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Russia’s Flirtation With Fascism

MOSCOW – Western policymakers in recent years have struggled to categorize the Russian political system, often resorting to vague phrases such as “illiberal democracy” or “authoritarianism.”

If anything, the Russian system should be characterized as proto-fascist – tamer than European fascist states during the 1920s and 1930s, but still featuring key elements of those regimes. These include the structure of Russia’s political economy; the idealization of the state as a source of moral authority; and Russia’s particular brand of international relations.

In The Anatomy of Fascism, Columbia University historian Robert O. Paxton writes that:

“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”