On Saturday, March 5th, I joined a protest organised by Jūra Neverauskaitė and other students from Bath University in support of the people of Ukraine. Several hundred gathered in Abbey Churchyard, shivering slightly as there was a definite chill in the air but the greyish skies were brightened by Ukrainian flags fluttering around. Blue and yellow was the dominant theme, with sprays of daffodils, balloons, plaited ribbons, Bath bEUrets and one EU flag on display with placards demanding an end to the war, solidarity with Ukraine and, quite simply, one saying, ‘I am Russian and I don’t want this war.’ There was a real feeling of unity: tears for those in Ukraine, for family and friends who would have to flee their country, a demand that the UK relax visa rules for Ukrainian refugees and anger at the actions of Putin’s government. The list of speakers included Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Russian students and lecturers from Bath University. These are the words of Dr Ivan Gololobov who has given us permission to publish his speech.
My name is Ivan. I was born in Soviet Union, grew up in Russia, and live in this country for more than 15 years by now. Like many of those who consider themselves Russian I could barely take my eyes off the news in the last 10 days. And looking at what my country does in Ukraine makes me almost physically sick.
But I don’t want to talk about this. Because this is nothing in comparison to what people in Kiev, Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities and towns are experiencing right now.
However, in my short speech I will use the pronoun ‘I’, because I believe that it is very important for the people who consider themselves Russian to look in what we are and what being ‘Russian’ means now. This war was started in our name. And I am convinced it is us who need to stop it.
I do not want to speak on behalf of the people who live in Russia. I don’t want to tell them what to do from the safety of my current position.
I teach politics and Russian studies at the University of Bath. And what we teach is not just facts. It is also courage. Courage to have a different opinion. Courage to look beyond the easy and the comfortable.
This war is based on lies. Lies which were fed to people in Russia for years if not decades. Lies which became comfortable.
But even more, this war is based on fear. Fear of the police. Fear of prosecution. Fear of losing security.
But even more – the fear of change. It is this fear which made people in Russia so inert, so passive. ‘But it could be even worse’ many of them were saying.
Well, how worse can it be!?
A lot of Russians at the moment feel powerless. But what I can see is that they started fighting fear. First, the fear of truth: by calling invasion – invasion, by calling war – war, and by calling the aggressor – aggressor.
Then – the fear of change.
They are realising that the world will never be safe when Russia is run by people whose humanity got completely melted by power and money.
This is not our war! Please don’t look at Russians as enemies. This is what Putin wants. This is what makes him stronger. He thrives on hate.
We have the same enemy to fight. And we can only win fighting together. This fight is going to take place on different fronts. And I, a Russian living in the UK, see my mission in fighting this hydra of hate, fear and lies.
Talking about this, I want to finish my speech by saying something about the truth.
Dear Ukrainians! In the last 10 days you’ve shown the world unbelievable power of your spirit, courage, resilience, dignity and devotion to your country. You are an example for many of us, Russians.
And we stand with you!’
Jane Riekemann, March 10th, 2022