The rules are simple: Five minutes to ask someone, alive or dead, from one of the other two countries anything you want.

Would the real Vlad please stand up

For me this was an easy topic. I’ve always been interested in Vladimir. No, not that Vladimir. Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) will be judged quite harshly by his own people and history once he is removed from power. While he controls the press, he will remain popular.

Linin Memorial
A Lenin Memorial in South Moscow suburbs
No I am talking about a real Vlad…. Lenin. On my first visit to Moscow, I was surprised by how unpopular Lenin is. Putin doesn’t like him. This is the man who brought Russia out of the period of Kings and to the pinnacle of power. Yet, at least among my small circle of friends, he is not well thought of.
Having said that, Lenin is popular in many circles.  I suppose this may be an age thing. It is also an international trait. I’m reminded of Americans who want to “take our country back”. Mayberry is a fictional town and your clock only ticks in one direction.
What I find fascinating about Lenin is what the man thought of his creation: He wasn’t pleased. To win two revolutions, he was forced to oversee some real crimes. The Red Terror he created left his country hungry and beleaguered. But, at least he had a chance to create something after the war (WWI). Then… it all fell apart.
History.com puts it this way: “Increasingly, he saw a party and government that had strayed far from its revolutionary goals. In early 1923 he issued what came to be called as his Testament, in which a regretful Lenin expressed remorse over the dictatorial power that dominated Soviet government. He was particularly disappointed with Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party, who had begun to amass great power.”
So I would use my five minutes to ask:
  1. Why didn’t you move with more force against Stalin? You knew he was a convicted murderer.
  2. Do you still think Communism could work (there has never been a Phase 3, Communists nation)… No, Russia wasn’t Communist, it was a Socialist-Dictatorship.
  3. If you could re-live the Revolution, would you chart a new course?
Here is a man who changed history and saw it all implode. He was strong enough to publicly admit Photograph of Dean Lewismistakes were made and many were his. I doubt that the lesser Vladimir or Donald are made of such steel. In that regard, and in his idealism, you have to admire the man. Tilting at windmills is a lonely pursuit, even in the company of murderers.

‘Almost made me sigh’

Out of all people in UK and US I would like to talk to many but my first choice is… Mick Jagger.
Sounds ‘corny’? I am fine with that. It doesn’t sound corny to me. It sounds cool to me. I had a chance to see him and other Stones performing on stage in Moscow, August 1998. One day earlier, I accidentally saw him and Charlie Watts leaving the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum. Quite a memory. He passed by two meters away from me. Blue shirt and jeans. Smiling into the air. Avoiding eye-contact with the small crowd gazing at him.
Yep, I do admire Mick. He is what I call true. He is provocative. He is ‘a man of wealth and taste’, I borrowed that from the ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. He obviously is a smart ass. He is deadly charming. And a very educated person. When writing lyrics for the above-mentioned song back in 1968, he put down these lines:
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate
It was inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s iconic book ‘Master and Margarita’, one of my favorites. It really struck me when I got to know this fact. Mick has read it then! Well done for a rock star.
Okay, he is not just a rock star.
He could have been dead in the 60s more than once but he managed to stay alive and perfectly made his way right into our reality. And he fits it well. ‘Move like Jagger’, a song by Maroon 5, says it all. This man is a trend-setter, period. Actually, Mick in his 70s looks much cooler then sooo many contemporary pop/rock stars, spineless, brainless and tasteless. His band kicks ass for more than half a century. Anyone else to challenge it? With all respect to U2, R.E.M., (add your choice here), the Rolling Stones is the #1 rock-n-roll band in the world with nobody appearing in the rear-view window.
Jagger & Richards
Jagger & Richards

The biggest thing I like in Mick is that he doesn’t pretend to be someone else he isn’t. This is the quality I treasure a lot. He is Mick Jagger. He doesn’t go into politics. The problem of the Third World debts is also not on his agenda, at least, publicly. Though he’s got a reputation, he’s never been involved in #MeToo things. So far I’ve never heard of any woman accusing Mick of being sexually harassed by him. In theory, there could have been hundreds of cases. In fact, all these women probably think it was too cool to have an affair with Mick. Financially speaking, for them he is an asset not a liability. In his case we should invent the #TooCool campaign.

His lifestyle and philosophy defy hypocrisy and double standards of today’s world. I love it.
Finally, I’d be having a hard time to surprise Mick with some unexpected questions. As I can’t outsmart him, I would just wonder a few things:
  1. Is there any point of your life you would like to come back to and live it again?
  2. You once said: ‘I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45’. So what is your favorite song by the Stones, after all?Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey
  3. Who was your best woman?
  4. What would be your next adventure in your afterlife?
  5. And, finally, back in the 60s, did you really have sex with Keith Richards???



