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'Kill to become yourself': what inspires some Russians to support the war with Ukraine

The protracted nature of the war, the rise in prices, the mobilization that affected many Russian families, the defeat in the Kharkiv region and the withdrawal from Kherson ... It would seem that all these factors should help even the Russians who supported the war to slow down their militaristic ardor and begin to doubt that whether it was worth invading a neighboring state. However, practice shows that even today propaganda manages to find arguments that can involve even those who at the end of February did not approve of the very fact of the invasion into the orbit of war.

Photo: IStock

Yesterday's dissidents and today's "volunteers"

On the one hand, one should not think that the majority of Russians are ready to die for Putin. Statistics speak volumes atteststhat approximately 700 people left Russia within two weeks of the announcement of the mobilization. The forcibly mobilized Russians, who now periodically record angry videos about how they are without preparation, should not be recorded as sincere supporters of the war. thrown to the front or kept in terrible conditions without gear or equipment. As psychologists working with the mobilized note, even those who did not want to fight go to war, because they were "brought up in a paternalistic culture." According to them, at each stage it is simply difficult for the mobilized to disobey the orders of authoritative persons and public opinion.

However, against this background, one should also not underestimate the number of those who not only habitually answer about the support of the authorities in opinion polls or support the war "on the couch", but believed in propaganda so much that they volunteered for the front. A vivid example here was the son of the tragically deceased Nizhny Novgorod journalist Irina Slavina Vyacheslav Murakhtaev. Opposition journalist Irina Slavina, who had been harassed by the security forces for years, committed self-immolation in October 2020, blaming the “Russian Federation” for her death. At the same time, it cannot be said that Vyacheslav "renounced" his mother. On the contrary, after her death, he, along with his sister out to a single picket in the city center with a poster "While my mother was burning alive, you were silent».

However, last month Slavina's son saidthat, despite disagreeing with Putin's policy, he consciously decided to volunteer for the military registration and enlistment office, because he considers it necessary to fight for a just cause. Resignedly went to war and another victim of the Putin regime - an actor Pavel Ustinov, previously convicted for participating in 2019 protest rallies in Moscow. Having received the summons, Ustinov сообщилthat he is ready to go to the front, because "there can be no other way out", and, "if war comes to our house, it will be too late».

Such cases are not isolated. The exact number of volunteers is unknown, but almost all of my acquaintances who live in Russia or who have recently left it personally know at least one family (relatives or close friends), at least one member of which went to the military enlistment office as a volunteer, moreover, more ideologically, rather than financial motives. New political emigrants write about this in their chats. In recent months, there have been increasing reports that people who were not bigoted in the first months of the war are now more radical.

«I spoke to my father a couple of days ago. He said that Putin has liberals in his entourage who have property and children in the West, and, according to him, if these liberals achieve peace with Ukraine, then he will go underground and fight against Putin', he told me Jury, a prominent opposition journalist who has spoken out against the war since 2014. At the same time, neither military defeats, nor the threat of death at the front (one's own or loved ones) can shake the motivation of such people. What makes Russians personally get involved in a war, with the beginning of which some of them did not even agree?

In fear of defeat

I have repeatedly celebratedthat the main reason for supporting the war lies in the suicidal conformism that is deeply rooted in the minds of the Russian majority, when the main need of people in response to any blow to their normal life is not an attempt to change something, but the desire to find an explanation and justification for this blow. People themselves are struggling to believe that each new madness of the authorities was forced, true and undertaken for their own good. This belief allows them to once again feel inner comfort and at least a semblance of normality.

Of course, the degree to which a person allows himself to believe in propaganda varies greatly from person to person. The majority of Russian society note sociologists, still retains apoliticality, uncritically trusting the authorities, but at the same time trying to distance himself from the war as much as possible into his inner world. However, there are not so few who are pushed by propaganda to take action. In addition to the passionate national-patriotic minority, which was initially impressed by the idea of ​​Russia's "holy war" against "Nazism and Western neo-colonialism", two categories of people can be distinguished.

Firstly, these are those who have taken seriously the now popular propaganda thesis that in the current situation Russia simply has no other choice but to win. In fact, propaganda says almost in plain text that it is not so important who started the war and how justified it was. The main thing, according to propagandists, in the fact that in the event of a defeat in the war, the country will inevitably be destroyed.

