Viktor Eroviev is one of Putin’s most prominent critics. The 74-year-old recently left his homeland for Germany and last lived for a few days in the home of Heinrich Böll near Düren.
Russian reality is a “TV reality” that has been telling people for years that they are the light of the world, while Ukraine and the West embody the darkness. “It is assumed that we have to liberate Ukraine,” Viktor Eroviev explained in an interview with the book market. The Russian people do not see the aggression of their country, only the aggression of the world around them. “That’s why it’s hard to negotiate, because the values are completely opposite.”
The full interview:
Giza Funk: I recently immigrated from Russia. What is the reason for this?
Victor Eroviev: Well, I would say “Hajar”. Because the truth is that I have two souls: one Russian and one European. I have spent a lot of time in Paris since my childhood. So I also feel at home in Europe. And at last I listened to my European soul – and she advised me: it is time to go and do a little work in Germany and France. ”
panic: Recently, they lived in the Heinrich Böll House near Düren for a few days, the same house that Heinrich Böll actually lived in in 1974 by the dissident Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. How were you aware?
Eroviev: Of course, I was very aware of that! This image of Böll and Solzhenitsyn has always been in my mind sitting there on the balcony. I also met Paul personally in Moscow many years ago. I still have a picture of him, the two of us and the team at Metropole magazine, which I founded at the time. It was a secret magazine in which we published short stories, articles and poetry – but then it was banned by the Soviet censors. You see, I’m a defector and I have a lot of experience
panic: Of course, today we should also talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a scenario I have warned about repeatedly since 2014. How angry are you today that your warnings of war by Putin have been ignored for so long – in Germany and Western society?
Eroviev: Yes, absolutely correct. Even after the attack on Crimea, I had the impression that the war had begun. Then I wrote a lot about this aggression and now, shortly before the Russian invasion, I wrote another article from FAZ in which I said again: “Be careful, this war is possible!” I just felt like it was going to get that far. Perhaps this was my writer’s hunch: I felt it, I smelled it – and I was shocked by it.
Russia and its “TV reality”
panic: In your last article in a German newspaper, you described the Russian war in Ukraine as a “double disaster”. End of the world means: the end of the world. Is the situation really hopeless for Europe?
Eroviev: It’s less hopeless than reality. We now have two truths: a European truth with its humanistic values, which I personally share. And a Russian reality, a TV reality that has been telling people for years that they are the light of the world, while Ukraine and the West embody the darkness. That is why it is assumed that we must “liberate” Ukraine.
So what is really hopeless is the political culture of my countrymen. After all, in a country that rules autocraticly like Russia, no one at the top has an interest in imparting a good political culture to the citizens. In a way they are like children. They do not laugh, happy children, but strong children see the enemies around them – and who are not aware of their aggression, only the aggression of the world around them. That is why it is difficult to negotiate, because the values are completely opposite. It is not yet clear whether the continued use of nuclear weapons is possible. It is not clear at all.
panic: Not many people in Germany and Europe can understand why there are few protests in Russia against Putin’s war in Ukraine. You wrote yourself in your last article: Most Russians will not be interested in this war at all. How could it be?
Eroviev: As you can see, this shows precisely the misjudgment of the West, which is based on the belief that human life is the most important thing. But look at China or North Korea! In such cases, human life is not so important. Russia is a civilization that is still more Asian than European. There is someone who believes in the worship of strength more than humanity.
About 15 percent of the population considers Russia to be European. And some of them protested the street war in the beginning. But the reaction of the authorities was very harsh. Such protests can be punished with several years in prison. That’s how they were stopped. These 15 percent of the Russian population live mainly in big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg. But everyone else firmly believes in Putin’s rule and that he is a leader who knows better than they do what to do and how to fight.
“The Russians think democracy is a weak form of government.”
panic: Does this mean that Russian society has been so devastated by its long experience of dictatorship that it is still not ready for democracy?
Eroviev: I’m not going to talk about “devastating”. Because in order to destroy something, there must be something that can be destroyed. But there is nothing to destroy in Russia’s democratic mentality. Instead, a brutal mentality that actually dates back to the medieval Mongol era prevails. So my countrymen are not really ready for democracy because they don’t even know what it is. They look to the West and see democracy as a weak form of government full of concessions. Television advertising reinforces this thinking.
panic: They are currently working on a new novel, The Great Gopnik, they said. what is he talking about?
Eroviev: Oh, before that I had a book that was also very popular in Germany, and it was called The Good Stalin. That was my autobiography until the end of the last century. I wanted to continue writing this autobiography now. It struck me that Putin also appeared on the scene at the end of the last century. That’s when I understood that we both have parallel paths in life.
However, Putin is someone who comes from a very poor family in Saint Petersburg, and for him the word “victory” is the most important word of all. He realized that he should never be defeated. And then, with his childhood as well as his work with the KGB, he became the person he is today, very different from me in terms of values.
So I decided to write a book about two completely different parallel lives. And this book actually started out in a ridiculous way. But now all the paradoxes have faded and become a real tragedy. It will probably be my next book.