Roman Bordunov: "In 20 years in power, anyone can go crazy.
Roman Bordunov decided to leave Russia after being detained at a rally in support of Navalny in the winter of 2021 and spending two weeks in Sakharov. People arrested at the rally were sent to this migration center because there were not enough places in the special detention centers in Moscow for all the protesters. Roman caught the start of the war in Georgia. He sees no rational explanation for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "Putin is about to turn 70 years old. He has been in power for more than 20 years. Everyone is going to go berserk. Especially if it's a former KGBGB man. I'm not sure that KGB guys can be former," says Roman. The hero of the "Eyewitnesses" project is not sure that any good future awaits Russia, so he openly says "goodbye" to his homeland.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Roma Bordunov, and I occasionally forget how old I am. I am 28 years old. I came here from Moscow, almost exactly a year ago. I am an SMM-engineer, marketer, creator, I guess that's a rough way to describe what I do. I mostly write.
How did you find out about the outbreak of war?
The thing is, I had been drinking the night before, went to bed at about three in the morning, and woke up practically as soon as it started. I don't remember how early in the morning it happened, but somehow or other, I woke up to messages in capslock that said, "He's really bombing Kiev. I didn't realize at first what had happened, simply because I had just woken up, I was a little hungover, my head was buzzing. I started furiously monitoring messages and chats. I don't know how to describe the feeling, it's not like you were doused with cold water - that would be too weak a word. And that immediately came a complete sense of the surrealness of what was happening, and it kept building up, building up, and it lasted for months afterward.
Do your loved ones share your feelings about what's going on?
Let's just say that there are no ziggers among my relatives. Fortunately, I have managed to acquire acquaintances, comrades, who have a completely adequate view of things. But this is not surprising in general, because my circle consists of activists, journalists, bloggers, and so on. I occasionally see something in my feed, on Facebook, but I don't know how these people end up there, I'll have to delete them sometime. My environment boasts of its adequacy, I guess.
How did you get detained at a rally in support of Navalny in 2021?
I thought about sitting at home that day, but my conscience tortured me and I felt uncomfortable, because people were out on the streets, and I was sitting here in the warmth. I packed my things, went to the rally, got on a streetcar to get to the subway station, walked literally 100-200 meters, tried to avoid the small group of riot police, who did not detain anyone, I thought they were just going somewhere else, but they had a different opinion. They detained me, then everything was standard: a police truck, a night in one of the MIAs, then a night in the other, and then the interesting stuff started. The next morning there was a trial, but I, so to speak, escaped from the court, leaving my passport there. They looked for me for a few days, and finally they found me successfully, because the landlady of the apartment I was hiding in at the time, in fact, opened the door to the cops and thus ratted me out. So I went to Sakharovo for two weeks, where I had a glorious time in the company of a former Kadyrov battalion officer and a web designer.
How were your days in Sakharov?
The days at Sakharov pass boringly. I have some advantage in that I have a very low comfort bar. After 17 years of living in Chelyabinsk, a military department with a barracks, and many other deprivations, you no longer think that unsanitary conditions, bunks, and food of, shall we say, not the most acceptable quality are such a big problem, but, however, it would be strange to expect anything else, so the main problem is boredom. You go out for a walk, and everyone there greets each other: "Hello, prisoners," make some tricks out of crumbs. In general, people are more or less ironic about it. When I had the radio, we just listened to hip-hop all day long, we had a kind of "trephata", and for a while you even forgot where you were. I mean, it was like you were just in a fucking sanatorium. I read quite a few books, about 13, that's probably a lot for me. I didn't think I'd get to this point, but I did mark the days I had left in Sakharov, literally like a movie, just like that, with a pen on the wall, because you wake up - and then you have some just interesting checkpoints, like breakfast, lunch, dinner, a walk of 30 minutes, the rest of the time is an existence where you sit and smoke out the window. Two weeks, for normal life, fly by unnoticed, always. One blink of an eye and that's it. Those two weeks were endlessly long.
When and why did you leave Russia?
I had been thinking about moving out of Moscow for a year, because I didn't like the city, I was tired of freezing and getting around police fences, so I had quite a few reasons to move somewhere out of Moscow, at least to a warmer place. I thought it would happen. Let's just say that recent events at the time are not the main reason. I moved on August 27, 2021. This was long before everyone started moving to Georgia en masse, after I was in the isolation ward for two weeks, my thoughts were strengthened. Then I went to Georgia to see what was going on, I liked it there and on my return to Russia my paranoia was growing, it was getting worse and worse, and somehow my pills didn't help. And I just realized that the sooner I moved out, the better, because when you follow the news, you realize that anyone could get hit. I've written enough different things on the Internet, too. You could end up getting nailed for posting something in 2014, for example. In general, there are a lot of options. So at some point I packed my bags, bought one-way tickets, and left Moscow without any regrets.
