Jul 2, 2022·edited Jul 2, 2022

It's difficult to take these lines of argument seriously.

Russia IS a democracy. Not liking their leader doesn't make their election totalitarian.

If you walk up and down the streets of Vladivostok, St. Petersburg or Moscow, and randomly ask people if they support Putin you'll find that 7 out of 10 do support him. They are not a fan of the moral imposition of the west, which is to say the west's continuous effort to impose cultural and moral values upon them. Most Russians don't like the virtue-signaling woke.

Navalny does have support from a minority of Russians, mostly amongst youth, but most Russians see him as a CIA funded, left wing, globalist, thug. And by globalist, I don't mean a rejection of trade. Russians are happy to trade with anyone. But they want "free trade" not mercantilist trade whereby a few MNC's receive permits to operate in so-called "economics-zones", giving them huge tax advantages over domestic companies.

We also have to recognize that the issue in Donbas is more complicated than the war-time media narrative. Clearly, the people in Donbas have been shelled. This has been ongoing, intermittently, since 2015. At some point, you either stand for self determination and the separatist region, or you stand on the side of forced subjugation, imposed from an administration in Kiev they don't support.

If Russia's defense of Donbas is a crime, then we can conclude that the French helping the colonists achieve self determination was a crime. The shoe must always fit on the other foot.

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Jul 1, 2022·edited Jul 1, 2022

Is there something of the Russian psyche - particularly those within the orbit of Moscow and St Petersburg - that those with the strongest moral stance, the intelligentsia perhaps, tend to flee Russia when living there becomes intolerable?

I recall in the 70s and 80s reading about Russian emigreés in Paris over the previous 100+ years, but never much about other nationalities. And now with the invasion of Ukraine, the same thing has happened.

In 1917 the Russian people banded together and overcame a powerful state and created a famous revolution. If then, why not now?

In Ukraine in 2013, Ukrainians took to the streets permanently under terrible provocation and violence, in order to overturn the decision to not join the EU and to end the leadership of a corrupt pro-Russian president. Ukrainians coordinated themselves somehow and stuck it out, to achieve the famous victory that came the Maidan.

If Ukrainians, with little hope, can do it, why not Russians? Is it that there are not enough Russians to protest? Or not enough risk motivating and organising their countrymen and women?

Is it that the Russian state can be so industrially oppressive, that it pulverises people and their hope, so they don't even believe they can change anything? Is by leaving in some way tacitly accepting that the oppressive state is explicitly part of the Russian character that has spawned it?

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Read Edmund Burke’s”Reflections on the Revolution in France”, rinse and reapply.

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Jun 30, 2022·edited Jun 30, 2022

I am not an expert on Russian History, but I have done some reading. My understanding is that the Russian People (serfs, peasants, poor farmers) have never been successful in achieving agency. There has never been a sustainable middle class of Russians that have a say in how Russia is governed. The Russian people are used to living in fear of their government and associated elites. Whether it's the Mongols, the Tsars, the Communist Party or a strong arm dictator like Putin there has never been anything even remotely resembling Democracy in Russia. This is in spite of Russia being the home of renowned Scientists, Engineers, Artists, Musicians, Authors etc.

I ask Nikita, what is there in the Russian DNA that precludes it from joining the democratic world?

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An excellent discussion, gentlemen. I very appreciated how this one moved back and forth from the (relatively) concrete - What does it mean to be Russian? to be Black? - to more universal abstractions - What does it mean to be part of any group?

Best wishes to you, Nikita (and to your fiancée!) and best of luck in Armenia. I am curious which novels you sent to Glenn. I hope one of them was 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘌𝘹𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘐𝘷𝘢𝘯 𝘊𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯. 🙂

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Thank you! I don't remember the full list, but there were a couple of books by Pelevin, Bulgakov's Heart of the Dog, and I think Sorokin's The Blizzard.

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Thanks for these tips. Of those you've mentioned, I've read only the Bulgakov - and that was many years ago. Maybe I can return the favor: I've recently read two astonishing books by Russians - "The Letter Killers Club" by Sigizmund Krizhizhanovsky, and "The Slynx" by Tatyana Tolstoya. I wish I could have read them in the original Russian.

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Jun 29, 2022·edited Jun 29, 2022

When it comes to the question of whether a given person should feel ashamed of his country’s crimes, I would like to propose the following rule. Those citizens who feel the most guilt and shame for their country will often be the ones least responsible for the crimes in question. Meanwhile, those who feel no guilt and shame will often be the ones who actually bear the most responsibility. Feelings of guilt and shame in these instances are a healthy sign. They are indicative of an active and acute moral sense. Nikita is an illustrative example. As someone who was involved in the protest movement, he could credibly claim that he bears far less responsibility for the war in Ukraine than most Russians. He could say, to borrow a phrase from American politics, “not my President” and wash his hands of the entire situation. Yet he doesn’t do that. He uproots his life and moves to Armenia. He is preoccupied with thoughts that he could have done more or been more effective. I am less interested in the accuracy of these thoughts than the fact that Nikita and many other young Russians now in Yerevan and Tbilisi think them. I see this as a testament to their character.

