Hitler Learned Nazism from the Russians
|Left top to bottom: Ivan the Terrible, Michael Romanov, Right top to bottom: Lenin, Putin, Center Hitler with Prussian Eagle, left and Russian Eagle, right |
To understand how Russia was a forebearer of Hitler-ism or Nazism, it is necessary to define terms. Nazism is no more than a specific subset of Imperialism. Imperialism is the increasing of ones own lands by conquering other states, through war or other means. In the ancient world this was common and war was constant. This was true of Greece, Persia, Rome, Mongolia, China, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. It was also true of tribal warfare and even the United States can be considered an Imperial power in relation to its wars against the native American tribes whose land was taken by force.
The differences between all these empires are ones of the era in which they evolved, and their specific characteristics: their methods, motivations and administration. Since about the end of the 19th century, three such attempts at Empire building stand out. Of the three, Russia, Germany, and China, China came much later and will not be discussed extensively here.
Taking motivations first, these are generally of two types: the desire for gain and the desire for protection. In the past, states that were targets of conquest tended to be adjacent states, states along important trade routes, and states with riches of one sort or another-including slaves. Some were seen as buffers to protect the original state from direct attack: essentially the same as building a moat around a fort. Conquered states were generally plundered for their riches and resources, their women taken as brides or concubines, and their men taken into the conquerors army or used for other types of forced labor. Motivations do not distinguish Russia and Nazi Germany from any other Empire builders in history. Administration does.
Once a state was captured it needs to be administered in one form or another. This usually involved surveys of land and other possessions, headcounts, and tax assessment and collection. It also required the deployment of troops as a police force, for boundary protection, and a judiciary. Another important aspect of administration involves seeing to it that the native culture and religion are suppressed in favor of adopting the culture and religion of the conqueror. This is how Christianity spread from it's middle east origins to all of Europe.
Though war and conquest is a nasty business, it is relatively straightforward. The difficulty for the conqueror and the conquered comes partly in the methods used in the conquest but especially in the administration. Before getting back to the specific subsets of Imperialism represented by Russia and Nazism, I will step back further in history.
When the Roman Empire collapsed, Byzantium, which was essentially the Eastern branch of the Roman Empire, continued as the center of Christendom. At various times it was made up of Asia Minor, southern Italy, and the Baltic states. After the Turks captured Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453, Ivan the Terrible of Russia wished to claim the title of "third Roman Empire" as the premier Christian Orthodox state of the day. He was the first to assume the title of Czar (Cesar). One of Ivan's wives, Anastasia Romanov, was distantly related to the Byzantine Palaeologus family, who were Emperors of Constantinople until about the 16th century. This dynasty used the 2-headed eagle as a symbol and it seems that Anastasia encouraged Ivan to adopt it as a mark of Imperial ancestry. About 60 years after Ivan, Michael Romanov was elected head of state by the Russian Parliament (Zemsky Sobor). Anastasia was his great-aunt. This was the beginning of the Romanov line and the pre-modern Russian state which still employs the double-headed eagle.
The combination of the secular and the sacred has been a hallmark of almost every society that ever existed. Originally, the ruler was seen as a living God. Later, the desire of the people was that the ruler be anointed by and protected by God. That protection was thought to flow through the ruler to the country. None of this is unique to Russia. Maybe the clearest example of a break with this tradition is the United States with it's enshrinement of the separation of church and state. This separation went hand in hand with the concept of freedom of religion. In other words when the state no longer received its legitimacy from one specific God, then the citizens were free to worship a god of their choosing and still be considered good citizens—so long as they fulfilled their civil duties. It also meant that the power of the church was greatly diminished. European societies also followed this pattern to one degree or another.
Orthodox Christian (Eastern Christian) Russia, retained the symbiotic relation of church and state until the revolution of 1917. Though the post-war Soviet Union is associated with the rise of Communism, and the symbol of the hammer and sickle, the vast majority of Russian history is Imperialist, conservative, and Orthodox Christian. Karl Marx famously said "religion is the opiate of the masses" and the Soviet Union became a strictly secular state for about 80 years. An apparent separation of church and state alla the USA. But it also staunchly opposed capitalism and Western liberal values as they developed from the 18th century. In other words anti-freedom of choice. It suppressed religion. As such, both Imperialist and Communist Russia were backward-looking states that feared other than proscribed ideas and values. With all channels for evolution of the society cut off, Russia inevitably faced (and still faces) constant revolution in order to release the pressure that builds up from suppressing change. As with all such fearful, dictatorial societies with a hard shell and a soft core, so to speak, it is more likely to self-destruct than be destroyed from the outside.
