Viktor Shenderovich: "The whole world is being held hostage by this corked head.

"Fifteen years after Hitler, Marlene Dietrich was spat in the face, considered a traitor. The epiphany will be painful, partial. Some will remain frozen, some will have a sincere epiphany, some will be looking for excuses, just as millions of people in the same Germany were looking for them and found them beautifully... Then there will not be a single person who supported Hitler. And Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Solovyov will lead us to a moral revival, mark my words. Everything will be very disgusting, but I still want to wait for what will happen next, to wait for Russia to stop destroying people." Writer, satirist, journalist Viktor Shenderovich - about the joyless "tomorrow" that will replace the terrible "today". "Eyewitnesses of February 24". New issue.

Tell us about yourself

- I do what I used to do. I write and perform, as far as my work is concerned. I just used to come to Moscow after performances, lectures, and concerts, and now I come to Warsaw, where I live after I decided not to return to Russia. It happened to me in December , after the criminal case and the "foreign agency. I left two months before the others. In February it had already taken the character of an exodus.

Your first thoughts and feelings on February 24?

- I think these are pretty common feelings. I've shared them with millions of normal people. A sense of anger, of despair. Despair because you realize that the forces are unequal, that your capabilities and those of the state are not comparable, and that your anger is quite powerless anger. Powerless anger, despair, is the clearest description. I think and know that this was experienced by many in those days. 

Who is to blame for the war?

- Putin and the people who made or allowed him to make this decision are directly to blame. Literally politically supported this decision. In a broader sense, of course, there is the responsibility of both Russians and Europe above all.

Because the Russians have shown a criminal infantilism in recent decades, allowing Putin to take absolute power and cut off all the feedback loops. Europe has for too long mistakenly believed that it was possible to negotiate with Putin. 

Merkel, for example, quite candidly believed that Putin could be kept in check by some market mechanisms. And someone was simply feeding off the hand - pure corruption, as in the case of Schroeder, or the Austrian ministers. Russia was buying up entire parliaments, so to speak, of the European elite. And the responsibility of the European elite for this war is, of course, enormous. 

On the very sore subject of guilt, I would still prefer not to tear my shirt on my chest and sprinkle my head with ashes, but to stratify a bit.

Ethical evaluations are always personal. The unit of moral judgment is always the individual. When moral assessments begin to be made of nations, religions, and races, this is a huge step in the direction of Nazism. The topic of guilt and inferiority of the Russian nation and Russian people seems to me to be a very unfortunate one. 

And you could say that the world, Europe at least, is not standing up too well to the test of this time. If one reads, if one hears the sound of the discussion, if one deduces some average of the nervous conversation that is going on now, one might think that there was no Christ. And the idea that "there is neither Hellenes nor Jews" is a thought that has not yet been voiced. 

You once likened Putin to little Tzachses (Hoffmann's character, a freak who was given the ability to charm people by a fairy). Why does he still charm people?

- No, he probably no longer retains this ability. But the power of these "three magic hairs" (according to Hoffmann), or television (according to our ingenuous metaphor), is in the mass effect on the brain.

Television is a weapon of mass destruction, it is radiation. There is almost no reception against it. And we see: the first thing Putin did was to take control of the major media outlets. And this, of course, has brought success, just as it has brought success to everyone. It is an absolute weapon. 

This is the first thing they all do. The first decree of the Bolsheviks was the "Decree on the Press. The first thing Hitler did was to radio Germany and put on one Goebbels program, and you couldn't turn that radio off, as you know. Then came, for real, television, which irradiates the brain. And we see the results of this irradiation, 20 years of such massive propaganda, quite effective and successful. Berezovsky had nothing to do with it anymore. Berezovsky brought him to power, and then he gave him the tools of this power, and Putin uses these tools. As they all do. He has not invented anything new, no bicycle. 

Is Putin a calculating cynic who got it wrong or a psychopath detached from reality?

- He was both. He was a calculating, cold cynic - when he came to power, he had no ideology. In fact, the whole ideology of the early Putin was described by the word "Baikal Finance Group. Divide and Take. What was yours is now ours.

