With Russia at war, fascism has taken hold of its young people, Canadian researcher finds
As Ukraine’s allies wait and wonder about what gains its military’s much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia could bring, a Canadian researcher is looking beyond the battlefield to the war’s eventual end.
And what he sees is dire.
Ian Garner, a cultural historian and Russia analyst from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., is touring the United Kingdom discussing his new book, Z Generation: Into the Heart of Russia’s Fascist Youth, and his conclusions about the prospects for a lasting peace with Russia are pessimistic, to say the least.
His gloomy message is that with or without Vladimir Putin as president, support for his regime’s toxic outlook is deeply pervasive, including among young people, who have typically been seen as the most “Western-friendly” Russians.
Garner said he spent months reaching out and interacting with younger Russians on social media sites, such as Telegram and VKontakte, who support their country’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Out of the hundreds of people he tried to connect with, eventually a few dozen agreed to engage with him — and Garner said he came away with the conclusion that fascism is firmly entrenched.
“I found … an alarmingly large number of young people who were engaging [using] the genocidal language of the state,” Garner recently told an audience at the Pushkin House cultural centre in London.
“They wanted me to understand that they are the good guys, that when they talk about killing Ukrainians to save Ukraine, they genuinely believe it and that it is the morally right thing.”
Ukraine seen as ‘disease’ threatening Russia
Garner said he was repeatedly told that the most dangerous “disease” that threatens Russia is Ukraine.
“If we can cut off the tumour [Ukraine], maybe we can destroy the disease,” he said, referring to the twisted logic that is being indoctrinated into Russian youth groups and the state education system.
If Garner is correct, the implications for a permanent, peaceful resetting of the relationship between Russia and its Western neighbours after the fighting ends are profound.
“When Putin goes, or if the war were to end tomorrow, when you look within Russia, we still have a problem that is sitting there and that is the Russian people as they exist today,” he told CBC News in an interview.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has resulted in the most viscous, destructive conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
Entire Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol and Bakhmut have been razed to the ground from Russian attacks.
Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in bombardments and airstrikes, including unrelenting Russian attacks over the winter on Ukrainian infrastructure, such as power generating stations.
The United Nations has concluded that Russian troops committed widespread war crimes, in cities such as Bucha, by torturing, raping and executing civilians.
And the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Putin himself, accusing him of ordering the illegal deportation of children and the unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
Most young people oppose war: pollster
Garner’s assessment about the extent to which Russian youth have embraced fascism has its detractors, however.
Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, who continues to live and work in Moscow, said opposition to the war remains highest in younger demographics, and many young people have taken enormous risks to demonstrate that.
“The best of them are resisting courageously, and the brightest are leaving Russia for work and education abroad,” Kolesnikov told CBC News in an email.
Others note that Russian people, in all age groups, are largely non-political and often just go along with the authorities because they are presumed to be the people who know best.
Denis Volkov, one of the few independent public opinion pollsters remaining in the country, said his research with the Levada Center, where he’s the director, suggests that among Russians under 30, only 10 per cent are hard-core supporters of the war.
“They are more resilient towards propaganda and more critical of the government,” Volkov told CBC News in a Zoom interview.
Likewise, British researcher Jeremy Morris, a professor of global studies at Aarhus University in Denmark, said he believes the views of younger Russians are not especially dissimilar from young people in Europe or even the United States.
“On issues like drug use, sexuality, divorce, abortion, tolerance towards minorities, for young Russian people there is no evidence that there is some ‘fascist-ization’ going on,” Morris said in an interview.
There are inherent difficulties in extrapolating broad trends about youth behaviour, he said, when only the most fervent believers of the war agree to take part in a study, such as Garner’s.
Morris, who continues to travel to Russia, said he was doing field work in the country as recently as October 2022.
Fears of war’s impact on young minds
None of the experts CBC News reached out to ultimately disputed Garner’s gloomy assessment of the difficulties in reconciling Russia’s future relationship with Western nations.
“Young Russians are being pressed from both [sides],” Volkov said. “From the Russian state and from the West — they are being rejected by the West as well…. They are in a hard situation.”
In his book, Garner tries to identify several paths forward, however challenging.
If the online environment has helped to emphasize genocidal aspects of Russian fascist ideology, then perhaps social media can be turned around to create more positive “alternate realities” for Russians, too, he said.
“Russia under Putin has searched for things to destroy that are holding back the country,” Garner told the Pushkin House gathering.
“We can nudge people to different identity pathways. We have to be there to support them, as hard as it is to do the psychological hand holding.”
For Denis Volkov, the danger is that the longer the war in Ukraine goes on, the more success Putin’s regime will have at converting younger people to a destructive mindset. Even so, he still sees some glimmers of optimism.
Russian people in general — and young people in particular — see the war largely as a clash between governments, not nations, Volkov said.
