Russian writer says failure to address evil leads to catastrophe

Ljubljana – Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is happening because Soviet atrocities have never been addressed and punished, believes Russian writer Sergei Lebedev, who spoke about his 2010 novel Oblivion via video link at the opening of the Fabula literary festival at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana on Saturday evening.

Oblivion follows a story of a young geologist as he unearths the secrets of Russia’s past, including about the Gulag camp system as it was willingly kept secret.

Lebedev says that Russian authorities have blood on their hands and that all public institutions, including the Russian Orthodox Church, are a mere ornament to President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian leadership.

Lebedev says that Putin is “a little devil” or “a beast, arguing he realised Putin’s true nature in 2004 when he was willing to sacrifice all hostages in the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan.

The Berlin-based writer said his novel Oblivion “was not treated with much enthusiasm” in Russia, which did not surprise him.

However, he received many letters from Oblivion readers who shared similar experiences of having “invisible”, seemingly ordinary relatives who worked at gulags.

Given that the book’s translations are received very well, Lebedev believes the time in Russia was not yet right for the country to come to terms with its past when the novel was published.

He says that 30 years ago, liberal-thinking citizens of the former Soviet Union thought history finally took the right direction, but they were wrong because they forgot that having reconciled with evil in the past leads to a catastrophe.

Lebedev joined an appeal of eminent writers urging Russian speakers around the globe to convey to Russians amid a media blockage the truth about the situation in Ukraine.

Aleš Šteger from Beletrina, the publisher which organisers the Fabula festival, announced they will open a platform to exchange information and views on the Versopolis international platform next week.

Šteger, Fabula head Aljaž Koprivnikar and Uršula Cetinski, director at Cankarjev Dom arts centre, called for peace and reflection, also with the help of good books.

The facade of Cankarjev Dom is now lit with an image of an olive branch and pax, the Latin for peace. “Peace is not only a good decision, it is the only acceptable decision for people and humanity,” Cetinski stressed last evening.