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Michael Posner (journalist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Michael Posner is a Canadian journalist, best known as the author of the Mordecai Richler biography The Last Honest Man[1] and the Anne Murray biography All of Me.[2]

In his youth he appeared as an actor in the film And No Birds Sing, for which he won the Canadian Film Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1969.[3] He did not continue to work as an actor, instead becoming a journalist for publications such as the Financial Times of Canada,[4] The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life. His books have included The Big Picture: What Canadians Think About Almost Everything (1990), cowritten with Allan Gregg;[5] Canadian Dreams: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films (1993);[6] and Triple Bypass (2016), about his own recent battle with heart disease.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ZAHAR PRILEPIN - Interview to Vladimir Pozner (2014)
  • Present! - Vladimir Posner on U.S. - Russia Relations
  • Present! - What Trump should know about Putin


POZNER POZNER program is on the air, and our guest is writer Zahar Prilepin though when you look him up on Wikipedia he also turns out a philologist, journalist, politician, businessman, actor, musician. - Hello, Yevgeny Nikolaevich. - Hello. But first and foremost you're a writer, correct? Of course, I'm a writer. It's just some crazy counter collected all these degrees. Why Zahar, not Yevgeny Nikolaevich? Well, some time ago when I thought I'd write only one book, meaning my first novel "Pathology", I figured for some reason that Yevgeny is too high-brow a name, I'd call it "brah-name". And my great grandfather was Zahar Prilepin, and my father, though he was Nikolai Semyonovich, was also called Zahar in the yard, so I decided to take this ancestral name. It's nice. I was just curious why Zahar. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about Russia. I've got here the script and other things, I read them all and some of your comments and interviews. I know that you root for Russia, so do I. And it pains me a lot that it's very hard to reach some agreement. I've got an impression that Russia in some way is similar to Ukraine, in a sense that it's internally divided. Like, there are so-called "liberals" - I can't really grasp who they really mean though you make rather clear statements on the matter. Coming from you, these [liberals] are people who don't love Russia. Not really. But it seems this way when they ask you to define liberals, you go, like, those who'd rejoice at the collapse of the Soviet Union, those who'd support Chechens [during the Chechen War], etc. So there are only negative connotations, no? No, I meant those who were in their element when the Soviet Union collapsed, it's not the same as rejoicing, and also those who stand for the purely liberal-bourgeois way in the economics and the civilization in its purely European form. So it's a bit different. But you don't deny their love for the country? You know, I actually think that unlike in Ukraine - and it's very important - there's a wide spectrum of views and opinions in Russia, and I consider liberals in Russia as a characteristic allowing its culture to develop in multiple ways. And if I feel some personal annoyance it's very characteristic for a range of Russian writers having conservative or traditionalist views, so to say. Though, by and large, it's a natural situation that Russia has got [a variety of opinions]. Again, let's take a look at the Ukrainian situation - we'll get back to it later in more detail - like, there are polar opinions in Russia represented by really famous and remarkable people from the artistic world, like, writers, musicians, etc. Ukraine is much more unipolar in this regard, like, you can find there only 1-2 dissidents thinking that the southeast of Ukraine and Crimea have the right for self-determination. So it's precisely Russia acting like a civilized, European, liberal state. - European, you say... - In this particular context, yes, no doubt. Alright, then I'd like to ask you, who are conservatives after all? You made it clear who's a liberal from your point of view, so who's a conservative? Conservative is a person who thinks that the main purpose of Russia is not to fully identify with Europe in all its shapes and forms. A conservative believes that there's a certain self-identity, certain character of this country, and certain things need to be 'frozen' as Leontyev would put it. Something to be frozen, something to be learned but certain things related to the integrity of geography, territory, faith, cultural framework need to be preserved and even reinforced. So it's a conservative. It's very important to specify these things since many liberals may agree with this viewpoint, like, of course, there are things to preserve, and Russia has its own, unique traits, and, of course, its geography and history, who would argue with that? But when it comes to preserving certain things, not just giving some general overview, what are these things to preserve? You know, probably, it's unfortunate of Russia that in the last couple decades so-called enlightened, European liberals would voice their opinions much less, maybe for the lack of opportunity, than so-called ultra-, I'd even say extremist liberals. These latter ones are ready to speak up anytime, say, when the question is raised about dividing Russia into a few parts along the Ural, or giving away Kuril Islands, so these Russian liberal