Russian poet Sergey Gandlevskiy was recently arrested in the Moscow metro for tearing down a portrait of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Police threatened to punish him for “vandalism and hooliganism,” but eventually released him without drawing up an official protocol. Gandlevskiy believes his action is totally justified as he considers Stalin a criminal.
The poet was denounced by a vigilant citizen. The news of the Gandlevskiy’s arrest has been actively discussed in social networks. He is a bit embarrassed about all the reactions and attention he’s been getting.
– I’m humbled by all the attention… It was a shock reaction on my part…
– Was it a knee-jerk decision?
– Who stops to think in such situations?!
– Tell us something about this portrait.
– It was small, an A4 format [8 by 12 inches – Ed.]. It was really glued onto the wall and I had a hard time ripping it off. I was immediately accosted by a man of my age who said: “What are you doing?” – “What do you mean? I’m tearing this portrait off the wall!” So, I finally got it off and went to the metro platform. Then I saw the same man and two police officers approaching: “That’s him over there!” I guess he must have found them to denounce me. They took me away.”
– How did the officers react? Like that man?
– These officers were simple uneducated fellows. They just sat there and said: “Well, you’re in for it now. We’ve got you for disorderly conduct.” I asked them to address me politely and use the respectful “you” (Вы) form. I realized I was in trouble. I called my friend Varvara Gornostayeva. I don’t know what she said to them, whether it helped or not, but several calls were made… and I was finally released
– Ukraine is currently undergoing de-communization. Soviet symbols are equated with Nazi ones, and banned. Do you approve?
– Without a doubt! Definitely!
– Why have Russia and Ukraine chosen such different paths in evaluating their Soviet past?
– I think it’s a matter of tradition.
– Do you agree with people who say Russia is moving towards a repressive Soviet-style system?
– I think we’re plunging straight into hell. I believe a lot depends on a leader’s personality. If, say, we had a president like Grigoriy Chkhartashvili [Russian dissident writer-Ed.] or Mikhail Khodorkovsky [exiled Russian businessman-Ed.], things might be better.
– How will this “hell” look and what should people who refuse to live in such a place do?
– I think our country will turn into a place where it’ll be dangerous to go out. Just look what happened yesterday… a man ratted on me because I ripped a portrait of an executioner off the wall. More and more people will start behaving like that…
– Is this a return to some sort of Stalinism?
– True Stalinism included passion and devotion, but today, our society is very cynical and apathetic. I don’t know what’s better. We’re currently staring into the face of a boa constrictor. If only out of sheer pride, we should at least start waving our little “paws” and thinking of saving ourselves.
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