ISSN 2330-717X

Russians Shifting From Denial To Fear Regarding Putin’s War In Ukraine – OpEd


In the first weeks after February 24, psychologist Anastasiya Rubtsova says, many Russians were in denial about Putin’s war in Ukraine and assumed that it would soon be over and not affect them. But now, she continues, almost everyone can see that this war is going to go on for a long time, and reactions of most have shifted from denial to fear.


The fears Russians have are intensified by two factors, Rubtsova suggests. On the one hand, they are as yet unfocused. People don’t know what is going to come next and therefore have no good way of integrating that into their thinking and thus finding ways to cope (

And on the other, they don’t know whom to trust for guidance. Russian’s authoritarian rulers have benefited from keeping people from trusting one another, but the country now faces a situation in which people don’t trust anyone beyond the narrowest circle and many of those circles such as families as split along generational, educational or residential lines.

In such a situation, the psychologist argues, Russians find it difficult to navigate their own lives and are prepared to defer to the regime until the point comes when they recognize individually and collectively that it is leading them toward disaster. That has not yet happened, but many things which blocked that outcome are weakening.

As a result, today’s psychological problems risk growing into political ones, although not necessarily quickly or in the ways many expect. At least for the time being, responses are likely to be individual rather than collective because people don’t trust one another; and the regime will be able to cope with individual actions even if it couldn’t with collective ones.


Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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