From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A man wearing a vatnik, feeding pigeons
Suppress the dissenters
Icon fascism.svg
Bundle of rods

Ruscism, rashism, russism, or Russian fascism, (Russian and Ukrainian: Рашизм), a portmanteau of "Russia/Russian" (Russian: Россия (Rossiya), pronounced "ra-SEE-ya") and "fascism," is a neologism now commonly used[1][2][3] to describe the guiding state ideology of the Russian Federation under President Vladimir Putin.[4][5] It first appeared in 1995 during the Russian war in Chechnya as "Russianism",[6][7] but later morphed into "Rashism" as Russia invaded its neighboring states of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014,[8] spreading further in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in in 2022.[9] In English, the spelling "ruscism" more intuitively captures the meaning, but "rashism" is also widely used.[9]

Ethnonationalist extremism has a long history in the Russophone world, but the term "ruscism" or "rashism" underscores the de facto fascist nature of the Putin regime, especially by March 2022, despite its anti-fascist façade; it is, essentially, a quasi-fascist ideological justification for Putinism.[10] The main tenets include Soviet-style charismatic authoritarianism, Soviet nostalgia and nostalgia for the Russian empire, irredentism, Orthodox Christianity as a state religion, and a semi-mythical veneration of the Russian race, Russian history, and the Russian state.[11]


Russia has always struggled with authoritarianism since the later days of the Russian empire under Tsar Nicholas II, but total control of the state was even worse during the era of the Soviet Union. Many anti-Soviet activists varied on the political spectrum, but some had fascist leanings (such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).


Ukrainian protesters wearing vatnik meme masks

The pejorative "vatnik" (ватник; "quilted jacket") is sometimes usedWikipedia for Russian jingoists in the modern age of rashism and Putinism.[12] A vatnik is a Russian cotton wool coat, part of the Red Army's winter uniform – but as a pejorative term, it's derived from a 2011 Internet meme first spread by Anton Chadskiy, which references his cartoon character with its square quilted jacket appearance (Propastop states that the implication of this "is similar to the English expression of someone having 'cotton between their ears' in that they are not using their brain to think for themselves").[13][14] Versions of the figure are usually drawn gray, red-nosed (from vodka-drinking), and with a black eye from belligerent infighting in the name of Russian nationalism.

Russia! magazine's Jim Kovpak described this meme, and the archetype it represents, in highly familiar detail in 2015.[15] To quote at length:

Put simply, the vatnik is representative of a certain archetypical Russian who slavishly supports the regime out of fear, hatred of others, or most often a combination of both. ... Aside from drinking, the vatnik craves 'stability,' the magic word Putin trotted out during his 2012 presidential campaign. Of course the vatnik doesn't get stability; he got steadily rising prices and a flagging economy ... Nevertheless, the vatnik doesn't want to rock the boat because that precious stability he never receives might be imperiled. People who value things such as personal freedom, prosperity, or actual stability over non-existent stability are viewed as national traitors... It's not that the vatnik is satisfied with Russian society; he’s absolutely livid about every real or imagined problem the country has. Yet if asked, he’s happy to declare his love of Putin, even if it is slightly less than his love for Putinka [vodka]. ...

The vatnik has nothing but white-hot hatred for Ukraine. They rocked the boat. They thought they had a way out of the Russian sphere. Why should they have it better? The vatnik spends a good portion of his time regurgitating the same tired old tropes about Ukraine. They whored out to the Americans, just like every other country which doesn't submit itself under Moscow's vassalage. The vatnik always puts the relationship between individuals or countries and the US in explicit terms of sexual dominance, a telling sign of Russia’s sometimes amusing but ultimately disturbing masculinity crisis. ... Insults revolving around oral and anal sex are par-for-the course when discussing politics with the vatnik, regardless of age.

While on that topic, the vatnik despises homosexuals. He knows from watching Russian state-owned media that the West is "Sodom and Gomorrah." He refers to Europe as "Gayropa," and his best argument against the EU Association Agreement at the heart of Maidan was that it would lead to same-sex marriage in Ukraine — even though it had nothing to do with that. The vatnik is utterly unconcerned with the fact that thousands of Russian children in the country's dilapidated orphanage system are subject to physical and sexual abuse. His concern is that those children might be adopted by citizens of countries which allow same-sex marriage. He doesn't care if children as young as 9 and 10 smoke in the park, drink alco-energy beverages, or watch their father and mother drunkenly fight at 1 AM, but he's terribly concerned about the dangers of "gay propaganda."

The vatnik is happy to tell you about his deep regard for the Russian Orthodox faith and its traditions in spite of never going to church. He believes Putin is defending Russia's Christian traditions from the degenerate West, even as he sees young women emerging from discotheque on the arms of shady businessmen, ten to twenty years their senior and with wives and children at home. He considers Russia a bastion of morality in spite of the fact that men stand outside metro exits handing out catalogs of prostitutes.

By and large the vatnik's most uncanny ability is holding mutually exclusive ideas at the same time while being utterly oblivious to the glaring contradiction. He laments the destruction of Lenin monuments in Ukraine while insisting that the Ukrainian nation and its language were insidious inventions by Lenin, the bastard who murdered the Tsar and his family. He can never shut up about how Russia's grandfathers fought and singlehandedly won the Second World War, yet he harbors a soft spot for Nazi Germany and fascism out of his unflagging admiration for strong, authoritarian leaders. To the vatnik, the only bad side of Nazi Germany and fascism in general is that they attacked the Soviet Union, beyond that the vatnik has no qualms about racism, anti-Semitism, or authoritarianism. He insists that anyone living in Russia should speak Russian, but he squeals with bristling anger at the idea of Russians living in former Soviet republics being required to learn the local language. He says that Ukrainians and Russians are "brother peoples" and yet despises the "invented" Ukrainian language and any cultural distinction between the two.

