Megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - May 20-22
This thread is posted Monday/Wednesday/Friday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.
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I really feel like the discourse on this has started to shift such that outright xenophobia against Russians lies within the acceptable vocabulary of the discourse, which makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Clearly some Russians have done terrible things, and it's just so, so easy to slowly drop the nuances, and so so hard to have any kind of pushback given the subject.
Here's an example I saw this morning: https://old.reddit.com/r/worldnews/comments/utxlts/a_1yearold_boy_died_after_being_raped_by_2/i9c3bz5/
The topic subject is obviously horrific in that thread. And you can probably make the argument that on some level the whole military apparatus is guilty in some collective fashion for tolerating such actions.
But I mean it pretty clearly just states that Russians are a terrible people, and are historically a terrible people. Adding an intensifying nuance, "especially Russians soldiers", does not change this fact. There is no pushback, and it is highly upvoted.
I don't know if what happens on Reddit is all that reflective of what happens offline, but it seems like a warning sign.
I'm just one guy who keeps his mouth shut and speaks English when one must, but: I haven't experienced any hatred towards myself in the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia. In fact, the people I spoke Russian with were all Georgians who were kind to me.
For what it's worth, the growing disdain for Russians is a long Reddit tradition, established well before the start of the war. You'll get downvoted into oblivion on /r/dota2 (the game of which has plenty of Russian players, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians) if you dare speak well of playing with Russians.
And the problem is: they're not all that wrong. The majority of Russian players keep their trap shut and just play, but the ones that can't are so fucking obnoxious, it's outrageous to even consider taking their side. Entitled, almost narcissistic manchildren with no regard for a collective well-being beyond maybe their own party. This is someone you wanna club over the head with a 2-by-4 just by hearing them spew whatever nonsense makes up for consciousness in their vile little brains for five minutes.
This goes to Russian tourists, too, by the way – at least ones who have no idea what it's like to live in a place that values one's quality of life. So you get 40-something men and women from some deep neck of the woods who seemed to have lived in those fucking woods, not in the city right next to 'em. Trashy behavior, trashy clothes, manners so garbage they keep those silo'd right next to the 10-thousand-year-half-life spent uranium.
I've seen decent, honest, genuine, empathetic Russians in my lifetime. But boy have I seen some terrible people under the same guise.
And then Reddit picked up on that, so here we are.
Long story short? Lack of culture and education, in that order. Shit, I even talked about it on Reddit (which got me my first and only /r/BestOf mention). There are poets and filmmakers and writers, sure, but there's none of that unifying weave that lends itself to collective self-exploration and a sense of connection. All of that has been steadily appropriated to drive senseless masses towards goals they have nothing to do with, as a muscle for one grand ol' grampa Hitler's compensating for something.
Can't have good Russia without a sense of culture that doesn't drive the nation backwards in time where it ceases to exist and becomes a ghost of itself. (All this thinking spurs me further to actually start writing that alt-history urban fantasy thing where the USSR broke apart and now there are two democratic Russians.)
Fwiw, your description just sounds like people. My experience is that lime 70% of all online gamers are either man children or actual children who ought to be just quiet.
And in my united state of North Carolina, the republicans only just ousted madison cawthorn. It’s a seriously hillbilly district (that I’m from).
In fact, I myself can be all of those things at times. Having never been to Russia, I can’t speak to relative numbers. But all the Russian natives i have met, and other slavs, too, all seem to be pretty awesome people.
I do wonder what the State Department will have to say to you once they learn you're trying to get a visa to Russia. :D
Just don't bring Visa or Mastercard. Bring lots of dollars, in cash, and exchange 'em all at once. See you around looking like there's a 50-year-old tumor growing in your pocket!
On a more serious note...
I've never been to that many places either, but I'm yet to meet someone who acts like a Russian. Even the reddest of the necks have a lick of sense to 'em... some of the times. It's a distinct... ehm... honor.
I’m wondering what you think of when you say “culture” and “sense of culture.” Do you mean the arts? Entertainment?
Certainly there is lots of old Russian music and classic literature, famous around the world. But this is more of an academic interest, so maybe there are a lot of people who don’t know or care about these things?
When I say "culture", I mean two things.
The first and primary one would be a degree of emotional upbringing. It's when you learn to care about your fellow man, and not just during moments of peril (which many Russians are good at), but every day. Empathy would be a good start. Shouting at children to "calm" them is a fact of life in Russia. Familial relationships in general can be an absolute fuckfest, as I know from experience of my own and some (though not all) of my friends because, from what it seems to me, the closer you get to someone in Russia, the more free they feel to lose all guards with you during a heated moment. (Even if they apologize later.)
From empathy, stem most if not all the of things I wish to see as "culture" in Russians. Establishing semantic bridges when you don't understand the query ("Wait, did you mean-- Oh, okay, gotcha"), understanding personal boundries (and when it's time to butt the fuck out)... many similar things, though I'm struggling to describe 'em right now.
(And before you jump me with "Well, maybe Russians have a distinct and unique psychology, why force standards on them?": 'cause it's better that way, and it's certainly not impossible for a Russian to be candid and sincere and caring and responsible for their own messes. It never gets brought up, though, so we don't get to find out if it's "unique psychology" or "a culture carrying dozens of scars that need to fuck off within a few generations after a more thoughtful upbringing".)
