Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review
The topic of Russians and Jews is clearly a “hot” one. Over the past few years I wrote several articles on this topic including “Putin and Israel A Complex and Multi-Layered Relationship”, “Why Is Putin “Allowing” Israel to Bomb Syria?”, “Russia, Israel and the Values of “Western Civilization” – Where Is the Truth?” and “Debunking the Rumors About Russia Caving in to Israel”. And yet, for a while now I I felt that there is much more which could, and should, be said on this topic.
Recent events (including Putin’s and Zelenskii’s recent trip to Israel or the latest Polish-Ukrainian theory about the USSR being an accomplice to the Holocaust) again gave me that strong feeling that the way Jews are seen in the West is truly very different from how Jews are viewed in Russia. Yet, in the West, this difference is often (almost always, really!) overlooked and assumptions are made about Russia and Russians which are simply not warranted and which end up being highly misleading. This is why I will try to debunk some of these assumptions today.
First, a very quick and very short look into our recent history
The very best book to read on Russian-Jewish relations is “200 Years Together” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The problem with this book is that has never been officially translated into English. Yup, that’s right. A CRUCIAL book by a Nobel Prize winner can be so controversial that nobody in the publishing business has dared to print it. Happily, a number of websites offer unofficial “samizdat” translations, see here, here and here. I cannot vouch for the quality of these translations as I read the book in Russian, not in English. But yeah, in the “land of the free”, the putative “brave” do not get to read a book if that book debunks the western narrative about Russia and Jews. By the way, Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece is not the only such book which exists only in Russian, there are many more including Andrei Dikii’s “Jews in Russia and the USSR” which can also only be found on the Internet Archive here.
I can’t even begin to try to summarize that most interesting, and controversial history here. All I will say for right now is that when we speak of “Russians” and “Jews” we need to separate these categories into 4 subcategories:
- Russians from what would be considered Russia today, in other words, “Great-Russians” (here “great” does not indicate a superiority, but only a peripheral place of residence, meaning Russians who don’t live in central Russia). For our purposes I will from now on simply call them “Russians”.
- Russians from what would be considered the Ukraine today in other words, “Small-Russians” (meaning Russians living near the cradle of the Russian civilization, Kiev). For our purposes, I will from now on refer to them as “Ukrainians”, but only in a geographical sense, not a cultural one.
- Russian Jews (as opposed to Ukrainian Jews)
- Ukrainian Jews (as opposed to Russian Jews)
These four subgroups have had a very different historical experience and they need to be considered separately, as lumping them all together really does not allow any analysis.
Besides, and as I have also mentioned it in the past, the Ukrainian nationalist propaganda does, in fact, have *some* truth to it. Yes, it is a grossly distorted truth, and it is mixed in with an avalanche of lies, but still, not all of it can simply be dismissed. For example, while there never was any “Ukraine” in history, and while what is called today the “Ukrainian language” is not really Ukrainian at all (the “surzhik” would be the real thing), it still remains an undeniable fact that the Polish occupation of southern and eastern Russia (which is what “the Ukraine” is – Russia’s southeastern “borderland” which is what the word “Ukraine” originally meant) left an extremely profound mark on those Russians who lived under the Polish-Latin occupation. I won’t go into historical details today as I already did that here and here, but I will just say that this tragic history eventually inspired one of the favorite slogans of Ukrainian nationalists: “to drown all the Polaks and the Moskals in Kike blood” (or any variation of these three nationalities).
The undeniable historical truth is that the centuries long occupation of the Russian eastern frontier lands by the Poles and their Latin masters created so much hatred between all the nationalities involved that it appears that every time they had a chance to try to persecute or kill each other, they immediately did so. Here area few examples of that kind of violence:
- The (in)famous “pogroms”: these were spontaneous and violent uprisings and subsequent brutal riots against Jews by their resentful neighbors. By the way, during the Civil War, the Reds often were the worst perpetrators of these pogroms because they also saw the comparatively wealthy Jews as class enemies in the Marxist sense of the word.
