AA: Anna Avdeeva
MM: Marianna Muravyeva
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AA: Hello everyone. My name is Anna Avdeeva and I am a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. And today we continue with the Ariadne’s Podcast series devoted to the war in Ukraine. And today, my guest is Professor Marianna Muravyeva, Professor of Russian Law at the University of Helsinki. Marianna's Expertise is in gender studies, law, history and Russian studies. And today we're going to talk about solidarity, hi Marianna.
MM: Hello Anna. It's good to be here. Good to see you.
AA: Yeah. Nice. Nice to meet you here. While preparing for this podcast, I was thinking how to start and what came to my mind is this slogan that Russia will be free again. The slogan of 2011-2012, when it first appeared and how it has been transformed during the recent decade. Nowadays, there is a lot of discussion among Russian expert scholars, public figures and lay people over opinion surveys in Russia and their validity and the limitation of qualitative data and how much we could actually reveal nowadays from them, seen so-called laws against fakes on Russian army was enacted. So the question for many of us is how strong the support of Russians is for Putin’s regime, for the war in Ukraine, and how much we can say about it. That debate is very actual and quite harsh sometimes. But I think that no matter what the numbers are for those who support, it's really important to focus on those who resist the current events. There is a discussion on solidarity and forums of support we could provide to those who stay in Russia still and those who are outside of Russia, but who try to protest in various forums to the ongoing events. And I would like to offer to start the discussion right here right now. So what do we think about protests, about the different forms it takes and what should we focus on first of all.
MM: Thanks very much. And that's, of course, a $64 million question as we usually say. It's very problematic to talk about Russian protests and actual approaches to protests. It's a double-edged sword. Everybody, at least the EU and whatever proverbial West, introduced sanctions. Very harsh ones, including these sanctions against Russian academics and institutions by banning them, excluding from associations, conferences, funding etc. with the goal that these sanctions make Russian society or Russians, whoever they are, to resist, to revolt against the regime and remove Putin from power which I think is a huge flaw in logic. And we know that it doesn't happen historically. So if you look at the histories of protests and resistance, even in the recent histories back to late eighties, early nineties, when embargo was introduced in Iraq and things like that, it didn't happen. It ended up with a dictatorship and killing civilians in the dictator's country. And that's a very viable scenario of what would happen. Putin doesn't have any qualms about killing Russians for protesting, we've seen that happen before. So that's one side of the story to protest or not. And the other side of the story is that people are still protesting despite the understanding that they might not be able to succeed, but they're protesting because it's the right thing to do. And I think that is something else to remember. In theoretical terms, the approaches to protest changed. That is the most important and interesting thing to me, whenever it changed, Russian legal culture, we’ll often talk with students about a variety of forms of the protest. We have this old understanding of the protest that everybody has to go to the streets to show that they're protesting. But we’ve digitalized in the past, whatever, 20 years, but also the two years of pandemic. We're highly digital right now, and countries such as Russia and authoritarian regimes, there's quite a bit of literature and theoretical literature on that, the ways that activists try to continue with work, civil society try to do what they think is right to expose the regime, to fight the regime, is often to do it safely. And safely is going online and using digital forms of protest. And we've seen that happen in Russia quite a lot. What we call the online flash mobs, hashtag campaigns, mobilization online groups, online discussions, a lot of these online activities often lead to the physical activity so that mobilize and that and they will go on the streets to protest. But at the same time, on the streets protesting is unsafe, and of course nobody wants to end up in, first of all, a police van, which is not a nice thing to be at. And during the recent arrests and recent protests and anti-war protests a lot of people would be locked in this van for 24 hours and that means no toilet, that means very cold, that means a lot of people, that means whatever you could think, that's the intimidation tactics and it goes back to Soviet’s intimidation tactics.
AA: Could you please explain to our listeners about this detention in the military, in the police vans. What does it actually mean and how it counts.
