Interviews:

Forman,
Milos

Goldstucker,
Eduard

Yevtushenko,
Yevgeni



     
   


INTERVIEW WITH YEVGENI YEVTUSHENKO

Continue

YY: In 1967, I was invited by Robert Kennedy to his New York flat. We... had a very long talk, and during this talk he unexpectedly invited me into his shower... toilet room, and he put on the shower, and only after, he said to me that he has some information, that names of Siniavsky and Daniel were given to our KGB by one CIA agent. I was incredibly surprised, and I asked very na´vely why. I remember his grin full of irony - he said, "No, it was even... I could... it was very cynical, but it was very clever," because at that time America was bogeyman [sic] in the eyes of many European liberals, even in the eyes of American left-wing intellectuals, because it was a full-swing war in Vietnam. And so, when they arrested Siniavsky and Daniel, on the first pages of all newspapers, Soviet Union become bogeyman instead of the United States. So it was a very skilful operation. So KGB didn't understand that they are swallowing hook. But probably they understood it, but that was absolutely not important for them, because they want to turn screws again, they want to come back to Stalinism; they were involved in conspiracy even against Brezhnev, because they thought that Brezhnev was an incorrigible liberal. And so they were using this conspiracy. And I think it's whole story.

INT: So you saw it then as a signal of clampdown on intellectuals and on writers, a return, the end of the thaw really, was it - was that...?

YY: Yes, it... OK, I could continue. It was a kind of the end of the thaw, end of temporary glasnost, which... but we had many ends of thaw and many beginnings ofthe thaw. Sometimes the thaw was for a very short period: two months, three months, when you could publish almost everything, and afterwards nothing. And so it was last... I could say it was one of the last attempts of Stalinism to come back into Soviet Union, and afterwards we had dissident trials, and they began... that was Andropov who... I don't know why, he has a reputation of liberal, and this was a man who invented most nastiest method of this fight against dissidents to put them in mental hospitals or something like that. So it was a beginning for very long struggle against free-minded intellectuals.

INT: Now... can I then go back to ask you a question about Pasternak? How influential was Pasternak for you? You met him - what influence did he have on you, particularly in relation to... the fact that he was politically not really acceptable to Soviet society at that time? Was he a hero, an idol, somebody who you could...?

YY: First of all, Pasternak was a great poet even in the early Twenties. But it was typical for Cold War that they noticed his greatness only after political scandal around his name. I met him, and I fell in love with him completely. It was... you know, he was like Mother Nature itself, the most beautiful man, charming. And he was absolutely not political man - I could say in a way apolitical, but he was not indifferent to politics, which is... because indifference to politics is a snobbism, and he was never a snob. And his novel Dr Zhivago... he put story of love about the history, about the political history, and he was speaking about human values, like about most priceless values in the world, which are always higher than politics, because Yura and Lara, they were divided by civil war, divided by practically, politics killed their love, killed them both. And after many years, when I think it was real end of Cold War, when Khrushchev practically probably resolved to read Pasternak's novel, he quoted Pasternak - he said that human values are above such petty things like class struggle and other things. And this was what... I mean, the... Pasternak's heresy, after 30 years, became Russian political doctrine, and this political doctrine of Gorbachev was symbol of the end of Cold War.

INT: Were you at Pasternak's funeral?

YY: No, I've been abroad at that time, in Bulgaria...

(B/g talk. A bit of non-i/v discussion.)

INT: ... Let's pick up where we just were, which is: where do you think was the end of the Cold War, in your opinion, which is to repeat what you said... what was the last moment for you?

YY: I think it was the moment when Gorbachev ... I think it was 1989... it was an international forum of intellectuals, when Gorbachev openly said in his speech, in the presence of the Graham Greene, of Arthur Miller, of many others Western writers, best Russian writers and scientists... he said that human values are above politics and above class struggle. Because Soviet doctrine was that class struggle is the dominant basis of socialism, and he said human values. And he probably didn't read Pasternak's novel Dr Zhivago, but this is... was basis of Pasternak's novel: love story which is above the history of the politics, above the civil war. But something which was heresy in 1957, became official Soviet doctrine in 1989. So that was, I think, the end of Cold War.

INT: And how do you think the Cold War affected Soviet culture and society? I realize it's a very broad question, but if you could sort of summarize how you think... the most important and the most prominent way that the Cold War affected Soviet culture and society.

YY: First of all, we were, for a long time, separated from many contacts with our colleagues in the West. For instance, Anna Akhmatova, great poet, when she was young, she was the mistress of Amadeo Modigliani, and she didn't know until 1940...'42, that Modigliani became famous painter after his death. Many people thought that Chagall is dead; they didn't know that he'd become very famous painter. And we missed many Western great books. But despite of censorship, we were trying to keep this connection, because we were publishing some novels, some poetry... we published two... beautiful book of English poetry in 1937; in most terrible year of Stalin's purges, we published three anthologi(es) of American poetry. And when Iron Curtain was finally broken, when Robert Frost came, Carl Sandburg, Edward Steichen, other great people of American, English or French art, it was just a great holiday for all of us. And so we were... I could say we were... in a way we were not in spiritual relation, but we didn't have enough information about what is going on abroad. For instance, even in the last years of Brezhnev, Xeroxes were forbidden; you couldn't have a personal Xerox or personal fax, so it was lack of information. It was impossible to buy foreign newspapers in Moscow; only in special sections of library, with a special permission. At the same time, I think that we, our intellectuals ... this very hard period passed not losing faith, because many people created beautiful works. They probably didn't exhibit their paintings, they didn't publish some of their poems or novels, but they were writing; they were ready for the moment of openness. And when perestroika came, we published so many new, beautiful books, we exhibited so many beautiful paintings, and we began to discover ourselves.

INT: And who in Soviet society do you think benefited from the Cold War?

YY: I think just bureaucracy, just bureaucracy. But also, unfortunately, I think that... unfortunately, there is nothing more profitable in the world than arms race, but... it's very profitable as a trade, it gives work for many people. And when, after Cold War was over and we began to close military factori(es), we began to cut budget of many scientists, so many people now without work - it's a big tragedy. So that's like vicious circle. At the same time, arms race, it's very expensive thing, but it makes some people rich, gives them money. That's why I think the wars, they exist and each moment someone kills someone.

INT: Now we've got overview questions. Was the Cold War necessary, do you think?

YY: Cold War is a reality. You couldn't roll back, as a film, history, to begin it again. Of course it was not necessary. I think there is no any kind of necessary wars in the history, cold or hot wars. You know, I remember the Victory Day in the Red Square: it was really greatest joy of people. I remember Americans, English people, French people, pilots, sitting on the Mausoleum drinking this (unclear) from the neck of bottle. We thought that war is over and great future is waiting for us, and we will enter into a new world. It was Cold War afterwards, and all our best hopes were broken. Was it necessary? For whom? Just for... I think Cold War, any kind of tense situations, they are just very useful for hard-liners in all countri(es), for bureaucrats, for people who make money on the arms race - that's all.