- The very high percentage of Jews among the first generation Bolsheviks (80%-85% according to Vladimir Putin; fwiw, I agree with this figure). These Bolshevik Jews were typically concentrated in the secret police organs and they typically spearheaded the massacre of millions of Orthodox Christians (which have since been gloried by the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile and, later, somewhat reluctantly and only partially, by the Moscow Patriarchate, as the “New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia”).
- A very high percentage of Jews among the Party leaders during the (truly horribly brutal) collectivization and and dekulakization which took place all over the Soviet Union but which the Ukrainian nationalists (and the western propaganda machine) characterize as a deliberate anti-Ukrainian genocide they call the “Holodomor” (yes, I know, Wikipedia entries on all these topics are pure propaganda, but I link to them precisely so you can see what the Ukrainian propaganda writes).
- A very high percentage of Ukrainians in the post-Stalin Soviet elites, many of whom participated in the bloody purges of the CPSU by Stalin; and since about 80%+ of the top Party officials were Jews, these purges necessarily involved a lot of repressed Jews (whether guilty ones who themselves were covered in innocent blood or innocent ones, who were simply repressed with the rest of them).
I could list more examples, but I think that these are sufficient for our purposes. What we can immediately see is that there are significant differences between what took place in modern Russia and in the modern Ukraine, including:
An example of a crucial geographical difference would be “pogroms” which, contrary to western propaganda, pogroms all took place in what would be the modern Ukraine today, never in Russia.
There is also a difference in time: Russians in the Ukraine were persecuted by Poles and Jews for centuries whereas Russians in what is modern Russia today were primarily persecuted by Bolshevik Jews “only” between 1917 and Stalin’s purges of the party in the late 1930s.
And then, there is the crucial, truly immense, difference which WWII made.
Next, a look at what happened during World War II and the Nazi occupation
When the Nazis launched their attack on the Soviet Union there were a lot of Russians and Ukrainians who welcomed the Nazis, not necessarily because they liked the Nazi ideology but because manyh of them hated their Bolshevik oppressors even more than they disliked the Germans. After all, the horrors of the Civil War and of the Collectivization were still present in the mind of millions of people both in the (newly created) Ukrainian SSR and in the Russian SSR.
[Sidebar: I would like to remind all those who nowadays try very hard to forget it, that the Nazi ideology characterizes both Russians and Ukrainians as subhumans (Untermensch) whose sole purpose would be to serve their Aryan master race overlords (Herrenvolk) in the newly conquered living space (Lebensraum). Simply put: Hitler promised his followers that they would be very happy slave owners! It is no wonder that the prospective slaves felt otherwise…]
In the course of the war, however, profound differences began to emerge:
First, in the Ukraine, the Nazi ideology DID inspire a lot of nationalists for the exact same reasons that Nazi ideology inspired nationalist Poles (who were Hitler’s first most loyal allies only to later be betrayed by him). Over the centuries the Papacy not only created the Ukrainian nationalist identity, it then actively fostered it every time Russia was weakened (if that topic is of interest to you, see here). The bitter truth which folks in the West don’t like to be reminded of is that the regimes of Petain, Franco, Pavelic, Pilsudksi, etc. were all created and supported by the Papacy which, of course, also supported Bandera and his Ukronazi deathsquads. As for Hitler himself, he was initially strongly supported by the UK (just as Trotsky was supported by the Jewish bankers in the USA). Indeed, russophobia has a long and “distinguished” history in the West: western leaders change, as do their ideological rationalizations, but their hatred and fear of Russia always remains.
