Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager and Evgeniya Pyatovskaya in The Conversation: The West is punishing Russia, hoping that the dire economic crisis provoked by sanctions will put an end to the bloody war against Ukraine, an independent state that was once an integral part of the Soviet Union.
We as international critical cultural scholars with extensive experience in various geopolitical contexts – the U.S., European Union and post-Soviet countries -believe that those who think that sanctions will turn Russia and Russians around and end the war know very little about the country, its history and its people.
Russians are used to turmoil and instability. They endured cruel social experiments during the 20th century, and the early 21st, performed upon them by their own political leadership. Except for the rare example of Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian leadership during that period was never democratic.
The country, whose participation in World War I was led by a weak czar, emerged impoverished from that conflict. The czar’s rule was brutally overturned by a Bolshevik uprising that ushered in Soviet rule for decades. The crafting of the Soviet state entailed exiling millions of its own people to the gulag camps and cold-blooded execution of many of them during Stalin’s mass repressions from 1917 to 1956.