This week’s lunch with the FT features Peter Aspden sitting down for some sushi and a harmless bit of obsequiousness with Evgeny Lebedev, the son of Alexander Lebedev. The conversation has some interesting points … such as his potshots at newly wealthy Russians who throw their money at expensive art. Evgeny strikes me as more intelligent and considerate than your average playboy – but then at other times he seems a bit out of touch.
“I feel very affiliated with Russia, what I see as its soul. Even with its landscape, that vastness that you can’t grasp. Our history is violent and bloody: revolutions, war, turmoil. Even Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, they saw themselves as reformers but, on the other hand, they were brutal. Catherine used to write to Rousseau and Voltaire but then she had people’s noses chopped off.
“I do have a melancholic side to my character, which is Russian. But what I feel no connection with at all is Moscow. It is a place that has become completely driven by money and power. There is no part of it that has not been destroyed to make way for architecture of diabolical design.
“Thebig problem with Russian culture is that it doesn’t move forward. Lotsof institutions are run by dinosaurs, people who have been there 30 to40 years. The director of the Pushkin Museum has been there sinceStalin was alive. If you are the director of a museum, you only leavein a body bag. I don’t blame them for not wanting to leave but theyoung generation suffers.” (…)
Lebedev finally rallies with a burst of optimism. “I feel Russia isready for a change. But for change to happen, you need to struggle. Alot of people are afraid to struggle. That’s why I so greatly respectand admire my father. He has the courage to say things, and to fightfor them. He is always told to keep his mouth shut, but he wants tochampion democracy and freedom. He wants to do something.”