In contrast, General Andrei Vlasov, who created the “Russian Liberation Army” (ROA) had exactly zero support in the West, and very little support in Russia proper. The ideology of the ROA was a mix of moderate nationalism with some no less moderate socialism. In hindsight, it never stood a chance of becoming truly popular in Russia simply because the sight of a Russian general wearing a Nazi uniform was not something that most Russians could serenely look at, whereas in the current Nazi-occupied Ukraine, Nazi uniforms and symbols are still very popular. Last, but certainly not least, the demented and outright genocidal policies of the Nazis in occupied Russia resulted in such a blowback that the war to liberate Russia from the Nazis became a war of national survival which the vast majority of Russians fully supported.
[Sidebar: it is also interesting how differently the Anglo powers treated the Ukronazis and the Russians of the ROA: the West lovingly imported to the US and Canada all the Ukronazis it could get its hands on, yet at the same time the West forcibly repatriated millions of Russians, including POW and ROA members, with often horrible consequences for the repatriates. As for General Vlasov himself, he was executed along with other officers accused of treason]
For the Ukrainian nationalists, WWII began as a God-sent chance to finally bring about their dream to “drown all the Polaks and the Moskals in Kike blood”, and then this dream was crushed by the Soviet counter-attack and subsequent annihilation of most (about 80%) of the German military machine. And while many Ukrainians (and Poles) did see the Soviets as their liberators from the Nazi horrors, the Ukronazis obviously saw the Soviet Army solely as an occupation force which they resisted for as long as they could (after the end of the war, it still took the Soviets several years to finally crush the Ukronazi underground). And while most Russians felt like they were the real victors of WWII, the Ukronazi nationalists felt that they had been defeated. Again. The same goes for the Poles, by the way (this trauma gave birth to something I refer to as the “Pilban syndrome”).
Now for the self-evident truism about Jews: while many Russians remained acutely aware of the Jewish role in the Bolshevik revolution and, especially, in the class terror which followed, they did not see ALL Jews as enemies of Russia, especially not when
- There were plenty of patriotic Jews who loved Russia and/or the USSR
- That Hitler’s demented racism inevitably had to bring Jews and Russians together, even if only for a while and mostly under the “common enemy” heading.
- Many (most?) Russians know for a fact that Nazi concentration/extermination camps did, in fact, exist even if they did not kill 6M Jews, even if they had no gas chambers and no crematoria (except to deal with insect-born diseases). Why? Because it was the Soviet military which liberated most of these camps and because there were plenty of non-Jewish Russians/Soviets in these camps. Finally, besides the camps themselves, most Russians also know about the infamous Einsatzgruppen which probably murdered even more Jews (and non-Jews) than all the concentration/extermination camps combined. The fact is that Nazi atrocities are not seriously challenged by most Russian historians.
The bottom line is this: whatever (at the time very real) hostility history had created between Jews and Russians, World War II had a huge impact on these perceptions. That is not to say that the Russians have forgotten the genocidal policies of Lenin and Trotsky, but only that after WWII, most Russians justly felt that they were victors, not defeated losers.
The Ukrainian nationalists, in contrast, were “multi-defeat” losers: they were defeated by the Germans, the Russians and even the Poles (who rarely attack anybody unless their prospective victim is already agonizing or unless there is some “big guy” protecting them – Churchill was quite right with his “greedy hyena of Europe” comment!). And now, more recently, they were soundly defeated not once, but TWICE, by the Novorussians. That kind of “performance” will often result in a nationalistic reaction.
And that is true not only for the Ukraine, but also very much applies to the West of 2020.
Does the collective West also suffer from the same “multi-defeat” complex?
It seems to me that most people reading these lines already know that the “collective West” aka the “AngloZionist Empire” is in terrible shape. Just look at the political chaos in the USA, the UK, France, Germany and all the rest of the NATO/EU countries. The West is not only losing militarily and economically, it is also agonizing culturally, socially, morally and spiritually. Furthermore, that which we all used to think of as “western values” is now being replaced by some insipid “multiculturalism” which seems to pious euphemism for the obvious plan to erase pretty much all of the western historical and cultural legacy. Like all forms of persecution, this one is also resulting in an increasingly powerful case of ideological blowback: a very dangerous and toxic resurgence of both Fascism and National-Socialism.
