The original text in Russian was published in The Moscow Times
and is being republished here with small changes with their permission.
For a while now, I have not argued about the special military operation or politics in general with anyone but my loved ones, though I try to listen to everyone. And the less I agree with people, the more attentively I listen: I want to understand their worldview, what it is based on, how it is argued, and whether people want alternative information. If they do, you can keep up the conversation; however, more often they do not, so it makes no sense to argue. The problem seems to be that increasingly there is no sense in talking to people from either side, though there are not just two.
I recently wrote a Facebook post
about what my friends think about the current situation in Russia. It unexpectedly triggered a very strong reaction, even though it seemed to me that there was nothing special about it – just a very common way of thinking that I had often encountered. Nevertheless, the post was commented on, reposted and discussed all day long as if it was the freshest and most unusual piece of news. It was as if I had discovered some super-secret knowledge about my compatriots. How little we know the world around us, and how poorly we imagine it.My interlocutors: what do they think about the war?
I must say right away that I am not trying to make sociological generalizations. In the post, I reduced several conversations into one – my interlocutors were diverse in terms of their situation and education, people who I know personally. They are active but not young, aged 40 to 55 years old, all successful in their careers, some owning their own business, some serving in the bureaucracy, some working at large private companies, though none are bigwigs. They make good money and feel confident. Generally speaking, we can call them the Russian middle class.
What they have in common is that they are all quite satisfied with life. They know how to rejoice. They have lots of energy and plans. They lead a healthy lifestyle, exercise, travel a lot, though now they travel mainly in Russia. The war with Ukraine has not affected what is most important to them – everything is basically the same as it was a year or two ago, except that they cannot travel around the world as much, though due to Covid it had already been limited before. I was surprised that they do not talk about political news among themselves and do not discuss the situation with Ukraine. Still, I decided to ask them about it anyway.
Sure, they all think things will stay like this for a long time. For years, maybe decades. It does not please them, of course, and they regret that the “special military operation” has dragged on for so long. However, they believe that the world is always at war, and that is rather its natural state. War is ultimately good for the economy, which is why politicians around the world go for it.
My interlocutors are convinced that the sanctions have proven ineffective, in the sense that you can get everything you really need, while resolving the logistical problems can even be interesting. All companies have their own interests, and some are already coming back to Russia, while others will be replaced by new ones from the East.
It would be a pity to buckle under the US, but if Washington keeps up its aggression we have something to counter it for now.