So finally we come to methods. A point always comes with empire when it is too big and has taken in too many peoples of different cultures and religions to sustain the original idea of a single state. But by then, it's too late to go back. Allowing any of the states it has collected to become independent is seen as a sign of weakness and a potential danger to the original core state. The Eastern areas of Russia were the last to be annexed, including Finland, which was the eastern half of Sweden, in 1809. Other areas came from the annexation of Poland and Lithuania (between 1772 and 1795) after the defeat of Napoleon. These were added to the Western-most area called Pale of Settlement, which already included a large part of Ukraine. The inclusion of these new territories greatly increased the size of the Jewish population in Russia. Existing since 1791, the newly expanded Pale was basically the only territory in Russia where Jews were allowed to reside permanently—about 5 million in total. In other words, a large ghetto.
In Russia, the preferred method of compensation, for the failures of administration, for losses in wars, and a host of other problems, was to blame the Jews. As in many Christian European countries of the day, Jews were considered outsiders and either undesirable or tolerated as a necessary evil under severe restrictions. But in Russia conditions could be extreme. For example after an uprising of Poles was put down in 1864, 80,000 Poles were exiled to Siberia. Jews in Europe were particularly hated for a number of reasons including, 1. Christians blamed the Jews for having Christ crucified. 2. Because Jews were often expelled from countries they tended to be nomadic. This led them to taking up trade as a livelihood, which could be very lucrative and made many rich. Banking and money lending were part of the culture. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Russian Jews were poor. 3. Because they were not allowed to fully integrate into European societies in any case, they formed self-help groups and networks which made them largely self-sufficient. 4. This network of self-help, kahals or kabals, became part of the false idea of an international Jewish conspiracy that developed later, and became an urban myth that continues worldwide to this day.
Jews in Russia became easy targets for all the frustrations of the society. This resulted in constant pogroms. A pogrom is basically a mass assault on one community by another. These assaults, basically riots, were often directed by the authorities or supporters of the Czar and the Orthodox church. For example, after Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, the Jews were blamed and a wave of pogroms resulted in a great loss of life and business. Naturally, the authorities responded by placing greater restrictions on the Jews. Known as the May Laws, these included quotas for work, education, and residence. It also caused the creation of revolutionary populist movements filled with minorities and Jews.
In 1905, there occurred a mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin, after a humiliating defeat by the young Japanese Navy. The crew killed the captain and commandeered the ship and sailed to the port of Odessa, where a general strike was already underway. Riots destroyed much of the port. This mutiny spurred the growth of revolutionary organizations, such as the Bund, which had existed in Russia since the late 1800s. Many Jews joined these new groups and many took leadership positions.
In, St. Petersburg, hundreds of peaceful protesters were fired on and killed in what came to be known as the Bloody Sunday massacre. The Potemkin and Bloody Sunday incidents triggered widespread revolts and forced the Czar to agree to some reforms including the creation of the Duma, an elected body with which he was supposed to consult. This is considered the First Russian Revolution and Jews were very active in it. But another result was the proliferation of extreme right-wing, Monarchist groups, which were strongly antisemitic. This was the age of the Black Hundreds and continuous pogroms aimed primarily at "the Yids" (Jews). The idea of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world became prominent at this time (see above). Such ideas were spread by right-wing newspapers and publications such as the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was originally part of a French satire directed at Napoleon III, which was modified to read like a secret plot by Jewish Elders to destroy Christians and dominate the world. It's final revisions were made by the Czar's secret police. Right-wing extremists, to this day, continue to promote it as a real historical document.
Another method of administering the population arose in the late 1800s through the Pan-Slavic movement. Though originally organized as a benevolent society aimed at supporting Christian Slavic people living under the Ottoman Turks, it morphed into an aggressive, support for bringing all Slavic nations under the protection of the Czar. It helped bring about the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. Then, in 1914, WW1 engulfed most of Europe. The war pitted Russia, Britain, and France against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. After 1917 it included the United States. The countries aligned with Russia were the very ones the Monarchists and right-wing groups that made up the Black Hundreds, blamed for the liberal ideas they fought against. The desire of these groups was a strong alliance with Germany which they saw as the natural partner. But after a sound defeat by the German and Austrian armies the pressures of war caused another revolution in Russia, this time deposing the Czar and ending Russia's participation in the war. This was the beginning of the Soviet Union.
As the Bolsheviks (Communists) began arresting and killing anyone associated with the monarchy, as well as rival progressive groups, many fled to other parts of Europe. Many of the anti-Soviet emigres gathered in Germany. Fedor Vinberg was a Russian army colonel, a prolific writer, member of the UAM (the Black Hundreds core group), and rabid anti-Semite. He also pushed the idea that the Bolshevik revolution was a Jewish conspiracy. He was arrested by the Bolsheviks and served 3 years. His close associate, Shabel’skii-Bork, brought to Germany a copy of the Protocols from which the first German translations were made. Vinberg was part of a German-Russian organization named Aufbau, that had strong ties with the German Workers Party, the forerunner of the Nazi Party. Here is where Vinberg held many discussions with a young Adolf Hitler.
Another prominent Russian emigre in Germany was N.E. Markov who was formerly the president of the URP, prominent Black Hundreds anti-Semite, and member of the Duma. "Within Markov’s worldview, it was nearly impossible for any upheaval to occurindependent of Jewish influence; if the situation were analyzed properly, the all-powerful black hand of the Jews could always be uncovered somewhere." Markov warned that an alliance with the British would cause Russia to go to war with Germany, and urged an alliance with the Kaiser Wilhelm, stressing the two countries had common interests. When the Czar was overthrown the provisional government arrested Markov and sentenced him to 3 years. When he was released, he emigrated to Berlin in 1920. He organized a congress in Berlin made up mostly of other Black Hundreds emigres. Their purpose was to restore the monarchy in Germany and Russia. Markov always bragged that the Black Hundreds represented the "exact prototype" of fascist movements.
When Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925 he quotes from the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the idea of the need to crush the "international Jewish conspiracy" was a cornerstone of his philosophy as was his hatred of Marxism. In the early 1900s, Russian Monarchism, Imperialism, conservative Orthodoxy, antisemitism, targeted pogroms, mass-deportations, segregation of Jews, and continuous war, produced the model of Nazism before the word was coined. Only the gas chambers were a Germain innovation.
Of course, Nazism did not stop with the defeat of Hitler. The Russians continued the very same methods, motivations and administration as the Nazis. Only now it was called Communism and it blights the planet to this today. Communist nations mimic all the habits of Nazism: increasing ones own lands by conquering other states, seeing to it that the native culture and religion are suppressed in favor of adopting the culture and or religion of the conqueror, deployment of troops as a police force—not to protect the populace—but as a means of control. Constant surveillance, arrest, and summary execution, as well as scapegoating and persecution of "undesirable" populations is the method of administration. When Russia "liberated" Eastern Europe after WW2, it was not called living behind the "Iron Curtain" for nothing. In 1953 Stalin was on the verge of a mass-deportation of Jews to Siberia when he suffered a stroke and died.
By all these definitions, Russia and China are now the leading examples of Nazism in the modern world. Russia, still hates Jews and supports every type of Muslem extremist group, but deals with the Israelis because they can be equally ruthless (after all, they learned from the best). China has no "Jewish problem" but does not hesitate to suppress any perceived threat. So it was that Mao Zedong attacked Tibet and killed more than a million Tibetans. So it is that Xi Jinping kills, sterilizes, and confines to massive concentration camps, millions of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities, not to mention the mass arrests and the total suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. One party, one-man rule, severe suppression of freedom and human rights: the core principles of all totalitarians no matter the country, the era, or the name.
For some insightful contemporary discussions, please see the following articles:
On the modern Hundreds
On Putin's "brain" Alexander Dugin