How could a person (Hitler) and an ideology (National-Socialism) be both declared uniquely evil AND, at the same time, undergo at least a partial rehabilitation in the same society? Simple! The only condition necessary to make that happen is to condition people to accept cognitive dissonances and not to be too troubled when they happen. The average citizen of the Empire has been conditioned to accept, and even embrace, such cognitive dissonances quite literally since birth and he has become very, very good at that. But there is also a historiographical blowback in action here:
Following WWII and, especially, following the 1970s, the Zionists made what I consider to be a disastrous mistake: they decided to present Hitler and his ideology as some kind of special and unique form of evil which supersedes any and all, past or even future, imaginable forms of evil. And just to make sure that this claim would stick, they decided to add some highly specific claims including the “official’” figure of 6 million murdered Jews, the gas chambers and crematoria being the most famous ones, but there were many more (including electrocution pools, human skin lamp shades and human fat soaps – but which had to be ditched after being proven false). Eventually these claims all came under very effective attack by the so-called “revisionist historians” who have since proven beyond reasonable doubt that these specific claims were false. That did not make these historians very popular with the rulers of the Empire who, instead of allowing for of a healthy historical debate, decided to make “revisionism” a criminally punishable thoughtcrime for which historians could be jailed, sometimes for years! The reaction to that kind of abuse of power was inevitable.
One of the most pernicious result of this policy of criminalizing historical investigations into WWII has been the fact that many people in the West concluded that since these specific claims were bunk, then all of the claims about Nazi atrocities were bunk too. Huge logical mistake! The fact that these specific claims have already been debunked in no way implies that OTHER widely reported atrocities did not occur.
For example, the fact that gas chambers were probably not used to kill anybody (at least not in significant amounts) does not at all imply that many hundreds of thousands, or even million of people, were not killed by execution, starvation or disease (typhus, dysentery, etc.). Just look at the death rates in Japanese POW camps, and they had no gas chambers or crematoria. As for the Soviets, they deported “class enemies” from their homes and simply released them in the middle of the Siberian taiga during the winter and with no survival gear: most of them also quickly died, simply from exposure.
The simple truth is that any modern state has the means to murder people on an industrial scale even without the use of such exotic (and, frankly, ill-suited) techniques as gas chambers or crematoria (in Rwanda, they mostly used crude machetes). But western historians are banned from even researching these topics!
This situation resulted in an environment in the West in which one cannot criticize (or even doubt!) Jews or things Jewish without immediately being called an “anti-Semite”. Ditto for anybody daring to present another version of WWII. That this kind of collective brainwashing would inevitably result in a massive blowback was easy to predict but, alas, the Zionists never had the foresight to see this coming. Either that, or they were quite happy to report a “surge in anti-Semitism” in the West to extort even more political power (and money!). Whatever may be the case, it is close to impossible in the current West to freely and openly discuss these topics.
Now a quick comparison with modern Russia
The political environment in Russia is radically different. For one thing, it is not illegal (or even improper) in Russia to criticize Jews, or modern “Judaism” (really a modern form of rabbinical Phariseism) or Israel or the Zionist ideology (which, by the way, the USSR did denounce and oppose as a form of racism). Yes, there are still (pretty bad) laws on the books forbidding the promotion of national hatred and “extremist speech”, but the truth is that as long as you only investigate historical topics (such as the real number of Jews murdered by the Nazis) and you do not advocate (or engage in) violence you will be fine. Not only that, but you can find pretty much any and all anti-Jewish/Zionist books on the Russian Internet for easy and free download. Finally, while a lot of Jews did leave the USSR, those who stayed (or have since returned) did that of their own free will and that strongly suggests that, unlike their brethren in Israel, many (most?) Russian Jews do not have feelings of hatred for Russia, the Russian people or even the Orthodox Church (some do, of course, but this is a minority).
