Staunton, April 24 – Unlike during the first Chechen war or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been no demonstrations against the war in Syria, the result of the Kremlin’s promotion of militarism, its suppression of unfavorable news, and its crackdown on groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that might have led them, Ivan Preobrazhensky says.
“Having chosen military actions as an acceptable instrument for resolving foreign and domestic political tasks,” the political analyst says, “the Russian authorities see in anti-war movements one of the main threats to their policy” and have conducted “a struggle with them in all spheres of the life of society” (ridl.io/ru/война-есть-пацифизма-нет/).
Soviet peace committees were disbanded in the 1990s or transformed into organizations with a very different purpose, Preobrazhensky says. And “over the last four years, all ‘traditional’ human rights anti-war organizations such as the Soldiers’ Mothers Committees have suffered,” accused of being foreign agents or otherwise harassed.
Over the same period, he continues, the authorities came down hard on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “the most actively anti-war religious organization” in the country and one whose followers “already in the Soviet period were well-known for the fact that they preferred to go to prison than to serve in the military.”
Given polls showing Russians overwhelmingly support military moves and even want their relatives to serve in the military, all of these actions might seem unnecessary. But in addition to the objections about military spending by systemic liberals like Aleksey Kudrin and Aleksey Navalny, there is “great potential” for the emergence of a pacifist movement.
The reason for that conclusion, Preobrazhensky says, is that “despite the clearly articulated militarist demand of society and the growth of the army’s popularity, there exist deep social phobias,” first and foremost about the possibility of a big war, which 75 percent of Russians tell pollsters say they fear for themselves and their children.
“Thus,” he says, “a growth in losses in real military conflicts and especially the appearance of new ones could unexpectedly lead to changes in attitudes in society. But this is [only] a potential. For the time being, talk about war works only to frighten the population which is cut off from information” from abroad about the real situation.
And yet another indication that the Kremlin is worried about such a shift is its increasing proclivity to discuss relatively small conflicts as harbingers of a third world war, something that puts any public discussion of the merits of the current actions of the Russian government beyond the range of the acceptable, Preobrazhensky suggests.