I’ve been doing my favorite thing for almost the whole month—hanging out with ordinary Russians, not only in Moscow, but also in the regions—in my capacity as a sociologist, via focus groups. Ten random people are brought together, and we sit and simply talk “about life,” and I’m among them with a dictaphone. It’s the best format, and ordinary folk like it too.
Naturally, I was curious about people’s opinions about what was happening: their reactions were very different, expressing a whole range of emotions. In most cases, people sense the crisis, and they complain especially about prices… Although then they cheer up and say that “life is livable.” Some even argue that this is not a crisis, but that there are “certain crisis phenomena.” However, after thinking about it, they usually said that it would get worse; this is the easy part now, they said.
I won’t describe everything they said, because I want to get to the main point, the horrible point.
People voiced a variety of emotions (and I carefully monitor them: focus groups are not so much about information as about feelings, about which events excite people more): despair, apathy, depression, anger, patriotic enthusiasm, complacency, and braggadocio… Some still “believe in victory,” some already have doubts, but most are unable to articulate what “victory” would look like… But one emotion—and I conducted more than a dozen focus groups both in Moscow and in the back of beyond—was practically absent, manifested by no one.
I’m talking about shame. There was “we’ve been betrayed,” or “we can still win,” or even “we shouldn’t have started it at all,” but there was no shame. And this, in my opinion, is a very bad symptom, showing that society has not even started down the road to recovery yet. And it may well happen that they will lose and fall face first in the mud, but will still not understand a thing.
This is sad. I’m not trying to show off my own “moral rectitude.” I don’t claim to have it, of course: I’m just as much a bastard as my dear compatriots. My claim is purely pragmatic: if we are still not ashamed, it means that for the time being we are a long ways away from the only emotion that gives us a chance at rebirth—horror towards ourselves. While everyone continues to justify themselves (even if by citing their own weakness: “What can I do?”), the cart won’t budge an inch.
We know that no one ever feels sorry for anyone in Russia. We have always known this, and we didn’t need Sergey Shnurov to tell us that. But the complete absence of shame, and in its place, again, this incredibly vulgar self-pity, pity for us poor unfortunates, “the whole world is against us,” is still quite eye-opening. You listen to how enthusiastically folks pity the “Russian people,” and all you can do is feel gobsmacked. They screwed up completely, betrayed everyone, they are up to their elbows in blood, they can’t do anything, they don’t know how to do anything – but no, they don’t feel even a smidgen of shame.
Nothing’s going to change their minds. Indeed, this, apparently, is the Russian people’s principal tragedy.
After witnessing the country’s crackdown on opposition activists and independent journalism — and the prosecution of hundreds of people who do not support the war or President Vladimir Putin — many emigres expect to encounter a dystopia when they arrive in Russia.
The reality is more banal.
“It’s corny, but the first thing that caught my eye after returning was that Twitter and Instagram don’t work without a VPN,” said Yulia, referring to Russia’s wartime ban on several foreign social media sites.
“Moscow bars were packed with visitors even on Monday evenings,” added the 25-year-old screenwriter who returned in April after fleeing to Georgia last year.
“Recently, my friend and I went out for a glass of wine. All the tables were occupied.”
A draft regulation for the authorization of street performances was published on the website of the Government of St. Petersburg on April 11. The new rules should take effect from May.
Musicians will be obliged to notify the district council of their desire to perform ten business days before the concert. If they are going to play without percussion instruments and amplification, the deadline is three business days before the concert.
They can apply by using the Public Services in St. Petersburg app or via the websites of the district councils. To fill out the application, they will have to enter their passport details or information about a letter of proxy authorizing someone else to act on their behalf if the musicians are not seeking permission for the performance independently. In addition, they will have to provide a layout of stage and technical equipment and a list of sound amplifying equipment.
Legal entities will have to attach a copy of their charter, signed and stamped by its management, as well as a document confirming its representative’s authority to act on its behalf.
An approval already issue can be invalidated if necessary. It is planned to notify musicians about the decision of officials via SMS, e-mail, the Public Services portal, or social networks. The notification method will be chosen by the applicants themselves.
The project is undergoing an anti-corruption assessment. Earlier, the Petersburg district administrations presented lists of places where it was planned to allow street performances.
Yesterday, a man who was well over sixty was seated opposite me in a trolleybus going down Nevsky. He clutched a one-hundred-ruble bill.
“Has it been a long time since conductors stopped selling tickets?” he asked. “How do I pay the fare? I haven’t been on Nevsky for over forty years. And I haven’t been on public transport. I have a vintage Lada. That’s what I drive.”
“But your pension is probably transferred directly to your bank card,” I said. “Press it against that doodad to pay your fare.”
The man got up and pressed his Mir card to the validator. His eyes lit up with surprise and delight, as if he’d seen a magician pull a rabbit from a hat. I was сonsumed with envy toward him.
We continued our journey. Seated next to me was a fairly young woman, in her early forties, I think.
Looking disapprovingly at the man, she asked, “How is it that you haven’t been on Nevsky for forty years? What about the Immortal Regiment?”
“I don’t go,” the man said guiltily. “I came to Leningrad in 1979 and rented room on 1st Soviet Street. That’s where my wife was murdered. I moved to Vasilyevsky Island, and came to hate Nevsky. I haven’t shown my nose here since.”
The woman chuckled angrily.
“That’s no defense.”
We rode on in silence. I wanted to ask the man what had brought him to Nevsky today. But then I looked at him — in his striped sailor’s shirt, his face quite patriotic — and decided against it.
Today, coming out of the front door of my building, I saw the following tableau. A neighbor from the third floor, who is somewhere between thirty-five and forty, was, on the contrary, coming in the front door. Judging by the bag he was carrying, he had just been grocery shopping. He doffed his baseball cap, clamped it under his arm, and crossed himself three times as he looked at the mailboxes. Then he peered into his own mailbox and let out a sigh of relief. His draft notice had not yet arrived, apparently. To be honest, it took a while for the meaning of his maneuvers to dawn on me. Of course, I pretended that I hadn’t noticed any of it.
On Wednesday, April 12, Samara journalist Sergei Podsytnik posted on the website Change.org a petition calling for the repeal of amendments paving the way for the introduction of electronic military draft notices, as passed the previous day by the State Duma and the Federation Council.
“These amendments violate our rights. A citizen cannot be stripped of their rights without a trial, but now this right has been given to the staff of military enlistment offices,” the petition says. Podsytnik draws attention to the fact that the public services portal Gosuslugi, through which it is planned to serve draft notices to Russians, has a number of vulnerabilities. In addition, not all residents of the country have access to their accounts on the portal, and almost thirty percent of Russians over thirty are not active internet users.
According to the amendments as adopted, if a conscript did not receive a paper summons and did not log into his Gosuslugi account, the summons will still be considered delivered within seven days after it was entered into the register of draft notices. He will then be banned from leaving the country. After twenty days, new bans will come into effect: those who failed to report to a military enlistment office will not be able to work as individual entrepreneurs, manage real estate, drive a car, or take out loans.
“To deprive people of the ability to sell real estate, drive a car, or travel abroad at the request of a person with no specialized legal education is an outrage against our rights and freedoms,” the petition says. At the time this story went to press, the petition had been signed by more than thirty thousand people, and their number was growing rapidly. For the amendments to go into effect, they must be signed by Vladimir Putin and published.
The legislative changes mean that once a Russian citizen has received a military summons online, they will be automatically forbidden from leaving the country, and therefore avoiding the call-up.
If they fail to appear at a draft office within 20 days, they will face a range of restrictions, including a ban on using their own vehicle, selling property or receiving a loan. They also face a fine of between 500 and 3,000 rubles (£5 to £29).
The head of Russia’s parliamentary committee on defence claimed that these measures will only come into force during the next conscription campaign.
The new system also anticipates a unified database where personal data about Russian reserve personnel can be collated by a range of government institutions, such as the tax service, law enforcement, the pension fund and medical facilities.
Such a database will make it “practically impossible” for reservists to avoid being called up, anti-conscription lawyer Alexey Tabalov told independent Russian media outlet Verstka, because military registration offices will have more detailed information about an individual’s home and work address.
This changes the advice he has been giving people who want to avoid mobilisation, Tabalov says.
Whereas he previously recommended that people avoid receiving the physical summons document, that “recommendation has lost all meaning” now, he said. “If you don’t want to serve, don’t go to the military registration office, but you’ll still face restrictive measures,” Tabalov said.
Andrei Kartopolov, head of the State Duma defense committee, spelled out tough penalties for those who do not respond to electronic summonses, including potential bans on driving, registering a company, working as a self-employed individual, obtaining credit or loans, selling apartments, buying property or securing social benefits. These penalties could apply to the thousands of men who are already outside the country.
The electronic summons will be issued via a government services portal, Gosuslugi, used for all manner of state payments and services including taxes, passports, housing services, social benefits, transport documents, medical appointments, employee insurance and countless other matters.
