Many people who had been part of the Soviet political system at one time became its victims later.
Today, many Russian citizens find themselves in a situation of collective cognitive dissonance, unable to accept the idea of Russia being the aggressor in Ukraine while trying to look past all the information seeping through the new informational iron curtain put up by the Russian authorities that indicates the human cost of the war. Many others do accept the war, or at least the “special operation” version they are told about, in the name of defending the motherland against Western/Ukrainian aggression.
While very few Russians are exalted by the war and hope to use it to rejuvenate the nation, many prefer not to see it and to go on with their lives. One could refer to Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” idea that people, even when disengaged ideologically, may commit awful acts or let them happen without resistance. Her concept has been challenged by the literature since then, however, and many new approaches, including anthropological and psychological, have helped us to rethink how people internalize power hierarchies and learn to live in repressive regimes.
Comparing today’s Russia to Nazi Germany appears to me too extreme and largely counterproductive. Nazism embodies absolute evil, which resulted in an absolute crime, the Holocaust – it is more an exception than the norm for countries at war and authoritarian/dictatorial regimes. Consequently, the transformations of Germany’s collective identity after the war have been as radical as the violence it committed during the war, and a new, fundamentally different definition of “living together” emerged. Thus, the applicability of Germany’s transformation of its collective guilt is limited by the exceptional nature of the Nazi experience. Russia would benefit from comparisons with other countries where the transformations have been less radical.