Russia is doomed to defeat — and not only in war.
Two weeks ago I met an amazing person. Zaynap Gashayeva from Grozny is the person who collected the complete video archive of the two Chechen wars. Then there were no flash drives, no smartphones with built-in cameras, no cloud storage — only “soap” cameras and simple household video cameras with cassettes. Zaynap filmed purges, murders, testimonies of people whose relatives were kidnapped by the feds. She buried the cassettes in the ground in different villages so that they would not be found. And then shipped them to Europe.
So, Zaynap recalled how in 1995, together with several women from the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, she organized the March of Maternal Compassion. Soldiers' mothers, whose sons fought in Chechnya (many were already in captivity or were reported missing), had to reach Grozny. There they were joined by Chechen mothers, and all together they were going to demand an end to the war. Soldiers' mothers traveled to Nazran, from where they had to walk to Grozny, from all parts of Russia on bed-carriers — by buses, trains, hitchhiking, for several days with numerous transfers. In 1995, in Russia, getting from a remote region to another region was very difficult. But they all arrived because they wanted to save their sons. And then they were detained at checkpoints, surrounded by tanks and armored personnel carriers, threatened with murder, and taken out of Chechnya by force. But the mothers kept coming back. Together with the former military commissar of one of the districts of Moscow, Vyacheslav Izmailov, they searched, found, negotiated, and liberated.
When Vladimir Putin announced mobilization, I expected a new generation of soldier's mothers to appear. They will take to the streets, join hands, shout “we will not give you our sons!” And they will scream until they are heard. And they will fight with military commissars, scratch their faces, stand in doorways, not letting them in and feeling their own gigantic strength — a mother protecting her child always feels some kind of fantastic surge of strength. But they didn't come out.
Moreover, the difference between the generations of mothers is very serious. If then, during the Chechen war, the risk of getting into Chechnya was not one hundred percent (Russia is big, and in Transbaikalia, in the Far East, in the North, military personnel were also needed) and one could rely on a chance that their flesh and blood will be drafted somewhere in Ussuriysk — what a luck!), then the current decree on mobilization is one hundred percent. This is a call to war, not to the army. It's a black mark, a death sentence, burning a fuse. Where did the mothers of potential conscripts go? If Russian military leaders say they intend to call up 300 thousand people, then imagine how many families and relatives that is. 300 thousand mothers will not be dispersed by any National Guard. And even armored personnel carriers with tanks would prefer to hide somewhere behind the trees.
But the mothers did not come out. More precisely, several dozens tried to take to the streets in Grozny — all in the same place, in Chechnya. And where have all the others gone?
I think they just died out, like many prehistoric creatures. Victory killed them. They dressed up their little boys in military uniforms for so long, enrolled them in the youth army, because it’s like with the Belarusian Republican Youth Union — more chances for admission to a university, or a better career — they dragged them to the rallies like the Immortal Regiment, and put them to watch TV, and so they themselves didn’t notice how they died out. And the death of their own son no longer seems to them a tragedy — it will be beautiful, he will be buried with honors; there will be a volley at the grave, they will get the death money, and then they will have an opportunity to go out with a portrait of their own child to all sorts of rallies like the Immortal Regiment until the end of their days. Children have ceased to bring happiness, but have become abstract neighbors with some kind of debt to the state. No need to protect them, no need to fight for them, no need to love them. Mothers of modern Russia prefer to love Putin, be proud of the death of their children and rejoice at greeting cards from the military commissar.
Of course, even then there were similar women. Like, for example, Elena Matrusyak, who, during the second Chechen war, having learned that her son had deserted and some kind Chechen women hid him, ratted out both her son and these women to the FSB. However, it was a unique case, and this woman is still recalled with rage by people in Chechnya, like, “such trash really exists..”. And now such women make the vast majority.
They live in a completely different reality — distorted, crooked, flat, without color or volume. And the guarantee of the future victory of Ukraine is not Zaluzhny and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It's just that a country where mothers stop protecting their children is always doomed to defeat. And not only in war.
Iryna Khalip, specially for Charter97.org