Ukraine Stories: ‘Even smart people change their values ​​to survive in Russia’

This text comes from the “Ukraine Stories” project launched by the English-speaking partner of “Time” Geneva Solutions, which deals with international Geneva. It’s about supporting and publishing the work of dozens of Ukrainian and Russian journalists who have lost their job or their media but not their know-how.

A crowdfunding campaign covered the first two months of the project. If you want to support him for the future, write info[at]

Dmitry Glukhovsky, popular science fiction author and journalist, was placed on Tuesday, June 7, on the list of people wanted in Russia. He is accused of misinformation about the military intervention in Ukraine. Kirill Martynov, editor-in-chief of Novaia Gazeta European independent media headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, spoke with the author, the first major cultural figure to be sought.

This is the first time I’ve spoken to a sought-after writer. What do you think of this situation?

The situation was predictable. If, like me, you say loud and clear that Russia is inexorably transforming into a Soviet regime, we must keep in mind the lessons of that time. Moreover, when an authoritarian society turns into a totalitarian society, dissidents must disappear. Especially among those who claim to understand the situation. These people must in no way doubt the correctness of the decisions of the authorities, even the most dramatic. Those who question them are punished by way of example, as is the case with me.

They say that a Russian writer not persecuted by the state is not a real writer. What do you think?

I discovered my criminal file by chance. The authorities took the decision to arrest me without inviting me to appear. They assigned me a lawyer, who of course showed no zeal. A week after the trial, when the case was tied up, they started looking for me. That’s when I discovered that everything was serious.

Authorities make mistakes when they prosecute people for what they say, because it gives them extra credibility.

What will this division of Russian culture between loyalists and anti-war lead to? What will these two cultures look like in the next few years?

You know, up until now the loyalist culture seemed very flawed. It is a group of people totally dependent on the state, who produce totally obsolete cultural content, which aims to freeze time. All these people justify the unjust and senseless management of the country.

On the other hand, many people immediately spoke out against the war, at least until the authorities threatened them.

In the early days of the conflict, around 2,000 personalities, including scientists, and not just bohemian artists and intellectuals, signed a letter to show their opposition to the war. In other words, society’s initial impulse was unequivocally against war. But the government inflamed militarist hysteria, branding anyone who disagreed with the war a national traitor.

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Yet, what could be more patriotic than wishing peace and prosperity to one’s country? It was only through a campaign of intimidation of dissidents that the authorities silenced these voices. Russians opposed to the regime went into exile en masse and those who did not have this possibility had to devise a survival strategy. Even smart, informed people are beginning to align their consciousness and values ​​with what will help them survive in this country on the totalitarian slope.

Soon, it will no longer be enough to be silent. People will be required to march in line and perform a certain salute.

You said that official culture aims to freeze time. Don’t you fear that it will end up invading Russia, and that any alternative will be punished?

Although efforts are made to achieve this result, this culture of state militarism, that is to say this fascism which justifies this senseless and brutal war, will not work.

These people can’t do anything talented because they work for money and claim to be patriotic because they get paid for it. There is not a single patriot on television who does not enjoy government favors in one way or another.

Their energy isn’t alive and they don’t feel what they’re trying to talk about. It becomes very conventional and formal. Of course, you can ban any alternative, but I want to point out that all living Russian culture is broadcast on YouTube. [Les personnes qui créent ce contenu] did not fight for state money. They did not try to please the government but the public.

Don’t you expect your books to be banned? [Certaines bibliothèques municipales en Sibérie ont, depuis, retiré les livres de Dmitry Glukhovsky, Dmitry Bykov et Boris Akunin, ndlr].

This cannot be ruled out. I don’t think the publisher will stop publishing my books. But as the bookshops are very scared, they sometimes remove the books from the windows and refuse to place new orders. Banning is the next logical step. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I would like to remind you that I have always distributed my books online for free and they are also on my Telegram channel for free access.

What does propaganda mean to you now?

The main thing is not to forget that there is a truth and a justice. Our country started a war for no good reason against a neighboring state, which was once a brother state, where people speak and think in the same language as us and where a large number of people have Russian surnames and surnames. Many of them never even learned the Ukrainian language and were never discriminated against until the “Russian world” came to them on tanks.

This war is not fair and we must not forget how much the authorities have tried to justify it by inventing one reason or another. They succeeded, but with great difficulty.

The most important thing to remember is to preserve yourself and remain human in this difficult situation.

This article has first appeared in Novaia Gazeta Europe (in Russian), of which Kirill Martynov is the editor. Translation and adaptation: Aylin Elci

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