MM: So there's this police van that is basically a metal box and they put there as many people as possible. It's a cage, basically. So they put there as many people as possible to lock them in. And this van is usually put in some remote location so that they sort of forget about it. They forget that they put the protesters in that van and it stays there, say, 24 hours. Well, it could be between like 15 and 24 hours. And there is nothing in there. There's no water, there is no toilets, there is no nothing. They usually confiscate mobile phones and any means of communication. And of course when it gets cold at night, for example, and these protests are happening during the winter months actually, we’re still in the climate that is pretty cold. And people were not dressed, for example, for that. Then it's cold but of course body heat might probably save. And it happened a lot of times during these particular protests, and that's an intimidation practice. It's the practice to show that you are helpless, nobody is going to help you, nobody is going to find you. And you can basically rot in this van for 24 hours. And of course, it's very different people in there. So it's not like all of them have this absolute idea of that they participate in the protest. Some of those people are passersby’s, they’re just put there from the crowd. And some of those people could actually be moles from the police trying to create that intimidation practice inside and discontent inside the van, etc. And there've been numerous reports of people who've been locked in these vans for example. So that's one of the, sort of, unsafe practices. The other one is that when they are basically delivered to the police station. And again we need to remember that, of course, Russia is a big country, blah blah, but actually they don't have that much resources, and that particular war shows how unprepared, not that they're unprepared, but that the corruption we've seen basically goes pretty much into every part of the state machinery. And so when they deliver people to the police station. They can't really detain all of them, no way, there's no places and spaces for that and resources for that. So what they do, though, of course, they usually detain and intimidate known activists so those people who are known to the police and usually that's the same suspects, the people who go there every day and protest and protest. So they put them in cages. And that's still a very old sort of cage tactics. We say criminals, criminals in the sense that those people who committed violent crimes and are there waiting to be transferred into detention, pretrial detention centers. And it depends, again, it's very old Soviet tactics when you put politicals with the criminals and watch what happens. And one colleague of mine reports on that pretty much every day. So you sleep on the floor in these very closed quarters. You don't really have any space, again. And of course, the police guard usually, you know, comes back and forth, there is a lot of humiliation. There is a lot of threats veiled and unveiled and if you happen to be a woman, you can imagine what kind of threats that are. And it's, again, been reported threats of sexual violence as it's just a typical thing. And then if you are gay, right, there’s a lot of protesting on behalf of the queer community right now happening in Russia as well. Then there is another form of intimidation and of course, threats of sexual violence as well. So despite all this, these are horrors of ending up in the authorities claws as a result of the protests. Despite all this, people still protest. So if you look at the reportage of protests at the ovd.info page, they still running. That's Memorial's project, although memorial got prohibited and disbanded, but they still running that from a variety of places. So there's at least a dozen or even more protests happening every day in a lot of Russian cities. And people, despite knowing that it's probably useless, despite knowing that nobody is going to hear you, despite understanding that it could be dangerous and they can all end up in this situation, they still go and protest. And that's something we shouldn't forget and that's something, which I still have a struggle with, that Europe, for example, doesn't know and nobody's talking about it. And my question here is why. Why wouldn't you? Because if you want Putin to go and if you want the Russian population to get rid of Putin for whatever reason, I don’t know. If you want to do that, why don't anybody then support those people who actually go to the streets every day and protest? On the contrary, you try to exclude them for that and blame them collectively for Putin's war in Ukraine. So there's this contradiction, which is a little bit difficult for me to grasp because on the contrary, if you really want to get rid of the regime, then you need to be investing in those protests and the protesters supporting them, showing that solidarity with them, right, that's the topic of our discussion today. Show these people that we hear you and we're going to help you and we’re with you in your protests against the regime. That is not happening. And that is something that is very disturbing, I think, as a trend in the current situation in at least Europe.
AA: But what kind of forms of support do you see as possible nowadays? Because we know that mass media are dominated by Russian linked propaganda, mass media actors. The borders are still closed, here is problem with transferring money since there is like these SWIFT issues and so on. So what could we do outside of Russia to support those who protest in various forms?
