The war in Eastern Ukraine is horrible. Deaths of people, both military and civilian, are horrible. Horrible mutual hatred, fear, lies, crimes… Horrible destruction, disappearance of a whole region. Ukrainian army suffering from hunger and cold is a horrible sight. Russian army in the Ukraine, supposedly composed of military men who have chosen to devote their vacation time to a war in a nearby country, occupying a foreign land while wearing no insignia, is horrible. The country that announces that its soldiers were lost in a forest as if they were picking mushrooms or that the dead soldiers died somewhere else and for different reasons (but not on the war in Ukraine) is horrible. The sight of silenced mothers and widows of soldiers, who were sent to kill and get killed, is horrible. Loss of reason, fear and shame at the news of opening criminal investigations on charges of “genocide of Russian-speaking population” or the news of criminal prosecution of a woman pilot, who was taken by force in the Ukraine, clandestinely brought into Russia and declared an insane person… Horror, horror everywhere…
But what happens inside Russia is horrible, too. The outrageous wave of lies, which cannot even be called “propaganda”, simply outright lies, wicked, cowardly, absurd. Lies that people do not believe, but at the same time do not completely disbelieve either, lies that they get used to, as people get used to any terrible thing if they don’t really care about them. The majority of people is simply indifferent to all this. Only a minor part of the population is either “for” or “against” this war. Those who are “for” it are not simply horrible, there is a need for a word, which is much stronger than “horrible”. But in fact there are not so many of them, because there can’t be many people, who have a thirst for war, maniacs, who are thirsty for blood of the others.
Those who are opposed to war – and it is reported that they constitute not more than 15% of the Russian population – are better. They feel shame and they feel fear. These people came out on anti-war rallies in September, these people were standing in pickets throughout the recent months. Some of them took to the streets for the first time in their lives, some of them had been out before and will go again. But don’t sing Ukrainian songs! Don’t wear the embroidered Ukrainian shirts or all these blue and yellow balloons or the wreaths made of flowers. There should be no joy at these rallies, because what could be possible reasons for joy? Why put on the folk costumes and sing these songs? How did we earn the right to be joyful? Is it by the simple fact that – wow! – tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow (a city of 10 million inhabitants) or hundreds of people came out in other cities? Back in 2003 one million people marched in London against the war in the Gulf, while the war was raging much farther from London than Donetsk is from Moscow. And half a million people marched against the war in Madrid, although this city is five times smaller than Moscow.
We do not have reasons for either joy or for pride. We haven’t triumphed and we haven’t stopped anybody, unfortunately. And this is the reason why the joyful colors should be left to those who stood on Maidan in Kiev because they had their victories, while all that we can boast now are defeats. The only acceptable mood for our rallies is sorrow and grief, acceptance of guilt and expression of desperation. I recall how even the Christians, who were singing their religious anthems of grief in memory of those killed in Ukraine, suddenly joined in chanting a rollicking Ukrainian song during a rally in Saint Petersburg as soon as they heard it. I didn’t like some of the posters on our September march for peace either. I was ashamed to read about the need to stop “war between brothers”, as if there could be any other wars. This stubborn clinging for “brotherhood” with Ukraine (namely, Eastern Ukraine) cannot mean anything else, but the fact that there is somehow less shame in a war against Georgia or Chechnya. But all these wars are links of the same chain and there is not need to recall pan-Slavism or pan-Christianism. Even the posters “Forgive us, Ukraine” make me feel uncomfortable. How can one be forgiven for this? Is it all about being forgiven? And if we are forgiven, will it make things easier while the war continues?
Let’s stop being joyous, let’s stop pretending that we are brave, nice, beautiful, famous. Let’s admit that we are few, that we are very ashamed and we ache so much, that we are not in a position to ask for forgiveness, because asking for forgiveness means asking to forgive for this war, for the crimes, for the shame.
We grieve, we demand to stop this war, aggression, murders and lies.
But no songs are needed now.
by Stefania Kulayeva