Article by Andres Kasekamp, “Fascism by Popular Initiative: The Rise and Fall of the Vaps Movement in Estonia” (2015), is available online

Over the years, I’ve been reading about the Second World War including about ethnic cleansing and genocide.

A related topic concerns ethnic cleaning and genocide practised by European settler societies worldwide.

When I first embarked (in 2012) on reading about the world history of policing and world military history, my knowledge about such matters was minimal. I began reading in the first place because I was interested in learning about the life and times of a British colonel, who in 1797 had built a log cabin within a one-minute walk from where I was at that time living in Toronto.

Little historical information was available about the colonel. Because I wanted to know more about him, as a figure in history, I began reading about the history of British colonialism and military history.

Over time, and with a focus on getting acquainted with evidence as verified and corroborated in the research literature, my understanding of what has actually occurred in history has increased.

What matters to me now above all are the broader trends.

What matters also is my own understanding of what is happening worldwide, and the question of what a person (such as myself) can do, in particular circumstances.

Part of my reading concerns events in the Baltic states during the Napoleonic era and before and after the First and Second World Wars. Much has happened in that part of the world, as in any other world region, and extensive, good quality research literature is now available.

At the current post I focus on the abstract of an article about Estonian history in the 1930s.

Fascism by popular initiative

Title: Fascism by Popular Initiative: The Rise and Fall of the Vaps Movement in Estonia in Fascism

Author: Andres Kasekamp

Online Publication Date: 23 Nov 2015
Volume/Issue: Volume 4: Issue 2
Article Type: Research Article

The abstract reads:

The Estonian vaps movement was one of the most popular fascist-type movements in inter-war Europe, yet has received relatively little attention from researchers. This article traces the emergence of the vaps movement and examines its dramatic impact on Estonian politics, particularly the collapse of democracy and the emergence of authoritarian rule in the 1930s. It analyzes the factors that contributed to the success of the movement and the causes of its ultimate failure. This article also discusses whether the vaps movement could be placed in the category of ‘generic fascism’ as defined by Roger Griffin.


In the article, Andres Kasekamp notes (p. 156):

Using Stanley Payne’s typology of fascism [3], I have previously argued that it is more appropriate to describe the vaps movement as ‘radical right’ rather than ‘fascist’[4]. In this article, I hold nevertheless that there is some ground for including the vaps movement in the category of ‘generic fascism’ as defined by Roger Griffin and the ‘new consensus’ in fascism studies [5].

This is an open access article – you can access it the above-noted link.

The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia (2000)

Andres Kasekamp is also author of The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia (2000).

A blurb for the study reads:

This is the first detailed study of Estonian politics during the 1930s. It examines the Estonian Veteran’s League, which won a majority in a referendum for its constitutional amendment, creating a strong presidency. The Veterans appeared set to triumph in the 1934 elections, but were thwarted by the establishment of an authoritarian regime. By using formerly unobtainable archival records, this study fills a considerable gap in the literature on the Baltic states and should be of interest to students of fascism.

Jan. 10, 2019 Guardian article regarding definition of populism

A Jan. 10, 2019 Guardian article, entitled “‘We the people’: the battle to define populism,” is of interest, with regard to the ongoing quest in Western society for precision, in the use of language, regarding phenomena such as populism and fascism.

An excerpt reads:

In what way are Occupy Wall Street and Brexit both possible examples of populist phenomena? Mudde’s simple definition caught on because it has no trouble answering this type of question. If populism is truly ideologically ‘thin’, then it has to attach itself to a more substantial host ideology in order to survive. But this ideology can lie anywhere along the left-right spectrum. Because, in Mudde’s definition, populism is always piggybacking on other ideologies, the wide variety of populisms isn’t a problem. It’s exactly what you would expect.

Jan. 27, 2019 Guardian article rise of far right

A Jan. 27, 2019 Guardian article is entitled: “‘We’ve dug ourselves a really deep hole’ – David Neiwert on the rise of the far right.”

