An honest interview with the famous singer.
In an interview with Charter97.org Studio X97 program, the star of the Belarusian and Russian stage, Angelika Agurbash, shares her attitude towards events in Belarus, the heroes of the Belarusian revolution and her disappointment in her colleagues, as well as about how buckwheat can help the strike, and why the Belarusian usurper has already lost. The host of the program is Yevgeny Klimakin.
- The famous singer, ex-participant of the Verasy band and, what was a bit unexpected for many, she is more and more often critical of the Lukashenka regime. Angelika Agurbash. Greetings!
- Good afternoon. You see, I already have a new profession - critic. I care about the developments. It is not criticism. I don't even compare Lukashenka's regime with the one of Gaddafi or with other regimes. We have our history, our problem, our misfortune, so you are probably a little too much of a critic.
- Yeah? Well, let's not go overboard, then. Could you tell us what annoys you?
- I can't say what exactly annoys me. I can say repressions in Belarus and people in prisons raise the greatest concern for me.
Look at the developments: the best of the best leave, the best of the best are now under repression, in prisons. Two articles impute guilt upon me. I don't know what will happen to me and when will it all be over.
I get phone calls from Yerevan, from Georgia, but I cannot go anywhere for concerts. I can't go to concerts in Turkey because I am internationally wanted. I am on the international wanted list. I am under extradition, so it's not safe.
- The Belarusian Revolution started last year. Do you still believe in the victory of the Belarusians?
- Of course, I do. Absolutely. And I believe that we have already won. Because, first of all, Lukashenka already understands that he has lost. He simply stalls. Belarusians have become a nation, the spirit of Belarusians has awakened. It comes first.
It can't be stopped, blurred or erased.
- You've regularly participated in protests near the Belarusian embassy. Is it true that you even hosted some Belarusians, political refugees, to spend the night at your place, or it's just a rumour?
- I had Alexei Kudin's wife and daughter. I was at the pre-trial detention facility when they were waiting for him and hoping he would be released before midnight. I drove up and saw a woman with a baby in her arms, almost sleeping. It was 10 pm. I just asked: "Do you have a place to stay?" She said, "Yes, at a friend's house." We exchanged phone numbers, then she just called me, and I took them to my place.
- What can the Belarusian diaspora do now?
- The diaspora does. It does more than anyone else. Not the offices, not the headquarters, but people do more than anyone else. In Moscow, in Russia, our Belarusians come out. They meet for dinners, some friendly parties to support each other emotionally. I used to go to the embassy because I could not stay at home: my heart and soul were tearing up.
Of course, one should stand up for one's rights and freedoms. That's the only thing I can say. One must not calm down, must not be satisfied with what is happening in Belarus and the Lukashenka regime and this repressive machine are doing now.
One can't give up and put up with dissolving now and levelling everything out. One can't let Babariko - 14 years, Maria Kolesnikova - 11 years, Maksim Znak - 10 years, remain in prison for many, many years. One can't put up with it. I believe there's no help to wait for. People should decide how they want to live, to make conclusions and not give up, fight for the future, for the future of their children and the future of Belarus. The situation now is only worsening.
- Many politicians, public figures are now calling on Belarusians to prepare for a strike, a mass strike. Do you think it would be a useful instrument?
- It would be a very effective instrument if we all gave Lukashenka a fest of disobedience. Ninety per cent of Belarusians should stock up on buckwheat, water, and food and stay at home. There is a pandemic now. Everybody, let's have a fest of disobedience. All those who are against Lukashenka do not let your children go to school, or university, or anywhere.
Let's stay at home. With stocks of buckwheat. I even admit that he can cut off the light and the heat. But we'll have to stay to show him who supports him and who opposes.
If all Belarusians starting from workers and ending up with all systems and businesses had had such a fest of disobedience, it could have been effective!
I do believe some brave people can go on strike.
- This season, the famous X-Factor will start on the Belarusian state television channel Belarus-1. The jury will include Olga Buzova, Sergei Sosedov - the guest stars. And two people were born in Belarus: Seryoga is known for Black Boomer, and Ruslan Alekhno. Let's take it one step at a time. As far as I understand, Russian entertainers, Sosedov and Buzova are there, because money is money.
- It's not surprising to me. I've known Ruslan for a long time. I sincerely feel pity for him. Although, you know, everyone has one's own level of conscience, honour, dignity, principles, even professional ethics. It all makes sense. You must realize that everything that is happening in Belarus is not politics anymore. It is already out of it. There is a human factor, human nature.
- And Seryoga? His motivation? Do you know him?
- Yes, I do. For so many years, I knew Seryoga. In principle, people respected him; he used to be a favorite. People used to say, "Oh, Seryoga is a tough guy of honour, wow". Well, there he goes, unfortunately. They are such poor things. I can't call them any other way. But I'm not judging anyone. I have no right to.
- Angelika, I think you know many authoritative people in Belarus, including the rich ones. What sentiments are there now in Lukashenka's inner circle?
- People saw me maturing. Half of Belarus, at least, half of the President's staff and all his "verticals", one could say, know my songs. Everyone knows and loves. Everyone has treated me with great love and respect over all these years. I am well aware that there are the people loyal to the regime, Lukashenka, but there are few of them.
Most of the people are in the grip of the system. They want the regime to fall even more than we do. Frankly speaking, Lukashenka should apologize to people. But it's obvious no one believes him, no one supports him, no one will vote for him. No one will participate in his rallies or live and work for the good of his regime. Doesn't he get it?
Well, he's not completely out of his mind. The man should have realized by now. I can assume that his entourage might have served him such a pretty picture and please him with the 83%. I guess he could have been unaware. I know his inner circle led by Natallia Eismont, a little bit. He may receive information that does not irritate him. He might not have had all the information. It has a ground.
