So here is another translation of a fragment of an interview with Edvard Radzinsky, this time on BBC Russian service, around 2015.
And in it he explains why he originally decided not to become a historian, in spite of graduating with distinction from Moscow’s very
prestigious Historico-Archival Institute & then why in 1990 he returned to history abandoning his life as Russia’s most famous playwright, a life that he greatly enjoyed. (In terms of number of translations and performances abroad he remains Russia’s second most successful
playwright ever - after Chekhov.)
This should be of interest to everyone interested not just in Russian history but in the profession of the historian itself and in part I it shows why this profession is an entirely different thing in Russia and in the West. The fact that many
Westerners, including many Western historians, seem unable to grasp this distinction is one reason why the understanding of Russia (and, frankly, not only Russia) temains so poor in the West.
My translation below begins in the middle of a sentence…
...but people must see it, because otherwise my presence is not needed, they can just read about it in Wikipedia and so on. The world really is a theatre and those acting don’t realise they are actors.
And so I, as someone who came here from the theatre, … you know, in 1990 just when Perestroika began, that is 25 years ago.
Then they permitted me everything, that is all these plays which they had long not allowed to be performed were permitted and I have 9 plays performing simultaneously in Moscow.
Nine plays in the very best of our theatres. At this moment happened something that became fatal to my fate as a dramatist. They opened the archives. And I, who graduated from the Institute of History and Archives,
and who once decided not to become a historian, because I realised that it was a faculty of a non-existent science, that it is, as if, an escort for the classics of Marxism-Leninism…
I had an absolutely charming experience when I came to the Institute. I was shown a professor. In the History and Archives institute they said: you know he began in the 1920s.
His first work was about Shamil (… ). Shamil as the leader of a movement of national liberation. But in the 1930s, under Yosif Vissarionovich, the view changed and Shamil became an agent of imperialism.
He admitted his error. Then came the Patriotic War, and the national was needed, and Shamil again became the leader of a national liberation movement, and he admitted an error in in that he admitted an error.
In 1949 the unfortunate Shamil again became an imperialist agent and he admitted an error in admitting an error in admitting his error…
And I realised that this path will end for me tragically. And then I decided no. I completed the institute with distinction, but I will not occupy myself with this.
And now I could return and understand that which was always tormenting me: how could it have happened that, how this state with powerful police, enormous army, etc, collapsed under the force of who?
And then I understood that it means giving up all. Why all? Because it is monasticism. You need to understand how this brilliant theatre, where all actresses are just over 20 and the actors a little over thirty, this mirage was now over for me.
And you see, I loved it, but I had to leave because I knew that this is my country, today there is perestroika but there will be something entirely different and therefore as long as the archives are open I have to.

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More from @akoz33

21 Jul
These days I spend so much time listening two great Russian intellectual figures, perhaps the greatest that experienced a much of Russia’s Soviet and post-Soviet history that I have almost no time for current politics. These two are the Edvard Radzinsky and Vyacheslav
Vsevolodovich Ivanov (the linguist, not the symbolist poet, who was his distant relative). And although their personalities, styles and areas of interest were different (with literature & poetry the main overlap), their views are very complimentary and even one may say, different
expressions of the same basic outlook. I already translated a fragment of Posner’s interview with Radzinsky here:
Read 17 tweets
20 Jul
There are certain "rumours" (published, but at this point no more than that) that China may be about to admit that covid-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan (not yet clearly which, there are three candidates in Wuhan) and throw under the bus certain Chinese and do doubt also
American scientists. One thing that suggests that this may be true is the surprising recent volte-face by WHO's Tedros, who although generally regarded as a China stooge, has suddenly started requesting China's cooperation in uncovering the virus's origins (even though China and
the rest of its stooges have continue to claim that it was zoonosis).
If China did decide on this turnaround, there would be only one precedent for this I can recall, it was the 2002 admission by Kim Jong-il that North Korea had indeed kidnapped Japanese citizens but "only 13"
Read 8 tweets
18 Jul
Radzinsky on the correspondence between Poland’s King Stephen Bathory and Ivan IV “The Terrible” (actually known as “The Tormentor” in the years following his rule) during the Livonian War.
“Difficult peace negotiations began. Batory demanded not only Livonia, but also Russian cities. The warring parties exchanged sarcastic letters.
Ivan informed Bathory that he, a natural Sovereign, received his throne as an inheritance from his forefathers, by the will of God, and not "by the consent of a multitude of rebellious crowds."
Read 6 tweets
18 Jul
Yesterday I read (via Skype) for my 5 year old grandson, Stanisław Lem’s story “Trurl’s machine”. It’s from… . The story is about how the constructor Trurl (one of the two heroes of these stories, the other being his friend,
Klapaucius) by accident constructed an enormous electronic thinking machine that turned out to be an electronic idiot. It possessed the three qualities of an idiot: it could not do arithmetic, it was very stubborn & insisted in the correctness of its
wrong answers(it thought that 2+2=7) and it was easily offended and ready to impose its (wrong) views by force. Having been repeatedly insulted by Trurl because of its stupidity, it rebelled and tried to crush the two constructors with its bulk. It managed to chase them into a
Read 9 tweets
17 Jul
In 1901 Russia’s Holy Synod excommunicates Count Lev Tolstoy for his “anti-Christian” and anti-church teachings. In the same year the first Nobel Prize innLiterature is awarded. Contrary to general expectation it was not awarded to Tolstoy but to the French poet Sully Prudhomm. ImageImageImage
“A very good poet, novelist and philosopher, now somewhat forgotten. You should read him” - says Edvard Radzinsky.
Many writers, including August Strinberg and Henrik Ibsen protested. The prize was brand new and it was then taken seriously.
Radzinsky continues his talk about the year 1901:
“In Moscow Arts Theatre they first staged ‘Three Sisters”’. But do you know what thus play is about? In reality. No, of course, it’s true that there are three sisters, they recall the past etc…but no. No. It is a story about
Read 5 tweets
16 Jul
Below in this thread is my translation of a fragment of an interview with Edvard Radzinsky conducted by Andrij Pelchevski, a Ukrainian TV presenter, entrepreneur and politician (leader of a political party). The title of the interview is “From Dictatorship to Revolution”.
This fragment concerns Boris Yeltsin, and Radzinsky’s encounter with him. Earlier Radzinsky explained how he was studying Nicholas II’s diaries still deep in Soviet days, in the museum of the October revolution.
He said that the young woman who was working there and who brought him the diaries could not understand why he needed them. In order to be allowed to see the diary he wrote an application, in which he wrote that he was writing about
Read 28 tweets

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