ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Threat and Fear of Reversion: The Rise of Hitler, Putin's Russia, and ISIS

Conflict
Democracy
Elections
Ethnic Conflict
Extremism
Human Rights
Political Psychology
Political Violence
Manus Midlarsky
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Manus Midlarsky
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Abstract

Democracies typically do not commit genocide and so Weimar Germany provides a unique opportunity to assess the sources of genocide at its governmental beginnings, the rise of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship of Germany in January 1933. Hitler’s rants to the German people in his public speeches are virtually incomprehensible to a rational observer. The anger and vitriol in themselves are beyond comprehension. The path to Hitler’s rise was marked by the convergence of three dimensions that were soon to be extraordinarily finite in duration. These dimensions were the territorial, economic, and corporeal (mortality), all suggesting the finite nature of political and economic stability, and ultimately of human existence. A fundamental hypothesis underlying this study is: the greater the ontological insecurity of a society the more likely the emergence of extreme brutality in later conflict. Driving this insecurity is the threat and fear of reversion to an earlier subordinate condition. The Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr incurring mortality occurred at the same time as the hyper-inflation of 1923, reminded the German population of the territorial losses at Versailles and the near-2 million German dead during WWI. The later Great Depression evoked the threat and fear of reversion to the inflation period that witnessed the pauperization of large segments of the German population. Implications of this analysis for the election of Vladimir Putin to the presidency of Russia in 2000 and his subsequent behavior are explored as well as the formation of ISIS. Anger has been found to be associated with loss. Equally important, anger has been shown to be a significant emotional response to injustice, a perception by Germans widely shared because of the Treaty of Versailles’ negation of most of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. People in a state of anger are more apt to blame others for mishaps that occurred. Further, persons of an ethnicity different from one’s own are more likely to be targeted. Hitler’s anger was a direct reflection of the feelings of a plurality of the German electorate in 1932. Striking similarities are found in the territorial and economic trajectories of interwar Germany and post-1991 Russia; convergence of the three dimensions is found in both cases. Putin’s Russia experienced the huge territorial losses of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, evoked again by the loss of Chechnya in 1996, close to the nadir of the Russian economy and incurring many Russian deaths. Putin understood these losses to yield a subordinate second or third-tier Russia in the international system, a condition to be rectified by his 1999 brutal invasion of Chechnya yielding a total of 220,000 Chechen dead for the two wars and other aggressive actions. In the path to the formation of ISIS, democratically elected leaders in Shia-led Iraq allied with the West were being abandoned for the sake of autocratic rule—as in Germany and Russia—that would satisfy the economic (via the acquisition of oil fields) and political grievances of a large discomfited Sunni population dominated by the Shia, but in a separate territorial entity.