And Europe, which is quite cynical – or pragmatic – will be quite satisfied with such a turn: so that Russia does not threaten anyone, but how it is arranged inside and according to what laws it exists, the West will not worry much. The whole system is geared towards aggression, racketeering and violence, and it is not viable in the long term in the economic sense. Somehow, on some banana peel, it’s all screwed up. The question is price and time, and these are related things, because, as Okudzhava said, the more painful the longer – the longer it goes on, the more expensive the exit will be.
— My colleague Timur Olevsky believes that the emigration of our wave is forever. I don’t agree with him. What do you think?
– It’s a pointless thing to guess about the timing. For history, this is 20-30 years, and maybe forever. Sometimes it suddenly collapses like the Soviet Union. I didn’t even think that I could die outside the Soviet Union.
It was forever until it ended.
It was forever until it ended. It can quickly end overnight, or it can last for decades. For history, everything is within the margin of error. So yes, unfortunately, maybe forever.
– In Soviet times, the genre of political jokes was very popular, but now this is practically non-existent. At the same time, there is a lot of humor on the Internet, but very little political satire. Why is that?
– Fatigue. There was a time when the joke returned. I even have a lecture called “Looking at the 20th century through a Russian anecdote”, and there is an extensive collection of anecdotes from the Putin era, cuts from various Putin eras. Nothing like humor captures a change in political tone. Lately it has really disappeared. There is some kind of metal fatigue in this, there is despair, because it is not at all funny. Somehow, after Bolotnaya, despair became the dominant intonation. And some iron of irony and humor can be suppressed.
I notice it myself, I was told 15 years ago that I was losing my gaiety. Well, you’re losing your fun here. Adorno said that after Auschwitz one should not write poetry. It is clear what is at stake. After Beslan, joking like nothing ever happened, as they joked in the era of Chernomyrdin, somehow does not work. I stopped the program “Processed Cheese” on “Echo of Moscow” in 2008 myself, there was no censorship, because I realized that the jokes were over.
I can’t, it’s impossible to joke about them anymore. They are repeated. History has stopped flowing, as Saltykov-Shchedrin said, they repeat themselves, but it seems that I should not repeat myself. And I have already noticed that I repeat, I repeat. And what can I do if they again started the same tune about patriotic education, when they do the same thing all the time – they lie, kill, steal and teach us to love our homeland. I have already commented on this 15 times. The fun is gone.
– Many emigrants say that, having left Russia, they began to revise Soviet films more, re-read Russian classics. Maybe now you can already predict what exactly from Russian culture you will miss the most?
— All Russian culture is with me. What can I be missing? Here are the books, here is the music, here is the language. It’s a matter of choice. I know people who have been living for thirty years or more in America or in Europe, and who are immersed in the political news feed by much more politically imprisoned people who live in Russia. I know people who have closed the door behind them and no longer look towards Russia. My friends, now Americans, and my classmates left, closed the door behind them and do not appear in Russia, they are not interested. The bookshelves remained, one does not interfere with the other. This is a choice, it has nothing to do with where you live. I could stop following the news feed and read the Russian classics while living in Moscow. These are unrelated things.
– Even Russian theaters come regularly on tour. What performances would you go to? And would you go, for example, to the performance of Bogomolov, given his recent statements?
– I did not go to the performances of Bogomolov in Moscow either. This is an aesthetic question, not a political one. A person can be very unpleasant to me, but be talented. These are things that are completely unrelated. We live in completely new conditions compared to the generation of fathers and grandfathers who were not released, and if they were released, it was a complete separation from their homeland: you had to choose – you were either an emigrant or a Soviet person. Globalization has completely changed the landscape in this sense. The choice of culture is a completely volitional choice, it has nothing to do with geography. Another thing is that, as it is formulated, a crisis is also a chance. Since I was thrown out of Russia by such an unexpected turn, then maybe I will really have a chance to slow down, write a book that I never got my hands on, maybe the change in landscape will somehow affect what I will be doing. This is interesting, and therefore, a bit of curiosity is mixed with the natural longing and anxiety of my current situation. I’m wondering what’s next for me.
“Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, it seemed impossible. The same can be said about the attempts to assassinate Navalny, Bykov, Kara-Murza. What we are seeing now, is it already the bottom, or will there still be a knock from below? To what level of cruelty can the system go?
– There is no bottom, as Jerzy Lec said, they just don’t let them go lower. You know, the 20th century gave such cut-offs of evil that it is even ridiculous for us to talk today. It’s all the same person, the same nature of authoritarian power, everything is the same, and the people are about the same, so it’s very far to the bottom. They will come with pleasure. If nothing interferes with them from the outside, then we understand that there are no internal restrictions for this power. These are complete scoundrels, murderers, and there is nothing to discuss about. The next question is – will the Russians or the world be able to oppose something in the near future? So far, the situation with the self-consciousness of the collective West is rather feeble.
In the last round, we were very lucky, because Gorbachev appeared in Russia and at the same time Thatcher and Reagan appeared in the West, and this combination of factors allowed both the Warsaw Pact countries and the former Soviet republics to go free. Today there is no mention of Gorbachev, there is a completely opposite imperial tendency, an evil imperial tendency, and the West is, to put it mildly, not in the best shape. Therefore, there are no rational grounds for thinking that something has changed for the better. On the other hand, it never happened that there was no way, as Schweik said. Let’s see.
– You are already out of the access zone of the Russian security forces, but you continue to put a disclaimer on social networks. Why?
– Because I still have a bank account at home, an apartment, a wife, my wife’s mother. I am very vulnerable, and I am not going to compete with this state for resources. They have more resources, they turn my life into hell, they can enhance this transformation, everything is in their hands. I made a decision for myself that there are important and fundamental things, and there are unprincipled ones. Fundamental to me is the ability to talk to my audience. I have been doing this for 35 years since Yegor Yakovlev’s column in Moscow News. For 35 years I have been talking with my audience and there are quite a lot of these people. I have an obligation to them, to talk to them.
This crazy idiotic dice that no one reads, these twenty-eight incoherent words, does not bother me in any way. My audience shrugs and skips them. Whoever wants to moralize and stop reading me – good luck, it’s not a pity, and the rest perfectly understand this situation, and this does not bother me. I will not give the state the opportunity to fine me further, seize my property, and so on, I will not compare resources with them, because I will lose in this. To health. Need to put a stupid plate? I’m going to put up a stupid board. Even some of the bureaucratic bullshit they doomed me to won’t hurt me. It’s annoying, but that’s not the point. The main thing is the ability to talk. To sacrifice this opportunity for a beautiful gesture, for the fact that I will spit in the direction of the Kremlin wall and stop putting a die – they will fine me, then they will open a criminal case, then they will arrest my property, accounts, apartment, then they will come with a grinder to break the door. I don’t know what comes to their mind. Once again I say, there are important and unimportant things. It is important for me to be able to talk. Will you put a die before an interview with me?
– Not. We do not call ourselves or anyone else “foreign agents”.
– You are outside and can afford it. When on the air of “Echo of Moscow” they call me a foreign agent and put a die, I’m not offended. And on YouTube, which is registered in Russia, a die will be placed. It doesn’t matter to me at all. As for humiliation, insults… Look, we get slapped on the cheeks every day. The destruction of Memorial is a much bigger slap in the face for me, it is a spit on the graves of my grandfathers. This is a much greater insult to me than this idiotic plate. “We are not tormented by things, but by our idea of them,” Montel said. Here’s my idea is that I just survive.