khrushcheva166_OLGA MALTSEVAAFP via Getty Images_russiawarprotest Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images

How Russians Fight

With the full force of the security state breathing down their necks, ordinary Russians are unable to protest against the Ukraine war en masse. But evidence of covert resistance to the Kremlin's narrative about the war can be found everywhere.

MOSCOW – During World War II, the iconic American film director Frank Capra created a documentary series entitled “Why We Fight.” Originally produced by the US Department of War as a training film, the theatrical release was meant to convince Americans that the anti-Hitler coalition warranted their support, and that the defeat of the Nazis directly served American interests. The project was a success, though it is impossible to measure the film’s impact precisely. In the Soviet Union, another major party to the fight, the public needed no such convincing as the battle for survival was happening on their own territory.

That is not the case with Russia’s war against Ukraine. The Kremlin certainly wants to portray its “special military operation” as a patriotic endeavor. But far from chanting the WWII slogan, “Our fight is just; victory will be ours,” many Russians are wondering why they are fighting at all.

In a January poll, some 25% of respondents – and over 60% of city-dwellers and younger people – reported that they do not support the war. Only 27% of young people surveyed voiced their support. This is notable in a country where expressing doubts about the government’s actions can land you on a “foreign agents” list, or worse.

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