The Invasion of Ukraine – Putin’s Final Battle Against…

During its many years under Vladimir Putin, the Russian establishment has waged a ruthless and militant battle against social reality. Political administrators (yes, they are administrators and not politicians, because no one elected them) persecuted all forms of independence and ousted activists, politicians and journalists from the public space if they shown to be independent.

Their positions were transmitted to figureheads whose task was to simulate the action and create smoke screens. Officials in the presidential administration took care to identify, infiltrate and convert all parties, groups and organized structures that showed the slightest sign of opposition into manageable “cells”.

How the Destruction of Society Leads to War

Everything contemporary was declared foreign, foreign, hostile, extremist and even “terrorist”. Let us remember the civic movement created by Alexei Navalny, which aimed for a non-violent political struggle against the regime and was therefore declared, in essence, “criminal”.

When it comes to destruction, the administration’s successes have been impressive. Let us not forget that these “successes” were achieved through direct assassinations, force and the expulsion of people beyond our borders. Faceless officials, working at different times under the direction of the political heads of the Kremlin – Vladislav Surkov, Vyacheslav Volodin, Sergey Kiriyenko – led the charge in close cooperation with the intelligence services. The results of these activities are truly horrific.

Let us remember the imprisoned militants. Let us remember those who were forced abroad and those who renounced public activity, after having soberly assessed the risks associated with it. We will not forget the murdered politicians, journalists and public figures, whoever was responsible.

Putin officials tried not only to control civil society, but also sports scores. The logic of fair play has been shattered: the leader, obviously, did not believe in it. Russian athletes had to be better than everyone else, at all costs. Thus, competitions were replaced by doping programs, intended to paint the leader with amazing success. The 2014 Winter Olympics became a project to guarantee victories. The orchestration of the Games was finally laid bare by a defector, the former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov. Thanks to him, we have a detailed picture of this sordid affair.

Creation, even by criminal means, is more difficult than destruction, which is why Putin’s theatrical construction of fictional alternatives to organic society is a dismal failure. Those who have turned us into “others” (or “strangers” or “undesirables”) have never created anything on their own, on their own initiative, by their creative inspirations or by the calls of their hearts. They couldn’t create their own social space for discussion, couldn’t create space for sound politics, trustworthy analysis, trustworthy sociology, political science, or healthy opposition and press.

This alternate reality is a distorted reflection of our current social discourse: we have clowns instead of politicians, artificial creations instead of civic organizations, propagandists instead of journalists and analysts.

It was easy enough to live with: you don’t have to vote for clowns, read fake analysts or listen to figureheads devoid of any independent thought. They are just bad actors, reading someone else’s texts, tools of a crude political game. Everything was so transparent that the belief was born that they would break out by any means as soon as the coercive grip of the state weakened. The trigger for such a weakening, I thought, could be a fairly organic process – an economic crisis, a decline in a leader’s popularity, or a change of generation in power.

A crisis would annihilate the artificial constructions: “politicians” and “journalists” (it’s true, in quotes) would simply disappear from the airwaves, since they only function, like automatons, plugged into the state charger. Russian citizens would suddenly free themselves from all illusions and see how the decorations crumble. Remember the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the King, the Queen, the knights and the judges were nothing more than a deck of cards. Or the end of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Invitation to beheading“The air current from the propeller picked up and wrung out dust, rags, painted sawdust, pieces of broken gold plaster, cardboard bricks…”

Except that today, missiles, explosives and bombs bring Ukrainians very real death. The propeller draft blowing over Ukrainian land is perfectly real, and the broken pieces and bricks are real. Our nonchalant attitude toward Putin’s alternate reality was a pervasive and tragic mistake, of which I too am guilty. The meaning of a virtual reality was misleading. The decorations did not turn out to be gold plaster, the stones did not turn out to be cardboard. Quite the contrary: the crude theatrical curtain, painted over by painters paid enough to buy food, has been pulled back, revealing death and suffering.