MM: Right. So that's a good question actually, because, I mean, the problem is not all those no money, no transport, etc, It’s actually created as a result of the European, the Western sanctions against Russia. But basically those people who are protesting and helpless and without any means of support, that is the result of something that Europe and and United States and other Western countries did to the country to undermine Putin's regime, right. So the whole idea of the sanctions is that there is no financial support to enable the regime to continue doing what they do in Ukraine. But at the same time, it backfired because now the whole civil society there is without any means of receiving any support. Okay, so what we can do, we can remember history again. Recently I've been having a lot of conversations about it, remember the things before digital, and we should remember that we're old enough to do, I'm certainly old enough to do that. And remember things, when it was still Soviet Union and the border was closed. You know, you couldn't just simply come and go in the country and the dissidents still continued to protest. And the forms of help and the forms of solidarity were there. And of course it was difficult for dissidents to know that they were supported somewhere outside the country. They often knew that when they left the country, when they realized that the support for what they were doing is much bigger than they thought it was, because a lot of them thought they were abandoned. But of course, in the current global world, as we’re in here, although internet is limited, still there are a lot of ways to show support via digital means, at least to, you know, show support for the groups who are there. Because a lot of people I mean, I'm doing quite a lot of work trying to help people who are basically escaping from the police. So they already got arrested and would be facing with the judge or something and they would be fleeing or they already went through all the detentions and got even tortured or beaten up so they had enough and they need some reprieve, you know, so a lot of those people stayed. So what we can do is we can create a system of at least moral support. Sometimes it's very important, right? Moral support is important. The other form is that we can go and disseminate and and spread information about what they're doing. We need to constantly be persistent on our side to tell our colleagues the societies believe that it's not that the Russian population is supporting Putin, do not always account to those. You know, mass media reports say oh, look, they're all supporting Putin, so nothing can be done about it. That is a fake. You know, that’s something which is not true. There are lots of people who don't go in the streets, right. And a lot of them are doing what we call the kitchen talk. And I don't know if you've seen Facebook today? On my Facebook at least Grigory Vaypan is one of those brave lawyers who is still inside the country. And he's a human rights lawyer based in Moscow. So he reposted that finally, we now know what the authorities are thinking about the borders of your freedom. And the borders of freedom is in the kitchen, because the representative of the ministry said, okay, you can discuss whatever you think in your kitchen but not in public. So finally, we have the legal sort of border of that. So we can all return to our kitchens and discuss it there. And we can actually spread our kitchen digitally. Because, I mean, why not if we have a physical kitchen, we can have a digital kitchen as well, but not go public with that. Of course, it's not going to happen if people are going to go public with that. But you know, the way that we, us who have that information out to monitor us, who know us, who are experts, we need to be persistent in continuing to also pass the information to the societies that believe that.. We're here in Finland, but of course, a lot of us are in other places. To show that it's not that the people are supporting Putin. There's a lot of anti-war protest, and ignoring this protest and saying, oh, they’re all for that. For me, it's again, a very problematic way of uncritical thinking. And I don't know, it goes contrary to what European values are. At least you know, what we've been learning European values should be so always have to have a different point of view. And this different point of view and these different sides of presenting information. Euronews, for example, has always prided themselves on that. And suddenly, you know, there is one narrative and this one narrative is that, look, everybody is pro-Putin. Nobody's pro-Putin, that's the point. That's the point. Although some people, of course, who say, yes, it's a military operation. Yes. I mean, there were some Nazis, as of battalions, blah, blah, blah. But actually a lot of people are saying that in a very simple Stockholm syndrome, to protect themselves from truth. And that's the problem again. But they are going to get disillusioned and they will, because that is already very obvious that the propaganda that Putin is maintaining, it's not sustainable. It will not persist. You know, there is, of course, the very specific part of population who watches TV and follows what they say in official channels. But even that part of the population cannot be isolated from the others. Because these are grandmothers, grandfathers, often they hear from their children, from their grandchildren, because there are talks and everybody is talking and the kitchen is working, right. So, I mean, that's the point. And this kitchen would be the locus of, again, the protests and the discussion and disillusionment and understanding of what is happening, So the other problem, of course, here is how this disillusionment and this resistance will end up. It either ends up in a bloodshed, because as I said this government has no qualms to basically use the same tanks against their own population. Or it'll end up in other more creative forms of protests that might actually penetrate even the elites, because that's another issue. It's not Putin personally, who basically is doing all that, he has elites behind him, and those elites also have their own interests. And that's another story as to who has what interest and where and what. To actually sort of look at why the war in Ukraine? Why? Because that is something that the literature has been discussing or mass media has been discussing. But emotions are running high, a lot of these discussions are very emotional, which they should be. And again, coming from feminist and women's perspective, we always sort of blame emotions of women and emotions on things. I mean, now is the time actually to reassess the role of emotions. An this is very good,but at the same time, also, you need to understand the emotions and listen to the emotions. And emotions are coming not just from Ukrainians, they're coming from Russians, too. And a lot of this emotional instability is about this, exactly. Because a lot of people know things are wrong. You cannot go into a neighboring country, which is independent and a completely separate state from yours and basically say ‘we're going to denazify this country’ because, you know, somewhere deep in a in your gut that if they’ve done that, next time they'll try to denazify something else. And then it's even worse than that because it's all at human cost. And resources don’t talk about human cost much, but everybody knows it's a human cost. So that's, you know, so that's the other sort of side of it. And again, what we can do is, so we are here to explain and provide expertise counter-fakes and counter-prejudices and biases that exist. It’s not and then, it's very difficult, because then we are in the position that whenever you try to say something, you might be accused of just supporting the regime. We are not supporting the regime. We are in no way supporting that war. I don't know anybody who does, really genuinely. Who knows what's going on there and says, yeah, sure, you know what? Why don't we do that? I don't know anyone. And I know quite a lot of people and very different people with very different political views, actually. In Russia, I mean. And that is the most important thing to understand. You know, that critical thinking doesn't come at the expense of supporting the war. It comes actually quite from a different perspective. It comes at the expense of not supporting the war. And it comes at the expense of trying to stop it and provide expertise. I don't know who, advisors for the European Union or whoever at whatever are providing our expertise that something could be done also at the international level, but also, of course, from the inside.
