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Opening speech of the festival 2024 by Radu Vancu

A Humanity Whose Words Do Not Fail the Human


History has become horror again. As it has always been – except for these 8 decades of peace in the European Union after World War II. And even this peace was relative, as one should not forget the atrocity of the war in Yugoslavia. Whenever we tend to have a too high opinion on our human species, we should moderate it with the thought that this is the longest period of relative peace we have ever been able to build in our entire history: 8 decades. While the oldest rock art depicting a war is dated about 10,000 years BCE.

12,000 years of war. 80 years of peace. For every year of peace, 150 years of war. This simple arithmetic should have sufficed in making us believe unconditionally in Judith Shklar’s “liberalism of fear”, which tried to educate us to be afraid of the collapse of liberal institutions and of their replacement with institutions of horror. Shklar was right: we should have been more afraid of our destructive nature. Sloterdijk was also right to notice, in Rage and Time. A Psychopolitical Investigation, that, unlike the usual contemporary perception, war has been our natural state as a species, while peace was the exception. As Amos Oz bitterly noticed in December 2016, we have ceased to be terrified by the legacy of Hitler and Stalin; thence the impulse to retest again their totalitarian anti-democratic ideologies.

The barbaric war launched by Russia in Ukraine is exactly this: an attempt to deny everything liberal democracies have managed to build after World War 2 – and to revert to the anti-democratic order where states are run not by civilians we elect to protect us from war, but by militarists destroying any institution and any human opposing their ideology of war. In Freudian terms, Russia’s barbaric war is a return of our repressed militaristic anti-democratic ego. The ego responsible for our 12,000 years of uninterrupted war. While Vladimir Putin is the perfect image of this militaristic ego, as Hitler and Stalin have also been in their time, Ukraine stands as a metonymy for our other ego: the one who has managed to build, using the fragile institutions of liberal democracy, the most solid and continuous period of peace and prosperity known in our human history.

In barbaric times, perhaps the only advantage we have is that narratives simplify: we know exactly where barbarity stands – just as we know exactly where humanity stands. In the latest version of this narrative, to side with Russia means to be on the side of our barbaric militaristic ego, which represents indeed the dominant political past of our species; to be with Ukraine is to hope that our pacifistic, pro-democratic, and pro-human ego still represents the future of our species.

To stand with Ukraine is literally to believe our human species has a future. Not only as a species – but as a humane one.


“The horror, the horror.” Joseph Conrad’s words from Heart of Darkness come into my mind every time I read the news, therefore daily. And in those days when I first read about the horrors of Bucha, the shattering story of Miklós Radnóti came into my mind: as he was of Jewish descent, the great Hungarian poet was murdered in November 1944 and thrown into a common grave. In June 1946, his wife Fanni Gyarmati found him there, exhumed him and found in his pocket a notebook with poems: half of them love letters for her, the other half poems describing everyday life in that inferno. Fanni’s love has made literature return from the grave; it has made literature literally stronger than death.

Radnóti’s literature was proof that barbarity will never have the final word. Given enough love, our words will always return from the grave in order to stand witness that our pro-human ego is stronger than the anti-human one. And thus to give meaning to all art’s attempts to stand witness that this luminous ego exists. That we are not only the species which creates common graves – but also the species which creates beauty and kindness.

Radnóti’s story also came into my mind when I found out about the assassination of the Ukrainian writer Volodimir Vakulenko by the Russian troops sometime between March and May 2022, in a village near Izium. Vakulenko told his father he was keeping a diary of those infernal times – which he will bury in the garden if he feels his life is in danger. After Vakulenko was murdered and the village was recaptured by the Ukrainian forces, Vakulenko’s father and the writer Victoria Amelina, a recipient of the Joseph Conrad Literary Award and finalist of the European Prize for Literature, dug the garden, found the diary and published it. It is exactly the same story: literature returning from the grave – and not allowing barbarity to have the final word. Beauty standing witness that, given enough love, our species still stands a chance.

One year afterwards, in July 2023, Victoria Amelina was killed by a Russian bomb while she was in a pizza house in Kramatorsk with fellow writers and journalists. She was 37 years old. Her extraordinary work is, again, the proof that barbarity will never have the final word.

In January 2024, the Ukrainian poet Maksym Kryvtsov was killed two days after he posted on Facebook his last poem, in which he presciently wrote about his own death. He was 34. His extraordinary poems are, again, the proof that our humanity has a future.


In the early months of 1940, less than half a year after the beginning of World War II, when another fundamental narrative of humanity versus barbarity was taking place, Walter Benjamin wrote: “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” (On the Concept of History.) For me, one of the fundamental consequences of Benjamin’s dictum regards our functions as artists: it is maybe our fundamental task to not allow the documents of barbarism to define us – and to turn them into documents of civilization. To stand witness for our humanity. To show that we and our fellow humans can even be killed – but our humanity cannot be destroyed.

It’s a difficult task. And a risky one, for too many reasons. But there are luminous examples in how it can be achieved. I think, for example, of Benjamin Britten using eight of Wilfred Owen’s extraordinary poems about war in his no less extraordinary War Requiem (1962); Owen was killed in action at the end of World War I, exactly one week before the armistice. He was 25 – and, according to Harold Bloom, one of the greatest poets of English language in the 20th century. Almost half a century afterwards, Benjamin Britten used Owen’s art in order to sustain his own, while composing the War Requiem for the victims of the two world wars. Owen’s death, as well as the deaths of other tens of millions, were documents of barbarism; Owen’s poems, as well as Britten’s music, are documents of civilization, proving that barbarity will never have the final word. That it is Owen and Britten, and not Hitler or Stalin or Putin, that define our humanity; even though the latter can create wars and mass murder which kill tens of millions of human beings, they cannot destroy humanity as we know it can and must be. Our art is our proof that the victims are the definition of humanity – and not their suppressors.

Another luminous example is that of Paul Celan. This great poet, whose existence intersects Ukraine, Romania, France, and Germany, used his words in order to transform a document of barbarism (namely the assassination of his parents in the Romanian Holocaust) into one of civilization. As he wrote in a letter from November ’47 to the Swiss critic Max Rychner, he chose to write in German (after having written about 18 poems in Romanian) because, while being the language of his mother’s assassins, it was also the language he spoke with his mother. He used thus his words in order to recreate a verbal space where his communion with his mother was still possible; it was, in the most literal meaning, poetry written against death. And as witness for those killed by the Nazi ideology of extermination. In his Bremen prize acceptance speech, Celan explicitly wrote that, after passing “through the thousand darknesses of the murderous speeches”, language survived when human beings were murdered – and it was enriched (“angereichert”) with their humanity. Poetry is the witness of these assassinated human beings, Celan says; it is the proof that they were killed, but they can never be destroyed. One critic once noticed that all Celan’s poems are an immediate intertext with the Holocaust; I agree – with the coda that, as such, they refuse to give the Holocaust the final word. His poems are what the victims declare after “the thousand darknesses of the murderous speeches” have long ended their effects.