I recognize my own deep poverty in my efforts to demolish ornamentation where possible, before the war. I was convinced that the fictions would fall under their own weight.

How your worldview can kill the world

To believe that life, honor, talent and recognition can be bought and sold is a mistake, a harmful view that deserves contempt. This is not an innocent mistake. A man who convinced himself that anything could be bought and sold, that a society could be subject to military occupation to create its own profitable reality in its place, brought not only the country, but the world, to a disaster.

Not only did he fall in love with his fictional reality, but he also made it the foundation of his actions in the real world. It is now clear that his plans for a brief military operation in a friendly country became mired in his own constructed fiction. He obviously expected that the use of force by a “real” – that is, “his” – country could lead to the immediate disappearance of the “inauthentic” Ukrainian state.

He believed he was dealing with a setting controlled by forces hostile to him, created perhaps by America or Europe, a fiction that finds its origin in methods like his. He really seems to have believed that his fabricated “popularity” would turn out to be real support for his actions by Russian society. He thought they would believe in the threat of the Ukrainian “fascists” and in his mission as a liberator. He must have assumed, probably after listening to his own scoundrels, that Russia is ready for war and sanctions.

Putin convinced himself that Ukrainian society is the same kind of theater in which he – using murder and intimidation – transformed Russia. He thought Ukrainians – from frontline soldiers to senior leaders so hated by him – would crumble into a deck of cards and recognize his authority. The president of Ukraine is a former comedian, the mayor of Kiev, a former boxer; who do they think they are? It seems that he seriously believed that he had a psychological and moral superiority over today’s Ukraine and over the world democratic community. His mistaken worldview prevented him from realizing that his “superiority” was fabricated by his court jesters. His television and radio had only one producer and real viewer: himself. He poisoned himself with his own lies.

He enjoys no moral superiority over anyone. Its only superiority lay in its military power. But to make that superiority real, you need a clear mission, focus, and the rightness of your cause. Only Ukraine and the Ukrainians now have such a mission, such focus and such accuracy. It is possible that right now Putin is faced with a choice whether or not to launch the nuclear weapons at his disposal. It will bring more death and suffering. And basically doesn’t change anything.

His war against reality should have been a personal matter. If you want to live in resentment and anger against the whole world, go for it. But he imposed himself on the Russian people by force, manipulation and lies. For many years, he ensured his “popularity” by using fair means and faults. Through force and intimidation, he imposed himself on Russian society and degraded the identity of his own people who once fought alongside Ukrainians in a mutual and just war.

He poisoned not only himself but also Russia. He predetermined the contempt with which the whole world will view not only him but all of us from Russia. For many years we will not be able to convince the world that “we are not like that”, that “this is not us”. For many years, after Putin, it will be up to us to rebuild a civic system in Russia stripped of all decor or political fiction.

Russia has morally lost this war, simply by starting it. Regardless of the events on the battlefield, Russia lost this war as a political, economic and social unit, as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. There was a time when the word “war” – without any qualifier – commonly referred to the Great Patriotic War. Now, this word has a different meaning. It was the war he started, the one that blamed me and all Russians for the catastrophe he created. DM

A number of independent media outlets in Russia have been shut down by Russian authorities in recent days, especially those critical of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meduza.io has announced that it is placing all of its stories relating to coverage of the Ukrainian invasion into the public domain under a Creative Commons license and making them available for republication. This is a translated version of an article that appeared on March 1. Russian law allows certain organizations and individuals to be declared “foreign agents”. The provisions of this legislation require that any article published by these “foreign agents” be preceded by the following statement:

“This message (material) was created and (or) published by a foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent and (or) a Russian legal entity performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

This article was translated by Sebastian Chatov, Founder and Managing Director of Appanagium Capital. Shatov completed his primary and secondary education in Russia and is fluent in Russian. He is an independent observer of Russian affairs. The original article appeared on Meduza.io.


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