Journalist Ksenia Sobchak published an interview with writer Zakhar Prilepin on her YouTube channel. The video is presented as “the first big interview after the assassination.” On May 6, 2023, Prilepin’s car was blown up in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The writer’s driver, who was sitting in the passenger seat, died. Prilepin himself, who was driving, received numerous injuries and fractures and spent about six months in the hospital. The investigation called the explosion of Prilepin’s car a terrorist attack. Alexander Permyakov, a native of the Donetsk region, was detained on charges of attempted murder of the writer. Sobchak talked with Prilepin in one of the rehabilitation centers in Moscow. The journalist asked him about Russian culture, attitudes towards Russians leaving mobilization and options for ending the war in Ukraine. Here are the main quotes from this interview.
About Russians fleeing mobilization
Of course, people have the right to such a point of view. They are a little, it seems to me, destabilized by this very underlying reason, let’s even say frankly – liberal propaganda, which is summed up behind all this. The choice is this: either I am a free person, I can go wherever I want, or I am in the terrible hands of a totalitarian, disgusting, unpleasant state that wants to kill everyone in Ukraine. This choice is not like that, because a person can integrate himself into what is happening on a variety of grounds during any problem of his fatherland, his state. He can work in IT, he can be a logistics worker, he can be an artist, he can get into artistic teams. If you separate your life and the life of your fatherland, you will most often come up with a form according to which you can participate or not participate.
If you have a place to live, you are still responsible for it. It is clear that everyone wants to kiss their wife or husband and love their children, this is very pleasant and you want to live as long as possible. But you have not only rights, but also some specific responsibilities. And if, in addition to your responsibilities, you also have some skills, you can integrate into this structure and be useful to your fatherland.
About the life of emigrants abroad
They [уезжающие из России] they just think that someone in Paris or Baku needs them. Nobody needs them there. I have been abroad dozens of times, people there live worse than me and my circle of friends, my writers, and musician friends. All the Parisians I know live worse than the average Muscovite. They live a lousy life. Why don’t our people who travel abroad tell us how ordinary Romans and Parisians live? They live in rented apartments, pay very high taxes and definitely don’t bathe in chocolate or drive such expensive cars as in Russia. And they don’t have such money either.
How poetess Vera Polozkova and journalist Mikhail Kozyrev reacted to the explosion of Prilepin’s car
We knew each other very well, she treated me with outright love. I won’t say that I was surprised or amazed. I’m more like Misha [Козырева] I was more surprised because she [Полозкова] after all, I’m a woman, I allow women some such emotional reactions. But Misha is normal, I thought that he just had different beliefs, but he should understand everything. And then it turns out that Misha called [лидеру группы «Чайф» Владимиру] Shakhrin and in response to Shakhrin’s question he said that people cannot be killed, but Prilepin can be killed. And I thought that it had already gone far, this degree of assumption of the possible.
On Russian artists’ support for Israel
We now have a whole marathon in support of Israel – Boris Grebenshchikov, [кинокритик Антон] Dolin, [писатель Дмитрий] Glukhovsky, [поэт Дмитрий] Bykov, Tequilajazzz, [Леонид] Fedorov from “Auktsion”. If they support mass murder regardless of the background, which is also very complex, let’s undermine them one by one. The fact is that God is not a fraer, everyone became naked. People’s pacifism, their humanistic predilections – everything suddenly became clear, what it all really looks like. The point was not that anyone felt very sorry for the children of Ukraine. There is one’s own side, which is allowed everything, and there is another side, which should not be allowed anything, which should know its place. If we simplify it as much as possible, then a person chooses his own. Here they have [участников марафона] they had their own in Kyiv, and no matter what Kyiv does – it can bomb, burn, destroy, crush with caterpillars – everything is fine, because they are their own.
About the massacre of civilians in Buchi
This [Буча] technically simple, firstly, impossible, and secondly, ridiculous. I won’t say that I specifically looked into this issue, I just saw this video [с убийствами гражданских на улицах Бучи] right when it all happened. In itself, all this is absurd. Some kind of armor is coming, and some people are walking along the road, and it goes and kills them all, and they all fall apart like in a computer game. It doesn’t happen that way. The first burst that kills someone forces everyone else to hide in the bushes. While Kyiv was surrounded, these Butches could have been set up on every corner, why did they do this in some Bucha along this road? This looks idiotic from the point of view of military logic and from a human, meaningful point of view, it also looks completely idiotic. I don’t believe it. Wherever there is war, there are bodies [погибших]. Whoever managed to collect these bodies first can present.
About Russian culture
If we talk about creating a new Oscar, a new Cannes, a new Nobel Prize, a new cultural center – of course, everyone will focus on Russia, not China. Russians are a deeply idealistic people, they are ready to work outside. They are ready to reassemble all this and say: “Guys, we will now do it like these white people, only this will be our own story.” But while Russia does not want to do this, it is stubborn, it is thinking about how to return to Europe and climb onto the beach in Nice and lie there again. But the logic of events drags her there, because the Russians are white by misunderstanding. In fact, we are red-skinned, yellow-skinned, black-skinned. Russians are colored – and the whole colored world looks at us and says: “What a blessing that there are white people just like us. They are not colonialists, they are not mean spirited people, they will not humiliate us, they will translate us, transport us, give us Oscars and rejoice with us.”
About the best scenario for ending the war
Zakhar Prilepin has to say [что это лучший вариант окончания войны], directly in Kyiv. This is not the best – it is the only possible thing that should be. No disasters will happen, we just need to take Kyiv and go there and that’s it, and then we’ll sort it out there. It is advisable to sign the capitulation, but from this point again start talking about other forms of existence, perhaps some part of Ukrainian independence. Ukraine will collapse all over. With minimal support, even if it were halved, it would still collapse.
About Prigozhin’s rebellion
He [Владимир Путин] knows that the demolition of the system is fraught with much more catastrophic consequences than the incriminating evidence he has on all these people [из своего окружения]. If there was even one vein in Putin that started to show that Prigozhin was overacting and had become too famous, he would have been screwed [рейтинг] very fast. It’s definitely not about jealousy, it’s not about him becoming a star, it’s not even about betrayal, it’s about breaking the rules of the game. Putin is actually building real rules of the game that are understandable to everyone. They are peculiar, but they are the rules. Putin is not deceiving anyone, this is no longer according to the rules.
About Alexei Navalny
The rules were proposed to both Navalny and Girkin-Strelkov. There are so-called red lines, they exist in Germany, the USA, England and Israel. You can’t cross them, it’s not customary, but they made a spade. I am not privy to the technology of Alexei Navalny’s return from Germany; I have not communicated with him for a long time. But he is the same person who was nominated for mayor of Moscow, who was protected by very serious political structures controlled by the state. Somewhere he substituted or crossed the boundaries that were agreed upon by him with his roof so much that they told him: “Lesh, well, you made your choice.”