What the vatnik fears most of all is freedom and the responsibility that goes along with it. His idea of stability requires Russia to be governed by a "strong hand." On a certain level he resents that strong hand, but in the absence of any will to do anything about this, he settles for Schadenfreude at others' expense, be they younger Russians who think differently, national minorities, or countries on Russia's periphery. As he is utterly dominated by the state and its elite, he revels in the dominance over these groups and the misery it produces. He cannot possibly imagine a powerful, prosperous Russia based on strict rule of law, democratic institutions, and a wise policy of using state resources to benefit the people at large and spur on private innovation. For the vatnik, Russia can only be great by either dominating other countries, or by instilling fear in them. This is why the vatnik is almost orgasmic at the thought of Americans or Europeans living in fear of nuclear war with Russia. ... The vatnik would rather live in filth and muck and believe that Americans are worried about what Russia might do than to live in prosperity and freedom while enjoying friendly and mutually-beneficial relations with Russia. No, that is surrender.[15]

The Russian state's response to this meme is about what you would expect. One Russian activist went to trial, had his computer confiscated, and was banned from political campaigning for posting it; a Russian teenager who posted it was punished with 160 hours of community service, purportedly because it insulted people based on national origin.[16][17]

Similarly, Russian nationalists have attempted to have it categorized as an ethnic slur, especially after it entered wider use following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. This characterization makes little sense considering it's pretty much just a politically-focused snarl word. The phrase also has its origins among Russians themselves rather than an oppressor group.[18][14]

The term vatnik, as it is used today, is close in use to another political epithet, "tankie" (which also denotes largely-uncritical supporters of authoritarian governments, most often Marxist-Leninist regimes). In American politics, the closest analogue for the term "vatnik" is probably "redneck", though, it ought to be emphasized that the former has more satirical, Internet-based origins while the latter has a longer history. Also, while "redneck" as an insult could refer to people of authoritarian political inclinations, it doesn't necessarily. "Vatnik" as an insult always does (barring misuse of the term).

See also[edit]


  1. "Росія і рашисти: хто стоїть за спиною Путіна |" (in uk). 
  2. "Real 'rashism': in Russia they're drawing up lists of Jews needing to be deported as 'disagreeing' with Putin" (in ru). 30 June 2014. "They propose to 'deprive' them 'of Russian citizenship and forcible deport [them] to their ethnic homeland - to Israel. The justification [is] blatant hatred of all things Russian'. [...] In exactly this manner the authors of the list characterise the disagreement of the cultural elite [...] with the openly fascist politics of Putin." 
  3. Tykha, Lina (9 March 2014). "Rashism won't go away, or It's difficult to be a human being" (in ru-RU). "Many people are gradually beginning to suspect that Putin's aim is nothing else than the desire to erect rashism against the whole world. Who would have thought that in a country that fought bitterly against fascism and nazism, there would not only be sown the seeds of these ideologies, but that they would flourish again and begin to bear fruit." 
  4. "Томенко назвал борьбу с рашизмом новым серьезным мировым испытанием" (in ru). OBOZREVATEL NEWS. 2014-07-18. 
  5. "Остановить рашизм. Новый урок для мира" (in ru). 
  6. Джохар Дудаев: Что такое русизм? (11.03.14) Chechenews. Translation of title: "Dzhokhar Dudayev: What is Russianism?"
  7. Джохар Дудаев о Руссизме (Jan 8, 2011) YouTube.
  8. Настоящий «рашизм»: в России составляют списки евреев, которых нужно депортировать как «несогласных» с Путиным (13:10 / 30.06.2014) Багнет. Translation of title: "Real "rashism": in Russia they make lists of Jews who need to be deported as 'disagreeing' with Putin".
  9. 9.0 9.1 The War in Ukraine Has Unleashed a New Word: In a creative play on three different languages, Ukrainians identify an enemy: ‘ruscism.’ by Timothy Snyder (April 22, 2022) The New York Times.
  10. "Путин будет захватывать новые территории, чтобы проложить путь к Балканам - эксперты" (in ru). 2014-03-23. 
  11. Oleg Leusenko/Леусенко, Олег Володимирович. "Рашизм как идеология Кремля". 
  12. "Яких росіян називають "ватниками"?". 10-04-2014. 
  13. Wadded Jacket (ватник) (2015) Know Your Meme.
  14. 14.0 14.1 (May 1, 2023). "Why propagandists are battling to redefine 'vatnik'". Propastop.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Jim Kovpak (June 9, 2015). "Vatnost – Why the West can’t Understand Russia". Russia!.
  16. (August 27, 2018). "Russians on trial for sharing memes, networks ask for law change". France 24. Agence France-Presse.
  17. (February 27, 2017). "Teen Gets 160 Hours Community Service for Insulting Russian Chauvinists". The Moscow Times.
  18. Mark Liberman (May 28, 2023). "'Vatnik' — ethnic or political slur?". Language Log.