Some near sighted Jews regularly deplore that the political discourse in Russia is not as tightly controlled as the one in the West. I would simply like to remind them that the much more permissive intellectual environment of Russia has NOT resulted in an automatic fusion between patriotism and hostility to Jews, as is sadly the case in the West (unless, of course, we are dealing with what French philosopher and dissident Alain Soral calls “National-Zionism” which is a separate phenomenon which I discussed in some detail here).
True, when patriotism (love for one’s country) turns into nationalism (love of one’s ethnicity), then things typically go south, but that is a danger of which the Kremlin is acutely aware of and that is why Russian nationalists are, after Russian Wahabis, the most frequently jailed people in Russia under anti extremism laws (keep in mind that both Russian nationalists and Russian Wahabis typically not only disseminate “extremist literature” but they also are typically engaged in one form of violence or another, thus they are often jailed on terrorism charges too).
An increasing number of Russians are, however, puzzled by what they see as a slow-motion rehabilitation of Hitler and the Nazi regime. For example, while in the West the official doxa is still that Hitler and the Nazis were the worst evil in history, there is a rapidly growing “alternative” viewpoint, mostly found on the Internet, of course, in which Hitler is viewed as a much more complex person, who has been unjustly demonized and whose actions need to be placed in a “correct” historical context. And, in fact, there is some truth to that – Hitler was a complex personality and the Nazis were demonized beyond way beyond anything reasonable. Finally, the proponents of this “rehabilitation” will always point out that Hitler’s enemies were at least as ruthless and evil has he was. Again, there is also much truth to that. However, when the EU declares in a solemn vote that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were both equally responsible for WWII, then a fundamental red line is crossed, one which places an “equal” sign not only between the aggressor and the aggressed but also between those who were defeated and those who were victorious.
[Sidebar: as I have often written in the past, under international law the ultimate, most evil, crime is not “genocide” or “crimes against humanity”. It is the “crime of aggression” because, in the words of the US judge who declared this principle, “the crime of aggression contains all the other crimes”, which is only logical. Thus by accusing the USSR of aggression, the EU is basically annulling them findings of the Nuremberg Tribunal, it makes the USSR every bit as guilty of all the atrocities of WWII as the Nazis.]
Are the Russians correct when they say that there is a slow-motion rehabilitation of Hitler and his ideology in the West?
The fact that this slo-mo rehabilitation is still currently and mostly confined to the margins of the political discourse does not change the Russian awareness that no matter how much Hitler and his minions are disliked or even hated in the West, Russia and Russians will always be hated even much more. This is also true of what the West calls “Islamic extremism” which is only “bad” when it is not fully controlled by the West (terrorists!!), and which is “good”, axiomatically so, when directed against Russia or other Orthodox nations (freedom fighters!!).
Under these circumstances, is it really surprising that many (most?) Russians feel like the West is a much bigger danger to the Russian civilizational realm than any anti-Russian plans concocted by Jews, Zionists or the Israelis?
Not only do most Russians hate Hitler and everything he stood for, they also truly understand that the vast majority of Jews murdered by the Third Reich were simple, innocent, people whose only crime was to be of the same ethnicity/religion as some other Jews who did, indeed, richly deserved to be hated for their racist messianism (be it religious or secular). That is a fundamental injustice which Russians will never accept because accepting it would be a betrayal of truth (a hugely important concept for the Russian civilization) and no less of a betrayal of the memory of all the innocents murdered by the Nazis.
Conclusion one: history matters, a lot!
Whatever we all may think of Jewish identity politics or whatever our opinion of the Soviet Union, it is undeniable that Hitler’s policies inflicted unspeakable suffering upon both Russians and Jews. Western Alt-Righters, who still delude themselves into thinking that Russians share in their racist delusions, can deny and denounce this, but the fact is that history has forever created a bond between Jews and Russians: their common memory of the mass atrocities perpetuated against them by the Nazis. No amount of political gesticulations will change that.
