As many of you know, Nikita Petrov, Creative Director of The Glenn Show and this newsletter, is Russian. He left his country after the invasion of Ukraine.
Since then, the war and the role of Russian individuals in it have been weighing heavily on his mind, along with broader questions about responsibility and belonging. In this episode of The Glenn Show, Nikita and I discuss the problems of group affiliation and government action. When large-scale political and civil conflict fragments a society, how do we decide who “our people” are? And relatedly, how much responsibility do we bear for the actions of “our people” and our governments? This leads us to discuss racial and ethnic group belonging. I’m black, but how does that affect how I regard my relations with others of my race? One of “the people with three names” seems to think I’m not “authentically black” because I no longer live on the South Side of Chicago. But what does “authenticity” even mean in this case? From there we move into a broader historical register to consider the long and the unfinished work of emancipation, both that of African Americans and Russians (the serfs were freed in 1861). While, in my view, many blacks are still grappling with American democracy, Nikita notes that Russia experienced only a brief window of democracy between the Cold War and Putin’s rise. We conclude with a discussion of Russian and American wars, and the US’s role in amplifying executive power under Boris Yeltsin.
Nikita is wrestling with some complicated questions, and I enjoyed talking them through with him. We’re both interested to hear your thoughts, so let us know in the comments.
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0:00 Nikita asks: Who are “my people”?
14:09 How much responsibility do we bear for the actions of our governments?
21:53 The problem of racial affiliation
26:39 The use and abuse of group identity
35:00 Is Glenn “authentically black”?
40:39 The incomplete project of emancipation
50:28 Why was Russia’s period of true democracy so brief?
56:36 Democracy and “the Russian soul”
1:03:55 Can we compare antiwar Americans and antiwar Russians?
1:14:38 Glenn: Why would the US risk nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine?
1:20:09 The US’s involvement in drafting Russia’s constitution
Links and Readings
Nikita’s Substack, Psychopolitica
Glenn’s essay in City Journal, “The Case for Black Patriotism”
Glenn’s speech at the National Conservatism Conference
Glenn’s conversation with Sylvia Bennett-Stone and Robert Woodson
Voices of Black Mothers United