Even before Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost, Soviet citizens knew something about the losses their military was taking in the Soviet-Afghan War by the number of graves dug in local cemeteries. And even when Moscow low-balled the “official” figures, the people knew something closer to the truth from their own experience with funerals.
That pattern has continued in post-Soviet Russia with the powers that be consistently reporting low losses and the people realizing that the actual number of casualties must be far higher because the corpses are being sent back to their home areas of burial – and some observers are keeping track and summing these up.
But Vladimir Putin may have one great advantage in dealing with losses from his invasion of Ukraine: the number of Russians who died during the second pandemic year exceeded 2.4 million; and it will be relatively easier to obscure the number lost in the fighting in Ukraine.
That is especially true because many funeral operators are running far behind in putting up monuments, and so it is entirely possible that it won’t be easy for the public to factor out deaths from combat (Kommersant.ru and Finanz.ru).
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