On providing platform for Russian imperialists

Mariam Naiem

I'm tired of being silent about this. A thread about why it is wrong at this moment in time to provide a platform for Russians on equal footing with Ukrainians in the news reporting, commentary, art exhibitions, and other public discussions. 🧵

Russian people are now provided with a platform, sometimes on par or even instead of Ukrainians. This depresses Ukrainians and makes us wonder if the world really understands what is happening. Does the world know that the aggressive policy of Russia is caused not only by Putin?

It isn't only Putin who is attacking us; it isn’t even only the victims of his propaganda who are attacking us. The attack on Ukraine is part of Russian society’s imperialist culture and its natural product.

Today's war is the consequence of the aggressive expansive policy of Russia as an empire, that existed for centuries.

As some countries host a robust conversation on their imperialist past, Russian imperialism is not explicitly acknowledged or considered as anything wrong inside Russia. Moreover, it is central to their propaganda—the Great Empire is another reason to be proud of being Russian.

Not a single well-known Russian opposition figure has uttered words of recognition that their country has been exploiting their neighbors as colonies for centuries. That this is not Putin, but the Russian culture that has an aggressive expansive character.

There are many warnings not to cancel Russian culture, but not nearly as many calls to re-evaluate the Russian culture from the standpoint of imperialism. Almost every classic of Russian literature has examples of dismissive attitudes toward Ukrainians and other cultures.

Imperialism in Russian culture is like a cancerous tumor: its metastases can be found everywhere, including in the opinions and actions of the opposition, intellectuals, journalists, and cultural figures of the past and present.

The problem is that no one has yet been treating this tumor. Many people are focusing on Putin, but he is not the essence of the problem; he’s just a metastasis of Russian imperialism.

The majority of Russians have a positive attitude if not towards the war, then towards the idea of their culture being dominant. This thread explains it well: twitter.com/kamilkazani/st…

The West's misunderstanding of the situation is very similar to other instances of systemic injustice. For example, when we discuss issues of gender inequality, we do not want to invite men to the discussion.

Because in the relationship between men and women there is a hierarchy of power and privilege. When we talk about the war in Ukraine, we should not invite the Russians for the same reason. We are not in equal positions, and we have never been.

Now is not the time to create panel discussions about how bad is the situation for the Russian people. However, now is an excellent opportunity for Russians to start an internal public conversation to reflect on and repent for their imperialism.

Until then, the platform provided by the media, artistic, and academic spaces, will only validate and spread Russian imperialist thought.