intellectuals always go, like, it's better to cut than stitch something, etc. - You're exaggerating. - Maybe, but I live in this context. I've been observing this for some 20 years, and it saddens me a lot. We live in the same context, and I know really few people who'd say, like, we gotta cut or rid of something, etc. Though, from your point of view I am rather a liberal than conservative. Like, in front of me... or better not to say "in front", a man was looking at me in a previous program, his name is Dugin, probably it's familiar to you. So, I'm not sure how to classify him but he's not a liberal by any means, the word itself for him is like a swearing. And you know what strikes me, I'm not being ironic right now, is the way our so-called neo-conservatives and the American ones concur. Their appraisal of liberals is just the same, and these are two different countries viewing the world from totally different angles. Here conservatives - very roughly speaking - go, like, it's a "fifth column" [referring to liberals], and same thing there - "fifth column" [the term refers to being a traitor] Could you explain this phenomenon, it's a phenomenon, right? I think that one of the traditions, including in Europe, is having two major players in the political system, one is conservative, the other being liberal. A paradox of Russia is that, say, communists here are like brothers to American conservatives, it'd be a little bit too much for Americans but here they occupy the conservative niche. This is despite the fact that lefties would normally occupy the opposite niche, they'd normally play a destructive role. But in Russia communists took the conservative niche, and there's another niche taken by so-called liberals, the liberal wing of the authorities or the liberal opposition. It's convenient this way, you don't wanna have in the country 30 alternatives of solving an issue, you wanna have just two. So there appear conservatives, and there appear people wanting to bring some change. Just see, Churchill once said, like, if you're not a liberal when you're young, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative by the time you're an adult, you have no brain. And this is not the condemnation and characteristic of liberals you're taking about, it's a completely different understanding, like, when a person becomes more mature he starts getting some previously obscure things. This argument I understand. But these other arguments are very strange and aggressive, up to wanting to kill someone - I'd come across this too - like, a conservative says, I'd kill you! Liberals don't say such things? And liberals say that, very often I consider them being extremists, you see? As long as they don't kill each other, I welcome any debate. Everything is quiet only in the cemetery, it's normal that liberals, conservatives, communists, all sorts of democrats can't find a common ground, confrontation is a normal thing. So I'll repeat once again that it's normal, even for the Russian culture, not just politics but also culture. - So it suits you, right? - Quite so. And you wouldn't even want that just one side would take over? No, I think that liberalism, so as nationalism are needed to sort of spice up the management of the country, and it's clear to me that state, especially the Russian state should be based on conservative, even paternalistic foundations. If you fully extract liberalism from there, or if you remove nationalism altogether the structure would start cracking. Often you say that even though you don't like publicism you're a publicist to some extent. And you often go, like, Pushkin [a major Russian poet] was also a publicist, though I think that Alexander Serggevich [Pushkin] would demand satisfaction from you right away if you told him something along these lines. - And most like you'd kill him... - I think he'd have other reasons. [Zahar is a combat veteran] Besides, like, Dostoevsky's also a publicist, Tolstoy's publicist, so as Mayakovsky, sure thing, maybe Gogol was publicist too? What I mean here is that Russian man of letters has traditionally avoided ivory towers and would directly, often with a bit of aggression or in a reactionary way as liberals would put it react to everything happening in the country. It'd concern politics, the militarism of his own country, questions of Christianity, like, any questions, and they'd react to them immediately in a very briskly and active manner. And this social activism of Russian writer is something traditional, that's what I mean. You understand that a reactionary is not someone who just reacts, it means something else, right? You see, the centuries-long politics of Russia is seen by today's liberal intellectuals as reactionary, right? Like, Russia is a kind of huge corpus or vortex sucking in peoples or territories, or some processes, the vortex keeps rotating and rotating, and rotating and reactionaries think it's a normal thing, they wouldn't find a problem if somebody gets sucked in with this vortex. They wouldn't find it problematic or sprinkle ashes upon their heads, like, it's awful, such a terrible country we live in, etc., no, they think that's the way Russia is. How do you see the way of Russia? It's a keeper of the Eurasian space, it's in charge for one of the world models that for myriads of people on this earth is a source of great puzzlement. Essentially, Russia has always been, and probably will always be seen as a third world country, a country that is not completely civilized, like, it's kind of civilized but not down to rock. In this light when Russia at some moment starts playing