Sierakowski: Will the change start with Russian emigration?

Russian emigration does not expect a warm welcome. The resentment towards “ordinary Russians” is huge, and the closer they are to the borders of Russia, the more properly they have to hide their origins. Paradoxically, they are “protected” by the Ukrainians themselves, who also use Russian, so it is impossible to recognize them based on the language. In Poland, they risk being lynched, and on the Internet, it is even a common practice.

I myself run an account on Facebook, where I report on events in Ukraine, and if I wanted to delete posts criticizing Russians for their just existence, I wouldn’t do anything else. This phenomenon is by no means limited to haters, the nationalist right or political folklore. Symbolic reprisals are also exerted against the Russians by elites, eminent writers, intellectuals, defenders of freedom and opponents of all forms of violence.

Where do such emotions come from? The simplest justification is the widespread awareness of the high level of support for Vladimir Putin and his war in Russian society. These are the results of more than 80 percent. So why should we treat “ordinary Russians” any differently than Putin, who sidelined genocides like Hitler or Stalin? It is impossible to turn a blind eye to these statistics. Even though the regime is working to isolate the Russians, we don’t live in the 1940s, so anyone who wants to find out the truth has no problem.

However, there are at least three things to remember. First of all, are the polls carried out even by the independent and professional center Lewada really accurate? Under dictatorship and democracy, social research has a different status, a different social perception and the methods of its interpretation are different. More precisely: in a democracy we know how to interpret them, and in a dictatorship we can only guess.

Some, like Kiril Rogov, think they are worth little. Because in a democracy, when they ask us to support politicians, they have to choose one who usually has 40%. and one that usually has 25 percent. we have no reason to think more about who to indicate when we know our own preferences. But when we have a choice between someone who usually has at least 60%. and… nobody else actually, what does that mean for us? That by putting “no” we put ourselves beyond the limits of normality.

Are you sure we want to be “different from others”? You don’t have to support Putin if you don’t want to put yourself out of the community. Added to this is the fear of an honest conversation with a foreign representative of an unknown institution.

The Lewada Center itself finds the results credible: “yes” means yes, and “no” means no. And if people respond the way they do, that means they’re willing to behave that way in the public sphere, and that’s what we want to find out in research. On the other hand, would the Levada Center want to undermine the meaning of its own research? So best to assume that Putin’s support is widespread, but it’s certainly not 70% or 80%. Maybe half of the Russians, maybe more, maybe less.

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And so we come to the second point. Suppose even only 10 or 20 percent. he does not support this war and is against Putin. And that’s 20-30 million Russians. On what basis do we want to remove them? How are you? Does this make political sense? Do we want to make enemies of them ourselves, treating them like everyone else? This is neither fair nor politically wise.

This brings us to the third point. Maybe Russia will lose this war, or maybe she will win it, but she will not cease to exist. With or without Poutine. The problem of this country is not this or that ruler (were they so different from each other?) or “ordinary Russians” (were they so different from each other throughout history?). The real problem is the political culture shaped by the specific form of Byzantine orthodoxy, Mongol domination and the economy of resources, which a priori excludes democracy.

If people live on cheap resources, whose resources are distributed to them by power, what kind of system do we expect? And what relationship to authority? Changing this pattern, if not simply impossible, would take not generations but perhaps hundreds of years, and would require a state to be divided along ethnic lines. And also a mental change from the West, which is almost always naive towards Russia.

Someone, however, has to initiate such a change, and emigration is the natural candidate. But there was still a problem with her too. Suffice it to say that the fascist ideas on which Putin’s regime is based were largely born out of exile. Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s favorite philosopher, whom he refers to in his programmatic speeches and whose remains he ordered to be brought back and solemnly buried in Russia, was an outspoken supporter of fascism, Nazism, Russian supremacy, the anti-Semite and would be forgotten or dishonored in any normal state.

Ilyin, along with other similar thinkers such as Lev Gumilev or his contemporaries – led by Nazis Alexander Dugin or Alexander Prokhanov – constitute the ideological justification for Russian state fascism.

It is therefore difficult to find an example of manipulation more contradictory to the facts than the situation we are faced with: the Russian Nazis attacked the state in Nazi style, giving as justification that they wanted to denazify the nation whose president is Jewish.

The West should therefore seriously announce that it is sending to Ukraine not weapons, but the latest version of the coronavirus vaccines that the Ukrainians are applying to the Russian army, because Europe cannot afford to live next door. of a nation unvaccinated against this dangerous disease. Sanctions on goods and raw materials serve to introduce a diet into a country that eats poorly and to improve the quality of air polluted by mines and oil rigs. And of course, it would be nice if Russia thanked you for this effort, instead of behaving unpleasantly.

Coming back to emigration, the problem with her has always been such that she openly opposed the regime she fled, but did not differ from it in the belief that Russia can only be great and that it is unique, and that Ukraine is an inseparable part of it. of this one. This was the reasoning of even the most prominent dissidents, including Nobel laureates Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Josip Brodsky. So, if the new emigration is like that, there is nothing to say. She should not deserve any consideration, and it is much better to keep her quiet (although lynching cannot take place in any case).

And perhaps even most of this emigration is like this, because the reasons for the departure of the middle class were most often pragmatic and related to the risk of work and the loss of comfort. The regime does not even intend to detain them, as they are the party least sensitive to the nation’s propaganda, but the most sensitive to the protest, for which it is now threatening 15 years in prison. But aversion to the regime and its primitive propaganda is one thing, and the Great Russian mentality, of which I have spoken, is another.

For Russian emigration to gain confidence and become the basis for the construction of a new and different Russia, it would have to follow a path similar to that followed by Polish emigration after 1945. Neither do we. could not let go of our illusions. for a long time on our power and we also believed that at least the western part of Ukraine (like Lithuania and Belarus) was part of Poland, and many even dreamed of the whole country (remember that in 1939 , Vilnius and Lviv were part of the borders of Poland at that time).

Let’s be honest: as long as the Russians bomb Kharkiv or kyiv, we are really sorry and we feel sorry for them, but if they bombed the historical buildings of Lviv, we would feel much worse.

The mainstream of emigration after World War II left for London and had no intention of forgetting Vilnius and Lviv. There, “Lvivivilno” was spoken as “krymnasz” in Russia. Anyone who accepted the eastern border of the Bug was considered a traitor. Only over time and slowly did a wise alternative to this way of thinking begin to emerge – in Paris.

First, a minor and microscopic center organized around the Literary Institute and Jerzy Giedroyc’s “Kultura” magazine began to formulate a doctrine called ULB, which said: “There will be no independent Poland without independent Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania”. This was not some altruistic cosmopolitanism, but a hard political realism: if we continue to fight the smaller nations next to us, we will always be victims of Russia. However, by working together, we can achieve independence. Today, it is the foundation of Polish foreign policy, which is a determinant of action even for the nationalists of the current government.

It would be good if the history of the doctrine of Giedroyc and Mieroszewski were known to Russian emigrants. Few of them realize that renouncing totalitarianism is one thing, renouncing imperialism is another. I wouldn’t take the chance away from them, because we need a partner to build good neighborliness in the future. And I know, because I know not only the leaders of this emigration, but also the young emigrants, that such reflection and such change are possible. Also, instead of crossing off all Russians with a flat rate, let’s look among them for open heads, because they are like that, and the more sympathetic we are to them, the more there will be.

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