Since Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the question of how to classify modern Russia has begun to be discussed in political science discourse. Are the modern day dirigeants of Russia the heirs of Bolshevism, Stalinism or fascism? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to determine the type of political regime that currently exists in Russia and its ideology, which is not officially codified like it was in the days of the USSR, fascist Italy or Germany under Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, based on the analysis of political discourse in Russia, its actions in relation to neighboring states, and in the international arena, certain conclusions can be drawn.
A crucial method of understanding ‘Rashism’ is breaking down the vectors of Russia’s current and future policy doctrine, which is demonstrably an increasing threat to world security. This is particularly so for countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, as they may be subject to direct military attacks from Russia. The attack by Russia on Ukraine could provoke new wars in different parts of the world too – from Africa to Asia. In recent news, we have learned that Turkey is launching a special military operation in Syria to establish a thirty-kilometer zone and China is also planning to launch a “special military operation”. Like dominoes, autocrats fuel and lend credibility to each other in order to unleash wars that they believe are vital in geopolitical terms.
Russia and its political regime, according to Freedom House, is classified as “partly free” from 1991 to 2004, and as “not free” from 2004 to nowadays. Thus, the first thing we can talk about is the non-democratic nature of the political regime, which can be described as non-electoral, with severe censorship; lack of real opposition; patrimonialism; suppression and persecution of civil society; high levels of corruption; and a total violation of human rights.
It is important to understand that Russia has been ruled by the same person for 22 years, who, according to new constitutional amendments, may be in power until 2036. Vladimir Putin was appointed in 1999 as acting president, and in 2000 he was elected in the general election. It could be argued – due to the lack of external observation and accreditation by official international spectators – elections and referendums in Russia are held solely for the internal and external legitimation of power. Also, the fact that Putin’s United Russia party has been in the permanent majority since 2003 in the lower house of parliament testifies to this non-electorality. Another characteristic of the Russian political regime is its continuity: Putin was firstly president and then approved Dimitry Medvedev’s to succeed him in the presidency – all the while Putin moved to the post of Prime Minister. It was argued that this was to appear as if Putin was abiding by term limits. In practice, Putin simply ruled from the post of prime minister, while the ‘presidency-in-name-only’ was held by Medvedev. Thus, the political regime of Russia can be classified as modern totalitarianism.
History and modernity show us that totalitarian states are based on a foundational ideology, such as Juche in North Korea, and Communism in China. But what ideology dominates in Russia? The answer is obvious and simple: Rashism.
In conceptualizing Rashism, it must first be noted that it is not a modern copy of fascism or neo-fascism, although there are a number of obvious similarities, including the cult of personality; the image of a lost former greatness; militarism; and the corporate structure of the state economy. However, it is important to immediately clarify why Rashism can be defined as an ideology. Firstly, fascism and nazism were revolutionary ideologies and movements, while Rashism has been formed by politicians, representatives of the bureaucracy and scientists close to them — it is not revolutionary, rather anti-revolutionary, conceived by those who are afraid of any public manifestation of social cohesion such as protests, rallies, and demonstrations. The very nature of these ideologies are different. Secondly, Rashism cannot appeal to the purity of the nation, given the multinational and multi-ethnic composition of the subjects of Russia (or the Russian Federation), therefore Rashism relies on unity in diversity.
What is unique about Rashism? The primary feature of Rashism is militarism, which is inherent in all totalitarian states, as well as most authoritarian ones. The Russian Federation is permanently at war: if we look at the period from 1991 to 2022, we will see that it has taken part in 14 armed conflicts during the 31 years of its independence. That is to say: Russia’s foreign and domestic policy cannot exist without conflict and war. This may indicate that the Russian leadership is using war to demonstrate its strength and power to its people and the international community. Also, an important factor that follows from Russian militarism is the conduct of hybrid warfares: including information wars; disinformation; support for separatists (both financial and military); support for riots in various states; and the creation of quasi-state entities in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Also, in Chechnya, Syria, and Ukraine, Russian troops have demonstrated a complete disregard for international norms and customs of warfare, as evidenced by the use of prohibited weapons, including phosphorus and thermobaric munitions, massacring the civilian populations.
The next component of Rashism is ‘sovereigntism’ in its most negative manifestation. As one of the ideological vectors of Rashism, sovereignism began to develop during the second term of Putin’s rule. The President of the Russian Federation outlined the simplified essence of this concept in June 2022 at a meeting with young entrepreneurs when he said: “any country must ensure its sovereignty, because either the country is sovereign or a colony, no matter what you call a colony”. Rashim then, ipso facto, allows for a perception of countries as colonies –- meaning Russia does not recognize their sovereignty and has the right to attack them. In this format, sovereignism is opposed to globalism, and is presented as protecting Russia and the Russian people from the Western core through acts such as: the adoption of legislation on foreign agents, blocking global social networks. Partly, it was sovereigntism that became the ideological basis of Russia’s attacks in 2008 on Georgia and on Ukraine in 2014.
The third component is Eurasianism as a geopolitical strategy that determines the foreign expansionist policy. One of the main modern ideologists of this doctrine is Alexander Dugin, who, according to media reports, is close to the ruling elite of the Russian Federation. The essence of this concept is to build a single Eurasian state, which will occupy the countries that were part of the USSR. Thus, Dugin believes, as reflected in Putin’s speech before the attack on Ukraine, that Ukraine cannot exist outside of Russia and must become part of it. In his book, Dugin says that Belarus should be part of Russia, which practically happened, given the creation of the Union State which has existed since 1998, and every year the integration of Belarus into Russia only intensifies. Belarus has also become one of the springboards for the invasion of Ukraine. Moldova is also seen as within the concept of Eurasianism; it is said that it is part of the “Russian south”. Recent events in the unrecognized Transnistrian Republic indicate that Moldova may be Russia’s next target. Thus, we see that Russia’s aggressive policy towards the post-Soviet states is based on the geopolitical concept of Eurasianism with its imperialistic ambitions.
It is important to note such distinctive features of Rashism such as the total distortion of history; the cultivation of archetypes of evil which Russia designates the United States, NATO, and fascists/Nazis actors as; the sacralization of the “great victory” in World War II; resentment for the demis of the USSR; an attempt to restore “historical justice” in the form of repeated the conquest of territories that have been conquered by Russian Tsars for over 300 years; an international energy blackmail; and the threat of nuclear war.
An important fact why Rashism should be singled out as a separate ideology is the significant support by the population of all the actions of the authorities, and the perception of the West as an enemy. It is noteworthy that during the period of Russia’s attacks on other independent states, public support for Putin reached its maximum. If you look at the social networks and the television of Russia, you can see how deeply all the main narratives of Rashism have settled in their minds. To illustrate, we can cite the fact that 77% of Russians, according to sociological studies, support the actions of their armed forces in Ukraine.
Understanding Rashism, we can therefore propose the following definition: Rashism is an anti-democratic hybrid ideology that combines the practices of Fascism and Bolshevism, which is based on Sovereigntism and Eurasianism; ignoring the norms of international law and the desire to build a new world order; an order of which the ‘Eurasian-Russian Empire’ should be a superpower.
As we can see, Rashism is dangerous, not only for Ukraine, but also for other Eastern European countries. Also, Russia’s actions are aimed at provoking global humanitarian catastrophes (famine in certain regions, hyperinflation, civil wars and, as a result, an increase in the number of refugees to Europe). All of this, in their opinion, should force the collective West to witness Russia’s power and finally negotiate.