a major role in the world geopolitics for India, Latin America, partially for China, Asia, it comes as a surprise and even brings some joy. It makes one realize that the world is not unipolar and it's not governed by the same processes, it enables the multi-track development of the world, so Russia always provides this kind of opportunity. It seems so to me, so Russia isn't a minor player in the world history. There's no doubt about that. But you said an interesting thing that Russia has always been seen as a third world country. But "the third world country" is a 20th century term, before they'd say "developing country", like, backward, poor, something neither on Soviet nor American side, like, out there. - But you got me, right? - Yes, of course. Just was going to ask you something, why has been Russia seen this way? Also, I wanna clarify something. If we see what Russia gave to the world from the point of view of culture and art - I consider that to be the most important - it's definitely not something alien to Europe. From Pushkin onwards, in music, painting, etc. Why does this kind of perception of Russia still persist? I thinks it's been already awhile, like, if you take Pushkin he'd write that Europe's attitude towards Russia is characterized with ignorance and ingratitude. I think for them [Europe] there are kind of two Russias. Like, the first Russia is Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and there's, like, another Russia, somber and cumbersome in its cotton jackets standing behind the barbed wire biting knives with its teeth. - And they would never mix these two Russias. - Never? I think we gotta close this issue and relax, Russia would never be able to prove to Germany, Italy, England or even Poland that it's a civilized, European country where people can courteously greet each other and not drink vodka out of bottle every second. - I think we shouldn't be even trying that. - We shouldn't? There seems to be a sort of separation line, it's invisible unlike the Chinese Wall, it's quite transparent but once you approach it you can't move any further, so Russia is a completely separate entity, and it's not really our fault, not ours. "Mind alone grasps Russia not, common measure fails to measure it?" [he cites Tyutchev's verse] - If it was clear enough in the 19th century to some prominent people... - It was clear to Tyutchev, let's not generalize. - It was clear to Pushkin, Danilevsky, Dostoevsky... - Pushkin wasn't saying exactly this way. - Nevertheless, ignorance and ingratitude [of Europe]... - Yes, it's quite a harsh judgment. But when you say, like, never, don't even hope, etc... Well, we are already Europe in some sense, like, we keep European traditions, we have a rather European culture, any Russian is engaged in various world processes, I mean more or less educated Russians. There are people in Russia who understand things about Finnish cinema, everyone knows French, English, American music, like, you name it, everyone knows it. To tell you the truth, among my acquaintances here there are more educated people than among my acquaintances in Italy, France or England, hope they won't get offended. Do you have as many acquaintances there? Not as many but enough... [to judge] Like, any Russian writer knows more about French or German, or Polish, or even American literature than the other way around. - That's why I.. - Do you mean more than about their own literature? No, we know more about theirs than they do about our and often any other literature. In Russia there's a great number of lovers of Latin American tradition or, say, British literature, so all these processes are active in us, we're woven out of them. So I'm not sure, judging by my colleagues, that they [in Europe] mirror this situation. So Russia doesn't need to prove that it's Europe, we've been Europeans for quite some time, everything is fine in this respect. But still Europe doesn't embrace us, it seems this way. It's fine, so be it, why want to look at the European mirror and see how we appear in it? Is it a bad mirror? I can't really say what kind of mirror it is, it can be anything. But you often go there and say, for example, that Europe is no longer the way it used to be, that today's youngsters' fancying European things actually fancy some illusions. Like, taboos there aren't less rigid or even more rigid than here, etc., so judging by what you say you know what Europe is like. Of course, I go to Europe a lot, like, I do presentations there or my books are translated there, or I just go there as a visitor. Every year I go there 10-12 times, so I have certain reasons to say what I'm saying. So I think there are two kinds of illusions, first are economical that, say, Ukraine is caught up with, it's heading for the Europe having "giveaway biscuits with butter" whereas there's no such a thing in Europe. The EU goes through really hard times, especially if you look at Italy and Greece, so it's not the Europe it used to be. I just wanna cite you here: "In Poland, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania everything crumbles right before your eyes, living standards go down, I went to Italy probably 10 times in six months, face there were sadder and sadder, eyes were lower and lower." - Such a literary summation. - I'd even say it's a bit too much. It's written for a certain reason and for a certain goal, it's primarily addressed to Ukrainians but overall living standards there decline. If we talk about Ukraine, you say rather interesting thing, like, you want them to try it, to feel the sting of this 'terrible Europe'. - Let