Strangely, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite philosopher was a Nazi sympathizer and an admirer of Adolph Hitler.
Author Timothy Snyder claims Putin is a fan of 20th century Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin. In particular, Putin arranged for Ilyin’s body to be moved from Switzerland and reburied in Russia in 2005. In 2009, Putin laid a wreath on Ilyin’s grave.*
Notably, Putin’s government has distributed Ilyin’s writings to officials and Putin has adopted a philosophy similar to Ilyin’s, Snyder notes. Hence, Ilyin could now be the most influential philosopher in Russia, which is odd because Ilyin was a Nazi sympathizer.
Putin’s Favorite Nazi Sympathizer
Ivan Ilyin was a Russian aristocrat who became a philosopher after studying law. In 1917, Ilyin supported the democratic February Revolution that removed Czar Nicholas II from the throne.
However, the conservative Ilyin ran afoul of the Communist Bolshevik Revolution in December 1917. Only the intervention of Bolshevik dictator Vladimir Lenin kept Ilyin out of the Gulag. Instead, in 1922, Ilyin was one of 160 anti-Communist intellectuals Lenin expelled from Russia.
Ilyin settled in Berlin, where became the chief ideologue of anti-Communist White Russians. In Berlin, Ilyin worked for a government sponsored government after the Nazis came to power in 1933, Snyder notes.* Hence, Ilyin worked for the Nazi government, which he admired.
Like many anti-Communists in the 1920s and 1930s, Ilyin became a fascist openly admiring Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. For example, in 1933, Illyin wrote an article called National Socialism A New Spirit which applauded Hitler’s seizure of power.
A Philosopher of Fascism
Consequently, Ilyin created a Russian fascist philosophy as an alternative to Communism. In Ilyin’s philosophy Russia was a special country that needed a special government. The special government was an elite of educated aristocrats ruled by a Czar.
In addition, Ilyin believed national unity and obedience to the state are ideals people must aspire to. In Ilyin’s opinion, Freedom is not important. Moreover, like many aristocrats believed freedom was bad for ordinary people. Instead, ordinary people need the guidance of an educated elite.
Ilyin was hostile to democracy, political, parties, and other features of modern politics. Instead, he favored a return to absolute monarchy or fascism. Predictably, Ilyin was hostile to modern civilization and the English-speaking countries. In particular, Ilyin thought Jazz was a threat to civilization.
Moreover, Ilyin believed Ukraine was part of Russia that could never leave the Russian Empire. Hence, his ideas partially inspired Putin’s destructive invasion of Ukraine.
Putin’s Strange Relationship with the Nazis
The admiration for Ilyin shows Putin’s odd relationship with Nazis and fascists. In public, Putin praises Russia’s World War II victory and brands Ukrainians Nazis.
Yet, Putin promotes the ideas of a man who openly admired and supported the Nazis. One reason Putin can adopt Ilyin’s ideas is that the philosopher left Berlin for Switzerland in 1938. Hence, Ilyin had no involvement with World War II or the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941.
Instead, Ilyin stayed in Switzerland but wrote articles praising Hitler as late as 1949. During his later years, Ilyin promoted the idea a Russian fascism would arise and replace Communism as Russia’s ruling party.
So Ilyin was a prophet. He correctly foresaw the collapse of Communism and the rise of Russian fascism.
Putin Repeats Nazi Mistakes
Putin is not a Nazi, but he believes in some Nazi ideas and seems dedicated to repeating some of the Nazis’ worst mistakes.
Notably, Putin shares Hitler’s obsession with conquering Ukraine. To explain, Hitler thought control of Ukraine was the key to dominating the Eurasian landmass. Furthermore, Hitler thought Ukraine could supply Germany with grain and eliminate the need for food imports.
Additionally, Putin is trying to revive Hitler’s efforts to create an alliance of powers to oppose what he sees as American domination. To elaborate, Hitler tried to create an alliance of Japan, Italy, Germany, and strangely India to oppose the United States, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire.
For example, Hitler formed an Axis with Japan, Italy, and Germany. The Fuhrer also supported renegade Congress leader Subhas Chandra Bose’s efforts to create an Indian National Army to fight for the Axis. Putin is trying to organize an alliance of Russia, China, India, and some African and Latin American countries with little success. Notably, leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are distancing themselves from Russia after the Ukraine debacle.
*See The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America By Timothy Snyder Page 58 for details of Putin’s hero worship of Ilyin.