Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to be thoughtful about Ukraine-Russia-related stories. So many bloggers these days suddenly understand the six scenarios of how the war in Ukraine will or will not end; how a nuclear war might play out; what Putin’s exact plan in Ukraine is; how Russia failed with its war; or how it didn’t fail — how Putin has already won over the West, apparently. There are many opportunistic stories. Opportunism and integrity are not always friends; neither are opportunism and expertise.
I have a complicated relationship with writing about Russia.
I left the country in 2013. While I have fellow immigrant friends and acquaintances who’ve stayed vocal about Russia’s affairs, years ago I decided to stay quiet. I felt I’d lost the moral right to comment — out of California — on Russia’s internal affairs. I have a draft memoir going about my experiences in Russia but that’s different.
But Ukraine felt different. It truly shocked me. As a Russian with a lot of Ukrainian blood, I couldn’t imagine, in my worst nightmare, that Russia would attack its brotherly nation. I have relatives and friends in Ukraine, from Ukraine. I feel forever sorry for Russia’s aggression.
As I continue to observe the war, much of my mental focus remains on Russia. I continue to be perplexed about the apparent overwhelming support for the war in Russia itself. I’m thousands of miles away but my conversations with relatives and friends confirm unmistakenly — there is a lot of support. The reason I’m perplexed is that the topic of Ukraine was barely in the news when I was still in Russia. I remember well Russia’s political landscape a decade ago; I remember anti-Putin protests (ultimately their momentum faded) in 2012; I’ve been following various Russia-related news and personalities. But the topic of Ukraine is a mystery to me. Crimea happened soon after I left. How it came to this — not just the war itself but how the Russian state managed to brainwash much of the population with its anti-Ukraine propaganda — is something I really struggle to understand.
So, on the propaganda. This is what I want to write about. In recent days I’m observing a clear trend, based on my conversations with friends and occasional glimpses into Russian state media. This trend is shit scary. Keep in mind I don’t even watch Russian TV. I don’t have access to it!