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The Kremlin, Crimea, And 'The Good Hitler'

An activist in Kyiv holds a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin caricatured as Adolf Hitler.

An activist in Kyiv holds a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin caricatured as Adolf Hitler.

We've been hearing a lot from Moscow about all the Nazis and fascists purportedly running around Kyiv lately. In fact, the only place you could probably hear more references to Nazis than on Russia's state-controlled media is on the History Channel.

But the fiercely pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia" seems to have crossed into entirely new territory with a piece by Andranik Migranyan on April 3 (a big h/t to Vladimir Kara-Murza for flagging this first).

Migranyan heads the New York office of the "Institute for Democracy and Cooperation," an NGO set up under President Vladimir Putin in 2007 to monitor human rights in Western countries. His piece in "Izvestia" is basically a hit job on historian Andrei Zubov, who lost his job at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations after writing an article comparing Putin's annexation of Crimea to Adolf Hitler's seizure of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in 1938.

Thing is, Migranyan doesn't really refute Zubov's claim. Instead he writes that we need to -- brace yourself -- distinguish between the "good Hitler" and the "bad Hitler."

And who exactly was this "good Hitler" of whom Migranyan speaks?

"We should distinguish between Hitler before 1939 and Hitler after 1939, and separate chaff from grain," he writes.

"The fact is that while Hitler was gathering German lands and he united Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, and Memel without a single drop of blood. If Hitler stopped at that, he would be remembered in his country’s history as a politician of the highest order."

Blogging on the article at "World Affairs Journal," Kara-Murza appeared nothing short of flabbergasted.

"Just when you think Vladimir Putin’s propaganda cannot sink any lower, it invariably does," he writes.

"Perhaps someone could remind Andranik Migranyan and his Kremlin overseers of the track record of this 'politician of the highest order' and 'gatherer of German lands' prior to 1939 -- including the establishment of concentration camps and the public burning of books; the purges of 'non-Aryans' and the creation of the Gestapo; the closure of newspapers and political parties and the establishment of a one-man dictatorship; the Nuremberg racial laws and Kristallnacht. But of course they already know that."

Migranyan's article comes as the State Duma is debating legislation that would impose stiff fines and prison sentences for publicly justifying Nazism. The bill recently cleared its first reading and is expected to be passed into law in time for the May 9 Victory Day holiday.

The irony was not lost on, which asked, "What kind of fascists is the Duma afraid of?" in an April 4 editorial suggesting that, in the Kremlin's eyes, not all Nazis are created equally bad.

"The directed against the so-called national-traitors who disagree with the course of the president -- those that propagandists today lightly call fascists," the online publication opined. "But any stick -- even a police baton -- has two ends. And the law could also be useful for those anxiously reading in Izvestia about the 'good Hitler' who only turned bad after 1939."

-- Brian Whitmore

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The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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