I studied Russian in college and worked as an English teacher for two years in a provincial Russian city after graduating 14 years ago. These are dark days indeed, but listening to Nikita makes me a bit more hopeful and optimistic about Russia's future. Никита, держитесь!

For those interested in seeing how Russians are thinking about the war and how it is dividing families, I recommend Andrei Loshak’s new documentary film “Broken Ties.” It is available on YouTube with English subtitles here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qmQs2LbnaE

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The comparison between American slavery and Russian serfdom has been the source of some scholarly interest. The Sean's Russia Blog podcast had an episode about this back in 2020. Accessible here: https://srbpodcast.org/2020/09/25/russian-serfdom-and-american-slavery/

The historian Peter Kolchin authored a comparative history on this topic. It was titled "Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom."

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I am sorry. I don’t relate to this discussion. I fail to understand the problem(s).

Perhaps my perspective might help.

#1. Do either of you have your hands on the direct levers of power -- of national agency?

No, you do not. So why should either of you assume a measure of responsibility for elective decisions that are beyond your control?

#2. Everyone is a victim of “historical context.” Ukraine and Ukrainians are linked to a specific history and a specific geo-political construct. That is beyond an elective choice. It is an historical reality that has unique characteristics. Regarding the issues of Ukraine, realize that these issues would be different if simply, Ukraine was located adjacent to Ireland.

Now, why is that “fact” important? Ans. Because we cannot divorce our understanding of Ukraine from WWII, and German-Russian relations during WWII. We cannot divorce understanding of the current situation from the large number of murders/killings that were experienced during WWII, many of whom were actions of the fascist Ukrainian collaborators. Most Americans do not remember that Soviet losses to the German fascists were 100X greater that all the casualties of the US in both theaters during WWII. That is an important, but often ignored, FACT. The WWII legacy is/was a REAL concern for Putin about border security. [No, I do not agree with Putin, but I do recognize his anxieties about NATO-US military training of Ukrainian forces for years before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. See https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-military-success-years-of-nato-training-11649861339 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEIFwLKlq1Q&t=136s&ab_channel=TheHill ]

Unrecognized and unacknowledged by the US, Russia had/has justification to be concerned about US-led forces to topple the Russian regime. Russia has been concerned about a buffer zone from the West (Ukraine) for decades. By contrast, what would the US think/do if the Chinese established a military base 100 miles north of Mexico City? If the Cuban Missile Crisis is instructive, one can assume the US would likely interpret such a development as an act of aggression.

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I'm surprised that you talk about facts relating to WWII, Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia but not the (initially secret) Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact between these two imperialist states, with the sole intention of carving up Europe between them.

Nazi Germany wanted Western Europe. Bolshevik Russia wanted Eastern Europe. These imperialist designs were equally horrific for the countries they were invading. The Russian empire by that point had already invaded Finland. But the end of the war, they had effectively invaded Poland and part of Germany. Soon after the Russian Empire expanded into Czechoslovakia, Hungary and beyond - effectively achieving the goals behind entering the pact with Nazi Germany.

That pact. What kind of state enters into a mutual pact with a fascist state? Arguably, a fascist state or equivalent. Russia effectively had the same type of goals in 1939 as Germany. The same evil intentions. That should not be forgotten.

When Germany tore up the pact with Russia by attacking them, it was suicide to fight on this extra front, against a dangerous foe. That so many Russians died needs to be understood properly. How much was that down to German action and how much Russian ineptitude, lack of planning and brutality against their own troops? The sacrifice made by Russia to overcome Germany in the East was huge. But the Russian empire was protecting itself as well as forging it's own imperialist goals. There is no evidence I've seen that shows that Russia objected to what Nazi Germany was doing - if anything the Russian state approved of it, because that is exactly what they had in mind themselves. The Russian empire did not align themselves with the Allies who wanted to free those independent countries being attacked and invaded by Germany, because that is exactly what they wanted to do themselves in the East. So, no, I don't agree with Russian involvement in the WWII as being heroic (but yes, plenty of individuals must have been on all sides including Russia), unless you can forget all that history, all those facts.

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Thank you so much for this honest and thoughtful exchange. It helps to see the conflict with a deeper understanding and to empathize with the wide range of pain that war inflict in our human soul.

So grateful for your videos Mr Glenn! 🙏

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Always glad to see a new vid from you Glenn. Your works are intellectual nourishment.

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