"It used to be called “The Russian Bear’s Diaries.” When it started in 2006, I was at the University of Northern Colorado, whose mascot is a bear. Sometimes my gay friends teased me that it sounded like a porn character, but I kept the title for nostalgic reasons. However, the imagery of a Russian Bear has now taken on a much older and more menacing tone. So many things have changed. OK, now it is “Admin Diaries: Weekly Musings of a Philosopher Dean.”
Most Russians living outside of Russia now face an uneasy reconsideration of our ethnic identity. Suddenly, the country we all love has shifted from being troublesome but still respected for its culture and its people, into an evil category. We are the Nazi Germany; we are the Mordor of this planet. It is hard to look into the eyes of our Ukrainian friends and neighbors without some guilt, even if you opposed Putin for decades. I guess the closest nightmare scenario for an American would be if Trump managed to override the elections and then invaded Canada – with missiles hitting neighborhoods in Toronto and Vancouver.
We cannot shed our identities and must bear their weight, even when the weight changes. White people in this country cannot stop being White, cannot unload the bad baggage of racism and keep only the good bits of freedom. Many people would like to, but they cannot; it simply is not up to us. We have no choice and should work through this complex legacy. Similarly, it is easy to be Russian when you listen to Tchaikovsky or discuss Tolstoy. It is much harder when your country is killing unarmed people in the neighboring country under a ridiculous pretext. Of course, we all are running around, trying to organize help for Ukrainians, writing open letters, forming anti-Putin committees, and all of that. Yet all these seem like too little too late, not making enough of an impact. There are 20-30 million ethnic Russians living outside of Russia, including about 8 million in Ukraine. Many Russian-speaking Ukrainians are enlisted in the Ukrainian army or the territorial defense units, fighting against the invading Russian army. Those of us in other parts of the world are seething with rage, praying, and trying to help the best we can, while feeling powerless.
One of the most painful disappointments is realizing how many Russians in Russia support this senseless war. It is not likely to be 70% as the official numbers tell us, but a good guess is that about half of the population is evil or stupid or both to believe the propaganda. Despite all the restrictions, information in Russia is available and can be found if you want to. Like die-hard Trumpists here, they have chosen to believe in only one source of information and talk themselves into denying reality. We may entertain a fantasy that one day they will wake up and comprehend the enormity of what they have done. Realistically, most of these people will never acknowledge the truth. Does the fact that I share a language, culture, and history with them make me one of them? The answer is more complicated than I would like to admit. Perhaps our identities are only canvases on which we can write our own stories. Yet sometimes, the canvas becomes so dirty, it is hard to see the writing."