The Guardian is running an interview with Boris Akunin, AKA Grigory Chkhartishvili, who has become widely known as the JK Rowling of current Russian writers. His historical detective novels, based in the Tsarist era, have reached unprecedented heights of popularity among Russia’s emerging middle class, and have also been made into several films. In the interview he expresses his disapproval of Putinist authoritarianism, but also expresses optimism for Russia’s political future.
He was born in Tbilisi but grew up in Moscow. Last year when relations between Russia and Georgia dramatically worsened, the tax police took a sudden interest in Akunin’s affairs. Although he is not an opposition figure as such, it is clear the Kremlin does not like him. He is not a fan of Vladimir Putin either, he admits. “I do not know personally anybody who likes what’s happening in my country politically. “I would like to live in a democratic society, which Russia isn’t these days,” he says. Akunin refuses to appear on Russian TV, which is controlled and censored by the Kremlin. (His last TV appearance was on a show for children.) A historian by training he is, however, generally upbeat about Russia’s future. He says he is not dismayed by Russia’s current authoritarian leadership or by the stunning political apathy of its middle class. “My impression is that Russian society is still moving in the right direction. For the first time in Russian history tens of millions of people are learning to work, not to expect anything from the state, to be providers for their families. It’s a revolutionary experience for many people,” Akunin says.