On February 24th the world modified. What I assumed may by no means occur has occurred. Russia declared battle on Ukraine. 

I’ve not felt this degree of unhappiness in years. I really feel like somebody near me died. However I’m sitting in my comfy armchair, with my headphones on, consuming espresso as I write, whereas someplace in Ukraine, individuals identical to me are being bombed by Russian artillery. They went from going to Starbucks, procuring, and sharing carefree meals with their households to hiding in subway stations on the first sound of the siren. A whole lot of hundreds have been pressured to flee to different elements of the nation or to Poland. 

I’ve to admit, Ukraine is all I can take into consideration. I don’t need to write about investing. For the previous few days, I’ve been writing 4, 5 hours a day. That is my approach of coping with this tragedy and stress. Some individuals drink, some take up smoking, I write. 

I’ve written quite a bit, and I preserve writing. This how I bleed, one phrase at a time. I’m going to interrupt it up into smaller, extra readable chunks. I’ll ship them out as quickly as I end writing them. You’ll be getting much more emails from me than regular. I hope this battle ends quickly so I can return to writing on extra trivial matters. 

By the way in which, I share my extra real-time, unpolished ideas on Twitter – you may observe me right here. 

One final thing. If you understand any charities that assist people in Ukraine, please ship the information to me. I’ll be delighted to donate and can begin accumulating a listing on the backside of every electronic mail. 

Why Was I Blindsided by the Battle? 

Eight days earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, I wrote an article saying there can be no battle. I used to be sure of it. I used to be fallacious. How may I get it so fallacious? The extra you knew in regards to the scenario, the extra possible you had been to get it fallacious. 

Let me take you again to my childhood in Russia. I and everybody round me hated the Nazis with each ounce of our souls. Each different film made within the Soviet Union was about WWII. A number of these films had been in black and white. I’m not referring simply to the colour of the movie however to the shortage of ambiguity of the message: With out provocation, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Russians had been good, brave, sincere, peaceable individuals. Germans had been heartless, evil, soulless invaders that slaughtered harmless Russians. Russians had been good. Germans had been dangerous. 

Reminders about WWII weren’t simply within the films. We studied the horrors of WWII at school, after which there was the Might 9th celebration of Victory Day, when Germany surrendered, on Might 9, 1945. Not like Independence Day within the US, which is simply an excuse for BBQ and to promote couches at a 30% low cost, Might 9th was a day that was actually expensive to everybody. All of us went out onto the streets to rejoice it. All of us knew somebody who had fought or died in WWII, and most of our mother and father had lived by way of its horrors. WWII isn’t just an entry in a historical past e book for Russians; its recollections and classes are deeply embedded in Russian tradition.

That is the primary motive why battle with democratic Ukraine appeared unfathomable. Even after it occurred, my thoughts nonetheless didn’t need to acknowledge that at 4 AM – the identical hour that Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June, 1941 – Russia invaded and began to bomb Ukraine. This makes Russia identical to Nazi Germany – habits that we despised all our lives. 

The Soviet Union was a melting pot. Take my household for instance. Three quarters of my ancestors, together with my mom, had been born in Vitebsk, a small city in Belarus. My father’s father was born in Pavlograd, a metropolis in Ukraine – he was a lieutenant colonel who fought in WWII within the Soviet military. My father was born in Moscow. I used to be born in Saratov, a metropolis on the Volga River to which my mom’s household evacuated throughout WWII. From the time I used to be three months outdated till I used to be 18, we lived in Murmansk, in far northwestern Russia. Was I Russian, Ukrainian or Belarusian? Add the truth that I’m Jewish to the combo to confuse issues a bit extra. (I posed this query previously and tried to reply it right here). Most significantly, I’m not an exception, however the rule (aside from the being Jewish half).

To today after I say Russia, I catch myself referring to extra than simply the geographical territory of Russia however to not the entire Soviet Union, both. I’m referring to all of the Slavic international locations, together with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. These international locations share a standard tradition. We watched the identical films, sang the identical songs, laughed on the identical jokes, and we even spoke the identical language. We thought of anybody from these republics to be “Russians plus.” The plus being that they’d their very own cultures and languages, however the Russian language and tradition was a standard denominator. This was and stays the angle of my and the older generations that grew up in Soviet Russia. I’m positive that at this time it’s not shared by the residents of the opposite Slavic international locations I discussed above. 

Slavs additionally look the identical. You wouldn’t be capable of inform any bodily distinction between Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Russians. This level is essential. 

I keep in mind visiting the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and listening to a narrative a couple of group of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union discovering their technique to Japan throughout WWII. Japan and Germany fought on the identical aspect, however Japan didn’t embrace the German Aryan ideology that wished to purge the human race of Jews. 

