Why it’s pointless to expect anything good from russians

So we have two major events going in parallel in two deeply undemocratic countries: Iranians having enough of their leaders and russians fleeing mobilisation. I can’t even pretend to have any knowledge on Iran so IMO the uprising there may lead to something or may be squashed like the previous ones, yet Iranians still have my respect for doing that. As for russians, even if I’d be not from Ukraine but know their history and current events, I’d still not expect anything good from them.

Here I’ll try to give a short review on russian history, culture and society to show how artificial it is, how those parts do not connect with each other, and why the population of russia mostly remained inert.


russian propaganda often claims that other countries (usually those having misfortune to border it) are artificial while in reality russia is the one artificial country more than any of its neighbours. If you look at e.g. Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Baltic States, the countries are formed around the nations which had been living in the corresponding regions since ages. If you look at russia, you’ll see a lot of territory grabbed from the natives by the invaders (the same applies to the USA but there are certain differences mentioned below that make them sufficiently different).

If you look at the origin of Ukraine, you’ll see that it formed itself on the trade route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” (i.e. from Scandinavia to East Roman Empire) and spread naturally around it assimilating various Slavic tribes living nearby. russia, on the other hand, takes it origin from a remote outpost on a completely different trade route in a territory populated by Finno-Ugric tribes (fun fact: Moscow originally was just a town in the principality of Suzdal and you won’t get an answer when it actually became the capital). For a long time it was a part of the Golden Horde (another fun fact russians don’t want to know: until XVIIIth century russia paid tribute to the Crimean Khanate, the successor of the Golden Horde, as its client) until it decided to become independent.

You probably have heard the title “czar”, some of you probably know that it comes from Caesar’s name but how many of you know that it was a self-proclaimed title not supported by anybody else? For comparison, Kings of Galycia-Volyn (now Western Ukraine) got their title from Pope Innocent IV as any other European monarchs did at that time. The ruling of the first czar Ivan IV was the example that set the course for russia since then: self-proclaimed titles (and history retconning), creating puppet states recognized by nobody else, limiting personal freedoms, hiding behind nominal figurehead, oprichnina, territorial conquests (and wars to squash democracies and gain seaports) and so on. This topic deserves at least a separate book so I’ll leave it at this.

To sum up the following centuries, russia behaved like an empire with the colonies being attached to it instead of being located overseas (because they could not control overseas colonies, that’s why they sold Alaska and Californian colonies for a rather measly sum). And running the empire required a lot of trained professionals—which usually were Ukrainians and Germans (usually from Baltic States area). Fun fact: even the transition of Myscovy Kingdom to russian empire was invented and proposed by a Ukrainian. So here’s one difference from the USA already: USA has not tried to pretend that it was a successor of British Empire or that its history spawned millennia.


Modern russian language is invented mostly by Ukrainians and sustained by Germans. Yes, russian empire started to invent russian language culture in XIXth century and had to rely on non-russians for that (before that elites spoke in French and russian-speaking common folk had various dialects closer to modern Ukrainian than to modern Russian; that’s why it’s easier to understand older russian or Old Slavic language if you know Ukrainian or Belarusian). And of course they tried to strangle down Ukrainian culture (the Valuev Circular and the Ems Decree are the most notorious examples) so that talented Ukrainians would have to write in russian in order to achieve anything. So when russians criticise Ukrainian language for being not as developed as russian it’s like mocking a person that you hit in a knee that he is lame.

It was no better in Soviet times: Ukrainian culture was developed by enthusiasts and the official government cared mostly about curbing the development. For example, there was a Ukrainian grammar developed in 1920 (so-called Skrypnykivka) which was less than a decade later replaced with something closer to russian language (and with subsequent reforms to make it even closer, many of those coincident with famines). Ukrainian movies were quite often forbidden to be released or were re-dubbed in russian before release (and Ukrainian originals were lost in the archives). And stealing things from the other cultures while passing them as their own is a very russian thing.

Of course borrowing is a normal thing that enriches culture. But when you take something not belonging to you, pretend that it’s your own and try to get rid of the original creator—that’s definitely bad (and only Di$ney is allowed to do so, just read the story about Kimba the White Lion). Fun thing is that is you look at any symbol associated with russia you’ll find that it’s been stolen from elsewhere with no credit given (except for the original words of USSR anthem).

Overall, russian culture is created for the needs of uniting the empire instead of coming from the common folk and thus it’s rather artificial one that still does not connect with the people (for the reasons clear from their society structure). So whatever is presented for the export is what you call classics (“something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”) while what is popular is of a completely different type. The main source of their culture seems to be prison, so virtually everybody knows at least some of prison argot and traditions, and шансон (or блатняк) is their unique genre of music universally loved there (it’s about criminals as you can guess and quite often about them getting to prison too). Side note: while American culture is not that great either but at least it’s not ashamed about its burgers, rap and typical Hollywood action movies as they’re both consumed internally and exported worldwide.


Anyway, now it’s time to talk about their society structure. As I said in the beginning, the principality of Suzdal was founded by Slavic people on Finno-Ugric lands which meant not so good treatment for the locals. The same applied to other conquered nations and no wonder that serfdom was common (and if it’s not slavery it’s pretty damn close). You had all varieties of serfs—private serfs (belonging to some landlord), state serfs (belonging to the state which was not much better) and even industry serfs (serfs that were supposed to work at some mine, fabric or plant without a right to leave it). By some estimations by 1861 three quarters of the russian empire population were serfs of some kind. After “emancipation” their state has not improved much. There was a great divide between elites (who spoke French before 1812 like in many other European countries), literate people living in cities and illiterate peasants (with legal barriers preventing them from getting higher education). Returning to the culture, no wonder that whatever citizens and rich landlords created was not sticking to the majority of the population.

Additionally there’s a theory that russians living on not very fertile lands had to create a community, but it was a kind of community where everybody had nothing (except for something you’ve managed to hide) so it could be a very dynamic community to which members belonged or not depending on the current goals. That’s why a russian may expect a help from a stranger since he’s included him into his community (while the stranger usually did not). That’s why they can claim they don’t leave their own behind while actually leaving people behind—they’ve been excluded from the community.

During Soviet times there was an attempt to build classless society of the future, so it was mostly the society of workers and peasants, a strata of engineers, scientists and teachers/librarians/whatever (who earned less than workers for more skilled work) and nomenklatura (people occupying high posts in The Party who managed everybody and everything else). Of course the ideology ruled everything so almost every unpopular decision like rising prices (there was no inflation in the USSR!) were justified by “the popular demands”. And the protests were put down in rather secretive way (Novocherkassk massacre is the best known example). So people lived in the nice state of doublethink: while they saw that not everything was good they were believing it’s just them and the rest of the country was fine. And of course state propaganda claimed in all possible ways (there’s an expression “from every [electric clothes] iron” to describe exactly how ubiquitous it was) that people were living in the best possible country with the best possible order of things and minor deficiencies are caused by enemy countries that are envious of the Soviet way of things. Of course decades of such brainwashing stuck to many people, especially poor ones.

And it’s worth noticing that there was a process of divorcing reality from the reports. Since Soviet Union had plan economy, on the one hand there was a shortage of goods demanded by the population (because they were either not put in plan or the quantity was mispredicted) and on the other hand the plants and factories had to meet the plan and go slightly over the top (you’d get punished for failing to deliver the demanded amount of goods and if you do too well the plans for the next period would be increased which might be an even worse punishment). So people started to build a parallel economy based on personal connections and bartering (e.g. you know somebody who works at shoe shop, he can reserve a nice pair of shoes for you when they’re available for something he can’t easily buy himself) with the various forms of theft and forgery required to cover up for the goods sold illegally (like diluting milk to have the required amount after your friends got couple of litres of fresh fat milk) and organisations started to lie in their reports about the amounts of goods they produced (because they were rewarded or punished based on the reports).

Plus during Andropov times there was an inflation of KGB and police numbers (my grandpa told once that back in his youth they had one policeman and he was formidable, later they had dozens policemen and they hardly got any respect), and those KGB/police personnel who had to maintain internal order were bored and started to get connections with illegal manufacturers or goods, smugglers and such leading to the famous fusion of criminals and law enforcement (especially in the 1990s). Other institutions were decaying as well, in the army soldiers were used as a free labour to build houses for the commanders and lying there was ubiquitous as well (for example, many memoirs and recollections tell how it was more important to make an impression of doing something big instead of doing something small properly; it is also said that a plane escaped USSR because anti-air defence reported plane movements after its regular schedule, i.e. always giving the same numbers instead of actually looking at the radar).

Modern times

After dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the situation was grim for many post-Soviet republics because of the destroyed economical ties (and the fact that most of the goods produced were acceptable only inside of the USSR and only for the lack of the alternative). In either case, 1990s in russia are nicknamed the cursed nineties and people don’t want to realise those were the times that made russia stronger and wealthier. But considering how the first president of russia had to protect himself and certain people around him from possible (well-grounded) legal persecution, he passed the post in semi-democratic way (i.e. there were elections but with mass media under proper control and virtually no time for the other candidates to prepare) to the selected successor, who was a former KGB agent and a member of Tambov Gang. During his rule all strategic companies were put under control of his friends, cronies or underlings. And of course since the führer missed USSR, he tried to reboot it including switching to the different economic model where everything important belongs to the state (i.e. his people acting in his and their own interests) and the rest of people live essentially in trickle-down economy where oligarchs get money from the state usually by being allowed to mine and sell natural resources or to fulfil state contracts, other companies get their share of money from serving those oligarchs, other companies get their money from doing work for them and so on. And law enforcement forces get their share for turning blind eye to it or directly participating in the illegal activity.

This of course corrupted people as they see the quickest way to get rich is to either have proper connections so you can participate in cut-and-kickback scheme or to join law enforcement (or some safety inspection) and get you money from bribes and “protection” money. Doing business in such condition is possible only if you have right connections to protect you from the people above (though people protecting you might want to take your business for themselves if it gets profitable enough). And if you’re too poor you just have to rely on the pity sustenance provided to you by the state (which paradoxically makes you love it).

So what are russians and what to do with them?

And that is how you get russians—not a real nation but rather a gathering of people (if you can call them people) who care only about themselves. Even with the current protests against “partial” mobilisation you can see that protesters in Moscow do nothing for the others and let them be detained while in e.g. Dagestan protesters fight against the police to prevent people from being arrested (similarly to the current Iranian uprising or Ukrainian Euromaidan of 2014). Similarly russians have never protested for defending their freedoms, there were several uprisings in the past but they were mostly a way to tell the czar that their living conditions are bad (or sometimes it was against a reform introducing something new).

Thanks to their imperial past they feel superior to other nations and despise them while still being afraid of any real nation—like Ukrainians or their Caucasian nations (Dagestani, Chechen and so on). This probably happens because of their disunity since they know nobody will fight for them while others may get help from their compatriots. And of course such people would be worse than professional executioners if they get a chance to get even on somebody else. The findings and testaments from places like Bucha, Yahidne or Izyum prove that. Similarly there are many accounts when russians hearing about mobilisation are outraged by the fact it affects them as they’d prefer somebody else to die instead of them, especially national minorities (“russian tank driver from Buryatia” has become a meme during the first phase of this war in 2014 already).

Probably another affect of their disunity is their volatility and unreliability. In the past centuries they’ve been trained well enough to support whatever is forced unto them by the authorities (either out of fear or in faint hope of reward) but they do it half-heartedly. That is why after the parade with photos of fallen WWII heroes (or whatever passes for them) as their current state religion demands all those photos gets thrown away to the nearest garbage heap. That is why they were putting half-swastikas onto their cars after the start of the war and that’s why they’re removing it after hearing the rumours that those wearing it would be drafted first (all while complaining “I’m a patriot so let all those prisoners and traitors fight instead”).

That is why I don’t think that accepting russian “refugees” (especially in large quantities) is a good idea neither from the strategic point of view (as those troops won’t make a large difference anyway, modern wars are fought not by large masses of unequipped people) nor for the receiving side. Thanks again to the imperial past, they hate other nations and refuse to learn local language let alone to fully integrate—Baltic states can tell a lot of stories and here in Germany it’s no better. Diaspora by itself is not a bad thing at all, but not respecting a host country while still expecting it to provide for you is. Now “good russians” (an oxymoron IMO) point at Mongolia offering Buryats a refuge and saying other countries should do the same but in this case we have a country offering a shelter to an oppressed national minority with a culture similar to its own and not somebody fleeing from the mess he helped to create (or she, if they start drafting women at large too). It’s like the saying I heard here that Austrians consider Austria to be the first victim of Hitler while Germans say it’s Germany (but guess who voted him to power).

I’m not a nice man and I believe that you should not try to save adults from their own mistakes. Of course it’s different for children but that’s exactly because they don’t know much and don’t realize what consequences their actions might have. If you’re a legal adult you don’t have such excuse and you should bear full responsibility. Giving those fleeing russians a shelter won’t stop the war, won’t eliminate the risk of a deranged dictator using nuclear weapons as the last resort and it won’t help russians to realize that what they’re doing is wrong. The opposite will probably have the same effect but would require significantly less efforts and resources. Save them for the occasion when you can finally make difference by teaching them that their ideology is bad and why. It had worked for the West Germany after all.

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