"After a year of war in Ukraine it has become commonplace among western
commentators to argue that the war is deeply rooted in the “Russian mentality”,
history and culture. Russians, it is said have an imperial mindset.
Russian citizens share a collective responsibility, regardless of their
personal positions. They failed to stop Putin and Putinism, and now have only
themselves to blame. The only way the Russians can learn is for Russia to be
defeated. Defeat will foster repentance.
In Russia, a common narrative has also emerged, on which acceptance of the war
rests – even if there isn’t outright support. The frame is that the west is
against Russia and determined to cut it off from Europe.
Putin may not have needed to start the war, but as the current situation offers
no way out, Russia has to plough on. Even many of those who initially opposed
the war have accepted this.
One reason for this is a lack of an alternative story to which the Russian
public can relate. It is not about media bans and shutdowns.
State media dominates – but YouTube and Telegram offer platforms for the
Russian opposition, as well as access to Ukrainian channels and western news.
Use of virtual private networks (VPN) to access banned sites is widespread,
despite the government’s warnings.
The problem is that those who follow these outlets find them increasingly hard
to swallow, as both sides are trapped in a dynamic of polarisation. The
Ukrainian narrative is outright hostile – “Russianness” itself is a problem,
and the country should be renamed “Moskovia” to symbolically “cancel Russia”.
Ukraine is defending itself in a brutal war – and a desire to undermine the
enemy by word and image is understandable – but few among the Russian public
can subscribe to its messaging."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics