OpenDemocracy.net has published translations of correspondence between Mikhail Khdoorkovsky and the famous novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, which was originally featured in Novaya Gazeta. The conversation is suprisingly frank and full of personal insights.
Khodorkovsky: “The experience of prison is not that unusual for a member of the intelligentsia in Russia. This is unfortunate, because it is not a great experience. I feel closer to Shalamov than Solzhenitsyn here. I think the difference between them goes back to the fact that Solzhenitsyn believed in authoritarian rule, and that included prison. But as a “humanist” he thought that he had to experience it for himself. I respect this viewpoint, but I don’t agree with it.
Prison is a place of anti-culture and anti-civilization. Good is evil, and lies are the truth. Here the dregs educate the dregs, and decent people feel deeply unhappy, as they can do nothing inside this revolting system.
No, perhaps that’s going too far, of course they can do something, but it’s terrible to watch how a few people manage to survive each day, while dozens go under. And how changes go round in circles, moving ahead, but so slowly.
My own recipe for survival is to learn to understand and forgive. The better and the more deeply you understand and put yourself in someone else’s place, the more difficult it is to condemn and the simpler to forgive.”