ON WHAT THINGS ARE LIKE IN RUSSIA RIGHT NOW
If you read the Western sources alone, you'd be excused for thinking nothing's really happening here. It's like there is no war at all. People are partying, people are living their lives, going to work, raising children etc..
And on the surface, it's true. Plus, it's a convenient story to tell about a nation that has already shot itself in the foot, in the eyes of the international community. But it would be myopic to suggest that this is the entire picture.
To be clear: I don't follow state-sponsored or -owned channels. (In Russia, they're the same thing. Opposition to the opinion of the state has been thoroughly suppressed since the start of the war, and it hasn't been all that healthy before.) But I do read a lot of Western coverage, including that by other Russians, and I also see what's happening around me. Consider this the level of informedness.
Back when the war's started, I kept seeing a lot of zwastikas (the pro-Russia/pro-war capital-Z) in my hometown in Siberia. It's a relatively poor, relatively small city (of about 500k pop), so it's not all that surprising it stood behind Putin and his stupid fuckin' endeavor into genocide and international humiliation. (How is it even fuckin' possible to have both on the same achievement card?)
I vividly remember looking for ways to express my anger in subterfuge or public damage. I wanted to put a rock through every fucking Z I'd seen, without a single fuck about who or what was presently behind it. (There were a lot of Z's on public transport.) The only thing that kept me from doing something was the promise of a job far, far away, where I won't have to deal with that shit anymore.
Even in the early days of the invasion, prices spiked ten, twenty, thirty percent, even in the middle of Siberia. You'd think that's not something you can dismiss as a citizen of a major country: you'd think Russians would start asking questions. But this notion hides the two truths about Russia that most Western observers either don't notice or overlook on purpose, as a way to push Russians to "do better":
First: Russia (in whatever historical shape) has never been a democracy. Its people have been perpetually abused into submission – a generational trauma of tremendous proportions – and could not all of a sudden stand up and take pride in themselves. (There are protests, of course, but the protesters are arrested, beaten, abused, traumatized, and tortured. Putin's made a big deal out of showing how much of a grip he has on the throat of the country.)
Second: Russians are a nature of survivors. They persevere the adversity, rather than seek to ameliorate the conditions of their livelihood, because that's what they're conditioned to do. Harsh geographical conditions tend to give a people that sort of a mentality. In this case, it's easier to keep your head down and not rock the boat too much, and maybe you get to bring a loaf of bread to the table one more day. Like many a thing about national psychology, it's a multifaceted aspect of a nation's "personality": it presents itself both good things and bad.
Saint Petersburg, by contrast, is a much more liberal city, one where you can't plaster citizens with zwastikas and posters of "military heroes" (without ever specifying what their "heroics" were) and expect things to go smoothly. You still see these propaganda moments here and there, but they're exceedingly rare for a such a large, populous city. You'd think there would be something at every other corner. I think that, for every pro-war symbol, so far I've seen one anti-war/pro-Ukraine symbol here. It's still not a great ratio, but it's miles better than I would expect from the Western coverage alone.
— a young woman wearing a Nuclear Disarmament/peace symbol, where the semi-circles on each side of the middle line are colored yellow-and-blue, as in the Ukrainian flag
— "What can be better than fresh water?" (a local anti-alcohol campaign); written just underneath, in red: "REVOLUTION"
— a "military hero" poster, with "MURDERER" written in the same red across his face
— in black ink, on the side of an apartment building: "While you were staying apolitical, millions of people died in Mariupol")
The propaganda machine keeps working its magic, of course. Ever wanted to buy a G-string with a Z printed on it? Now you can! Mmm, sexy sexy warcrimes!..
(Can you tell by this bitter humor how fucking pissed I am at all of this bullshit?)
People are clearly worried. All of that above is not even quarter of what's going on. Zwastikas are getting defaced, destroyed, and otherwise desecrated. Military commissariats (where men report to for conscription or to sign a contract) are getting set aflame all over the country. The protests, of course. Conversations take a very different tone now. All in all, you can never really trust anyone unless you know them well in this climate (but people of liberal ideals tend to stick to the same, in my personal experience).
A single personal example I can give you is my sister. (Technically she's my... cousin? The daughter of my mother's sister. She's only ever been like a sister to me, so whatever.) She's ten years older than me, and is married to the father of her son. (The kid's three years old.) Despite being a more liberal member of the family, she clearly believes all the bullshit the state media promote. She thinks that Putin did the right thing for attacking Ukraine 'cause otherwise they would've attacked first.
Why? Because she's scared. She has a son and a husband, both of whom she loves. They have nowhere else to go: the man has a job at an IT department of a large comms provider, a position you can't exactly do remotely. They can just afford having some goals in life, like setting the kid up for a good school and having a dacha. You don't just uproot and fuck off, at least not from her perspective.
And that's a whole lot of people in Russia right now. Nowhere to go, no prospects of leaving any time soon, so either you double down on the mental defences (and hopefully don't go mad) or you double down on the bullshit you're being fed by the spoonful.
I can't sympathize with my sister's outlook, but I can certainly empathize with it.
(Of note is the fact that her husband, the hard-working and caring man that he is, is also a big fan of the fictional Rus': a historical grouping of Eastern Slavic ethne from the Medieval period, stuffed with magic and Slavic pagan deities. It is of note because this image has been appropriated by the Slavic neo-Nazi groups, including the Wagner PMC. Before the war, it was just a local taste of the fantasy genre.
I'm not saying the man is a Nazi, but it's hard not to draw some conclusions right now. He does, however, see his son's future as being in the Russian Armed Forces. I'm not all the confident he'd consulted the three-year-old boy on that one.)