I can also mention here Carolyn Forché’s extraordinary anthology from 1993, Against Forgetting. Twentieth-century Poetry of Witness; Forché has gathered here, with the wonderful insight and exigence of the great poet she herself is, about 150 poets from the 20th century writing in times of war, genocide, totalitarianisms, extermination camps, etc. Some of them have survived, some other not; their poems are always documents for the survival of humanity even in the most inhuman conditions. “Poetry as witness”, as both Celan and Forché label it; first of all, as a witness that our humanity is real – and not a mere utopia.

Or I could mention another extraordinary anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond, compiled in 2008 by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, Ravi Shankar, and introduced by the same Carolyn Forché; it comprises about 400 poets, some of them sending their poems from prisons or from war zones. Barbarity cannot destroy us: this is what all these poems say, each in their language and tradition. Humanity literally exists – and its art literally has the power to transform all documents of barbarism in documents of civilizations.

This is the world we have to build with our words: a world in which they are used not to design ideologies of extermination. A world in which, quite on the contrary, words are witness against barbarity. Witness that people can be murdered – but not destroyed. Witness in the service of fellow humans, and not of ideologies.

Because we now know: where words fail, history fails. And it becomes horror again.

We have to build a Europe and a world where words do not fail the human. Not again. Or else everything literature ever stood for, everything arts ever stood for – was simply a lie.

The only humanity which is not a dead civilization is this one: a humanity whose words do not fail the human.


In the same essay on history written less than half a year after the beginning of World War 2, Walter Benjamin notices that the amazement that barbarity is still possible in the 20th century works in favor of Fascism. What must be attained, Benjamin writes, is the notion that barbarity is always possible – and therefore we have “to bring about a real state of emergency” (Benjamin’s italics). We should always act (not only we, artists: we, human beings) as if humanity is in a real state of emergency. And do everything in our power, disregarding how minuscule the said power is, to preserve whatever humanity is left to us.

Benjamin’s plea for this perpetual state of emergency in favor of the human came into my mind when I read Amos Oz’s plea for the “Order of the Teaspoon”; it was first written as a proposal in How to cure a Fanatic, in 2004. Two years afterwards, in 17 August 2006, in Stockholm, it became a real order. When you read it, you feel that it directly answers Benjamin’s thought about the perpetual state of emergency of the human. Almost 70 years after Benjamin wrote his plea, Amos Oz continued it with the creation of the Order of the Teaspoon. I do believe that Camus was right to say that truth is all that continues; there is much truth in this Benjamin-Oz continuity. You can find the founding document of the Order of the Teaspoon below:

“I believe that if one person is watching a huge calamity, let’s say a conflagration, a fire, there are always three principle options.

  1. Run away, as far away and as fast as you can and let those who cannot run burn.
  2. Write a very angry letter to the editor of your paper demanding that the responsible people be removed from office with disgrace. Or, for that matter, launch a demonstration.
  3. Bring a bucket of water and throw it on the fire, and if you don’t have a bucket, bring a glass, and if you don’t have a glass, use a teaspoon, everyone has a teaspoon. And yes, I know a teaspoon is little and the fire is huge but there are millions of us and each one of us has a teaspoon. Now I would like to establish the Order of the Teaspoon. People who share my attitude, not the run-away attitude, or the letter attitude, but the teaspoon attitude – I would like them to walk around wearing a little teaspoon on the lapel of their jackets, so that we know that we are in the same movement, in the same brotherhood, in the same order, The Order of the Teaspoon.”

I have met people wearing the small teaspoons at their lapels, showing thus that they belonged to a human community which no historic catastrophe could shatter. There is a continuity (and therefore a truth) of human values which no barbarism could destroy. And there is no barbaric fire which our tiny humanistic teaspoons cannot extinguish. Art is a good collection of such used teaspoons; they are already old, but they have served their duty well – and will continue to serve it.

Now, in 2004, Amos Oz’s idea is exactly 20 years old; and the actual Order will turn 18 in August. If you happen to not be a part of the Order yet, maybe it is a good idea to join it when it enters its mature age.


Before ending this manifesto for a humanity whose words do not fail the human, let me say a few words about the contemporary rage against Russian culture – which resembles the rage against German culture after World War II.

The file “Russian culture versus Russian barbarism” reproduces the file “German culture versus German barbarism”, which dominated in the 1950s European discussions about the function of art. Then and now, the question was the same: since culture does not prevent barbarism, what good is culture? Since German music and German philosophy and a German literature, all superlative, could not make the German people humane enough not to produce Nazism, what good is each of them? What good is a culture which does not make us more human? The revolt contained in this question is what made Adorno bitterly conclude in 1951 that writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And it is the same revolt that made George Steiner claim, in an article published as late as 1960, The Hollow Miracle. Notes on German Language, that “German language was not innocent of the horrors of Nazism”, and Hitler found in it the “latent hysteria” he needed in order to craft his ideology of extermination.

There is a similar contemporary rage against Russian culture. Just as Adorno denied the moral right of poetry after Auschwitz, for any Ukrainian the moral right of Russian literature ceases after the Bucha and Mariupol massacres. Just as for Steiner German language was Hitler’s accomplice, Russian literature seems in the eyes of any Ukrainian Putin’s accomplice. And one can indeed easily detect diachronically, across the entire history of Russian literature, a strong pan-Russian, anti-European, anti-democratic vein. Coming from Dostoevsky, passing through innumerable writers of all sizes, and reaching contemporaries like Zakhar Prilepin, this anti-European and anti-democratic vein can justifiably be seen (due to its continuity, persistence, massiveness, and intensity) as the very backbone of all Russian literature. It makes immediately understandable the visceral rejection of Russian literature by Ukrainians – just as, in its time, it was immediately understandable the rejection in corpore of German culture after Nazism.

As both Adorno and Steiner were influential and authoritative, their opinion quickly became the general opinion. Those who were hurt by it and felt it was unfair were, not surprisingly, poets themselves. Paul Celan felt hurt; he had already written an impressive body of his Holocaust poems in 1951, when Adorno has issued his statement (Todesfugewas written in 1945; its first Romanian version, Tangoul morții, was published in 1947; the German original was published in 1948). As we have seen before, his poetry written in German created a verbal community with his mother – and now he felt that Adorno’s moral interdiction on poetry was depriving him of the last possibility to reconnect with the dear persons Nazism has brutally taken from him. Czesław Miłosz was also hurt; he had written some extraordinary poems about the Polish Holocaust, such as Campo dei Fiori, written in the Easter days of 1943.

