O, do the Russians long for war? Ask of the stillness evermore, Ask of the field, or ask the breeze, And ask the birch and poplar trees.
So begins a famous Soviet-era song and poem, written by Yevgenii Yevtushenko during Khrushchev’s Thaw. Volodymyr Zelensky cited the poem in his eve-of-war address to Russians, hoping it would rekindle these pacifistic sentiments and encourage resistance against the Kremlin’s imminent invasion.
Apart from a relatively few (very) brave souls, Russians did not rise up. Opinion polls in authoritarian states must be treated carefully, but the absence of large-scale protests, combined with polls suggesting that 71 to 81 per cent of Russians approve of military activity in Ukraine, provide a fairly definitive answer to the question posed in Yevtushenko’s poem: yes, the Russians do want war.