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FROM THE BARRACKS TO THE MARKET Vassily Aksyonov in conversation with Yury Ljubimov Early spring's afternoon. Foxhall area, Washington D.C. We are sitting with Yury Ljubimov at a glass table in our living room. Maya, my wife, serves snacks in Russian style; among the plates of smoked herring, pickels, mushrooms, etc. one notices a tiny "Realistic" tape recorder. We talk for this publication. Ljubimov's Washington assistant Tamara gets more and more nervous with every passing quarter of an hour; they are getting late to an audition at the Arena Stage. Who on Earth could foresee such a scene some twenty years ago when I was invited to one of the very first performances of Ljubimov's famous company in a crowded hall on Old Arbat Street? Who could foresee that we both would have been deprived of Soviet citizenship for "the systematic damage to the Soviet Union's prestige"? The collar of his shirt is open and I can see a small Orthodox cross on his neck. Having traced my glance he smiled. "By the way, the entire story of my final rebellion was brought about by this tiny thing. The very morning after the London opening of Crime and Punishment I was receiving a journalist from The Times. In exactly the same way as you did now, he noticed my cross and asked how come I, the head of a Moscow theatre and a Communist Party member, wear this religious symbol? For some unknown reason I suddenly decided not to play the hypocrite and started talking about my real feelings and views. After publication of this interview a certain character from the Soviet Embassy arrived to pronounce a none too ambiguous phrase-'The crime has been committed, the punishment follows.' " 62 VASSILY AKSYONOV YURY LJUBIMOV Could you repeat in a nutshell the story of your religious revelation? Well, you know as a writer how deep our childhood sits in our consciousness and subconsciousness ... Just recall Tolstol's triptych. My grandfather was a devoted Old Believer ... he even died as a character of The Book . .. he had been accused of being a "kulak" and thrown out of his own house by those bloody "activists of the poor" .. .So he walked along the village blaming them for injustice and finally froze to death. Before that terrible demise he was a good farmer and a rather educated person, notwithstanding that he began his life as a serf ... Where are you from in Russia? From Yaroslavl District. Yes, you are right, precisely from the area where in the eighteenth century the first Russian professional theatre was established .So ... as a boy I served in a church during mass lighting candles and so forth ... Later on my older brother joined the Komsomol Young Kommunist group and I found myself under his strongest influence. We were militant Komsomol boys to the extent of total foolishness. Once when our father came back from prison we told him: "they've done it all right having you jailed; 63 you, father, are a backward person!" Imagine? Without a stitch! In people's minds religion used to be affiliated with the backwardness, illiteracy etc., isn't it? People used to ask those suspected of religious feeling-and what is your education? That's true, but now-have you noticed?-something changed, now they regard the signs of religion as a sort of bravado, as a fashion ... Let me tell you a peculiar story. You know I tremendously love Leonardo's "Madonna Lita" so I stuck a lithograph of that to the windshield of my car back in Moscow. Once I was stopped by a traffic patrolman, an impressive middle-aged officer. He said: "Shame on you, comrade driver! How could you, an aging respectable citizen, display an icon on your car? Please, remove it right away!" Paradoxically they perceive religious feelings as a sort of atheistic challenge against their "most advanced ideology," don't they? Precisely. So I told this officer: it's not an icon, your honor! This is my wife's picture. He was impressed. Such a beautiful woman! However, comrade driver, I have some doubts in this respect-you are, excuse me, a...


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