‘My mother says I’m betraying Russia’: Putin’s invasion divides generations | Russia

On the third day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Victoria Gogh realized that her mother was slipping away from her.

“I noticed on the phone that mum was starting to repeat the government’s narrative about this war – that it was all NATO’s fault, that Russia had no choice but to defend itself,” Gogh said. , 28, a fashion consultant from a small town in Siberia who moved to Moscow.

“It became my mission to change his mind, to show him what was really going on,” said Gogh, who strongly opposed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on his social media. .

Vladimir Putin’s decision to start a war with neighboring Russia has seen many Ukrainian families torn apart, with their grown men forced to stay and fight while other family members flee violence.

But Russia has also experienced its own family divisions – between those who support the war and those who oppose it. Often, this divide follows generational lines.

“In general, young Russians are less likely to have anti-Ukrainian feelings. We have seen that anti-war protests have also largely involved young people,” said Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “A lot of how you view war depends on where you get your news,” he said. “If you watch TV, you’re just more likely to toe the official line. And older people tend to watch more TV.

Past polls have shown that television remains the largest source of information for Russians, with more than 60% of the population relying on it for news. Russians over 65 are 51% more likely to watch TV than those under 25.

The full force of Russian state media was mobilized to portray the war as a “special military operation” aimed at liberating Ukraine and protecting the citizens of Donbass from Ukrainian “genocide”. Videos of Russian bombs hitting cities have been described as staged by the Ukrainian side.

“We see that a majority of Russians seem to support the country’s actions, at least the way those actions are presented to them by the media,” Kolesnikov said.

He said it was not surprising, given the sensitivity of the subject, that the war had created tension between families and friends: “It is very difficult for people to accept that their side is in fact the bad guys”.

Gogh, who decided to leave the country last week after being detained for taking part in an anti-war demonstration in Moscow, said she was finally able to convince her mother, Svetlana, of the “devastating role” of her country at war. “But now I have to convince my older cousins ​​and uncles. I have a whole list,” she joked. His “mission” is likely to become even more difficult.

Russia announced a block on Instagram on Friday, days after doing the same on Facebook and Twitter. Crackdowns on social media – and the few remaining independent outlets in Russia – will further restrict access to outside information about the war and strengthen the influence of state media.

For others, like Dmitry, a technology consultant in Moscow, the war has already taken a toll on his relationship with his family.

“After the invasion, I wanted to move in with my parents to try to tell them what’s really going on,” Dmitry said.

During the first week of the war, he went through a daily ritual of showing his parents video clips of Russian bombings of Ukrainian cities and critical reports from independent bloggers and media outlets.

“But none of that had any impact. In fact, it only made them more convinced that they were right. After a week I left the house and since then my mother m texted me saying I was betraying my country.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came last Thursday, when his father sent him a news clip claiming Wednesday’s bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol had been staged by authorities Ukrainian girls, with actors pretending to be injured mothers. This conspiracy theory has also been promoted by Russian officials.

Russian state media presented the shelling of a maternity ward in Mariupol as staged by Ukrainian authorities. Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

“It made me so angry. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to sit at the same table again,” Dmitry said with a shrug. “I think they were zombified by propaganda of state, and they really see me as an enemy of the state. I gave up.”

For some, even their own shelling experiences were not enough to convince those close to them of Russia’s real activities.

The BBC and the New York Times spoke to Ukrainians who said their relatives in Russia simply wouldn’t believe their cities were being bombed.

“My parents understand that a military action is taking place here. But they say, “The Russians have come to liberate you. They won’t spoil anything. They won’t touch you. They only target military bases,” said Oleksandra from Kyiv, describing to the BBC her attempts to explain to her parents that the Ukrainian capital was under attack from Russia.

Ilya Krasilshchik, a popular Russian blogger and former tech executive, asked his 110,000 followers on Instagram to send him their own family feud stories.

Krasilshchik said he soon received “hundreds of screenshots” of young Russians, showing passionate and emotional exchanges with their parents. He decided to publish some of these conversations to show young Russians that they were not alone.

“Obviously this war has been a very traumatic experience for many families in this country.”

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