The problem is that Putin's policies are a classic self-fulfilling prophecy. If until 2022, and even more so until 2014, the West did not even think about a military victory over Russia, now, against the backdrop of Kremlin aggression, this defeat is seen by most NATO countries as the most preferable outcome of the war. Those threats that until recently seemed to be the fruit of Vladimir Putin's sick imagination are now becoming not only quite real, but often the only possible prospect that awaits the Russians.

It is on this that propaganda constantly plays and power, drawing pictures of the catastrophic consequences of a possible defeat and exaggerating them many times over. Against this background, the reason for the invasion and its reasons fade into the background, and most Russians begin to perceive the war as a natural phenomenon: an event that “happened” to them in itself, a given that must be accepted as a fact. In the first place comes the archetype familiar from history: to unite for the sake of universal survival.

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This archetype is activated as the war moves into Russian territory (for example, in connection with the shelling of the Belgorod region). It is this scenario of a people's war that is reflected in the statements of Murakhtaev, Ustinov and many others like them. There is nothing new here: losing, Hitler's propaganda also tried to squeeze the maximum out of the fact that the enemy had already entered German territory. However, as we remember, this did not help Germany.

Dreams of cleansing

The second category of those who actively support the war are people who are impressed by the changes taking place in Russia itself, even if they occur only at the most grassroots level. In fact, this category is closely related to the first, and many people may have both motives. The image of a "holy war" purely psychologically gives rise to a sense of national unity and cohesion, which in itself is capable of causing euphoria in the layman. Many representatives of the Russian opposition believed that an unjust war of conquest and the absence of a coherent ideology would not be able to awaken the people to sacrifice. But it turned out that for a certain category of people, for the emergence of the desired psychological state, only a superficial similarity of the conditions of the current war with the Second World War was enough - and high-quality propaganda work.

Of course, the very formulation of the question in the style: “we kill people in order to feel the joy of unity” looks extremely blasphemous. However, the moral standards of the Russian majority are so vague that people are no longer able to reflect on this. Moreover, many propagandists openly declare that the war is beneficial for Russia to solve internal problems. For example, a former spy Andrey Bezrukov claimsthat before the war, Russia “rotten in a neo-colonial coma for 30 years”, and now it is starting to clear itself through a “war against predatory private capital” inside the country.

According to him, it is the warrestructures the oligarchic economy to a planned one”and helps to fight against “falsehood, lies, double standards and manipulation of people” inside Russia. "We definitely need some kind of push, crisis, some kind of war", - frankly Bezrukov. Other propagandists express themselves in the same vein, notingthat the war has created a global conflict with the West, which, they say, has allegedly created opportunities for offshore abandonment.

A lot of people really believe that against the background of the war the country will be "cleansed of traitors, oligarchs and corrupt officials", which meets their long-standing expectations. Anti-oligarchic sentiment, fatigue from the arbitrariness of officials and the endless lies of propagandists, corruption and arrogance of the authorities has been accumulating in Russia for years, and it seems to the townsfolk that a “cold shower” of a real threat will help to revive a new country: self-sufficient, developed and fair.

As already mentioned, the very admission that it is beneficial for Russia to destroy a neighboring country in order to solve its internal problems looks wild. Moreover, it is quite clear that the war will not solve any internal problems, but, on the contrary, exacerbate them at least because it repels from Russia everyone who has intelligence, professionalism and at least the rudiments of conscience. Aggression built on lies finally erodes the remnants of the conscience of those who serve it, and corruption, as are recognized even pro-Russian observers, the war has only increased, including in the army.

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However, at the grassroots level, certain changes do occur, often in defiance of the system. Volunteers from various Russian regions actively collect mobilized medicines and everyday items, including rugs, sleeping bags, warm linen, dishes and hygiene items. Officials, who are increasingly visiting the occupied regions and posing on the front line, are also forced to join the process of the “common cause”. City Manager Cheats Alexander Sapozhnikov and at all saidthat he will go to war with Ukraine, because "he cannot stand aside." All this creates the illusion of a rapprochement between the authorities and the population and the creation of a new formation of "people's leaders" who are ready to go to the front instead of resting in Courchevel.

In a word, the image of a country “cleansing itself in the crucible of a holy war”, a sense of common purpose, unity and brotherhood in the absence of real traumas and hardships that war entails, create a beautiful and attractive fairy tale that you really want to believe in. And in order for the Russians to feel the hell that lies behind the illusory facade, a lot of time must pass.

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