Denazification of Russia

27 July, 04:29 AM

In the first days of the new stage of the war against Ukraine, the Kremlin used the term “denazification”.

This very word was to become the key to explaining the reasons for the large-scale aggression.

If the beginning of the war in 2014 was based on the thesis of protecting Russian speakers, then in 2022 denazification sounded like its primary goal.

However, Russian propaganda did not provide a clear explanation of this term in relation to modern Ukraine. Of course, the word itself implies that the Russians are fighting the Nazis again.

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However, now their center is not Berlin but Kyiv, which they, by some miracle (due to the Maidan “coup”, the rewriting of history, and the vile work of the West) have captured.

But such an explanation does not work at all.

Not for a foreign audience, which stubbornly didn’t see any victory of the Nazis in Ukraine. Nor, of course, for Ukrainians, who obviously saw even less.

But the most embarrassing thing for the Kremlin is that the thesis about the need to de-Nazify Ukraine did not even work at home.

About a week after the beginning of the large-scale invasion, the Russian authorities conducted a closed sociological survey. It turned out that most residents of the RF didn’t understand this term, and many are even unable to pronounce it correctly.

After all, since the end of March, their propaganda has abruptly forgotten about denazification (it even disappeared from the Kremlin’s official demands for Ukraine in negotiations), effectively admitting its failure.

Instead, on April 13, Putin’s leading political technologist stated in the article “What Russia Should Do With Ukraine”, published on the state-owned RIA Novosti, that denazification would mean the de-Ukrainianization of our state.

Well, finally someone from the Russians openly declared their goal – the destruction of everything Ukrainian.

And the Russians began to forget the term “denazification.” But not for long.

I’m sure they’ll have to recall it soon.

After all, it is the experience of overcoming the legacy of Nazi totalitarianism that should be used to change Russia, to return it to a democratic path of development.

It worked with the Germans, who were completely taken over by Hitler and it can help the Russians who are completely taken over by Putin.

Russia needs denazification because it failed decommunization. There is a difference between these seemingly similar politics.

Let’s start with the common.

Both cases are about the legal, political, and moral condemnation of totalitarian regimes.

Key people are brought to justice, and those who cooperated are removed from power.

Symbols of totalitarianism are removed from public spaces, archives of special services are made accessible, and education is directed to exposing their crimes.

This is how societies form immunity to a possible return of criminal regimes.

What is the difference between decommunization and denazification?

Decommunization has an internal origin.

The initiators and therefore the executors are the representatives of the societies affected by communist totalitarianism. They themselves found the strength to overcome this totalitarianism, and after its fall, they directed their efforts to overcome its consequences.

This is how the Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, Romanians, the Baltic nations and finally, albeit belatedly, the Ukrainians have dealt with the legacy of communism. In all these cases, decommunization became one of the basic components of post-totalitarian transformations, which laid the foundations of democratic development.

At first, Russia was a flagship of decommunization for the former USSR region. In Moscow, after 1991, communist street names were quickly renamed, monuments to leaders were dismantled and the KGB archives were the first to be opened.

The Russian organization “Memorial” carried out large-scale informational activities, talking about the crimes of the communists.

But soon everything came to a standstill: public initiatives ran out of resources, the state stopped supporting them, and then generally it directed society in the opposite direction – to the rehabilitation of everything Soviet.

In the end, the justification of the communist totalitarian regime led to its imitation. Thus, Russia again turned into an authoritarian state and, of course, returned to the invading intentions of the USSR.

The war against Ukraine, which is supported by the majority of Russians, proved that Russian society doesn’t have enough internal resources to return to a democratic path of development.

As the Germans didn’t have them, who believed in Hitler to the very last.

This faith was destroyed only by the Allied troops that entered German territory.

The beginning of the rejection of Nazism was the military defeat of the Third Reich. Then it was a difficult denazification, initiated not by the Germans, but by the victorious Allies.

Even before the German surrender, the heads of states of the anti-Hitler coalition declared at the Yalta Conference in the winter of 1945:

We are determined […] to wipe the Nazi Party, Nazi laws, organizations, and institutions from the face of the earth; to eliminate any Nazi and militaristic influence from public institutions, from the cultural and economic life of the German people, and to jointly take such measure in Germany as may appear necessary for the future peace and security of the whole world.”

Subsequently, the USA, Great Britain, the USSR, and France decided that the surrender of Germany was not enough. They must join forces to prevent the Germans from becoming a threat again. Therefore, the defeated country was divided into zones of occupation, so in each of them, the occupying powers implemented their policy of denazification.

It took place in different ways, but the following remained the same: repeal of anti-democratic laws of the Third Reich, removal of Nazis from powers at all levels, prosecution of those involved in crimes, elimination of symbols of Nazism (monuments, toponyms) from public spaces, dissemination of information about crimes.

Most of this (with the possible exception of the large-scale international Nuremberg tribunal against the main Nazi criminals, which did not exist in relation to the communists) was later repeated after the overthrow of communism.

With the difference that I have already touched upon, but which is worth repeating to emphasize – denazification was carried out not thanks to, but against the wishes of the Germans.

The Americans forcibly involved the Germans in the exhumation of the victims of the Nazi regime. Posters with inscriptions “This is also your fault!” and the images of those killed by the Nazis were pasted in cities and villages, clips were shown about these crimes in cinemas before any films.

The Germans didn’t like it, they closed their eyes so as not to look at the screen, and they burst into tears because it disgusted them.

The occupational administration introduced strict censorship of the media, seizing and destroying publications from the Third Reich. At the same time, they did not ask the Germans about their attitudes toward all of this.

The new German authorities began to be involved in denazification, only after some time. The first German legislative act in this area was “On the Liberation from National Socialism and Militarism” and was adopted only in 1946. The first democratic elections in the occupied zones controlled by the Western Allies took place in 1949.

But the condemnation of the crimes of Nazism was still difficult for German society to accept. Many Germans considered information about them as accomplices to be propaganda. They justified their loyalty to the Nazis with the idea that “everything is not so clear-cut.”

A real breakthrough in the understanding of the criminal essence of Hitler and the regime established by him occurred only in the 1960s, when public opinion began to be shaped by the younger generation, brought up in the atmosphere of denazification.

It was this generation that returned Germany to the democratic path of development and ensured prosperity.

Even after Russia’s military defeat, Ukrainians and our allies should not be complacent.

For the sake of guaranteeing the normal development of this country and the whole world, they should take responsibility for the demilitarization, denazification, and de-Putinization of Russia.

Eradicate the consequences of the rule of a racist, criminal authoritarian ideology from the public consciousness of Russians.

This will be the beginning of changes that will culminate in the appearance of a number of national democratic countries on the territory of Russia, each of which will remember and condemn the crimes of Putin’s time. 

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