It took almost two decades for Adorno to admit he was not entirely right. In his last book, Negative Dialectics(1966), he acknowledges that, after reading Celan, he understood poetry is our inalienable right to scream under torture. Therefore, to write poetry witnessing in favor of the victim in the language of assassins is to defeat assassins.

It would be an injustice (and maybe even a barbarism) not to see that Russian literature also displays a pro-European, humanist, freedom-loving tradition. Arguably thinner than the anti-democratic one, it is in no way negligible, as it spans two centuries and some major authors – starting with Chekhov and Turgenev, continuing with Akhmatova and Mandelstam and Pasternak and Tsvetaeva, and reaching today to Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Mikhail Shishkin. They all explicitly felt part of the European culture; some of them even identified more as European than as Russians. Turgenev, for example, in his final quarrel with Dostoevsky, when the author of The Possessed accused him of betraying Russia with his philo-Europeanism, replied bluntly: “But I am not Russian – I am German!” (The scene is reproduced at length in Orlando Figes’s The Europeans.) Chekhov is one of the major humanist artists worldwide. Mandelstam and Akhmatova are among the most freedom-loving poets of the entire 20th century; they were mercilessly crushed by the communist regime exactly because of that. This is a humanist Russian culture which Europe (y compris Ukraine, it goes without saying) will also want to recover, there are in it amounts of truth and beauty not to be found anywhere else – and which will decisively nurture our European hearts and brains.

It took Adorno almost 20 years to understand that he had to tone down his harsh statement. That there is an art which serves and justifies the barbarity of the tyrants – and there is another art which gives the victims their voice. The voice necessary to scream under torture. The voice necessary to bear witness. It is only this last voice which is indeed the voice of art. And it is precisely this voice which stands proof that no barbarism can definitively destroy the human.


If Germany re-became one of the major European hearts, this was possible because it admitted his tragic barbaric error and had the political and social will to develop a guilty conscience. It was, and still is, an educational program of unprecedented amplitude. After 1945, Germany had a future because of this moral admission of its guilty past.

If Russia wants to have a future after losing the war with Ukraine, it will have to undergo a similar moral process of admitting and repenting its tragic barbaric error. Unfortunately for Russia, I do not see any political and social will on its side to develop this moral reaction. Bluntly said, because of its impotence to deal with its guilty past, Russia will have no future.

As for Ukraine, we all see and admire its extraordinary spirit born from a moral reaction in front of barbarism. President Zelenski’s extraordinary words, “I need ammunition, not a ride”, uttered in front of highly probable death, were the beginning of this massive moral reaction which catalyzed the formidable Ukrainian present and future.

Which means that Russian barbarism has not managed to destroy Ukraine. Russian barbarism has destroyed Russia more than anything else.

As for Ukrainian writers, they have done exactly what real artists do when history becomes horror: they have given voice to those who needed it in order to scream against barbarism. They have used their words as witness against atrocity. They have not allowed barbarity to have the final word.

So that Vakulenko and Amelina and Kryvtsov will define us as human species – and not Putin and his barbaric acolytes.

If we want a future for our art, and for our humanity, we should take their example – and write from this perpetual state of emergency for the human. And serve literature as members of the Order of the Teaspoon. And build a humanity whose words will not fail the human anymore.

If we do so, literature will reach us even if it has to pass through common graves. As it has already done. But hopefully it will never have to do it again.

It all depends on us. And our teaspoons.

Radu Vancu

final press release

The most important literary festivals in Romania,

alongside the International Literature Festival Odesa


Last night, February 25, the 9th edition of the  International Literature Festival Odesa ended, a traditional event, which became itinerant due to the war and was hosted this year in Bucharest. There were four full days, in which the Bucharest public was able to attend a program of events with an extremely diverse format: from public readings to debates around the most important topics of the moment in terms of world politics, such as the future of Europe or the fight against barbarism.


E.S. also spoke about the architecture of the program of the 9th edition of the  International Literature Festival Odesa and the relevance of the themes. Mr. Igor Prokopchuk, Ambassador of Ukraine to Romania, in his speech on the evening of February 22. His Excellency wanted to express his joy regarding the fact that the festival is hosted in Bucharest, in Romania, one of the leading countries in supporting the Ukrainian population after the outbreak of the war. Also, the Ambassador of Ukraine in Romania urged the public to hold a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the war in Ukraine, which he called “the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe after the Second World War”.


At the end of the four days that totaled over 20 events, the organizers of the most important literature festivals in Romania sent a few thoughts to the organizers of the International Literature Festival Odesa.


“To be effective against a tyranny or against violence, literature must assert itself and be. That’s it. History has shown us, so many times, that a dictator is more afraid of words than anything. Literature is a universal weapon, because the border of language is illusory: therefore, the imperative to which it submits is an affirmative one, of literary action.

I’m glad that literature won once again, and the  Literature Festival Odesa could continue in Bucharest”, said Ioan Cristescu, president of the Bucharest International Poetry Festival (FIPB) and director of the National Museum of Romanian Literature.


About the power of literature to find ways to reach the public, beyond the power of weapons, the writer Lucian Dan Teodorovici, president of the Iasi International Literature and Translation Festival – FILIT, also spoke: “A festival like this, which moved for a few days Odesa in Bucharest is more than a literary manifestation, it is above all a declaration of freedom. However, as much joy as the festival of literature lovers in Romania could produce, I wish that in the coming years (many and good) I will know that it takes place at home, where it belongs. In complete safety and in complete freedom”.


“I am still shaken by the documentary I watched last night, 20 days in Mariupol, a film which, thanks to the courage and vocation of some journalists, shows how a city turns into an inferno due to the Russian invasion. Odesa is standing, not like Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities that have become ruins, but its life is, well, elsewhere. In order to continue living, the Odesa literature festival had to find a refuge in Bucharest. Solidarity worked again this time, and writers were able to make their voices heard. The world of literature has, in fact, no borders, and the different languages in which it is written are not barriers, but meeting colors. These days, the roads of literature led to Odesa, via Bucharest. I hope that next year the festival will take place where it belongs, at his home, in peace”, testified Robert Șerban, president of the Timișoara International Literature Festival (FILTM).


On behalf of the International Festival of Poetry and Music “Poetry is in Bistrita”, the writers Marin Mălaicu-Hondrari and Dan Coman also expressed their confidence in the power of literature to conquer people more powerfully than bands manage to conquer territories: “Literature sees his way. Even when it seems irrelevant, it demonstrates its strength, as it happened now, from Odesa to Bucharest. Its strength lies not in conquering territories, but in uniting people. The Odesa festival continues, that matters and gives us courage”.

