Support

There wasn’t much left of Russian army Sgt. Andrei Akhromov’s body when it arrived in a zinc coffin at his hometown, a four-hour drive south of Moscow, relatives said. The 21-year-old died in April near the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv when his tank was hit by enemy fire.

Sgt. Akhromov’s cousin, Sergei Akhromov, said a representative of the regional governor’s office told the family it took the armed forces three weeks to identify what remained of him using DNA analysis. Loved ones didn’t look into the casket before burying him last week, he said.

“I only blame America—not Ukraine, not Russia,” Mr. Akhromov, a 32-year-old parks-and-recreation worker, said. “Biden, or however he is called, allowed for Nazism to flourish in Ukraine, and so Russia had to fight not only to protect its people and borders, but also the Ukrainian people, women, children, elderly.”

Source: Evan Gershkovich, “As Coffins Come Home, Russians Confront Toll of Ukraine Invasion,” Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2022

I see that there is a struggle underway over the numbers [of Russians] supporting the war. We are all asked whether Russians want war, how different segments of society relate to the war, etc. There is a temptation (a natural desire) to find grounds — everyone has their own — for our “sense of society’s reaction to the war.” The old liberal circles in Moscow, of course, do not want to reconcile themselves to the fact that society in a patriotic frenzy sincerely supports all the monstrous violence, destruction, and sowing of death and grief produced by Russia’s political leadership and army. Hence the struggle arises. VTsIOM says 75% [of Russians support the war], but independent sociologists says it’s 58-59%. And look at Levada’s figures: by the end of the second month [of the war], support had fallen from 74% to 68%. And so on.

However, if you think about it, what is the political significance of this struggle over the sociological grounds for “non-support”? There is none, since there is no way to mold “non-support” into a political factor. It’s like when the Polish uprising of 1863 was put down. Russian society, including the educated classes, experienced a patriotic upsurge. This is a historical fact. Some people, of course, did not support it, but politically that didn’t mean anything. Therefore, no “figures” or “focus groups” change anything now. They do not enable one to shift Russian society’s attitudes to the war from where they are now. This society is currently under martial law – undeclared, but de facto — because the norms of military censorship have been been instituted, economic data has been partly made off-limits, and civil rights have been completely restricted. Under martial law, “non-support” is tantamount to desertion, “alarmism,” sabotage, and treason. Under martial law, there are no civil institutions within which you can politically voice your “non-support.” Therefore, what are we talking about when we raise the question of who supports the war and why they support it?

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 4 May 2022. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

On the Trolleybus

trolleybus-in-st-petersburg

A friend mailed the following story to me this morning.

I had an interesting trip to the agricultural fair yesterday. I bought some honey from Pskov and a few other things.

The most exciting part, however, was the trip back home on an overcrowded trolley bus.

It was filled with several distinctly different layers of passengers: old and not-so-old women who had been to the fair, young Tajik or Uzbek men, and students who seemed to be Russian. It was funny to observe how they interacted.

All the women from the fair first talked about various kinds of medical treatments and ways to “undergo serious medical tests” for free (by entering a program to test some new drug without actually taking the drug), but later everybody focused on the solo performance of an old woman who used to work in the Admiralty building.

She shouted that Putin and his gang were criminals, that they have destroyed the country, that there is no future for young people, and that she wanted her talented grandson to go abroad and not to have the life she and her son have had here. But it gradually transpired she hated Putin so much because he had sold Russia to the West and allowed “them” (meaning the Central Asians, as I understood her, because she was pointing at the young Central Asians on the bus) to “flood the country.”

She also said that Lukashenka was a great guy because he had not allowed this sort of thing to happen.

At the same time, she said that although “people chew out America,” she knows some people who went there and told her “the people there live wonderfully.”

So, the old women were rather agitated, the young Central Asian men smiled all the time (including at the angry old woman who was upset by their presence) and politely let them pass or sit down, and most of the Russian students stood with faces that did not express anything, except, maybe, a young woman who smiled at the woman’s speech and seemed to be interested.

The indignant woman was very well spoken and sounded educated. (And she was a “native Leningrader,” as she pointed out). She also came across as very reasonable and well informed—up to the point when she explained that Putin had sold the country to the West (and had betrayed Novorossiya, which in some way is probably even true).

She said that usually when she would talk about this, everybody would tell her they were not interested in politics. But then she said something that was hard to deny.

“Everyone says it’s all politics, politics, but it’s not politics, it’s life.”

She went on to say that, because she spoke about it openly and loudly, someone had once even attacked her on Insurrection Square, grabbing her by the arm. She had cried for help, but nobody had helped her.

Image courtesy of www.saint-petersburg.com