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Supporters Of Putin’s War Increasingly Hostile To Indifferent Russians – OpEd

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Almost inevitably, wars divide people on the home front between those who back the war unstintingly and those who are indifferent or see the conflict as an occasion for profit. That phenomenon has been documented in the US in any number of books with titles like Don’t You Know There’s a War On?

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Such divisions are likely to become especially deep when the government insists that unqualified support of its actions in the war is a requirement for anyone who aspires to be a full and honorable member of society and when the authorities punish, albeit always selectively, those who are indifferent.

Much has been written about the Putin regime’s repression against open opponents of its war in Ukraine, but less attention has been given to the broader phenomenon of hostility to the large segment of the population which is indifferent, neither actively supportive or actively opposed.

But as the war has continued into its third month, the regime and especially its most active supporters are no longer prepared to accept this kind of neutrality but instead are whipping up emotions against what they see as the rotten “rear” that must be eliminated if Russia is to triumph.

As Russian commentator Yury Selivanov writes, there is no longer any room for the indifferent or those who think that Russians can continue to live as they did earlier. They must make a choice and those who make the wrong one must be punished lest they infect others (webkamerton.ru/2022/05/fenomen-tylovykh-russkikh-daleko-ne-bezobiden).

He appeals for a virtual war on indifference, yet another sign that the biggest problem the Kremlin now faces is not active opposition to what it is doing in Ukraine but the indifference of large numbers of Russians who just want to get on with their lives. Obviously, the Kremlin presents this indifference as approval, but in fact, it is highly corrosive of the regime’s authority.

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And to the extent that the regime and its supporters are no longer prepared to tolerate such indifference but rather want to demand unqualified support, Russia is on its way toward becoming again a totalitarian regime, one in which its residents will be required to back the authorities rather than simply not oppose them.

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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