"Good Russians" are dangerous

Vakhtang Kebuladze
"Good Russians" are dangerous

Ukrainian philosopher, publicist and translator Vakhtang Kebuladze contemplates the personification of Putin, the role of Russians in the full-scale war against Ukraine, and how the distinction between Russians and Putin can be dangerous for the world.

The evil Putin is the enemy of our present, while the "good Russians" are the enemies of our future.

By insidiously unleashing a genocidal war against Ukraine, Putin and his Kremlin gang have finally established Russia's status as an enemy of humanity. I hope the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Putin begins a worldwide legal and political recognition of this status. 

But it would be dangerously naïve to blame all the horrors of this war on the head of the Russian under-empire and his inner circle alone. Thousands of ordinary Russians are committing crimes against humanity and genocide against the people of Ukraine. They came to our land to kill, torture, rape, and steal. Russians bring death to all living things. Not only to people but also to animals and nature in general.

We are horrified to see the Russian sadism towards people and animals and the devastating effects of the Russian invasion on our natural resources, which are ultimately the wealth of all mankind. A large amount of Ukraine's fertile land will be unfit for agriculture for many years to come. The Russians have not only left bomb and shell remnants on it but have also mined it so people cannot work on it. When fleeing from the Ukrainian army, Russians mine everything: apartments and private houses, yards and gardens, corpses of soldiers and animals, and children's toys. They have burned out many Ukrainian villages and the land around them with phosphorus bombs prohibited by international conventions.

Russia's nuclear blackmail is not limited to the threat of using nuclear weapons but also involves the seizure and bombing of Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Therefore, we can talk not only about genocide but also about ecocide, which Russia has organised. By blocking the export of Ukrainian grain and oil, Russia is condemning a vast number of people in the world to starvation. Together with the nuclear threat, this can be called homicide, i.e. a policy aimed at destroying humanity.

And this policy is implemented by many Russians, and almost all of them actively or passively support it. Therefore, while specific perpetrators and those who gave criminal orders should be legally accused of specific Russian crimes, all Russians bear moral and political responsibility for all this horror. I need to make just one clarification. 

When I speak of Russians, I am not referring to ethnicity but to the xenophobic Russian identity that people of different ethnic backgrounds can have because Russia is an under-empire that colonised and dehumanised many other peoples, imposing its own perverted identity on them.

One of the main instruments of imposing this perversion is the so-called "Russian culture", primarily Russian literature, which from the beginning and up to now is permeated with xenophobia, superiority towards other peoples and enjoyment of its degradation. The core of Russian identity is the imperial disease because the empire was created on the territory of Russia, but a full-fledged political nation was not formed there. Russians are afraid to recover from this disease because then they will have to become different, to lose the core of their own identity. However, this is the only way to ensure that they will one day cease to be a threat to humanity and themselves.

Against the backdrop of these theoretical speculations, a specific practical question arises about the so-called "good Russians" who do not support Putin's criminal policies, oppose the war that Russia has unleashed against Ukraine, and dream of democratic change in their country. But can these changes ever happen? Or is this hope a delusion that "good Russians" are instilling in themselves and humanity? And what really worries these "good Russians" today — the inhuman cruelty of their countrymen who commit crimes against humanity around the world and wage a genocidal war against the people of Ukraine, or how civilised people will treat Russia after all this?

If the essence of Russia is its imperialism, then no change of government will change anything about its criminal nature. Only the complete deconstruction of the empire can eventually lead to the emergence of conditions for free and dignified human life on its territory. But are the "good Russians" themselves ready for such deconstruction? I have only one question: are they prepared to imagine a world without Russia? If so, then we can talk to them about something. 

But I doubt we will find anyone among the "good Russians" who will answer this question in the affirmative. And I believe I have the right to ask this question because I was born in the Soviet Union, hated it and dreamed of its collapse. I had a traumatic experience of hatred for my homeland but also a wonderful experience of emancipation from it and gaining a true homeland — Ukraine. It was possible, among other things, because many people had been trying for years to imagine a world without the Soviet Union.

I share the opinion of Benedict Anderson that "nations are narratives". Political nations, like any community of people, are products of the public imagination, which is deposited in narratives. But these products are not airy castles but rather stable socio-political constructions that organise our everyday life. Therefore, the public imagination is a very powerful tool for the historical development of humanity.

And I have one prescription for Russia that might help us. It came to me in Izium, near a mural on the wall of a residential building destroyed by the Russians. It depicts the face of John Lennon and a quote from his song "Imagine". But, unfortunately, the mural was damaged by Russian shelling. And then I thought that to fulfil Lenon's dream of a world where all people live in peace, we need to start imagining a world without Russia. It could save us and the Russians themselves. But instead, "good Russians" who try to preserve the Russian empire will become a threat to all of humanity. 

Therefore, truly good Russians can only be those who are ready to abandon the perverted Russian imperial identity, understand that its poisonous miasma permeates the entire "Russian culture", repent of Russia's crimes, deconstruct the Russian empire, give freedom to all peoples colonised by Russia, and thus cease to be a constant threat to all humanity.