In Russia, even Christmas is at war

Posted Dec 22 2022 at 17:22

The snow-covered streets, the glittering Christmas decorations in the parks of Moscow: all the magic that surrounds the end-of-year festivities takes on a special dimension in Russia this year. War, this word that Vladimir Putin refuses to pronounce and that it is even forbidden to use, is remembered by every passer-by. As the “Guardian” reports, in Moscow’s Gorky Park where a Christmas village has been set up like every year, decorated with wooden huts and fir trees adorned with balls and white lights, we can see large letters that have nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas: Z and V. The famous Z (for “Zapad”, “west” in Slavic) is the rallying sign that flourished in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, as a sign of rallying to the policy of the Kremlin . The V stands for Vladimir Putin. At the entrance to the park, a Z is notably decorated with the colors of the ribbon of Saint-Georges, another symbol commonly used to support the war.

“The city brought them in and placed them here,” said a cashier at a shop near the park. “I wish they hadn’t,” he breathes. It is that in the opinion, the conflict with the Ukrainian neighbor seems less and less well accepted. A form of weariness and fatigue took hold of part of the population, especially among the youngest. “ One of the points of concern comes from the fact that the older ones, who make up the bulk of the electorate and the elites, decide in place of the younger generations how they should live and even how they should die,” notes Andrei Kolesnikov, senior researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, quoted by the “Guardian”.

Festivities canceled

If the consequences of the war in Russia are of course not comparable to what the Ukrainians endure on their territory, the tension in the Russian population is palpable. Christmas pots in companies are becoming rare, in particular so as not to risk talking between colleagues about the subject of war, which has become increasingly divisive. Several local festivities, traditionally organized at the end of the year, have also been canceled.

The fireworks that were set off in Moscow to celebrate the city’s 875th anniversary, as Russian troops retreated after a Ukrainian army counter-offensive in Kharkiv, caused outrage among the population. In the aftermath, dozens of cities announced they would scale back their New Year celebrations for fear of provoking anger.

Even Vladimir Putin seems to be stepping back, not really knowing what posture to adopt. He will not participate in the traditional hockey game that is played every year in Red Square. And the marathon press conference he gives at the end of the year has also been canceled, a way to avoid the awkward questions that could have been asked about the growing difficulties of the Russian army in Ukraine.

In Russia, even Christmas is at war