AA: What you have said rises to question for me, actually. The first one, you have mentioned that is important to show our moral support for those who stay inside of Russia and who try to protest and resist in various forms. But here is the issue of regulation of Internet in Russia right now. And we have this amazing, let's call it the anti-fake law, the law that people who are providing what is called fakes on Russian armed forces and their action could be detained up to 15 years. And its influence also spreads on the Internet and various social networks. It's the one thing and one dimension. The other dimension is that Internet allows us to create information bubbles around us. So I have absolutely different public in my Vkontakte account and in my Facebook accounts. It's different publics, different talks, different discussions and everything. And I remember how my Ukrainian colleagues told me that it's important to disseminate information on what's going on in Ukraine, not only in Facebook, where you have like these critically thinking, highly educated with liberal values people to Vkontakte, which is more for like a lay population. Not in terms that they are stupid, or their values are not actual values, or so on. But Vkontakte is just more accessible and it has a more diverse public. So my question, whether disseminating information for Russians, for those who stay in Russia to show them our moral support could be practically done through the Internet in a proper way. So where should we show it? In what way? Because since we have this law that any of us face, who holds Russian citizenship, face the possibility of being detained for posting something on Vkontakte or Facebook, or liking some post which is against the Russian war in Ukraine.
MM: Right, it's a very good question again, and it's already been asked of a variety of people. So what can we do to avoid prosecution but also-
AA: And to make it efficient.
MM: And to make it efficient, yeah. So well Kara-Murza was arrested recently, so the younger.. So Vladimir Kara-Murza is this publicist and politician and writer as well, you know, so he's done quite a lot of critical work. So he was arrested precisely for that, he was talking to one of these American states legislatures about the Russian army in Ukraine, and what they've been doing. All the war crimes, you know, and things like that. And he had the guts to return to Moscow and he was arrested. Well, he knew, of course, that that was a real possibility and he still did that. So I keep saying. I know it probably could be construed by others who are inside the country that it's easy for me to say, but it's time to be brave. It's not easy for me to say. It is time for every one of us needs to decide what is right and to which limits of bravery we can go. So for someone Kara-Murza bravery is returning, despite what he has done, and be detained. He is now under arrest for 15 days pending further investigation, and further investigation I can predict would be the official charge with Article 207 on fakes, point three on fakes and he will be pre-detained. So he will be put under arrest as dangerous to society, obviously. And because there is a risk that he could leave the country and he'll probably be prosecuted and although that article is up to 15 years, usually the first sentence is usually three to five, you know, so it rarely goes beyond that. But if he had previous then it could be seven. So 15 is never given on the first trial. So it's usually third or whatever, recidivist charge. So that what's going to happen and I'm pretty sure Kara-Murza understands that, as Navalny understood when he returned despite all the warnings and all the signs that he would be immediately arrested and despite being heavily poisoned and barely surviving the poisoning. and I'm pretty sure that tons of advisors have told them don't come back, you know. But he did and they did it with a purpose of showing. And that's again very important, teaching by example. That it is the right thing to do, you're not hiding in in other countries. So you are going back. Yes, you are arrested. Yes, you go to prison. They understand that. So I'm not saying that everybody has to do that. No, that's not what I'm saying. But I think it's a point for everyone right now to think what they're capable of in terms of what to do, what is the right thing to do and what is the brave thing to do. I've already done quite a lot of things I could be charged with by the Russian. And I still hold citizenship. So it means that at any moment if I go back to Saint Petersburg, they can easily charge me with two or seven due to our Russian law talks especially at the beginning of the conflict and the war. And we continue discussing that, so we're pretty public about it. And my list is still working and a lot of people on my list of development of Russian law program or Russian scholars and Russian lawyers who are in Russia, some of them left to go, but a lot of them stayed so they chose again and that's a very important thing for me. They chose to stay because lawyers are supposed to be there. So it is still a sort of normative legal state and we need to use all the instruments. The law is still there, the courts are still there. I mean, to use all the instruments that are available to you to a fight. And a lot of lawyers who stayed still go to court and protect human rights. They help those who are detained. They look for the detained. As I was talking about, these vans where you hold people. Last time it happened, there was an army of volunteers. A lot of them are law students from big law schools like Moscow state, Saint Petersburg State, who were looking on remote locations for these vans. You know, they did it for free. They didn't do it for credits, they just did it because, again, it's the right thing to do. And they would report that they saw the suspicious