Russian Soul Music

Since Masha Gessen quite literally believes that the Russian “liberal” intelligentsia is God’s gift to humankind, she writes the following nationalist nonsense with a completely straight face:

In the seven and a half months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, hundreds of thousands of Russians have left their country. Many of them are journalists, writers, poets, or artists, and they, along with some who are still in Russia, have been producing essays, poems, Facebook posts, and podcasts trying to grapple with the condition of being citizens of a country waging a genocidal colonial war. Some of their Ukrainian counterparts have scoffed at their soul-searching. Ukrainians, indeed, have bigger and more immediate problems. But they also have certainty—they know who they are in the world, while for Russians nothing is as it once seemed to be.

[…]

The last time people were writing in Russian so urgently was in the late nineteen-eighties. Soviet citizens back then had been confronted with their past—the Stalinist terror. That moment gave Russia, among other things, Memorial, the human-rights organization that, along with Ukrainian and Belarusian activists, won the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Now Russian citizens are being confronted with their present. The writers in exile have physically fled their country (as has much of Memorial’s leadership) and are trying to write their way to a new Russia. Their imagination extends far beyond the Russian constitution to a world that’s radically different, and better than not only Putin’s revanchist Russian World but the world we currently inhabit.

Source: Masha Gessen, “The War in Ukraine Launches a New Battle for the Russian Soul,” The New Yorker, 9 October 2022. The emphasis is mine.


“Yoga for your health.” Central Petersburg, 6 July 2017. Photo by the Russian Reader

The queue for the ferry. There are Russian tourists behind me. (If you thought there were none of them [in Europe anymore], think again.) The boat arrives, but there’s not room enough for everyone and the guard closes the barrier just in front of us. Everyone stands there meekly, except my compatriots. As soon as the guard turns around, they dive under the barrier and run onto the crowded ship. They look like Moscow hipsters.

When did these people decide that everything is permitted them and that there are no prohibitions and rules? I missed this moment because the Soviet Untermenschen among whom I grew up considered themselves worse than everyone and were afraid of making a peep. Who instilled this hubris in them? How did they get it into their heads that they could go to war with the whole world and win?

(A spare boat was brought in five minutes later, of course, and it took us all away without any fuss or crush.)

Source: Dmitry Volchek, Facebook, 15 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

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