The writer Radu Vancu, who gave the opening speech of this year’s edition of the Odesa International Literature Festival, gave us another thought, this time from the perspective of the cultural manager – as the president of the “Poets in Transylvania” International Festival ” which takes place in Sibiu: “The Odesa Literature Festival took place in Bucharest on the two-year anniversary of the barbaric war started by Russia in Ukraine. Two years of heroism – in which Ukraine was not only not conquered & annihilated, but became a candidate state for admission to the European Union. And fight on for all of us. For the world that believes in freedom & democracy – which will remain so (ie free & democratic) only if Russia is definitively defeated. And it will be. So being with Ukraine today means believing that the human species has a future. Not just as a species – but as a truly human one.”

Founded in 2015, the International Literature Festival Odesa aimed to emphasize the cultural effervescence and international character of the city and contribute to strengthening its ties with other cultural metropolises in Europe and on other continents. The program of each separate edition expresses this desire, both through the selection of invited writers and through the dialogue themes. A particular importance in the architecture of the festival program is occupied by the panorama of the cultural space in the area of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. To date, almost 300 writers have taken part in the events of the  International Literature Festival Odesa. Hans Ruprecht and Ulrich Schreiber have been running the festival since its inception.

Cele mai importante festivaluri de literatură din România,

alături de Festivalul Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa



Aseară, 25 februarie, s-a încheiat cea de-a IX-a ediție a Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa, un eveniment de tradiție, devenit itinerant din cauza războiului și găzduit anul acesta la București. Au fost patru zile pline, în care publicul bucureștean a putut să asiste la un program de evenimente cu un format extrem de divers: de la lecturi publice până la dezbateri în jurul celor mai importante teme ale momentului în planul politicii mondiale, precum viitorul Europei sau lupta împotriva barbariei.


Despre arhitectura programului celei de-a IX-a ediții a Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa și relevanța temelor a vorbit și E.S. Domnul Igor Prokopchuk, Ambasadorul Ucrainei în România, în discursul său din seara zilei de 22 februarie. Excelența Sa a ținut să își exprime bucuria cu privire la faptul că festivalul este găzduit la București, în România, una dintre țările-lider în susținerea populației ucrainene după izbucnirea războiului. De asemenea, Ambasadorul Ucrainei în România a îndemnat publicul să țină un moment de reculegere în memoria victimelor războiului din Ucraina pe care l-a numit „cea mai mare criză umanitară din Europa de după Cel de-Al Doilea Război Mondial”.


La finalul celor patru zile care au însumat peste 20 de evenimente, organizatorii celor mai importante festivaluri de literatură din România le-au transmis organizatorilor Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa câteva gânduri.


„Pentru a fi eficientă împotriva unei tiranii sau împotriva violenței, literatura trebuie să se afirme și să fie. Atât. Istoria ne-a tot arătat, de atâtea ori, că unui dictator îi e mai frică de cuvinte decât de orice. Literatura este o armă universală, căci granița limbii este iluzorie: de aceea, imperativul căruia i se supune este unul afirmativ, al acțiunii literare. 

Mă bucur că literatura a invins încă o dată, iar Festivalul de literatură de la Odesa a putut continua la București”, a declarat Ioan Cristescu, președintele Festivalului Internațional de Poezie de la București (FIPB) și directorul Muzeului Național al Literaturii Române.


Despre puterea literaturii de a-și găsi căi pentru a ajunge la public, dincolo de puterea armelor a vorbit și scritorul Lucian Dan Teodorovici, președintele Festivalul Internațional de Literatură și Traducere Iași – FILIT: „Un festival precum acesta, care a mutat pentru câteva zile Odesa în București, este mai mult decât o manifestare literară, este înainte de toate o declarație de libertate. Însă, oricâtă bucurie a putut produce festivalul iubitorilor de literatură din România, îmi doresc ca în anii viitori (mulți și buni) să știu că se desfășoară acasă, acolo unde îi e locul. În deplină siguranță și în deplină libertate”.


„Sunt cutremurat, încă, de documentarul pe care l-am privit azi noapte, 20 de zile în Mariupol, film care, datorită curajului și vocației unor jurnaliști, arată cum un oraș se transformă, din cauza invaziei ruse, într-un infern. Odesa e în picioare, nu ca Mariupol și ale orașe ucrainiene ce au devenit ruine, dar viața ei este, iată, și în altă parte. Ca să poată trăi în continuare, festivalul de literatură din Odesa a trebuit să-și găsească un refugiu, la București. Solidaritatea a funcționat și de data asta, iar scriitorii și-au putut face auzite vocile. Lumea literaturii nu are, în fond, granițe, iar limbile diferite în care se scrie nu sunt bariere, ci culoare de întâlnire. În aceste zile, drumurile literaturii au dus către Odesa, via București. Am speranța că anul viitor festivalul se va desfășura acolo unde îi este locul, la el acasă, în pace”, a mărturisit Robert Șerban, președintele Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Timișoara (FILTM).


Din partea Festivalul Internațional de Poezie și Muzică „Poezia e la Bistrița”, scriitorii Marin Mălaicu-Hondrari și Dan Coman și-au exprimat, de asemenea, încrederea în puterea literaturii de a cuceri oamenii mai puternic decât reușesc trupele să cucerească teritorii: „Literatura își vede de drum. Chiar și atunci când pare irelevantă, își demonstrează forța, cum s-a întâmplat și acum, de la Odesa la București. Forța ei nu stă în a cuceri teritorii, ci în a uni oameni. Festivalul de la Odesa continuă, asta contează și ne dă curaj”.


Scriitorul Radu Vancu, cel care a ținut discursul de deschidere al ediției din acest an a Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa, ne-a transmis încă un gând, de data aceasta din perspectiva managerului cultural – ca președintre al Festivalului Internațional „Poets in Transylvania” care are loc la Sibiu: „Festivalul de literatură de la Odesa a avut loc la București în zilele în care se împlineau doi ani de la războiul barbar declanșat de Rusia în Ucraina. Doi ani de eroism – în care Ucraina nu numai că n-a fost cucerită & aneantizată, ci a devenit stat candidat pentru admiterea în Uniunea Europeană. Și luptă mai departe pentru noi toți. Pentru lumea care crede în libertate & democrație – care va fi rămâne astfel (adică liberă & democratică) numai dacă Rusia e învinsă definitiv. Și va fi. Așa că a fi azi alături de Ucraina înseamnă a crede că specia umană are un viitor. Nu doar ca specie – ci ca una cu adevărat umană”.


