Like Muscovites, I spend this summer at the dacha. In 2022, more people than in previous years will be resting in our village, located near the former Obiralovka Junction, where Lev Tolstoy threw Anna Karenina under a train (women leave bouquets on the memorial plaque on the platform, thinking Anna is Anna. a real victim of unhappy love and not a fictional character). One reason why so many people is the development of the Internet; Many people continue to work remotely, which they started doing during the pandemic. In addition, almost everyone who normally vacations abroad will spend the summer of 2022 in Russia due to international sanctions.
The “special operation” in Ukraine that began on February 24 has greatly changed the lives of Russians, especially members of the middle class, intellectuals, and people who worked in the government.
When Western sanctions were imposed on Russia, almost all major international companies and their subsidiaries left the country, leaving thousands of professionals without work. Russian experts, doctors, musicians, and athletes are being expelled from international clubs and universities and banned from concerts and competitions, while at the same time colleges and universities have closed with Russian educational institutions in international cooperation programs and student exchanges. The iron curtain fell heavily from both sides. The new laws and regulations made it impossible to discuss politics in public, and all independent media were closed or decided to close.
The list of “foreign agents” was often expanded to include new names of journalists and human rights activists—a process aided by protests from “citizens,” a forgotten Soviet practice. long. According to data from human rights organizations, by mid-summer nearly 200 online and offline public websites were banned and more than 150 criminal cases and more than 200 Administrative case initiated under new laws on whistleblowing and defamation of the military. Thousands of activists, journalists, and information experts have left the country, finding themselves in a difficult, untenable situation: Russian banks are under As punishment, they cannot use their credit cards or transfer money from Russia. At the same time, people in small towns or poor areas, or those who work for the state, or those who don’t go out or care about politics don’t know. see important changes. Prices have gone up, but not by much. Poor families and small pensioners (but known to them) received state grants and other benefits. It should be said that in Russia there are very different sources of information, even other blocked resources, through the easy access of a virtual private network (VPN rights are free and not criminal – the will be punished as the publication of sensitive information). But far from all are interested in other ideas.
This spring, authors Natalya Zabarevich and Yevgeny Gonmakher predicted that “special action” and sanctions will affect the middle class, educated, and pro-West. The poor will remain poor, while the rich and the rulers will continue in their positions. The founder of the Yabloko page, Grigory Yavlinsky, pointed out the danger of economic growth. Today it seems that class differences are important. Three strata of society live in different worlds, experiencing events in their own way.
Our dacha community has representatives of all three classes. My businessman friend is building a second “house” on his lot. Before 2014, he was in oil products, but after the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, he changed to the introduction of a substitute and the production of “Russian Parmesan.” His wife continues to buy real Italian cheese in Europe. His children live in Spain, and he visits them. He believes that Russia has no choice but to start “action” in Ukraine.
It is the only house in the community. Prices for building materials, many of which are imported, have tripled. Prices for cars, appliances, and appliances have gone up.
Prices, medicines, and essentials have not increased significantly. Store shelves are stocked as before. The predicted failures did not occur in the spring. Some brands closed their stores, but cosmetics and clothing quickly appeared in other stores—at much higher prices. However, the desire continues, and people are spending. Restaurants in Moscow are full and you can’t get in without a reservation. McDonald’s and Starbucks may have left Russia, but they have been replaced by Russian restaurants with different names and similar products. The Russians have become big buyers in recent years, and the authorities understand that. Delivery services work well in our community.
The businessman’s wife was given cosmetics and other mysterious packages, while his handyman, an old electrician from a neighboring village, received beer and country prints. He strongly supports “special action” in Ukraine and sometimes calls on fellow drinkers at the local bar to go “fight the Nazis.” His wife, a veterinarian, leader of the local animal rights movement, who has been involved in protests in recent years, was sentenced for an anti-war picket. Men and women do not discuss politics. They spend all their money on the training of their youngest son—he is the Russian champion in karate and hopes that the sanctions will be lifted soon and he can participate in the Olympic Games. coming. Their son, a computer engineer, moved to Georgia when the war began.
My old friends at the dacha – writers, doctors, teachers, engineers – and our long evening talks this summer remind me of what the Soviet intelligentsia, our parents, during the Brezhnev “stagnation” years. We discuss the latest news and comments on the Internet, every evening we talk about what happened to our country, how we lost what we fought for in August 1991 and the next 30 years, and how to live now. It’s about how we end the conversations from 30 years ago that were not seen in the Soviet era. Because it’s never too late to do it. What each of us—in college, business, school—can do to prevent the return of totalitarianism. After all, history depends not only on world forms but also on real people. Perestroika It was not only done by Gorbachev and Reagan but also by millions of Soviet people who believed in change and Gorbachev was inspired. Like Americans who believed the Cold War would end. That understanding of resistance to totalitarianism is very important today. Like 300 years of protest by Russian intellectuals, journalists, and writers against censorship and injustice. It gives strength. The experience of resisting bans, censorship, and state pressure is returning to Russian work, and will certainly lead to the victory of common opinion. This is what my dacha friends say, as well as many others in Moscow and other Russian cities. This gives us hope.
Translated by Antonina W. Bouis