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Photo: “Vladimir Putin with military people (2018-05-31) 08“, by licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 Hue modified from the original.

Waller, Julian G. “We Just Can’t Shake the F-Word.” Russia.Post, June 15, 2022.


The dramatic onset of the Russo-Ukrainian War has been accompanied by a considerable social mobilization effort from the Russian state to garner domestic support for the conflict. This campaign has introduced a new symbolic repertoire, including the pro-war ‘Putinist Z’ branding, a legitimating emphasis on the “triune unity” of the east Slavic peoples, and a directed effort to rally the Russian population around the flag and the person of Putin himself. This fits well with older rallying cries perfected during the Crimean crisis and the initiation of the Donbas War, which included the castigation of the Ukrainian government as a coup-born “Kyiv junta,” the reframing of Ukrainian sovereignty and statehood as a project of Nazis, nationalists, and anti-Russian Soviet leaders, and the vivid colors of the storied St. George’s Ribbon.

All of this has provided symbolic grist for academics and observers looking to identify long-sought reasons to deploy the loaded f-word – that is, fascism – to describe the Russian regime. These sorts of characterizations are not the fruit of the war, however. Rather, they have indeed been common refrains over the last decade, with serious pushback against the grain finding less purchase in our age of emotionally evocative soundbites.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.