Interview with Andrew Nekrasov by Florian Rötzer, translated from German by John Helmer, Moscow
Andrei Nekrasov (lead picture, left) is a Russian screenwriter and playwright, movie and theatre director, and thinker who emigrated from Russia in 1980.
He carried out this interview in German, and declined to say the place he’s presently dwelling, besides that it’s a “impartial nation”. Right here are his profession credit and fifteen movies.
Florian Rötzer (proper), 69, was co-founder and editor-in-chief of the net journal Telepolis printed by Heise Verlag between 1996 and 2020. Since January 2022, he has directed the net journal, Krass & Konkret, printed by Buchkomplizen and Westend Verlag.
The interview was carried out on March 5. Learn the German unique.
Q: You’ve gotten been dwelling outdoors Russia for a very long time. Due to the conflict in Ukraine, a united entrance towards Russia has been constructed. As a Russian, do you already really feel this personally?
A: Not but, however now something can occur. Struggle shouldn’t be a battle of narratives or propaganda, however one thing worse. I’m personally towards the conflict. Aside from the context and the narrative, it’s the final answer, however it’s not the one one. There are defensive wars when a nation below assault has the selection between conflict and capitulation. However even then, it’s a must to take into consideration the conflict like this: Am I personally able to battle? Am I able to ship my kids to conflict? If not, then please no conflict, even when it’s a only one.
The conflict of the Soviet Union towards Nazi Germany was a transparent factor for us Russians and I might have fought like so many in my household. Some Russians additionally see the present conflict as a defensive conflict. Though I’m towards saying that each one combat-ready Russians are merely brainwashed, this doesn’t assist to know the state of affairs. The state of affairs impacts the entire world, not simply Ukraine and Russia.
Q: You’ve gotten contact with associates and acquaintances in Russia. What’s the temper like? Is it extra prone to stand behind the conflict or criticize it? Is there a subversive temper?
A: I wish to clarify why I say “me” so usually and speak about myself. There are moments in historical past and in addition in politics the place it’s a must to apply a type of phenomenology and dialectics to investigate the occasions. It’s not sufficient to argue now with political clichés. Sadly, this occurs in lots of media. I’ve studied and lived within the West, in a number of nations, but in addition repeatedly in Russia, the place I nonetheless have many associates and colleagues. I’m only a witness who additionally analyzes.
There are nonetheless many various camps in Russian society. However Putin’s approval scores have risen because the starting of the conflict and regardless of the sanctions. This doesn’t imply that each one Russians help this conflict. Most of my associates are towards it. The liberal intelligentsia, my setting, so to talk, is towards it. Many are attempting to depart Russia. However the majority helps the federal government. Why? For them, this conflict is a type of resistance. And that should sound stunning to most in Europe.
The Western interpretation goes like this: Putin is a dictator; he’s obsessive about the restoration of the Soviet Union or the Russian empire; or each. As a dictator he can do something, whilst you don’t know what bizarre Russians assume as a result of they’re afraid. That is superficial. Till just a few days in the past, the Russian media have been nonetheless free. In an article that appeared in Krass & Konkret in the summertime, I had warned: In the event you provoke Russia, which may occur in several methods, for instance by constructing Navalny as a Russian Guaido, then there will probably be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For a few years Russia had free media, however within the West individuals spoke of Russia as a type of dictatorship. There have been giant demonstrations of the opposition. I used to be additionally an opposition determine and spoke at rallies like Navalny, Nemtsov and different individuals I do know. We insulted Putin and the media might say something about Putin. Putin has usually been grossly insulted, which might not be tolerated in some European nations. In Russia you might do this. And now these oppositional media have been shut down as a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it may possibly worsen. I don’t need to act like a prophet, however I’ve described this in a number of articles.
The narrative that Putin is all-powerful and everyone seems to be afraid has been flawed for 20 years. When Putin got here to energy through the conflict in Chechnya, there have been just a few critics of him, together with me. Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Gerhard Schroeder, in fact, and lots of others had nothing towards him. Tony Blair was proud to welcome him as the primary head of presidency when Russian planes bombed Chechnya. On the time, that was okay and no one cared about it. Till the day earlier than yesterday, it was a mistake or a lie that Russia is a dictatorship, there was freedom of expression. Some Russian liberals referred to Putin as Hitler just a few years in the past. That was not appropriate. I by no means voted for Putin, however he was not a dictator that everybody was afraid of. That isn’t the case even now. The opposition media are actually gone, however the dialogue continues.
In fact, all the things is altering now. However the excessive approval scores usually are not a consequence of concern, however an expression of the bulk’s perspective to the conflict. The primary motive for the conflict shouldn’t be hatred of Ukraine. Neither is it the case that almost all Russians need a restoration of the Soviet Union. That is additionally a superficial and automated interpretation. The intellectuals within the West say that — for me it’s a cliché.
Q: And what could be the explanation for agreeing to conflict?
