I've been getting reacquainted with tankies (read: people who say stuff like "The USSR could do no wrong and you're a fascist if you think otherwise" with a straight face) on the internet and BOY YOU GUYS HAS THIS BEEN FUN.
I'm convinced that being a tankie is a bit like being a member of a fundamentalist religion. "Booj" = sin. Violence is often seen as a cleansing act. The contempt for any sort of fun/pleasure/frivolity/frailty/vulnerability is very palpable.
- "Hi guys, I like to hang out and debate the history and legacy of the USSR. I was born there and..."
- "BOURGEOIS IMPERIALIST WHORE. WE WILL HAVE YOU SIGN YOUR CONFESSION IN YOUR OWN RED LIPSTICK BEFORE WE BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT IN THE NAME OF WORKERS EVERYWHERE."
I've noticed that tankies really dislike Ukrainians. Or, at the very least, Ukrainians who aren't like those happy people in the murals on Kievsky railway station — dancing and smiling and not being inconveniently political.
The hero-worshipping of Russians in this circle is also weird. I'm kind of convinced that most tankies... don't hang out with Russians much. When I was with my ex, I was once complimented by an English tankie dude for marrying a Russian. As if my ex was a trophy or a prize.
Russians & Ukrainians are human beings with opinions and sure enough, some dig Stalin (way less so in Ukraine, for obvious reasons, but you do run into people like that), and some of them like blood sausage and, like, that's life. But tankies turn it all into a fetish.
I have some fairly Stalinist Russian relatives and I'm pretty certain that they would fail the tankie purity test. Because they think that Lenin was an asshole, for example. Or else because they have surprisingly complex views on the history of China. Or because they like fun.
One of the weirder aspects of talking to a tankie is explaining that you're a person. It doesn't register. "My family is mostly a mix of central & western Ukrainians & Russians of the Cossack persuasion & unknown victims of repression and I think..." "SHUT UP, SELLOUT WHORE."
A dude I knew in London worshipped Soviet Russia. Really worshipped it. That WWII glory, you know. It meant something to him. It means things to people in general. It means a lot to me (military family/occupation survivors, hello). But he refused to see all nuance.
He knew Russian & had read one of my plays & was a fan, so we wrote each other on occasion. He wanted to interview me for a student paper, I think? But I disappointed him because I refused to view the Soviet Union "correctly." I didn't beat my chest. I talked about mass murder.
When I wrote about rape culture in the gulag he really lashed out at me and called me a hypocrite. Because prison rape happens everywhere and the gulags weren't special and why wasn't I writing about the U.S. prison system anyway. I had sold out "my own kind," you see.
"I've known victims of Soviet repressions, some relatives had those scars, and maybe if you'd met my great-grandmother you could..."
"YOU'RE NOT BRAVE OR NOBLE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THAT POLITICAL CHANGE = SACRIFICE. ALSO, I LIVE WITH MY MOTHER AND HAVE NEVER BEEN TO RUSSIA."
"Guys, I think we're all human beings. My great-grandfather shot people. My grandfather dreamed about the sound of bones being crushed. I grew up around men touched by war. I..."
"WAR IS NOBLE AND HOLY WHEN FOUGHT AGAINST THE FASCIST BOOJ AND I'M A TEENAGER FROM YORKSHIRE, HI."
Talking to a tankie is like talking to a Tolkien fan who really, really wants to visit Valinor — as long as it's painted red and traitor elves get shot in basements and the Maia all inform on each other.
I cry over films like The Dawns Here Are Quiet. When I look at the stars I think about Gagarin (whom my granddad met - HOLY SHIT GUYS). Farewell of Slavianka = lump in my throat. Kozaky Iidut = same damn lump.
I also condemn mass murder/starvation/etc. Because — yeah.
History benefits from nuance, you know? Or at least from the understanding that human beings are involved in it.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP, NATALIA, YOU AMERICAN PIGDOG TRAITOR-SLUT. GO SUCK CAPITALIST DICK. GO GET RAILED BY FASCISTS."
And that's how it goes with the tankies.
You can follow @NataliaAntonova.
Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.
Enjoy Threader? Sign up.
Threader is an independent project created by only two developers. The site gets 500,000+ visits a month and our iOS Twitter client was featured as an App of the Day by Apple. Running this space is expensive and time consuming. If you find Threader useful, please consider supporting us to make it a sustainable project.