Saturday, September 3, 2016

Even Russians Opposed to Putin’s Ukrainian Moves Split as to Their Sense of Personal Responsibility for Them, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 3 – Even Russians who oppose Putin’s policies in Ukraine are divided in terms of their sense of personal responsibility for them, with middle-aged feeling personally guilty and the young believing that they are not responsible in any respect, according to Pavel Kazarin.

            That divide, the Russian commentator suggests, has important consequences for the future of Russia as one generation replaces another and important lessons for Ukrainians if they are to avoid a similar and equally disastrous evolution in opinion in their country (

            Kazarin says that he has travelled abroad with Russian colleagues, all of whom are part of the minority of Russians who consider “Crimea to be annexed and the Donbass to be a victim of the aggression of the Kremlin. But,” he continues, “that is where their similarities end and the differences begin.”

            The main divide, the analyst says, concerns the responsibility Russian citizens feel for the actions of their government; and there Russians divide generationally. “Those who met 1991 as adults said that yes,” they felt responsible. “Those who passed the 1990s in school said that they don’t.”

            “If the older generation views present-day Russia as their own defeat, then the young categorically does not want to take responsibility for it.”  The older cohort feels that they have lost what they felt they gained in 1991 and so view the situation personally rather than as some historical question. 

            First 1993 when Yeltsin shelled the Russian White House. Then in 1994, there was the war in Chechnya.  Then in 1996 there was “the victory of Yeltsin ‘at any price.’” And in 1999, Vladimir Putin “appeared in the role of successor.” Today’s “official Russia” is more like what the August 1991 putschists wanted than what those who defeated them at the time did and do.

            All these developments are very much “part of the personal biographers of the older generation of liberally inclined Russians. For them, present-day Russia is the result of their own personal mistakes and shortcomings, their illusions and their unjustified hopes,” Kazarin continues.

            But the younger generation of Russian liberals “do not feel any personal responsibility for what Russia is now like because they were from the outset deprived of the chance to influence the country in the dynamic 1990s, and by the middle of the first decade of this century, the architecture of the Russian Federation was sufficient fixed” that no one could change it.

            Consequently, Kazarin says, this younger generation, although it feels itself to be on a sinking ship, “does not intend to blame itself for an incorrectly chosen course because its members did not play a part in choosing it.” That generational divide happens in many revolutionary periods, and there is a very real risk it could occur among Ukrainians as well.

            “If present-day Ukraine does not manage to deal with the tests it is undergoing” in a better way, then the same thing could happen and a divide could open up between “those who fought for the future and those who lived burdened by it but without a sense” that they made it and are responsible for it.

            And therefore, Kazarin concludes, “the main task of Ukraine at present is to ensure that civil society with privatize the state, to make it not some abstractly separated and unnecessary institution of force but an instrument for the development of its own population.” If that is not achieved, he says, Ukraine’s future risks looking like Russia’s present.

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