What is Russia Getting at?

On April 26, a meeting with Piotr Swieciński – a historian, journalist and diplomat, author of the book entitled “The End of the Russian “Mir”? On the Ideological Sources of Russian Aggression” took place in our school. As an introduction, the guest told about impressions of his stays in Moscow in 2011 and 2019. The changes were visible to the naked eye: numerous modernizations in the city space, or the mutual friendliness of the inhabitants. The way of life of Muscovites resembled that of the cities of western Europe. It seemed that Russia was westernizing, until February 24, 2022, the moment of the beginning of Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine. The director of the Polish Institute in Moscow, together with a group of Polish diplomats, was expelled from Russia and then wrote a book in which he analyzed the Russian state of mind. The current Russian regime sees the West as an enemy that wants to take over their natural resources, and considers Ukrainians as traitors and an internal enemy. Russian society misses the greatness of the Soviet Union and its social face, and has bad memories of the chaos of the late 20th century: the insolvency of state-owned enterprises, the brutal struggle for goods, high crime rates. According to the West, a weakened Russia, together with the historical success of the liberal democratic system, was to cease to be a problem in the world. When Putin came to power and took advantage of the raw material boom, he brought stability, solvency of state-owned companies and built a completely different kind of narrative. Currently, Putin has a strong position and is basically the autocrat. Some oligarchs want a return to the state from before the war, but the society, although they do not show any enthusiasm or military determination, rather sympathetically support the conquest of Ukraine, fearing only their own , personal involvement. At the same time, public disillusionment with the results of the war is not yet high enough. The Russians do not forgive their leaders for external weakness. The necessary condition for a retreat from aggression is a severe defea. For China, the situation of engaging American forces in Europe and a kind of dependence of Russia on the Middle Kingdom is also quite beneficial. There is no unambiguous answer to the question about the chance of democratizing Russia, because Russia has its own democratic traditions, but always in a minority dimension. Moscow sees itself as the “Third Rome”, as the vanguard of goodness, and therefore desires the role of hegemon in the world.

(text: Beata Ciacek; photo: Beata Ciacek