Another important observation that Aseyev makes in his book In Isolation is that the inhabitants of the Donbas have the Soviet mentality of waiting for a strong leader who will come and solve every problem or at least take the responsibility for everything.
Aseyev describes a rally in Donetsk in 2015 where the people gathered hoping to see such a strong leader. But there was none to be found. Finally, a shriveled, shaking old man was pushed to the stage. He had nothing to say and nothing to offer. But the spectators were ecstatic. Finally! The Big Daddy was there! Now everything was going to be OK. Of course, it was a false hope, and now barely anybody remembers the name of that shriveled potential savior.
Aseyev explains that in the Donbas the news of the Ukrainian revolution of 2013 and the subsequent creation of democracy in Ukraine was greeted with horror. The idea of democracy with its unpredictability, its regular transfer of power, and its freedom of expression and association created unbearable anxiety. Who’s going to decide everything? Who is going to explain what to think on every subject? Who’s going to determine what is right and what is wrong? Nobody? That can’t be tolerated!
But at least the people of the Donbas are consistent. They want a single unified narrative that allows for no freedom of thought or action. So they oppose democracy.
In the US, it’s precisely the people who constantly fret about the possible death of democracy who want to impose a single, uncontested narrative. It’s precisely the people who keep saying how important democracy is who can’t tolerate the slightest difference of opinion and want to eradicate any ideological dissidence.
It’s easy to despise the people of the Donbas. And indeed, they are a sorry bunch. But they are not alone in their fear of freedom and the inevitable risks and tradeoffs that freedom brings.