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A Decorative Element of the Russian Facade

lyubimov111110.jpgThe Los Angeles Times has published a very interesting – and at times incendiary – interview with the 93-year-old theater director Yuri Lyubimov, famous for his adaptation of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita and other visionary Russian classics.

You used to have endless problems with Soviet bureaucrats before. Is it easier with Russian bureaucracy?

They sometimes congratulate me. Sometimes hang awards on me. Recently they called me from the president’s office and said they would invite me [to the Kremlin]. Here comes to mind a similar episode with Alexander Isayevich [Solzhenitsyn] whom Reagan invited to dinner when he already lived in exile. This is what he said in response, “With pleasure, but only when we can talk one on one; as for dinner I prefer to have it at home.”

When I meet with them they usually exclaim, “Oh, you were the gulp of freedom!” And then they say, “Sit down please,” which sounds quite more sinister to me. [In Russian “to sit” has a connotation “to be in prison.”]


Allthings considered, I am an alien to them. They need me only as somedecorative element of the facade they build here. They want me as abillboard. Otherwise they don’t need me at all. They prefer a theater ofmarionettes.

How do you feel about your work now?

Thepublic stopped looking for politics in the theater…. People arestruck with apathy. They come for entertainment. It looks as if nothingis forbidden anymore. But it is only an appearance. In reality only somesuperficial things are allowed, such as idle talk. People areindifferent now. They are tired. Their hopes have been dashed….

Youknow, as they like to say, here we are born to make Kafka a reality. Wedon’t have a heart and we don’t have a soul. But we love to talk about amysterious Russian soul. It is better not to dig into this or suchastonishing things may come out. Nothing is ever enough for us.