Indeed, even at this point, 15 months into Russia’s catastrophic invasion, he said, surveys suggest Russians continue to hold fairly significant goodwill toward Americans and Europeans.
“The majority thinks ordinary people can come to terms, but the governments are not able,” Volkov said.
WATCH | Russia’s military parade has fewer soldiers, tanks this year:
Whereas Garner argues that the deeply entrenched moral rot within Russian society will confound efforts at reconciliation, Volkov suggests that Russia’s masses are likely to do what their leaders — Putin or someone else — tell them to.
“More depends on [Russia’s] elites, not so much on ordinary Russians,” the pollster said.
Of course, it’s impossible to find anyone who expects that Vladimir Putin will willingly exit Russian politics because of the war and the difficulties his military has faced.
Indeed, Putin has given every indication he intends to keep the war in Ukraine going for as long as possible — as conflict with the West has become an intrinsic part of Russia’s cultural identity.
Air Canada issues: Passengers to be compensated – CTV News
Air Canada says it made a mistake in rejecting some compensation claims from the thousands of travellers affected by delayed flights due to computer malfunctions.
In messages to some customers, the airline initially said the information technology fumble was out of its hands, relieving it of obligations to pay them compensation.
“In this instance, the compensation you are requesting does not apply because the disruption was caused by an event outside of our control. This flight is delayed due to an unforeseen technology issue, impacting one of our suppliers, which is impacting our operations,” the airline said Thursday in an email to passenger Douglas Judson.
Judson said he arrived more than three hours late after his June 1 flight from Winnipeg to Toronto was delayed due to the IT defect.
“I find the dishonesty and disrespect of it the most galling,” he said in a phone interview. “Some really interesting logic puzzles at Air Canada as to when something is actually their fault.”
While denying his compensation request, Air Canada offered him a 15 per cent fare discount on any upcoming flight as a “goodwill gesture.”
When contacted by The Canadian Press on Friday, the Montreal-based airline said the response stemmed from an error.
“Air Canada is offering compensation in line with APPR (Air Passenger Protection Regulations) compensation levels for flights which were affected by the IT outage. Some passengers had received erroneous responses from us, and we are in the process of re-contacting them with the correct responses,” spokeswoman Angela Mah stated.
The country’s largest carrier has struggled with intermittent computer problems over the past few weeks.
On May 25 it delayed more than half its flights due to a “technical issue” with the system that the airline uses to communicate with aircraft and monitor their performance. On June 1 it delayed or cancelled more than 500 flights — over three-quarters of its trips that day, according to tracking service FlightAware — due to “IT issues.”
That same day, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stressed the carrier’s compensation responsibilities to its guests.
“Air Canada has obligations to passengers who are impacted because it is caused by things that the airline has control over,” he told reporters June 1, hours after the IT issues resurfaced.
Alghabra spokeswoman Nadine Ramadan said in an email Friday the minister’s office had been in touch with the company, which assured them it will compensate the affected passengers.
Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, said the airline’s response “rings hollow.”
“We are hearing about too many of these ‘errors’ to believe that it was a genuine error,” he said in an email.
Lukacs suggested Air Canada’s response — including the discounted fare offer — marked “an attempt to make passengers go away and not pursue their rights.”
It was not clear whether the thousands of passengers whose flights were delayed or cancelled the day after the June 1 computer problem — Judson’s included — due to what the airline deemed “rollover effects” would receive compensation.
“They said in their official communications to passengers that it was maintenance. I do not believe it was maintenance. I think it was a direct consequence of their IP issues,” Judson said, noting that his return flight to Winnipeg landed more than three hours behind schedule.
Air Canada’s Mah said the airline would “investigate to determine the root cause of the cancellation and handle accordingly.”
At least 144 of its flights, or 27 per cent of the airline’s scheduled load, had been delayed as of late afternoon on June 2, along with 33 cancellations, according FlightAware.
In April, Alghabra laid out measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes around traveller compensation as part of a proposed overhaul of Canada’s passenger rights charter.
If passed as part of the budget bill, the reforms will put the onus on airlines to show a flight disruption is caused by safety concerns or reasons outside their control, with specific examples to be drawn up by the Canadian Transportation Agency as a list of exceptions around compensation.
“It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation. It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it,” Alghabra said on April 24.
Currently, a passenger is entitled to between $125 and $1,000 in compensation for a three-hour-plus delay or a cancellation made within 14 days of the scheduled departure — unless the disruption stems from events outside the airline’s control, such as weather or a safety issue including mechanical problems. The amount varies depending on the size of the carrier and length of the delay.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
What started Canada’s wildfires and are they under control?
Canada is seeing its worst-ever start to wildfire season, with blazes ravaging much of the country and creating hazardous smoky conditions across the continent and beyond.
After reaching New York earlier this week, on Thursday it blanketed Washington, DC, in an unhealthy haze, prompting many residents to stay indoors.
Here is what we know about the wildfires, their trajectory and climate change.
