Yuri Andrukhovich: ″Russian society is in great decline″ | cultural | D.W.

In Ukraine, Yuri Andrukhovich is considered an icon of modern Ukrainian literature. In the West – one of the most famous and influential contemporary authors. Andrukhovich’s novels have been translated into more than 20 languages. Recently, the writer received the Heinrich Heine Prize from the city of Düsseldorf. At the beginning of October, Andrukhovich’s new novel “Radio Nacht” (Radio Night) was published in Germany. DW spoke with the author during a tour of Germany on the occasion of the publication of his new book.

DW: What is your mission as a representative of Ukrainian culture during the war in Ukraine?

Yuri Andrukhovitch: It is largely linked to the particular situation of our country. This is a theme at each of my encounters with readers. Not only me, but also all Ukrainian intellectuals and artists who have projects or performances, show that our country is resilient, that our culture is not only surviving, but extremely active, even when it is in a situation quite turbulent. In the European consciousness, especially here in Germany, there has not been such a cultural presence for a long time. This moment must be seized.

What is your opinion on the current state of mind of German society regarding the war in Ukraine?

My feeling is that the majority of society supports Ukraine and understands more and more why we cannot accept a ceasefire quickly, nor negotiate with the enemy. But there is a part of society that is traditionally pro-Russian, something characteristic of the states that belonged to the former German Democratic Republic, or there are simply also pacifists who see only one thing: ” May there be peace as soon as possible, because war is bad “Then there is also an anti-American attitude, which is deeply rooted in the mentality of the Germans. These are people who still believe that this is a conflict between Russia and the United States, and that Ukraine decides nothing, and is torn between these two powers, even if only one of them, as we see today , is really powerful.

Not one writer or a whole bunch of writers can change that, because those people don’t come to the meetings. But I think all of this together, both the political efforts, especially the successes of our military forces, as well as the cultural diplomacy on many levels is gradually changing that picture, and that’s having a positive effect.

Has German society become more open to Ukraine?

Absolutely. I know how it was before. I remember the difficulties that had to be overcome after Euromaidan and the start of the Russian invasion, in 2014 and 2015. The journalists I spoke to at the time were more attentive. But these meetings were very difficult because there were stubborn people in the audience who asked about suspected neo-Nazis, saying that Crimea had always been Russian. In other words: “Forget Crimea and live in peace and harmony with the Russians.

At a literary festival in Norway, you appeared with the Russian-speaking writer Mikhail Shishkin, which scandalized part of Ukrainian society. What do you think of a dialogue with the Russian representatives of culture in the current conditions?

These are very individual and personal questions, which must be considered in a certain context. In each case, measures must be taken so that everything benefits Ukraine as much as possible. The easiest way would be to refuse communication with the Russians. But there is another way. You can talk about what you consider important, especially since my interlocutor, Mikhail Shishkin, represents a very useful and necessary story for Ukraine. But there is no unitary principle there.

Ukrainian author Yuri Andrukhovich at the presentation of his new novel, “Radio Night”, in the city of Bonn. (25.10.2022).

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has warned the Russians of a mobilization in Russia to participate in the war. Does it make sense to address Russians like that?

I think it’s good and correct for tactical reasons, because it creates confusion. This is part of information warfare. Zelensky addresses the Russian people personally, but the other side does not want dialogue. Russia has not yet reached this stage. It is a society in great decline, it is deteriorating more and more. This means they will ignore Zelensky. The unpopular mobilization does not change anything for the Russians, according to the polls. They don’t go out to demonstrate in the streets. But that doesn’t mean it will always stay the same.

Under what circumstances could the war against Ukraine end?

Here, the failure of our enemy’s army, and the exhaustion of its military means and its armament, must be mentioned, without any doubt, because its human resources are still numerous, although increasingly mediocre. For me, a clear sign of victory will be the restoration of the recognized international borders of Ukraine, with which the independence of our country began. The second stage of victory will then be Ukraine’s inevitable entry into NATO and the European Union, which will confirm our belonging to the Western world. And that the Russian aggressor will never invade us again, under any circumstances, no matter how much his inner reality changes. And this forever.

How will Ukraine be after a victory in this war?

A victory means great self-confidence and social optimism. Today there are enough. Surprisingly high percentages show that Ukrainians are optimistic about the future. If this state of affairs is reinforced by a victory, it will be a great advantage for the reconstruction of Ukraine and its complete renewal. But there will also be a lot of pain and sadness, as countless people have lost everything, or something very important. It will take a tremendous effort on the part of society as a whole to lift them out of the depression and bring them back to life. There will still be many dangers on our way, different lines of demarcation between people who were abroad, who fought at the front or who were under occupation. Many other conflicts can be listed. To avoid them, we must now be aware of the negative potential they can have.

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