Photo by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash

Despite What Putin Says

We Do Not Hate The Great Russian People

Talk about feeling helpless, yes, I feel totally defenseless, incapable, powerless, vulnerable, impotent, weak and exposed, not to mention feeble. I feel like a big hairy spider by the name of Putin is trying to capture me, with the help of another subterranean creature who shall not be named whose name rhymes with rump.
I picture people doing the most benign and banal acts that have immediately turned into life and death struggles, like withdrawing money from the ATM, picking up a daughter at child care, driving to the supermarket for bread. And seeing my neighbors in the streets, weapons in hand, while the night is so rudely interrupted by explosions and the sight of missiles in the dark.
It feels like I have walked down a dark street and been accosted by a gang of subhuman predators who first want to see me bleed and then will decide what to do with what is remaining. It’s like a nightmare has turned into reality and I can’t wake up, like a an ear-splitting, nerve-shattering sound that will not go away.
Or like waking up to a worldwide plague, a planet on the brink of ecological destruction or a growing number of people who think black is white, up is down and wrong is right. Or like those images of the first jetliner exploding into the Twin Towers and then, the second and then the collapse of a megalith of seemingly impenetrable proportions and watching as the city flees for their lives, on foot, across the George Washington Bridge and the next day waiting for the next shoe to fall.
So I can’t do much but I can do symbolic acts. I will no longer play with a gun that has just one bullet in a chamber; I will never again buy Smirnoff №21 Vodka, Stolichnaya or Stoli vodka or drink another Moscow Mule. I will painfully switch to Grey Goose, Ketel One or Absolut. I will continue to avoid Baltika 6 Porter (Baltika), Volkovskaya IPA or that other Russian beer favorite, Zhigulevskoe, although that is no big deal because American IPAs are far superior, in my opinion.
Not one more drop of LukOil gasoline will enter my gas tank. I would rather swim across the Atlantic than fly Aeroflot, the Russian Tea Room will get not one more ruble from me, and I will even avoid the Rubic’s Cube. No vacations in any gulag for me, Dostoyevsky is off my reading list for now as are Pushkin, Nabokov, Gogol, Bulgakov, Pasternak, Lermontov or Dimitiy Mamin-Sibir.
And no more of those weird little Matryoshka dolls, babushka dolls, stacking dolls, nesting dolls, Russian tea dolls, or Russian dolls, or any other name give to those sets of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. I will buy not one Kalishnikov, not even one. And my lips will never again touch Blini, Pelmeni, Syrniki, Kasha, Borscht, Okroshka, Pirozhki or even Beef Stroganoff. And though it will mean an unspeakable, denial, no more Beluga caviar.
And none of my female offspring will be named Sofia, Anastasia, Maria, Anya, Alina, Ekaterina, Alyona, Inessa, Mila, Mischa, Polina, Alisa, Kira, Yana, Natalya, Miroslava, Viktoria, Luda, Yulia, Ulyana, Oksana or Sasha.
And equally off-limits for any male progeny are Aleksandr, Boris, Alexei, Daniil, Leonid, Nikita, Anatoly, Dmitri, Igor, Ivan, Luka, Mikhail, Matvey, Lev, Yuri, Rodion, Maxim, Nikolai, Andrei, Valentin, Pasha, Viktor, Artem or Mark.
And of course no more ballet with Baryshnikov or Nureyev and I will totally avoid watching any tennis featuring Sharapova, Kournikova, Safin, Safina, Dementieva, Myskina, Kenin, Khachanov, Medvedev, Kuznetsova, Kasatkina, Makarova, Karatsev, Vesnina, Kirilenko or Zvonareva.
There will be no sounds in my earshot of anything by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Scriabin, Borodin, Glinka, Schnittke, Ashkenazy, Oistrakh, The Red Army Choir, Spektor, Gubaidulina, Balakirev or even Vysotsky.
Hold on, I sound like some crazed xenophobe and I really do enjoy watching Daniil Medvedev hit that otherworldly backhand down the line. And to never listen to the power and majesty of the “1812 Overture” or watch the overpowering grace of “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty” or “The Nutcracker” would be a loss I would not like to tolerate. And never to marvel at a Baryshnikov or Nureyev would be criminal to my senses. I do not want to give up the sublime taste of my Blini, borscht or the undeniable ecstasy of Beef Stroganoff.
And Stolichnaya will still be my choice.
I can bypass the caviar, it’s too salty for my taste and I will still walk right past the Kalishnikovs, but that’s just a matter of taste and ethics.
My gripe is not with Stravinsky or Medvedev or borscht but with the leaders who are taking their great nation down a dark, dangerous and deadly path that could destroy a nation and all of its historic beauty.

Russia is one of the great nations and cultures and peoples of history, dating back to its creation by the Rus’ Khaganate of 879. In modern times, events in Russia have shaped the world, events like the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Revolution, recalled as “Ten Days That Shook the World”; the defeat of Nazism in the Great Patriotic War, the name given to World War II in Russia that cost the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens; The flight of the world’s first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin; and Perestroika, the restructuring of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, ultimately leading to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. To allow one totalitarian dictator to upend all that has been achieved would be the utmost crime.



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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer