Staunton, April 20 – Russians aren’t protesting against Putin’s war in Ukraine not only because they fear the consequences of doing so for themselves personally but also and even more because they “to a large extent share Putin’s imperial ideology” and believe that protests could lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation, Andrey Chepelyev says.
The former St. Petersburg journalist who has been living in Cyprus since 2018 argues that many feel this only subconsciously and refuse to acknowledge it directly but that is irrelevant because this fear that the country is at risk of falling apart unless everyone supports the regime informs their approach to all political questions (region.expert/indivisible/).
This fear affects everything, Chepelyev continues, from the way in which they are prepared to spell the name of Estonia’s capital (with one “n” or two) to the question of the status of the Kuriles and Kaliningrad to whether Russia has the right to force Ukraine to “remain a Russian satellite.”
These things are all “links in one chain” or alternatively “various sides of one and the same rock. Physically the bombed theater in Mariupol and virtual demagogy about the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation are two various leaders of attachment to one and the same imperial idea.”
Translated into human language, he suggests, “all these thing mean one and the same thing: ‘we are an empire; we are great; and we want to impose out way of life, our language and our rules’” and we will use whatever means we think necessary to defend out status as an empire and to demand that others respect it.
Such attitudes are to be found “in the subconscious” of all who grew up in Russian and studied in a Russian or Soviet school,” Chepelyev says. And precisely because Russians will not face up to that fact, this phobia of potential collapse is all the stronger and forces Russians to defer to the leader.
And that is why “protests in Russia are so small and restrained,” he continues. The average Russian thinks that “if he protests, Russia could fall apart and then even worse things might happen.
“The Ukrainian or Belarusian oppositions in contrast aren’t afraid to protest because neither of these countries is an empire.” They don’t start from the proposition that any disagreement among their peoples inevitably will lead to the collapse of the state. They are confident that the state is strong enough to survive debate.
Polls showing that 30, 50 or even a higher percentage of Russians don’t support the war “mean only that that share of the people simply is not prepared to pay for its imperial idea with the real lives of real people,” Chepelyev says. These findings don’t mean that these people are not imperialists if the price of keeping the empire is lower.