Timothy Snyder has put out an incoherent video interpretation of Ivan Ilyin, of whom Snyder claims Putin is an admirer, offering no evidence. Snyder’s interpretation of Ilyin’s “three important ideas” is far from lucid and highly ‘interpretative’, to put it mildly. They are, according to Snyder: (1) social advancement is impossible because the social and political system is like an organism and freedom means knowing your place in the social organism; (2) democracy is a ritual for affirming collective support for the leader; and (3) the there are no facts and God created the world but it was a mistake, and only Russian nationalism can save the world. All of these are crude reductions of Ilyin’s philosophical ideas, adjusted to serve a propaganda purpose. In addition, Snyder claims Ilyin was a “fascist philosopher,” that Putin adheres to his “fascist” philosophy, and that both America and Russia each have an “oligarchy with racial overtones [www.facebook.com/BigThinkScience/?hc_ref=ARSIfCDY7XRHQsNztoiA5h2ssFOR6xdeU5mjXm6vsVrBKc0yvvan4yheVWClTIeukTY].
In terms of Ilyin’s politics, they were opposed both fascism and communism: He wrote: “We have seen leftist totalitarianism and rightist totalitarianism. We experienced both regimes including arrests, interrogations, threats and bans; and, moreover, we had the opportunity to study both regimes to the bottom of the barrel and relate to both of them with open moral and political repulsion”[Ivan Ilyin, Natsional’naya Rossiya: Nashi zadachi (Moscow: Algorithm, 2015), p. 184]. Further: “Dear God, rid Russia of any and all totalitarianism – leftist, rightist, centrist. In any case does this leave only the path of West European democracy?” [Ilyin, Natsional’naya Rossiya: Nashi zadachi, p. 188].
In terms of democracy, he believed — in some accordance with Russian’s eternal search for a ‘third way’ — that Western democracy was “formal” and not true democracy and leads to totalitarianism. Neither of which Russia was prepared for in any case until it was fully developed educationally, socially, and culturally, which would take some time, given the profoundly negative effects of Soviet rule. He proposed a limited form of constitutional and ‘enlightened’ authoritarianism that would raise and bring up the Russian people. This would include limiting the right to vote to those who had no criminal record, had an education, and other criteria.
In some ways, Ilyin’s views are similar to Putin’s expressed views and the political system as it has existed and developed during his rule. Ilyin also was particularly troubled by the Western leftist media’s writings on Russia; another view Putin subscribes to. Ilyin’s effort to find a third way between Western democracy and authoritarianism/totalitarianism may be regarded as misguided and futile, but it is hardly fascism.
It is of interest that Snyder does not offer viewers of his 5-minute video a single quote from Ilyin demonstrating the latter’s alleged “fascism” or Putin’s alleged support for Ilyin’s alleged ‘fascism.’ Indeed, he offers not a single quote from Ilyin or Putin at all to support his exaggerated claims. Ironically, while claiming Ilyin and Putin are fascists, Snyder has repeatedly ignored or whitewashed the rise of Ukrainian neofascism during and since the Maidan revolt and its ensuing fascist-tinged regime, which Snyder praises. This Ukrainian fascism is openly stated, advertised, and taken pride in and is easily documented, as I have done. More irony comes in that this video is posted on a site called ‘Big Think Science’, but here there is no science–only the post-fact, post-truth propaganda of the disinformation age (www.facebook.com/BigThinkScience/videos/1553872304724888/).
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, www.cetisresearch.org.
Dr. Hahn is the author of Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War (McFarland Publishers, 2017) and three previously and well-received books: Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002); Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007); and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014).He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media and has served as a consultant and provided expert testimony to the U.S. government.
Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kennan Institute in Washington DC as well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.