13 May 2023
Source: Witnesses Against War
Witnesses Against War is an anonymous international group of journalists, writers, historians and translators, who live in Moscow and London. For reasons of security, their project is anonymous. In addition to the above websiste, you can also find them on Instagram and Telegram.
‘I clearly differentiate putin and Russia’
Why anti-war Russians are remaining in Russia (Part Two)
“My parents are here, and I do not want to leave them. And I do not want to be forced to leave my home. Some day, I would like this country to become a place that people move to, rather than flee from. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and need much patience, in order for that to become a reality. There are lots of different types of people here, and like children they prefer to trust the authorities, and just about manage to survive – they do not care about politics, or are terrified by repressions and do not believe that it’s possible to change anything. And there is a lot to be scared of. In this country people have long since not liked those who stick their heads above the parapet – this is a miserable Soviet legacy weighing on people for more than a century. This has nothing to do with support for the war. Our people are peace-loving for the most part, but they have at their backs a difficult, horrific legacy. And in this country, in school, in university, it is not as if people are really taught to think. I understand that the rest of my life will be difficult, but I hope that in say 10 years, when the younger generation, that is already more open to the world, more tolerant, and more caring towards itself and others will come of age, then changes for the better will be possible. I am afraid of unpleasant surprises, which the regime may spring on us. The unexpected and the unpredictable is very frightening in an information vacuum. Well, and retaliatory military strikes, of course, I am afraid of that as well.” “I tried living in other countries, and I understand, that the grass is always greener. This is my country, my home, why should I have to leave? The government and the country are different entities. I do not associate myself with this government. I understand that it will be difficult, but I am not afraid of this, because I am at home in my country. Russia is a country with great potential, so I think that changes are still possible. I am worried about the further criminalisation of any form of dissent against the ruling regime, as well as other forms of so-called social deviation (such as homosexuality).” “This is my home. I like to live in an environment where I understand the context. I love the Russian language, I like living where the language is embedded in life, and communicating with people who understand its most subtle nuances. I enjoy interactions, ties, relationships, that I simply could not have anywhere else. All my nearest and dearest live here, interestingly, even now. However, there is a sense that the spine is bending under the burden of all that is happening. The idea that anyone who remains is automatically supporting the war displays an indifference to the fates of those who live here. And this plays into the hands of pro-Putin forces, who also want to present a picture to the people, that there is one single locomotive, rushing forward while ignoring small defective components within it.
It also seems to me that this approach blurs responsibility for what is happening. We should not forget, who is committing crimes. I am still considering emigration. Especially if the regime is still in place when my son goes to high school. I do not want him to be affected by the militarisation of education taking place in Russia. As far as myself goes, of course I really would not want to end up in prison. And I would really hope that the world does not build an impenetrable fence between us, that would leave us in close quarters with other dictators. We are still people after all.” “Abroad I would be ‘that Russian woman’, a ‘refugee’. Abroad it would be difficult for me to find the type of work that I have now and I would lose social status. Overall, the losses are too great for me. Afterall, I am not being prosecuted by the authorities. At least so far. I clearly differentiate the authorities and the country, putin (specially written with a small ‘p’), and Russia, the government and the usurpers of power. Russia is my country and not theirs. The taxes are our taxes, and not putin’s. Natural resources, culture, international standing, the creditworthiness of the state – are all ours. Even the security forces are Russian, not putin’s. And the guilt and responsibility for the war is putin’s. As is the propaganda, that he and his comrades seduced half the country with, especially the older generation. But the younger generations, myself included, as a body, does not support the war. And we would like it to be over as soon as possible – today, now, a year ago.
I do not expect anything good from the future. Incomes are falling due to inflation. People are suffering from a depressed psychological state, given the inability to plan for the future, instability, economic and political threats. The lack of freedom of speech and assembly, the impossibility of protest and the lack of freedom of choice in elections. There is a split in society due to the war, double-speak, self-censorship, a lack of sincere spontaneous interaction, a fear of denunciations, melancholia, and limitations on civil activity. Nonetheless, I believe that when the regime falls, it will be possible to change everything for the better. Even with removal of putin alone, the war would end, of this I am certain. All would immediately change for the better, and millions in our country, as well as in neighbouring countries would breathe more freely. Political changes would prompt economic improvements and many problems would be resolved.”
“Our regime very much wants everyone who disagrees or is dissatisfied to leave. Even when they announced mobilisation (‘partial mobilisation’ in September 2022), the borders were not closed. Hundreds of thousands of potential soldiers were able to flee to Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and other countries. I am a woman, so I am not at risk of being sent to war, and so I stay in Russia and continue to be against Putin and against the war. It seems to me that this is very important. Especially, given that the authorities would rather be rid of us all. Here I have a community of people with similar views, and it is very important to continue and to support them, especially those who are very old and very young. I do not look into the future much. I only hope that I can remain myself, and that I will not have to act in conflict with my conscience. Of course, I am afraid that my husband will be called up into the army, and that I will not be able to defend him. I am afraid of ending up in prison, or of being killed, or raped by those returning from the front. I do believe that changes are possible in Russia, but it is not enough to just remove Putin. It is necessary, it that moment, when the regime weakens finally, that each honest citizen throws straw on its back, you never know which straw will prove to be the critical one.”