Another typical subject is a young man from St. Petersburg. In an interview, he recalls how he reacted to the news of the outbreak of war: “My first reaction was a complete inability to process what was happening. And then came the realization that we, humanity, are living in the 21st century and still operating at such a primitive level, where we solve problems and conflicts not through diplomacy and politics, but through force. I mean, the whole world was turned upside down. Our true values so far are clearly power, money and influence.” And here’s how he described the evolution of his attitude towards the “special military operations”: “Now that I’ve calmed down a little, I perceive reality as it is, what we have at this moment is what we have, and we must live with it.” In other words, the war has become a fact of life, ineradicable and irrevocable.
He extrapolated the inevitability of the war from the fact that it was inescapable in his own life: “I came to (...) the conclusion that it was inevitable.” At the same time, his words sometimes betray a dissonance between the inevitability of the war and the opposite assertion that there was some kind of alternative. When asked what he would do in the place of the Russian leadership, he replied: “leading up to February 24th, I would have made every effort with all governments and diplomats to resolve the conflict through diplomacy, that is, to prevent a conflict. [But now] I admit that all possible diplomatic avenues have been exhausted, [although] I would try to fight this to the last.”
In interviews with this respondent, as with many others, we see a gradual resignation and justification of the reality: “[my position] has changed from denying the reality of what is happening. And now I perceive this reality as it is...Now I am a supporter of the special military operations. I have come to the conclusion that this conflict was inevitable.” Rethinking his attitude towards the war, he calls his initial condemnation of Russian intervention in Ukraine not a critical assessment, but a denial of objective reality.
Despite the recurring motif of resignation throughout the interview, the inevitability narrative is not an automatic consequence of this resignation. The notion of inevitability is reflexively and inventively constructed by our informants. They may borrow their own arguments about the inevitability of war from a variety of sources, including the official Russian media. Although they don’t just repeat them, but rather endow them with new meaning, supplement them with other arguments, and use them to construct new narratives.
Here is what a successful young IT specialist from a large Russian city told us: “I thought that it was possible to peacefully resolve the issue…And now I understand that this is delusional, it wouldn’t work like that…Then I watched a particular movie, began to analyze the situation we were in before this occurred, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, watched how the structure changed, how the Soros foundations came to the country, how Zelensky came to power, who he is.”
The conclusion that war was inevitable is a kind of compromise between moral anger and an apolitical sense of powerlessness. Having come to this conclusion, our interviewees often immerse themselves in analytical and historical literature, searching for information about the conflict, trying to find "documentary" evidence for the thesis of inevitability.