Hapok is their ideology. Hapok demanded, since they were not planning to leave power, some kind of ideology for the peeple. They had to portray something, some kind of ideology. They couldn't say, "We're just thieves and we're going to rule here." They had to somehow justify their existence unchallenged. 

And then for 20 years they were constantly changing and replacing the ideology. There was some kind of "sovereign democracy", then something else. Then they dug out and buried Ilyin, and within the party "United Russia" arranged the left and right wings. Nothing worked - this bear did not take off. It smells just like it did before. And in recent years, they no longer need to especially hide. 

But even if you look at the justifications for this war, there are several. It all started with the defense of the Russians in the Donbass. And after the Russians in the Donbass were put to death, tens of thousands of people, it turns out that we are protecting Russia from an invasion of transgender people. They keep changing occasions. They have no ideology whatsoever. As for Putin himself, he started out as a slick cynic, but in recent years - in the noughties, the tens - he gradually penetrated, he was stuffed with ideology.

Some craftsmen showed up and filled this empty sausage with content. Today we are dealing with a completely sincere occluded imperialist. A man completely occluded, but very strong consciousness, completely inadequate. And the whole world is held hostage by this "occluded head. And it is very funny, if it were not so dramatic.

Why do people believe propaganda?

- Some believe, and some don't. And people, continuing this Kozma Prutkov metaphor, are like sausages - what they put in them, they carry in them. And people, who, like a sausage, can simply be stuffed with these contents, are incapable of analysis.

People who still like Putin and find what he is doing convincing are people with destroyed brains. Just don't have any great illusions. As for those who are capable of understanding something, as a rule, they are victims of inoperable Stockholm syndrome. These are people taken hostage, and they don't have much of a choice. They must either change their lives drastically or admit their mental, moral defeat. 

Either admit that they have been fooled for years, or admit their own responsibility for it, as far as the political elite is concerned. Or convince themselves that one way or another they are right. And people, a huge part of the population and the elite, continue to convince themselves of some rightness or some necessity of what is happening. I know quite a few people like that. They're not stupid people. But it is the fact that they are not stupid that makes them frantically look for excuses for their cowardice, for their behavior. There are a lot of them. 

When the war is over, will its supporters be able to see through it?

- It took 30 years for the German chancellor to kneel at Auschwitz and for the word "defeat" to be replaced by the word "liberation. It takes 30 years. It's not just 30 calendar years, it's 30 years of a nation's work. This is Gunter Grass, this is Heinrich Böll, this is Hannah Arendt. This is the work of intellectuals. This is the painful work of a nation. But let me remind you, 15 years after Hitler, Marlene Dietrich was spat in the face, considered a traitor.

The epiphany will be painful, partial. Some will remain frozen, some will have a sincere epiphany, and some will look for excuses, just as millions of people in the same Germany have looked for them and found them beautifully. 

See Stanley Kramer's American film The Nuremberg Trials. Then there will be no one who actually supported Hitler. And Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Solovyov will lead us to a moral revival, mark my words. Everything will be very nasty, but I still want to wait for what will happen next, afterwards. At least, I want to wait for Russia to stop destroying people as soon as possible. 

Today, society simply does not exist; it lies in ruins. When society emerges as a political force, as, in fact, a society that influences politics, we will see a great deal of variegation. And it will not be particularly joyful. I would say that the horrible things of today will be replaced by the disgusting, the nasty, the vulgar. We're going to have to see it. 

If Putin were gone tomorrow, would anything change for the better?

- It will change, of course. Historical experience shows us that after the death of a tyrant there are reforms - Nicholas I, Stalin. After the tyrant's victories, the screws are tightened - Alexander III, the same Stalin in World War II. After the death of a tyrant, there is traditionally a thaw in Russia. It won't be any Havel, it won't be any liberals.

But whoever comes after Putin, he has two choices. The first is to keep tightening the screws and insisting on empire, on war, on a special path. Maybe so. But this will be an intermediate stage, because the Russian Empire, as it exists today, is already rotting, and it is no longer viable. Tightening the screws will simply mean the collapse of Russia in the short term historical perspective. That is, the war will go on, but after a while it will end in defeat, and it will begin just northern Turkmenistan, tightening the screws and the fall of previously conquered territories. The same way the socialist camp countries fell away, then the union republics... We have already seen Yakutia, we have seen Dagestan. The centrifugal tendencies are starting. And within 10 years it will be a completely different landscape.

