“Without the Americans, the Russians would be on the border with Poland,” Stéphane Courtois is convinced. “A ceasefire would be to Putin’s advantage,” and it is therefore too early for negotiations. The historian is one of the most renowned experts on Russia. In 1997, Courtois edited the Black Book of Communist Crimes, which was published in numerous languages and provoked heated debates. His record: a hundred million dead, Stalin (and Mao) just as bad as Hitler.
And now Putin. Courtois publishes a “Livre noir de Vladimir Poutine” together with Galia Ackerman. The authors describe his seizure of power as a conspiracy by former agents of the KGB, which employed 700,000 people. They underline the role of the “siloviki”, Putin’s confidants from the inner circle of the army and the secret service. They staged the 1999 attacks blamed on Chechen terrorists. With the siloviki and the oligarchs, the Putin system works like the mafia. And the Orthodox Church gives its blessing.
Governing with propaganda and fear
The alliance of the patriarch Cyril with the “agent turned tsar” reminds Courtois of Stalin, who destroyed the church and had “tens of thousands of priests” murdered. But after Hitler’s attack, he needed them. “Kyrill,” adds Courtois, “has been an agent of the KGB since 1972.”
Putin rules with propaganda and fear – which he not only spreads in his own country: Russia, says Stéphane Courtois in an interview with this newspaper, “organizes the chaos in the world”. He threatens her with hunger, cold and the atomic bomb. He is waging an “imperialist war” in Ukraine, but none of the countries that were under Soviet rule want to go back to Russia.
Putin’s view of international relations also corresponds to the “honor code of the underworld”. The “Black Book” analyzes his macho imagery “below the belt line”, his statements about the Ukraine are primitive and sexist. The authors interpret a statement by the Russian foreign minister a few days before the attack. They quote Sergei Lavrov as saying that he does not want to use “crook language”: everything will take place “within the framework of honor”. A formula like a godfather of the Cosa Nostra.
Politicians who lack the experience of war
Courtois castigates the contemporary elites and politicians: “They lack the experience of war, they avoid trials of strength.” He finds their willingness to negotiate uncanny: “Germany and France were unable to recognize Putin’s intentions in time, they are no longer in capable of enforcing any condition against him.”
Courtois sees Putin’s nuclear bomb threats as more than a bluff. In Dmitri Medvedev’s “genocide fantasies” he thinks he recognizes an “apocalyptic delirium like at the end of the Third Reich”. Macron’s statement that France would not react to the use of nuclear weapons with the Force de Frappe is all the more incomprehensible to him. “Are there,” comments Courtois, “no more history classes at the nation’s elite school, ENA?”
Galia Ackerman describes the “post-Cold War humiliation of Russia” as a “march”. But now, like Germany in 1945, the country could no longer be spared. “Without the Nuremberg Trials, the re-education, the purification, we would not be dealing with a peaceful, reunited Germany today.” Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, “embodies the victory of the Soviet past over the present”.
The “Putin Black Book” will be published in German next January, with two additional articles by Katja Gloger and Karl Schlögel. The genus goes back to “The Black Book” about the genocide of the Jews. This inventory was carried out on behalf of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAK). 500,000 Jews had fought in the Red Army. After defeating Hitler, Stalin no longer needed them, most members of the JAK were shot.
The first complete version of the “Black Book” was published in German in 1992. Its editor Arno Freuder also documents in minute detail what Stalin wanted to keep secret: the martyrdom of the Jews and their contribution to the victory over fascism. Funeral mentions one of the justifications for their persecution under Stalin: the Jews would pursue the separation of Crimea in order to install a Jewish republic on the peninsula. Stalin’s successor, Khrushchev, gave it to Ukraine.