Russia’s return to violence in Europe could change our lives forever

Violence did not disappear from the world, and now due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we might be facing its return to politics, writes political scientist Marek A. Cichocki

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Marek A. Cichocki
A medical worker runs past a burning car after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna, File)

Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill supposedly believed that the Boer Wars, fought between the British Empire and the Boer Republics at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, opened a completely new “time of great violence” in world history. Violence became king in international politics for over half a century, causing an immense number of victims and destruction on a great scale. Polish essayist Jerzy Stempowski named this triumph of violence “history that went off the leash.”

In recent decades, even during the times of the Cold War, many thought that maybe we had managed to put history in chains and had resolved the problem of violence in politics, even forever. Violence was to be removed from history thanks to international law, a web of institutions, political integration, and economic and technological interdependence.

Reasons for optimism also came from the belief that, following the terrible experiences of the 20th century, violence was commonly deemed as an inefficient tool of realizing political goals. It simply stopped being profitable.

The conviction that this issue was definitively resolved became particularly entrenched in Europe, causing the creation of a special type of European post-historical and post-national consciousness.

In reality, however, violence did not disappear from the world, and now due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we might be facing its return to politics. In any case, Russia, a country soaked in multi-dimensional violence — interhuman, social, and political — decided to unleash violence and again make it a full-scale tool for realizing its goals in international politics.

Unfortunately, we should not deceive ourselves and too easily believe that this is only a short-term change, or some kind of temporary aberration.

The taboo has been broken, and violence unleashed so visibly could spill over into all our lives, changing their previous, civilized character. Probably the only thing we can still do is everything in our power to take away the effectiveness of this violence so that thinking it is a good political tool is not reaffirmed once again.

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