100 Years Later: How Does It End?

When she was just 14 years old, my great-grandmother walked barefoot through the woods of Ukraine until she reached Poland. Now, exactly 100 years later, the people of Ukraine are walking the identical path toward safety. She was orphaned, both of her parents were murdered in pogroms — organized slaughter against Jewish people by Russian authorities. 

The history behind centuries of civil war, religious persecution and Soviet-instigated conflict precedes my great-grandmother’s generation. However, as the main claims being perpetuated across state media channels are rooted in Putin’s ‘interpretation’ of history, it’s important to understand the 20th century history behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During WWII, Ukrainian nationalists saw the Nazis as liberators from Soviet oppression. Putin is using this thinly veiled history to back up his “special military operation” to liberate Ukrainians from a Nazi nation and “protect people subjugated to eight years of genocide by Ukraine’s government.” 

But there are no Nazis or genocide. There is no special military operation. There is only an unprovoked war. The 20th century war criminal that is Vladimir Putin is not only quite literally blowing up an entire country and its population of 44 million people, but he’s also involved in an equally chilling propaganda war at home, which is arguably his only hope of maintaining support.

In Russia, where the majority of citizens obtain their news through state-run media, the truth is becoming harder to find, especially as the Kremlin increasingly cracks down on truth and dissent. Even just calling the special military operation a war could now land individuals a 15-year prison sentence in Russia.

Putin sympathizers draw striking similarities to Trump supporters in the U.S. The easy-to-sell portion of the population feeds on misinformation that reinforces their views. Excerpts of when Tucker Carlson called Ukraine a “client state of the Biden administration” and claimed “it is not a democracy” have repeatedly appeared on Russian television. 

  So how does it end? Putin has been backed into a tight corner, one that even experts are unsure how he’ll come out of, if he even does. With the current level of international support for Ukraine and NATO involvement off the table for the time being, the only way Putin stops is if his people make him. 

Sanctions will not stop war, but what they will do is impose tremendous suffering upon the entire country of Russia that will only continue to mount. On top of that, I’m not entirely sure how sustainable Putin’s propaganda show is. When Russian kids are sent to fight Putin’s war and they are never seen again, no amount of propaganda can lie to a family about whether their son is dead or alive.

The power of the press has never been more critical than now. Autocracies today are running on propaganda-fueled, power-hungry regimes. As has been the case throughout history, they can’t survive when the truth finds its way to its population. Coupled with an unprecedented coverage of war on social media, it’s only a matter of time until the truth outlives the regime-boosting bullshit.

When enough Russians are exposed to the gruesome reality of destruction and loss of life, they won’t let Putin stand. For now, the Ukrainian story is no different than that of my great-grandmother Anna. Women and children must choose to flee to a foreign land in order to live, and the men must stay and fight for a country that is being pummeled by a madman. The only difference is we’re watching Ukranians flee and viewing the annihilation of human life in live time.