Under the law, personal data of conscripts including identity documents, personal tax numbers, driver’s license details, phone numbers and other information will be transferred by Gosuslugi to military enlistment offices. Universities, business employers, hospitals and clinics, government ministries, law enforcement agencies, the electoral commission and the tax authority are also required to transmit data to the military.
It’s not the prices that are rising — it’s the ruble that is falling. The “special operation” is a war. You can’t force Ukraine to like you. We haven’t surrendered to NATO. The neighbors have no more Nazis than we do. Soldiers should be alive, healthy, and at home. The president has gone mad, and everyone is afraid to contradict him. Your children love you and want to live like human beings.
That’s it, thank you. So that’s how it is. Yeah, it’s time to end it. Wow. Thanks, I feel relieved. Oh, would that they would explain it that way on TV.
The war has made us take a look around. In whose midst do we live? Do our fellow citizens think the same way we do? Public Sociology Lab (PS Lab) is a research team that studies politics and society in Russia. In 2022, it launched a project to study the attitudes of Russians to the war.
How do people explain the conflict’s causes to themselves? How does their attitude to politics affect their personal interactions and self-perception? Do they have a political position at all? We talked about this with researchers at PS Lab. Svetlana Erpyleva works at the Center for Eastern European Studies at the University of Bremen, while Maxim Alyukov, a political sociologist, works at the Institute for Russian Studies at King’s College London.
How is your research on the attitude of Russians to the war with Ukraine set up?
Svetlana Erpyleva: Qualitative methods are the main difference between our team and the other teams doing systematic research on perceptions of the war. We have long conversations with our informants and try to find out not only their attitude to the war directly, but also many other things related to it — what sources of information they trust, how they interact with loved ones, their fears and hopes, and so on.
We searched for respondents using social networks, ads, and the “snowball” method (that is, when an informant helps us set up a conversation with their ow friends). It was a big help in contacting people who do not often reflect on politics.
Some people responded enthusiastically to the ads we placed about finding informants — they wanted to talk to us themselves. Moreover, these are not only people who have a clear stance for or against the war and are willing to share it, but also those who feel that their opinion is not represented in public discussion. Such people do not see other people who think like them on social networks or in the media and want to put themselves on the map.
For example, during the the second stage of our research, in the autumn of 2022, we realized that dividing people into “supporters of the war,” “opponents,” and “doubters” (as we had done in the spring) was no longer warranted. Our sources support some decisions by the authorities, but not others. They regard the war as necessary in some ways, but some things about it terrify them, while other things cause them to doubt. Our interviews, which last about an hour (sometimes longer), have in fact enabled us to understand the peculiarities of how the war is regarded by Russians, with all their contradictions and complications.
Our other goal is to study the dynamics of how the war is regarded. We conducted the first series of interviews in the spring of 2022. We did the second series between October and December 2022. It is important to note here that in the autumn we spoke only with “non-opponents of the war,” that is, with those whom in the spring we had provisionally labeled “supporters” and “doubters.”
Maxim Alyukov: I would also make another important clarification. When people talk about studying perceptions of the war, they often have in mind representative surveys. Using them, we can indeed more or less accurately describe the range of opinions around the country. But polls cannot show how opinions about the war are shaped, or what emotions people experience. We are going deep rather than wide. Yes, we cannot draw large-scale conclusions about public opinion in general, but, unlike the polling projects, it is easier for us to talk about specific mechanisms — what emotions tend to shape certain positions, how different types of media consumption affect perceptions of the war, and so on.
What is the difference between how people regarded the war in the spring and the autumn?
SE: On the one hand, we see from the autumn interviews that perceptions of the war had not changed radically. Almost none of the people with whom we had repeat conversations had changed their attitude to the war from “plus” to “minus” and vice versa. Of course, there have been small shifts in this regard. For example, some of the springtime convinced supporters remained “optimists,” while others had become “pessimists.” The former believe that the “special operation” is going in the right direction, despite all the shortcomings, while the latter criticize the chaos in the army, the chaos during the mobilization, retreats by Russian troops, and so on.
But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves: the pessimists have not stopped supporting the war. Rather, they want Russia to act tougher and more effectively, and ultimately win.
In the first series of interviews in the spring, we identified a group of so-called doubters. But it is clear that even back then different informants in this group were closer to one or the other pole of opinion. Some doubted, but were inclined to support the war, while others were against it. In the autumn, there were fewer informants who were completely unsure of their position. Those who had been closer to the supporters of the war had often begun to support the war a little more. The same thing happened to those who had been more against the war than not: many of them had become a little more strongly opposed to the war (without turning into unambiguous opponents).
On the other hand, the ways people have for justifying the war have changed. Some of the old methods are losing popularity, while others are emerging.
For example, one of the new justifications for war involves imagining it as a natural disaster. We feel sorry, of course, for those who perish in a flood. We cannot regard this other than negatively. But it is impossible for us to oppose it. The same thing has happened with the war.
From the viewpoint of the informants who have resorted to this excuse, the war just happened. It is a terrible reality that we can only accept.
Another new way of rationalizing the war involves turning its consequences into its alleged causes, as when our informants say, “Ukraine has been bombing our border cities, so we need to continue the war,” or, “The war has shown that we are fighting not with Ukraine, but with the collective West. We are fighting not with a fraternal people, but with our perennial enemy, so it is right that we started this war.” The second statement had also come up in the spring, but it has become much more popular. The rationale behind such justifications involves arguing that events that happened after the war started seemingly reveal the enemy’s true identity.
MA: Attitudes towards sources of information have also changed. There are two trends: polarization and stabilization. At the war’s outset, people tried to seek out information, including information from the “opposite camp.” For example, those who supported the war sometimes read opposition and Ukrainian media, because they understood that the Russian state media are propagandistic. Now, on the contrary, many people are so weary that they have not only reduced their consumption of information in general, but also have stopped following sources that reflect the opposite opinion.
At the beginning of the war, the following idea was often discussed: information about the destruction, civilian casualties, and losses among Russian soldiers would gradually undermine the effect of propaganda. Now we see that, over time, the simultaneous consumption of information from pro-government and opposition sources, which paint radically different pictures of the world, has had the opposite effect. It causes discomfort, which leads to the fact that people who are less involved try to shield themselves from information about the war in general, while more involved people consume propaganda and stop paying attention to alternative sources. This is a conscious choice: they realize that they are consuming propaganda. I remember the words of one informant: “There are different points of view, but the brain tends to stick to one theory. I’m inclined to choose the theory of my country, of the state media, so that my brain follows it.”
It transpires that the person understands perfectly well that they are consuming propaganda, and they consciously choose it amidst conflicting explanations that cause discomfort.
Do these changes produce any practical actions? Maybe people stop talking to certain people or get involved in charity?
SE: There are only a few volunteers among our informants.
People can have a positive view of charity, and worry about their country, but most of them do not take any action themselves.
And yet, volunteering that involves assistance to the mobilized is certainly seen positively by our informants (that is, by “non-opponents” with very different views of the war). Such volunteering is regarded not as involvement in the war, but as support for “our boys,” for “our country.” This is not surprising: there are always significantly fewer “activists” and volunteers than there are sympathizers. Only a few people are involved in protests, too.
Changes have also been taking place in the way people talk about the war with their loved ones. For example, many of our informants described the summer as a carefree time when the war had completely disappeared from their lives: they stopped discussing it. The mobilization was the “new February 24” for those informants (who were most often people remote from politics). The topic of war had returned to everyday conversations again. The informants were discussing the events even with strangers. For example, one of our sources told us that even at work meetings with her clients she had occasion to discuss the mobilization.
Do attitudes to specific events affect everyday practices? For example, the mobilization began and people decided to check whether their foreign travel passports were still valid.
SE: Unfortunately, we didn’t talk much about everyday practices in our interviews. Probably the most common reaction to the mobilization’s announcement was anxiety and, simultaneously, the absence of concrete action: “Whatever will be will be, but I hope that nothing bad happens.” Some of our informants who did not want to be sent to the front changed their places of work and residence, but we didn’t often encounter such people in our interviews. (It is important to understand that we were talking to “non-opponents” of the war.)
MA: It’s also worth recalling that a minority of Russians have the possibility of leaving the country. According to our research on social networks (this is another project that my colleagues and I are doing), the most common reaction to the mobilization has been evasion.
Is it possible, then, to talk about a desire for inneremigration among those who have remained in Russia? For example, a person says, “Actually, I have a lot more important and valuable things in my life [than the war], and I want to pursue them.”
SE: It was the presence of this desire among people in the spring of 2022 that made us single out the doubters as a separate group. All of them were typified by the notion that the “distant war” was secondary compared to more important values — work, loved ones, and family. But in the autumn, we saw that fewer and fewer of our informants were able to take a neutral stance, to completely distance themselves from assessing the war. Our informants talked about pressure: they seemed to feel that society demanded that they voice their opinion. In this sense, as Maxim has said, the polarization of views has been increasing.
