Letter From the Editors

Kirill Martynov writes admiringly of the defiance shown by Alla Pugacheva and her husband, Maksim Galkin, who left Russia in protest over the Ukraine war. She made headlines again recently, after the Justice Ministry put Galkin on the notorious “foreign agents” list, by requesting to have her name added as well. To Martynov, Pugacheva is “a key symbol of post-Soviet reality and even a kind of political institution for a depoliticized society. . . . In the incalculable accounting of social capital, Pugacheva may be the only person with more influence in Russia than Vladimir Putin, who is just another minor leader in her era.”

            Many commentators would call this hyperbolic, but Yulia Latynina would certainly agree that today’s Russians are depoliticized. She quotes Kremlin-speechwriter-turned-pundit Abbas Gallyamov as saying: “A totalitarian regime demands that all of its citizens be involved in politics. By contrast, an authoritarian regime makes citizens passive, forcing them to stay away from politics.” This is just the message that the Putin regime has been sending for decades, argues Latynina, but that is all about to change with the national military mobilization just announced by the Russian president.

            Putin’s decree, published in Nezavisimaya gazeta, orders “[t]hat conscription into military service be carried out among citizens of the Russian Federation for mobilization in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Citizens . . . conscripted into military service through the mobilization shall have the status of military personnel serving under contract in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

            Thus, Latynina writes, “practically every family in Russia has been confronted with the fact that the head of the family – a brother, a father, a son – could be killed near Lugansk at any moment.”

            Speaking of which, millions of residents of eastern Ukraine are about to become political whether they like it or not. Four regions – the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, and “liberated” areas of Zaporozhye and Kherson Provinces – have been scheduled to take part in public referendums Sept. 23-27 to decide whether they wish to become part of the Russian Federation. The final day is designated for voting at polling places, but during the first four days residents can enjoy “at-home” voting, meaning that electoral commission members (not only from Ukraine, but volunteers from Russia too) will go door-to-door with ballot boxes. Quite the model for democracy – practically served up on a platter!

            And yet the leaders of NATO and the EU have decided in advance not to recognize the results of these plebiscites. Here are choice words in response from Federation Council deputy chair Konstantin Kosachov: “The American Declaration of Independence spoke of a situation where ‘in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume . . .  [a] separate and equal station.’ This was considered justified when the states were freeing themselves from the dominion of the British crown, but it is denied to those who do not wish to live under the repressive nationalism of the Kiev regime. In this context, Russia’s special military operation is . . . a guarantee of the exercise of individuals’ democratic rights.”

            Despite this high-minded ideal, statistics from various countries neighboring Russia indicate that hundreds of thousands of men have already left the country to avoid mobilization. Émigré writer Boris Akunin, who voiced support for them and their families, says that it’s now crucial to foster “solidarity between those who left and those who stayed. . . . Judging by events, the situation will only get worse for the people who are left under Putin’s rule. They will be in desperate need of psychological, financial and administrative assistance.” Ms. Pugacheva, your inimitable voice may be more important now than ever before!