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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Kremlin and Fascism: It's Complicated

According to a report by The Moscow Times last week, France's far-right Front National party has asked Russia for a loan of 27 million euros ($29.7 million).

It's not hard to understand why the Kremlin supports euro-skeptic populist parties in the European Union. Their rise in popularity across the continent hurts unity among the European countries in the union and allows the Kremlin to promote an alternative, one rooted in nationalism, populism, and distrust of "the West".

It's not the first time the Kremlin has become friendly with or at least oversaw Europe's far-right. In March of 2015, numerous far-right European political parties, including Germany's neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, were invited to a forum in St. Petersburg. According to The Moscow Times, representatives from other parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece where have also met with Kremlin officials, and that British National Party leader Nick Griffin, often maligned as a white supremacist, helped monitor Russia's 2011 Duma elections, claiming they were "much fairer than Britain's".

The Kremlin itself did not comment on the forum positively or negatively, but the implications of allowing the forum to go on hurt its image.

Opposing the EU is not wrong or incorrect by itself. The EU is far from a perfect entity in many areas of policy.

But the implicit endorsement of Europe's far right is a policy rife with hypocrisy. European far-right parties are often ethnic nationalist and some even border on neo-Nazi. The Sweden Democrats campaign with the slogan "Keep Sweden Swedish" and have in the past used blatantly racist slogans. One of the members of Greece's Golden Dawn party is on record as saying "We may do the Nazi salute, but at least our hands are clean," not to mention the party's flag contains an insignia similar to the Nazi swastika.

Russia fought Nazi German fascism between 1941 and 1945 when Hitler's forces invaded the Soviet Union. Fighting the poisonous ideology has become a part of Russian patriotism. One of Russia's most famous military marches, Священная война (The Sacred War) begins as such:

"Arise, great country!
Arise, for a fight to the death!
Against the dark fascist forces, 
Against the cursed hordes!"
Let our noble wrath
boil over like a wave!
This is the people's war, 
A sacred war!

This rousing march is played every May 9th at the Victory Day military parade as the national flag and the banner of victory are marched into Red Square in Moscow. 

Over twenty million Soviets gave their blood defending the fatherland against the Nazis. Russia continues to honor their memory through military pomp and celebration. 

Fighting fascism since the end of communism, however, has become a distorted tool of propaganda. It is true Ukraine does have a population of ultra-nationalists who dislike Russia and her people, but the claims made by the Kremlin that Ukraine's Euromaidan Revolution was taken over by a "fascist Kiev junta" are grossly exaggerated. 

Above all, this is insulting to our grandfathers who fought the Nazis. Fighting fascism in the 1940s was for the survival of the Soviet Union, for the defense of the fatherland. Today, it's a perverted pipe dream that is subject to whether United Russia can gain more influence. No, it wasn't a perfect war or a war without its own atrocities on the Allies' side. But it has been said that World War II was won with American steel, British intelligence, and Soviet blood, and that is something Russians will always take pride in. The sacrifice and struggle of our people will live for centuries. 

Unfortunately, while the military pomp continues in the square, the money within the Kremlin may go to those who are too close to old enemies for comfort. 

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