But our informants assess [this polarization] in different ways. Many supporters of the war say that it is awesome because people are becoming more united, more interested in what is happening around them. The “anti-patriots” will leave the country, but patriotic Russians will remain. Others complain that it is hard for them to cope with the pressure. They would like to take a neutral position, but they cannot manage it. One of my sources described it this way (I’m quoting from memory, of course, but nearly verbatim): “I would like not to take a side, but my smart friends say that the war should be continued. And I understand that they are right, that one should support one’s country in such circumstances. I’m unable to take a back seat.” But a little later she said: “I’m afraid that time will pass and [people] will come and ask me, ‘Have you been reading Meduza? Have you been watching Channel One? Whose side are you on?’ And I won’t have any answer.” This situation even makes her think about emigrating. That is, on the one hand, she chooses to side with supporters of the war; on the other hand, she is afraid to make this choice.
MA: I would add that the desire for neutrality remains. One respondent put it this way: “There is war all round, but I try to maintain peace on my VKontakte page.” He moderates disputes there and shares links to articles about the importance of neutrality. For him, this is a way of creating a space for himself in which there is the possibility of remaining neutral, since he doesn’t have this possibility in other contexts. It is another matter that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for such neutrality.
You say that your respondents feel pressure. Where do they feel this pressure? In interactions with loved ones and colleagues, or somewhere else?
SE: It is often the pressure of their immediate environment. Many opponents of the war have left the country, and the doubters thus have fewer contacts with their viewpoint. They are surrounded, as a rule, more by supporters of the “special operation.” But the cause of such pressure may be an inner conflict. For example, our sources tell us that they were taught at school that when the country is in difficult straits, the worst stance is neutrality. But now they have found themselves in exactly this position. It is really difficult for them: they see the propaganda on both sides, but do not feel strong enough to resist it. This can be illustrated as follows: “Maybe Russia was right to attack, or maybe it was wrong to do so. Maybe Ukraine is the enemy, or maybe it isn’t the enemy. I don’t understand what’s going on at all. But how can I fail to take a stance?”
In such circumstances, people turn to what seems certain to them — for example, to their Russian identity. You may not know who is right, but you have a native country and it must be supported.
MA: This feeling of pressure consists of two parts. The first is personal interaction, about which we have said our piece. The second is the influence of the media, in which you can constantly see appeals and reminders of the war. This background encourages a person to clearly articulate their position.
Is the official newspeak (“special operation”, “line of contact,” etc.) incorporated into the explanations given by the “non-opponents” of the war? Is the state discourse generally used to justify it?
MA: Yes and no. It does happen that our sources literally quote propaganda narratives. For example, they start saying on TV that there are fakes everywhere, and a person repeats this idea. But at the same time, an absolute minority of our sources trust state broadcasts, although there are such people among them. They have doubts and come up with their own hypotheses. But it is important to take into account that our informants live in large cities, so it is likely that, for example, in smaller cities far from the capitals, the ratio is different, that there are fewer people there who are like the majority of our respondents, and more people who trust propaganda.
SE: You also have to understand that there are different types of support for the war, and therefore different explanations for it. There are people who accept the explanations given by the state media. Most often these people are elderly: they regularly watch TV, and then rehash the rhetoric of the propagandists. But there are other kinds of people — for example, those whom we call “committed supporters.” Their attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was shaped back in 2014, or even in 2004. They can be quite critical of propaganda narratives and are fond of saying, “We have bad propaganda. It is incapable of explaining anything.” Such people are able to explain the war’s causes on their own. And there are, for example, people who are remote from politics, who might watch TV sometimes, but it doesn’t convince them. They can even rehash propaganda cliches, but they do not adopt them, they do not present them as their own words. For example, they say, “We were told that…” or “We are told that…”
Is it possible then to say that, despite propaganda, polarization, and state pressure, even those who are not against the war are in a gray area? In other words, there are no views that could unite people, and accordingly, that is why they cannot unite and make demands.
SE: Yes, that’s right. Unless “convinced supporters” could try to create some kind of association. But I’m sure they’re a minority. Most people are busy with their daily affairs: they are not interested in political positions and movements. We are currently preparing a second analytical report on the results of the autumn stage of our study, and there we even try to avoid the word “position.”
Most of our informants have no “position.” Their attitude to the war is a bundle of fears, doubts, hopes, and other feelings. Such people may want Russia to win, but sincerely worry about the victims of the shelling in Ukraine.
One of our informants said, “If I had been subject to the mobilization I would have been out of Russia in three minutes.” And yet she, for example, wants Russia to win.
MA: Especially since propaganda does not just attempt to impose a certain point of view. It also generates a multitude of contradictory narratives that simply confuse people. This is a paradox of authoritarian propaganda: the state needs this vital demobilizing effect to maintain control, but it also prevents it from generating broad support for the war.
You mentioned sympathy for the victims of the shelling. In your spring report, some of your sources say that they would tolerate a decline in the material standard of living, because for them what matters are spiritual values. Since they are so clearly aware of losses, can we say that Russians perceive themselves as victims?
SE: We rarely see people regarding themselves as victims directly. They say, “The situation has become worse in Russia as a whole, but everything is fine with me. Yes, people are being mobilized, and that’s scary, but my loved ones aren’t being mobilized. Prices have gone up, but we’re coping.” Our sources often regard Russia as a whole as a victim. They are offended on Russia’s behalf: it was forced into the conflict, and it is humiliated everywhere and considered an aggressor. That is, they don’t think “[international] brands have abandoned me,” but those brands have abandoned “poor Russia.”
MA: Ukrainians are also regarded as victims. “The poor residents of Ukraine are being used by NATO. Would that it were over as soon as possible.” In many ways, this is part of the propaganda narrative that Ukraine has become a firing range on which NATO and Russia are fighting using Ukrainians as proxies. But this is, rather, a propaganda cliche that people simply repeat without thinking through their own position on this issue.
It follows that “non-opponents” of the war do not regard it as part of their personal lives?
SE: This is a generalization, of course, but I would say that it is basically true. For the opponents of the war, on the contrary, the war has become an existential challenge. Sometimes they even make themselves experience it as such: “I cannot live an ordinary life. I must remember that there is a war going on.”
But isn’t there a contradiction here? The “non-opponents” of the war do not regard it as a personal matter, but we are saying that they feel pressure from their loved ones, are trying to find their own identity, and are grasping for rationalizations.
SE: This is a difficult question, but let’s try thinking about it. Compared to opponents, supporters and doubters are more likely to try to rid themselves of negative thoughts, to distance themselves from the war. And yet it regularly makes its presence felt. The latter is a new trend, and many of [our respondents] do not like it: they would prefer to live their lives without being reminded about the war. But it has become more difficult to do this.
MA: In our research on how the war is seen by Russians, we have been observing what I had observed in my pre-war research. People, if they are not politicized, rarely hold consistent positions at all. I will give an example from my research on Russian perceptions of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine prior to February 24. A person has a smorgasbord of different political ideas. He supports all the decisions made by the authorities, including the annexation of Crimea and military backing for the so-called DPR and LPR. And yet half an hour later he says, “Basically, it would be a good idea to withdraw the troops and leave Ukraine alone. It’s bad for us.” It’s just that he hadn’t needed to make connections between his disparate views on this issue before. This necessity emerged during our conversation.
We have been observing the same thing now. People are trying to push the war out of their lives. They need arguments in favor of the war — not because it is their political position, but because it is safer to live that way. For many of our respondents, the interview was like an exam in which they were forced for the first time to think about logical chains and formulate at least some kind of a clear opinion about the war, which they had not tried to formulate before.
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am falling down.
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am upside down.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
I'm goin' up, and I'm goin' down.
I'm gonna fly from side to side.
See the bells, up in the sky,
Somebody's cut the string in two.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
One minute one, one minute two.
One minute up and one minute down.
What goes on here in your mind?
I think that I am falling down.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
Throughout Putin’s war on Ukraine, the attitudes of the Russian public toward the regime and the conflict have been the subject of much scrutiny. This talk addresses this question by analyzing data released by the Presidential Administration that summarizes monthly correspondence received from the public from January 2021 through December 2022. While the identity of these correspondents is not known, their decision to send non-anonymous appeals to the President suggests that they support or tolerate the Putin regime. The data demonstrate that after an initial period of uncertainty about the war’s economic impact, these concerns abated until the announcement of mobilization in September. Since then, the appeals depict a Russian public that is increasingly concerned about conditions of military service and the war’s impact on service members and their families. At the same time, the data indicate that the Kremlin’s strategy to shift the blame for mobilization from the President to regional authorities appears successful.
Pollsters argue over how many Russians support the Ukraine war
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sociologists have grappled with the question of how many Russians support the Russian army in Ukraine. Both independent and state-run pollsters claim they are the majority, and these studies are frequently referenced in Western media. However, at the same time, a group of independent sociologists have pointed out that these polls may not be representative — many Russians are reluctant to speak freely about their thoughts on the conflict due to draconian wartime censorship laws.
Independent researchers from the Khroniki project recently presented the findings from their latest survey, which suggest using a percentage of how many Russians support the war may not be a very meaningful statistic. In their view, this figure comprises a misleadingly wide spectrum of people: from those who volunteered to fight in Ukraine to those afraid of repression. Moreover, at least half of those who are opposed to the war are afraid to speak out, the Khroniki sociologists said.
To identify the core pro- and anti-war groups in Russia, the pollsters devised a series of questions. The results of their survey suggests that the core support group represents 22% of the population, while the core opposition is 20.1%.
Separately, researchers stress that “the fridge counters the effects of the TV,” and this effect is felt more and more with each passing month. The level of support for the war among TV viewers who are encountering economic pressures is falling. Among TV viewers who have encountered at least one economic problem, support for the war was down 11 percentage points in February.
Other polls, however, show that a vast majority of Russians support the war. For example, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM, 68% of Russian residents welcomed the invasion of Ukraine and just 20% are opposed to it. And leading independent polling agency Levada Center published results in January that suggested 75% of Russians support the war — to varying degrees.
Why the world should care:
It’s not easy to work out exactly what proportion of the Russian population supports the war, but Khroniki is certain that the pro-war lobby is far smaller than polls from leading agencies would suggest. If that is true, it casts doubt on the widely-held belief in the west that the war in Ukraine is supported by most Russians who remain inside the country.
On 1 September 2022, I returned to Russia after almost a year away. The war that began six months ago had been present in my life daily: in the news, in conversations with friends and colleagues, and in the Ukrainian flags on the streets of the European city where I lived. But there was no trace of the war in the town near Moscow where I grew up, and where my parents still live. I did not see pro-war or anti-war graffiti or slogans; war was not mentioned in the streets or by my friends and acquaintances. As I sank into the familiar rhythm of my childhood town, I caught myself thinking that perhaps I was beginning to forget about it too. That all changed on September 21, the day ‘partial mobilisation’ was announced. Suddenly, the war was being mentioned all around me, or rather whispered about, in the cafe where I listened to Putin’s address, in the local library, in the street, on the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The war seemed to have reappeared in Russian society instantaneously, with the snap of a finger.
I had observed something similar before, not around me, but as a researcher: in the data my colleagues and I collected. Our Public Sociology Lab began conducting a qualitative study on Russians’ perceptions of the war on February 27, 2022, just three days after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. During the first months of the war, we conducted (link in Russian) over 200 interviews with supporters of the war, its opponents and doubters. At that moment, many of our informants, including those who were far from being exclusively anti-war, also said that they had been shocked by the news of the start of the ‘special military operation’ and had tried to make sense of events in their conversations with friends and relatives. But after a few weeks, the emotions of shock and confusion began to fade. The war became routine and faded into background noise.
So we knew that the ‘return of war to society’ following the announcement of mobilisation would also likely be temporary. We waited a few weeks and, on October 11th, conducted our first interview as part of the second stage of our research into Russians’ perceptions of war. Between October and December 2022, we conducted 88 interviews with ‘non-opponents’ of the war, deciding this time to focus the study on support for and disengagement from the war, rather than resistance to it. Forty of these interviews were repeated conversations with supporters of the war as well as its doubters doubters, with whom we had already spoken in the spring.
We were driven by the desire to understand how perceptions of, and predominantly support for, the war were evolving. From the interviews conducted in the spring of 2022, we roughly divided all ‘non-opponents’ of the war into supporters and doubters. Despite the fact that among supporters of the war, there were interviewees who were convinced to a greater or lesser extent, all of them found some means to justify the ‘special military operation’. Some were staunch supporters of ‘the Russian world’ and believed that the war would push the geopolitical threat away from Russia’s borders and strengthen the country’s position; some were worried about loved ones in Donbas and rejoiced at the prospect of an imminent resolution to the longstanding conflict; some, viewers of Russian TV channels, spoke of ‘combating fascism’ and ‘protecting the Russian-speaking population of Donbas’; many expressed confidence or, at the very least, hope: ‘if our government started the war, then it must have been necessary’. Although these people were worried about the casualties caused by the war and looked with apprehension at a future defined by isolation and sanctions, they remained supporters of the ‘special operation’.
It seemed to us, as it did to many others, that the announcement of mobilisation might fundamentally change something in the way Russians viewed the war. However, in addition to mobilisation, the war was marked by a series of other events, each of which could have left an impression on Russian society: the seizure of new territories and their subsequent annexation to Russia, the retreat of Russian troops, the bombing of the Crimean bridge, news of the bombing of Russian border regions. All this occurred against a backdrop of increasing Western sanctions, muddled explanations from the authorities as to why the country was at war, repression of dissenters, and increasing polarisation of views on the war in society. In such a state of affairs, we assumed that the views of the war held by ordinary Russians could not be sustained. In some ways, our assumptions were right, and in other ways, we were wrong.
It was not without reason that we waited a few weeks after the announcement of mobilisation and the swift ‘return of the war to society’ before we began the second stage of our research. The October interviews showed that the emotions associated with the announcement of mobilisation were as strong as they were fleeting. After a few weeks, they began to subside, and ‘partial mobilisation’ became normalised as a part of the new everyday reality. But, most interestingly, despite the negative attitudes towards mobilisation expressed by many of our informants who were not opposed to the war, their dissatisfaction with mobilisation rarely translated into dissatisfaction with the ‘special military operation’.
My son Timur has Down syndrome. This is no secret to anyone, especially for those who see him in person or in a photo. You can’t hide Down syndrome.
Very often Timur is identified precisely in terms of this syndrome — not as Timur, who likes drawing, pasta and ice cream. Naturally, Down syndrome is a part of our life, because Timur has it. But Timur is just a human being first of all, my favorite person. It’s a shame when people call him “(a) Down.” It sounds like an insult, and usually people pronounce the word with this strange intonation.
When Timur and I ride the subway, we usually draw. People often look askance at us, because Timur speaks quite unintelligibly for his age. I’m already used to the sidelong glances, but I would rather not get used to them.
I am an animated film director — I make cartoons — and I draw pictures for books and write texts. I have published several children’s books, including ChromoSonya, Forever?, Poisoned Words, BO Is for Lunch Today: How Tolya Ate Cougar, Matics, Valentina’s Dream, The Tail Is What Counts, and Pasha the Turtle Goes to School.
I would be glad if from now on when you say “Down” you would remember Dr. John Langdon Haydon Down, who lived in England in the nineteenth century and was the first to describe the genetic condition known today as Down syndrome.
P.S. The doctor’s surname is spelled the same as the English word “down” (meaning, “from a higher to a lower point”) resulting in the popular misconception that Down syndrome is mental retardation. In fact, the syndrome was named that in 1965 solely in honor of the doctor, with no further connotations.
Thank you for reading!
Sveta Nagaeva, filmmaker and artist
Source: Takie Dela emailed newsletter, 21 March 2023, as replicated here. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell
Russian workers called toxicity the worst quality among bosses, according to Gazeta.Ru, citing the results of surveys carried out by the Team Awards for creating strong teams.
The greatest number of Russians surveyed (40%) believe that toxicity [toksichnost’] is the worst trait in a boss. Incompetence (35.1%) and inefficiency (24.3%) took second and third places, respectively. The list of negative qualities also includes aggressiveness (23.8%) and bias (19.8%).
Only 10% of respondents consider an authoritarian boss to be exemplary.
The respondents also spoke about what qualities an ideal leader should have. Motivating employees was in first place (41.2%), while preventing burnout was in second place (27.6%). Respondents also identified encouraging professional development (18.8%) and resolving conflicts (17.1%) as important qualities in a good leader.
We recently wrote that Elon Musk had staged another wave of cuts on Twitter. He laid off 200 employees — that is, about 10% of the workforce. Esther Crawford, the head of the Twitter Blue subscription, who was considered one of the new Twitter owner’s most loyal supporters, was among the employees made redundant.
Russians consider toxicity to be the worst quality in a boss according to a survey done by Team Awards, a prize awarded in the field of strong team building. Gazeta.Ru reviewed the results of the survey.
The top qualities that, according to respondents, are at odds with image of an ideal manager were toxicity (40%), incompetence (35.1%) and inefficiency (24.3%). In addition, the rating also included aggressiveness (23.8%) and bias (19.8%).
The respondents also saw the boss’s role on a team differently. The majority (41.2%) believe that a leader should motivate their subordinates, thereby increasing labor productivity. The next answer on the list is preventing employees from burning out (27.6%). Another 18.8% want the boss to be engaged in their professional development, while 17.1% believe that the leader should be able to resolve conflicts on the team.
Interestingly, only 10% consider a boss who subscribes to authoritarianism exemplary.
Earlier, we reported that every third Russian avoids networking [netvorking] because of uncertainty about their own competence.
Yesterday, during a dinner conversation, I was asked why I’d been silent, why I hadn’t been writing anything about the war. Was it because I was afraid of going to jail, or was it something else? These questions were posed point blank albeit sympathetically.
I’ve been asking myself this question for many months. On the one hand, it’s stupid to deny that watching as my acquaintances are given devastating prison sentences does not affect me in any way. It makes an impression, of course.
On the other hand, I wonder what would I write or say now if the level of state terror had remained at least at pre-war levels. I realize that I would still write or say nothing. I can hardly squeeze this text out of myself. I’m just explaining myself because yesterday was not the first time I’ve been asked why I haven’t been writing anything about the war.
I feel that words have lost their meaning.
One of the ideologues of the war, who constantly makes allegations about the “genocide of the Russian language,” writes bezpilotnik, obezpechenie, na primer, and ne obezsud’te. [Instead of the correct spellings bespilotnik, obespechenie, naprimer, and ne obessud’te — meaning, respectively, “drone,” “provisions,” “for example,” and “don’t take it amiss.”] No one corrected him for a year. Compared to him, I’m a total expert on the Russian literary language, but I don’t have the words to stop cruise missiles or send soldiers home, while his bezpilotnik turns residential buildings into ruins in a second.
I do not know what words to find for a mother who, conversing with her POW son, regularly interjects “bitch” and “fuck.” Or for a mother who, as she sees off her son, smiles at the camera and says what actually matters is that she didn’t raise him to be a faggot, and basically, if push comes to shove, she has another child. Moreover, the supplies of such people are really endless.
Now, sadly, only the Ukrainian Armed Forces can “explain” anything. I am not trained in military affairs. So I am silent.
Separately on Friday, police briefly detained Yevgeny Levkovich, a reporter for Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian service, at his home in Moscow, and charged him with “discrediting the army,” according to newsreports and Facebookposts by Levkovich.
In Moscow, police detained Levkovich for about five hours at the Teply Stan police station and charged him under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative code for allegedly discrediting the army; convictions for that offense can carry a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (US$613).
Levkovich wrote on Facebook that his trial was scheduled for Monday, but he did not plan to attend because he did not “see the point” in contesting the charge.
Radio Svoboda wrote that the charge was likely related to Levkovich’s posts on social media, but did not say whether authorities had specified any posts prompting the charge. On his personal Facebook page, where he has about 36,000 followers, Levkovich recently wrote about Russia’s war on Ukraine.
These are the numbers. I want to do something so that people don’t get caught, and even more actively support those who do get caught. But in the first case, it is unclear what these people are reading, and where the safety recommendations should be published so that they are accessible to such people. And we are already working on the second case, but we lack the human resources.
Those arrested for radical anti-war protest are heroes, although sometimes the charges are completely trumped-up. In any case, all of them deserve support. Solidarity Zone regularly writes about such political prisoners, publishes addresses where you can send them letters, and raises funds to pay their lawyers. Sign up to get news of what is happening to these people and, if possible, get involved in supporting them.
112 people are being prosecuted on charges of carrying out or planning radical anti-war acts.
Solidarity Zone counted how many people have been criminally charged with setting fire to military enlistment offices, sabotaging the railroads and other militant anti-war actions, or planning them, in the year following [Russia’s] full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
What police investigators allege these people have done to warrant criminal prosecution:
1 — “other”
7 — torched vehicles marked with the letter Z
17 — planned arsons of military enlistment or other government offices
36 — sabotaged the railways
51 — torched military enlistment or other government offices
Articles of the Russian criminal code under which these people have been charged:
36 — Article 205: Terrorist Act
31 — Article 167: Destruction of Property
15 — Article 281: Sabotage
14 — Unknown
12 — Article 213: Disorderly Conduct
4 — Other Criminal Code Articles
Of these people:
78 are being held pretrial detention centers (remand prisons).
5 have been sentenced to parole.
4 are serving prison sentences.
1 is under house arrest.
1 has been released on their own recognizance pending trial.
There is no information about 23 of them.
Our statistics are incomplete because the Russian authorities do not always report new criminal cases. Sometimes we only get reports that people have been detained, with no mention of their names or the charges against them, and these reports are thus extremely hard to verify.
Our statistics do not include people who were killed by the security forces during arrest or people prosecuted on administrative charges.
Total defendants: 465 in 77 regions (we include occupied Crimea and Sevastopol in our data because we monitor activities of repressive Russian government authorities that operate there).
Women among the defendants: 90 (19%)
Minors among the defendants: 6 (1%)
(Section 3, Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “spreading fakes about the Russian army” (ie talking about the war in an unsanctioned manner): 141 (30%)
(Section 3, Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “discrediting the Russian army”: 54 (12%)
Convicted: 119 (26%)
Imprisoned upon conviction: 26 people
In pre-trial detention: 108 people
Under house arrest: 17 people
Convicted and given a non-custodial sentence: 62 people
It thus follows that a total of 577 Russians have faced criminal prosecution for anti-war actions of all kinds (violent and nonviolent) since the start of their country’s invasion of Ukraine. As Ivan Astashin, a former political prisoner himself, argues, above, all these people are, indeed, heroes. It’s another matter that they constitute a statistically insignificant segment of the world’s ninth most populous country. Again, by way of (invidious) comparison, at least 1,003 Americans have been charged with crimes for their alleged involvement in the 6 January 2020 riot at the US capitol.
I would argue that those who were forced to leave Russia due to Putin’s unleashing of illegal aggression against Ukraine could file a class action lawsuit against the Russian Federation or the ruling elite of the Russian Federation demanding compensation for the moral anguish and economic harm suffered as a result of these events. The Russian federal authorities must fully compensate them for expenses incurred by forced relocation, such as the cost of airplane and other tickets, accommodation in hotels and rented accommodation abroad, and other expenses. Compensation could also include the irreparable losses suffered by citizens within the country due to forced relocation — for example, the loss of a job or a business. Compensation for emotional suffering is a separate issue.
Payments could be made from the Russian federal budget, through the sale of the property of officials directly responsible for unleashing the war, or at the expense of business income from entrepreneurs who have directly supported the illegal aggression. Naturally, compensation for this damage is possible only after full payment of the reparations necessary to restore Ukraine’s economy and civil infrastructure. What do you think about this? #nowar#netvoine
[two selected comments + one response by the author]
Zmey Gurevich A difficult question. It’s true that the monstrous war forced me to leave Russia. But to my incredible surprise, I have have become happy here [in emigration]. Perhaps it’s immoral to be happy when rivers of blood overflow their banks. It’s been eating at me. But the painful departure has led me a new happiness. Some vital knots have been untied… No, I have nothing to bill [the Russian authorities] for. My friends empathize with me and ask me how things are going here. I can’t tell them the truth. I am ashamed. But my departure has turned into a happy time for me. I don’t know what will happen next.
Vlad Shipitcyn Zhenya! Did you go to at least one protest rally against Putin in Russia over [the last] 22 years? No, you didn’t. Did you ever stand on the stand on the street holding a [protest] placard? No. So no one owes you anything, not a kopeck. You too are responsible for both the regime and the war. You let them happen. So calm down.
Evgeny Krupitsky Hi! Yes, I am responsible for this war: it happened due to my connivance, indifference and cowardice. And I said it right away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsAFChc2HSI And my protest was that on March 6, exactly a year ago, I left the Russian Federation having abandoned everything, because I felt sick and ashamed. Okay, maybe it’s not such a big deal in terms of significance and courage, but I am proud of my little protest. I know you went to the rallies long before the start of the war, that you were detained, beaten and fined, and I respect and admire you for that! But someone will say that they suffered more than you did, that they did more to prevent this war, etc. We need to consolidate, rather than argue about who is more to blame!
Some people in Russia are living a normal life, but they feel the lack of real normality, and this causes them discomfort. Others live with a sense of catastrophe, but they feel the absence of a real catastrophe, and this also causes discomfort. Consequently, everyone is on edge. The sensible approach is to live normally with a sense of disaster. But this useful attitude is hard to achieve, and if you don’t have it, then I do not even advise you to start. When it takes shape, it will no longer be relevant.
The four members of this “countryside hub” are among hundreds of Russian opposition activists of various political leanings who have fled their country to Georgia throughout the past year. Some left in the months prior to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February as repression grew to unprecedented levels in the Putin era. Others came after the war began, realizing that with their dissenting opinions, they could no longer live in what they deem a fascist totalitarian state.
