Joseph Stalin: Created Worst Man-made Famine in History – Fast Facts | History
A well-known theater director – on the revival of the Stalin personality cult and the protest movement in Russia
Director, artistic director of the Nikitsky Gate Theater Mark Rozovsky came to the United States to present a play based on Pavel Sanaev’s book “Bury Me Behind the Skirting Board”. In an interview with Ksenia Turkova, he spoke about how this performance is perceived in different countries, about the mood in Russian society, about the revival of Stalin’s personality cult and about the protest movement..
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Monuments to Stalin inside people – that’s what is most dangerous
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You are presenting Bury Me Behind the Skirting Board to audiences from different countries. Does the reaction of the audience, for example, in America, differ from the reaction of the audience in Russia? It is clear that this is watched by Russian-speaking viewers, but nevertheless – is there any difference?
No, our performance, I would say, is for everyone. Pavel Sanaev wrote a bestseller, it has been translated into 44 languages. This means that the original source itself is of interest. During the performance, they laugh in exactly the same places as in Moscow, sympathize, worry, sometimes a tear runs through the finale.
Speaking of the bestseller. It seems to me that right now the central themes of this book – toxic relationships, abuse – have become especially relevant. And the grandmother in this work, of course, acts as an abuser….
You’re right. But I would not say that it has just appeared. As long as people exist, as long as there is a family drama. Ibsen wrote family dramas, Chekhov, and whoever did not write. Even Shakespeare has his own family dramas, tragedies and comedies. Take, say, “Uncle Vanya”, where Chekhov talks about a family drama, about how enmity and misunderstanding lead to a shot. Chekhov warned our society that cataclysms that threaten with blood could arise at the family level. And literally 13 years after Chekhov’s death, the Civil War began, where the son went to the father, and the father to the son. And they shot and killed, and the blood flowed like a river. And Chekhov warned!
You know, now in human relationships, just in everyday life, there is a very lack of delicacy, especially in Russia. Because in Russia today, a lot is spilled in the everyday expression of anger, anger, rudeness. As the saying goes, the upcoming boor does not come – he came a long time ago and is very well located in our reality, let’s be honest. People stopped hearing each other, stopped being delicate and attentive to each other. Well, not all, of course – there are wonderful families where it is left. But I would say that these are elements of that upbringing, pre-revolutionary.
So our performance is not that it teaches kindness (how can art teach?), But it denotes the diseases that have come to us in our time, the diseases of our psychophysics…
Scene from the play Bury me behind the skirting board
Sanaev writes about the Soviet era. Why do you think so many people in Russia are nostalgic for the “scoop” now? Even young people who never lived at that time manage to feel nostalgic for what they don’t know…
They are not satisfied with the present day, but of course they are mistaken. If they knew what a “scoop” is, then, of course, they would not do it. But they don’t want to know! The fact is that ignorance of history is being imposed on us today. The historical truth is often distorted, we are offered incredible options that look very fake. Even we, educated in Soviet times, know a hundred times more about our history than those young guys who communicate with this “piece of iron”, with this screen. They find out everything through an intermediary, they themselves do not seek knowledge..
This is how you explain the renaissance of Stalin’s personality cult.?
No, it’s getting deeper here. My father spent 18 years in Stalin’s camps and exile, was sentenced to a “watchtower” [capital punishment]. He was lucky in the end, he passed it. But you know, the question here is not even about Stalin, because with Stalin himself everything is clear. A huge number of sources have confirmed that he is an absolute criminal, a bloody dictator, a man who committed genocide of his people and even [other] peoples.
But there are people who still don’t believe in it. They say that he is great, that he won the war …
He may have won the war, but if it had not been for Stalin, there would have been no war. You can put the question like that. Because the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed, and a week later World War II began. So, by signing this act, they have already divided Europe: you Poland, you the Sudetes, you the Baltics – and so on. And we are still disentangling these historic decisions. And Hitler just cheated Stalin, no matter how wise he was, he just cheated like a boy.
So, the point, it seems to me, is not so much in Stalin, with whom everything is clear, but in Stalinism. What did Stalin leave to us? Indeed, as a result of the Patriotic War, there was no trial over Stalin – and it could not have been, at that moment there was the Nuremberg trial – and the trial over Stalinism and Stalin has not happened to this day, so people are in error.
Monuments are erected to him!
You know, monuments are erected and demolished. This is not the most important thing. The main thing is that there are monuments to Stalin inside people, that’s what is most dangerous. What to do with a person’s soul if it is corrupted by Stalinism? Enter into an argument with him, in a discussion? This is ridiculous. It is necessary (and it is never too late) to conduct a trial of Stalin and the Stalinist ideology, which he introduced into the minds of millions of people..
You said that Stalin created a system in which every person is a cog. In the modern Russian system, man is a cog?