Is there solidarity among Russian emigrants in Tbilisi?
Yes. In any case, if we're talking about the people with whom I somehow come into contact, communicate. You have to understand that there are different waves of migration. There were a bunch of waves, let's say, even before I came here. There are people who came here after Navalny was jailed. They are mostly FbK-ers. There's a huge mass of people who came here after the war began. If we talk about solidarity - at the very least, all of these people are in solidarity in that they are against military action in Ukraine. And then somewhere else the paths may diverge. Someone volunteers, someone actively participates in... Excuse the tautology, in some volunteer activities, educational and so on, someone is not so active, but also does what he can, donates humanitarian aid somewhere, donates and so on.
How do you feel about the concept of collective responsibility?
I have noticed that the ones who shout the most about collective responsibility are those who would like to smear themselves with it. No, I am clearly not a supporter of all this. When I was in the military department, I was introduced to the concept of collective responsibility - that is, when one person gets offended and everyone does push-ups. To a certain extent, I wouldn't say that all Russians, but a great many are responsible in one way or another for the fact that Putin is in power, for the fact that he started the war. There are no questions for those who fought, for those who are in prison for their beliefs. Are teachers, for example, who threw in their ballots during the elections responsible? Yes, absolutely. Are people who didn't go to the rallies responsible? It is hard to say. I do not judge them, but certainly, I think, some responsibility for all this is on them, because the lack of action has its own results. But I certainly can not act as a moral touchstone, because I am clearly not a hero, and three exits to the rally does not make me a person who can judge someone and spread the collective responsibility on everyone.
Do you feel personally responsible for what is happening?
Of course sometimes I think that I have not done some things, but let's all think about the fact that Europe, for example, continued to buy gas from Putin, someone supplied batons and everything, so that cops would beat us on the streets. And when we talk about collective responsibility, and even more so when we see tweets from some Western politicians about how Russians are bad, they haven't done anything... I don't even know how to put it properly. Well, people want to shit in their faces, of course. Camon, guys, you've been shaking their hands for so many years, turning a blind eye to what's happening on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and so on during rallies. And now you're raising your hands and saying that you're the bad guys because you didn't overthrow Putin.
What are you most afraid of?
Lvov. No, let's be serious... Probably go back to Russia. I've been thinking about it in the context of even short trips, and the very thought of it makes me uncomfortable. I am not morally ready to be at the Russian border, to see the faces of Russian border guards, cops at Domodedovo airport.
Why does Putin need war?
Well, because he's crazy. That is, there is hardly any rational explanation. The man is about to turn 70 years old. He's been in power for what, 20, I think, years or more. Everyone will go crazy, especially if it's a former KGB member. But I don't believe there is such a thing as a former KGB guy. Certainly, the desire to suppress and destroy a country that is fighting, quite successfully, for its freedom.
How do you see the future of Russia?
It seemed that the Soviet generation was already aging and dying, but we see, in the example of many young people, that a worthy replacement is growing up for them. There is a country that does not need smart, brave, talented people, but it does need fools with no initiative. Their careers will be fine. Let's say, maybe Russia will have 10-15 calm years, but then everything will go back to normal, and I'm worried that everyone is waiting, so to speak, for Putin's death, but no one is talking about what will happen after him. Okay. I was going to not suggest candidates, but I realize that all the candidates are in jail right now. There is a wish hanging in the air that Putin will die and everything will automatically be fine. On its own, lift the sanctions, welcome a great, good, democratic president, like Medvedev and the iPad back in the day. It doesn't work that way, at least in the short term I don't expect anything good.
In what situation are you ready to return to Russia?
I am clearly not ready to go back there, first of all, of course, under Putin and with such a bloated and all-powerful security apparatus. Okay, if Putin leaves, what guarantee is there that some other Chekist won't take his place? There are enough candidates, it seems to me. Without Putin and such a bloated security apparatus, I would probably consider a return, but frankly, I don't see much point in it. That is, I would go there for a while, with pleasure, in Suzdal on the river for a swim, and then go somewhere else. I'm 28 years old. How long will it take, given the right circumstances, for things to settle down somehow in Russia? How old will I be? 50? 60? I don't want to waste my time. Thank you, Russia, for the little that you have given me, I have taken the rest myself, so I guess this is goodbye.