In Tbilisi, they have created or joined new anti-war resistance organizations, which operate on Western grants and employ hundreds of volunteers. Working around the clock, these groups offer services in real time to Ukrainians refugees as well as Russian activists and military deserters fleeing their respective countries. The help comes in the form of evacuation routes, therapeutic services, legal guidance, shelters and resettlement plans.
From her volunteering as an election monitor in Russia’s 2011 elections to offering pro-bono legal support to activists arrested during protests in subsequent years, Burakova’s career followed a linear trajectory. Degrees in political science and law equipped her with the legal know-how to aid political opponents, and now exiles, over how to wrestle with and escape an authoritarian system that often invents new laws to persecute citizens. As of 2022, “discrediting the Russian army” is now an offense that has landed countless people in prison for sharing anti-war posts on social media.
“To conduct these types of congresses and host mock parliamentary votes on Russia’s future while in exile just looks a bit cringe-ova,” Burakova tells me, using the popular English word that has been appropriated into the Russian language. Her husband Egor Kuroptev shares the sentiment.
M., one of my smartest interlocutors, arrived from Moscow Time. “Well, what is your final conclusion? Why?” he asked me. I told him that now I see three points that we simply missed, that ended up in our blind spot. The first point is that of course everyone worked hard during these years, enthusiastically; everyone had an articulated mission in life, etc. But it was seemingly taken as a natural given that each of us was the client of someone a few floors above us. Now everyone looks back and discovers that their mission has been burned for a long time, and their belonging to one or another Moscow (or regional) clan shines forth in their biography. For some reason, it was automatically believed that, in the nineties, we operated in a world in which, when difficulties arose, we should turn to “the man from Kemerovo” (in the words of Grebenshchikov’s song). In the noughties, however, all this was allegedly vanquished. In reality, nothing was “vanquished”: it was simply transformed into large-scale state clans. That is why now everyone who was engaged in charity, book publishing, media development, etc., has suddenly shifted the emphasis in their reflections on life: wait a second, I worked for Abramovich (or Gusinsky, or Potanin, etc.). The system consisted entirely of a network of clients.
The second point: the language of pragmatic communication. It was a completely abusive language. The smash-mouth jargon permeated everything. Roughly speaking, the country was governed in the language of American rappers (i.e., the Solntsevo mob). All communications! Not only the special communications among those in power, but also all communications in the liberal, academic realm, in civil society. The cynical jargon of abuse reigned everywhere, and it was absolutely acceptable even in highly cultured milieux. And we did not see what consequences this would have.
The third point: “populism.” The automatic perception of the “common people” [narod], which had its origins in the late-Soviet and perestroika periods, was a colossal mistake. It was tacitly assumed, first, that there was a “common people”; second, that the “common people” would determine their own fate; and third, that the “common people” naturally triumph over evil because they themselves are good. It was this “populism” that served as the basis for the compromise with the state when it began to take institutional shape in Yeltsin’s wake.
All three of these points were “organic” in some sense. They were a part of ontology: they were taken for granted without any reflection and criticism. And all three played a fatal role in the process of “slowly boiling the frog alive.”
I had problems,
I had gone way too far.
The lower depths of the deepest hell
Didn't seem so deep to me.
I called my mom,
And Mom was right.
She said, "Straightaway you've got to call
The man from Kemerovo."
He is a man of few words, like de Niro.
Only a wacko would argue with him.
You can't pull one over on him,
He knows all the insides and outs.
The sky could crash to the ground,
The grass could stop growing,
He would come and silently fix everything,
The man from Kemerovo.
Adam became a refugee,
Abel got on a mobile connection,
Noah didn't finish what he was building,
Got drunk and fell face down in the mud.
The history of humankind
Wouldn't be so crooked,
If they had thought to get in touch
With the man from Kemerovo.
I got a call from Kyiv,
I got a call from Kathmandu,
I got a call from the opening of the plenum —
I told them I would not come.
You have to drink two liters of water at night,
To have a fresh head in the morning.
After all, today I'm going to drink
With the man from Kemerovo.
Only one conclusion follows from Stalin’s death: woe is the country where tyrants die natural deaths while still in power.
Source: Roman Osminkin (Twitter), 5 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Mr. Osminkin’s remarks were occasioned by the social media commemoration of the anniversary of Stalin’s death, yesterday, which often as not consisted of replicating the meme “That one croaked, and this one will croak too.” This means, apparently, that the entire “plan” of the “Russian anti-war movement” and the “anti-Putin opposition” consists in waiting for the current Russian tyrant to die a natural death. It’s a frank admission to be sure. ||| TRR
On February 23, Nikolai Zodchii was detained by police in Khabarovsk for appearing in public with these images of Vladimir Putin, which had originally appeared in broadcasts on state-run Channel One. Thanks to the indomitable VB for the snapshot and the heads-up, and for his personal fortitude in dismal circumstances. ||| TRR
When contacted by the media, the Kommunalnik health resort, located in the Omsk Region, refused to comment on reports of the death of a female Russian national during a speed pancake-eating contest.
Earlier, it was reported that a female contestant at a speed pancake-eating competition in the Omsk Region had choked to death. Currently, the exact cause of death is unknown, but the contestant’s death has been confirmed by law enforcement agencies. The 38-year-old female Russian national [rossiyanka] died before the ambulance arrived.
The celebration at which the pancake-eating competition took place was held at the Kommunalnik health resort in the Omsk Region on Saturday, February 25.
A spokesperson for the health resort refused to comment on reports of the death of the female Russian national and the absence of an ambulance team at the competition site.
In December 2022, it was reported that a 61-year-old resident of the Moscow Region had died after choking on a pancake.
Russians had been warned against overeating pancakes during Shrovetide. According to specialist Boris Mendelevich, overeating pancakes cooked with large amounts of oil is harmful to the body. In addition, heavy food can cause complications in the gastrointestinal tract.
Riot police officers in St. Petersburg detained 131 teenagers over a mass brawl that occurred in the Galereya shopping center, the media reports.
The publication [sic], citing police sources, indicated that the PMC Redan teenage subculture was involved in the incident.
It is reported that other minors attacked a teenager in clothes embossed with a spider, which is the symbol of PMC Redan. One teenager was injured during the brawl.
Riot police arrived at the scene and detained 131 individuals. The Galereya shopping center was closed for entry, and shoppers were released only after police checked them.
Earlier, it was reported that Novosibirsk law enforcement officers had staged a dragnet to detain teenagers devotees of the PMC Redan subculture. The raid took place in the eponymous [sic] Galereya shopping center.
According to the head of the Safe Internet League, PMC Redan (as well as anime in general) is a “depressive-aggressive subculture,” and animeshniks themselves espouse violence and are willing to use it.
Such subcultures emerge, [Ekaterina] Mizulina argues, because teenagers have too much free time, as well as due to the manipulations of irresponsible bloggers and provocateurs who are encouraged by foreign states to engage in them.
In this regard, Mizulina suggests that “it is interesting to package the right meanings for children,” ideologically attack “all these spiders”, and also introduce control over social networks and the media — namely, to prohibit the coverage of “such topics.”
“No one has done more to popularize this local phenomenon than the media and social networks. […] Redan cells are growing like mushrooms after rain from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad,” Mizulina writes.
At the same time, it has been the state-run media that has written most about the activities of the so-called PMC Redan. Before them, information about teenage animeshniks strolling through shopping malls in telltale clothes appeared mainly on local community social media pages.
Source: Alexei Paramonov, “Ekaterina Mizulina urges media ban on PMC Redan,” Kartoteka, 26 February 2023. Translated by TRR. Fontanka.ru published this long, strange tirade-cum-report about the clash between riot police and teenagers at the Galereya shopping center in Petersburg (which is a stone’s throw from our house), on the one hand, and between “redans” and “ofniks,” on the other. If you donate one hundred dollars to this website, I’ll translate and publish that article here, although it left me hardly less befuddled about what happened in my old neighborhood this past weekend than before I’d read it.
The Cheryomushkinsky Court of Moscow placed house arrest on the leader of the Redan youth group
The Cheryomushkinsky Court of Moscow sent one of the leaders of the youth informal group “PMC Redan” under house arrest, reports TASS.
He is accused of attacking a teenager in the metropolitan metro – under part 2 of article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code (Hooliganism with the use of weapons or objects used as weapons), the court noted. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to seven years.
According to the agency, initially the investigators demanded that the accused be sent to a pre-trial detention center, but the court did not agree with this. Earlier, the Cheryomushkinsky court sent three more accomplices to the crime under house arrest.
On February 23, a teenager who was a member of the PMC Redan was beaten at the Lubyanka metro station. Teenagers wear long dark hair and spider badges on their clothes. They were inspired by the Genea Redan gang from the Hunter x Hunter manga. The symbol of this group is a spider with the number four. It is specified that young people oppose football fans, natives from the Caucasus and migrants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the possibility of Russia facing a breakup in the future, with its population to be divided into separate nations, the country’s news agency TASS reported on Feb. 26.