Loved in All The Wrong Countries

My five minutes with anyone of either American or Russian nationality was always a foregone conclusion.

As someone who had interviewed thousands of movers and shakers during a 20-year career as a journalist, I had always wanted to have the opportunity to question someone who I held in the highest esteem – Mikhail Gorbachev.

Having been brought up during the Cold War, here was the first leader of the old USSR who made me feel safe. The first leader that didn’t look like he was already 90 years old and ready to flake out. The first leader that, instead of promoting hate and vitriol at western powers, actually did something practical to help make the world a bit of a better place.

And someone who, although I didn’t know him of course, seemed like a rather nice bloke.

So, stopwatch started, here are my questions……..and in case you are wondering how I can ask so many questions in just a 5-minute interview, his answers will be very quick and concise, and, my god, he talks so fast these days!!!!

  1. You worked on collective farms in your early years – how on earth did a farm-worker, from a poor working class family, end up studying law at Moscow State University?
  2. What inspired you into politics in the first place?
  3. As Russian leader, your policies of glasnost and perestroika effectively helped end the Cold War. For someone brought up on traditional communist ideology, what made you think that there had to be another way, and that you could achieve it?
  4. You are blamed, of course, for the breakup of the USSR. What regrets do you have about that?
  5. What do you make of the present leader, Putin? (He would have to be careful here – even he is not immune from prosecution if he strays too far from the party line)
  6. Finally, how do you think you will be remembered by your people? A true moderniser, who allowed people new horizons for themselves and their families, or someone who was hated by so many for losing the Soviet empire?

Gorby, thanks a lot mate.

Time Cover
Credit: TimePix

I really feel sorry for this guy…whilst he has done much good even since his political days, I think, deep down, he is a very sad, possibly disillusioned man, not helped by losing his beloved wife Raisa some two decades ago.

As a Britain, all I can say to him is thank you for being a real human being whilst in power – yes, he had to do what he thought best for his country, but to my mind, he did it in a way that benefitted us all – after all, he did business with Reagan and Thatcher that made us all feel safer than we had ever done Roger Barapost-WW2.

It’s a real shame that his own country sees him, it seems, as only the villain………..

4 thoughts on “THE interview”
  1. In general, I don’t think Russians see history the way Brits, and Yankees do. We tend to hold historical figures in high-regard. Sometimes too high. But not the Russians.

    On my first visit to Moscow I was walking about, exploring my myself, and came upon the Lenin Memorial I put in my article. Should a George Washington statue receive the treatment Lenin’s does, I believe it would make the news. Certainly not a place to post your handyman available fliers.

  2. Both of my co-authors have chosen truly gigantic figures of the Russian (and world) history to write about. Lenin was the one to move Russia out of the civilizational highway into some bumpy backroad. He changed the pace of the 20th century and not in a good way. Gorby changed the direction back to normality.
    Dean, I think Lenin was himself a bloody murderer as he is personally responsible for the Civil war bloodshed and, as you correctly mentioned, for the Red Terror. He was a ruthless fanatic, just like Moslem extremists of today. But he was a Zeus of the Communist panteon in my chilldhood, ‘the most human man’.
    As to Gorby, what he did is almost a saint’s job: he, against his will, destroyed the Evil empire. Just like Roger, I thank him for that. Not so many Russians do which is sad.
    So unlike Lenin, his place in history is yet to be fixed and, hopefully, he’ll be remembered in future Russia’s history books as the first of two Great Liberators, together with Boris Yeltsin.

  3. See, this is what I love about this Blog! When I read some article researching for this, I can never be quite sure what I’m reading is the truth. No, I’m not talking about that Fake News BS; I mean that the Cold War twisted history in such a way that we see things through a lens. So I read an article that says “I think Lenin was himself a bloody murderer” I would automatically think this is some left over Cold War rubbish. BUT if someone who grew up there says the same thing, I start to wonder, and if my friend Sergey says it, I believe him. Absolutely.

  4. I love Sir Guy’s choice. But I think that music, and art in general, while so important in our immediate day-to-day lives, will be largely irrelevant in the future. MJ, or my idols, Elton John, Post Modern Jukebox, Oscar Peterson, JS Bach, Pavarotti, and the like, will have done nothing to shape our world for future generations, however long they remain in the public domain. Yes, they all give us a marvelous pastime, but they do nothing for putting the world to rights. At least Gorby tried something that might, just might, have made a big difference.

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