In her essay “The Russian Question,” poet Maria Stepanova (former Harriman Writer in Residence) reflects on Russia’s war against Ukraine and collective “Russian” guilt and responsibility. The essay, translated from the Russian by Sasha Dugdale, appears in The New School’s “Public Seminar” (Mar. 23, 2023).
If the collective sacrifice during the Second World War cemented Russian identity in the absence of consensus, then the attack on Ukraine does the same but to a different end. The new ‘we’ feels inescapable, whether one supports Putin or opposes him. A leading Russian poet reflects on guilt and responsibility.