He started his lecture with critical comments on the Russian aggression and the appreciation for the timely help from European countries. In his opinion, the solidarity surprised Putin, as did the quality of Ukraine’s military defence. “Ukraine is part of democratic Europe and this help must continue. That being said we must focus on Russia as well. We must continue to attempt to free Russia from Putin’s imperialistic ideas,” said Andrej Zubov, a visiting professor at MU, adding that this regime puts Russia back to the 18th or 19th Russia when there were fewer intellectuals. “Indeed, intellectuals are able to open people’s eyes and point out the significant propaganda by the state,” added Zubov who was forced to leave Russia in fear of persecution.
Zubov’s belief in the transformation of Russia into a democratic country is based on the belief in the influence of intellectuals. “There have been many cases of countries where an intellectual had to speak up to motivate people to change. It was Vaclav Havel in former Czechoslovakia, Tadeusz Mazowiecki in Poland, or Alcide De Gasperi in Italy. The democratisation process in their respective countries would not have taken place without them. Some of these voices are already heard in Russia, so I am still hopeful,” Zubov said during the Masaryk Days event in Brno.
How, according to Zubov, should this democratisation occur after Putin’s departure? It should start with the reorganisation of the system that should guarantee personal freedoms and equality for everyone. “It will be much harder to heal the human soul and liberate it from the regime, which cannot be done without intellectuals. We have started to take some steps in this direction and we are not stopping until Russia is a democratic country, like Germany did,” Zubov says.
Diplomat and expert on political geography Jaroslav Kurfürst was somewhat more sceptical in his speed on democratising Russia. “It is certainly possible, but it will take longer. Russia has no tradition when it comes to democracy on which the society would build its democratic future,” he explains. Commenting, on the invasion, he says: “The majority of Russians considered, and still consider, Ukraine as a close part of Russia. Two-thirds of Russian support the invasion and want Ukraine to join Russia.” The factors affecting the end of the conflict will include continuing sanctions. “We can, and we should support independent media and intellectuals in Russia, as they are a key factor of democratisation. However, they have been silenced,” he added with reference to Zubov as an example.
Petra Kuchyňková from the Department of International Relations and European Studies of the Faculty of Social Studies mentioned the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. “Here Russia demonstrated how it treats its neighbours, and they are now repeating the same with Ukraine. However, Putin is not threatening the country and other European countries but especially his own people,” Kuchyňková said.
The Masaryk Days event culminated in a book launch event for a book written by Zdeněk Kříž from the Faculty of Social Studies Cesta z Ruska – Ruská agrese proti Ukrajině a její důsledky. The eight chapters of the book focus on the historical context of the conflict, the course of the war and the consequences of the invasion. He explains the situation within the context of the fall of the Soviet Union, the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Donbas in 2014–2015. He also offers potential scenarios of the development of the conflict.
“I wanted to write a readable book on an issue that is the centre of attention of the current debate,” says Kříž, head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies. Director of Masaryk University Press Alena Mizerová expressed the hope that one year from now, they will be presenting a new book on peace in Ukraine.