By Eugene Gerden
ST. PETERSBURG: Leading Ukrainian and Russian writers are trading barbs concerning the recent annexation of the Crimea by Russia and the evolving situation in Ukraine.
Several days ago the Writers’ Union of Russia, Russia’s Association, which unites the country’s writers, expressed its full support for the recent action of the Russian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Crimea and Ukraine. The writers have expressed their indignation with the demolition of monuments of Soviet soldiers in Ukraine and welcomed the decision of the Russian government to annex the territory of Crimea. Among the signatories are about 20 well-known Russian writers and publishers, including Valentin Rasputin, Yuri Bondarev and others.
In their official letter to Putin, representatives of the Union called for war, noting that, “some forces of the West have started an open attack on the most important moral outcome of the Second World War and, in particular, the prohibition and condemnation of the ideologies of fascism and Nazism.”
Opposition from Ukraine and Lithuania
Not all agree. According to Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a critically acclaimed modern Russian novelist and short-story writer, speaking for the Russian branch of the World Writers’ Organization (WWO), noted that writers believe that “the writer should not call for war,” as was stated in the letter sent to Putin by the Writers’ Union of Russia.
The same position is shared by many Russian-speaking Ukrainian writers, who quickly responded to the petition of the Russian Union of Writers to Putin. According to the Russian-Speaking Writers of Kharkov, which is located in one of Ukraine’s largest cities with a high percentage of ethnic Russians and a hotbed of protests, “there is no need for Russian intervention in the Ukraine and for protection of local Russian-speaking people by Russian troops.”
In the meantime, a conflict between Ukrainian and Russian writers has already attracted a response from their colleagues in Lithuania, who wrote an open letter of support of their Ukrainian colleagues condemning the Russian writers, who support the Russian intervention in Ukraine. They also called on EU writers not to stand aside and to join them in the condemnation of the position of Russia and some of its writers.
This has not go unnoticed by some Russian writers who have threatened to ban the translation of their books into the Ukrainian and other European languages.
Such public debate and commentary is not uncommon in Russia, with leading authors and cultural figures often taking opposing views amongst themselves. Last year a group of Russian writers and other cultural figures came out in support of criminal punishment of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk rock protest group, which were named as prisoners of conscience in the United States and numerous other Western countries.