them join the EU. - And they gonna... It's not terrible, of course, but it's not as fair as it seems to be either. But it can't expand endlessly, it's not a rubber thing, it can't accept 46 millions of Ukrainians so they'd feel there as good as [the core European nations]... Ukraine isn't already Europe? The way they think they are... - The EU and Europe are different things. - They are. - The EU is more like economical union. - It's a political and economical formation. Of course not, nobody would write, like, "French, Italians and Ukrainians" as equals, it also concerns Russians, of course, so no need to be dreaming about it. It's our personal illusions, like, we can cherish them but... How about "French, Italians and Hungarians"? We gotta research the Hungarian question on the side. Or "French, English and Finns"? - Yeah, like in 1940-s they'd write this way. - Yeah. Germans, Hungarians, Romanians altogether would be counted for Europeans. That happens too. Do I get it right that you sort of felt uncomfortable during the Perestroika? [the political movement in 1980-s in the USSR] It'd been an unpleasant experience since I was 16, yeah. What was bothering you in the Perestroika? Well, later when philosopher Alexander Zinovyev said, like, we aimed at communism but instead got to Russia, it was a very precise formulation of my experience. Since it wasn't only atomization, destruction of Soviet mythologemes, often done in a mythological way, it was also shattering of the foundation of my very existence, and it still echoes. Like, does it really mean who was Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, whether we lived under Soviet authorities or not? Still daily you could have read articles in the biggest multi-million circulation newspapers saying, like, Gagarin didn't fly to the cosmos or Kosmodemyanskaya got drunk and lost her way, or Matrosov, like, never existed, etc. It was an endless stream, year after year, and it was a very serious blow at my own as well as the whole nation's identity. And this reciprocal, anti-liberal wave we're observing these days - probably, my colleagues liberals are specially saddened with this fact - is nothing but a response. They gotta realize they had gone too far in the first place trying to prove that Russia had been a centuries-long slave, like, eternal serfdom, etc., many unnecessary words. So, in your in view, what's happening today in many ways is a backlash as English-speakers would say. Yeah, sure. A counter stroke, so to say, and now the surge of patriotism related to the incorporation of Crimea is of the same kind? Yes, it's directly connected, these are not some dissimilar processes, it's a kind of revanche. An Echo of Moscow radio host said that what's happening with Ukraine is the revanche for 1993, for 1991, so they say it plainly, they feel it. So next time or right now liberals shouldn't commit too many mistakes, they shouldn't be poking their fingers into the most sensitive spots. No need. Why all the time trying to offend the people who's also dear to you, why this heartlessness? It seems too much to me. Sometimes secretly I'm worried about liberals since their field of activity is supposed to be defending human rights, like, charity, etc., they do many useful things. But, overall, these liberal talking heads say so much of rubbish that it obscures all the good coming from the liberal idea as such. Don't you think that those having different views - I really don't like these labels, liberals, conservatives, etc. - also say too much of rubbish? Of course! But these people are related to me, it's totally normal, they are my 'relatives' whom I share the same views though at certain moments I attack them much more intensely and ferociously. Here I refer to the type of a state patriot that takes any forms like a chameleon, or, like, these conservatives who recently made this new crazy law banning the use of the obscene language, I can't relate to all these things. Just see. There's the Duma [the parliament] consisting of 400+ people. The Duma makes laws though it seems that the law about the obscene language didn't originate in the Duma itself. - No, it was coming from Duma. - Alright. Why to make such laws? Could you explain how their brains work, what's the meaning of all that? There are two completely inscrutable things, not sure how the brain works there but it's explained quite simply: they feel certain demand for conservative values and start playing with that, also to distract people from what they're really busy with. Like, they try to play nice for people but it's quite a foul game, like, in case with the obscene language or fighting with some theaters, or making blacklists of some cultural workers, it's all false activity, like, show your real results, your real achievements, and we'd rejoice at them. So... we'll talk about them too. We'll talk, after commercials though. The topic I'm personally concerned with is freedom, freedom in general and the freedom of speech in particular. And... I'm having an impression that in Russia freedom is more understood in terms of unrestraint, like, I do whatever I want, I say whatever I want regardless of the consequences. Like, there was a member of the US Supreme Court in 20-s or 30-s, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and he said that man doesn't have the right to scream "Fire!" in a fully crowded movie theater only because he wants to scream "Fire!". And it's a limitation of the freedom of speech since it also means responsibility. I get this idea of freedom, it's fine with me but, like, if I scream whatever I want and let it all go to hell... It seems to me, maybe you'd disagree, that in Russia freedom is understood as unrestraint. Again, there are different processes, and if we talk about culture, for example, I can see freedom both as freedom and unrestraint, and some space free of worries about the future. Culture, like, Russian culture, it's humanness, the notorious humanness is in asking the scariest questions, it doesn't feel shy or worry about certain things which in a civilized society they'd prefer to hush up. That's why everyone gets surprised with this Russian culture, like, it's a last judgment kind of thing, all terrible meanings are turned inside out. Ok, so it's got its specific domain. Yeah but... What about general perception of common people? Don't you think that for Russian man freedom equals unrestraint, like, I do whatever I wish if I'm allowed to, of course. I think that for Russians the notion "freedom" isn't an essential value, it's not even the third on the list, not even the fifth. What about unrestraint? Unrestraint is more related to some outbursts of energy or aggression, or passionarity, whatever, it's, like, 'the Cossack style', and it even more matches Ukraine than Russia, actually. Like, there are no restraints, I'll go and smash up everything. But today Russia is a much more conservative country, what unrestraint you're talking about, life is important, something bigger than us is important. But would you agree that asking some scary, heavy, shocking questions sometimes has quite unpleasant results in Russia? In particular, if you take Rain TV channel, your colleague, also a writer, asked a question, by the way, you were also disturbed with it, and we see the consequences. Yes, we see. There are certain things that gotta be tabooed. Like what? Besides, he's not a writer. If he wrote a text, and this phrase was embedded in there like with a novel by Astafyev Victor Petrovich who allowed himself such statements ike surrendering Leningrad. Like, there are no problems with Astafyev, you read a thick volume, see it there and will be thinking it over. But here it's about affecting masses, you don't wanna affect masses this way, it's different, there are different applications... Is tabooing the same as censorship? There are certain things, even if you take classics, like, Pushkin or Soviet ones that shouldn't be broadcast. No need to tell 2 million people something that may cause [some indignation]... So no need to read Pushkin on TV, I mean those things you refer to. Certain things shouldn't be thrown on the unprepared soil, of course. Like, it's not necessary to broadcast Dostoevsky's diaries. It's not necessary. But "not necessary" and "not allowed" are two different things, you're a fine judge of words. Mass media must have certain taboos, there are certain things that, in my view, shouldn't be touched. And these things are clear to everybody, they have to do with the acts of bravery of great Russian people as well as other peoples during the Great Patriotic War [World War II], or, like, related to the tragedy of Holocaust. It shouldn't be discussed on a mass scale, like, you may do scientific studies, or you may have a dispute with someone but broadcasting these things to great many people - what for? It's a kind of provocation, It'd ignite the fire you're talking about. But, let's say, if we take Germany where my daughter has lived for many years. I'm not a big fan of Germany, I should say, because of the events of the World War II, I'm a war child and remember many things. There they discuss daily like, in schools and other places about Nazism, Hitler, and Holocaust. Of course, in Germany there's a law prohibiting any doubts about the Holocaust, well, I understand why things are this way in Germany, some other countries also have this law. They teach in schools about Hitler on a daily basis, this is a reemerging topic, and one may say it traumatizes the nation. Don't you think that it's an example showing, first, the confidence of the people, and, second, certain bravery of theirs? Well, if you wanna gradually bring up the issue of Stalinism or Bolshevism, and why we don't talk much about it, I grew up during those years and decades when all these things had been discussed in and out. And up to these days it's a common knowledge, it's not classified, it's a constantly reemerging topic, and, basically, whatever happened to the Soviet Union is the tragedy of our repentance. We got a huge social disparity, our state [Soviet Union] collapsed, we've been already punished enough. And we must have learned some lessons from it, so saying that in Germany it's all happening but it's not the case with Russia [is wrong], it's been happening here on a very high level, and this self-flagellation could compete with Germany. Perhaps, it is true, and, perhaps, if we talked openly about it there would have been less self-flagellation. Like, isn't it happening in schools? What else could be done here? It seems to me... Ok, we'll see what happens to the history textbook. You're saying it yourself, like, you don't wanna discuss Stalin, like, it gotta be a taboo. I didn't mean specifically Stalin, I don't want them to raise questions similar to the one they raised on Rain TV channel, it's about the way the question was formulated. There are things that shouldn't be discussed, as for Stalin, I think we gotta close this topic. Why so? Do you think everything got clarified? I believe that at this point of time it's used for some other applications and energies, it's a kind of magical sword that conservatives start using against liberals