“Putinversteher” is a german pejorative term for someone who thinks the (political) actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin are good, glosses over them, relativizes them and/or defends him against criticism. This applies in general to Russian daily and domestic politics and in particular to the Russian attack on Ukraine.
About the word “Putinversteher”
“Putinversteher” is a german word, which is used in the english speaking world.
The expression “Putinversteher” has a special meaning and connotation that English translations such as “Putin savant”, “Putin savvy”, “Putin understanding” or “Putin understander” do not have. Therefore, the expression “Putinversteher” is used.
What is a “Putinversteher”? Meaning, definition, explanation
In general, a Putinversteher has an understanding for the morally wrong, aggressive and undemocratic policy of Vladimir Putin. A Putinversteher has made it his business to understand Putin’s position, to show understanding and to agree. A Putinversteher harbors sympathy for the Russian president.
A Putinversteher reproduces and reproduces the worldview of Vladimir Putin. Putinversteher spread Vladimir Putin’s claims and false claims unchecked. (In the worst case)
A Putinversteher is usually called a “Putinversteher” person by others and would not give himself (or herself) this label. To accusations against or criticism of the policy of Vladimir Putin, a Putinversteher reacts with relativizations, appeasements, whatsaboutisms, denials, fake news or propaganda accusations. Putinversteher wish that the claims of Vladimir Putin in the West are taken seriously (more).
For Putinversteher, Vladimir Putin’s policies are misunderstood or misconstrued by the West. Putin misunderstanders name the mistakes of the West and criticize the USA and Germany for it.
Especially in the context of Russia’s international relations with Europe, the USA and NATO and Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the spring of 2022, Putinversteher see Putin and Russia as victims of Western policy rather than aggressors. For Putinversteher, Russia’s role in international relations is always one in which Russia is in a bind and suffers the policies of the West. For Putinversteher, Vladimir Putin is not an enemy. For Putinversteher the west breaks crimes and is the west war-monger.
It can also be said about Putinversteher that they also want a leader like Vladimir Putin for the USA or Germany, because in their eyes he radiates strength, dominance and masculinity. He is thus the opposite of liberal politicians, who often choose diplomatic words, appear soft, seek compromises, do not show a hard edge and are open to social developments such as gender and veganism.
In a positive view, Putinversteher wish for a better German and European Russia policy. They would like to see more cooperation with Russia. In a broader positive sense, Putinversteher can be said to be against one-sidedness in viewing international relations.
Conclusion: You notice that there are several gradations of Putinversteher. There are Putinversteher who want less one-sidedness in looking at international relations (and conflicts). There are Putinversteher who want better relations with Russia. There are Putinversteher who reproduce, reproduce, and disseminate Putin’s worldview. There are Putinverstehers who wish such a strong man for their country.
History of the term “Putinversteher”
The term “Putinversteher” became popular (in Germany) in March 2014. This correlates with the Russian annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2014. Through 2015 and 2016, the term continued to be quite popular. Between 2014 and 2016, Putinversteher defended and explained Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Putinversteher condemned the sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014. In general, Putinversteher criticized the poor German and European relationship with Russia. At the same time, they called for more understanding for Putin and an approach toward him.
Since February 24, 2022, the expression “Putinversteher” is becoming popular again. On February 24, 2022, the Russian attack on Ukraine began.
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A well-known Putinversteher is Silvio Berlusconi. There are many Putinverstehers in the german political parties “Die Linke” and AfD.
Is it possible to understand Putin without being a Putinversteher?
Yes, it is a useful enterprise to try to understand Vladimir Putin. However, this endeavor should be designed to find out why Vladimir Putin behaves, how he behaves, what he wants, and what he fears. All of these findings can ideally be used to better predict and assess future behavior of the Russian president.
Here, of course, a red line must be drawn. No understanding must be shown for immoral behavior, starting a war, anti-democratic and anti-liberal policies.
Furthermore, the critic must ask himself here whether he represents a value relativism or universalism. With a relativism it is ok, if in Russia other values (or laws) are valid than in Germany. With a universalism not!
The problem with the desires of the Putinversteher to be more responsive to Putin is this: Putin is an autocrat, just like Erdogan. Putin speaks the language of strength. He is concerned with power, not empathy, friendly accommodation and democratic compromise. Germany is a liberal country governed by liberal politicians. They are democrats and work within the structures of the separation of powers. This is where two worlds meet.
Further meaning of “Putinversteher
“Putin-Versteher: Warum immer mehr Deutsche Verständnis für Russland haben” is a german paperback published in 2015.