That does not, of course, mean that Putin, the Kremlin or anybody else is an “ally” of Israel or that Putin and Bibi Netanyahu are working together (or for each other). This utter nonsense is a completely false conclusion resulting from a fundamental and profound misreading of Russian history and Russian culture. But it goes even further than that. I would argue that the history of the Russian culture is also fundamentally incompatible with any racist/racialist ideas.
The ideology of pre-1917 Russia can be described as “Orthodox monarchism”. This is not really correct for a long list of reasons (reality is always more complex than buzz-words and slogans), but by and large you could say that what was considered morally right or morally wrong was defined by the Russian Orthodox Church. Well, it just so happens that while original Christianity (i.e. Orthodoxy) was very critical of rabbinical “Judaism” (the religion and wordview), that same original Christianity was far less hostile to Jews (the ethnicity) then western Christian demominations. In fact, true Christianity has always been pro-patriotic but anti-nationalistic. This was also the practice in the Eastern Roman Empire (whose political structure Russia inherited). By the way, this is also true for the 2nd religion of Russia, Islam.
Then, after the 1917 Revolution, Russia was initially submitted to two decades of Jewish terror, especially a kind of terror directed against the Russian people and the Orthodox faith. With the coming to power of Stalin, however, major changes took place (and most of those who had drowned Russia in innocent blood were themselves executed during the famous “purges”). And while Stalin never was an “anti-Semite” (this is silly nonsense which both Stalin’s actions and writings directly contradict), his purges (and reforms) did profoundly change the nature of the Soviet regime, including the ethnic composition of the leaders of the CPSU which became much more diverse.
Speaking of the Soviet Union in general, it is also important to remember that the Marxist-Leninist ideology also rejects racial and ethnic differences and, instead, advocates a solidarity of all people against their class oppressors.
Thus neither the pre-1917 nor the post-1917 mainstream Russian ideology/worldview are a viable ground to try to promote racist ideas. And, thankfully, neither is modern (“Putin’s”) Russia.
The truth is that Russia which, as I mentioned above, is the political heir to the East Roman Empire (aka “Byzantium” in western parlance) has ALWAYS been multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and pretty much any and all other “multi-something” you can think of. For all the many sins of the Russian people during their history, racism was never one of them!
For example, this is also why, while most people in the West see Islam (and Muslims) as “aliens”, most Russians are totally used to them and see them as longtime neighbors. That does not mean that Russian’s don’t remember the dozen or so wars Russia fought against the Ottomans, nor does it mean that Russia has forgiven the Wahabi atrocities in Chechnia. It simply and only means that Muslims, and even Turks, are not see as “national enemies” by Russians.
The same is true for Jews. Yes, the Russians do remember what Jews did to them during the early years of the Bolshevik regime, but that memory, that awareness, does NOT typically result into any kind of racism, including any type of anti-Jewish racism. Nor do the horrors committed by Jewish Bolsheviks obfuscate all the very real contributions of various Jews to the Russian culture.
[Sidebar: by the way, it is important to remember here that while it is true that most first-generation Bolsheviks were Jews, it is not true that most Jews were Bolsheviks. In fact, Jews were found pretty much everywhere, including amongst Menshevik’s, anarchists, Bundists, etc..]
So yes, Jews and Russians mostly lived together for about 200 years, and much of our common history is tragic, painful and even shameful, but at the end of the day, it would be false to think that most Russians either dislike or fear Jews. They do not. Even when they are critical of this or that personality, ideology or religion (original Christianity will always be the ultimate enemy of rabbinical Judaism, just as rabbinical Judaism will always remain the ultimate enemy of original Christianity; we can understand why that is so, or we can deplore it, but we should never forget or deny this!).
[Sidebar: if any self-described anti-Semite reads these words and is absolutely outraged by what I just wrote, please also make sure to read “The Invention of the Jewish People” by Shlomo Sand” which will show to you that the very notion of “ethnicity” (whether Jewish or non-Jewish) is a modern invention with very little actual basis in history, especially in the history of multi-cultural empires. Simply put: in a culture which does not really believe in the importance of ethnicity no truly racist ideology can develop. It is really that simple!]