and vice versa, this way we obscure some burning issues. So, perhaps, it's for the future resolution? Now, you've said word "Stalin" a few times, it only gives more weight to this name whereas not many seem to be interested in him. No, it's nonsense, like, every day thousands of times Hitler is mentioned, and it doesn't give him any more weight. I don't think you can ever put on the same plane these two names. Well, in terms of being a major player in the war you can put them on the same plane, like, Roosevelt and Churchill are from the same company. I'd like to get back to something you've said, like, freedom doesn't rank even the third in the list of the essential principles of Russians. What are the first three essential principles? I think that for Russian man - by the way, it's proven again by the situation in Ukraine as well as many other historical events - there are greater things than his selfhood. It may be inside each individual, like, someone seems to be concerned with his yard, another wants to go to Turkey or Egypt but when something big happens it turns out that Russians are ready to sacrifice little or selfish things for the sake of a great event, great process, great joy. That's why politicians use that from time to time, they throw to people, like, you see, the country you're living in is so huge. Yes, that's the way things are but I don't see it as something that Russians are to be rebuked for, like, it's a normal thing. I'm just curious what these three major Russian traits are, it's not about blaming, really, no rebuking. The common interest prevailing over the individual, so it's one thing. The sense of belonging to the immense history as well as immense geography, this inner feeling that, as Suvorov would put it, "I'm a Russian - such a delight!" though in liberal circles they'd mock this phrase, still such thing exists. And certain things related, perhaps, to the faith, like, someone said that Russian soul is Christian, probably this, maybe something else. When I said, like, three traits, It doesn't mean that I sorted them out once and for all, it's rather arbitrary. No, I understand that. What about this sense, how to put it, of not being involved in anything that's going on in the country, and even the desire that someone else would do it instead? You see, not sure what is your understanding of such term as "civil society", but for me it's a society consisting of citizens. And a citizen goes, it's my country! It's my town, it's my street, it's my house, and I'm responsible for and will be involved with that, like, I'll be screaming and stamping my feet, etc., 'cause it's mine, I'm a citizen. I've got a feeling that it's lacking in Russia, it's not even a feeling but assertion. I think it's true. Most probably it's lacking. There's just a flip side to it. Like, when I was in France or Italy presenting or just talking to someone, they'd go, like, you know in Italy you'd seldom see a nationwide patriotism, it's more about patriots of their own yards, their own towns. When during life broadcast on Italian TV I wanted to congratulate them with their Republic Day, they said, like, no-no, we don't celebrate it, don't say such words, please. It's true. But I wouldn't particularly rejoice either since a person doesn't feel himself as a child of some big state and culture. I agree. Perhaps, in Russia these traits manifested 'cause of this [huge] space, it blurs the selfhood, like, you look around in this vastness, Arkhangelsk is there, Astrakhan is there, like, God knows what surrounds you. So this huge space kind of waters down the quality of responsibility, like, what to be responsible for? There's so much of everything that your individual yard is lost in it. Probably, I'm trying to justify it but there are other things too, like, when you say that people aren't involved with anything at all, the history proves something quite the opposite. Let's take, for example, 1917 or 1991... Why wouldn't you mention the war? Of course, we participated! [Pozner is being ironic] I'm not talking about the war, 1917 or 1991 are precisely about the involvement of masses, not just intellectuals. But these were revolutions, right? Intellectuals were in the tail end of masses, people would resolve everything by themselves. Leave alone intellectuals, aren't you an intellectual yourself? Ok, I'll make it more simple, just see, what's happening in the southeast of Ukraine proves that it's precisely people who are the strongest agent. - Nobody argues with that, there are moments when people just blow up. - It's good that we agree. But generally speaking certain apathy, certain 'let it all go to blazes' attitude is there, like, I can't elect my governor, I can't elect my mayor - and it's good since I don't bear any responsibility, let somebody else bear. Again, it's a result of rather poor implementation of liberal reforms in Russia. They were implemented in such a way that people couldn't quite enjoy it, they didn't enjoy choosing among Nemtsov, some veteran general and other guys, like, whoever you choose you lose. I see. I said before that we don't choose governors, we actually choose but through certain filters, and now they even stopped choosing mayors. And you think it's normal? I don't think it's normal, I think it's bad. But again, I'd say that we should mostly blame here prior unsuccessful realization of liberal reforms, it just turned out this way, I understand those people. I brought a book by Yevgeny Schwartz who's very dear to me, Yevgeny too, by the way, the only difference is Schwartz. He wrote many remarkable plays, in