Wanted: Redemption

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A few years before the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian satirist Vladimir Voinovich imagined a story about a former KGB agent who became head of state, created a class of corrupt oligarchs around him, draped himself in the mantle of the Russian Orthodox Church and launched a bloody war to remain in power.

Voinovich’s 1986 novel “Moscow 2042” predicted Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post reported. It was not necessarily a hard thing to do. Putin and his crony elites put Russia on the road to autocracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall, noted JSTOR Daily, the magazine of the not-for-profit academic institution.

However strategic the strongman was, however, Putin failed to predict how events would play out, however. He underestimated the ferocity of Ukrainian resistance and misjudged ordinary Russians.

“It’s the classic mistake of every tyrant: Surround yourself only with sycophants, suck-ups and yes-men, and you never get a reality check in your echo chamber,” argued Zoya Sheftalovich in a Politico opinion column. “Eliminate dissenting politicians, and you assume that means you’ve eliminated dissent.”

The Russian president is now playing a “face-saving” game in Ukraine, University of Toronto political scientist Olga Chyzh wrote in the Guardian. The Ukrainians sunk Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the cruiser Moskva, and have killed six generals. Low morale and defection plague conscripts, some of whom blow up their own equipment, according to Ukrainians. Mercenaries are being called in.

Shrinking his ambitions, added NBC News, Putin appears now to be aiming only to seize the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbas, where Russian separatists already held sway. Meanwhile, with the ferocity of this war, even some of those pro-Russian Ukrainians are questioning their past allegiances.

Voinovich died in 2018. His obituary in Radio Free Europe portrayed him as a dissident writer who foresaw the rise of a Russian regime that looked nostalgically and bitterly to an imagined past rather than forward to a better present.

Another iconoclastic Russian writer, Vladimir Sorokin, took aim with a similarly withering perspective. In an interview with the New York Times, Sorokin said that Putin was trying to manipulate the truth to misrepresent the invasion to ordinary Russians.

The power over the truth will be a potent weapon in Putin’s upcoming great battle against allegations that he allowed war crimes to occur in Ukraine while pursuing a genocidal war against the country, according to the BBC.

Officials at the International Court of Justice in the Hague don’t have the power to seize a head of state and drag them into the court, the New Republic explained. But leaders could convene some kind of entity to begin an investigation to grease the creaky wheels of justice and get them moving.

As a Russian writer might say, the souls of the Russian and Ukrainian nations will need closure to find redemption.

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