The second sense of "culture" is what you might traditionally understand as culture: not just the arts, but the process by which arts are disseminated within a nation, and the critical thinking and analysis associated with those. Sure, there are great writers known the world over, but that's about it. Rarely a play gets written today that makes it to the national stage. And sure, there are excellent poets and prose writers today, but they seem to remain on the fridges of the more general society because the more general society has either no tools to discern between them or no interest in doing so.
On a more day-to-day level, I have ten fingers to count TV shows – current or past within the last two decades – that have been licensed, adapted, or blatantly copied from their American counterparts. I'm going to run out of fingers, I promise you that much. Channel One alone has had like 15 of them. There are very few uniquely-Russian shows, and even the ones you may think of as Russian are (successful) adaptations of American shows. Happy Together was immensely popular during its run, and it's an adaptation of Married... with Children.
And the reason sitcom-grade shows are so popular in Russia (they seem to appear out of thin air every six months or so) is because we aren't really being taught any other layers of culture, like literature, or the Greek mythos, or even geography (which should, ideally, coincide with learning about other countries, not just pointing them out on the map).
Education in Russia is limping on both legs and is extremely dehydrated; or, in economic terms, it's severely underfunded. The way I learned literature at school was memorizing and reciting passages from a book or a play. The way children learn it today is by memorizing points in the narrative, in order to pass the Unified State Test on the subject. (The Test is supposed to mimic its American counterpart. It's equally ineffective in determining the actual level of one's education.) Do either of us learn something from it? Nope. Is it useful later in our lives to have had it "studied" via rote memorization? Nope!
(The only one book from the state curriculum that I've read, separate from the school program, was Revizor aka The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol, and I enjoyed it immensely. Dead Souls was very good too, though I had to push through it in spite of the school readings.)
Other subjects were the same deal, unfortunately. It has been more important to write something down than to understand it, and by being curious you were "holding up the whole class".
I believe this translated into adults and young adults who don't have that much of an idea of culture-as-in-arts-and-discerning-them unless they happen to have parents interested in those to begin with. (If you're going to spend 11/12 years in an institution against your will, shouldn't that institution be taking care of more of the functions that would otherwise fall onto one's environment?) It doesn't help that none of us really has a chance to think, as we're thrust immediately into the higher education system without ever really understanding ourselves or what we want in life. Getting a degree just to have a paper proving you have a degree is painfully common.
And then you must get a job. Don't breathe in, don't breathe out, just make sure you have some way to put a loaf of bread on your table at some point in time. And it's a grind, more often than not.
So yeah, there's not really a time for someone here to get into this deeper cultural layer of shared human condition and the links between a thought and an action and a consequence. It shouldn't depend on luck of having cultured parents or having that one great teacher whether you end up learning at least a bit about the world's cultural legacy. You get insights so condensed yet so well-formed from these kinds of things that there is simply no substitute other than living a full life of instrospection. Robbing someone en masse of the opportunity to understand what people are about must be a crime against humanity.
A Russian rock singer was charged after condemning the Ukraine war at a concert. (NYT)
Russia may scrap age limits for soldiers to bolster Ukraine invasion force (The Guardian)
This is probably rather niche content, but I still wanted to share this lecture from the Austrian Armed Forces:
War in Ukraine: The Success Story of Ukrainian Artillery
(turn on Subtitles then, in Settings, set it to Auto-translate to English)
Colonel Markus Reisner talks, in detail, about how Ukraine have modified their artillery tactics since the start of the war in order to reduce casualties from counter-fire. This includes discussing their new decentralized deployment strategy, their newly developed command & control software (GIS ARTA), switching to Starlink for communications and data transmissions to prevent jamming, and their use of guided munitions. And it also ends with several key examples of Ukraine's artillery strategies paying off, including the now infamous destruction of the Russian command post in Izium, and Russia's failed Siversky Donets river crossing attempt.
Lithuania has become the first EU country to completely cut any (I think they mean all) energy imports from Russia.
Notes on Ukraine (Matt Lakeman)
A long blog post. The first part is a somewhat interesting travel story showing what it was like to be a tourist in Ukraine. The author gets into mild amounts of trouble from taking pictures and briefly getting too close to the front.
The second part is very ordinary commentary on the war, giving background we are likely all familiar with by now. It could probably be skipped.
The third part has anecdotes about how everything went wrong with the foreign legion, based on talking to people who quit.
FYI: the text on the first image says "Strength is a state of mind". I don't speak Ukrainian, but I speak Russian, and if you have a bit of linguistic insight, you can discern the meaning of a lot of Ukrainian, by text or by sound.
Also: cats on leashes is an uncommon sight in Russia, but not "just two times in my life" uncommon. I imagine it's similar in Ukraine.
Never had a problem with change in Russia, even in my (previous) deep neck of the woods. The worst I'd gotten was complaining about having to get a lot of small bills or coins, or having to go to a different cashier to break a large bill (in a supermarket).
EDIT: Didn't think I'd find it again, but I did, so:
Here's an article in Russian discussing the reasons Putin has made a terrible decision to invade Ukraine, and why those reasons exist in the first place. (Spoiler: it's the same reason the Russian Army sucks so bad: high-tier officers who were put in their positions based on servile attitude and asskissery rather than actual experience or talent.)
I'm back to Russia now so I'd rather not open the article again. It's well-written so it should translate nicely into English or other languages via Google Translate.
Of course that'll only matter if they keep it, which does seem to be an open question?