my view, and I was wondering whether to read something from him - it concerns our conversation - and I decided to read. For our viewers who might not have read him, there's such a play as "Dragon" where knight-errant Lancelot shows in a country ruled by a dragon for 300 years, Lancelot falls in love with a maiden who dragons wants to marry, in short, Lancelot challenges the dragon. So they meet in a square, and from this moment I start reading: Lancelot to the dragon's question "How are you?" replies, I'm fine. Dragon: What's the bucket on the floor? Lancelot: Arms! Dragon: Is it my people's idea? Lancelot: Theirs. Dragon: Oh, these rascals! You don't like it, right? Lancelot: Not really. Dragon: You're lying! I'm a cold-blooded creature but even I would have offended. Lancelot: No. Dragon: It's all lies! My people are really scary, you wouldn't find anyone like them. It's my job, I fashioned them this way. Lancelot: Still, they are people. Dragon: It's on the surface. Lancelot: No. Dragon: If you saw their souls, you'd really tremble! Lancelot: No. Dragon: You'd even run away. You wouldn't die for cripples since, my dear, I crippled them myself. I crippled them in a due manner. Human souls, my dear, are very hardy, if you cut a man in half he'd die, if you rip his soul - it'd become obedient, just that. No, you wouldn't find such souls like in my town: armless souls, legless souls, deaf and dumb souls, watchdog souls, stool pigeon souls, wretched souls. Do you know why mayor pretends to be insane? He wants to conceal that he doesn't have a soul at all. Holed souls, corrupt souls, hard-boiled souls, dead souls. No, too bad they're invisible. So you understand what I'm talking about, right? - I'm refusing to understand that. - Really? You kind of wanna illustrate Russian man in different states of wretchedness. It's a reference to... It's clear who dragon is, isn't it? It's Stalin. As you said, like, Pushkin would demand satisfaction from me, so Schwartz may have disagreed with you either. No, he'd agree with me. So you can really make anything out of people if you do it for quite some time. Of course, it's not possible to change them forever but you can't deny the influence of these long years, some 30 years, on the people, the way they became. You're saying that it's your... it's yours. You said, like, people with hard-boiled, dead, holed and wretched souls, so these children of Stalin, all of a sudden, bring forth Thaw period, great Soviet cinema, great poetry, great... But it's also written in the play, like, they would see the light eventually. - So they saw the light! - Already? It means they saw the light and became this way, it's not, like, he [Stalin] made them create such a culture. I can't quite get it, like, if Soviet man, Soviet teenager, Soviet pupil won the most terrible world war in the history, is he the result of what Schwartz talks about? Or it's some other teenager who won it? Did he do all that with this [wretched] soul, or he had some other kind of soul? Like, he changed it during the war and then put it back? I'm not sure that these processes are as fundamental as you say it. You think not? In your view, it's a kind of curse but I'm not quite sure if it's a curse. I think... you asked me about freedom, so the space of freedom for Russian man is precisely about self-renunciation, self-dissolution, so that's really the freedom. It's freedom of Seraphim of Sarov [a great saint], freedom of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya [a war hero], freedom of Pushkin [a major poet and writer], etc., it's not the freedom to move from A to B. You see, the character of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya isn't something alien to many countries, not only in Russia people would sacrifice themselves. Sure, but Russia reached in this respect the greatest success and the greatest self-sacrifice, just see the number of victims. Like, it's not Stalin personally cut them with a scythe, right? Yeah but his unpreparedness for the war cut many lives with a scythe, you wouldn't argue with that. Ok, let's leave this topic. I know that you're not into predicting, and here I resonate with you, like, you make a bad shot, and then they start pointing their fingers on you, like, what a "smart" guy you are, etc. Do you have some kind of feeling... Today many in Russia start talking about beating it, and Russia, remarkably rich with its people, starts losing them, they keep leaving and leaving, so what's your feeling about, say, the tomorrow? You have it, right? I've got a feeling... I don't have any apocalyptic feelings, no. No? I don't have a feeling that it's time to beat it, that's for sure. If someone says it's time to beat it, well, do it quietly and don't obstruct the view. By the way, if suddenly, God forbid, people aren't allowed again to leave the country, would you still stay [in Russia]? I can't imagine circumstances that would make me leave. Very well. Asking just in case. So you don't see precisely the same way as Pushkin who'd optimistically look forward to the future. Yeah, specially when Decembrists were hanged a week later. [he refers to the Decembrist Uprising in Russia in 1825] Like, I don't have any rational reasons for rejoicing the future of Russia as yet. Still we've got issues with our industry, agriculture, aforementioned freedom of speech in mass media while, at the same time, everything is fine with it in literature, nobody really touches you there. So there are certain reasons to feel sad but overall, intuitively I feel that it's not the worst place in the world, and Russia would have