Fondat în anul 2015, Festivalul internațional de literatură de la Odesa și-a propus să sublinieze efervescența culturală și caracterul internațional al orașului și să contribuie la consolidarea legăturilor sale cu alte metropole culturale din Europa și de pe alte continente. Programul fiecărei ediții în parte exprimă acest deziderat, atât prin selecția scriitorilor invitați, cât și prin temele de dialog. O importanță deosebită în arhitectura programului festivalului o ocupă panoramarea spațiului cultural din zona Europei de Est și a regiunii Mării Negre. Până în prezent, aproape 300 de scriitori au luat parte la evenimentele din cadrul Festivalului internațional de literatură de la Odesa. Hans Ruprecht și Ulrich Schreiber conduc festivalul de la înființarea sa.

“Literature gives the dead a voice and makes them sing”


Ariane von Graffenried, guest of the 2024 Odessa International Literature Festival



Tomorrow, the 22nd of February, the 9th edition of the Odessa International Festival of Literature opens at the Goethe-Institut in Bucharest (Calea Dorobanți 32). A beloved and popular project for literature lovers, the festival enjoys consistent support from today’s most important European writers and leading civic voices. For this reason, new names have joined the festival’s public readings, such as Ukrainian writers Andrei Kurkov and Yury Andrukovych, and many others. The current programme of the festival can be found on the official website:

Another novelty is that, at the opening event, planned for February the 22nd, at 17:00, His Excellency Mr. Ihor Prokopchuk, Ambassador of Ukraine will attend the festival.


In anticipation of their arrival in Bucharest, some of the writers invited to this year’s edition of the festival have sent their thoughts to Romanian literature lovers.


I think every gathering of international writers is a good opportunity to exchange ideas about literature and politics. I hope we can actively listen to each other. If we believe that literature is a universal tool for understanding, we can use it for discussion, not for fighting,” says Ukrainian writer Vasil Makhno—a multi-award-winning poet, essayist and translator who explores the concepts of motherland and memory in his books, reflecting the polyphonic past of his native land.

I believe that if war should come upon them in their homeland, writers must become its defenders when their country is brutally attacked. This is why many Ukrainian writers write literature and essays about war and participate in international festivals. Many of them serve in the army and fight on the front lines. In this moment, literature becomes a voice of these times, because it has to be heard,” he added.


Literature in times of war is both a getaway from the terrible reality and a weapon because it is impossible to not write about war“, said writer Yury Vinnychuk before coming to Bucharest; he is a living legend of Ukrainian literature, tireless critic of the political system, considered the most versatile of contemporary Ukrainian writers.


The Swiss writer Ariane von Graffenried, spoken word author, member of the duo “Fitzgerald & Rimini” and curator of the Basel International Poetry Festival, also talks about the power of writing to give a voice to literature in her advance message to Romanian readers: “Metaphors don’t work against people with guns. And beautiful verses cannot heal wounds. Literature can create a community here and now, it can offer comfort, it can express anger, and it can witness both what is beautiful and what is hideous. Literature can give the dead a voice and make them sing.”


For Italian writer Ilaria Gaspari, known for her passion for podcasts dedicated to the works of famous writers, this year’s Odessa International Festival is an opportunity to remember the horrors of the two world wars: “I am coming to Bucharest thinking of two great European authors who lived in different historical moments, but were both touched by the consequences of one of the two world wars. I am thinking of Marcel Proust, who witnessed the collapse of his childhood, whose inexorable decline he had already observed and recorded, with the outbreak of the First World War. Then, my thoughts turn to Ingeborg Bachmann, who in her Austrian childhood experienced the trauma of the Nazi devastation and who would search throughout her life for a way to live in a historical moment in which the self is no longer submerged in history, but history is in the self.”

Is literature an escape? A voice? Or a weapon?

It is not a weapon, because literature does not destroy; and it is indeed unequipped and vulnerable in the face of war, but it has the collective force of a voice that transmits words and thoughts. It is not a form of escape, but an open refuge, that is, open as a protection against horror,” added the beloved Italian writer.


Festival activities will be held in English, Ukrainian, German and Romanian, with translation. Public access to the event is free of charge.

Founded in 2015, the Odessa International Literature Festival aims to highlight the cultural effervescence and international character of the city and to contribute to strengthening its ties with other cultural metropolises in Europe and on other continents. The programme of each edition expresses this aim, both through the selection of guest writers and the dialogues. Of particular importance in the architecture of the festival’s programme is the overview of the cultural space of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. So far, almost 300 writers have taken part in the events of the Odessa International Literature Festival. Hans Ruprecht and Ulrich Schreiber have been running the festival since its creation.


„Literatura le dă morților o voce și îi face să cânte”

Mâine, 22 februarie, debutează cea de-a IX-a ediție a Festivalului Internațional de Literatură de la Odesa, găzduită la București, la sediul Goethe-Institut (Calea Dorobanți 32). Proiect îndrăgit și urmărit de iubitorii de literatură, Festivalul se bucură de o susținere consistentă din partea celor mai importanți scriitori europeni de astăzi, voci civice marcante. Acesta este motivul pentru care noi și noi nume s-au alăturat lecturilor publice din cadrul Festivalului, precum cele ale scriitorilor ucraineni Andrei Kurkov sau Iuri Andruhovîci și mulți alții. Programul la zi al Festivalului poate fi consultat pe site-ul official:

O altă noutate o constituie faptul că, la evenimentul de deschidere, plănuit pentru data de 22 februarie, ora 17.00, E.S. Domnul Igor Prokopchuk, Ambasadorul Ucrainei la București, s-a alăturat organizatorilor, acceptând să țină o alocuțiune în debutul festivalului.

În așteptarea venirii la București, o parte dintre scriitori invitați la ediția din acest an a festivalului le-au transmis gândurile lor iubitorilor de literatură din România.

„Cred că fiecare întâlnire internațională a scriitorilor este o bună ocazie de a face schimb de idei despre literatură și politică. Sper că ne putem asculta activ unii pe alții. Dacă credem că literatura este un instrument universal de înțelegere, putem să o folosim pentru discuții, nu pentru luptă”, consideră scriitorul ucrainean Vasîl Mahno – poet, eseist și traducător multipremiat, care investighează în cărțile sale conceptele de patrie și memorie, reflectând trecutul polifonic al locului său de origine.

„Consider că, dacă vine războiul peste ei în țara lor natală, scriitorii trebuie să se transforme în apărătorii ei, atunci când țara le este atacată cu brutalitate. Acesta este motivul pentru care mulți scriitori ucraineni scriu literatură și eseuri despre război și participă la festivaluri internaționale. Mulți dintre ei servesc în armată și luptă pe fronturi. În această perioadă, literatura devine o portavoce a acestor timpuri, pentru că trebuie să se facă auzită”, a completat acesta.

„Literatura în vremuri de război este atât o evadare din realitatea îngrozitoare, cât și o armă, pentru că este imposibil să nu scrii despre război”, a transmis înaintea venitii la București scriitorul Yuri Vînnîciuk, o legendă vie a literaturii ucrainene, critic neobosit al sistemului politic, considerat cel mai versatil dintre scriitorii ucraineni contemporani.

