Andrei Kurkov is one of the most famous Ukrainian authors and intellectuals. The Geschwister-Scholl-Prize awarded to him is given in memory of the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, who, as members of the “White Rose” organization, rebelled against the Nazi dictatorship. Deutsche Welle spoke to Andrei Kurkov about his “Diary of an Invasion” and the Russian war of aggression against his country.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Kurkow, on November 28 in Munich you received the Geschwister-Scholl-Prize for your diary. We congratulate you on this award. Are you still writing it?

Andrei Kurkov: I keep writing – stories from my friends, colleagues and people I worry about today. Now, during the war, everything material has lost its importance and everything emotional and human is 500 times more important than it used to be. …The most important thing is to preserve the country and the independence of Ukraine, to save the Ukrainian people so that other countries do not absorb them. Because Ukrainians can enrich every nation with their spirit of initiative and their love of freedom. It is important that they do this for Ukraine and not for other countries.

Deutsche Welle: At the beginning of your diary you think about whether there will be war. The ending of the book is determined by the real events. If you could write the ending of this inhuman story, what would it look like?

Kurkov: You know, this war has actually lasted 313 years. We are now only witnessing the continuation of the Battle of Poltava in 1709, when the Russian Tsar Peter I defeated the Ukrainian Cossack captain Ivan Mazepa and the Swedish king Charles XII, who supported him. Therefore we only speak of 30-, 50- or 70-year breaks. One can speak of an end to the war when Russia changes, when Russia no longer aspires to imperial status and gives up its arrogance towards all the peoples who once lived in this empire.

Deutsche Welle: In your book you talk about “Putin’s War”, but obviously it’s not just about Vladimir Putin.

Kurkov: It’s not just about Putin. Putin was created by Russian society. Both Russian society and Putin worked on this war. And together they achieved successes, conditional successes – in the sense that they were able to start this war. For 20 years, Russia was preparing to bomb Kyiv and kill Ukrainians.

I don’t see any signs of change in Russia yet. First, dissenters left the country, increasing the proportion of those who support Putin. Now those who support Putin but don’t want to die for his ideas have left Russia. Thus, the proportion of those in Russia who support Putin is not decreasing.

As long as the situation is like this, you have to know that not only Ukraine is in danger. Russia will put the war on hold to replenish its missile arsenals. The Republic of Moldova is also in danger. For Belarus, this threat does not matter much because the country is no longer independent. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will only be able to sleep well if Russia becomes a democratic, normal country that respects international rules and the borders and sovereignty of the states that emerged from the former Warsaw Pact.

Deutsche Welle: Are Russians and Ukrainians enemies for decades, even centuries?

Kurkow: No, not forever. I think it’s about a generation or two. In terms of its consequences for relations between the parties involved, this war can be compared to what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. In 1972 I was eleven years old. When I was asked in fourth grade which foreign language I would like to learn, English or German, I said that I would never learn German because the Germans killed my grandfather.

I started learning German when I was 36. And now I’m getting a German literature prize. I just met my German friends. Today they take in Ukrainian refugees and rejoice at this opportunity, which may be an attempt to atone for the guilt of their ancestors.

I only fear that Russia will not have the opportunity, that there will be no generation that will want to atone for the guilt. Because for that the Russians must first conquer imperialism within themselves. They must admit their sins and accept collective responsibility for the massacres of Ukrainians in Mariupol, Bucha and Hostomel, in Chernihiv and so on. Russians have never been able to apologize for anything. There is an ancient art of rewriting history and turning defeats into victories; in Russia they have been mastered for a long time, beginning with Prince Alexander Nevsky (national hero of Russia from the 13th century, editor’s note).

The interview was conducted by Marina Jung.

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Originally posted by Deutsche Welle: “Russia was prepared to kill Ukrainians”.