van that would be holding. And then lawyers show up, and when the lawyers show up, there's still a procedure to follow. And, you know, you need sort of to follow this procedure because that's how bureaucracy works. And, you know, exploiting that way is also a thing. So I keep saying that it's your choice. It's our choice, right, as citizens as well. As to what limits we want to be brave. And thanks for mentioning Vkontakte. Actually, I started posting in Vkontakte quite a lot. I never posted, my Vkontakte is dead usually and way back when I still worked in Russia, it was years I would use Vkontakte for students because that was a good way to organize student groups and upload materials because Russian universities wouldn't provide any support. We didn't have any Moodle or anything like that, so Vkontakte actually served as this educational platform for students. At least I used it like this. And of course I have tons and tons of students from previous years. I don't know, hundreds and thousands who are still subscribers of these groups and subscribers to my account because they never leave voluntarily this group. So they just forget to do that. Obviously, my wall in Vkontakte is usually a lot of my students, you know, putting pictures, somewhat dubious, or you know, talking about their love lives, you know, something like that. Which like, please, you know, just leave or I'm going to kick you out because I don't need to know about your love life. But these days, I realized it's a great resource because once I actually started posting information, I'm still (-), so I'm of course not posting anything on there because that's another problem. Students repost and the younger generation, they repost and they could be liable for reposting and they are inside the country. While I can still sort of be pretty safe in here, they might be in a situation. And of course, Vkontakte is heavily monitored by the FSB. There's a special branch of FSB that does digital security. And so there’s that and surveillance of course. So I've been very careful about how and what I post so that they wouldn't if they even report so that they wouldn't be immediately, you know, shut down the prosecutes or things like that. But at the same time I'm vocal enough so I do not mince words. I don't say it's a conflict, I say it's a war. I don't use all this-
MM: Yes, exactly. Which some of my colleagues who are inside the country had been doing, you know, saying okay, we're back to Soviet times. Look, you know, we know how to do that because we remember how. Well I decided I'm not going to do that. But at the same time, I sort of try not to call upon them to go to the streets, to resist, etc. because that is the consequence for them rather than for me. I’ve already have a long list probably, I'm a lost cause. But, I cannot put them in danger and that's my responsibility. Probably because I'm a woman, right? Because I worked a lot in the women's feminist studies, because this type of responsibility is like emotional labor we do, etc. But willingly, I cannot just say ‘let's all go to the streets and fight the regime’. I could see… Because for the younger generation, of course, that is something that they would do and that could end up, you know, not in a good way. So if they choose to do that, they choose to do that on their own, because everybody has to make that choice on their own. What to do. And that's an important thing because, of course, their choice is individual and we keep forgetting that we wanted Russia always to be like individualized, right? We always blame Russia for collectivity, for passivity in the collective. But right now is the time when you have to acknowledge that every person has a right to make their choices. His, her or they, or their, choices to go to the streets or not, or to choose another form of resistance. To use the kitchen as your platform or to go public with your platform, to do picket or to do something else. To repost, to tell, and everybody is talking about this truth word. Which truth is problematic, right? Philosophically speaking or even in reality, what you call ‘we need to tell the truth’ is difficult. Well, we need to tell what we have evidence of going on and that's plenty, thank god. You know, so we have plenty of video and other types of evidence of both crimes committed, infrastructure ruined-
MM: The behavior, you know, the tests, et cetera. We can do that. So my position in here, is that solidarity with those who are fighting goes beyond just to say ‘we support you’. We can do something for our colleagues and for those who chose to stay and fight. And that could show them that they're not alone. That is the worst thing that can happen when you are fighting and you feel that you are alone, right. It shouldn't be like that, because solidarity is in this. Solidarity is when you show that you are not alone and you don't leave people abandoned, because then it's very difficult for them to continue a meaningful fight.
AA: I'm thinking about in this regard, I'm thinking about this discussions I faced on Facebook regarding this peaceful, silent protest. For instance, some people left small Play-Doh people everywhere in the city in the colors of Ukrainian flag. And then some critics told us that it's nonsense. It has no sense. It's stupid, it childish, it has no effect, so no point in doing it. While some feminist activists pointed out that it's some kind of symbol from one victim to another that you are not alone. And my question is still whether we can go beyond this showing the support? Or how practically useful these supports could be for those who are resisting the regime from the inside? Because as many people notice, it's quite easy to support someone, being in a safe space with no threat of detention or violence from the police or anything. And I don't know the answer for this question or what to think.
MM: Yeah. And again, we're back to that freedom of choice, right? So it's a big philosophical question. And again, Russia is this country where everybody sort of agrees that's authoritarian country. You actually don't have a freedom to choose. You haven't had it. You haven't had it probably since the late nineties. But even in the nineties, there's this illusion that nineties were this great time with the democracy movement. It wasn't. Come on. I mean, you have to open up your eyes and you have to call it for what it was. It was really almost a guerilla state. And we survived just because everybody shut down, really looked and used and made choices. Not made choices, you know, they were not really choices, you couldn't do. We survived into this whatever stability or whatever Putin provided. But then, of course, it was very obvious at the beginning that it wasn't really leading to any good. And, because once the first reform came, which was, as you remember, the reform of the administrative system where governors were now appointed but not elected in this region, so the heads of each region. That was the first sign. And I remember that debate when part of the, it was a legal debate, I was at the school of law, of course. So that was part of a legal debate. And men mostly would say, oh, this is a good thing because it's such a- I mean look, so much disarray, whatever, people don't know what they're doing. And they were also very arrogant towards people saying, oh, well, look, it's this uneducated whatever, they just vote because they're given money from these crime bosses, blah, blah, blah. And then those crime bosses elected governors and that's it. And there was a part of us who, and I just got back from the states to build, of course, New Russia. You know, I was young and not very stupid, but, you know, but I was idealistic-
MM: Yes, naïve. So that we could be that, you know..I was like, no, no, it doesn't work this way. You need elections! Even if they elect a crime boss with all the whatever, et cetera, the most important thing is that they learn how to choose and that they learn to go and actually participate in elections. And yes, let it be crime boss next time, probably is going to be somebody else.
AA: A priest.
MM: Yeah, a priest or whatever, manipulating anything. It’s not the same thing about Putin. Every time the election comes the whole discourse is like, ‘but there's no one else, I mean, look, there's no one else, and that's why we vote for Putin’, right? There's always somebody else. In the last elections, I think we had four other candidates. ‘But they're not really candidates’ Yes, they are. The whole point of democracy to just vote for somebody else. That's it. Just to interrupt this chain of authoritarian presence if your leader doesn't want to step down. So that's the point and I think 11/12 protest actually showed that, when people really wanted to vote for Prokhorov I think it was. I mean a lot of people did. And there was this other discourse, ‘But Putin is stable’, and that's the point. The point is to remember that it's not just a Russian thing, or whatever, that Putin was stable. A lot of international presence and countries, EU and the US at the time, thought about Putin. ‘But we know Putin, he's stable. Nobody hell knows about this country. And because they have nuclear weapons, let us have the guy who is who we know.’ But that's the problem. Things changed since 2012, it's ten years. The whole leadership in Europe changed. And the leadership in the United States changed. I mean, Biden at least has been around the block, which is very strange for me how he behaves. But you know at least in Europe, we have a totally new generation of politicians, due to, of course, democracy and all that. And that generation of politicians can't find the common ground with Putin. And it was very obvious in those negotiations leading up to the Ukraine war, and of course now.
Now back to the question of what we can do in a meaningful way to support and show our solidarity. Now, first of all, when you do what we call the toy protest or the small protest, it is a great thing to do. And then we're back to the freedom of choice. Everybody has to have that freedom of choice to protest the way they feel meaningful, safe, responsible, etc. I think we are on the wrong foot when we always expect people to behave a certain way and we now expect Russians to behave. So what do you think Russians need to do? What do you think is going to be efficient for all of them showing up?
MM: Yeah, rise and, you know, take up arms or disarm the police and go marching onto Kreml or whatever other buildings they have in their cities.
AA: What is wished by many people and many Russians.
