Russian anthropologists against the war

For FR version scroll down.

The petition below is an effort of a group of Russian anthropologists to make President Putin and the Russian Government stop the outrageous war in Ukraine. In this preface, I would like to clarify a couple of points which I fear might have been misread in our petition, possibly because of an inaccurate translation from Russian (the English translation below has been edited) and not sharing with you the context of urgency in which we wrote the petition.

The text of the present petition was compiled collectively on the second day of the war. Before writing this text, we (a group of Russian anthropologists) contacted the Russian Association of Anthropologists and Ethnologists (to which I do not belong any longer) with the request to write a direct letter to the President and Government of Russia. In our initial letter to the Association we appealed to the words of one of the founders of Soviet anthropology Leo Shternberg which he formulated as one of the ethnographic “commandments”, “All humanity is one”. Our letter was however declined. We then promptly activated and agreed to compile the present petition. So, to state as clearly as possible this petition is the result of the collective work of about a hundred Russian anthropologists, who wanted to try and prevent any further criminal action by the Russian government.

The addressees of the petition are those who are fully responsible for the war: the President of the Russian Federation and the Russian Government. Because of that, we wanted to challenge (and stop the spread of) the criminal ideas and concepts that this government has been promoting and lead many countries to catastrophe. We did not use the words DPR and LPR. The petition is against the war in Ukraine. We have heard the concerns of some of our colleagues about not better contextualising those ideas and concepts and, of course, respect your decision not to support our petition. Our point was to voice and make the pacifistic ideals of our discipline heard in order to break the glass wall between Russian citizens and their President, who put himself in a position of imagined "Emperor".

Understanding that the Russian text of the petition could be improved and appreciating the concerns of some of our colleagues, we would like to make some changes in the text. Unfortunately, does not allow to do it once the petition has been submitted.

When the petition was published and rapidly gained about 400 signatures, the Executive Committee of the Russian Association of Anthropologists and Ethnologists published its own “counterpetition” (see 03.03.2022) which among other things states that Russia “protects the population of Donbass” and the Association itself stands “against the revival of Nazism and all kinds of discrimination and violence, including informational and economic”. WCAA issued its statement (07.03.2022) where they wrote that the position of Russian Association “does not express the position of WCAA Organizing Committee”. Some colleagues of mine and I left the Russian Association of Anthropologists right after their “counterpetition” was issued.

I would also like to stress that all anthropologists in Russia who have signed this letter put themselves at risk of being arrested, prisoned, and losing their jobs. I would thus like to thank them for their responsiveness and prompt action to compile the petition and for their wish to indicate to the world that scholars inside the Russian Federation disagree with the actions of its government.

Dmitry Arzyutov, on behalf of those authoring the petition


Text of the petition

To the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin
To the Government of the Russian Federation

We, a group of Russian ethnographers and anthropologists, protest against the military actions (boevye deystviya) of the Russian Federation in the territory of Ukraine.

As Russian anthropologists and ethnographers, we have devoted our lives to understanding the cultural and social diversity of humankind, and we continue to conduct field research in various parts of the world studying social relations and cultural dynamics. We know first-hand how people live during and after both wars and political catastrophes. Therefore, we protest when the use of complex humanitarian issues becomes a pretext of political manipulations and military conflict.

No war can be justified by the search for an historical truth. War cripples humans’ souls. War causes mass loss of life and entails the loss of significant cultural values. War is a moral homicide of present and future generations. This war will lead Russia to international isolation, and will damage its economy, culture and science. The war dooms Russia to hopelessly lagging behind the rest of the world, to a sharp worsening of living standards and, consequently, to the rise of social and ethnic tensions that may lead to internal conflicts.

Therefore, we demand:

  1. To immediately cease the war (voennye deistviya) in Ukraine;
  2. To immediately withdraw troops from the Ukrainian territory;
  3. To begin direct negotiations on the forms and timings of a de-escalation of the conflict with the Ukrainian government, on an equal footing and without any preconditions.

We emphasize that this appeal is a voluntary position of a group of ethnographers and anthropologists, all of whom care about the future of Russia.

View the petition

Les anthropologues russes contre les actions militaires de la Russie sur le territoire de l’Ukraine

Au Président de la Fédération de Russie, V.V. Poutine,
Au gouvernement de la Fédération de Russie,

Nous, groupe d’ethnologues et anthropologues russes, exprimons notre ferme protestation contre les hostilités menées par la Fédération de Russie sur le territoire de l’Ukraine.

Nous, anthropologues et ethnologues qui avons consacré notre vie à la connaissance de la diversité culturelle et sociale de l’humanité, nous menons des enquêtes de terrain dans les lieux les plus variés de la planète étudiant les relations sociales et les dynamiques culturelles. Nous savons de première main ce qu’est la vie des gens pendant et après les guerres et les catastrophes politiques. C’est pourquoi nous protestons contre l’utilisation de problèmes socioculturels complexes comme prétexte pour la manipulation politique et les affrontements militaires.

Aucune guerre ne peut être justifiée par la recherche de la justice historique. La guerre brise les âmes, cause des victimes en masse et mène à la perte de trésors culturels. La guerre est un meurtre moral des générations futures et une voie conduisant la Russie vers l’isolement international, la destruction de son économie, sa culture et sa science et la condamnant à un retard sans espoir, un déclin brutal de son niveau de vie et, par conséquent, à des tensions sociales et ethniques porteuses de conflits internes sérieux.

C’est pourquoi nous exigeons :

  1. l’arrêt immédiat des opérations militaires sur le territoire de l’Ukraine ;
  2. le retrait sans délai des troupes du territoire ukrainien ;
  3. le début de pourparlers directs avec le gouvernement ukrainien sur les moyens et les délais de la désescalade du conflit sur une base équitable et sans conditions préalables.

Nous soulignons que cet appel est la position délibérée d'un groupe d'ethnologues et anthropologues à qui l'avenir de la Russie n’est pas indifférent.

Regarde la pétition