden Dawn, Front National as the difference between your statement “Svoboda and Right Sector are big players” and actual reality.

      • I don’t see any significant difference. I heard “smert Lacham”, I saw Praviy Sektor video (NPD style and views), I know what Wolfsangel or celtic cross means.

        Ukrainian far-right is in government. No big deal? General Prosecutor, Minister of Defence, Parubiy former member od Svoboda. National Guard (???), and RS as security, Muzychko beats prosecutor…

    • Just a couple of points about right wing parties which seem to have escaped attention somehow.

      Jobbik have officially stated that if in power, they would leave the EU & join the Russian led Custom Union.
      Front National’s Marie Le Pen visited Russia not long ago, and was cordially received by Duma representatives & generally treated almost like a visiting head of state. I believe the other EU right wing parties have been voicing support for Putin’s Russia.

      In that respect both Svoboda and Right Sector don’t seem to fit with the ‘neo nazi’ label attached to them.

      Another important point to note is that it would be very difficult to find right wing parties inside the EU that specifically express solidarity with their fellow Muslim & Jewish citizens.
      The leadership of both Ukrainian right wing parties have been very vocal in expressing their support of all who helped in the Maidan struggle and specifically praised their Jewish & Tatar Ukrainians compatriots.

      It’s also worth remembering that Bandera’s UPA collaboration with the nazi regime lasted about 2 years, in contrast to the USSR’s which lasted – all told – about 10.

      As far as I can tell, no political figure in Ukraine supports or indeed condones SS Galizien, apart possibly from Pavel Gubarev ( the self-appointed ‘popular governor of Donetsk’ ) who is lately very vocal in his rejection of the post-Yanukovych Kyiv government.

      For a nation still struggling to free itself from its previous colonial master, there can be no stronger symbolism than the one associated with ‘Slava Ukraini’ – and Bandera’s 15 years fight for an independent Ukraine.
      Gone are the days when ‘Malarossiya’ was just a province of Moscow’s sprawling empire.

      Slava Ukraini!

  3. Pingback: History in the Crimea & Ukraine Today | Russian History Blog

  4. “Nationalism” means just what says; a focus on and support of a nation by those inside it to the exclusion of all else, all other considerations. This can be good or bad depending on many factors- “where” the nation is in its development. Given that Ukraine and Ukrainians have been exploited and fractured by invaders and despots for centuries, and are struggling to build their own nation and identity, to knit together to create a strong, stable State for their own security and well-being, I think those of us who already enjoy the benefits those things could stand to shut up our criticism and just focus on supporting and helping. A little nationalism is exactly what Ukraine needs right now to reach a new level. They have to build it before they can be chided for focusing on themselves to the exclusion of all else.

    Slava Ukrainye!

    • Exactly, Lorren! ‘Nationalism’ is a term often misunderstood and sometimes used for only negative criticism. What is rarely mentioned is how ‘progressively’ the Maidan activists conducted themselves… no lynch mobs, no beatings of corrupt officials, no mindless rioting, no anti-foreign rants, no vandalism… Perhaps some Western radicals don’t care to admit the possibility that here, in Kyiv, under the most extreme provocations and abuses (which the West barely comprehends), the Ukrainian people attempted to establish a system similar to the old city-state Greek democracies, where the elected officials are responsible to an assembly of citizens – who are trying to reform their long abused country by lawful means, elections and constitutional law reform.

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