Aimar Ventsel: The misfortune of good Russians

Aimar Ventsel.
Aimar Ventsel. Source: Ken Mürk

The position of a "good Russian" consists of shifting responsibility onto Europe. Europe must help and support us, while it is also to blame. There are people in Russia who find that moral responsibility for Russia's actions in Ukraine rests with Russian residents, Aimar Ventsel finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

I recently caught Ksenia Sobchak's interview with Filipp Loss. Ksenia Sobchak is a Russian pseudo-oppositionist. She was a public figure in Russia, known for her glamorous lifestyle and love of exclusive restaurants. Until she opened her own chain of cafes.

At some point, Sobchak started taking an interest in politics and became an opposition activist. She did so from a very safe position. Being Russian President Vladimir Putin's god-daughter meant that nothing bad would happen to her.

But then, something very peculiar happened. Ksenia Sobchak started a YouTube channel where she sometimes criticized Russian opposition members who escaped to Israel. For those in the dark, a lot of people have left Russia since February. Until Ksenia Sobchak left herself, courtesy of her Israeli citizenship.

Let us move on. Her interview with Filipp Loss is interesting for another reason. I fully believe that beloved theater director Loss is a perfectly nice person. But the interview sheds light on something else. The so-called good Russian position.

The start of Russia's aggression in Ukraine also birthed the concept of "good Russians." They are Russian residents who spoke out against the Putin regime but did so in a peculiar way. I would recommend everyone who speaks Russian listen to the interview. It reflects the typical "good Russian" position.

First, Loss claims that he has lived in Estonia for five years and likes it here. Why not. Next we learn that despite his time here, he knows very little about Estonia. Loss says that Estonia is concentrating on the past and not the future. Which is not strictly true. Debates concerning the green transition, major construction works, benefits and other topics have been raging for years. However, all of it has passed Filipp Loss by living in his bubble. It is colonial attitude really, spending years living in a country while taking no interest in it whatsoever.

But truly typical are accusations Loss levels against Europe. That Europe is not helping Russia and Russians. Foreign Affairs recently published an article by former Russian diplomat Boriss Bondarev. The latter worked at the UN office in Geneva. When the Russia-Ukraine war started, he quit and escaped from Russia. He wrote the article about that. But a small part of the article talks about how a lot of Russians became disappointed with the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They expected the West to help their transitional society combat economic difficulties.

The West did offer quite a bit of help, if we're being honest. But it was not enough. Russia expected more.

Similar positions are reflected in the Loss interview. Loss believes that one of the reasons for Russia's problems is that Europe/West are not providing enough assistance. What is more, Europe is to blame for Russia turning into an authoritarian state as hundreds if not thousands of Western politicians have communicated with Putin over decades and thus endorsed his rise.

A highly typical "good Russian" position. Allow me to say once more that I do not believe this is about Loss' person. It is a certain tendency. Shifting responsibility onto Europe. Europe must help us, support us, while it is also to blame.

I have colleagues in Russia who have been of a very different mind since February 24. There are those in Russia who believe that Russian residents are morally responsible for the country's actions in Ukraine.

As put by one of my colleagues: I feel guilty that I have spent the last years engaging in research instead of explaining the dangers of a totalitarian regime to my students. They said that they could have contributed more to creating a civil society but didn't. There are people who find Russia responsible for the current situation, not Europe. They may be few, but they exist.

These people do not hold Europe or NATO responsible for all that has happened. They feel morally responsible for their country's actions and find that Russia is to blame for sanctions, not Europe.

The good Russians do not think that way. They shift the blame to Europe. Europe is at fault for not issuing Russian citizens tourist visas. Europe is to blame for the war. Europe is to blame for Russia's falling standard of living. It is hard for me to feel for those good Russians. It all started when they only looked to themselves and ignored what their political elite was doing. And now, they are where they are.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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