As Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds into its fifth month, Moscow is a city doing everything it can to turn a blind eye to the conflict. It is a champagne-soaked summer like any other in the Russian capital, despite the thousands of dead and many more wounded in a war increasingly marked by acts of savage brutality.
In Gorky Park, outdoor festivals, cinemas and bars were all jammed on a recent evening, with young couples twirling to ballroom dance music as others stopped for selfies along the Moscow river nearby.
“Yes, we are having a party,” said Anna Mitrokhina, one of the dancers at an outdoor dance platform on the Moscow river, wearing a blue-sequin dress and heavy eye-makeup. “We are outside of politics, we want to dance, to feel and have fun. I can’t worry any more and this helps me forget.”
Walk through the city or switch on a VPN to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and you might not even know the country’s at war, a word that the Russian censors have banned from local media and that, even among many friends, has become taboo.
A lifestyle Instagram blogger with more than 100,000 followers who was opposed to the war said that she had consciously decided to stop speaking about the topic — because of the official restrictions but also the backlash she received from subscribers.
“Nobody wants to hear about the war, the special military operation, any more, they tell me to stop talking about this and get back to normal topics like beauty and fitness,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “Every time I mentioned it I would get so much hate in my messages. It hurts me, it hurts my business. I stopped mentioning it. It just doesn’t exist for many people.”
“What hurts the most is it is not really [because of the law], there is just no desire to talk about this,” she said. “People are turning off.”
Source: Andrew Roth, “‘People are turning off’: Muscovites put the war aside and enjoy summer,” The Guardian, 30 July 2022