Former editor-in-chief of the Ogonyok magazine Vitaly Korotich.
A photo: Evgeniya GUSEVA
… – Good morning, Vitaly Alekseevich! You know what I’ve been thinking about for a few days? Biden announced that he would run for a second presidential term – and all this is happening against the backdrop of his various reservations … Are you contacting your friends from across the ocean? How, I wonder, do they take it all? Or is it some kind of game? Or is it set up on purpose?
– No, they live normally. As for the President of the United States… It’s just the behavior of an old man.
In our country, it was indecent and almost illegal to mock the elderly Brezhnev, but they usually notice it there.
– Yes, and we have Biden’s eccentricities on TV all the time.
– I think it’s in vain. Well, what are we going to notice how their old man stumbles? Do they need such a president? To hell with them, let them use them… Although, on the other hand, it’s probably not bad if they (in the media! – A.G.) can notice all the reservations, all the problems that happen to the president. He lives in plain sight and in the wind all the time …
– That’s it, right?
– I remember how we told jokes about Brezhnev …
– About Leonid Ilyich, be healthy, much more than anything, you understand. He could read one page of the report twice or something.
– No, there are still different things. We told stories about Leonid Ilyich where? Well, in the kitchen, in the smoking room, and there were still not as many of them as about Biden. And then, these were jokes.
– Well, not only.
– And then, look, I talked with people who worked with Brezhnev, they say that Leonid Ilyich sometimes asked him to tell a joke about himself and laughed. And here, more precisely, there they have it all, in America, in the media… This is a big difference – Brezhnev and Biden.
– Unfortunately, yes, our media cannot write this. Gorbachev told me a joke about himself. I say how do you know? He says – I have people who tell. Remember when we had a line for vodka – here is a person from the line saying: I’ll go to the Kremlin, I’ll punch Gorbachev in the face, and then he comes back and they ask him: well, did you fill his face? And he replies: no, there is a queue even longer. Gorbachev told it to me, I ask – who tells you this? He says yes there are such people.
– I understand…
– You see, there are two very important topics for us. One is that the leader of the country can be discussed and even shown how he stumbles. And the second – what can we say about it. We can’t talk about it.
– Come on!
– Yeah, well, all of them …
– And remember, there was also such a bike that there – well, in America, they say – here we have freedom, you can shout “Reagan is a fool.” And we say – yes, we also have freedom, come to Red Square and yell that Reagan is a fool.
– Well, yes … And about Khrushchev, too.
– What about Khrushchev?
– Yes, the same one. That it was possible to shout on Red Square … oh, I once told a BBC joke just on Red Square, so then I got burned …
– For what?
– A British tourist asks – why is there such a big fence around the Kremlin, such a high wall? Yes, this is so that thieves-villains cannot climb from there to here.
– Yes, really … And at what time did you almost get burned?
– Those were Gorbachev’s times… You see, it’s good when steam is released in this way. Because when the drunken Yeltsin conducted the orchestra in Berlin, it was impossible to talk about it, it was all the talk in the kitchens, you know? And talk about it the way they mocked him everywhere … And if we could mock him, maybe we would have one more smart president? Because now we are thinking what to do with the Belovezhskaya decision (the agreement that abolished the USSR. – A.G.), which the guys signed on a drunk or with something else …
– And they were lost, they say – the original. And when I told Mikhail Sergeevich about this, he said – seriously? Well, then I have to go back.
– Well, yes, you understand what’s the matter? Everything gets mixed up here. Today I saw a huge column (Korotich names one of the media. – A.G.) – that it is necessary to denounce the Belovezhskaya agreements and return us to the borders of the Soviet Union again. And now I want to talk about something else. In 1922, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin demanded that the tsarist empire be divided into national entities. And in the empire, there were only administrative formations, but there were no national ones. And Stalin then resisted with all his might, and then he was forced to do this. And that’s why we got the division that was legalized …
And these wars (we are talking about the territory of the former USSR. – A.G.) will go on for a long time. Because the tsarist empire was divided, hell knows how, again …
– These are no longer jokes. We started with Biden … That is, this is how they let off steam in America, right?
– You see, it is necessary that in the country, among the people it was possible to let off steam. You could talk about the leader, talk about him in a simple way.
Now they sent me a speech by a woman who was elected Prime Minister of Italy. (Meaning George Meloni. – A.G.) There she won by saying simple things – listen, how much can we have a number one parent and a number two parent? I want to be a woman, I want to have a family, let’s live normally, let’s send all these a… to f… and so on. And she was elected prime minister.
People are just used to the fact that they can say what they want and they like it. I am very afraid that if we start talking in such detail about Western politicians, people will immediately say – yeah, but you can’t talk about ours, just tell us about ours …
– Come on, they only talk about ours.
– They say. But we say it on the sly, it doesn’t get out on the pages.
– Gets out. I write myself.
Well, okay, in short, you reassured me that they write about Biden’s second term – this does not mean that he will actually go.
– I’m afraid that … yes, it’s better to elect him. In the same place, they are now having a personnel stop, so Biden nominated himself as a candidate for a future term. Let them choose one. Let … Maybe we will feel better then?
– Oh I do not know. Moreover, they have Biden there – this, as you yourself hinted, is not the American Brezhnev today …