A: The reason being precisely what Olaf Scholz known as ridiculous. That’s what he mentioned after a prolonged speech by Putin – I don’t agree in any respect with all the things that was mentioned. Putin mentioned there was a genocide in japanese Ukraine. Scholz replied that this was ridiculous. Many Russians discovered it an insult for a German chancellor to make use of such phrases within the context of mass homicide in Jap Europe – ridiculously – even when what occurred in Donbass couldn’t be thought-about genocide strictly by definition. However it’s a undeniable fact that about 3,000 civilians have been killed, primarily in Donetsk, by shelling by the Ukrainian military and nationalist battalions. This has hardly been reported, though it continues now. Though the Ukrainian military has withdrawn from the contact line, they proceed to shell these areas, which nonetheless results in many civilian casualties.
Q: Kiev all the time says that the victims are to be lamented on the Ukrainian aspect by the shelling of the separatists.
A: Within the West, individuals don’t like to speak about it. The civilian casualties from either side are became a typical determine. However when you learn fastidiously, for instance within the Russian opposition media, through which the West is all the time defended and the Putin-bashers write, the place there have been additionally longer texts and conversations with eye-witnesses, then it’s admitted there that almost all civilian casualties from 2014 to the current day have been within the East. Additionally as a result of Donetsk is a giant metropolis. In the event you shoot on the metropolis, there are extra victims.
I don’t imagine Russian propaganda, and I’m an skilled propaganda analyst from either side. However immediately you’ll not discover something concerning the victims within the East in western media, solely the victims of the Russian assaults. Even when that was 50:50, why didn’t you point out that on a regular basis? This is a crucial drawback, as a result of it was the Ukrainian military which shelled its personal inhabitants.
Formally, it’s mentioned that these are all terrorists….
A: That’s exactly the issue. Many Russians see this as a defensive conflict, as a result of it’s not simply concerning the numbers, i.e. hundreds, together with many kids. This has been confirmed, this isn’t pretend information — it may be documented. But it surely’s additionally about why that occurred. I’m a witness right here. I used to be on the Maidan and on the aspect of the protesters, I assumed that was a very good revolution. Most Russians didn’t see it that means and a few Ukrainians didn’t agree with it. I may testify to that. I spoke to Ukrainians who have been towards Maidan.
The primary motive is that Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians really feel attacked and sacrificed. They see themselves as victims of discrimination, of ethnic discrimination. That’s fairly clear, we have to speak about it. Some name this Nazism. I wouldn’t use such a time period, not even genocide. Nonetheless, I discover it distasteful to weigh up whether or not it’s genocide or not within the context of hundreds of deaths within the palms of nationalist battalions. Fascism is, as Camus mentioned, contempt.
I’m a witness that my Ukrainian acquaintances thought-about the individuals of the East to be inferior. These individuals particularly could not have meant it so badly. They used all types of arguments — for instance that the lumpenproletariat had concentrated within the East. However the place is that this precise restrict? The place is the precise line between dangerous and never so dangerous? Is the slogan Ukraina above all alright? I’ve heard that on a regular basis in Ukraine.
Q: You imply that many Russians are backing the conflict due to this oppression or discrimination, however not due to the safety calls for for Russia that the Kremlin has made?
A: That additionally performs a job. I first spoke of discrimination towards individuals within the East as inferior, as a result of it shocked me personally and I heard it personally. If I have been President of Russia, there’s additionally logic. Putin would say that if there was a revolution in Mexico after which put in missiles from Russia or China, what would the American authorities do? What would the British authorities do if the temper in Eire turned so anti-British that there was a menace of conflict? That is Putin’s logic, together with that NATO mustn’t develop eastwards. I did a collection for Arte and talked to lots of people the place it turned clear that a complete bunch of western politicians promised the Russians to not develop NATO eastwards. The primary argument now’s that though the…
Q: However haven’t agreed in writing…
A: They don’t even say that. The then-US Secretary of State [James] Baker had made the well-known promise to not go one inch to the east. He mentioned that, they are saying, and didn’t converse of Germany, however he solely meant it inside Germany. And [Mikhail] Gorbachev himself confirmed this. Most Russians hate Gorbachev — he’s a traitor to them. From the American perspective, it’s mentioned that Gorbachev confirmed this to be so. Even when he had confirmed that solely Germany was meant, it could be absurd to speak concerning the geopolitical situations of NATO, however then assume that one should not go an inch additional inside Germany, however pass over Poland and the Baltic states.
Gorbachev was already an getting old man; he had his personal private curiosity; and, as German politicians have confirmed, he was utterly unprepared. However no matter Gorbachev, there’s frequent sense and honesty. When [Boris] Yeltsin gave a speech to the US Congress in 1991 and declared that communism was probably the most evil factor that had occurred to the world within the twentieth century, he was saying that we Russians are guilty for all the things, or virtually. Many Russians didn’t take this nicely. However this reveals how prepared the Russians have been to cooperate with the West. Even Putin had requested [Bill] Clinton whether or not Russia might develop into a NATO member. That was a special world. One can count on a little bit of honesty and goodwill from the West and never conclude that this meant to use solely to Germany by the Individuals. The Russians won’t ever settle for this.
