Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Russians Must Recognize that Responsibility and Guilt Aren’t the Same Thing, Kurilla Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – Many Russian officials and following them many Russians believe that guilt and responsibility are the same thing, a mistaken view that allows them to assume that unless they are obviously personally guilty, they bear no responsibility and can ignore what is done in their name or on their behalf, Volgograd historian Ivan Kurilla says. 

            First of all, “responsibility is not equal to guilt,” he points out. “Guild lies on immediate participants who give criminal orders and carry them out. On other people, even those who approve these actions in the course of some pro-government meetings, there is no guilt” (rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/05/28/1706415.html).

            In addition, Kurilla argues, “guilt is an objective and external phenomenon: a court can establish it despite the opposition of the accused.” Moreover, “there is no such thing as ‘collective guilt’ as the level of participation in crimes among all participants always varies and the guilty are always a minority of the population.”

            But the situation with regard to responsibility is different.  “It cannot be imposed by an external court.” It is a sense of being part of something larger regardless of one’s own actions. “If there is a basis for pride in the Victory over Nazism, the first sputnik or Gagarin, then there is one for feeling responsible for Katyn or the suppression of the Prague Spring.”

            Second, Kurilla says, “to acknowledge responsibility is not the same thing as ‘to repent.’” “Responsibility is an internal category: it is impossible to impose it.” And thus when something is done in the name of the Russian people or state that one does not want to take responsibility for, one should try to do something to change the situation.

             “The position that ‘we weren’t asked,’ ‘we didn’t choose them,’ ‘this is the regime and not us simple Russians’ is an evasion, although at first glance it seems logically true. The mistake here is that it starts from the impossibility of changing anything by personality activity or resistance.”

            According to Kurilla, “the acceptance of responsibility is the first step to changing reality. That is, this is not about ‘repentance;’ it is rather about shame.”

            And third, the historian continues, “the acceptance of responsibility is not the same as ‘smearing’ guilt over the entire people.” For example, all who were delighted with the annexation of Crimea even if they were later less now are not guilty by that fact; but they must recognize that they bear responsibility for it.  And that they have to work to change things.

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