LONDON - A Harvard professor of history has compared Russia's policies in respect to its compatriots in the Baltics and other former republics of the Soviet Union with those of Hitler's Germany in the 1930s.
"It was possible for Hitler to point to large German populations in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland to justify his demands for territorial expansion," said Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard University and senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, writing in the Jan. 1 issue of The Daily Telegraph.
He argued that today the Kremlin could play the same game with Russian minorities in Kazakhstan (where Russians are 30 percent of the population), Latvia (just under 30 percent), Estonia (28 percent), Ukraine (17 percent), Moldova (13 percent) and Belarus (11 percent).
The professor said that other parallels could be drawn between the post-World War I Weimar Republic and today's Russia.
"Born in 1919, the Weimar Republic suffered hyperinflation, an illusionary boom, a slump and then, starting in 1930, a slide into authoritarian rule, culminating in 1933 with Hitler's appointment as chancellor. Total life: slightly less than 14 years," Ferguson wrote.
The Harvard professor pointed out that the current Russian Federation has similarly suffered a slump and hyperinflation and is currently enjoying a boom on the back of high oil prices. Its slide into authoritarian rule has been gradual since Putin came to power in 1999.
Ferguson pointed out, however, that if parallels are drawn with the Weimar Republic, Russia could become a full-scale dictatorship 14 years from now.
"Hitler's power was consolidated after 1933 by the emasculation of parliamentary and federal institutions. Putin has already done much to weaken the Duma (lower house of Russia's parliament)," he said.
In addition, Ferguson sees similar features between the 1930s Germany and present-day Russia in the country's strong state control of the media and economy.