Despre puterea literaturii de a de a da voce literaturii vorbește și scriitoarea elvețiană Ariane von Graffenried, autoare de spoken word, membră a duo-ului „Fitzgerald & Rimini” și curatoare a Festivalului Internațional de Poezie de la Basel, în mesajul său transmis în avans cititorilor români: „Metaforele nu ajută împotriva oamenilor cu arme. Iar versurile frumoase nu pot vindeca rănile. Literatura poate crea o comunitate aici și acum, poate oferi mângâiere, poate exprima furia și poate fi martoră, deopotrivă, la frumos și la odios. Literatura le dă morților o voce și îi poate face să cânte”.

Pentru scriitoarea italiană Ilaria Gaspari, cunoscută pentru pasiunea sa pentru podcasturi dedicate operelor unor scriitori cunoscuți, ediția itinerantă din acest a Festivalului Internațional de la Odesa este un prilej de a rememora ororile celor două conflagrații mondiale: „Vin spre București cu gândul la doi mari autori europeni care au trăit în momente istorice diferite, dar au fost amândoi atinși de urmările și consecințele câte unuia dintre cele două războaie mondiale. Mă gândesc la Marcel Proust, care a văzut odată cu Primul Război Mondial scufundându-se și sfârșindu-se pentru totdeauna lumea copilăriei sale, al cărei declin inexorabil îl observase și îl consemnase deja. Apoi, gândurile merg către Ingeborg Bachmann, cea care în copilăria sa austriacă a cunoscut trauma devastărilor naziste și care va căuta de-a lungul vieții o cale a trăi într-un moment istoric în care eul să nu mai fie scufundat în istorie, ci istoria să fie în eul său”.

Este literatura o evadare? O portavoce? Sau o armă?

„Nu este o armă, pentru că literatura nu distruge; și este, într-adevăr, neînarmată și vulnerabilă la război, dar cu forța colectivă a unei portavoci care răspândește cuvinte și gânduri. Nu este o formă de evadare, ci un refugiu deschis, adică deschis pentru a proteja împotriva ororii”, a adăugat îndrăgita scriitoare italiană.

Evenimentele din cadrul festivalului vor avea loc în limbile engleză, ucraineană, germană și română, cu traducere. Accesul publicului la eveniment este gratuit.

Fondat în anul 2015, Festivalul internațional de literatură de la Odesa și-a propus să sublinieze efervescența culturală și caracterul internațional al orașului și să contribuie la consolidarea legăturilor sale cu alte metropole culturale din Europa și de pe alte continente. Programul fiecărei ediții în parte exprimă acest deziderat, atât prin selecția scriitorilor invitați, cât și prin temele de dialog. O importanță deosebită în arhitectura programului festivalului o ocupă panoramarea spațiului cultural din zona Europei de Est și a regiunii Mării Negre. Până în prezent, aproape 300 de scriitori au luat parte la evenimentele din cadrul Festivalului internațional de literatură de la Odesa. Hans Ruprecht și Ulrich Schreiber conduc festivalul de la înființarea sa.


The worldwide readings continue! In Copenhagen, Erevan, Calcutta, Milan, Zaporizhia , Berlin and other cities, texts by Ukrainian authors will be read in Bucharest, including those by the poets Volodimir Vakulenko, Victoria Amelina and Maksym Kryvtzov, who were killed in the war. In a film produced especially for the worldwide reading, Yurij Andruchovitch, Svitlana Bondar, Andrei Kurkov, Iya Kiva, Dmytro Lazutkin, Halyna Kruk, Vasyl Makhno from Ukraine, Dan Sociu and Varujan Vosganian from Romania as well as Nora Bossong, Daniel Kehlmann and Jan Koneffke from Germany, among others, will read Ukrainian texts. We would like to thank the Goethe Institutes for their cooperation.

This event can be watched online, also after the festival




Time: 16:00 -19.00. (Copenhagen time)
Organizers: Ukraine House in Denmark
Venue: Strandgade 27B, 1401 Copenhagen
Participants: Kateryna Kalytko, Iya Kiva , Halyna Kruk , Oleksandr Mykhed , Iryna
Iryna Tsilyk
Event language: Danish, Ukrainian

Time: 18.30 p.m. (Calcutta time)
Organizers: Goethe-Institut Kolkata mit der Unterstützung von Deutschen
Generalkonsulat in Kolkata
Venue: Goethe-Institut Calcutta
Event language: English

16.00 – 17.30 p.m. (CET)
Organizers: Association Ucraina Più Milano in cooperation with Goethe-Institut
Venue: Goethe-Institut Mailand, Via San Paolo 10, Milano

13.00 – 14.00 (Kyiv time)
Organizer: Zaporizzhia public library

Venue: Zaporizhia public library

Participant: Yaroslava Degtiarenko
Event language: Ukrainian

14:00 – 15:00 ( Kyiv time)

Organizers: Suspilne Odesa and Odesa Ukrainian Academic Theatre named after V. Vasylko

The event is devoted to the authors killed in the war.

Venue: Radio Studio of Suspilne Odesa

Event language: Ukrainian

Moderator: Svitlana Bondar

This event can be watched online 




Some of our events can be followed online





Press release 26.01. 2024

The 9th international literature festival odesa will take place in Bucharest from 22 to 25 February 2024. Among the invited guests are the Ukrainian authors Iya Kiva, Yuriy Vynnychuk and Vasyl Makhno, the Romanian authors Nora Iuga, Dan Sociu, Nikita Danilov and Radu Vancu, who will give the opening speech, Philip Sands from Great Britain, Olivier Guez from France, Daniel Kehlmann and Norman Ohler from Germany, Karl-Markus Gauss from Austria, Ariane von Graffenried and Jonas Lüscher from Switzerland and Ilaria Gasperi from Italy, who will present her literary podcasts “Chez Proust” and “Bachmann”. Topics will include the future of Europe, literary relations between the countries of the Black Sea region, Max Blecher’s novel Scarred Hearts (first published in 1937) and Ukrainian literature, which will be the subject of a worldwide reading on 24 February, the anniversary of the outbreak of war. In this context, we remember the authors Viktoria Amelina and Maksym Kryvtsov, who have been killed in the war.

The festival is jointly supported by the Jan Michalski Foundation, Culture of Solidarity Fund powered by the European Cultural Foundation, EUNIC Romania, PRO HELVETIA, Goethe-Institut Bucharest.

