The grievances, paranoia and imperialist mind-set that drove President Vladimir V. Putin to invade Ukraine have seeped deep into Russian life after a year of war — a broad, if uneven, societal upheaval that has left the Russian leader more dominant than ever at home.
Schoolchildren collect empty cans to make candles for soldiers in the trenches, while learning in a new weekly class that the Russian military has always liberated humanity from “aggressors who seek world domination.”
Museums and theaters, which remained islands of artistic freedom during previous crackdowns, have seen that special status evaporate, their antiwar performers and artists expunged. New exhibits put on by the state have titles like “NATOzism” — a play on “Nazism” that seeks to cast the Western military alliance as posing a threat as existential as the Nazis of World War II.
Many of the activist groups and rights organizations that have sprung up in the first 30 years of post-Soviet Russia have met an abrupt end, while nationalist groups once seen as fringe have taken center stage.
As Friday’s first anniversary of the invasion approaches, Russia’s military has suffered setback after setback, falling far short of its goal of taking control of Ukraine. But at home, facing little resistance, Mr. Putin’s year of war has allowed him to go further than many thought possible in reshaping Russia in his image.
“Liberalism in Russia is dead forever, thank God,” Konstantin Malofeyev, an ultraconservative business tycoon, bragged in a phone interview on Saturday. “The longer this war lasts, the more Russian society is cleansing itself from liberalism and the Western poison.”
That the invasion has dragged on for a year has made Russia’s transformation go far deeper, he said, than it would have had Mr. Putin’s hopes for a swift victory been realized. [Continue reading…]