How “Azov” Copied the Third Reich in Miniature

Verbatim quotes from the speeches of Nazi Germany’s chiefs or copying its posters for visual campaigning were for the ultra-right regiment in the order of things.

A couple of years ago “Azov” started to turn away from the image that it successfully created for itself in 2014. For example, on November 20th 2018 Lieutenant Svatoslav Palamar, Head of the “Azov” Recruitment Center, said in an interview with the Mariupol city website: “I cannot say that at first we did not have any ultra-radicals. We did, but they were only a few, they were just filtered out over time, and we kicked some of them out ourselves.”

This thesis raises questions. Let us turn, for example, to the visual propaganda that “Azov” (back then there was not even its Civil Corps, not to mention the “National Corpus” party, and they used the old brand and website of the Social National Assembly) launched to mobilise heroes named “I fight against you!” on October 14th 2014. Samples of this propaganda were posted on the official page of the main Kiev march on VKontakte.

The fact that banners for social networks used images of the Waffen-SS “Galicia” division (presented already as the 1st division of the Ukrainian National Army, established in March 1945 as part of the Wehrmacht) and the “Ukrainian Liberation Army” (units operating in 1943-1945 as part of the Wehrmacht) is not the most interesting thing.

After all, the range of historical images used on the banners of the March of heroes “I fight against you!” was quite wide – the army of Kievan Rus, and Zaporozhye Cossacks, and Haidamaka Gonta and Zhelezniak, and “Ukrainian Sich Riflemen” (who fought in World War I as part of the army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, and the Kholodnyi Yar rebels, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and – as a finale – the “Heavenly Hundred” and the “Azov” regiment.

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On the banner of the march of heroes named “I fight against you!” in Kremenchuk, next to Symon Petliura, Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych and Colonel-General Pavel Shandruk (division commander of the Ukrainian People’s Army), Prince Svyatoslav I of Kiev, and the Hetman of the Zaporozhye army Bogdan Khmelnitsky were present.

I was most interested in the central image chosen for propaganda at the march and present on banners carried by its participants – a warrior in a helmet with a shield.

There is another version of this drawing, published on May 11th 2015 on the official account of “Azov” on Twitter.

It is not difficult to understand what was the source of inspiration (or more precisely the careless theft of other people’s intellectual property) for the designers of “Azov”.

This is a drawing of the famous poster artist Ludwig Hohlwein’s “Luftschutz”, first released in 1935 as a propaganda poster and stamps. These posters continued to be printed in large numbers until the end of World War II.

“Azov” members changed the shape of the shield a little, put an image on it – and it’s ready!

It is worth noting that in 1941 a very similar image was used on a poster for recruitment to the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism, which back then served on the Eastern Front. But here it’s most likely borrowing from the Third Reich.

It is naive to believe that the creation of visual propaganda for the main march of “Azov” in 2014, as well as the filling in of its official Twitter page in 2015, was carried out by “some separate marginals” who have also “already been kicked out”.

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Let’s go further. My attention was caught by the speech that Andrey Biletsky gave on April 25th 2015 in front of the recruits of “Azov” who were going to the frontline. Yes, at this moment Biletsky had not been the commander of the regiment for already six months, but in general it is he who acts as the leader of the March of “Azov” in Mariupol year after year.

“You have to remember that this war has not been going on since 2014. It is a war of two civilisations, a war of Eurasia against Ukraine, which stands here in defence of Europe,” said Biletsky. “It is a war that started more than 1,000 years ago. The name of our enemy changed… They were Khazars, Pechenegs, Polovets, Muscovites, now – the Russian Federation… Remember that you are heirs, descendants of dozens, hundreds of generations of heroes who go to the depth of our history… And they all stood guard over our European civilisation against wild Eurasia.”

A similar speech was made on July 13th 1941 by Heinrich Himmler to the SS men of the north grouping who were going to the Eastern Front: “This is a war of ideologies and a struggle of races… When you, my friends, fight in the east, you continue the same fight against the same pseudo-humanity, against the same lower races that once acted under the name of the Huns, later – 1000 years ago in the time of Kings Henry and Otto I – under the name of the Hungarians, and later under the name of the Tatars; they then appeared again under the name Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Today they are called Russians under the political banner of Bolshevism… These people were united by Jews with one religion, one ideology called Bolshevism, with the task: having now Russia, half [located] in Asia, partly in Europe, crush Germany and the whole world.”

In 2010 I quoted this speech in the book “Racial Myths of Nazism”, published by the publishing house “Yauza” (at the time I used the pseudonym Vladimir Rodionov for publication) and caused quite a good resonance among the reading audience. Most likely, they read the book – or at least excerpts from it on the Internet – also in Ukraine. And they used it at the right time.

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Vladislav Maltsev

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