"But what do the Russian people have to do with this?" What the Germans do not understand

6 December 2022, 01:39 PM
Germans often fail to understand that this is not Putin's war, but Russia's war. (Photo:Christian Lue/Unsplash)

Germans often fail to understand that this is not Putin's war, but Russia's war. (Photo:Christian Lue/Unsplash)

German audiences are divided on the question of Ukrainians’ attitude towards Russians.

I have had conversations with many Germans in recent weeks. These conversations have been interesting, sometimes complex, and sometimes quite open and obvious. Here is what catches the eye – despite the fact that German society in its vast majority (subjectively, in its total majority) supports Ukraine in its desire to defend its freedom and its territories, I still, from time to time, come to dead ends in conversations about the war. Usually, German interlocutors break down on the question of Ukrainians’ attitude towards Russians. It is a negative attitude, of course. Like, “but what do the Russian people have to do with this? What does Russian culture have to do with it?” Like, there is a bad Putin and he should be seen separately from Russian society. Otherwise, it comes out unconstructively, too sharply, too emotionally.

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This is a very convenient system of definitions, a very comfortable point of view, in which there is "Putin's war," "Putin's army," and "Putin's Russia." The point is that there is no Putin's Russia. There is a Russian Putin. A collective subconscious (though why subconscious? It is fully aware and clearly manifested) Putin, whom Russian society has cultivated for so long, and who is completely acceptable for Russian society – and even vitally necessary. He suits them because he relays the ideas of revanchism, xenophobia, and imperialism that they need and demand.

"Typical Russians" also do not accept and do not like good Europeans

Some Europeans, guided by their ideas about world peace, continue to stubbornly try to see the Russian opposition, Russian democrats, and Russian dissidents. There is a clear distinction in their imagination: there is the bad Putin and a party of war, and there are the conscious Russians who are hostages of the regime. Where does this separation come from? To a large extent, it comes from outdated complexes and a lack of awareness. If Europeans loyal to Russia had the opportunity to familiarize them-selves with the sentiments on Russian social networks in detail, they would not be able to miss the fact that the war in Ukraine (and not just a war — the liquidation of Ukraine as such, the eradication of Ukrainian ness as something unacceptable in the Russian vision of the world) is not supported by some an ephemeral war party close to the Kremlin. Instead, these narratives are relayed by dozens, if not hundreds of bloggers and "leaders of public opinion," and they receive positive comments from hundreds, if not thousands, of "ordinary," "average," “typical” Russians, those Russians, whose xenophobia and chauvinism good Europeans stubbornly do not want to believe in. More to the point, "typical Russians" also do not accept and do not like good Europeans, and they consider them to be strategic enemies. Good Europeans could also find out about this quite easily and quickly from the Russian information space.

Therefore, we must not spread inaccurate and erroneous definitions. There is no Putin aggression. There is Russian aggression. And the reaction of Ukrainian society to this aggression, to war crimes, and to mass murders is completely understandable and predictable. According to the opponents of harsh statements and harsh assessments, how should Ukrainians treat those who came to destroy them? To destroy: kill, torture, beat to death, leave to suffer, bury in mass graves. How should you treat a murderer in your home? With empathy? Christian humility? Christianity, as far as I remember, does not assume powerlessness and doom; it rests on love, one of the manifestations of which is the protection of one's neighbor. Is it simply not worth talking about Christianity in the company of pacifists?

So, I would like to say to my dear European friends: do not look for freedom fighters in places where freedom is considered a harmful excess. Russians are dissatisfied with the conditions of their imprisonment, not with the prison itself. By denying the collective responsibility of Russians for this shameful, bloody war, you are simply justifying someone else's irresponsibility. I don't know how this feels for you specifically, but it seems quite comfortable.

By reducing the problems of today's Russia to the conditional Putin, ignoring the imperial chauvinism widespread in Russian society, you are simply feeding the dragon. And the dragon, by and large, doesn't care who feeds it. He still hates everyone.

The text is published with the permission of the author

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