May 01, 2023

Grappling Hooks

“Of course, I despise my fatherland from head to foot,
   but I feel upset when a foreigner shares my feelings.”
– Alexander Pushkin

We must grapple with some difficult contradictions.

First, we conclude that this is “Putin’s War,” the horrific scheme of a solitary tyrant. Yet we shrink from blaming the people or society from which Putin arose, the people that continue to support the president in droves. Is it because we don’t want to face this truth, to look squarely at the centuries of Russian imperialism and aggression? Do we fear implicating those Russians we know personally, the warm memories we have of interacting with this culture, this literature, this society?

Second, we place hope in the idea that, when President and Indicted War Criminal Vladimir Putin passes, this war shall pass. Yet, again, this defies logic. One man does not begin a war such as this without an elite, or a large section of that elite behind him. There is still ample support for this war in the halls of the Kremlin and, despite the elite infighting revealed in the recent leak of US classified documents (which mainly seems to show disputes over how to conduct the war, not whether to), it is not logical to assume that, were Putin to disappear tomorrow, Russia would sue for peace.

The purpose of our magazine is to understand Russia and Russians. And that means grappling with these contradictions. It means printing the words of those brave enough to resist, telling the stories of Russians struggling to maintain hope, of those who “light a little spark here, a little there.” In doing this, we cling to the optimism of Russians quoted in this issue that “totalitarian regimes are never so strong as just before their fall,” and that “the freedom that will emerge will be the kind you get only from a spring that being tightly coiled, explodes with such a force there’s nothing left of it.”

Yet hope and optimism alone cannot dispel these contradictions. Which means we must continue writing, reporting, and publishing this magazine for some time to come.

We have plenty more to understand and share.

But let us also be frank about the realities of publishing and print in the twenty-first century: it is neither cheap nor easy. Continuing Russian Life over the long haul will take far more than the income received from subscriptions. We will need to be creative and tenacious to puzzle this out, to keep gathering and sharing these stories. So we welcome the input and contributions of those with a similarly tenacious bent, or those who accept, as we do, that understanding Russia is both a long road, and one worth traveling.

To quote a subject in this issue, “you defeat the road by walking it.”

Notes from the Illustrator about this issue's cover:

Cover of magazine“All I know about Putin makes me think that his biggest issue is that he didn’t manage to grow up emotionally. He is a cruel little boy with an inferiority complex. He has no personal taste, he just surrounds himself with the most expensive stuff, he keeps his mistresses (Krivonogikh and Kabaeva) like dolls hidden somewhere in bunkers and luxury apartments, he plays with peoples lives like we’re all toy soldiers. He avoids responsibility and forces others (Shoigu or Surovikin) to announce unpopular decisions and failures. I think that he has parental issues and Stalin might be his paternal figure.”

The End. Or just the beginning?

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