Россия. © Sputnik / Илья Питалев / Перейти в фотобанк

Россия. © Sputnik / Илья Питалев / Перейти в фотобанк

In an interview with Turan, Ivan Shatov, a philosophy professor from Moscow, covered the views of some Russian intellectuals on the war in Ukraine, the attitude of most Russian people toward it, and the manipulations of Moscow propaganda.

- How is the war in Ukraine presented to the attention of the Russian majority, and how is the image of the Ukrainian enemy shaped to mobilize Russians for war and hardship?

- When reading the reasoning of Russian analysts (e.g., in Komsomolskaya Pravda) we come to the following conclusions. We are dealing with a metaphysical consciousness, according to which the war in Ukraine (not with Ukraine, but precisely on the territory of Ukraine) is being waged between the forces of Good and Evil. There are Ukrainian fascists, they are nationalists, who have enslaved the Ukrainian people, and mentally (well, that is, they are for them, because they are in some kind of seduction). Behind these fascists is the West, which wants to destroy Russia. And Russia, in alliance with other centers of power such as China, opposes this West. Heroically, since the West has superior forces.

It is made to look as if we didn't attack Ukraine but, instead, the West attacked Russia and wants to destroy it. And we defend ourselves, and, in the process of this defense, our immediate goal is to free Ukraine from the fascists and to free the fraternal Ukrainian people from the nationalist ideology imposed on them. A part of the Ukrainians will realize that they are actually Russians, and the other part will realize that they are our brothers.

In general, we will bomb them and conquer them until they realize how much we love them and love us back. With this formulation of the problem, because of the metaphysical nature of this goal, it becomes clear that there are no practical means of achieving it. Now the question is: What will all this translate into in reality?

Right now the Russian army is conducting an offensive, not very successful so far, but suppose it succeeds in breaking through the front and encircling the Ukrainian grouping in Donbas. Would that mean achieving the declared goal? Of course not. Even when encircled, the Ukrainian army will continue its resistance which may last for months. Thus, it is likely that after some time there will be equilibrium on the front. Somewhere around mid-May the resources for an offensive will run out and both sides will switch to a position war, which, due to the exhaustion of both sides, will last quite a long time, maybe months. In the meanwhile, the long-term effect of the sanctions will be felt, leading to a significant decline in the living standards of the most Russian population.

And now a decisive question arises: Is the strength of the ideology that sees Russia as the metaphysical embodiment of the Good, and the West as the metaphysical embodiment of the Evil, sufficient? Is the power of this ideology enough to keep the majority of the population in indoctrinated (ideologically treated) state which will become much worse than even a year ago?

The answer is not so obvious, given that the majority of the population is made up of those being generally indifferent to politics. They don't trust the West, but they don't trust the government either. Are these people ready to sacrifice their well-being for metaphysical goals that the government has set for itself? Obviously, the mood of this group will gradually begin to change. The question is in which direction. For now, this is not at all obvious.

- What event could cardinally change Russian society in its assessment of the events in Ukraine? In the first days of the "special operation," Kiev analysts confidently predicted a Kremlin coup.  But it is clear that rather than a calculated forecast, it did not come true.

- A leftist turn could have substantially changed the mood in favor of the authorities - here, for example, the rejection of pension reform. Most likely, however, the authorities will not agree to this. Everything will be limited to penny handouts for pensioners and people with many children, against the background of rising prices, unemployment and deficit. And the money will be spent on the continuation of the war, which will justify the deprivations people are experiencing. We'll see. It doesn't seem to me that Russian society is ready for a protracted war. But maybe I'm wrong. And somehow everyone will adapt, and the "traitors and alarmists" will simply be repressed.

And vice versa, a lost war could move the situation in a different direction. Like Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War or the loss of Sevastopol in the Crimean War. But nothing of the kind is happening yet; most likely, the front line will just stabilize, and for a long time at that. Thus, there will be uncertainty - no peace, no war, no victory, no defeat - just a slow sinking into a dark pit from which there is no way out. Unless something unexpected happens.

So far, it looks like we will face discontent in the big cities, some tensions in the elites, but there will be no catastrophe for the regime. We are kind of sinking in a swamp, and we may sink for a long time.

But our government has an amazing ability to make the situation dramatically worse, even on the spot. The very beginning of this war as a full-scale invasion was such a mistake. We can expect further adventurous actions of the same kind. The use of tactical nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory is one option, but something else, unexpected, is also possible. Simply because the authorities are impatient seeking to achieve a "victory" here and now. Even if such a "victory" would dramatically worsen our already difficult situation.

- "Russian World" is an ideological device, extracted from the archives of the White Army. It seems to be working successfully. Why?

- The terminology of our Z-ideologists gives away their ideas about political power. All this reasoning about the "Kiev regime": there are some bad people who have seized power and, with the help of brainwashing and, in part, terror, are keeping the population in subjection to themselves.

Allow me, but this is exactly the same narrative that Russian liberals use to describe Putin's regime. This idea of the omnipotence of propaganda, that people can be sold any nonsense they want, and that the numerous dissenters can be restrained by terror. Meanwhile, the strength of Putin's ideology lies not in the manipulative abilities of political technologists, but in the deeply rooted notions of the older generation that the West is evil, and that it brings us only misery and hardship. But we all endure, for the sake of a brighter future.

