22 May 2022
Witness #1: an employee of a leading Russian university
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 / Инстаграм and Telegram / Телеграм.
“Firstly, our community of the humanities, like the entirety of Russian society, is divided, and is not a single whole, and, secondly, is split in relation to the war. The people in my circle, my friends and most of my colleagues, cannot accept the war, they are horrified, agonised by it and ashamed, they are strongly opposed to the war and Putin. There are others however, fortunately distant colleagues, but also representatives of our community – historians who rejoice in the war, and call for “a path to victory”, write all sorts of nonsense like “we pray for the victory of the Russian Orthodox forces.” Such cannibal-minded speeches can be written without any qualms. Everything is much more complicated with anti-war speeches. Far from everyone who is against the war dares write about it. But there are many such people. I allow myself some statements of this kind.
The turning point was the law of March 4 “about fakes”, which punishes any statement that does not agree with the official point of view. Since that time, open letters and petitions have disappeared, people have become afraid and they are indeed afraid for their jobs and their freedom. Of course, if we all ignored everything, and took to the streets in unison, then the authorities simply would not have the resources to repress everyone. But unfortunately people cannot be braver than they are at any given moment, and mass demonstrations cannot be expected in the near future. If you look at the detention statistics on the OVD-info website [provide link], you will see that in the first week of the war, a thousand or more people were detained per day in many cities, and after that the number of detainees goes down to hundreds – in fact, this is the sum total of those who come out, and they are immediately arrested.
For people in the West, it may be useful to know that the only type of protest that does not officially require approval – a solo protest – is in fact prohibited. It is either falsified in the protocols, where it’s recorded as a mass event (as it was in my case on February 25, at Pushkin Square), or detained for what is written on the placard, bringing it under the new law “about fakes”, i.e. censorship. The first detentions bring only fines but according to the new article “about fakes”, if I’m not mistaken, there are already dozens of criminal cases. Thus, legal forms of protest do not exist in Russia. Is it any wonder that no one protests when it is a 100% guarantee to fall under repressions at various levels? The way out could be mass activism: anti-war graffiti, stickers and leaflets, but, unfortunately, this is not widely engaged in. And this is a sign that society as a whole what is happening perceives what is happening indifferently. Only the educated youth and students are firmly against it. And it is they who mostly participated in protests. My disappointment is not only in society as a whole, but also partly in the young more broadly. Every day I see a lot of inscriptions on the walls, done by graffiti artists – and amongst them there are almost no anti-war statements or denouncement of the regime. These young people, who in any case dirty the walls of houses with their scribbles, would rather write crap on social networks than express their indignation at the fact that the Russian army is killing thousands of Ukrainians. And this means that we, i.e. Russian society have already fallen very, very far.”
Read in Russian here