President Vladimir Putin’s war has meant that all Russians are at risk of looking like villains. But not all Russians support Putin, and many of those who don’t feel a complicated mix of rage and shame – and a determination to do something to help Ukraine and to show the world that not all Russians support their country’s leader.
Take Melbourne journalist Sima Tsyskin – a member of Australia’s Russian diaspora and former Russia correspondent for SBS – who joins the latest episode of Good Weekend Talks to discuss everything from the “skilfully designed bombardment” of propaganda in Russian state media to the chaos, corruption and robber banditry of the country’s oligarchs.
“If I can make a grim prediction, it took Germany more than 70 years to wash themselves clean from the atrocities of Hitler,” Tsyskin says. “I’m afraid that there is a long, similar way, in front of Russians in the future.”
Hosted by Good Weekend deputy editor Greg Callaghan, the podcast conversation is based on Good Weekend senior writer Tim Elliott’s latest cover story – “NYET!” – in which he takes the temperature of the Russian diaspora in Australia.
The first thing Elliott points out is that there’s no such thing as one Russian community in Australia: people have come here at different times, from different places, for different reasons. “And that obviously informs their views about the war and Putin and the world as it is,” Elliott says. “So trying to decipher anything clear in all that is quite hard.”
However, some things are self-evident. “Despite whatever Putin is saying – that Ukraine is really part of greater Russia; that Ukraine is an artificial country – it is an entity of proud people and people who are resisting the aggressors.”
Some Russians within Australia predict a “new Russian Revolution” as Western sanctions begin to bite. “Russians will start seeing empty shelves, and at that point, there’s a classic phrase … the refrigerator will win the battle against the TV,” says Elliott. “I guess that your hunger wins out. That’s very convincing – being hungry.”