Nightmares from the Zona
A conversation with Monique Camarra and Dina Khapaeva
This podcast got away with us: It’s two hours long. But it’s relevant in light of today’s headlines.
I became acquainted with Dina Khapaeva when I came across her article in the Atlantic about the Kremlin’s favorite book: Mikhail Yuriev’s 2006 utopian novel, The Third Empire: Russia as It Ought to Be. Monique Camarra and I discussed this and quite a bit more in our first podcast. We had a fascinating conversation, but it left us with many questions we thought merited further discussion, so we decided to speak again.
We were especially eager to hear more of Dina’s thoughts about the cult of the Great Patriotic War, as Russians call it, and the role Gulag plays in shaping post-Soviet culture. Dina argues both are central to understanding what’s happening in this war and its prospects. “I believe the historical amnesia of Stalinism,” says Dina, “and the unwillingness to criminalize that regime, is the true source of Putinism.”
Just after our conversation, Putin announced Russia would call up 300,000 reservists and (again) threatened nuclear war. “This is not a bluff,” he said.
Russia’s proxy states in the Donbas region, the so-called People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, are now holding referenda to decide whether they wish to be Anschlussed to Russia. Kremlin-installed officials in Kherson region say they, too, plan to hold a referendum.
This entails that following the referendum, if Ukraine continues to fight on these territories, Russia will consider this an attack on its own territory. Since 2008, Russian military doctrine has allowed for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an attack on its territory.
Although the three of us spoke before this news broke, the conversation will give you a great deal of insight into Putin, modern Russia, and the nature of the war in Ukraine. All of it is relevant if you’re trying to decide how seriously to take this threat.
Because it’s long, I’ve (very, very roughly and partially) transcribed it, with a few time stamps, so that you can skip to the parts that most interest you.
You might also want to read these articles:
Russia barrels ahead towards annexation: A summary of Russia’s ‘referendum’ plans and new mobilization laws.
OVD-Info: More than 1,178 people have been detained in 38 cities across Russia. Most of the detainees are in Moscow and St. Petersburg.