MM: Exactly. But that's the old sort of understanding of the fault of the protest, because they are now trapped. They can't really do that. They don't know how to do that. They've never done it. They have an illusion of knowing, back to the revolution of 1917 because they studied that at school, but really there is no experience of taking up arms and marching against the Kreml or White House or whatever other Smolny you have in there. Seriously, because we grew up already in a totally different form of political organization of the protest. So there should be meaningful forms of the protest that lead to that. But which form? And because we're denied that choice, if you don't do that then you are blamed ‘oh, you put the silly figures’ or something, or ‘you just put the flowers to this, you know-
AA: Unknown soldiers
MM: Unknown soldiers grave, yeah. So you're not protesting enough, you're not shouting, you're not accusing Putin that he is a killer, blah, blah, blah. Well, sure, you can do that as well. You know, a lot of people do, actually. Not many Russians because it's really now criminal, it's a different article. We have another one which was actually introduced way back in in 2018 which is the slander against the government officials of the president and that's another criminal article and all that. Yeah, but some people do that. I mean Kara-Murza did that in prison, but again, he did it, and that's what I respect about it, knowing exactly what would be the consequence and having his freedom of choice. So my position is here that everybody has a right to choose how to protest and it's nobody’s moral right. Especially Europeans, to tell them that you have to go kill yourself basically and get yourself killed to reach or to show that you've done something for Ukraine. At the same time, when it comes from Ukrainians because they survived Maidan. And that was quite a violent, as we remember in 2014, form of the protest that Ukrainians took up. I can take it from them. Because Ukraine-
AA: Oh, okay.
MM: I will take it from them because the Ukrainians at least did try and they did it in a very old form of the protest. They tried, there was a peaceful protest that ended up in a very violent way. Whatever the research or assessment of this, was it a provocation, whoever was there, was it Russia, whatever. But anyway, at least I can take it from them in a sense that they've been through that. But that's the lesson we learned. They've been through that. Did it do any good to them except for people lost? Well, it certainly created a heroic narrative of the protest. But then in the end, aren't we supposed to learn these lessons? Or if we are not supposed to learn these lessons and just follow the ways in which we get killed to try to change the regime and get a heroic status for that, but then what's the efficiency of it then? So does it really work in the end?
AA: But it has its own result and it has consequences. We cannot say that Maidan didn't do anything to the regime in Ukraine and it has no-
MM: Oh no, I didn't say that. No, of course I didn’t mean that. Surely, Maidan was an important event for Ukraine, and that demonstrated also the willingness of Ukrainians to fight for their future. And a future without Russia, which is important for Ukraine and also for other countries. And I respect that choice a lot because they've done something that other countries sort of were reluctant to do, and sort of continue to stay on good terms with Russia. Belarus is a good example, right. It's very difficult for them, although Belarussians also admirably tried to, it all ended up really badly for them-
AA: And it seems that Lukashenko took the lesson really well from Ukraine unfortunately-
MM: Unfortunately, yeah. So that’s what happens. But Ukrainians showed this admirable ability to take choices in their own hands and to fight for the future without Russians in it. And so when they told Russians, you know, why don't you rise up, etc. because Ukrainians did that, we shall take it from them. You know, because they have the moral right to do that. But when Europeans tell us that, they don't have any moral right because they haven't taken arms since, I don't know, the French revolution. At the end, whatever, 1848 probably was the last time, we know the Paris Commune in -71 and then probably revolutions since -70. But it's been a long, long time since they actually tried to disarm their government, resist their government or to resist their dictator. Even if you think about Franco, and other historical events. But it's been time, so it's difficult. And as I said, you know, in the end solidarity is not just about us here with Russians who are fighting, but solidarity also should be between those who are fighting against Putin. And that I think is a meaningful solidarity because fighting against an authoritarian government requires also allies beyond that government and national allies here should be Ukrainians because they're also doing exactly the same thing. They're fighting against an authoritarian government, which is obviously Putin and his elites and those who are ruling in. And so in a very natural way for me the anti-war resistance and Ukrainians resisting the war should actually be allies and supporting each other and have a possibility to organize this united front against the authoritarian government and Putin and his elites. And then probably that's where success would lie in the end of this. Because otherwise, you know, if they are divided and they are divided right now, that means that they're fighting sort of each other and they're fighting in divided way the same thing but differently and not, sort of, pulling together resources to do that.
AA: But here is my last question to end up the discussion about what we can do and what are the possibilities for us if Ukrainians don't want to solidarize with us. And I'm thinking whether the Swedish scenario in regard of criminalization of sex service customers would work, when many feminist organizations actually acted the same way as very traditionalist, patriarchal organizations promoting these old school traditional values. And they succeeded actually, in enacting this law criminalizing the purchase of sex services. So is there any small possibility of us, even if we do not solidarize with Ukrainians, to resist the regime in a successful way?
