This is one of the things that Vladimir Putin fears most: that the mothers of dead or missing soldiers will hold him accountable.
A few weeks ago, an American general published the figure of 100,000 Russian soldiers dead or seriously wounded in Ukraine. Russian mothers of dead soldiers have nothing to lose, so they are politically dangerous. Putin decided to meet these 17 mothers in front of the cameras at his second home near Moscow. His words, more or less kind to them, were reported by the Russian media. Mothers’ reactions are unknown. It should not meet the high standards of Russian information networks.
1. What is the role of women in Russian culture?
Women are responsible for raising children, especially young children. In a country where wars have decimated generations of men, women are often regarded as repositories of memory. Russian literature traditionally portrays them as having noble social ideals. Mothers are therefore at the center of the family, and embody a sort of moral standard of Russian society. However, the defense of traditional family values is one of the cornerstones of Putin’s political program. Removing the mothers from Putin’s moral bailout would be a severe blow.
2. What did Putin say to the mothers?
Putin told the mothers of the dead soldiers that he shared their pain both personally and as head of state, but that he had no regrets about his “special action”. And he urged them to “stand up to an arrogant Western hegemony.” He explained to them that his activism was the result of decades of humiliation since 1991. “Don’t believe what you’re told on the Internet,” he urged.
3. Why are Putin’s words problematic?
Putin would have preferred not to meet these Russian mothers. No words can comfort them. But it is necessary to give public opinion the impression that he took their sufferings into account. However, Putin makes several mistakes here. He forgets that military mothers don’t get their vital information from the media or the Internet, but rather from the military’s phone conversations with their families. Moreover, justifying a war out of revenge or inferiority complex rather than concrete political or economic interests reveals a political dilemma for Putin.
4. Is Putin isolated?
Putin is not isolated. Instead, he is supported by his nationalist wing, which calls for more violent military action. Echoing this, Putin and other Russian leaders repeat that Ukraine must be destroyed. He also accused NATO of taking over Ukraine. However, nothing proves this. Instead, Volodymyr Zelensky seems to be in control of the situation. Besides, how can Ukraine be ruled by Nazis and NATO at the same time? Unless you’re saying that NATO is also in the hands of the Nazis…
5. What can Russian mothers understand?
Russian mothers can understand that the war in Ukraine is a war of aggression that only serves to fulfill the ambitions of a dictator. Through the contagion effect, Russian mothers can also feel sympathy for Ukrainian mothers. It would be the end of the war — and Putin.