Why it is that there are always four different conferences that you need to be at all in one day I don’t know, but that’s usually how it works out. That’s the hustle and bustle of life.
The PEN International world congress was taking place in Belgrade and the Kinoshok festival was being held in Anapa at the same time. Both events were important to me, and they just happened to take place on the same day. How I managed to spend too little time in Serbia and be quite late to Anapa I don’t know, but it’s just that the two events fused in one for me, or that they were about the same thing.
My main work was “Empire. Four dimensions”, because this was my life story. I even sometimes call myself an empirologist. I create the non-existent science of empirology.
I gave a lot of thought to the post-empirical space and understood that it’s not going to be all that easy. I knew that the empire was falling apart even as I was inside it, roaming around it.
Empire and the USSR are not exactly synonyms, or they aren’t synonyms at all. You cannot, however, forget about this space: three generations were spent on it.
...Did Russia ever have a society? It did. There was high society and the people. Then there were the intelligentsia and the people, followed by, as strange as it may sound, Soviet society. Whether we like it or not, there was a Soviet society.
The society vanished. You have neither the people nor society. All that is left is this riff-raff acting triumphantly, especially among the rampaging ruling authorities. The law doesn’t apply to them, or at least they sincerely assured themselves that power is the law.
Incidentally, no one party has ever declared itself to be the ruling party, even the Communist Party. Only society, however, can guarantee party equality, and only the law can guarantee the existence of society.
…So as a result we live in both a post-empirical and, I stress, post-Soviet space. We live in a post-Soviet space, one that is simply devastated.
Two things have survived in this space: the scattered Soviet people languishing from inequality, and the Russian language.
...Does this time reek? Yes it does, just like any decaying living organism, because the empirical space was alive! It was alive and united. An empire is a complex organism and a big world after a big war.
So many countries were freed after World War II! The third world arose from the ashes, and it too ended up lonely, just like our poor former Soviet republics today. No one has any idea what freedom is. The shattered empire was in and of itself dysfunctional, but the shards of it now are even more dysfunctional. But what still keeps them going and going?
I always believed that the Soviet regime did not exist on fear. As far as I remember, the Empire existed on other things. It existed thanks to vodka and the Russian woman, blond and sumptuous, who triumphantly promenaded to all frontiers. Thanks, as well, to the Russian language. I find this to be indisputable.
...In ten days time I visited two organisations: one an international organisation bringing together 80 PEN Centres from across the world, the other a post-Soviet organisation, Kinoshok in Anapa. Here I saw the work of the Russian language, continuing to walk the earth.
I rushed my way to Belgrade in order to, for the third time now, reiterate to the PEN International that Russian should become the congresses’ fourth working language. Technically speaking, this wouldn’t require much effort.
For the third time now I told them, “Yes, you are great. You are great because you are all fallen empires. Thanks to this, you have been able to expand your language across the world”.
…We, on the other hand, are an empire that fell not too long ago. So what do I see here? I make my way to every PEN International congress, and I am surrounded by at least 20 people who don’t speak good English, but they speak Russian with me (even if the have forgotten half of it). So why not add a fourth simultaneous interpreter at the PEN Centre congresses?
Then I flew into Anapa. Here, of course, at a festival of film “of the countries of the CIS and Baltic States” the common language is Russian. In talking about problems, money, the meaning of life, everything is in Russian! Everything depends on it. Russian was the weapon of the Empire, and just maybe its chief weapon.
Therefore, the language needs to be supported with translation programmes, language training, etc. Russians talk so much about poor illegals and how they speak Russian poorly. So then put your money where your mouth is. Teach the language, or else you will cultivate hate.
We need to think and to pay, pay for the past of the empire among other things.
Meanwhile, Russian is working just as before…