Flemish Slavists highlight Russian dissent to combat growing Russophobia

In order to counter the growing aversion to all things Russian because of the invasion of Ukraine, a group of Flemish Slavists and Russia experts has set up a website which highlights the statements of (well-known) Russians who have spoken out against the war.

“We must not fall into the trap of Kremlin propaganda”, says the group. “This is not a war of the Russian people, but of Putin (Russian president, ed.) and his cronies.”

So far, some 20 people have contributed to the website, including academics and Russian-Dutch translators. The website, titled ‘Stop de Oorlog’ (Dutch for ‘Stop the War’), collects Russian voices that have spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine. These include chess players, students, journalists, priests, oligarchs, Russian communists, well-known writers such as Vladimir Sorokin and also French actor Gérard Depardieu, who acquired Russian citizenship in 2013.

“This is not a war of the Russian people, but of Putin and his cronies.”

“The website first of all aims to debunk the pseudo majority created by the Kremlin: after all, Russians were never asked for their opinion on the war, and for decades they were not given a fair chance to vote out Putin”, the website creators stressed upon the announcement on Monday. “Moreover, heavy repression is used to silence those who oppose the war.”

Secondly, the Slavists and Russia experts want to curb growing Russophobia and aims to avoid lumping all Russians together rather than treating each person as an individual: “We are witnessing the emergence of an atmosphere in which Russian culture and language, or all things Russian, are perceived as potentially problematic - which is too short-sighted”.

Among the voices of opposition highlihted on the website is a photograph of St Petersburg resident and artist Yelena Osipov, publicly protesting the war. Osipov is seen displaying slogans such as “Soldier, put down your weapon, then you will be a real hero [...] Don’t shoot!”. An anonymous Yekaterinburg resident in turn chose a creative approach, with a giant ‘cigarette pack’ on a town square displaying a special ‘health warning’: “Common sense warning: special military operation is deadly”. Furthermore, the website anonymously quotes town council members (town unknown) asking to put an immediate stop to the war in Ukraine.

The initiators “by no means” want “to make it appear that the Russians are the victims in this conflict to whom our first thoughts should go”, the announcement emphasises. “That’s the Ukrainians - let there be no doubt about that.”


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