Putin’s interview with Rossiya 1 TV channel marks the first time that the Russian dictator has publicly commented on the potential disintegration of Russia.
According to him, “if the West manages to make the Russian Federation collapse and to assume control of its fragments,” the Russian people may not survive as a nation.
“If we go down this path (of Russia’s collapse — ed.), I think that the fate of many peoples of Russia, and first of all, of course, the Russian people, may change drastically,” Putin said.
“I even doubt that such an ethnic group as the Russian people will survive as it is today, with some Muscovites, Uralian and others remaining instead.”
In addition, the Russian president claimed that “these plans are set out on paper.”
“But it’s all there, it’s all written, it’s all on a piece of paper,” Putin said.
“Well, now that their attempts to reshape the world exclusively for themselves after the collapse of the USSR have led to this situation, well, of course, we’ll have to respond to this.”
“They have one goal of liquidating the former Soviet Union and its main part, the Russian Federation. And later, [after liquidating Russia] they will probably admit us to the so-called family of civilized peoples, but only by parts, each part separately,” he said.
Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov earlier said that the West has not yet made a final decision on what to do with Russia and does not understand how the full-scale war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine should end. However, the world should prepare for the collapse of Russia.
Previously, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that after the war is over, Russia will disintegrate into separate statelets, while Ukraine will retain its sovereignty and independence.
An abundance of news — especially bad news — sometimes robs a person of empathy. They have no compassion for anyone and do not want to help. They pay no mind to important events such as the military operations in Ukraine or disasters around the world. If this happens to loved ones, they seem callous to us, as if they are hiding their heads in the sand and refusing to look at reality. But when it concerns someone personally, they may wonder whether everything is okay with them.
Contemplative practices teacher Viktor Shiryaev explained to 7×7 why feelings disappear, how to bring them back, and why.
Viktor Shiryaev is a teacher of modern contemplative and somatic practices, a mindfulness instructor [instruktor maindfulnes], and an expert in adult maturation. He runs the Telegram channel Act of Presence, where he discusses mindfulness and meditation techniques, and does consultations.
— Is it normal to read the news and not to feel anything? How can people not have an emotional response to photos from Mariupol, to stories about injustice or emergencies?
— I think it’s fine. Everything that happens to people is governed by certain mechanisms. There are several of them involved here.
First, things regarded as “close to home” are felt more acutely. Photos of an earthquake in Turkey or a tsunami in Haiti that causes thousands of deaths are very poorly registered by our minds. People who have no relatives or direct contacts in Mariupol may not feel anything — and not because they lack empathy, but because it is happening to someone else and is therefore abstract.
The second mechanism is numbness, withdrawal. This is also a normal stress reaction, a defense mechanism. If you worry all the time, it is impossible to live and work normally. During our lifetimes, there has not been a single day that there were no wars on the planet. If you feel all this and constantly suffer from it — after all, empathy is generally premised on the idea that “when you hurt, I hurt too” — life will be uncomfortable.
The third mechanism is rationalization — that is, persuading yourself that what is happening is normal. This reduces empathy and sensitivity. For example, you think, “They’re all Nazis, it’s okay.” The fact that they are human beings is obscured by this “rational” argument.
The fourth mechanism is hardening. We are going through a collective trauma. Russians [rossiyane, i.e., Russian citizens] throughout the post-Soviet space [sic] are the result of the negative selection that has occurred over the last one hundred years: dekulakization, the Stalinist purges, the Holodomor, the forcible transfer of populations, World War II, the Stalinist crackdowns, the anti-cosmopolitan campaign, the Doctors’ Plot, the Afghan and Chechen wars, and so on. All this leaves scars on the psyche and on people’s behavior. Scar tissue is qualitatively different from normal skin. And while the idea of self-care and letting go of the past is more clearly expressed in the west, people in Russia become callous because they just put up with things: “I can take it,” “I’m no weakling,” “Hit me harder.”
— Do people come to you and say, “I don’t feel anything and I want to fix it”?
— Sensitive people who are trying to live in the midst of all the horror and stress, without turning away from it and disengaging, come to me more often. The complaint “I don’t feel anything” is a more advanced case. A person should not only take note of this, but also understand that it causes them harm. There is this meme:
Decreased sensitivity ultimately complicates life, because it affects both your emotions and your body. It makes your life poorer.
— What should I do if earlier I took a keen interest in the news but now I don’t feel anything — if numbness, as you call it, has set in? Is it worth deliberately reading even more news to make myself feel something?
— You should not specifically trigger [triggerit’] yourself by reading the news, looking at war photos or something like that. This is pointless, because if the “chill” arose due to our unwillingness and inability to see things, then by forcibly increasing the intensity of the stimulus we will only make ourselves feel worse.
What makes sense is gently restoring your sensitivity per se.
How to regain sensitivity Viktor Shiryaev’s advice
Observe the sensations in your body — name them: touching, warm, smooth.
Observe your state of mind — try to name it: tense, calm, flustered, pleased.
Ask yourself how you are doing now more often. Give a specific answer.
Deploy scenarios to wind down the stress cycle: bath/massage, shaking [sheiking], physiological sigh, time with no phone and TV in the company of loved ones and/or in nature, high-quality physical activity.
— So, freezing up is a normal reaction on the part of the psyche? Or is it an occasion to consult with a psychologist?
— Ideally, of course, it should not come to this. So-called preventive medicine is much better than treating a disorder that has already taken hold.
Regular psycho-emotional fitness training — all kinds of methods of skillful self-support, meditation, mindfulness practice, physical training, and therapy — help to ready us for higher psycho-emotional loads. It works the same way as physical exercise: a trained body copes with challenges more easily.
You definitely need to go to specialists when you can’t “ride it out.” They have ways to help you.
— There are situations when one person in a couple, a group of friends or a family avidly watches the news, reacts to it and wants to discuss it, while the others don’t want to delve into anything and go about their business, saying that it doesn’t concern them and they don’t want to get bogged down in other people’s troubles. What should one do when there are different levels of sensitivity and different needs, when it is important for one person to experience and feel, while the other person wants to remain neutral?
— Respect the other’s feelings and needs. Talk about your feelings without trying to convince the other person and prove that your way of doing things is “right.” It is possible that it is only right for you. It is possible that you’re right on principle. But when we feel that we are being attacked, we want to defend ourselves, not to open up to the other person.
Dialogue — the opportunity to be seen, heard and accepted — involves opening up towards each other, thawing out.
— If a person is worried whether everything is okay with them, how can they can validate [validirovat’] their “feeling of insensitivity”?
— Everything that happens to us is normal. Not in the sense of being “good,” but in the sense of that’s how things are. It is normal to “freeze up” in moments of acute stress or amidst prolonged stress, because this is how the self-preservation instinct works.
The self-preservation instinct is much bigger and older than us. Even relatively feeble emotions diminish access to the rational and adult parts of the psyche — we are “captured” by emotions, let alone by truly tragic events.
It is important to understand and accept this, to carefully and gently regain access to your emotions. Not through force, violence and “overriding,” but through a kind attitude, gentleness and love.
The little green van sped down the road, the Russian forces just across the river. Inside, Halyna Luhova, the mayor of Kherson, cradled a helmet in her lap and gazed out the bulletproof window.
When the first shell ripped open, directly in the path of the van, maybe 200 yards ahead, her driver locked his elbows and tightened his grip on the wheel and drove straight through the cloud of fresh black smoke.
“Oh my god,” Ms. Luhova said, as we raced with her through the city. “They’re hunting me.”
The second shell landed even closer.
She’s been almost killed six times. She sleeps on a cot in a hallway. She makes $375 a month, and her city in southern Ukraine has become one of the war’s most pummeled places, fired on by Russian artillery nearly every hour.
But Ms. Luhova, the only female mayor of a major city in Ukraine, remains determined to project a sense of normality even though Kherson is anything but normal. She holds regular meetings — in underground bunkers. She excoriates department heads — for taking too long to set up bomb shelters. She circulates in neighborhoods and chit-chats with residents — whose lives have been torn apart by explosions.
She chalks up any complaints about corruption or mismanagement — and there are plenty — to rumor-mongering by Russian-backed collaborators who are paid to frustrate her administration.
Kherson, a port city on the Dnipro River, was captured by Russian forces in March; liberated by Ukrainian forces in November; and now, three months later, lies nearly deserted. Packs of out-of-school children roam the empty boulevards lined with leafless trees and centuries-old buildings cracked in half.
The Order is a group narrative therapy service. Uncertainty, wars, stress, trauma, isolation — you don’t have to cope with these difficulties in life alone. We’ll help you keep from losing yourself and regain control over your life’s story.
What does group therapy offer?
