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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Psychological Barrier against War Rapidly ‘Thinning’ in Russia, Khabarovsk Psychologist Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – The psychological barrier that fear of a new war has traditionally played in Russian life is rapidly “thinning,” Ilya Latypov says. Indeed, the word ‘war’ has now entered regular discourse not as a synonym for World War II but as a description of the current situation or a very likely future.”

            Not only does this mean that ever more Russians are asking whether there will be a war, the Khabarovsk psychologist says; it also means that ever more of them and their leaders are getting used to the idea that this is a real possibility rather than viewing it as something everyone must work against (

            Patrushev is talking about Western attacks on Ivan the Terrible as efforts by Russophobes to distract attention from their own domestic problems, the US has stopped giving Russians entry visas, repression against ever more Russian groups is expanding, and ever more individuals and organizations are denounced and persecuted as “foreign agents.”

            In short, Latypov says, “the language of public policy is rapidly degrading, moving ever closer to the very bottom” when calls like those of Stalin’s prosecutor Vyshinsky to “shoot the mad dogs” seem to be just around the corner. And thus in both domestic and foreign policy, Russia seems to be moving toward a war footing.

            According to the psychologist, “history teaches us that it teaches us nothing.” Russians are ignoring how quickly things can go from bad to worse, how quickly a flourishing city like Sarajevo can go from an Olympic center to a dead place and how fast things moved in Rwanda from relative stability to mass genocide. The distance is tragically “very small.”

            One hopes that Russia can turn aside from this, that the rhetoric pointing in that direction won’t lead to actions that make a war inevitable. But people are getting used to something, the possibility of a real war, that they only recently felt was impossible. And that shift only heightens the risk that their fears will be realized.

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