op_michnik3_MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVSPUTNIKAFP via Getty Image MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Image

Insider Interview

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Putin’s Historic Blunder

By abandoning all reason and transforming his country into an international pariah overnight, Vladimir Putin has confirmed that modern Russia is built on lies, blind obedience, and violence. The great irony is that he has even managed to fool himself.

After interviewing Adam Michnik just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Irena Grudzińska Gross of the Polish Academy of Sciences followed up with the Polish historian, editor, and former dissident on May 19. Together, they explored Michnik’s evolving opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the historical and cultural roots of the Kremlin’s neo-imperial project, and the international response to the war.

Irena Grudzińska Gross: When we spoke in early February, three weeks before Putin launched his war of aggression in Ukraine, you argued very convincingly that the invasion would not happen ...

Adam Michnik: It turns out that life doesn’t adhere to even the most logical thinking.

IGG: Why did you think so?

AM: It was based on straightforward reasoning about the situation. As you know, I have met Putin several times, and he made a good impression on me at first. He was matter of fact, eschewing newspeak and Soviet clichés. He answered questions. He was no liberal, of course, but he seemed like a man who wanted to continue former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s policy while also reforming it. It is worth remembering that it was Yeltsin who basically annihilated Bolshevism as the dominant force and political project in Russia.

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