I have read again ([on the social media pages] of those who have left [Russia], of course) that we [who have stayed in Russia] have no right to rejoice, that we must feel terror and depression all the time. I didn’t want to respond to specific people—I could have snapped and said harsh things—so I will speak out in general. A person who constantly experiences negative emotions is a weak person. All their strength and energy are spent on emoting; they are unable to fight back, unable to do good. Yes, there are people who can draw energy from rage, from anger. But not all people can do this. For example, I cannot; I can only draw energy from positivity. So excuse me, dear departed comrades, but I will go to restaurants and concerts, admire the beauty of the sunset, enjoy an interesting book, and strive to communicate with friends. I will maximize the positive energy in and around me. Because I want to be strong, among other things, so that I can help those who are in trouble. My suffering won’t make their situation any better, but my strength might be useful to them—and to me, too. I woke up the other day with the feeling that I didn’t want to live, so much so that I even got scared. Thank you, but I don’t want any more of this, once was enough. If a person is happy, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the horrors in their midst and those who have ended up in this hell. It just means that they want to survive.
Source: Irina Starodubrovskaya, Facebook, 8 July 2022. Thanks to Alexander Kynev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
How do the prospects for peace look from Europe? There is a consensus that Putin cannot be expected to end the war. Firstly, because the war enables him and a large group of the war’s beneficiaries to transform Russian society to their liking (his confidence rating has risen to 92%). Secondly, because Putin is confident of his superiority over Ukrainians and believes that Europe will not withstand the war’s economic consequences (inflation, the energy crisis, supply chain breakdowns, etc.).
Can we expect the war’s end to come about due to processes in Russian society? That is, can the society pressure Putin into ending the war? The polling numbers (seventy-five, eighty-five, one hundred percent support for the war) drift from one publication to the next, but European decision-makers do not rely on these figures. They rely on so-called agency. The support figures are fictitious. But the factor of “silence” is a political reality. “Silence” is the absence of agency. Europeans look at the situation and say that, in such circumstances, at least one of the three “manifestations of agency” could be expected.
1. Household protests: mothers protesting the deaths of their men and children, “casserole protests,” family-centered grassroots protests.
2. Mass strikes: the war threatens people with unemployment and the closure of their workplaces, prices are rising but wages are not, etc.
3. A revolt by oligarchs, if only in the shape of an alliance formed abroad.
None of these three things has happened. And since agency has not been manifested in any guise, the concept that “society is silent”—i.e., that there is no society [in Russia]—becomes the explanation. (Usually, in these cases, our delegations tell the Europeans that there is totalitarianism in Russia, people are intimidated by the FSB, etc. To which their interlocutors nod sympathetically. But at the same time they think: it’s the same in Turkey, but all those three factors are constantly flaring up there. No one says it out loud, though, so as not to offend us.)
But what is there? We can say that there is a Russian anti-war movement abroad. “There is one” not in the sense that it is large and influential, but only in the sense that it has “shown up.” “There is one” means that you can point your finger at it. Therefore, Europeans are willing to meet, both individually and in groups, with representatives of this movement—because, by European standards, “it is at least something.”
At the same time, however, everyone is eagerly waiting for the Russian people to evince some minimal will to save themselves and to show up in some way. Then it would be possible to say that, no, ninety-two percent of Russians are not “proud of the successes of Russian arms and the liberation of Ukraine from Nazis,” that there is an sensible part of society and here it is, it has “surfaced”—via casserole riots, strike committees, or a conference of oligarchs on Capri. We could then talk about peace, about the war’s end. Without such “showing up,” it is impossible for Europeans to envision peace.