You reflect on and accept what you have experienced in a safe environment
You sort out the mess of your attitudes and fears
You get the support of professional psychologists and mentors [mentorov]
You see yourself from a new angle — through the eyes and experience of others
You find your own network of supportive people
You improve your communication skills and escape social isolation
You realize the value of your own life and relationships
You gain the inner strength to go on living
Feedback from group members
These art therapy sessions are literally an experiment in collective self-healing using creative improvised means that release everyone’s creative impulses. It’s an incredible experience of uniting people, one so necessary in our strange time. Despite the extreme difficulty of attending online sessions due to the blackouts in Kyiv, I look forward to each one and get ready knowing that I’m going to touch a miracle. The amazing original technique and wonderful company keep my soul warm and light for a long time after. Thank you for being there!
JOURNALIST, WRITER, TEACHER
It’s a very strange feeling doing group therapy on Zoom: it’s like watching a TV series. Kit Loring has so much sincerity and empathy — I couldn’t believe what was happening was real, because I hadn’t met such people before. And the careful way he uses words and his tone were alarming at first. I got used to it over time. I like watching how people open up inside [sic] the session. And if a connection is established with the members of the group, it becomes very easy to trust them and speak openly. You understand that everyone has their own pain, but it’s also familiar to you now or it was familiar in the past.
After the initial sessions, I feel that I’ve started to undergo psychological metamorphoses. Thanks to correctly posed questions and images, I am able to get in touch with experiences and sensitive moments, to “unpack” my emotions. Everything is done as carefully as possible: Kit Loring and the curators create a safe space in which it’s not scary to open up and be heard. I recommend it to everyone who wants to look inside themselves through the prism of creativity and start working with deep experiences using the tools of words, colors and images.
The group sessions with Kit Loring are incredibly fulfilling and healing. It’s like a healing touch. The warmth of understanding spreads throughout the body. It really is like magic. Pulling out your painful experiences, opening up to other people in the group, all of them so different, and helping them too, you become stronger and begin to understand what else you can do with all of it. Complicated events and memories are no longer so complicated and forbidden. And, it seems, I no longer want to cover my eyes with my hands, I want to look into someone else’s eyes.
Due to traumas, it had become difficult for me to create (and often function), but in The Order, unexpectedly, I was pleased to find an accepting online space and validation [validatsiia] of my opinions and experiences. The meetings create a trusting atmosphere and mutual understanding. After the sessions, I have a pleasant feeling of unity with people, albeit strangers. Every time this magic happens in my mind —”Oh, I’m not the only one who feels and thinks like this” — and it’s worth a lot. I recommend these groups if you’re lonely and you find it difficult to talk about your traumas and thoughts with others.
How does it work?
You go through testing that helps you formulate your goals and helps us place you in a mini-group
We break the cohort into small groups. You have your own separate chat and meetings once a week
CONTRACT WITH YOURSELF
Signing a contract with yourself and supporting each other’s efforts is a vital part of the healing
ONLINE SESSIONS EVERY WEEK
The cohort first meets with an expert on Zoom, and then the groups move on to intimate interaction — all this lasts two and a half to three hours
MATERIALS FOR HEALING
Regular exercises designed by our specialists enable you to rethink significant events and attitudes
REWRITING YOUR STORY
Practices and tools, songs, drawing, communication and poems help you process fears and anxieties
SUPPORT AND CARE
You are guided by psychologists and curators to whom you always turn for advice
You rethink difficulties with the healing power of creativity and find your own bearings
Each cohort is led by experienced psychotherapists and psychologists, experts, lecturers and mentors who help you transform your experiences.
Certified British clinical art therapist, clinical supervisor and trainer, member of the British Association of Drama Therapists, co-founder and co-director of the humanitarian art therapy organization Ragamuffin International (South Wales, UK).
Senior expert at Meta, a service for selecting proven psychotherapists. Over 12 years of experience in the field of psychotherapy. Over 8 years of experience as a therapist working with psychological trauma. Over 5 years of experience consulting and evaluating midlevel and senior managers.
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE
Organizer and leader of art therapy groups and support groups. I use an integrative approach in my work, relying on both research and cultural aspects. Lecturer for several youth organizations, designer of psychological games. Over five years of experience working with trauma.
JOURNALIST, REPORTER AND FILMMAKER
A star of American journalism who has worked for the world’s best publications — The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times Magazine. He has twice received the Peabody Award, one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in journalism, and his bestseller There Are No Children Here was included in a list of the 150 most influential books of the twentieth century.
JOURNALIST, REPORTER, WRITER
He became famous for his debut book about the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, one of the bloodiest in the history of mankind. For more than 30 years, he has been telling poignant stories from all over the world, has received dozens of professional awards and has written four books. He has been published in The New Yorker and edited the magazine The Paris Review.
ART MENTOR, CONTEMPORARY ARTIST, CURATOR
Lecturer at the Moscow School of Contemporary Art (MSCA) and the British Higher School of Art & Design (BHSAD). Did her master’s at Saint Martins. Collaborated with the Tate Museum in London. Zhanna’s projects have been exhibited at Saatchi, Tate Modern, Kochi Biennale, Moscow Biennale, Cube and many other venues. Her works are in the collection of the Russian Museum and private collections around the world.
We were discussing the connection between narrative and trauma, and a female colleague of mine asked why we reassemble our identity after traumatic events. Why do we give up our previous identity? I found the comments of the other participants very interesting.
Many of the responses focused on the fact that the reassembling one’s identity is necessary, because otherwise the unprocessed trauma would begin to burst out in unexpected places, and you would feel it pulling you down. Along with this, the question arose: Can an identity be false? Here, the answers focused on the fact that self-deception won’t help, because you know the truth. Many of the participants concluded that false identity = problems that (do not) express themselves in reality and that poison life.
I thought about this discussion for a long time (I don’t always manage to get involved in the moment), and the responses made me ask even more questions:
Do I know the truth about what has happened and is happening to me?
If for some reason I decide to create a “false” identity for myself, then maybe it functions after all? And if it does function, then how?
First: Do I know the truth about what has happened and is happening to me?
I can say with confidence that I am aware of what has happened to me in my life, when it happened, and how it happened like no one else. It is on this understanding that I string together my narrative about myself. But to be honest, some of the stories that I know about myself in detail I either relate to others and sometimes to myself in abridged form, or I change the conclusions that I had once come to.
Sometimes my conclusions change in the process of growing up, which means that the truth can also be flexible. And it doesn’t happen because I cannot or do no want to be honest with myself or with others. Everything I tell is my truth, what I know myself. But some of the events in my life are imprinted in my memory, as if I saw them from the outside, and some through the eyes of my parents, while still other stories I remember vaguely.
Is it possible in this case to talk about a division between true and false narratives, even if I am not sure myself where the boundaries of truth lie?
Second: If for some reason I create a “false” identity for myself, then maybe it functions after all?
I will give the stupidest example on the planet. It’s from the TV series Hunters, which I decided to watch to take my mind off things.
Attention: there will be a spoiler next, which will be highlighted in color in the newsletter.
TW: The Holocaust
The Hunters live in the US in the 1970s and catch Nazis who somehow escaped punishment and live new lives under assumed names. One of the central characters of the series is Meyer Offerman, a former concentration camp inmate and the leader of the Hunters. At the end of the first season, it transpires that Offerman has been impersonated by Wilhelm Zuchs, a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz. After Soviet troops liberated the camp, Zuchs was imprisoned, but was able to escape. He killed the real Offerman, had plastic surgery and started a “new life.” According to Zuchs-Offerman, he “lived like a Jew and became a Jew”: he went to synagogue, learned the language, and read the Torah. As he himself claims, he understands that he cannot atone for his crimes, but neither is he any longer the Nazi he once was.
End of spoiler
Can at least one of the identities we have be false? We might have been different one, two, three years ago, and this doesn’t limit our potential for change. How do we recognize when we’re lying to ourselves? Or not to ourselves, but to others, if this lie doesn’t reinforce the narrative we have already constructed? And why can’t a story that might seem untrue to someone be your story? Who has the last say in determining the veracity of someone’s identity?
I don’t have clear answers to this question. What’s more, I am sure that these questions should be regularly addressed and we should check whether the answers we’ve already given still work. I myself have delved into this discussion to set in motion the already nearly ossified answers in my head. I think checking whether our beliefs correspond to reality is a good exercise for each of us. And here as well an attempt to catch oneself out in a lie might become an artificial restriction on change.
Perhaps the trauma needs to be lived through, perhaps the identity may be false. And yet, I don’t believe that while traumatic events are still ongoing any of us can make definite judgments about our own or someone else’s identity and its truth.
Whether you do a “good job” of living throughh your personal and social traumatic events is up to you to decide, just as it’s up to you evaluate your narratives about yourself. But this doesn’t dissolve us of responsibility for the ethical choices (and their consequences) that I/we make every day.
Source: Dasha Manzhura, Anti-War Newsletter #347 (DOXA), 13 February 2023. Ms. Manzhura is an editor at DOXA. Translated by the Russian Reader