MM: Well, we are resisting, right? And I think that what we do is resisting still in a successful way. Because we are here, we are still alive, we are more or less safe, we do have resources. So we can actually invest these resources into…When Russians can’t speak, so we are the voice, we can speak, we can, you know, remind, we can continue to expose this regime for what it is. We continue to do the minimal work. At the same time, I wouldn't give up on Ukrainians not wanting. Of course, the emotions are running really high right now. And I do understand their reluctance and their first sort of reaction to Russians. And you can't really reach Putin, right, you can't really reach all those who are there in the elite. But you can, you know, lash out at the closest to you, and the closest to you is your friend, your colleague, your even family member who is Russian.
AA: Who most probably support this in some way, if we take a look at the statistics so.
MM: Well, probably. But I've heard a lot of, I mean, I'm the one who has zero connections with Ukraine. But as you know, my family originates from Georgia, from Tbilisi. And they have been in this situation, when Tbilisi got bombed, Tskhinvali was completely destroyed, my grandmother died in this bombing, not from the bomb but from the lack of medical help, because it was all ruined. And back at the time, it was interesting to me, that Georgians, actually, and I'm the one I mean, I’m mixed blood, you know, so the other parts of my family, my mom's Russian-Finnish from St Petersburg. And the meaningful, way back at the time, Georgians were very angry with Russians, and I had to go for my grandmothers funeral. My family almost ostracized me. And there were a lot of incrimination and accusations, and my sister back at the time, my cousin but we call them sisters, right. She told me that only by blood I could alleviate all the wrongs. It was a very difficult conversation for me, but the lesson that we've learned that we found a way back to each other. So we talk back and, you know, whenever I got this incri-, I never said a word. You know, that was my position because, I mean, Russia was in the wrong, so what could I say? I mean, I was the one who would be running in, it was ASEEES’ conference, which was the American association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, but now Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. And back at the time, I remember I arrived to the conference, it was a hundred panels of praising Putin. How clever he is that he stepped down, how that's true democracy. And Medvedev, how great he is as a young president who's, you know, rebuilding Russia, and that we have this bright future. And some of us were running around saying, wait a minute, what happened to Georgia? That was like war crimes, you know. And a hundred of white men, you know, older than 30, which wasn't even old enough for me, you know, so older than 30, patronized me saying ‘oh, hysterical women. What gender? Femi-? Come on. Well, seriously, you just don't get it, you know.’ This is a Russian sphere of interest, because they just joined NATO, they were offered to join NATO. ‘It's obviously what they do, you know. But no, let's talk about oil, gas and politics.’ And this minor incident never happened. And back at the time, there were a lot of fear on behalf of the Ukrainians who said, wait a minute, there were two countries offered membership in NATO. One Georgia, and the other one is Ukraine. And so Ukraine is next in line. ‘Don’t be daft, of course it's not in line, I mean, it's a totally different relationship between Russia and Ukraine. It's a lot of race.’ Well, Caucasus is Caucasus, but then Ukraine, of course, is this other Slavic, big, whatever. And this whole discourse about brotherly, you know, that there is nothing-
MM: Patronizing going on. It's a separate independent state. And that I think they don't get, a lot of people. And again, we have a lot of talks about colonization, decolonization, Russian imperialism. And I want to finish with that all this war is in your hat, you know, paraphrasing Professor Preobrazhensky from Bulgakov’s famous “Dog’s heart”. You know, it is in your hat, it's not you know, as far as we have war in our hats, we completely immediately resorted to the war mode. Did you notice, as a society it was just an easy thing to do. As far as we do, we probably will still use war as a means of settling disputes. And as women and as feminists, you know, that's what our job is as well, you know, so we need to start steering everyone into peace building and to thinking meaningfully about how we stop that. And also, solidarity is important here because we need to also have a dialog with Ukrainian feminists who've done a lot. And they've had this admirable development and feminist-
AA: They’re great.
MM: You know, much better than we did in Russia, because at some point in Russia, everybody just stopped using feminism and gender and decided to use men and women because, you know, it wasn't trendy enough. Which I always criticized, and I always thought that they sold out, those people who did that, they sold out. So we'll have that meaningful conversation. Probably not right now, but we need to be patient because we need to remember that they're hurting and we can't do anything so far to alleviate that, because there's no capacity for us to just.. I don't know, miracles might happen. Let's hope that Putin will have a heart attack or somebody drops something on him or something, you know. But we can't, realistically speaking, is not going to happen. But as I said, in my personal experience, we started talking again. It goes, I'm not saying it heals. It probably never heals, but it could be you know, we could start talking in a meaningful way.
AA: Thank you very much for this inspiring ending, and I wish you all the best.
MM: Thank you Anna for inviting me. It's good to talk. And I think we need to talk-
MM: Yes, more.
AA: Okay, thank you so much. Thank you.