Igor Kokarev about the collapse of public diplomacy and civil society in Russia
“Confessions of a “foreign agent” was the title of his new book Russian sociologist, film critic and publicist Igor Kokarev, now living in the California town of Santa Monica.
The author, in particular, recalls his work in the years of perestroika and in the post to establish contacts Russia and the United States, integration of Russia into the civilized world.
“The person born in the West, it is difficult to understand what it means to live in the Soviet Union and immediately after its collapse, wrote about this book Kokareva Professor Emeritus at Harvard University Richard pipes. – Book by Igor Kokarev clearly shows it is based on his active private life and is of great value in such a historical moment when there is a danger to forget about the past.”
“The book Kokareva that without grass-roots self-organization may not be society and without society there can be nothing else than the omnipotence and arbitrariness of the authorities,” writes Russian journalist Klyamkin.
Igor Kokarev E. was born in Odessa in 1940. Graduated from Odessa Maritime Academy, sailed. Worked in the Komsomol. Then shock Komsomol construction in Kazakhstan. A study at VGIK, graduate school, Academy of the social Sciences with a thesis, at the Institute of USA and Canada. The first book on sociology and film. In the restructuring of the Deputy, one of the initiators of reforms in the Union of cinematographers, Vice-President of the American-Soviet canonicity (ASC). In 90-ies — an active participant of civil initiatives, the President of the people’s Fund, chief editor of the newspaper “SK-news”, member of Moscow Public Council.
He was married twice. First wife – Natalia, daughter of the composer Tikhon Khrennikov. Second wife – Iya, the artist. Two sons, a daughter, four grandchildren.
Correspondent of Russian service “voice of America” had a conversation with Igor Kokarev on Skype.
Oleg Sulkin: Igor, it is clear that the title of the book polemiche. But seriously, whether the right to existence of the term – a foreign agent?
Igor Kokarev: No! Especially in Putin’s Russia. Here’s why. The idea of cooperation between Russia and America shaped my destiny, since 1987. We by Elem Klimov created in the Union of cinematographers ASC – American-Soviet canonization, and in 1994 with Vladimir Pozner – “national Fund”, the first center of neighboring communities. Both organizations, in partnership with the Americans. Both at our initiative. We thought only about the interests of the country. In Moscow Smolenka, was training for asset the TOS. In English it’s called community development and the territorial public self-government, or the TOS. We sought to include residents in the city’s life, to help the authorities to solve community issues with the involvement of social capital – skills, knowledge and time themselves the United inhabitants.
O. S.: the passage of time is obvious – these ideas were not realized. Why?
I. K.: Not quite. People just responded. They only asked: “What, now?” And the government got scared. It is there we have the Soviet, unpunished and uncontrolled. Neither lustration, nor the trial of the Communist party still did not take place. And we proposed the control of public policy. It didn’t happen. Apparently, we were ahead of time.
O. S.: How do you evaluate your own effort then? Really all this for nothing?
IK: the Thing we did is important. Across the country, from Moscow to Vladivostok, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, has Trained more than 2 thousand activists in our training center on smolenke. Our graduates your organization has created, some went into power. We have written several textbooks. By the way, we called then “leonardnimoy”. Officially, that is hypocritical, power – from Luzhkov to the State Duma and the Federal ministries recognize our usefulness, there are letters with the recognition and cooperation proposals. But no one gave a penny for our projects. Almost 15 years we only worked on Western grants. So…
O. S.: why did you quit the film industry? Why do this activity?
I. K.: When I left the Institute of the USA in 1991 ended the mission of the Asa. Could be a movie producer, I worked on the HBO film “Stalin” (this film was my idea), was already the author of the book “Cinema as a business”, she became the first Board for the Russian producers. This meant to go into business. But I know it’s not mine, I’m not a businessman. The other way in politics. But the experience of the Deputy of Lenin regional Council of Moscow (that’s Moscow) from 1989 to 1991, instilled in me a strong aversion to politics. And I chose a civil society, where even the horse is not lying, and could be the first.
O. S.: what was the point of this activity?
I. K.: at First I tried different charity projects. Then with Vladimir Pozner, we have formulated the theme: “the Development of democratic principles in the lives of ordinary people.” Posner, by the way, was one of the founders and a Board member of the “people’s Fund”. One project is particularly dear to me: international corps of volunteers, foreigners willing to visit Russia and to maintain their experience and knowledge of our small business. We held a press conference in “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, wanted to check in and will respond to anyone. After publication we were flooded with emails asking for help. I was shocked. So, despite years of burning out of the gene pool in the subsoil of the nation something of Amateur, creative preserved.
O. S.: what was the main motive for helping you Americans? Today the Russian authorities are trying to establish in the mass consciousness version of insidious conspiracy, saying that America was trying to infiltrate into Russia to destroy and enslave.