an opportunity to show herself, it may happen unexpectedly, it gives a meaning to my life. You like to read very much, right? Of course, I do. Well, there are people who don't read at all. You said it yourself, I think it was you, that no one is into reading in our Duma [the parliament]. Well, if they outlaw the obscene language while in each volume of "The Quiet Don" you'd find some funny words, or if you take half of Russian classics like Pushkin, Lermontov, Yesenin, children won't be able to read them, librarians would be punished. Don't they realize that? What you can say here... Have you read Marcel Proust? I know that you've got here... Yes, but have you read him? Sure. Do you like him? Well, he feels viscous to me. Yeah, a bit boring. Still he requested me to ask you a few questions, and I'll do it. Ok, I just need to find them since he sent them later than he'd normally do. So, do you have an idol? No. There are just people who I consistently respect. If you could choose a time to live in, is there any time, not today's, that kind of appeals to you? Well, I'd feel myself comfortably during the Silver Age [of Russian poetry] in the beginning of the 20th century in Russia, in all its cultural environment, like, decadents, symbolists, acmeists in the after-Revolution 1920-s. It's the time of some extraordinary faith, extraordinary... not possibilities but, as Yesenin put it, the feeling of 'another track', of the vastness of the atmosphere, even though unexpectedly for everyone it went bankrupt. By the way - it's not from Proust but still I'll ask - do you have any explanation for yourself why, all of a sudden, such things happen, like, this Silver Age? It was something spectacular in all the spheres: architecture, art, photography, cinema, literature, all of a sudden it just burst out, and then it's like, gone. I wouldn't say it's gone as it all remains, and after some time it manifests again. It's just some accumulation of energies, possibilities, intellect, etc., happens. Probably, it happens in the worst time? Let's take the Golden Age [of Russian poetry and literature], Nikolai I wasn't [so nice]... I wouldn't say it's about the worst time. Not the nicest. I think there are thousands of factors that influence that, and we can name only two. Let's imagine that you, as a genuine Russian man, catch the golden fish [a fairy tale character], and it says, good man, please, release me, and I'll fulfill three of your wishes. What are they? It's pointless to make wishes of something that can't ever materialize. You make wishes of something doable. Do you have something in mind? I want to look at my motherland with love and tenderness. I want it to give such a chance to me as well as to people who populate it, so no one would say it over "It's time to beat it" for one reason or another. It's one. I have some personal things related to my family, my children, I'd ask them as my second wish. But overall I don't need anything aside from what I've already said, otherwise I've got everything, I got even more than I could have expected. Are you afraid of death? When in full seriousness I tell my friends that I don't really think about it, they look at me skeptically but I don't really have any... Even when you were at the Chechen War? It's a completely different story... You wouldn't think [about death]? Well, of course, you always keep that in mind but it wouldn't stop me in some movements, impulses, reactions. So you're not afraid? No, it's different, of course, you may feel afraid, it's a normal human quality. But, like, depression, psychosis, obsession, like, waking up in the night yelling "I'm mortal!" would never happen to me unlike with some of my friends, and it wouldn't start, I'm pretty sure. Tell me, please, how would you want to die? The same way as Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy if he wouldn't flee from his Yasnaya Polyana mansion, like, in a village, surrounded by the family children, grandchildren, and fans who you'd chase away from the yard. What's the main masculine trait that you'd want to see in men? Well, responsibility, perhaps, responsibility for your family, the space where you live in, the territory, language, so it's a multilayer responsibility: your kinship, your motherland. How about women? I think it's femininity as such that doesn't reject maternity. I think it's worth talking about it since these days many women believe that femininity and maternity are opposite things. What do you regret the most? There are no such things. Nothing that happened personally to me. Do you like yourself? I look at myself with an interest, I try to have a pinch of salt about myself, I always have a cheerful self-ironic attitude, I don't have any irritation with myself or some pangs of conscience. Finding yourself before the Lord, what would you say? Thank you. It was Zahar Prilepin. - Thank you very much. - Thank you.


  1. ^ Donna Bennett, "The Last Honest Man: Mordecai Richler: An Oral Biography (review)". University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 75, Number 1, Winter 2006. pp. 395-397.
  2. ^ "Anne Murray says farewell with All of Me". CBC News, October 29, 2009.
  3. ^ "'Best Damn Fiddler' Wins Film of the Year Award". Ottawa Journal, October 6, 1969.
  4. ^ "Thomson buys Financial Times for Globe to manage". Vancouver Sun, December 12, 1989.
  5. ^ Susan Delacourt, Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them. D&M Publishers, 2016. ISBN 9781771621106. p. 345.
  6. ^ "Brief Reviews: Canadian Dreams". Books in Canada.

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