A week into Putin’s regime change war, Evgenia and I sit down to talk about our thoughts on what’s happening and about what we’re hearing from friends and family in Russia. On one side, it’s clear there are a lot of people totally backing Putin’s “humanitarian intervention” — for instance, my mom’s childhood friend in St. Petersburg screamed at her that “Putin is God” and that “he’s saving the Russian people.” On the other, a lot of Russians are shocked and totally terrified by what’s happening, and a good number of people are fleeing as best they can to wherever they can — Georgia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Turkey, European countries.
It’s obvious this war is splitting society in a big way. And Putin’s propagandists are working overtime, using the only thing that still sort of binds Russia together: a kind of aggrieved nationalism and the memory of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
In a way, this regime change war is brining to conclusion a societal split that began in earnest in 2011 — when Putin turned his back on big city liberals and started pumping up support among Russia’s silent majority. Or, as Evgenia puts it, what’s emerged now is a coalition of ruling elite vampires and the “zombies” that Russian liberals love to mock. Operation Z.
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