Letter From the Editors

This week Lithuania banned the transit of Russian goods subject to EU sanctions through its territory and into and out of Kaliningrad Province. Anton Alikhanov, the exclave’s governor, called the move “an attempt to strangle the region” and said officials are scrambling to put more ferries into service to transport the banned goods by sea. Roskosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, who was Putin’s representative to transit talks between the EU, Russia and Lithuania in the early 2000s, explained that Russia reciprocated Lithuania’s agreement to allow transit between “mainland” Russia and Kaliningrad by recognizing its state borders, and he ominously warned that “the EU must now understand the consequences of its suicidal decision for the legitimacy of its own eastern border.” Although presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the ban “an element of a blockade,” Josep Borrell said that “there is no blockade” and that “Lithuania is not to blame for anything here. It is implementing the EC guidelines.”

Russia’s apparent desire to charge Lithuania with attempted murder-suicide comes as no surprise considering the topic of Svetlana Stephenson’s article for Novaya gazeta. Stephenson argues that the war in Ukraine is “the result of a long process of replacing the logic of development and life with the logic of destruction and death – the logic of necropolitics.” This process began with Bolotnaya Square and continued with the rehabilitation of rulers like Stalin and Ivan the Terrible, who “willfully squandered their own populations and left behind unprecedented depopulation.” An obvious example of necropolitical rule today is the DPR/LPR, which, “contrary to the expectations of many patriots, did not come to embody the success of the ‘Russian world,’ but [instead] turned into poorly managed criminal zones with corrupt authorities, depressed economies, and impoverished and deprived populations.”

Meanwhile, Kiev’s hopes for a new hold on life were buoyed this week by news that it is one step closer to EU membership. However, there are still seven “tasks” that Ukraine needs to address before it can move forward in the process. These include tackling that same rampant corruption seen in the DPR/LPR, improving the work of institutions and, perhaps most controversially, dealing with the “lack of balance in language policy.” It’s unlikely Ukrainians will be willing to give the Russian language a place in national life after Russia unleashed its brutal war, so what at first seemed like a promise of imminent EU membership now looks more like a token gesture.

As political life hangs by a thread in many countries, concerns about corporeal life are also front and center. One question in particular is: What will happen after Putin succumbs? In a column for The Moscow Times about life after Putin, Tatyana Stanovaya looks at several possibilities. The outcome, she says, depends on the state of Putinism: “The ‘healthier’ the anti-Western, antiliberal, conservative ideology is when Putin shuffles off this mortal coil, the more likely it is that the elite will strive to keep things as they are – or tighten the screws. But, if things are falling apart politically and economically, general disaffection is on the rise, the establishment opposition has managed to revive and Putinism as an idea is in decay, the chances of Russia ending up with a reforming – albeit weak – president will be much higher.”

However things end up politically, we can take comfort knowing that culture will endure as a unifier of humankind. Or will it? In an interview with Rossiiskaya gazeta, Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky lobbed charges of “cancel culture” at the West and asserted that Russia would never “tear up” bilateral cultural agreements. However, Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that Russia is indeed tearing up exchange agreements with the West and “could set Russian culture, science and education back 30 years.”

But the cancellation and dying can’t go on forever: They will eventually become too much to take, and that’s when we will see some form of rebirth and renewal.