What started the Canadian wildfires?
Atlantic Canada received low snowfall this winter, followed by an exceptionally dry spring.
Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax received just 120mm of rain between March and May, roughly a third of the average, according to The Weather Network meteorologist Michael Carter.
A scorching late May heatwave pushed temperatures in Halifax to 33C (91.4 F) on Thursday, about 10 degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year.
The wildfires are believed to have been caused either by lightning, as in the case of Quebec, or accidentally by human activity.
Ellen Whitman, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, said there is also speculation that trees felled during Hurricane Fiona, which hit Atlantic Canada in September 2022, or killed by an infestation of forest pests may be providing more fuel than usual for wildfires, but that theory requires further investigation.
While the focus has been on the smoke in eastern North America, fires continue to rage in western Canada.
This view from yesterday in British Columbia. pic.twitter.com/3jUXxYPpwu
— CIRA (@CIRA_CSU) June 8, 2023
Are the wildfires under control?
As of early Friday, there were 427 active wildfires, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center; of those, 232 were out of control.
In the West Coast province of British Columbia, authorities reported 81 active wildfires – 28 out of control – while in the province of Alberta, authorities reported 72 active wildfires.
Quebec, on the country’s eastern side, has 128 active fires.
The fires have spread across about 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres), roughly 15 times the annual average of the past decade.
Where are the Canadian wildfires?
The forest fires started in late April in British Columbia and Alberta, displacing more than 30,000 people at their peak, and shutting down oil and gas production.
They have now opened new fronts, spreading to the eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
Currently, Canada is receiving international help to battle the wildfires. Help has come from the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, France, Portugal and Spain were also sending more than 280 firefighters to Canada.
How are the fires affecting air quality?
On Thursday, authorities in Washington, DC, issued a “Code Purple” air quality alert, warning of “very unhealthy air conditions for the entire public, not just those with respiratory illnesses”.
New York again had the worst air quality on Thursday morning, with an unhealthy Air Quality Index reading of 185, according to a website operated by IQAir.
Readings over 100 are classified as “unhealthy”, and those exceeding 300 are “hazardous”.
On Wednesday, authorities in Canada said Ottawa’s air quality was among the worst.
Experts have noted that acrid clouds of smoke and ash could continue to affect daily life for people in the US and Canada for the next several days.
Why is the smoke reaching so far away?
Strong winds high in the atmosphere can transport smoke long distances, and it is common for large, violent fires to create unhealthy conditions hundreds of kilometres away from where forests are burning.
In Canada, air is circulating counterclockwise around a low-pressure system near Nova Scotia. That sends air south over the fires in Quebec. There the air picks up smoke, and then turns east over New York state, carrying smoke to the eastern seaboard.
The smoke has now also been detected thousands of kilometres away in Norway, the Scandinavian country’s Climate and Environmental Research Institute NILU said on Friday.
“Very weak” concentrations of smoke particles have been detected since Monday, in particular at the Birkenes Observatory in southern Norway, researcher Nikolaos Evangeliou told AFP news agency.
What is the outlook?
Warm, dry conditions are forecast to persist for months across Canada though occasional rains and cooler temperatures are expected to bring short-term relief.
The Weather Network’s longer-term forecast expects Nova Scotia temperatures to be slightly warmer than normal for the rest of the summer.
What role is climate change playing?
Whitman of the Canadian Forest Service, said it is difficult to determine the effect of climate change on a single fire season. Atlantic Canada has been much hotter than usual and scientists expect temperatures in the region to continue to rise in the coming years.
For coastal regions, climate change is expected to bring more rain, which should reduce the risk of wildfires, but a warmer atmosphere is more efficient at pulling moisture out of soils, a factor that increases fire risk.
Widespread spring fires across the whole of Canada are also unusual, and research shows fire seasons across North America are getting longer.
A warming planet will produce hotter and longer heatwaves, making for bigger, smokier fires, according to Joel Thornton, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.
I have never seen a vertical wall of smoke like this one near Fox Creek, Alberta on Sunday.
And the strangest thing about this moment was I couldn’t smell any smoke. #ABfire #ABfires pic.twitter.com/I6vmJvUay4
— Kyle Brittain (@KyleBrittainWX) May 17, 2023
1 arrested after stabbing at Olive Garden restaurant in Winnipeg
Police officers went to the Olive Garden at the corner of Reenders Drive and Lagimodiere Boulevard in the Transcona neighbourhood to investigate a stabbing around 7 p.m. Thursday night.
A person has been arrested after a stabbing at an Olive Garden restaurant in Winnipeg Thursday night.
Police officers went to the Olive Garden at the corner of Reenders Drive and Lagimodiere Boulevard in the Transcona neighbourhood around 7 p.m.
One person was arrested but police would not provide any additional information.
They provided no information about injuries.
More details are expected to be released later in the day, police said.
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