Russia's only chance - a small chance - is to remain within its current borders, although no, there is almost no chance in its current borders, because Kadyrov will immediately go under the green banner of Islam as soon as the funding is gone, but almost within these borders Russia can only remain if it tries to return to the liberal model, to the separation of powers, to federalism, to electability. Only then will the territories have grounds to remain in Russia. 

And if the tricolor is a symbol of disaster, then people with resources - the Far East, the Urals, for example, which have industry, resources, factories, ports, external borders, culture, to say nothing of the national republics, which have their own culture, their own ethnicity - will very quickly get rid of this tricolor, which will mean sanctions, the impossibility of development, will mean Turkmenistan. Within a couple of decades there will be no Russia in this variant. 

Why is Putin so fixated on Ukraine?

- Without Ukraine, there is no Russian Empire. Without Transcaucasia, there still is. Without the Baltic states, there could be an empire. Even without Belarus. But without Ukraine... No Ukraine, no empire. And the imperial theme is his (Putin's) sore subject. Ukraine has long been a bloody blister on this idea. Free Ukraine, independent Ukraine, Ukraine, which turned its back on the Russian Empire, is a defeat of the imperial theme. That is why it was always a matter of principle for him. That is why such a painful reaction to Ukrainian events, to all the Maidans. 

You've said many times that Russian reality is hard to make jokes about. Is it hard to make jokes during a war?

- You can joke, but intonation is a matter of feeling. Everyone feels for himself what is acceptable and what is not. The intonation has tightened up. The intonation of the early "Puppets" cannot be. The intonation of Jerome in the middle of a war cannot be. The intonation of Swift, of Boris Vian can. Humor and satire provide opportunities for varied intonation. As for not over-joking...

Regularly some pictures or documents from Russia show up, and you realize that you would be embarrassed to make a joke like that. That you would be embarrassed, that it would seem to you vulgar, too didactic. But life knows no category of taste. And all you do is gasp and say, "My God, I'd write that - I'd be ashamed. 

What do you think of the discussion about the "abolition" of Russian culture?

- It's an empty topic. Nothing is going to happen to Russian culture. Rachmaninoff and Tolstoy don't need you and me. And Pushkin will not be hurt by the fact that his monument in Kiev was torn down. Kiev will be a bit inconvenienced, but that is their problem. They will solve them in time. When the acuteness of the issue will subside a little, they will deal with it themselves.

Pushkin will not lose, and Russian literature and culture will not lose from this. There is no need to defend it. We should try to make sure that the word "Russian" is no longer associated with Putin, with the bombings, with the killing of civilians. Then it will be a little easier for Pushkin to survive. 

What are you most afraid of?

- If the issue is of a public nature, I'm afraid it's going to drag on. What Putin did on February 24 is that the story really accelerated.

This long process of decay, which was already quite inescapable, could take decades. I think we will turn around in a couple of years, I hope. If it turns out that Putin succeeds in clogging up the situation, this putrefaction will continue, and the count will go back to decades, in a historical sense this simply means the demise of Russia. That's what I'm afraid of. 

And outside of that, I fear the same things that all normal people fear. I worry about my loved ones, I worry about my friends. My friends are in prison in large numbers. They are political prisoners. They're on the run, in dispersion. Dozens of them. I think close to a hundred of my acquaintances in forced exile. Half a dozen of my friends are in prison. A dozen have already been murdered. And my fears, of course, are simply related to that. 

Would you like to go back to Russia?

- Of course I would, because the homeland and the state are different things. The state kicked me out, this gang kicked me out of my homeland. And, of course, my love for Moscow and its streets didn't go anywhere. Neither Luzhkov nor Sobyanin succeeded in doing anything about my love for Moscow. I still want to see it. I know the places where I would like to be. Well, we will wait. I hope we will live to see it.

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