It feels like you woke up in an insane asylum...
"The strongest weapon of propaganda is the substitution of concepts. "Downfall" is "negative growth," "dismissal" is "release. At one moment you get the idea in your head that you woke up in an asylum... Shock, horror. And they tell you - it's okay, it's just denazification." Bogdan is 28. The film and TV director, owner of an esoteric workshop, and civic activist lived in Moscow until February 24. After that, he couldn't. Among other things, because it became unbearable to communicate with his loved ones. A new voice against the war in the project "Eyewitnesses. 24/02/2022".
Tell us about yourself.
- My name is Bogdan, I'm from Moscow, I studied film and TV directing in Moscow. I worked outside of my profession, I had my own business: the production of various historical, ritual instruments for sale in appropriate stores in Russia and abroad. I went for a year to do international volunteer work in Luxembourg, I did an internship at a Spanish media communications company.
How did you find out about the war in Ukraine?
- Already about a week in advance I sensed that something was going to happen, something bad was going to happen. On the 24th, the day after "Defender of the Fatherland Day," I woke up and saw an abundance of news from my friends. I experienced shock and horror at the same time. The worst thing happened when I started calling all my relatives, talking to them, talking to my parents, trying to explain what was going on, and I was told, "No, this is normal, this is just denazification. We're just killing Nazis there." At one point you get the idea in your head that you woke up in an asylum. A real insane asylum, and you're trying to tell people the truth, and they tell you, "No, no, it's different.
Participated in protests in Russia?
- I went out on the evening of the 24th to protest - I can run well. And as I was hiding in the store, I realized that everyone in Russia is doomed. That with this level of state support, we wouldn't change anything with our speeches, with our protests. In 2012, when I turned 18, I decided to become an observer at my school. And the teachers, who were all rooting for the fact that, yes, we needed a change, yes, we had to change something, and they agreed with me on everything, behaved in a way that shook my trust in all people even then. I detected falsification on the part of those teachers who said one thing and did something completely different, just like the authorities in Russia do. After that they tried to fail me in all the exams, but I managed to pass the exams with good marks, though with great difficulty. Then I was an observer at my school for 10 years and I looked people in the eyes and they looked them away.
Why did you leave Russia?
- Because of the spread of anti-war information in Russia. I actively spread it on social networks, even posted the words "No to War" on a piece of paper. I didn't want to go to jail. This is forced emigration. And it has been happening for quite a long time, for the last 10 years, little by little. There is such a thing as brain gain, when young people leave Russia. And, of course, the government has condoned all this. They squeezed the independent media, they put Navalny in jail for show, they shut down different organizations, which were engaged in any kind of education. The whole opposition was squeezed out of Russia. There wasn't even any leader. And in Russia, as it happens, you need a leader, who will lead the crowd somewhere towards a brighter future. That is the mindset of the majority.
How did the war affect your relationship with your loved ones?
- All of my relatives and half of my friends started actively accusing me of Russophobia, of betraying the nation, of betraying the people. These are direct quotes: "Go away from here," "Go back to your Europe," "You're not welcome here." There was a very big scandal with people close to me, after which there was an emptiness in my soul, and I decided: "Screw it." These are not people from the law enforcement agencies or the government; these are people who have their own businesses or something else. When you tell them in hysterics: "They're killing civilians there. I can show you a video of my friends, look at it. And they say to you: "That's not true, they just lie to you. They do it on purpose. Now we'll free them from the Nazis... And you yourself are a Nazi, you're a Russophobe. If you don't support Putin, then you hate Russia, you hate us, and you're a traitor in general, you're a European spy! Get out of here." Our society is split.
Why do many people in Russia support the war?
- People support the war because the Kremlin propaganda was not as harmless and ridiculous as it once seemed. During the war, all of a sudden, as if by a click, people took it and believed it. That fascist patriotism, which had been nurtured for 10 years, became active and began to play out in people at full throttle. One of the weapons of the Kremlin propaganda is substitution of notions. As you have all noticed, a decline is a negative growth, a layoff is a release. People are led to believe that without this particular president's leadership they will be overrun, robbed, the nation will fall, and the country will fall apart. This is what all dictatorships are built on - on lies and substitution of concepts.
Does the protest make sense?
- Yes, there is a point. Through protest, we attract people's attention. In addition to the main protest, which is broadcast by various international media, we ourselves spread information to our acquaintances, to our friends, and show that we can go out, we can talk, we can declare openly what we are against. I go every day at three o'clock in the afternoon to the protests that are organized by the Ukrainian comradeship. I am very grateful, and many of the Russians who come to these protests all the time are also grateful that they allow us to come, to be with them, to come out to the megaphone, to tell their stories, to provide support. We collect humanitarian aid together and hold performances together. That's where we have no barriers, where we accept each other. We all understand that we are fighting for one thing: the freedom of Europe from racism, from Russian aggression.
Whose fault is it that the lives of millions are ruined?
- Not to blame, but to blame. The people who for so many years, having had the opportunity to change power, allowed it to do all these outrages. Of course, Putin is also to blame. And he can already be compared to Hitler, it is now possible. And of course, the people who for so many years have been passive to all the actions of the authorities are to blame.
Feeling guilty about what's going on?
- Personally, I tried, I did my best. I don't feel guilty, and that's why I support Ukraine with peace of mind. I believe that I am a man of peace, and that if I don't support Ukraine, if I don't support the whole world, if I am not part of the world, then I will simply lose my humanity. I will lose myself, my dignity. And so at all the protests, in all the interviews, in various media, I actively broadcast to the whole world that Russians are against the war, in order to preserve at least some reputation with our nation.
What story from Ukraine shook you the most?
- When you look at these pictures, at everything the Russian fascists left behind, you can't understand how this is possible in this world. How?! What guides you to do such things? What is the guideline to follow these crazy orders? What values do you have to have?
What are you afraid of?
- I am no longer afraid. My fear died the day I made the decision to leave Russia. I'm not afraid to show my face, I'm not afraid to say who I am, where I am, I'm ready to share all my social networks. Why? There's nothing left to lose.
What do you think is in store for Russia?
- The people of Russia will become even more embittered, because they are used to tolerating. They will sit to the last, to the last to believe that they are fighting for a good future, which does not exist. I believe that at one point Russia may be in for a split.
What's wrong with Russia?
- That's not what's wrong with Russia right now. The electorate that supports Putin is huge. The level of corruption is high. This power will steal to the last, even while locked up in this country.
Will you come back if the Putin regime falls?
- What is there to go back to? I don't know the answer to this question at the moment. If there were a sudden change of power now, if everything suddenly changed, then one of the reasons to return to Russia might be your relatives and close people. But if these people were willing to give you up, if they were drowning for the murders, for this Nazism, and then suddenly they realize, "Oh, I was wrong," then I don't think I could forgive them inside of me.