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Interview Transcript

Kirill Razlogov 

KIRILL RAZLOGOV is the director of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, holds a doctorate in film, politics, and religion, and is an internationally known film critic. Razlogov is the Russian representative in the Culture Committee of the Council of Europe and is the author of numerous books and articles on film and culture, including First Century of Cinema, published in Moscow in 1996.

The following presentation was given at The Russian-American Center conference in November 1998:

Kirill Razlogov: I'll try to speak English. If I don't succeed, I'll ask to pass the Russian. But I'll begin in English. I wondered what could be a suitable topic, because the topic that was announced, the topic about Russian film, is interesting in itself, but isn't exactly following on on what was said before. So what I'll try to do just in half an hour, perhaps forty minutes, to give some countercultural remarks about the general problems we touched upon during these days and then leave space for questions, and the questions can be about film and television and whatever, which is the cultural practice in Russia now.

One thing that bothered me in viewing our discussion these few days was a one-sided approach to discussing Russia's problems without really touching that about American and the world's problems as they are related to Russia, because many of the problems that are Russian problems today can become the world problems tomorrow. The economical crisis that started in Southeast Asia is one of the good examples. In a way we are showing to the world not only what to do, but mostly what not to do in certain circumstances. And that explains perhaps the reaction to Erofeyev's speech yesterday, which I'm afraid wasn't plainly understood because it was a polemical one, just trying to come back to the idea that the differences meant more than similarities between the United States of America, between the peoples, the traditions, the cultures, etc.

I don't quite agree with Victor on that, because my own feeling is that it is much easier to find a common language between the Russian and American than between the Russian and the European. And my small experience in international juries and film festivals points out that if Russians and Americans agree on the price, usually we work through it. So, there are similarities, not only geographical similarities, not only weather similarities, not only the sense of greatness, be it geographical greatness or cultural greatness, but also things that don't quite exist in Europe, which is a democratic feeling of equality and equal opportunity for whichever. And it didn't happen from yesterday; the idea of this kind of democracy goes very far back in Russian and American history. But as de Toqueville was not quoted here, we'll say because it was one of the social thinkers that prove that they were even more right than Marx theories even if Marx theories at one point were more popular. Go through Russian cultural tradition in a different way, but they're still there. The word elite—political elite, economical elite, is very popular in Russia. But sometimes the reactions to these terms are very violent in some western countries which have the democratic tradition.

So my first point will be that the comparisons are much easier than we think they are, and we have to rely upon things that make us closer. And that's what was pointed out today in Montville's speech. On the other hand, I think it is basically different in other traditions. The role of tradition in Russian life—political life and cultural life. And one of these traditions is the difficulty that Russia has to modernize itself during several centuries. We spoke about the last crisis, and I pointed out and I think he agreed in a way, that the present period of 13 years has been the same period of 13 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, or the same period of 13 years that Czar Alexander tried to modernize Russia, and the same period of 16, 17 years that Catherine the Great played with the revolutionary and European ideas before coming back, and the same period of, let's say, 10 to 15 years that Peter the Great was the great modernizer—some think the killer of Russia, who tried to do it in a similar way. And each time, at some point it became too dangerous to the future of the country, and history went back. It went back, but not exactly to the same point from where it started.

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