Either he's so cunning and so good at imitating unawareness, or he doesn't have enough information. What the hell is going on right now. It's nuts.
- Angelika, who do you consider an authority among the Belarusian politicians and public figures today?
- First of all, these are the people who have proved with their lives, destiny that they are true patriots of Belarus. They are Mikalai Statkevich, Pavel Seviarynets, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, who was suppressed both politically and creatively. Viktor Babariko, Maksim Znak, Maria Kolesnikova, who have not given up and behave very decently. We have a lot of decent people. I believe this type of people.
I do believe the future president of Belarus must be a true patriot. One must love Belarus and Belarusians with all heart, with every cell.
- Angelika, before our interview, I had looked through all the interviews you commented on the situation in the country and read the comments. I came across the following comments, "Angelika used to travel, sing at concerts where Lukashenka was, and now she's against it." What would you say to those people?
- Just because I sang at concerts, it doesn't mean that I sang for Lukashenka and in Lukashenka's name. Look, I am an artist. They invite me to the events. I am one of the best singers in Belarus and a well-known person in Russia. I have performed not only at concerts attended by Lukashenka. I have performed in front of representatives of almost all the countries and peoples: at private events, summits, and protocol events. That is normal. After all, both Russia and Belarus have a backbone of artists - a dozen iconic artists who necessarily attend significant, major public and commercial events. Therefore, people who now want to put some non-existent labels on me take advantage of it instead of supporting me and saying, "Well done!"
I'm one of the few, if not the only one of my entire creative pool my to be so blatantly tough and so consistently calling a spade a spade. I have always been bold. I don't understand why some think I am Lukashenka's singer and favorite. Once, I was leaving a concert in Alexandria, telling the musicians "turn around and leave" when I didn't like something. The director (Konoplev was still the Head of the President's Administration at that time, and those concerts were in Alexandria) ran up to me and said, "You won't even reach Mogilev". I answered, "I'll get there, it's okay".
I was also increasingly pressed in Belarus. The National School of Beauty, which still exists; I invented it. Later, they suspended me from the project because when the renovation of the beauty school began, I couldn't put up with the budget; I was in charge of everything. The suspended ceilings, which cost $10 a square meter, were estimated at $110 there. I still ran around. I was told, "Angelika Anatolievna, why don't we just give you the position of an art director. We'll take care of your current position..." But I am in charge of everything and responsible for that. Lukashenka told me at the time, "Oh, it's going to be hard for you. They will devour you". It was true. I was very rebellious, defiant.
Everybody knows it very well. Lukashenka has never been involved in my life and my art. Except for the period when I was a soloist in the Verasy band. I was officially employed by the State Philharmonic, which was only five years of my life.
- When did you personally reach that point of no return and realize that that was it, you couldn't go to those events?
- Long time ago, because even on my rare visits to Belarus, I was aware that something was going wrong. Even with regard to our art sphere, the concerts. It was horror; it was censorship, there were people from the administration. A character was there. It was Driga (Deputy Minister of Culture - Charter97.org's note). She decided who should be and who shouldn't, who would sing and who would not.
- You mentioned Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu. He's been in disgrace for a long time now. You've been singing songs to his lyrics, and you used to sing them when he was still in disgrace. Did anybody ask you not to sing them?
- I was young, silly and inexperienced. He's an adult. He was the Chairman of the Union of Writers of Belarus, a respected man. I think Volodya Nyaklyaeu is a genius. Nobody writes in Belarusian better than him. Nobody. The songs he wrote are just folk ones. My repertoire has a bunch of songs by him.
I was silly then. I did not understand at all when he said that Lukashenka was a criminal. He used to say, "Look, he is committing a crime against the Belarusians. He will turn normal Belarusians with normal reputation into collective farmers". I said, "How can one man turn the entire country and all of us into collective farmers in terms of reputation, image, etc.?" You can imagine, it happened.
At one time, Volodya was close to Lukashenka, but then he "suffered". The closer to Lukashenka one is, the harder one gets hurt. Volodya Nyaklyaeu is not the first and not the last. I'm very sorry because they treated him very harshly then. He lost his health. I met with him here in Moscow, "Angelika, we have to do something about the situation". I was older then, and I said, "Volodya, there are no resources. Do you have the resources to crush Lukashenka now?"
- Do you think one can be out of politics now, regardless of where one belongs to a business, government agency, art? Is it possible?
- One can if one is a favorite of the authorities. I'm not talking about Belarus now. All talented people, all iconic artists have always been cherished and nurtured. They have always been favoured by any power. That's why. But there are truly creative people, rebels, who are outside of any political systems and structures. They are only creative, but there are very few of them. We are all in the system anyway.
Show business is also a serious system. One has to play by certain rules. Politics is a very complex thing. When you enter big politics you have to recognize all the risks. You must have a powerful team and resources you can use. Unfortunately, there is no such force now which could fight Lukashenka.
We had the hope of uniting all democratic forces, all of them. And we were waiting for this from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya when she had just crossed the border and found herself in Vilnius. We were all waiting for her to unite us all into one powerful force. I have been saying for a whole year: guys, we have the only chance to unite, to form one powerful front, to rise, and then we will be able to bring Lukashenka to some kind of conversation.
- What should the Belarusians do in this challenging time?
- Listen to one's heart, act honestly, according to one's conscience. Do not lose hope.
Family members of our political prisoners should stay calm. Do not lose heart.
People who are in prisons must just take care of themselves as much as possible, stay out of trouble. People in Belarus, pressed now by the repressive machine, should also stay out of the way. To preserve their resources.
I do believe there will be a powerful critical mass that sends a certain message. It will be not two hundred thousand people, but millions of people who go out in the streets and sweep away all the bad things that should have been swept away from the Belarusian land long ago.