An excerpt reads:

Neiwert has spent his career studying far-right movements. Alt America analyses their growth over the past several decades, and looks at how authoritarianism and conspiracy thinking have come to hold sway over US politics. Neiwert believes that the far right’s surge, the election of Donald Trump and mass homelessness in Seattle all spring from a common root: the deliberate assault on democracy by the US right and the Republican party.

Policy Options article regarding populism

A March 13, 2019 Policy Options article is entitled: “Pay growth has been weakening for four decades, since globalization began to take hold. But amid angst about protectionism, the topic rarely comes up.”

An excerpt reads:

Wages don’t explain everything about the rise of populism and attendant protectionism in the US or elsewhere. But pay probably matters a lot. Weak real wage growth seems to have been a slow boiling problem for most American (and Canadian) workers for many years, yet it hasn’t received the attention it deserves from policy makers and protectionism worriers.

And while it’s too simplistic to pin the blame for the “de-coupling” of productivity from pay entirely on trade, we should at least acknowledge that this trend grew sharply during the period of economic globalization. It is therefore rational for workers to conclude there is some connection between trade and weak pay growth.



An Aug. 17, 2019 Guardian article is entitled: “Art Spiegelman: golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism.”

An Oct. 14, 2019 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: The Far Right Today by Cas Mudde.”

An excerpt reads:

While the book itself is designed primarily with non-academic readers in mind, they too must grapple with one of the more perplexing aspects of this debate: terminology. As frustrating as this can be, it remains an essential task. As scholars in the field well know, there is no consensus between academics when it comes to terminology, but most agree that the ‘far right’ is an umbrella term that encompasses the broader subgroups of the radical right and extreme right. In a nutshell, the differences between the two concern their attitude to democracy: the former operates within democratic institutions, and the latter, quite simply, does not. Mudde provides readers with a series of examples that contextualise these distinctions, and touches upon another term that has found a foothold in contemporary political debate: populism.

Mudde describes populism as a ‘thin’ ideology that views society as being split into two groups, the ‘pure people’ and the ‘corrupt elite’, and that politics should reflect the will of the people, or the volonté générale. In theory, populism is pro-democracy, albeit against liberal democracy. While the debates surrounding terminology may be viewed as an academic exercise, it is important for readers to understand these distinctions, particularly as they can vary on a country-to-country basis, as is the case with Germany where far right groups can face monitoring by the intelligence services if they are considered too extreme.

A Jan. 30, 2019 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin.”

An excerpt reads:

In place of these variables, Eatwell and Goodwin point us toward their ‘four Ds’: ‘distrust’, which highlights the broad success of anti-politics movements as an output from very low levels of public trust in the classical establishment; the ‘destruction’ of long-held notions of communal identity by accelerating patterns of globalisation and movement between cultures; ‘deprivation’ brought about by geographic inequalities and the effects of ‘neoliberal’ economics; and ‘de-alignment’, the long-discussed phenomenon of dislocation between personal identity and specific political parties or brands (a particularly useful concept to bring into the analysis of populism).

Current state of scholarship about populism

A Feb. 12, 2020 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: Populism by Benjamin Moffitt.”

An excerpt reads:

Fortunately, Moffitt’s book goes a significant way towards providing the clarity that is so lacking. Populism is structured in a very sensible and appealing manner, such that the chapters can be grouped into three pairs: ‘Why Populism Matters’ and ‘What is Populism?’; followed by ‘Populism, Nationalism and Nativism’ and ‘Populism and Socialism’; concluding with ‘Populism and Liberalism’ and ‘Populism and Democracy’, the latter of which addresses the question that all discussions on populism (seemingly) circle back to. It is here Moffitt remarks that Nadia Urbinati’s 1998 proclamation that ‘the debate over the meaning of the term populism turns out to be a debate over the interpretation of democracy’ remains most salient (111). Before this final chapter, however, Moffitt walks the reader through the current literature on the populist phenomena with remarkable breadth and efficiency.

