20 September 2021, Monday, 6:15
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Oleg Basilashvili To Belarusian Authorities: Let People Choose Freely

Oleg Basilashvili To Belarusian Authorities: Let People Choose Freely

The famous actor has supported the protesting Belarusians.

In August 2020, a leading actor of the Russian State Academic Bolshoi Drama Theater named after Georgy Tovstonogov (BDT), People' Artist of the USSR Oleg Basilashvili spoke out about the Belarusian protests. Has his position changed now? The newspaper "Belarusians and Market" got in touch with Oleg Valerianovich, explained why they took an interest in his current position, and talked about how important the opinion of the intelligentsia is in the civil protest, and not only about that.

In August 2020, journalist Ksenia Basilashvili, daughter of the BDT legend and culture columnist at the Echo of Moscow radio station, published a message from him on her Facebook page "with the hope that the words of solidarity will reach Minsk". In it, Oleg Basilashvili expressed support to "... his Belarusian theater colleagues, as well as artistic director of the theater named after Yanka Kupala, director Mikalai Pinihin and other Belarusians who dared to voice their opinion".

It should be noted that the position of the People's Artist has often been contrary to the general line of the Kremlin. In 2008, against the background of "patriotic hysteria," he called the actions of Russian troops in South Ossetia an occupation, and in 2014, he spoke out against Russia's annexation of Crimea.

- Oleg, in August 2020, you spoke in support of the protesting Belarusians. What is the relation between you and Belarus? What cities have you been to? What are your impressions?

- Wherever there is a violation of the rules prescribed in the Constitution of another country, I always side with the people who defend the Basic Law adopted by them in any particular state. Therefore, I am entirely on the side of those people who have demanded and continue to demand the rights given to them by the Constitution. In this case, the Constitution of Belarus.

I have been to your country on several occasions, mostly when I toured in Minsk. I am connected with Belarus first of all by my close and warm relationship with Mikalai Pinihin, the former head of your main theater. I got to know him when he joined the Bolshoi Drama Theatre. Mikalai worked with Tovstonogov and staged plays in our theatre after he left. So we treat him with great respect and love and wish him all the best. I know that right now Pinihin is not allowed to work at the Kupala Theatre. I would really like to wish him to return to the theater from which he has been separated. May he still work at the Academic Theater where he used to work, as well as his artists who are now deprived of such an opportunity. Today, a lot of Belarusians who took to the streets of the Belarusian cities during the protests, are in jail. I am against this.

- Mikalai Pinihin is also against it.

- I believe that Mikalai, who was forced to leave Belarus, is right in his protests, and in this respect I am Pinihin's comrade-in-arms. It is not my business to interfere in the political affairs of another country, but I would like the prisons there to be free from people whose only guilt is that they took to the streets of Minsk and other cities with the peaceful protest, without breaking a single glass, without overturning a single car, came out in thousands, hundreds of thousands, and were long demanding the realization of their rights.

- How important is the role of the liberal community in the civil protest?

- It is very, very important. But not only it. The role of any person in civil protest, in public, in political life, is important if he is a citizen. If he cares about the future of his country, about the future of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

- I believe that the voice of people of culture, science, medicine is very important. But these people, who are the "golden asset of the nation" and who actively protested against the election results and the violence of the security forces, are now under pressure…

- I do not know exactly how many people have suffered since last August and the extent of the repressions (the Russian media have now shut up about it), but I can guess from the first steps of the Belarusian authorities. I saw Lukashenka walking around Minsk with a machine gun, and I realized that the intelligentsia, and not only the intelligentsia, all those who came out to demand their legal rights written in the Belarusian Constitution, that those people would be subjected to repression. I just don't know what is going on now: our newspapers, TV and radio prefer not to speak about it too loudly.

- And yet, some Russian artists, knowing that the repression in Belarus is massive, about which the Belarusians write in social networks, nevertheless go to perform at "Slavonic Bazaar", for example. Even despite they are urged not to do it in social networks…

- You see, the thing is... Artists go to see the citizens of another country in order to please the audience. Singers, readers, dancers, musicians... What's wrong with that? It's not that they're supporting a certain regime, they're visiting an audience that's waiting for them, that's all. So it seems to me. But maybe I'm wrong, and a boycott of such events is necessary. I don't know what flag they are flying but I think that culture, whatever nation it may belong to, is universal and it is the common good. Whether it is Ukrainian, or Russian, or Belarusian, or Georgian, or Even. It's the culture that unites our peoples. And which, in general, is the bane of our authorities' existence. So I think that we should support in every possible way the cultural ties that connect Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Armenian or Russian nations.

- Propagandists scare the Belarusians that if the power changes, everything will fall apart and the 90s will come. What do you think about such statements?

- Who are these people making such predictions? Let the people choose freely, I emphasize - freely, who they want to see at the head of the country. If it is Lukashenka, I say good riddance. If it is someone else, so be it. And in four years, we will see what this person is capable of. If he "managed the economy" well - he will be given another term, if not - he will be dismissed and someone else will be put in his place. That's the way it must be, and everything must be under control, so that there was no self-will, so that everything was carried out exactly within the law of the Republic of Belarus.