Maria Stepanova: “Recruitment in Russia can change the Putin regime”

The Russian writer trusts that the new generations will bring about change in her country

The Russian writer and journalist Maria Stepanova , who in her book “In Memory of Memory” traces the history of the 20th century in Russia through the lives of her ancestors, believes that “the compulsory recruitment ordered by Putin can bring about a change in the regime”.

In an interview with Efe, Stepánova points out that “with this compulsory recruitment, Putin’s power has broken an unwritten agreement with society, by which he could do whatever he wanted as long as people’s private lives did not undergo major changes” .

In fact, he recalls, that pact “had already been violated several times before with political assassinations by order, persecution of their political opponents, different wars, while up to this point the families lived their lives, but now, with this mobilization, the war enters at your house, and they can call any man who is under 60.”

Assuming that traditional sociology does not operate in Russia, Stepanova has a personal perception that “the group that is against Putin and the war in Ukraine is growing in number, but there is also an equivalent group that looks TV every day consuming this propaganda and they are convinced that what is happening in Ukraine is perfect and fair”.

However, between these two poles, he maintains, there is a broad stratum of the population, 50-60% of society, who are lethargic, waiting and who, “following the tradition from the times of the USSR, tend to be quiet”.

The war in Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Russians out of the country, says Stepanova, “has forever changed our lives, and life as we have known it will never return.”

The cultural magazine “Colta”, where Stepanova worked, has been closed “like all independent Russian publications” and today “working as a journalist or writer in Russia is impossible, because war cannot be called war, and you run the risk of go to jail simply for participating in a demonstration or retweeting someone else’s message.”

The Russian journalist harbors some hope that there may be changes in a natural way, since “social support for Putin is from older people, while the opposition is mostly young people.”

“In memory of memory” Cliff, was born from the need to explore the past of her ancestors, a family of Jewish origin, and after the death of her aunt, the author investigates those origins from faded photographs, old postcards , letters, diaries and objects.

From her writing, Stepanova drew two lessons: “the story of a person or a family in the 20th century can never be explained in a linear way like in old novels, because life is full of blank spaces, gaps, ellipsis; and secondly, any life, no matter how insignificant, has the right to be counted.”

The result, he assures, goes beyond the history of Russia, it is the history of Europe, and the best example is his grandmother, who “was born and lived in Russia, then went to study in France and then returned to his country” .

“The borders were then more permeable, until the arrival of the Soviet Union made it be seen as a strange and exotic country, where bad things happen and special people live who endure all misfortunes,” adds Stepánova.

Before starting the book, the journalist set out to physically visit all the places in Russia and abroad related to her family’s life and transcribe the content of all the letters and notes on the computer, “necessary to have an almost physical contact with the voices of my ancestors. Today, Stepanova lives in Berlin, but she does not lose hope that one day she will be able to return to her apartment in Moscow.

Meanwhile, he cannot avoid a direct connection between the war and his personal history of the past: “Part of my family was from the Ukraine, from Odessa and Kherson, where my great-grandparents lived, places I visited when I started writing the book more than five years, historical places that have suffered greatly, first in the 1917 Revolution, and in the First and Second World Wars, when more than 10 million Jews were exterminated.”

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