The speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin made on Wednesday bore the hallmarks of unapologetic authoritarianism, Russia experts and observers said.
“We are well post-1934,” said Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international relations at the New School in New York City, referencing the year when Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin began his murderous purge. Putin is an unabashed admirer of Stalin and has worked — successfully, in Russia — to rehabilitate his image, which suffered for years after a posthumous denunciation in 1956 by Khrushcheva’s great-grandfather Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader.
In his unsettling remarks, Putin lashed out at “national traitors” he blamed for undermining the war he launched against Ukraine.
“Putin really wants to take Russia back to Stalin days,” Olga Lautman, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, wrote on Twitter. “He has always emulated Stalin, and this speech is definitely angrier and stronger than previous speeches.”
President Biden said on Wednesday that Putin is a “war criminal,” and the rhetoric the Russian leader used was strikingly similar to the language that authoritarians have deployed to demonize, persecute and kill ethnic minorities and political opposition groups.