After 35 years of being involved in Soviet and Russian affairs I continue to be surprised, amazed, appalled, angered. I know in Russia normal logics don’t exist. I know that a relation with Russia is a love-hate affair. I know nature there is ruthless, and the political history is filled with cruel suppressions of dissent, mass murder and idolatry of harsh and dictatorial rulers. I know Moscow is a showcase of vulgar extravaganza, I know that just outside Moscow a sea of poverty exists. I also know that the country is a puddle of abject alcoholism, resulting in genetic degradation, in places leading to collective imbecility. But I also know it is a country where hospitality can be comparable to none, where survivalism is the magic skill and where people keep on smiling and laughing in spite of the hopeless situations they sometimes have to deal with. I know the country is the cradle of “kitchen democracy”.
After 35 years of being involved in Soviet and Russian affairs I continue to be surprised, amazed, appalled, angered.
Russia is a miracle, a nightmare, a trigger, and a hangover at the same time.
But still: what I don’t understand is how a nation can be so actively engaged in doing everything possible to feed its main complex: the sense that the world is against them, doesn’t understand them, doesn’t view them as equal or views them with outright hate.
What Russia is doing today, imaging the rise to power and suicidal belligerence of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, is to make sure that this complex is confirmed in a major fashion. It really takes a major effort to keep on saying one and the same thing, over and over again; Russia is not Putin. Russia is not Putin. Russia is not Putin.
I watch the posts of my Russian facebook “friends”, an increasing number of whom are vocal or “silent” supporters of Putin. I feel nausea, multiple times per day. Increasing numbers of people know and understand that the trouble that is happening in Eastern Ukraine is provoked by false “patriots” who are follow Moscow’s instructions. Increasing numbers of people understand that Putin and his cronies are a criminal government who consider Russia to be their “mafia territory”. Increasing numbers of people understand that Putin and his gang-members have destroyed the security system that served peace in Europe for many decades.
And increasing numbers start hating Russians, and hating Russia. They do, because they never developed the love-hate relationship with this country. They never acquired the understanding that Russia is not Putin. For them he is just a filthy dictator who steals land and is supported by a population that prefers to shut up and refuses to oppose a criminal regime. They keep Russians in general responsible for what is happening. They have become enemies of Russia.
But the main question is: why are Russians their own main enemy?
Robert van Voren is Professor of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and Ilia State University in Tbilisi