SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN 07/23/2007
'I Am Not Afraid of Death'
In an interview with SPIEGEL, prominent Russian writer and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn discusses Russia's turbulent history, Putin's version of democracy and his attitude to life and death.
Spiegel: But Russia often finds itself alone. Recently relations between Russia and the West have gotten somewhat colder (more...), and this includes Russian-European relations. What is the reason? What are the West’s difficulties in understanding modern Russia?
Solzhenitsyn: I can name many reasons, but the most interesting ones are psychological, i.e. the clash of illusory hopes against reality. This happened both in Russia and in West. When I returned to Russia in 1994, the Western world and its states were practically being worshipped. Admittedly, this was caused not so much by real knowledge or a conscious choice, but by the natural disgust with the Bolshevik regime and its anti-Western propaganda.
This mood started changing with the cruel NATO bombings of Serbia. It’s fair to say that all layers of Russian society were deeply and indelibly shocked by those bombings. The situation then became worse when NATO started to spread its influence and draw the ex-Soviet republics into its structure. This was especially painful in the case of Ukraine, a country whose closeness to Russia is defined by literally millions of family ties among our peoples, relatives living on different sides of the national border. At one fell stroke, these families could be torn apart by a new dividing line, the border of a military bloc.
So, the perception of the West as mostly a "knight of democracy" has been replaced with the disappointed belief that pragmatism, often cynical and selfish, lies at the core of Western policies. For many Russians it was a grave disillusion, a crushing of ideals.