This narrative is joined by Z-ideology, like a parasite to a living organism. The West remains evil, but instead of the communist bright future, we are promised the power of Putin's oligarchs - plus the kingdom of heaven in the next world, if we are patriots - that is, obedient to the authorities. No social justice, no enlightenment, no equality before the law. But everything is ours, Russian.

Thus, the Z-ideology takes the negative attitude towards the West from the Soviet past, but completely eliminates any positive content, replacing it with the empty meaning of "the Russian world. This is simply the negation of the West.

And it works - for those segments of society for whom it is easier to hate someone than to try to improve their own lives, miserable and hopeless. And the strength of their hatred of the West is directly proportional to the squalor of that life. The worse we live, the more we will hate the West as the source of our troubles. And love our government, which protects us from the West, which wants to destroy our spirituality. Spirituality here is bigotry, psychological compensation for wretchedness. Blessed are the poor. Only not in spirit, but simply poor, miserable and wretched. Such a secularized perversion of Christianity.

When Putin and his propagandists talk about Ukraine as anti-Russia, it is not about ethnicity, but about politics. Putin constructs Russian civilization as a kind of Byzantium, with an emperor, a hierarchy of ranks, and a profound people who obey their superiors without complaint, but who dream of the kingdom of heaven. And here we have the same, essentially, people who are building a different kind of power, which looks more like a semi-anarchic Zaporizhian Sich ("we are a Cossack sort") than a Western ordered democratic power, and Putin is extremely irritated by this. Such a Ukraine is anti-Russia in the same sense that South Korea is its antipode for North Korea, anti-Korea if you will. And the current war, where Ukraine-South Korea is supported by the West, is a kind of reproduction, a reenactment, of the Korean War of the 1950s. Also with great casualties and destruction. All that remains is to determine where the parallel runs, which will divide the two worlds - and apparently for a long time. To complete the picture, in both cases, China is behind the "totalitarian" North, while the "democratic" South is supported by the West.

- The West hopes for sanctions. There is a poll in Russia, which shows that the poorer the Russian population, the less they support the "special operation. Does this mean that the sanctions are effective?

- We have to admit directly that many of the so-called sanctions are simply counterproductive. In particular, the severing of scientific ties between Russian scientists and Western science. This is reminiscent, in soft form, of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. We roll up our ropes, taking some of "ours" - well, kind of like a "scholarrisk. We leave the rest at the mercy of the local Taliban. Who didn't get there in time is too late. In general, sanctions - when Western companies are pulling the strings - are a blow to the middle class, to the most pro-Western part of urban communities.

As a matter of fact, Russia is essentially being handed over to the "patriots. And all liberals find themselves in the position of "collaborators" and "traitors" - those who did not have time and did not want to leave. Sit and wait for the right-wing Taliban to knock on your door. "Well, son, did your Lyakhs help you?"

A Russian, to the Western average person (and to many "experts" and "decision makers"), is, by definition, a Putin supporter. At least if he is not an immigrant. This Ukrainian nationalist narrative about "orcs" seems to have won western hearts. It just makes it easier for them to classify us.

- How should Europe, the West, and not only the West deal with the fact that there is Putin with the Russian Federation people supporting him, and they are unleashing, waging, and unleashing wars again, without end? How does the world stop this?

- From your question, "There is Putin with the RF people supporting him." This statement is rather dubious, especially with regard to the aggression against Ukraine. The approval ratings recorded in opinion polls are artificial. A large part of the respondents simply refuse to answer. And another part answers "as they should," because they are sure that their answer will become known to their superiors (the police), and no one wants to be fired (go to prison).

There are three segments of the Russian population. The first really supports the special operation. Some of them understand that this is an aggressive war, but they have a personal interest (for example, they are in the police force). There are few such people. Others (for example, many pensioners) believe the TV and sincerely think that Russia is at war because it protects the Russian population of Donbas from the Ukrainian Nazis who are carrying out their genocide. It may seem strange to you, but many people of the older generation watch Russian television, not YouTube. And such, among those who support the war (which it is forbidden to call a war) are the majority.

There is a minority who sharply oppose the war. But, as a rule, these people are under threat of arrest or fine. These are, for example, many 20-year-olds, usually students, or people who have relatives in Ukraine (there are quite a few such people in Russia).

Finally, in Russia, there is a very significant group of people who when asked about Putin and his policies, have always answered with the words "I am not interested in politics. There is an unspoken agreement between this group and the authorities: you do not interfere with our activities (making money) and we do not interfere with yours (i.e. politics). In the present circumstances, the behavior of this very group is decisive. What happens next largely depends on where this group swings.

My opinion is that this group will not engage in open protest, much less revolution. But what could happen is passive resistance, simply put, sabotage. This is already partly visible on the front, where the Russian army seems to be advancing, but somehow sluggishly. "Nobody Wanted to Die" was a Lithuanian film in Soviet times, starring Banionis.  No one wanted to sacrifice themselves and their well-being for Putin's illusory goals. But no one would fight the government directly. Just its orders will fall into some swamp and die quietly there.

The Russian people do not support Putin. Just like the people of Muscovy, during the rule of the Horde khans, did not support these khans at all. They just obeyed them, out of necessity, slowly slipping out from under their rule.

We have changed the interviewer's name for security purposes. 


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