Leading Russian historian sacked for comparing Ukraine invasion to Sudetenland

Andrei Zubov, a history professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was fired today from his job for writing a piece earlier this month comparing Vladimir Putin’s desire to invade and annex his neighbors in the name of protecting ethnic Russians everywhere, to Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

Zubov’s op ed was titled “This has already happened,” or “This has already been.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty talked to Zubov about his piece:

We always make prognoses based on the assumption that the politician, even if selfish and cruel, is intelligent and rational. But what we are now witnessing is the behavior of a politician who has clearly lost his mind.

These actions are absurd because of [the possibility of international] sanctions and of the sharp economic downturn, which is causing the collapse of the Russian financial market. If this continues, it will lead to an impoverishment of the population in a matter of months and huge social protests.

I think that’s certainly the hope, that the sanctions might lead to such development.  But first, I suspect the sanctions need to be far more expansive than what we’ve seen to date.

And more from Zubov:

Germans formed an ethnic majority in those territories. In all these places, they led perfectly normal lives. In Austria, they were the main ethnic group. In Sudetenland, they enjoyed self-governance, they had the right to use their own language, attend their own schools, publish newspapers. It was the same in Memelland, where they even had an autonomous status and their own parliament. These Germans were not repressed in any way.

But Hitler had a maniacal desire to restore the Reich, destroyed in the wake of World War I. This is precisely why these Anschluss were conducted. In all three cases, the local population did not strive for unification. But thanks to the activities of the secret services, of the SS, and of the Nazi party, public opinion gradually shifted. In the end, these territories were seized through unlawful annexations.

Exactly the same happened in Crimea. People without identification badges emerged, armed to the teeth and carrying brand new weapons. The main buildings, including parliament, were seized. Then the parliament, defended by special forces, chose a new prime minister. Everything was established retroactively and more troops were sent in. It’s exactly the same scenario.

Putin is pursuing different goals that Hitler. Hitler strove to expand [German] territory and chauvinistically brainwash his people. I think the main goal here is to make Ukrainians hateful to Russians, so that the Maidan is not perceived by Russians as their own experience. So that it is seen as the experience of an enemy that needs to be rejected.

That’s interesting. It sounds like Professor Zubov is saying that Putin is afraid of a popular democratic revolution.

The BBC’s description of the Sudetenland crisis sure does sound a lot like Ukraine today:

In 1938, Hitler turned his attention to the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia.

The nation of Czechoslovakia had been created after WWI. Two Slavic peoples, the Czechs and the Slovaks, came together to form the country along with three million German speakers from the Sudeten area on the border with Germany, and smaller numbers of Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles. The 20 years since its creation had seen its democracy and economy flourish.

 People of Cheb salute the German troops entering the town in the Anschluss of the Sudetenland in October 1938. (From the German Federal Archives.)

People of Cheb (now the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia) salute German troops entering the town in the Anschluss of the Sudetenland in October 1938. (From the German Federal Archives.)

The main threat to the fledgling nation was from Hitler’s plans for expansion and from the Sudeten Germans who, used to being part of the German-speaking Austrian empire, were not happy at their inclusion in a Slav-controlled state.

By March 1938, Hitler had successfully invaded Austria without a shot being fired. With one major German-speaking territory under his control he then turned his attention to another – the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia.

Hitler wanted to use the Sudeten Germans to create trouble in Czechoslovakia and, as he had in the Rhineland and Austria, use this as a pretence for invading and “restoring order”.

Not content with merely one piece of Czechoslovakia, Hitler planned to smash the country.

Which brings us back to Hillary. Not so crazy, after all, was she, when only a few weeks ago, she compared all of this to Germany in the 1930s.

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” Clinton said Tuesday, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

She was right.

And a quick word about Hitler references.  This is a point that I’ve raised a few times in the past.  There is such a thing as invoking Hitler too often. And there’s also such a thing as invoking him too little.

The lesson from history, especially horrific history, is not that it could never happen again. Quite the opposite.  The lesson is that it could happen again, and that we should remain ever vigilant.

It’s true that most Nazi references are overblown, and that they risk making the memory a caricature of itself.  But when you when counties invading, and annexing their neighbors, under trumped-up excuses, because they share the same blood, things start to get creepy fast.  Especially when it’s a country with a recent and unique history of excess like Russia, and its predecessor the Soviet Union.  Say what you will about America’s leadership in the world, but we never killed four to ten million of our citizens (or anyone else’s), like Stalin did.  And to the degree we’ve made mistakes, like Iraq, our political leaders paid a price for it, and they don’t now look back on that time as our golden age.


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Here’s a BBC interview with Zubov about his being fired:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • dsfsdf

    How about America accepts some responsibility for destabilizing Ukraine to the tune of 5 billion dollars?