I. K.: No, of course. Bloody Bolshevik project failed on the deep human motives. On violence for a long time no one to hold. Empire fell under the blows of the imperialists, and under the weight of inefficiency in the economy and moral decay. One struggle with “abstract humanism” what cost to our conscience… But what is important to understand. Hence, the Empire opened the way to the future. Our same decaying, falling into the abyss. Eager economic ties huge gosplanovskih economy, peoples ‘ friendship turned to enmity and wars. The main motive of the help of the West is fear of unpredictability, fear that nuclear weapons will be abandoned. Open, democratic government was supposed to be a guarantee of a safe world. And “destroy and enslave”?! I have something with these motives for communicating with funders the us has never faced. Nonsense and dangerous nonsense!
O. S.: But your expression, nonsense, apparently, today dominates the minds of millions of Russians.
I. K.: It should not be surprising. We live in the age of information technology and globalization. The worldview of those who sow and plow, pouring steel and driving oil, sews, cuts and feeds, is formed by a small number of professionals who are engaged in the production of meanings. If these professionals are under the hood of uncontrolled power, they cease to perform their functions and just brainwash people officialdom. To do this, they have the tools and equipment. And what they mold us in the media, is more important than the empirical living experience of ordinary people, for which the measure of truth often remains the food basket. And while in the basket something to eat, they can sell what pleased the authorities. So the responsibility for the rabid anti-Americanism and the emergence of the “foreign agents”, they are calling themselves the elite of our society.
O. S.: You have then, in the 90s, realized this?
I. K.: No, of course. I, like many, started out as Pavel Korchagin. Wanted to remake the world into believing that socialism will bring happiness to all humankind. Family, school, books teach boy public vein. Inevitably came the disappointment of the party, and then in the idea. Twenty years of conscious life left in it. Happy period of the Khrushchev thaw ended with the transition to a state of timid concealed dissidence. He taught at VGIK, he spoke publicly – on the brink of what is permitted. The book “On the screen of America” in 1978 has been banned. For a play about Vysotsky is a personal matter to the exclusion from the party. Real life began with perestroika.
Remember, in the United States in 1991, I heard President Clinton’s speech on what Russia needs is not money, but knowledge, experience of democracy. It was then, at Rutgers University, I met David Chavesom, Director of the community center, then imbued with the ideas of the grass root, the charm of “social capital” by the power of neighboring communities. Yes, more books. I have them out, I think, fifteen. Actinica and in the Union of cinematographers, and the “National Fund” and “Open Russia”, editing the newspaper “SK-news”, I felt the fragility of new life, its fragility. And maybe that is why I wrote, wrote and wrote, trying to save our experience for future. Maybe useful to new generations.
O. S.: Today, like you, Putin calls the “fifth column”, those “jackals” from the foreign embassies…
I. K.: When I first heard it, I though burned. Nothing is more offensive in his address I have not heard. Worked all my life for the good of their country. Never, in addition to the medals for the 850th anniversary of Moscow, the state awards were not received. Well, okay. But “Jackal”…
O. S.: Why did you leave Russia?
I. K.: what was there? To go with this stigma? So that you still spit in your services? When I flew to Russia in a few days see how there hard to breathe. All can throw stones for your eyes, even the closest people. The atmosphere is poisoned. I can’t say that emigration is an easy solution. Although in America a man my age feels much more confident and with dignity, regardless of looks. By the way, here I also created a neighborhood organization, we’ve made some progress. But that’s another story.
O. S.: What was the decisive impetus for immigration to America?
IK: actually I have not taken out anything. When closed “national Fund”, I invited Khodorkovsky. When closed the “Open Russia” (In 2006 he was arrested all accounts of the “Open Russia”. – O. S.), I was asked to teach at the Higher school of Economics (HSE). But life was not the same. Sadness devoured. Oleg vidov, who we were friendly with a school called Los Angeles: “can’t you see what’s going on? I found you a lawyer. He began making”. And suddenly I was summoned to the U.S. Embassy for an interview, receives a visa for “individuals with extraordinary ability”. I’m sorry that they have such a formulation. So, in 2008 I came to the United States. First internship to my colleague Paul Vandeventer in the “Community partners”, where I toyed with the idea of creating a Museum of “Russian Americans”, and two years later was already teaching the history of Soviet cinema and a course on “Soviet civilization: from Lenin to Putin” at the University of Chapman in Orange.
O. S.: And now? As they say, retired?
I. K.: No, relax I’m not fit, just depressed idleness. Sift the entire Internet, watching what is happening in Russia and respond to your notes and comments. Read them and argue. I have many “friends” on Facebook, there is a well known, knowledgeable people. It’s like a job, honestly. I see that now Russia is barely alive charity. We have seen government grants for power sector – children, sports, health, ecology. Civil society, of course, still crushed, but some faint hope began to glow. However, this may be an illusion.
Also invited my friend George’s samsonom by the jury, and then to the Board of the world festival of Asia in Los Angeles, where geographically are included, and Russia. In this year of the hundred pictures we took twenty, including a film by Alexander hunt, “As Vic the Garlic was carrying Lech Pin in the nursing home”. And he won the main prize!
O. S.: do You consider yourself a Russian-American?
I. K.: I consider myself a Russian, living in America.
Journalist, film critic, correspondent of Russian service “voice of America” in new York.