The former California governor has been a popular figure in Russian culture for decades due to his iconic acting career. Much of his 1988 movie “Red Heat” — in which he plays a Russian police officer — was shot in Moscow.
His message, shared to his social media channels Thursday, was truly moving. (Scroll down to watch it.) Schwarzenegger, an Austrian American, discussed his father's service in the Nazi military during World War II to make an argument about what nationalistic delusion can do:
When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. And when he left Leningrad, he was broken physically and mentally. He lived the rest of his life in pain: pain from a broken back, pain from the shrapnel that always reminded him of those terrible years and pain from the guilt that he felt.
To the Russian soldiers listening to this broadcast, you already know much of the truth that I have been speaking. You have seen it with your own eyes. I don’t want you to be broken like my father.
At the risk of sounding like a navel-gazing American: His pleas to the Russian people sounded familiar. Some reformed white supremacists in the U.S. and their families have described similar psychological and physical impacts from participating in white nationalist movements.
In that sense, I suppose Schwarzenegger’s message wasn’t completely new. But, naive as it may be, the glimmer of hope I have that it might break through definitely is.