Q: Apparently, Putin desires to occupy the japanese a part of Ukraine so far as Kiev and doubtless set up a pro-Moscow authorities.
A: I feel it’s a really dangerous plan. The Russian authorities desires to destroy Ukraine’s army capability. However managing the society is way tougher. Wars are simple to start out and virtually unattainable to finish. The Russians, for whom it is a defensive conflict, imagine that almost all Ukrainians will help neutrality for the nation. That is the hope. However conflict makes enemies. Even the pro-Russian Ukrainians …
Q: Who are actually additionally being bombed…
A: … are actually turning into enemies. That’s why it’s a must to assume a thousand instances over earlier than you act. Perhaps they’ve carried out that within the Kremlin, however I feel it was in all probability a mistake.
Q: It appears to be like just like the US, along with Europe, is making an attempt to isolate Russia with all types of sanctions and measures. Airline flight connections are lower off — the cash flows and the funds and the economic system anyway. It’s supposed to harm the Russians. Will this create resistance in Russia or result in anger towards Putin?
A: We actually had a giant wave of opposition in Russia in 2010 and 2011. It was then that the opposition got here closest to success. The truth is, on the time there was speak of a revolution. In Russia, nonetheless, there was a profitable revolution solely twice – through the First World Struggle and in 1991, when it was through the Chilly Struggle and after the defeat within the Afghanistan conflict. A really lengthy listing of things got here collectively which introduced the communist system to its finish. In 2010-2011, there wasn’t even one % of those elements. However now there’s conflict. This will give rise to hope amongst members of the opposition and within the West that the possibility of a change of presidency, a regime change, is now coming.
However Russia shouldn’t be Iraq and Ukraine, you possibly can’t bomb it. Some individuals could hate Putin; they could imagine he’s the incarnation of evil. The hope is that Russia will go down to this point economically and politically that individuals will stand up. For me, it is a mistake in considering. I can’t say it received’t occur, however in the intervening time the calculation is flawed. This has to do with the truth that Russia shouldn’t be understood culturally, even anthropologically. Why is help for Putin rising now? Is almost all simply afraid? No.
The West, within the type of its media correspondents in Moscow, talks to the opposition or to individuals who, like me, reside within the West. However you don’t perceive the bulk. The West and the Russian higher class are united by the bourgeois life-style and the bourgeois worldview. However the Russian majority is anti-bourgeois. It’s happy with the sanctions which have hit the higher class, the oligarchs, and in addition the higher center class. They rejoice, and subsequently they help the conflict.
Q: So that you’re blissful that the elite is struggling?
A: In fact. Not solely the elite, the bourgeoisie. Western politicians usually are not intellectuals – they’ll solely make their careers as a result of they symbolize these mediocre attitudes. Such crises are to not be understood politically, one should assume philosophically. The Russian individuals nonetheless have this deep anti-bourgeois sensibility. The Russian intelligentsia is afraid of those individuals. The division of society between the aristocracy, the landowners, the intellectuals, and the individuals, as we perceive from Russian literature, remains to be there in a special model. One might maybe name the anti-bourgeois perspective of the bulk their resentment and consider it negatively. However what can change that? For positive, the sanctions and western ethical preaching won’t change the Russian individuals. As a result of they take into account the sermon to be hypocrisy.
Even when situations develop into uncomfortable for them, they are going to survive as a result of they’re good at it, as a result of they mobilize. Porsche not delivers vehicles — they chortle. The true Russians rejoice. And these are the identical ones who see the conflict as a defensive conflict and reject the Ukrainian nationalists who need to return to the European household. “European household” sounds advantageous, does it? Not essentially so — it has additionally been a colonial energy which was conceited in direction of those that didn’t belong.
Folks additionally see NATO as a army alliance together with the financial energy of the West. The truth that the West can use so many sanctions makes the affiliation between NATO and financial energy plausible to Russians as the 2 sides of the identical aggression. The conflict in Iraq was based mostly on a lie — a whole lot of hundreds have been then killed. That is recognized and accepted. However nobody has imposed sanctions on the US and its coalition. That isn’t doable, is it? The West is the grasp of world capitalism. This compels Russia to consider the options. There are options. There may be China. There may be additionally a Russian mixture of communist and conservative values. One subsequently should ponder tips on how to free oneself from this western capitalism and fight it.
Russia is comparatively weak, however, sorry for the platitude, what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.
The nightmare state of affairs for the West could be an alliance of countries and completely different cultures rebelling towards the civilizational domination and vanity of the West. The West claims that Russia is totally remoted, however it could be underestimating the underdog’s resentment internationally. Even when Russia loses within the present confrontation with the West, the world order, in my view, won’t merely return to the liberal model of business-as-usual. And a defeat of Russia, which, for instance, results in a civil conflict, might be even worse for its European neighbours than its victory.