2 June 2022
Journalist Stanislav Kucher, who lives in the United States, published on his Facebook page a telephone conversation with the group DDT’s leader and Moscow Helsinki Group human rights laureate Yury Shevchuk, which they had after the cancellation of his group’s concert in Moscow was announced.
– Well, what are your feelings?
– Did you see our video on Youtube? It came out so cheerful and optimistic. Naturally, though, we were very upset. They put the friggin’ squeeze on us… You can’t imagine how we fought for this concert, we did everything we could and more, the organizers knocked on every door. A concert for 20,000-30,000 people — that’s almost a stadium. How can you cancel something like that?
– In your video you said the concert wasn’t canceled but postponed until next year and people could keep those tickets. What’s happening now? Are people returning their tickets?
– This is a long-suffering concert. For two years, it kept being postponed because of the pandemic, but very few turned in their tickets. Now the postponement is because of the so-called special operation, but once again people aren’t rushing to turn in their tickets, and that’s inspiring, naturally. As one good person wrote us: “If we don’t come, then our grandchildren will!” Our people are fine, good, optimistic.
– What next? Will you go to other cities?
– In other cities, as you realize, everything depends on the local governors. Our country is like that, uneven — some places they’re banning it, some not. Based on what I’m sensing, our bureaucracy is very nervous. Some especially stubborn “hawks,” who are in favor of the war, cut off everything right away, and some are just nervous… We’ll see. I don’t want to stop performing.
– Maybe this is the right time for a world tour? Georgia, Turkey, Latvia, Israel. There are lots of your fans now in all those places. Come to America, people here are ready to give DDT any venue they want.
– I already told you: I think we’re needed in Russia. Yes, we’ve had plenty of invitations, and that’s nice. But I’ve thought about this a lot and definitely decided that we have to fight for peace, and that means playing concerts for peace, and specifically in Russia. In Israel or Latvia, everyone is for peace anyway, there’s no need to inspire anyone there on that level. They need us more in Russia. Yes, playing here is risky for us, complicated, even dangerous. But it’s essential to talk with people about peace, about the war, about life, about what’s going on in our hearts.
– You mean you think your mission is to convert those in favor of the war to your belief?
– Those in favor of the war don’t come to our concerts. Everyone comes with an understanding of reality. But they’re very happy when they see how many of them there are in the hall! It’s incredible! Strangers start hugging and rejoicing that there are so many of them. Everywhere I ask the hall who is for peace and who is for war. Everyone is for peace.
– Has something changed in the concerts themselves? The repertoire, your own feelings?
– Of course. We’ve done about ten concerts in these three months. It’s not easy going out each time, understanding that you’re going out, you’re having something to eat, and at that very moment someone is being killed… We haven’t played happy songs, we’ve probably lost the drive for them, but we’ve gained in the philosophical and human dimension, and our concerts are more powerful. The degree of pain, the emotions, the energy exchange with the hall—all that’s increased.
– What do you think of the popular discussion about those who’ve left and those who’ve stayed?
– Listen, I don’t divide people up into “ours” and “not ours.” I want to tell you that these lists of who’s left and who’s stayed hit me hard. Lists of “good people” and “bad people” — it’s all terrible, a kind of political and social racism. Millions in Russia are for peace and they’re doing what they can to show that. We can’t ask everyone who is for peace to take on the Kremlin.
– Demand the maximum from yourself but nothing from others?
– Well, yes. Each person has the right to their own road, their own life. Some stayed simply because they had nowhere and no way to go. Some are just weak. Are we supposed to pin a yellow star on them for that? I don’t understand that chessplayer, he hasn’t lived in Russia in a long time, he has no feeling for our people… Yes, the people here are under terrible pressure, and not everyone can resist. That has to be understood. If America had been battered with this kind of propaganda for 20 years, what do you think would have become of you?
– Have you ever run into a negative response from Ukrainians due to this attitude? By the way, when I wrote on my Telegram channel and then talked about your position on Youtube, I didn’t get a single negative comment from Ukraine. A few from Russians abroad.
– I haven’t heard anything bad from Ukrainians, either. On the contrary, they write very kind words… You see, just like for our shared idol Vladimir Semyonovich Vysotsky, the main thing for me is the human being. In Donetsk, Kyiv, Moscow, or New York. War generally is a simplistic awareness, as the marvelous Ukrainian intellectual Andrii Olegovich Baumeister says: “us vs. them.” That’s it. For people with a more complex awareness — and you and I are among them, I hope — for us there is the human being, we see the human being, we try to understand them and sort things out with them. For us there are no whites, or blacks, or Chinese, or Russians. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority.
– But we have “us vs. them,” too. So do you. You don’t call the people who kill or justify killing “yours.”
– I’ve thought about this, and especially a lot in these three months. How do we live on earth by heaven’s laws? Are “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” possible in principle? What if I’m sitting at home and looters break into my house. And I came up with this simple formula: anyone who attacks is a murderer; anyone who defends themselves isn’t.
– Russian propaganda, that same Margarita Simonyan, would say that by attacking, Russia is defending itself.
– She can go to hell. You and I aren’t going to talk on their level. Even Margarita Simonyan doubtless understands perfectly well who attacked who. She is a master at dealing in lies. And at the same time she’s doubtless convinced she’s doing everything right.
– You think?
– I think those people there are convinced. They couldn’t be spewing this crap to the whole country just for money. That’s never once happened in the history of humanity. This is good against evil, and each side is sure that they’re the good. Let’s imagine Armageddon’s come. Naturally, the dark forces are sure they’re right. I don’t think people are going to be fighting during Armageddon just for cash.
– What are you going to do tomorrow, literally?
– Work. What else? Right now we’ve started on our second album, we’re working all the time. Storm, blizzards, we have to work, the album’s coming out in the fall — very lyrical, different from the first part – ”Art in the Void.”
– You’ve already come up with a title?
– The title comes last. Either a girl with an oar or a guy with an axe. First — the songs. At the beginning and the end, it’s always the word and the songs.
Translated by Marian Schwartz