Gender and the radical and extreme right

An April 8, 2019 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: Gender and the Radical and Extreme Right: Mechanisms of Transmission and the Role of Educational Interventions edited by Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Hilary Pilkington.”

An excerpt reads:

Following the dissolution of the USSR in the early 1990s, Latvia attempted to purge itself of its Soviet legacy after 50 years of communist rule. Many Latvians considered the ideology of Nazism to be less harmful than communism, despite the former only having held political influence for four years during World War Two (1941-45). After more than 15,000 Latvians were deported to the Soviet Union in 1941, National Socialists arriving in Latvia were welcomed as liberators, enabling the country to throw off the shackles of communism – however short-lived this emancipation turned out to be. Consequently, the radical right has been able to gain ground in Latvia as a force primarily opposed to communism, though, as Stasulane points out, it does not enjoy broad public support in Latvia today. Despite this, Latvia remains a ‘vivid example’ of how the increased participation of women in the radical right has the potential to change the gender composition of movements. This is due, in part, to the influence of esotericism on the LNF. Resultantly, the LNF is arguably the only radical right group in which women take ‘hierarchically leading’ positions.

I would note in passing that in my anecdotal experience living first in Vancouver and later in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, quite a few young people were reading works by or about Helena Blavatsky and Nicholas Roerich, who are mentioned in the above-noted article, but such a pursuit was not associated with adherence to any particular political outlook.

A related topic, about which I’ve written at this website, regarding what people like to read about concerns the variety of ways, in which the practice of mindfulness can be positioned, depending on a given observer’s life experiences and point of view.

Angel of Vengeance (2008)

I am reminded, as well, of a study entitled: Angel of Vengeance: The Girl Assassin, the Governor of St. Petersburg, and Russia’s Revolutionary World (2008).

The latter studies underlines the power of storytelling – as in novels, by way of example – in shaping perceptions and actions, in particular circumstances. A blurb for Angel of Vengeance reads:

In the Russian winter of 1878 a shy, aristocratic young woman named Vera Zasulich walked into the office of the governor of St. Petersburg, pulled a revolver from underneath her shawl, and shot General Fedor Trepov point blank. “Revenge ,” she cried, for the governor’s brutal treatment of a political prisoner. Her trial for murder later that year became Russia’s “trial of the century,” closely followed by people all across Europe and America. On the day of the trial, huge crowds packed the courtroom. The cream of Russian society, attired in the finery of the day, arrived to witness the theatrical testimony and deliberations in the case of the young angel of vengeance. After the trial, Vera became a celebrated martyr for all social classes in Russia and became the public face of a burgeoning revolutionary fervor. Dostoyevsky (who attended the trial), Turgenev, Engels, and even Oscar Wilde all wrote about her extraordinary case. Her astonishing acquittal was celebrated across Europe, crowds filled the streets and the decision marked the changing face of Russia. After fleeing to Switzerland, Vera Zasulich became Russia’s most famous “terroristka,” inspiring a whole generation of Russian and European revolutionaries to embrace violence and martyrdom. Her influence led to a series of acts that collectively became part of “the age of assassinations.” In the now-forgotten story of Russia’s most notorious terrorist, Ana Siljak captures Vera’s extraordinary life story–from privileged child of nobility to revolutionary conspirator, from assassin to martyr to socialist icon and saint– while colorfully evoking the drama of one of the world’s most closely watched trials and a Russia where political celebrities held sway.

Narrative provides means, whereby a person arrives at a particular understanding

I have explored themes related to the power of narrative – that is, the power of narrative to determine what we see and what we do about what we see – at a previous post entitled:

Narrative has regained prestige as a way of understanding the world

As well, I’ve addressed related topics at previous posts, as outlined below:

Click here for previous articles about Estonia >

Click here for previous articles about totalitarianism >

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