Yes, I know about Dostoevskii’s and Rozanov’s dislike for Jews (and Poles, by the way), and yes I know about the Pale of Settlement (won’t touch this here, but it sure was not what western historians in the West think it was – just read Solzhenitsyn!). I also know about the “Blood Libel” (won’t touch this one either, but I will recommend you read the 2007 book by Israeli historian Ariel Toaff “Passovers of Blood”) and about all the other myths spread in the West (by Jews and non-Jews) about “Russian anti-Semitism”. But the truth is simple: while there were many instances in history when Jews and Russians clashed (including the 10th century destruction of Khazaria by Russian forces or the 15th century struggle against the “Heresy of the Judaizers” – which, by the way, Wikipedia does a very bad job describing: in reality this was an early attempt by Kabbalists to infiltrate the Russian Orthodox Church just as they had successfully infiltrated the Papacy). Yet, these conflicts did not resulted in any major hostility of Russians towards Jews (the inverse is, alas, not nearly as true).
Conclusion two: Putin, Zelenskii and the Israelis
The recent trip of both Zelenskii and Putin to Israel has, again, brought the topic of the Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian “triangle” to the front page news. The Poles also seized the opportunity to make things worse for themselves when they chimed in on it all. You read the stories, so no need to repeat it all here. What was most impressive about this event was that Zelenskii decided that he would travel to Israel, only to then declare that he would not participate in the commemorative events. Why? Clearly, he was terrified that the Ukronazis will denounce him for caving in to Zionist pressure.
Putin did the exact opposite, not only did he travel to Israel and he spoke at the event, he also reminded the (mostly Jewish) audience of the horrors which the Russian people also suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Clearly, Putin did not fear that some Russian nationalists would accuse him of caving in to Zionist pressure. Why not?
Why could Putin speak so freely?
For two very simple reasons:
First, and unlike the Ukrainians or the Poles, the Russians have exactly zero guilt about what happened in WWII. In spite of all the lies currently spread in the West, the Soviet Union did not start WWII – the Soviet Union pretty much single-handedly defeated Hitler and ended the war (the entire Anglo effort was worth no more than 20% and only came after the Soviets defeated the Wehrmacht and the SS in Stalingrad and elsewhere).
Second, Jewish supremacism was very short lived in the USSR (roughly from 1917 to 1937) and neither Putin nor any other Russian political leader will let claims of exclusive “special” Jewish suffering go unchallenged. And while most Russian politicians don’t feel the need to express any doubts about the “official” 6 million figure, they do like to remind their Jewish friends that the Russian nation suffered anywhere between 20 to 27 million dead people during WWII, thus denying Jewish victims any superior victim status over non-Jewish victims.
Our fundamental disagreement about WWII, Hitler and Jews
Likewise, it is BECAUSE Russians have zero sense of guilt towards Jews, that Putin could mention this figure of 80-85% of Jews in the first Bolshevik regime in front of an assembly of Haredi rabbis (see the video here for yourself: https://youtu.be/7bSAB5OPkwQ).
Can you imagine Merkel or Trump daring to say these things in front of such an audience?
Ever since Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia has been gradually and steadily separating herself from the collective West. This process is not so much about being “against” the West as it is about being “different” from the West, but unapologetically so! This is especially visible in the nature and quality of the political discourse in Russia which is truly dramatically different from the kind of hyper-controlled (and, of course, hyper-manipulated) political discourse in the West. Simply put, Russians live in a much more open and diverse intellectual landscape than their western neighbors. As a result, it would be a major mistake to assume, for example, that Russian patriots hold views similar to those held by western nationalists. Hence the existence of what we could call “Our fundamental disagreement about WWII, Hitler, Jews and race”.