He is much less a cog, and although there are now many zombie people, there are those who think independently. Today we can firmly say that our Constitution guarantees a person his rights. Another thing is that today they want to amend the Constitution and remove those articles that “interfere”.
You know, I am not a political scientist – I am an ordinary citizen of my country. But I see what is happening around, what is happening with me, with my friends. Based on this, I draw some conclusions. The point is not even that today there is a protest movement – after all, it is the result of something, some kind of social processes. After all, it cannot be that the protest movement was the result of just some kind of frivolity. Yes, there are some young people who go to demonstrations as if they were a get-together, but there are also people who are aware of their civil mission, and there is nothing wrong with that. By the way, the Constitution not only allows this – it gives you the right to do so. Let’s amend the Constitution – and this right will not exist, and everyone will be enemies instantly. And now it will already be Stalinism.
How do you feel about the fact that creative people go to rallies? The expression “celebrity” of the protest even appeared: famous people – actors, directors, TV presenters – become the face of protests
Everyone chooses for himself. When they ask me why I didn’t come out, I half-jokingly answer: yes, I have a meeting in the theater every day! Every day, the values that are defended at rallies, I affirm in my performances, and this is a fact, I am proud of it. My theater is humane, it protects the humiliated and insulted, it protects the poor, it is opposed to violence in all forms and forms, and in every performance of the theater “At the Nikitsky Gate” these fundamental values of the great Russian culture are affirmed. The only thing – you know, when youngsters go out, something becomes alarming to me. There is some kind of Red Guards in this. You see, when young, not at all feathered children come out with serious protests … Yes, probably, it seems to someone a positive phenomenon. But this is also the paint of today, and I do not think that it is very fruitful.
But young people often feel that there is no other way out. For example, student Yegor Zhukov …
Quite right, there are serious guys, thinking guys who need it, because their morality does not allow them to put up with immorality. It’s beautiful, and here I am entirely on their side.
Your daughter was among the hostages at the Theater Center on Dubrovka. Why do you think we still do not know the whole truth about the terrorist attacks – not only about Nord-Ost?
This question is not for me. I perfectly understand the seriousness of this issue, but, probably, the time has not yet come to learn this truth. Special services worked there, and they are special services to hide the truth, this is one of their tasks. The people who died in Nord-Ost paid with their lives for the decision that was made. The implementation of the operation itself also needs professional analysis. And here, too, a lot of noodles hung on our ears. But one thing remains true: not a single witness was left. Children were killed. My Sasha was sitting upstairs, and on the right was a girl named Christina Kurbatova, and on the left was a boy Arseny – the son of our actress Vika Zaslavskaya. Incidentally, she returned to our theater only this year! Imagine, before that she was in such a serious condition that she could not go on stage. So, Sasha survived. And Christina and Arseny together at the Vagankovsky cemetery.
Since then, the state has somehow participated in Sasha’s life, you have received some kind of help?
Help? And I didn’t expect any help. The help was that the “unknown soldier”, to whom I am infinitely grateful, carried her in his arms. At half past six in the morning the assault began, and somewhere around 7 she was already in the hospital in Sokolniki, and we found her alive at half past one in the afternoon. And the other two children were found in the morgue..
What language does the government now speak with citizens in Russia? How would you describe it?
Here we must take into account that the majority in society trusts the authorities. The absolute majority supports this power … This is a fact. And this is a huge support for the authorities. And as long as this support is there, the government will feel like an apparatus of violence..
It is difficult for an artist, a director today to be independent in Russia, to work without looking back at the authorities?
It must be admitted that, thank God, there is no censorship at the At Nikitsky Gate Theater. Another thing is that someone wants censorship to be, and such voices are constantly heard. But instead of censorship, they came up with other ways of influencing artists. One of these ways is by activists of all kinds. For money or of their own free will, they commit completely immoral acts that humiliate and insult artists. They may come to break the sculpture, pour something over, destroy it. The theater “At Nikitskiye Vorota” in this sense so far God has mercy, but I think that we will fight back.
I have a liberal consciousness, someone called me a liberal patriot, and I probably agree with this formulation. But I’m not trying to impose my patriotism on anyone. I’m now putting on Crime and Punishment. So all the problems that we talked about are present there. There are all the answers to questions about what sin is, responsibility for sin, what is true morality and what is a lie, what is a state and what is faith, what is violence and the right to violence, what is true freedom and what is pseudo-freedom. I cannot be responsible, as they say, for the whole country and for everyone – everyone is responsible for himself. You don’t have to be brave today – you have to be honest. But to be honest, you have to be brave.
Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the direction of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations Echo Moskvy, City FM, Kommersant FM. From 2013 to 2017, she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of the information radio station Radio Vesti, directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for Voice of America in Washington DC.