  • George M. Dratelis

    Obama’s speech in Brussels talking about the ideal of territorial integrity of nations while standing next to the flag of the Republic of Cyprus showed the hypocrisy of the US, EU and NATO because they have done nothing about NATO ally Turkey’s invasion and illegal occupation of 40% of Cyprus with tacit US support. The US and Europe simply have no credibility to enforce the principles of international law when they ignore Turkish crimes against Cyprus.

  • mereside

    Some recent Ukraine outside influences:
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38060.htm

  • ComradeRutherford

    Fired for telling the truth! How Conservative!

  • Badgerite

    Uh Huh.

  • mereside

    In the end, the little people of all involved will pay. As usual. So instead of pursuing the path to war, all parties should be encouraged to consider reconciliation.

  • mereside

    Obama’s support is at approximately 43%. Hillary, the war monger, is prepping for a run.

  • 4th Turning
  • Bill_Perdue

    The US is the central imperialist power in today’s world, having committed genocide in Vietnam and Iraq and the mass murder of civilians for terrorist purposes in dozens of countries in the last 50 years.

    To a lesser extent, the EU, operating through NATO, the zionist colony in Palestine and the Russians in Chechnya and Crimea are all distant seconds.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The Iraq War was prosecuted by two Bushes, two Clintons and Obama. Before Bush invaded Bill Clinton, who invented the WMD ‘con job’, used it as an excuse to murder half a million Iraqi children.

    Obama only withdrew, using a protocol signed by Bush (*) after the Iraqi quisling government threatened to prosecute the US military for war crimes.

    Both parties are jointly responsible for mass murder and genocide.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkS9y5t0tR0&noredirect=1

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VlXfs1K04g

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0uvgHKZe8

    (*) “The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (official name: “Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq”) was a status of forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.” Wiki

  • FLL

    I’ve no doubt that Putin is cracking down on accurate poll taking along with everything else. Ever since 2004, Putin has indeed been haunted by the Orange Revolution and its implications for a popular democratic revolution in Russia. Putin’s obsessive fear of Russians staging their own democratic revolution in Moscow is well known and documented.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Some of the key causes of WW 1 were the revanchist aims of the French (they wanted Alsace-Lorraine returned, revanch is French for revenge) combined with the brittle and unstable nationalism of the Russian and the Austro- Hungarian empires.

    Add to that decades of war planning by everyone and a universal European arms race and it took very little to light the fuse. After the first soldiers began to be called up it all happened automatically and ultimately the war plans of every nation failed.

  • neroden

    I’m seeing far too many “world leaders” today acting like the “world leaders” immediately before World War I. Bill, you probably recognize the particular type of crazy imperialism I’m referring to.

  • neroden

    I wish the US would *finally* get around to honoring the treaties which it made with the surviving Native American tribes.

    (Scalia and the other right-wingers on the Supreme Court of Injustice prevented that in the mid-2000s, inventing new, phony legal doctrines to keep the Iroqouis out of the courts. This injustice will never be forgotten and only once the US makes reparations will the Natives stop fighting for their treaty rights.)

    I say this to point out that the crimes against the Native Americans continue. The situation in the US is as if Germany were run by quiet Nazi supporters.

    The only comparable example I can think of is Spain, where Franco was never repudiated, his supporters live on, and everyone still says polite things about the Franco period.

  • neroden

    The launches are actually from Kazakhstan. I am pretty sure the Russian rocket scientists involved think Putin is a nut (though they can’t say it out loud). It should be possible to retain cooperation on this.

  • neroden

    Bingo. A lot of people have been talking about Putin’s “popularlty”. But Putin is *not* popular. He has less than 50% support… it’s just getting harder and harder to conduct polls.

  • GeorgeMokray

    “It sounds like Professor Zubov is saying that Putin is afraid of a popular democratic revolution.”

    This was a point Masha Gessen made in answer to a question on Book TV that I watched this weekend ( http://www.booktv.org/Program/15485/Words+Will+Break+Cement+The+Passion+of+Pussy+Riot.asp ). She said that Putin officially got around 65% of the vote in the last election while the reality was more like 50%, in an election where he was the one who chose the four other candidates who opposed him. His popularity since then has risen because of his campaign against “teh gey” and rose even more with the pressure on Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Putin is acting this way to keep in power, not primarily extend it seemingly.

    This is also a part of the worldwide rebirth of authoritarianism-bordering-on-Fascism which we can also see in Hungary, Greece, Rumania, and even Japan where Prime Minister Abe, the grandson of the Prime Minister who governed Japan during WWII, is trying to change the constitution and reinstitute a significant military force along with praying at the Yasukuni Shrine and downplaying the evils perpetrated by the Japanese military during that war.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    As a child of the Gemini and Apollo era, this notion is incredibly depressing…

    We were supposed to have colonies on Mars by now.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    It’s kind of scary when you consider that ethnic Germans were only about 20% of the population of Czechoslovakia, it was just those bordering provinces that had a majority. What Putin does next will either prove or disprove the comparison – if he moves on further territory in Ukraine.

  • emjayay

    It’s hard to imagine the hubris of the European invaders, or at least the worst of them, of America. At least the British types weren’t at the level of the Catholic/Spanish. Nor did they find a whole lot of gold to loot. We were still shooting Injuns out West less than 150 years ago.

    However, the vast majority of the killing off of Native Americans was simply because the Europeans had developed resistance to a bunch of diseases they brought with them from living with cows and pigs etc. for thousands of years that the native Americans had zero immunity to.

    Like noted below, that and a lot else was a while ago now. Even what Germany did was by people now dead. But Iraq of course is still pretty fresh, and this is just one more way we are guilty and paying for it as a nation for Bush II’s appalling idiotic con job.

  • Badgerite

    No one in the WORLD has clean hands historically speaking. What’s your point?
    So Spain cannot complain about the Pinochet because at one time their conquistadors ravaged and enslaved the indigenous populations of South America? Time and history moves on. Standards can change only if people are allowed to raise them.

  • emjayay

    This sums up the situation with a lot of good detail:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/russia-crisis-raises-space-station-questions-nasa-has-options-n43331

    The article doesn’t specifically mention the obvious, which is to get the two Americans and maybe the Japanese guy out and forget about it.

  • Badgerite

    If you want the history of this ( the German takeover of Czechoslovakia and what preceded it) it is told by someone whose parents were intimately involved in politics in Czechoslovakia at the time in
    Madeleine Albright’s book, Prague Winter, A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937 -1948.
    The reason it is mentioned by historians is that the parallels are hard to miss. The similarities in method and public rationale are striking. Up to and including the ‘after-the-fact plebliscite’ to legitimate the military take over. People forget that at that time, Hitler was still a politician. And he acted on that plane as well as on the military one to achieve his goals. The German propaganda machine (see Goebels) were very focused on convincing the world that their grievances were legitimate, their aims were justified and their intentions were peaceful and understandable. They went after Churchill, who knew better and said so, at every opportunity, as a war monger.
    No one is saying that Putin is Hitler. When Hitler invaded, people were arrested and marched off to camps that day. That has not happened in Crimea. I don’t think it will because Putin, unlike Hitler, is not nuts. And the Russians of today are not the Germany of 1937. Hell, the Germany of today is not the Germany of 1937. The world of today is not the world of 1937. But methods matter. I rather think Putin was trying to do something to dramatically change the public narrative of the Ukraine both at home and abroad, as once Yanukovych had fled the secret was out as to how completely corrupt he had been in office. Pictures of his house and his lavish estate were everywhere. And the violent attack he clearly ordered on the protesters in Kiev’s square made this information all the more discrediting.
    That is what tipped the balance from a political protest, (occupation of a public square) to a low level revolution. Putin wanted to change the narrative into his ‘rescue’ of a Crimea that needed no rescuing. It’s a PR thing. And an assertion of Russian pride. But since the Soviet Union ( Russia) has a recent history of invasions of Eastern Europe to control the political situations there, this can’t help but raise alarm bells in the West and in Europe.

    And again, Putin is attacking free speech and free thought at home. He wraps himself in the Russian flag and does just what Bush would have done if Bush could have gotten away with it.
    I’m sure there were any number of academic critics whom Bush would have loved to have gotten fired. But that was not going to happen. Not Krugman. Not Juan Cole.

  • 4th Turning

    John, I don’t think you’ve gotten around to this one yet, but if you have space, I think it is
    very relevant: Ukrainian Jews’ open letter to putin.

    http://eajc.org/page32/news43672.html
    To the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

    Mr. President!

    We are Jewish citizens of Ukraine: businessmen, managers, public figures, scientists and scholars, artists and musicians. We are addressing you on behalf of the multi-national people of Ukraine, Ukraine’s national minorities, and on behalf of the Jewish community

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com Elijah Shalis

    One thing we have not thought through is our reliance on the Russian launches to the Int Space Station. We need a backup for that before we push the Russian too hard.

  • Indigo

    The Indo-European Migration into the Americas hasn’t really stopped, it just slowed down. There were many atrocities against the indigenous peoples and those haven’t stopped either. But other issues are in play, and the Indo-European Migration is old news. One thing it suggests, strangely enough, is how awful life is for some people in Europe, but that’s a separate issue. Another thing that’s true, though, is that no nation is entirely innocent of doing vast harm, Germany, for example. But historical events are exactly that, historical. Today, every contemporary nation is obliged to nip such adventurism in the bud. What we’re doing right now is empowering Putin rather than pruning Putin and that’s a problem the near future will have to struggle with.

