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How Historical Analogies Woke Up the West

April 26, 2022
Eric Mosinger


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Eric Mosinger, Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University, analyzes how historical analogies shape understanding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and whether their influence will continue

Policymakers, activists, and ordinary people often make analogies between past and present, for example, by labeling 9/11 “the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century.” In doing so, people hope to better understand surprising events and develop a plan of action for themselves and others. Vladimir Putin employed historical analogies to justify his invasion of Ukraine, while Western leaders drew on their own understanding of World War II history to mobilize a surprisingly muscular response to Russian aggression.

Putin justified his February 24 invasion of Ukraine with faulty “historic analogies and metaphors.” He claimed that Ukraine is a mere part of historic Russia with no “stable traditions of real statehood,” whose ruling junta of “far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis” had seized power and killed innocent Russian-speakers just like “Hitler’s accomplices” eighty years ago. “We will not make this mistake [of appeasing Nazi Germany] a second time,” declared Putin in his invasion announcement.

Historical analogies also help us understand why Western democracies suddenly “woke up” after years of weak responses to Russian aggression against Ukraine. For many world leaders, parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Nazi Germany’s 1939 invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland became impossible to ignore. Both Russia and the West have cast themselves as the protagonists in a shadowy reprise of World War II.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance