Shame and demoralization. A letter about collateral damage in Russia

Dear Jeremy, I’m in a train now, went to the town of O to see my kin, now heading back home to Msk. So my mobile connection is from good to bad to none.

According to the official data, published by VCIOM, 68% of Russians support the war, which the Russian forces lead now against Ukraine. And this is of course disastrously too much, when speaking of an offensive, unjust war against the closest neighbor country with the Russian as the second most common language and Ukrainians as the second largest nationality in Russia itself.

However, on the other hand, this official 68% means that 1/3 of the Russians either against or do not support this war. And we are speaking of the country with state-controlled major mass media, the highly effective law-enforcement corps and the legislation which directly and specifically prohibits any public protest activities. In such a country 32% of population either are against or do not support the war its government is leading.

More than 3000 people all over Russia are detained, often brutally, and arrested at anti-war rallies. They risk facing administrative and criminal charges. The first anti-war protest meetings took place on the first day of the invasion. And they still go on.

Many Russians now are disoriented and completely devastated. Many Russians fear persecution for things they were doing even two weeks, a month or a year ago, like criticizing the official politics on Facebook or donating to independent media, things which were perfectly lawful and legitimate then and are now prohibited by the new especially tailored and urgently adopted law about “fakes”.

Many Russians now are fleeing their country or attempting to do so. And this time this is not oligarchs and even not successful entrepreneurs. This is middle-class, educated, European Russians, journalists and media professionals, writers, musicians, artists, cosmopolite hipsters of the 2010s who now got older, but not richer, university professors and even students, no one of whom have secured jobs or contracts abroad, or big money. They flee knowing that they will burn their savings, they decided to flee and leave everything behind too fast, packed their suitcases in one day, to have ready well thought through plans what they will do next.

Many of them don’t even have the Schengen visas. That is why they pay enormous, incredible money for flight tickets to Istanbul, Turkey. And the resemblance with the evacuation from Crimea to Constantinople in 1920 is striking and tragic.

And almost none of them have a European vaccination certificate, although they are fully vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik.

They not only flee because of fear, but also because of shame and desire not to be part of the aggressor country.

The dramatic situation of the Russian migrants is incomparable to the one of the Ukrainian refugees. And the Russians perfectly understand that, and that is another reason they feel ashamed and demoralized as if they don’t have right to suffer. Because this is the Ukrainians who are the true victims here. And understanding that, the Russians, those Russians who had never cast a single vote for Putin and the ruling parties, who are against this war and all this time wrote and spoke and rallied against the Kremlin domestic and foreign politics, these very Russians feel as if they are hypocrites and impostors.

And what the Russians also perfectly understand is that the Ukrainians are not the victims. They are already victorious. They have won this war that very day of February 24, when Putin gave his order to begin the operation.

The last time before that when the enemy forces attacked Ukraine, was in June 1941. And this another resemblance is so unbelievable and still so obvious that it hurts like hell.

McFaul is a fool. He learned nothing from his time in Russia. Mean and pathetic simply because he isn’t the first one to claim that, he is just a copycat. And addressing all “Россияне” and saying “you need to stop this war” means he doesn’t understand a shit what is going on now here.

And another important point should be that this is the civil war
Because of three reasons:

  1. Ukrainians speak Russian, and many families on both countries are Russian-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Russian (but that does not imply that many Russians wanted Ukraine to be a part of Russia);
  2. The Russian society is divided as never before;
  3. Anti-war Russians feel that their own government makes them enemies of the state, pushes them out of the legal sphere, their opinion is illegal and no longer represented (alternative media closed), the very opinion violates the (newly and urgently adopted) law, and any alternative political activity qualifies as treason (according to legislation, factcheck of the wording needed).

And considering all that, the decision of Visa and MasterCard to cut Russia off their services is stabbing those anti-war and liberal Russians in the back.

Those Russians who already fled are left without money abroad with only cash in their pockets deprived of any chance to receive money transfers home or send money to their relatives and those who chose to stay or couldn’t leave everything and run.

Those Russians who are still there, at home, trying to pull themselves together and continue to work, neither can apply for visa to foreign consulates, nor book an accommodation abroad.

The biggest global booking companies AirBnB and, very popular among the Russian travelers, also ceased their service in Russia, which just complete the picture.

And these particular sanctions, imposed by commercial companies rather than governments or international organisations, mostly hurt “ordinary Russians”, not oligarchs, but middle-class citizens, and either deprive some of them of the income from renting out their homes and flats, or trap them within a country to which they no longer feel they belong.

What should we call this? Collateral damage? Or friendly fire?

Russians belonging to the current wave of political emigration occurring today exactly 100 years after the Philosopher’s Courts and the evacuation of Crimea are not looking for pity or preferential treatment. But to discriminate against them and allow Russophobia to flourish would not only be a gross mistake, but also simply and blatantly unfair.

Vadim Marinin, university lecturer living in Moscow.

2 thoughts on “Shame and demoralization. A letter about collateral damage in Russia

  1. RussophileReads

    This is a heartbreaking read, but I’m grateful you shared it here with your readers. The fact that innocent, ordinary people are suffering in both Russia and Ukraine thanks to political powers they aren’t responsible for and can’t even control is just devastating. I’m really bothered by how quickly these sanctions and boycotts were introduced when, as Dr. Marinin writes above, it’s harming the average citizen above all else, many of whom don’t even support the war. What a mess. I wish for a permanent ceasefire and a speedy resolution, but I’m not feeling very hopeful. In the meantime, I wish Dr. Marinin and all those affected — both those who flee, and those who stay — strength, courage, and peace, from the bottom of my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeremy Morris Post author

      Thanks. I know a lot of Western colleagues are afraid of even saying these things. What a McCarthyite time we are living in. I am not expressing a view on sanctions or boycotts, only asking the question. If we ‘cancel’ all Russians, who is going to change Russia? And who will we speak to when they do?

      Liked by 1 person


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