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Interview: Literature Nobel winner shocked by Russian critics

All Russian writers who have won the Nobel prize have been subjected to harassment in Russia. That is the assertion of the Svetlana Alexievich from

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Interview: Literature Nobel winner shocked by Russian critics

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All Russian writers who have won the Nobel prize have been subjected to harassment in Russia.

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All Russian writers who've won the Nobel Prize, have been subjected to harassment in the country. Bunin, Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky and Pasternak. That is astonishing

That is the assertion of the Svetlana Alexievich from Belarus, who was awarded this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

Her victory prompted a furious reaction in Russia because of her anti-Putin stance.

In an interview Alexievich says about her vision of the current situation in Russia, about a reaction to her prize in native Belarus and about a European future for Ukraine.

The writer was interviewed by Natalia Richardson-Vikulina for euronews.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
Svetlana, thank you for agreeing to an interview for Euronews. How did your world change after you found out you’d won the Nobel prize?

Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize winner for Literature:
It’s so recent that is hasn’t really sunk in yet. So far my pace of life has changed; I meet a lot of people and I’m traveling a lot.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
But did you feel that somehow your position, your influence in society has changed?

Svetlana Alexievich:
Well, my place in society hasn’t changed, it’s as it was. But yes, for example, when at the first press conference I was asked about Ukraine, I said that I think it is an occupation and that, in general, Putin unleashed a civil war. Civil war, if you like, can be unleashed anywhere. In Belarus you can unleash it, you can set Poles against Belarusians; it’s all possible. And I always said it but before Mr. Peskov, Putin’s press attache, wouldn’t have answered. But now he says to me: Mrs. Alexievich does not have all the information.
But the fact is that today it makes no difference nowadays; you can be a three-times Nobel prize but authoritarian rulers in general don’t listen to us.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
How did the Belarus president, Lukashenko react to your award?

Svetlana Alexievich:
By the end of the day he congratulated me, it was already after Gorbachev, after the Presidents of Germany and France. But Belarus was just holding elections, the presidential elections, there were a lot of foreign observers. As soon as the elections were over and the observers left, he immediately said that I was badmouthing my country. Nothing new, everything as it was.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
The news of your Nobel Prize was explosive in Russian society. Many people say that you have been given the award for your stance against against Putin. Were you surprised by this reaction? Or did you expect it?

Svetlana Alexievich:
No, I didn’t expect to be honest. I didn’t expect such an attitude especially from other writers. I didn’t think that Russian society was ill to such an extent. But all Russian writers who’ve won the Nobel Prize, have been subjected to harassment in the country. Bunin, Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky and Pasternak. That is astonishing.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
Maybe it’s not just about Putin. Perhaps, many Russians don’t not like the fact that you pressed on difficult aspects of Russian society? May be they didn’t like that?

Svetlana Alexievich:
There are many reasons. Firstly, I’m from Belarus, from a small country, which many Russian people living Russia don’t take seriously. The Belarusian language – what is this language? Come on, Svetlana Russians say to me, it is just a different dialect of Russian. It seems to me that Russian society is closed, like it’s never opened up to the world. The first failures after perestroika have caused it to reject the world, and the country is again closed. And ‘liberal’ became a dirty word. And many Russians are much closer to what Putin says: a great Russia surrounded by enemies. But it’s like an old call sign, working in the public mind. Just think – it took just a few months to set brother against brother – Russians and Ukrainians. It’s impossible to imagine. My mother is Ukrainian, my father is Belarusian. And there are so many people like that.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
In your books you follow the fate of people in the Soviet and post-Soviet society. How naturally-determined was the return of the Soviet people to the church? And is it possible today to draw the line between faith and propaganda in Russia?

Svetlana Alexievich:
I think that after perestroika the Soviet people were freed from the power of ideas, strong ideas, but the Russian people used to live as such a united powerful national body. And the people went to the church, yes. But I know there are a lot of good, honest people. And interesting people went there. But somehow very quickly, over 10 years, the present church was gone. The church became part of the propaganda. There is a sort of linkage between the state and the church. And I can say that I’m am simply shocked by some statements, for example something the senior Moscow cleric Chaplin said. He’s responsible for communication with the public. He recently said: thank God that the plentiful years are over – they don’t suit the Russian people. We have to make sacrifices, we have to suffer. Well, what’s that about? It’s barbaric, it’s nothing more.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
The call for the liberation of the Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, who is now in a Russian prison. Do you see Nadia as a symbol of freedom and hope for Ukraine? (Nadia means hope in Ukrainian – Euronews)

Svetlana Alexievich:
Yes, I was amazed by this woman. From the very beginning, as soon as I saw it. I don’t know whether or not you remember the first interrogation, and the dignity that she showed. She was surrounded by men, rather arrogant, they behaved towards her in a boorish way. But she behaved calmly: Yes, you can kill me, but I’ll tell you, the whole of Ukraine is against you. And she said it quietly. I really liked that. I think they thought: Well, she is just a simple woman. And they wanted to exploit her somehow. But they found themselves confronting a powerful personality, a Joan of Arc.

Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, euronews:
And do you think that Ukraine has a future in Europe?

Svetlana Alexievich:
I think so. I was in Ukraine recently. I visited the Kiev-Mohyla Academy, I’ve have been to the Maidan Square, to its makeshift museum. I saw people who go there, and I saw faces of these young people, saw their desire to live in a different country. I think that Ukraine is the first post-Soviet that tried to break the umbilical cord with Russia and to take off into another world, to take off into Europe. Another thing is that it ended in blood. Russia is just not willing to let go. What is Russia without Ukraine? It’s no longer the great Russia about which Russians dream. So Ukraine will be free. But it should happen with less bloodshed.