This is not just Putin’s war! Russia has invaded Ukraine, and without ordinary Russians this war would be impossible.
Ukrainians are increasingly angered by the idiocy of liberal “experts” throughout the world who seek to exonerate the Russian people from guilt in this war, claiming that it is exclusively “the Putin regime” that is at fault.
Apparently this argument is being used to justify selective sanctions — those that affect non-economic activities in Russia. For example, according to the “liberals” (they also call themselves “humanists” and they claim their actions to be “tolerant”), it would seem that not all universities, and not all academics should be faulted for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After-all, lecturers and researchers can’t possibly influence Kremlin decisions.
This position is not only immoral, it is wrong. The Russian people elected Putin 4 times! One can claim that these elections were not fair because of media bias, because the regime instilled fear in the population, because of whatever real or unreal facts of undue influence on the electorate… But the end result of these elections each time was that the majority of Russians elected Putin as their President!
The purpose of education and culture is, in the first instance, to educate and acculture. In other words, the goal is to instill a worldview rooted in morality, and to promote actions that lead to the betterment of humanity. If the education system and the institutions of culture fail to achieve these goals, those involved in these spheres must be deemed either failures or co-conspirators.
Whether we are referring to “high” culture or to its “pop” counterpart makes little difference. Whether we are referring to the system of schooling or to higher education also makes little difference. In each case, the end goal was to “civilize” or at least to expand worldviews, to understand that which is different, to improve the lot of humanity… In these endeavors Russia has failed.
I attach here two videos: one of a choir singing in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, the other of a public address by the students of the prestigious Moscow Institute for International Relations (link in first comment).
The words of the choir (my translation):
In a submarine with a little nuclear engine
And a few dozen bombs, each just shy of a hundred megatons…
Having crossed the Atlantic I call to the target officer
Aim, I say, Petrov at the city of Washington!
Trulala, trulala, I will do anything for 3 roubles.
Greetings, you unfriendly New World,
And in a little airplane overhead, my friend Vovochka
Flies in as a guest — not with empty bomb bays…
In our submarine with its little nuclear engine
The crew sings merrily:
Trulala, trulala, I can will do anything for 3 roubles
Burn, burn you unfriendly land!
Sweetly they dream in Norfolk, their lights on the beach
The tired toys asleep; the negroes quietly doze…
Forgive us America, beautiful America,
But 500 years ago you were discovered in vain.
Trulala, trulala, I can will do anything for 3 roubles
Burn half the world — the unfriendly part.
Now the address by students of the highly prestigious Moscow International Relations Institute (my translation):
Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky!
We, the students of the Faculty of Management and Politics of MIRI, appeal to you as the person who is responsible for the fate of tens of millions of Ukrainians, with whom we are connected by a thousand year history. We are one people.
For the second week now, the Russian Armed Forces are conducting a special operation in Ukraine’s cities. Its purpose is to end the war that started 8 years ago in the Donbas.
Your grandfather fought together with ours in the trenches to rid the earth of the plague of Nazism. They dreamed of a better future for their grandchildren.
We wish to live with our Ukrainian brothers in peace and harmony, as it was for centuries.
In 2019, during the election campaign in Ukraine, you promised to end the war in the Donbas, where young people like us for years were bombed and shelled just because they are Russians. You today can end this war.
At MIRI we are always taught that when diplomacy fails, war begins. We believe the war will be ended through diplomacy.
The President of Russia has stated that stabilization of the situation in Ukraine requires de-nazification and de-militarization of the country, proclamation of Ukraine’s neutrality, and recognition of Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea.
Recently, you yourself stated that all you have received from NATO is some diesel fuel.
No one more than us wants peace between our peoples.
Our armed forces do not kill innocent civilians!
This is done by the hands of nationalist battalions that are not under your command.
Our grandfathers were victorious over the plague of Nazism, not in order for this disease to again raise its head.
Russia has never abandoned its own, and will never abandon the people of the Donbas — whatever the cost.
So find the courage in yourself, and do what is demanded of you by both our peoples.
It is too easy and convenient to state that the cultural and educational spheres are somehow «apolitical».
It is too easy and convenient for Russian professors, researchers, scientists, lecturers, artists, actors, singers, conductors, musicians… to claim that the current humanitarian disaster in Ukraine is a result of the actions of “the regime”. If students of one of the most prestigious institutes of Russia believe that their country’s forces are not killing civilians in Ukraine, their educators (and all educators in Russia!) are responsible for tolerating a system of false propaganda that makes this possible.
It is too easy and convenient to claim that somehow all of Russia (every single citizen!!!) is not responsible for the war in Ukraine. Particular responsibility lies with those whose profession is to work with ideas, to teach critical thinking, to expand worldviews. They have failed miserably. And their failure has resulted in a catastrophe that simply cannot go unpunished.
The global community must ensure FULL sanctions on Russia. All academic ties, all cultural ties, all exchanges, all projects, all joint research, all support for students (even those “trapped” outside of Russia in western universities), everything MUST BE STOPPED!!!
Russia must be isolated, and every Russian citizen must understand that he/she are an accessory to the murder of Ukrainians. Their educational system and their cultural sphere has failed to instill a sense of responsibility in them. Now the international community must compensate.
We all will be better for it in the long run.
* Thoughts from Kyiv is a series of flash essays by Mychailo Wynnyckyj from February 2022