Timothy Snyder debunks lies Putin told Carlson

February 12,2024 1674
Timothy Snyder debunks lies Putin told Carlson

Timothy Snyder, an American historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Holocaust, has analyzed the interview of Russian President Putin with American journalist Tucker Carlson.

In a talk with Tucker Carlson, Putin uttered sentences about the past.  I will explain how Putin is wrong about everything, but first I have to make a point about why he is wrong about everything.  By how I mean his errors about past events.  By why I mean the horror inherent in the kind of story he is telling.  It brings war, genocide, and fascism,” Snyder says.

Firstly, Putin spoke about Russia’s past under different forms of governance, each of which he refers to as “Russia,” thereby claiming them. According to Putin’s logic, the borders of any country are not legitimate, as anyone can assert territorial claims based on a fabricated history.

Such nonsense brings war. On Putin’s logic, leaders anywhere can make endless claims to territory based on various interpretations of the past.  That undoes the entire international order, based as it is upon legal borders between sovereign states. In his conversation with Carlson, Putin focused on the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries.  Moscow did not exist then.  So even if we could perform the wishful time travel that Putin wants, and turn the clock back to 988, it could not lead us to a country with a capital in Moscow,” Snyder writes.

The historian explains that the subsequent issue following a war is genocide. Believing that a country from the past is identical to the contemporary one leads to a situation where the only acknowledged history is the one that has been fabricated.

The experiences of people who actually lived in the past and live in the present are “artificial” (to use one of Putin’s favorite words). In the interview, and in other speeches during the war, Putin depends on a false distinction between natural nations and artificial nations. Natural nations have a right to exist, artificial ones do not. But there are no natural nations. All nations are made. The Russia of tomorrow is made by the actions of Russians today. If Russians fight a lawless war of destruction in Ukraine, that makes them a different people than they might have been. This is more important than anything that happened centuries ago. When a nation is called “artificial,” this is justification for genocide,” Snyder says.

Putin’s logic suggests that it doesn’t matter what people believe or how they understand the past. “If there are people who say that Ukraine is real, they must be destroyed. That has been the logic of Russia’s mass murder from the start. Putin expected Ukraine to fall in a few days because he thought he needed to eliminate a few Ukrainians in an artificial elite. The more Ukrainians there turned out to be, the more people had to be killed. The same holds for physical expressions of Ukrainian culture. Russia has destroyed thousands of Ukrainian schools. Everywhere Russian troops reach, they burn Ukrainian books,” Snyder explains.

The third problem arising from such a mindset is fascism expressed as victimhood. “Putin is the dictator of the largest country in the world and personally controls tens and more likely hundreds of billions of dollars. And yet in his story he is a longwinded victim, because not everyone agrees with him. Russia is a victim because Russians can tell a story about how they need to fight a genocidal war, and not everyone agrees. Ukrainians are the aggressors, because they do not agree that they and their country do not exist,” Snyder says

This is why myths matter, says Snyder. “If all the wrong in the past was done by others, as Putin says, then all the wrong in the present must be done by others. Putin’s story divides good and evil perfectly. Russia is always right, others are always wrong. Russians can behave like Nazis while calling others “Nazis” and all is well.”

Currently, Putin’s war is waged with fascist slogans and fascist methods, employing mass propaganda and mass mobilization.

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