  • eahopp

    Send them to the gulags.

  • Drew2u

    A couple of nitpicky points: 1). Regarding U.S. history, the invasion of Native American land, the spread of diseases such as small pox, and the forced march to reservations such as on the Trail of Tears, the U.S. does not have clean hands
    2). How did our political leaders pay any kind of price for the Iraq war? Nobody’s been on trial for war crimes or even arrested. Anyone who came after the Bush Administration has basically just been doing damage control, which isn’t close to paying a price or holding those responsible, accountable. This blog (I don’t know if it’s John or Gaius) occasionally points out that President Obama said he would not try anyone in the previous administration for Iraq.
    3). The G8 kicking Russia out, what significance does that signify, seeing as how the G8/G7 is said to be “informal” compared to the G20.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Socialists opposed the annexation of the Crimea from the beginning. We didn’t do because we’re supporters of the right wing Obama regime and it’s mass murder of civilians from Libya to Pakistan but because we opposed and fear the potential consequences of the dangerous saber rattling of two empire builders who fomented this – Obama and Putin – and their equally disastrous plans for leeching the incomes of Ukrainian workers.

    Socialists and antiwar activists in the US should oppose Obama and Merkel’s plan to pauperize Ukrainian workers and support our Russian and Ukrainian brothers and sisters who oppose Putin’s imperialist attack on the Ukraine.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin announced legislation on March 18 accepting the formerly Ukrainian Republic of Crimea and City of Sevastopol into the Russian Federation. …Crimea and Sevastopol had voted in a March 16 referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia. … Crimea is 60% Russian-identifying and 84% Russian-speaking, and was not historically part of Ukraine. Sevastopol is the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Yet this dramatic change in Europe’s borders was not on the agenda before the fall of Yanukovich less than a month earlier. The Ukrainian government responded with predictable outrage … But Ukrainian forces in Crimea ― those who have remained loyal to the new Kiev regime ― have been powerless to stop pro-Russian forces taking over their bases and naval ships.

    This took place to a chorus of hypocritical bluster from the self-appointed representatives of the “international community” ― the leaders of the US, the EU and other Western imperialist powers. …
    The EU has been more cautious with economic sanctions than the US. Not only do the French arms industry and British banking sector have a profitable relationship with Russia, 30% of the natural gas consumed in the EU comes from Russia.

    The catalyst for the Maidan protests was a bidding war between Russia and the EU. The EU free trade agreement offered Yanukovich aid and loans but with the immediate requirement to implement IMF austerity policies that would have risked a backlash from the impoverished population. … With the Kiev government and the US signalling the likelihood of an increasingly Western-aligned Ukraine, Russia moved to secure its Black Sea Fleet’s base. Regardless of exactly how fair the vote in Crimea to join Russia truly was, it does appear a majority of people in Crimea support the
    return to Russia. However, not only were supporters of remaining in Ukraine prevented from putting their case, the vote took place in an atmosphere of ethnic nationalist hysteria.

    This was helped by the fact that Neo-Nazi ultra-nationalist groups were prominent in Maidan protests. Svoboda, the most moderate of these far right groups, has three ministers in the new government. The more hardline groups who played a prominent role in street-fighting during the Maidan protests, such as Right Sector, are more openly fascist. … The Ukrainian far-right identifies with Nazi-collaborating anti-Soviet nationalists during World War II based in the west of Ukraine. … Pro-Russian protests in Crimea and eastern Ukraine also invoke the memory of the Tsarist Empire, are close to the Orthodox Church hierarchy and their ethnic nationalism is just as racist, xenophobic and homophobic as the neo-Nazis in the west of the country.

    It is in the interests of neither Russia or the West to fight a war over Ukraine and Crimea. However, the huge nuclear arsenals held by both sides makes the brinkmanship of both dangerous. A greater danger than a war between the big powers is the type of ethnic-nationalist-based civil wars that devastated the nations of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. … This may not be what the big powers want but their reliance on ultra-nationalist proxies in their rivalry with each other over who will be the main beneficiary of imposing further austerity on Ukraine, could see the situation slip beyond their control.” http://links.org.au/node/3774

    photos – Russian troops in mufti, a regional map, a leading Ukrainian fascist and his American friend

  • http://twitter.com/rickroberts Rick Roberts

    And who will be the scapegoats this time around? The gays. Will they be forbidden from owning businesses? They already can’t “proselytize”. Will they be rounded up? Ghetto-ized?

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