Germany demanded that the Japanese ship these Jewish refugees to Germany. The Japanese had been considerably bewildered by this request. They requested the Jews, “Why do Germans hate you a lot?” To reply this query fell on a Rabbi, the pinnacle of the group. Simply think about you’re this Rabbi, the heaviness of this query. Your reply will resolve the destiny of tons of of individuals, a lot of them your family. The Rabbi thought of it for a couple of minutes and answered, “They hate us as a result of we seem like you.” This sensible reply saved the lives of those individuals; they weren’t shipped to Germany.

It’s in our genetic programming that it’s simpler for us to kill (sure, that’s what battle is) individuals that aren’t like us (from a special tribe). We’re extra sympathetic to individuals like us, simply as we prioritize our household over strangers. This horrible invasion of Ukraine by Russia is as shut as you’ll come to a civil battle between international locations which are blood brothers. 

Now, mix a shared hatred for behaving like Nazis, a standard tradition, and bodily likeness, and you may you see why this battle was unimaginable to anybody who had spent any time within the Soviet Union. 

One other factor I missed. 

The Russia I knew 30 years in the past is gone. The flame of democracy that was lit with Perestroika died out a decade later. As we speak, Putin’s dictatorial regime is beginning to resemble Stalin’s Russia of 1937 or Hitler’s Germany in 1939. 

My father all the time mentioned that Russians could also be skeptical of their authorities, however they love their leaders to demise. I’ve watched interviews with historians who studied Stalin, and they’re satisfied it was inconceivable to foretell that Stalin would flip right into a despot, propped up by a cult of character, who would kill thousands and thousands of Russians. I’ve additionally learn interviews with individuals who knew Putin effectively, and there was no signal that he would flip into the dictator that he’s at this time. 

However Dalberg-Acton’s quote “Energy tends to deprave, and absolute energy corrupts completely” is like an immutable regulation of the human situation. After some time, limitless energy poisons everybody’s soul. You begin taking little shortcuts to realize outcomes that can result in a good higher good. Little by little, taking shortcuts turns into the norm. The rule of regulation turns into an inconvenience that you just both ignore or change as you want. 

Individuals you encompass your self with could also be good individuals however are scared of you and thus let you know solely what they assume you need to hear. You end up surrounded by sycophants. You lose contact with the surface world. Cash and possessions lose their luster. Energy is the one drug you’re after. So, as a dictator you’ve solely two targets – keep in energy and get extra energy. That is why, regardless of appearances, there aren’t any free elections in Russia and any candidate that dared to run in opposition to Putin is both lifeless or rotting in jail. 

Putin didn’t change into a dictator in a single day. He grew to become the president of the democratic Russia in 2000. However then he requested for a bit of bit extra energy. Individuals cherished him and gave it to him. He saved asking for an increasing number of. With each little tweak to the regulation, the nation grew to become a bit of bit much less democratic. Quick ahead to at this time. Putin is a dictator for all times and not must ask. He simply takes. 

I additionally missed this level: I used to be trying on the Ukraine scenario from the angle of Russia. However we’re not dealing right here with a rational nationwide chief – or not less than his rationality has nothing to do with Russia or geopolitics. As we do evaluation of the scenario going ahead, now we have to maintain this in thoughts. Putin doesn’t care about Russia; he solely cares about Vladimir Putin. Attempting to foretell what Putin will do to keep up energy could be very tough. The aren’t any ex-dictators, there are solely lifeless dictators, and Putin is aware of it. 

This can be a lesson not only for Russia however for any democracy, together with the US. The regulation shouldn’t be crafted for an individual in workplace at this time – irrespective of how a lot you admire the particular person. By no means love your politicians until you’re married to them; you lose your objectivity. Individuals change – energy corrupts them. Additionally, you don’t know who shall be changing them. It’s a miracle that the US has been a democracy for this lengthy. We should always by no means take it with no consideration.

I used to be not going to incorporate music with this electronic mail – I don’t really feel like writing about composers proper now. However then I remembered the origin of Dmitry Shostakovich’s 7th, “Leningrad” Symphony. Hearken to it right here.

Shostakovich accomplished it in 1941. He was in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), and town was surrounded by the Nazis, blockaded, fully lower off from the remainder of Russia. The Germans had been bombing day and evening. Individuals had been dying of starvation. 

This symphony begins out peacefully – the primary 7 minutes are nearly regular on a regular basis life. Then in minute 7 you begin listening to the faint sound of drums – that’s the German military marching on Russia. Minute by minute the drums develop louder, after which all peace is gone and all there’s battle. This symphony portrays effectively the irony and tragedy of what’s taking place proper now. If Shostakovich had been alive, he would have renamed this symphony “Kiev.” 

Subsequent: I’ll talk about how the battle with Ukraine has modified the world. 

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The publish Battle in Ukraine: Why I Was Blindsided, Half 1 appeared first on Vitaliy Katsenelson Contrarian Edge.


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