''Few people remember who built the wall separating North and South Korea''

Alexander Minkin: whether democratization awaits Russia and how journalists become propagandists

''Few people remember who built the wall separating North and South Korea'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Alexander Minkin, the journalist and theater critic, came to Kazan for the Chaliapin's festival and held a master class within the walls of the Kazan State Federal University. The master class grew into a lecture about the profession, the influence of mass media on politics. The journalist of Realnoe Vremya took notes of the main ideas stated by the publicist.

About journalism

Only 0,001% of journalists, according to my observations, work in journalism, the rest are divided into two unequal parts — at least 86% serve in propaganda and another 14% decided to behave as follows: I see nothing, I hear nothing, I write about opera. Unfortunately, this is the profession that guarantees troubles to a person. It is its duty to speak about shortcomings to responsible persons and especially – to be guilty of the incidents. However, no one likes it. The journalist is a critic, he is the same doctor, he works with patients, his duty is to go to a cholera barrack. And if you tell the patient: ''You are healthy'', then you are just a bastard.

How did it happen? For example, Vladimir Solovyov, he was a journalist, but now he is a propagandist. The process of transformation takes place imperceptibly. Today you go down one step, just 15 cm, then more and more. A year later — 365 steps, and you are already far below.

How do you know that you're stumbling? Conscience will tell. Every person has it, but it is such an unborn thing because the child is born without conscience at all: he is a consumer, he needs to be fed, dry and warm. Conscience begins to form at the age of five or six, and it is possible that there are conditions under which it will not form at all or will have an ugly form. Here's this voice: ''Maybe you shouldn't?'' this is conscience. But this voice is soft-spoken, especially during light days. When you go to bed, your conscience speaks louder. It never lies. It is the feeling of even slightest disappointment, microscopic sense of dissatisfaction. If you have it, trust it, the voice never lies. If you brush it aside, tomorrow the voice may not sound or become quieter. Once you refuse not to do what conscience tells not to do, you become stronger. As soon as you agree — weaker.

The journalist is a critic, he is the same doctor, he works with patients, his duty is to go to a cholera barrack. And if you tell the patient: ''You are healthy'', then you are just a bastard

Here are two examples of editors. I worked in the best newspaper of the planet Moskovskie Novosti in 1987 under the leadership of Yegor Yakovlev. This newspaper at that time was the center of attention all over the world! It was endlessly quoted, people came to Pushkin Street specially to read it from the stand — it was not enough at retail. Yegor Yakovlev once said that his friend made a film and offered: ''Write about it.'' I wrote, Yegor read and said, 'What a bastard you are, you want me to quarrel with a friend?'' I replied that I was asked only to write, not to write well. And Yegor published this text, though after a scandal, because in the article I wrote that the film was hypocritical because it was wrong to quote Hamlet selectively.

This work has the following lines: ''And makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?'' It has become an argument for everyone who now tells that it is better to maintain the current government than ''to fly to others we know not of.'' And this position is gaining special weight because it is Hamlet, after all! But if you open the monologue To be or not to be, you will see that there is a continuation of the phrase: ''Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.'' The phrase pulled out of context turns into a great argument!

Already working in the Moskovsky Komsomolets, I once opened the Literaturnaya Gazeta, on half page — and it was A2 format — there was a huge portrait of Stalin with the title ''We do not have other Stalin.'' And under the photo — enthusiastic poems. I looked closely, and it was Vysotsky's poems, however, written by him at the age of 14, when Stalin was still alive, when even the XX Congress was far away!

I said to Pavel Gusev: ''I will write about it.'' I wrote, and Gusev published an article, although with Yury Polyakov, the editor of the Literaturnaya Gazeta, he was a big friend. How they solved it then — I don't know. But if I began to ask permission, whether it was possible to write, Pavel Gusev would tell me: ''Maybe, it isn't necessary? You quarrel me with someone again.'' The journalist does not have to ask for permission. When you ask ''can I'', you shift the responsibility on someone else. Also, if you ask, you show that a danger lies in the essence of the issue, after all, you don't ask if you can write about a good weather. So why ask, why shift responsibility?

The journalist does not have to ask for permission. When you ask ''can I'', you shift responsibility on someone else. Also, if you ask, you show that a danger lies in the essence of the issue, after all, you don't ask if you can write about a good weather

We do have a chance, we are not Korea

Speaking of Stalin. Here is an opinion: if the elections were today, he would have won them — given his popularity. But Stalin was so popular because he was not a competitor in the elections. If he was alive, the propaganda machine would have erased him. You would have been told not that he was an effective manager and winner, but that he was a villain, bloodsucker and cannibal! They would tell about it every day from morning to night, if he would have represented a real threat in the upcoming elections.

In 1956, with the XX Congress and exposure of the cult of personality, and then — in 1987, at the time of glasnost (publicity), people were presented with a large pile of documentary materials about the camps, about repressions. Young people born in the 1990s, when this wave had passed a long time ago, have grown up not on the messages of the XX Congress and not on the messages of perestroika and publicity. They were growing up in a completely different atmosphere. I doubt that parents who remember something about repressions offer their children to read about Stalin.

The generation has grown (or rather, even two, because the child begins to understand something about the structure of society already at the age of 10) that has the feeling that Putin has always existed. The idea that something can and should be changed seems strange to them. But we need rotation in power, even if a good person is in power.

I do not like the word ''democratization'', but there are now conditions for building a more normal society. In front of us there is a good example, which I propose to use every day even ten times! On the Korean Peninsula there lives a nation with a common language and history. North Korea praises the leader and eats grass, while the South Korea has filled the whole world with telephones, automobiles. What's the difference? In the fact that in South Korea prime ministers and presidents go to trial with enviable regularity when they steal. At the same time, in North Korea there rules the dynasty with incredible power! When we are told that we are close to North Korea — no, incomparably. I wouldn't have had time to open my mouth there how ordinary Koreans would have torn me away. Is democratization possible here? I hope that I will live up to the time when these attempts will be made because it will be incredibly difficult to do something.

When Germany reunited, the Western Germans were perplexed. They thought that it would be enough to destroy the wall, but enormous problems still remain. And it happens even in Germany. And the two Koreas — it's just two different planets.

An interesting fact, about which few know. There is a barbed wire wall between North and South Korea, which now prevents North Koreans from fleeing to South Korea. But this wall was built by South Korea because it was better to live in North: the Soviet Union fed it while the Americans were not going to feed South Korea. Now the same wall works in the opposite direction. Just imagine!

Recorded by Aygul Chuprina. Photo: Maksim Platonov