“Ruscism” is a new term that has been
making rounds on social media. The Ukrainian government’s official accounts on
social media have also used the term in the hashtag. Though Ruscism sounds like
racism, what exactly does it stand for? And what does it mean in the backdrop
of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

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Ruscism or “Pашизм” is pronounced like the
word fascism with an “R” instead of an “F” as the starting consonant. And it
translates to “Russian fascism”. It means the culmination of far-right values
which are the reasons for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

According to the New York Times, the word
Ruscism is created from three languages, namely Italian, Russian, and English,
that contains complex puns references that highlight the Ukrainians’ wit and
ability to code-switch.

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Explaining what Ruscism means for
Ukrainians, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the term Ruscism will be a
classroom lesson for students of history in the future.

“‘Ruscism’ is a concept that will be in
history books, will be in the conventional Wikipedia, will remain in the
classroom. And little children all over the world will stand up at their desks
and answer their teachers when this ‘Ruscism’ began, on what land and who
helped in the fight for freedom against this very terrible concept,” Zelensky
said in a press conference.

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The term was first used by Mariupol City
Councilors, who were trying to point out the utter devastation their city and
residents had suffered because of the Russian onslaught. From physical ruin to
casualties of war in Mariupol to the mass executions in Bucha, Ukrainians
described what was “Ruscism” to them. Now, the term is being used in comment
sections on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, and even on the ground in Ukraine.

Ruscism is essentially a term to describe
the ideology of Vladimir Putin’s Russian government’s radical worldview.
Putin’s ideology is different from Russian imperial beliefs such as Stalinism –
ideologies adopted by Joseph Stalin formed around the centralization of power,
the cult of personality, and other theories of socialism.

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Ruscism is believed to have been inspired
by Tsarism, a reference to the older Russian Empire and its emperors, which
signifies the return to traditionalism, autocracy, and the restoration of the
country’s former “greatness” at the cost of freedom.

Ukrainians who coined the term saw signs
pointing towards a Nazi-like regime: a cult-like following for their leader
(despite a few thousand protesters), corporatism, a fetishization of a once
glorious past, media censorship, state-run propaganda, and now a war against a
“common enemy” of the state.

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“It is not just because everyone says that
it is ‘Ruscism.’ You know, the word is new, but the actions are the same as
they were 80 years ago in Europe. Because for all these 80 years, if you
analyze, there were simply no such barbarities on our continent,” Zelensky
said, referring to the rise of Nazi Germany eight decades ago.

“What they did – killing, torturing,
everything they did to children, babies, violence against young children, rape,
everything that was happening – that is Nazism,” the Ukrainian president added.