I have noticed number of people finding striking similarities between contemporary Russia and Germany in 1920s and 1930s is increasing. Parallels have been drawn between Hitler’s rule then and Putin’s rule now. One of my contacts in Russian academic circles told me about Russia being a fascist country as early as in 2005. Main reasons for such view are growing Russian nationalism and xenophobia, Putin’s authoritarian style of rule, concentration of power in Putin’s hands, etc.
Some observers argue though that there is fundamental difference between Putin and Hitler, that is the fact that Putin did not came to power as a popular leader, but rather as a successful bureaucrat. It is an important fact, but I am not sure it suffices as a proof of Putin being not as Hitler.
I would argue, that Russia is clearly moving towards fascism. Political freedoms have dramatically been reduced in Russia, there is no freedom of media, people practically cannot gather for protest actions, even when one person stages a picket, s/he gets arrested, minorities are persecuted (most notable example being brutal suppression of Chechen separatist movement that claimed at least 10% of Chechen nation’s lives), political party system has been deliberately eroded, division of power effectively eliminated, most popular theme in Russia is “Russia being encircled by evil West”.
Russia has still retained facade of democracy, like elections and parliament, but they do not mean much, as they do not decide anything. However, when Putin steps down after presidential elections in March 2008, he is going to become PM with Medvedev being formal president of Russia. Putin nominated Medvedev for Russian presidency appointing him as his successor in December last year. Next day Medvedev stated that if he became president of Russia he would appoint Putin as PM. Few observers doubt where the real power will lie under this circumstances. So it will practically be breaking the Russian constitution and gradual evolution of Putin’s authoritarianism into open dictatorship.
An author below argues that situation still can be changed:
Excerpt is below, full text: http://therussianreader.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/no-6-igor-averkiev-on-our-good-hitler/
“Like Hitler, Putin is the savior of the Fatherland, the guardian of Greatness, Stability, and Order. Putin is on the verge of becoming The Supreme Leader.
Like Hitler, Putin safeguards the country from enemies both foreign and domestic. According to the majority viewpoint, Putin, like Hitler, personally provides for their welfare and prosperity. For the average Russian, the main thing is to be on Putin’s side (just as ordinary Germans were on Hitler’s side). Everything else will work out by itself.
Like Hitler, Putin is the heartthrob of the most helpless and aggressive section of the population—young people. The Nashistas are quickly and naturally turning into textbook stormtroopers and Red Guards. Like Hitler, Putin gives young people who lack confidence and a sense of independence the chance to become socially adapted by climbing the corporate ladders of his regime (Nashi, the Young Guards, Political Factory, etc.). He provides them with an official, legal outlet for their aggression. (Anyone who has seen the Nashistas in action will know what I mean.)
Like Hitler, Putin is essentially a regular guy: he is neither a villain nor a moral cripple. We sense that, like the “early Hitler,” Putin has an ordinary sense of honor, dignity, duty, even in politics. It is only later on—burdened by the “Savior of the Fatherland” mission, drowning in flattery and panegyrics—that the personality loses its compass and begins to crumble. It breaks with universal norms and loses a humane gauge for measuring good and evil.
Busy with saving the millions, such leaders first forget about the thousands and then about those very same millions. Every important person who lays claim to absolute, exclusive power hopes that he will have the presence of mind and strength of will not to become a moral freak: after all, he himself is a very special person. The years go by, however, and like everyone else who has ever achieved absolute power, he turns into a monster. The only people who avoid this fate are those who, in their hunger for power, either find within themselves the strength not to don the Ring of Omnipotence or who just fail to do this. Our president has already extended his finger towards this ring with the “black hole” in its middle.”