Hans Ruprecht and Ulrich Schreiber have been running the festival since it was founded in 2015. The full programme will be published Febrary 29th at

Comunicat de presă 26.01. 2024

Cea de-a IX-a ediție a festivalului internațional de literatură odesa va avea loc la București între 22 și 25 februarie 2024. Printre invitați se numără scriitorii ucraineni Iya Kiva, Yuriy Vynnychuk și Vasyl Makhno, scriitorii români Nora Iuga, Dan Sociu, Nikita Danilov și Radu Vancu, care va ține discursul de deschidere, Philip Sands din Marea Britanie, Olivier Guez din Franța, Daniel Kehlmann și Norman Ohler din Germania, Karl-Markus Gauss din Austria, Ariane von Graffenried și Jonas Lüscher din Elveția și Ilaria Gasperi din Italia, care își va prezenta podcasturile literare “Chez Proust” și “Bachmann”. Printre subiectele abordate se numără viitorul Europei, relațiile literare dintre țările din regiunea Mării Negre, romanul “Inimi cicatrizate” al lui Max Blecher (publicat pentru prima dată în 1937) și literatura ucraineană, care va face obiectul unei lecturi la nivel mondial la 24 februarie, la aniversarea izbucnirii războiului. În acest context, ne amintim de autorii Viktoria Amelina și Maksym Kryvtsov, care au fost uciși în război.

Festivalul este susținut în comun de Fundația Jan Michalski, Fondul Cultura Solidarității alimentat de Fundația Culturală Europeană, EUNIC România, PRO HELVETIA, Goethe-Institut București.

Hans Ruprecht și Ulrich Schreiber conduc festivalul de la înființarea sa în 2015. Programul complet va fi publicat pe 29 februarie la adresa

Прес-реліз 26.01. 2024

З 22 по 25 лютого 2024 року в Бухаресті відбудеться 9-й Одеський міжнародний літературний фестиваль. Серед запрошених гостей – українські автори Ія Ківа, Юрій Винничук та Василь Махно, румунські автори Нора Юга, Дан Сочіу, Нікіта Данилов та Раду Ванцу, який виступить з промовою на відкритті, Філіп Сендс з Великої Британії, Олів’є Ґез з Франції, Даніель Кельманн і Норман Олер з Німеччини, Карл-Маркус Гаусс з Австрії, Аріан фон Ґраффенрід і Йонас Люшер зі Швейцарії та Іларія Гаспері з Італії, яка представить свої літературні подкасти “Chez Proust” і “Bachmann”. Серед тем – майбутнє Європи, літературні зв’язки між країнами Чорноморського регіону, роман Макса Блехера “Пошрамовані серця” (вперше опублікований у 1937 році) та українська література, яка стане предметом всесвітніх читань 24 лютого, у річницю початку війни. У цьому контексті ми згадуємо авторів Вікторію Амеліну та Максима Кривцова, які загинули на війні.

Фестиваль відбувається за підтримки  Фонду Яна Міхальського, Європейського культурного фонду,  EUNIC Romania, PRO HELVETIA, Goethe Institut у Бухаресті, де відбувається фестиваль. Ганс Рупрехт та Ульріх Шрайбер керують фестивалем з моменту його заснування у 2015 році. Повна програма буде опублікована 29 лютого на сайті

Video review of VIII international literature festival odesa in Batumi


Keynote speech of the festival 2022 by Anne Applebaum


Anne Applebaum


Im schrecklichen Winter 1932/33 gingen auf der Suche nach Lebensmitteln Brigaden kommunistischer Parteiaktivisten – aus Moskau, Kiew und Charkiw, aber auch aus Nachbarorten – in ukrainischen Dörfern von Haus zu Haus. Sie wühlten in den Gärten, brachen Wände auf und stießen mit langen Stangen in die Schornsteine, um nach verstecktem Getreide zu suchen. Sie nahmen Nutztiere mit und beschlagnahmten Tomatensetzlinge. Nach derartigen Überfällen aßen die ukrainischen Bauern Ratten, Frösche und gekochtes Gras. Sie knabberten an Baumrinde und Leder. Etwa vier Millionen starben an Hunger.

Dennoch fühlten viele der Eintreiber keine Schuld. Die sowjetische Propaganda hatte ihnen eingebläut, die vermeintlich wohlhabenden Bauern, die sie Kulaken nannten, seien Schädlinge, Saboteure und Feinde, reiche Landbesitzer, die dem sowjetischen Proletariat den Weg versperrten in die von seinen Anführern verheißene Utopie. Die Kulaken sollten beseitigt werden, zerquetscht wie Parasiten oder Fliegen. Ihre Lebensmittel sollten an die Arbeiter in den Städten verteilt werden, die sie mehr verdient hatten als sie.

Die Aktivisten hatten ihnen geglaubt. Jahre später sprach der in der Ukraine geborene, sowjetische Überläufer Viktor Krawtschenko darüber, wie es war, zu diesen Brigaden zu gehören. „Um sich seelische Qualen zu ersparen, verschleiert man unangenehme Wahrheiten, indem man die Augen halb verschließt und den Verstand ausschaltet“, schrieb er. „Panisch erfindet man Rechtfertigungen und ersetzt sein Wissen durch Worte wie Übertreibung und Hysterie.“

Er beschrieb auch, wie der politische Jargon und Euphemismen dazu beitrugen, die Auswirkungen ihrer Taten zu camouflieren. Anstatt die Menschen, deren Lebensmittel sie stahlen, beim Namen zu nennen, wurde in seiner Gruppe von einer „Bauernfront“ und „Bedrohung durch Kulaken“ gesprochen, vom „Sozialismus auf dem Dorf“ und vom „Klassenwiderstand“. Der sowjetische Schriftsteller Lew Kopelew, der als junger Mann ebenfalls in einer dieser Brigaden gedient hatte (und später mehrere Jahre im Gulag verbrachte), reflektierte das Geschehen in ähnlicher Weise. Auch er hatte festgestellt, dass Klischees und eine ideologisierte Sprache ihm halfen, sein Handeln zu verbrämen, sogar vor sich selbst: „Ich redete mir etwas ein, gab mir selbst Erklärungen. Ich durfte nicht in lähmendes Mitleid verfallen. Wir erkannten die historische Notwendigkeit. Wir erfüllten unsere revolutionäre Pflicht. Wir beschafften Getreide für das sozialistische Vaterland. Für den Fünfjahresplan …“ Vor dem Hintergrund anderer Prioritäten erübrigte sich das Mitleid für die Bauern. Sie hatten keine Existenzberechtigung. Ihr bäuerlicher Reichtum würde bald das Eigentum aller sein.

