In his war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't neglecting the homefront. Russians have begun to report each other for being critical of the war, encouraged by leaders, as the government rekindles the fear of the Soviet era. Teachers are being reported by students and parents, and neighbors are informing on each other, the New York Times reports. "It's as though they've all plunged into some kind of madness," said Marina Dubrova, a teacher fired for telling her class Ukraine is a sovereign nation.
Putin set the tone last month when he praised his people's ability to separate "patriots from scum and traitors." In one region, people have received texts from officials asking them to send email addresses and phone numbers of "provocateurs and scammers" hurting the Ukraine mission, per the Washington Post. A special account has been set up for the communications on the Telegram messaging app. A website asks Russians to turn in the names of "pests" among in the elite. "Traitor" has been painted on the front doors of the homes of opposition politicians, activists, and journalists.
"After a rather significant period of freedom ... fear has returned to Russian society," said Nikita Petrov, a historian at the human rights group Memorial that was outlawed by a court in December. Dubrova's offense was showing her eighth-grade students a YouTube video showing children singing about a "world without war" in Russian and Ukrainian. One of the students apparently recorded the classroom discussion; police came to the school. A judge fined her $400, she said, and the school dismissed her for "amoral behavior." The member of Parliament behind the informant website, said, "We don’t want anyone to be shot, and we don’t even want people to go to prison." But he also said, "I am absolutely sure that a cleansing will begin." (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)