Russians who are under Putin's control ignore the war

On February 17, 2023, a woman strolls past a stand with a picture of a Russian serviceman and the words "The Mothe...

I used to spend hours walking in the Zamoskvorechiye neighborhood of central Moscow, where I had lived and worked in the BBC office for seven years, in the weeks before Russia's invasion.

It represents Russia's complicated past and present to me because it is an undeveloped and tranquil area of the city.

As their rulers pursued loftier goals on a larger stage where common Russians never had a role to play, Muscovites have come here for centuries to establish homes and businesses and quietly go about their lives.

On one side, it is bounded by the Moskva River and the Kremlin, and on the other, by massive Stalinist apartment buildings and skyscrapers from the twenty-first century on the busy Sadovoye ring road.

A maze of winding streets that echo the past are .ted with churches and mansions built by 19th-century aristocracy. The Tartar-Mongol era, hundreds of years prior, when emissaries would come to Moscow's princely rulers to collect tributes, is when Bolshaya Ordinka street got its name.

When a friend who was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city and now worked in Moscow, called me last February, I was already there.

He questioned whether Putin was actually going to start a war with Ukraine. We didn't want to believe it, either.

But I sensed that war was now unavoidable because of the reminders of Russia's frequently relentless history of violence. My daily strolls served as a way for me to say goodbye to a world and possibly even a nation that would never be the same.

Russians are seen attempting to leave their country to avoid a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war as queues have formed at the Kazbegi border crossing in the Kazbegi municipality of Stepantsminda, Georgia on September 27, 2022
Many Russians left their country after Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in September of last year.

Along with my BBC Russian colleagues and myself, hundreds of thousands of Russians have left the country. However, for the vast majority of people who have remained in Russia, life continues much as it always has.

particularly in the major cities.

The majority of the stores, cafes, businesses, and banks in Zamoskvorechiye are still open. Although many of the IT experts and hipster journalists have left, others have taken their place.

Customers lament price increases, but some imported goods have been replaced by local alternatives.

Not Starbucks
Although the logo is similar and you can still meet for coffee, the Starbucks chain has long since vanished.

Although books deemed inappropriate are sold in plastic covers, bookstores still carry a wide selection of titles.

The well-known car-sharing program is still operational, but most of the vehicles are now made in China.

International sanctions have prevented Russia from experiencing an economic collapse similar to that of the 1990s. Aleksandr Titov, a Russian academic based in Belfast, has noted that despite this, Russia is currently experiencing a crisis.

Although it is a slow-moving crisis, you can see hints of it everywhere if you look closely.

Locals in Belgorod, close to the border with Ukraine and only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the now-devastated city of Kharkiv, are accustomed to military truck convoys roaring towards the front line.

If they are upset that Russia bombed a city where many people have friends and family, they are likely trying their best to hide it.

Most Russians either do not know or do not want to know what their military has done to Ukraine's second biggest city Kharkiv
The majority of Russians either don't know or don't care what their military did to Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine.

According to a friend, the local governor's cheery street festivals are well attended.

But as more and more war wounded are brought in for treatment in nearby hospitals, local doctors are being forced to resign in droves.

Cross-border shelling has become a daily occurrence in the small frontier town of Shebekino, leaving its residents feeling angry and abandoned.

One local family visited St. Petersburg and was shocked to discover that nothing had changed despite the fact that their own lives had been completely upended.

I'm told that in Pskov, which is close to the borders with Estonia and Latvia, there is a depressing atmosphere and that everyone acts as though the war has no bearing on them.

The 76th Guards Air Assault Division, which is based in Pskov, is well-known for the alleged war crimes that its soldiers are accused of committing in Bucha, a city outside of Kiev.

A bus service connecting the city to the nearby cemetery, where an increasing number of soldiers killed in Ukraine are being laid to rest, has begun. Someone wrote the word "PEACE" in large red letters under a bridge.

Cemetery in village of Vybuty
Numerous new graves for Russian paratroopers were present when the BBC visited this cemetery close to Pskov.

A friend encounters a group of teenagers playing the game "Name that city" on a train bound for Petrozavodsk, which is close to the Finnish border. .

None of them are certain whether Donetsk is in Russia or Ukraine when it is mentioned. Their government has illegally occupied and annexed it.

They have nothing to do with what they believe about the war.

It seems as though Petrozavodsk has reverted to its dark past. Lack of foreign brands, empty shelves, and excessive prices.

Are Russians really in favor of the brutality taking place in Ukraine in their name, or are they just keeping quiet for survival reasons?

It is challenging to draw firm conclusions from fleeting impressions and conversations. Sociologists and pollsters have attempted to measure public opinion, but because there is no information or free speech in Russia, it is impossible to determine whether respondents are being truthful.

According to polls, the majority of Russians either support the war or do not object to it.

Discussions about this among Russians abroad have been contentious. Many people who research and write about Russia, including myself, think that a small proportion of people actively support and a small proportion actively oppose the war.

The majority of everyday Russians are caught in the middle, trying to make sense of a circumstance that they didn't choose, don't understand, and feel helpless to change.

If more people had defended their freedom and opposed state television's fabrications of threats from the West and Ukraine, they might have been able to stop it.

Many Russians opted to avoid politics and let the Kremlin make the decisions.

However, remaining silent entails making deeply troubling moral concessions.

Russians must deny that this is an aggressive invasion and keep their eyes closed as millions of Ukrainians are forcibly ejected from their homes by what the Kremlin refers to as a "special military operation" in order to prevent the war from reaching their doorstep. .

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Putin ally, has blessed Russia's war effort
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin ally, Patriarch Kirill, has given Russia's war effort his blessing.

Russians must come to terms with the fact that soldiers regularly visit classrooms and tell kids that war is good for them.

That supporting the war and ceasing to pray for peace is normal for priests.

that it makes no difference because they are unable to travel or participate in a larger world.

that the majority of the independent media websites they formerly read should have been blocked by the Kremlin.

In executions photographed and tweeted by MPs, a sledgehammer has come to represent Russian power favorably.

And that, whether you're a councillor or a journalist, it's common to spend years in prison for speaking your mind about the war.

Perhaps Russian history, rather than polls, provides a better explanation for why Russians do not demonstrate. .

Vladimir Putin, the president, has been open about his desire to rebuild Russia and restore its status as a power that the rest of the world should respect.

He has made it clear in speeches and essays that he thinks Russia holds a special position in the world because it is a part of both the East and the West. Russia has its own customs, religious beliefs, and methods of conducting business. Russians demand respect and need order and control.

A family watches a TV broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual state of the nation address in Moscow on February 21, 2023
Vladimir Putin consistently ascribes the war to the West, and state TV regularly rehashes his viewpoint.

This message has persisted through the ages and will not be altered despite opposition. To use a phrase from his favorite martial art, judo, it's a chokehold.

Russians have paid with their freedom; Ukrainians are paying with their lives for this Putin vision.

Occasionally, following times of tragedy and catastrophe, Russia has become more open.

The Gorbachev era began in 1989, following the Afghan war defeat. Constitutional reform followed the defeat in the war in the Crimea in 1856, and serf emancipation followed the defeat against Japan in 1905.

The majority of Russians say they would support peace negotiations to end the fighting, which is one pattern pollsters have noticed. But it's not yet clear what guarantees they would provide to a Ukraine that is independent.

That question will eventually need to be addressed, and Russians will have to face the actions of their nation.

Source link

You've successfully subscribed to NewsNow
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.