Aber die „Kulaken“ waren nicht reich. Sie litten Hunger. Das Bauernland war nicht wohlhabend, es lag brach. So schildert es Krawtschenko in seinen viele Jahre später geschriebenen Memoiren:

„Große Mengen von Geräten und Maschinen, die einst von ihren Besitzern wie wertvoller Schmuck gehütet worden waren, lagen nun unter freiem Himmel verstreut, schmutzig, verrostet und nicht mehr zu reparieren. Abgemagerte Kühe und Pferde, voll verkrustetem Mist, irrten über den Hof. Hühner, Gänse und Enten wühlten scharenweise im ungedroschenen Getreide.“

Diese Realität, die er mit eigenen Augen sah, war einprägsam genug, dass er sie nie vergaß. Aber zum Zeitpunkt seines Erlebens konnte er sich das Gegenteil einreden und war damit nicht der Einzige. Wassili Grossman, ein weiterer sowjetischer Schriftsteller, legte einer Figur seines Romans „Alles fließt“ folgende Worte in den Mund: „Ich bin nicht mehr verhext, ich sehe jetzt, dass die Kulaken Menschen waren. Aber warum war mein Herz damals so versteinert? Die Menschen haben doch so gelitten, was hat man ihnen nicht alles angetan? Und gesagt wurde: ‚Das sind keine Menschen, das ist Kulakengesocks‘.“


Neunzig Jahre sind seit diesen Ereignissen vergangen. Die Sowjetunion gibt es nicht mehr. Schon lange sind die Werke von Kopelew, Krawtschenko und Grossman für russische Leser verfügbar. Zudem wurden in Russisch und vielen anderen Sprachen zahlreiche Bücher geschrieben über das Sowjetsystem und dessen Fähigkeit, seine Opfer zu entmenschlichen und das damalige Geschehen kleinzureden.

Früher gingen wir davon aus, dass allein das Erzählen dieser Geschichten eine Wiederholung durch wen auch immer unmöglich machen würde. In den späten 1980er Jahren, in der Zeit von Glasnost, waren Bücher und Memoiren über das stalinistische Regime und den Gulag in Russland Bestseller. Seitdem hat sich die Stimmung geändert. Derartige Bücher sind in Russland theoretisch erhältlich, aber niemand kauft sie. „Memorial“, die wichtigste Gesellschaft zur historischen Aufarbeitung in Russland, musste schließen. Museen und Denkmäler für die Opfer sind nach wie vor klein und wenig bekannt. Vor allem aber ist die Fähigkeit des russischen Staates, das Geschehen vor seinen Bürgern kleinzureden und seine Feinde zu entmenschlichen, stärker denn je.

Heutzutage braucht es weniger Gewalt: Es hat in Putins Russland keine Massenverhaftungen gegeben, zumindest nicht im selben Ausmaß wie zu Stalins Zeiten. Aber vielleicht ist das auch gar nicht notwendig, denn die heutigen Werkzeuge der Propaganda sind so viel effektiver. Das russische Staatsfernsehen, Hauptinformationsquelle der meisten Russen, ist unterhaltsamer, spektakulärer und schicker als die Sendungen aus den knisternden Radios der Stalinzeit. Die sozialen Medien, die jedem von uns eine individuell zugeschnittene Sicht auf die Welt vermitteln, haben mehr Suchtpotenzial und sind fesselnder als die schlecht gedruckten Zeitungen der Vergangenheit.

Aber auch die Propaganda hat sich gewandelt. In der Sowjetunion unter Stalin wurde wie auch unter Chruschtschow und Breschnew von den Sowjetbürgern verlangt, an etwas Positives zu glauben, an eine künftige Utopie, eine bessere Welt. Bilder vom mustergültigen Staat waren allgegenwärtig: lächelnde Bürger, nagelneue Traktoren, heldenhafte Arbeiter, Fabriken, die Rekordmengen an Stahl produzieren, und Felder, auf denen endlos viel Weizen wächst. Jeder musste sich an dieser Propaganda beteiligen, sie wiederholen und zumindest so tun, als ob er daran glaubt.

Heutzutage kann die russische Propaganda auf diesen gespielten, aktiven Positivismus verzichten. Der Staat braucht keine aktiven Bürger, sie sollen zynisch, apathisch und passiv sein. Die meisten Menschen in Russland konnten in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten unbehelligt vom Regime ihrem Alltag nachgehen. Sie wussten, wenn sie unpolitisch bleiben und sich nur um ihre eigenen Angelegenheiten kümmern, wenn sie nur im kleinen Kreis murren und sich aus den gesellschaftlich relevanten Fragen heraushalten, dann würde sie kein solches Schicksal ereilen wie das von Anna Politkowskaja, die in ihrem Treppenhaus ermordet wurde, wie das von Michail Chodorkowski, der ein Jahrzehnt im Gefängnis verbrachte, oder wie das von Alexej Nawalny, der erst vergiftet und dann inhaftiert wurde.

Ebenfalls im Unterschied zu früher ist heute in Russland vor allem niemand mehr verpflichtet, alles zu glauben, was im Fernsehen gesagt wird. Selbstverständlich wurde im sowjetischen Radio und Fernsehen gelogen. Aber man gab sich die Mühe, Unwahrheiten echt aussehen zu lassen. Es wurden Beweise und Argumente geliefert. Eine Bezichtigung der Lüge löste Empörung aus. In Putins Russland spielen sowohl die Fernsehsender als auch die Politiker ein anderes Spiel. Sie lügen ununterbrochen, unverhohlen und offensichtlich. Aber sie scheren sich nicht um Beweise. Als 2017 das malaysische Passagierflugzeug MH17 über der Ukraine abgeschossen wurde, kam aus Russland als Reaktion kein einziges Dementi, sondern eine Vielzahl wahrscheinlicher und unwahrscheinlicher Geschichten: mal war die ukrainische Armee schuld, mal die CIA, oder es war eine abscheuliche Verschwörung, und 298 Tote wurden in ein Flugzeug gesetzt, um einen Flugzeugabsturz vorzutäuschen und Russland zu diskreditieren. Der endlose Strom von Lügen, „Firehose of Falsehood“ genannt, verursachte keine Empörung, sondern Apathie. Wenn es so viele Versionen gibt, wie kann man dann überhaupt wissen, welche davon wahr ist? Und wenn nun gar nichts von alldem wahr ist?

Anstatt eine Utopie sowjetischen Typs zu bewerben, hat sich die zeitgemäße russische Propaganda in den letzten zehn Jahren auf die Feinde konzentriert. Die Russen erfahren kaum etwas darüber, was in ihren eigenen Städten oder in der Nachbarschaft einen Häuserblock weiter passiert. Anders, als die Sowjetbürger in früheren Zeiten, müssen sie sich deshalb nicht mit der Kluft zwischen Realität und Fiktion auseinandersetzen. Stattdessen wird ihnen ständig von Orten erzählt, die sie nicht kennen und meist noch nie gesehen haben: Amerika und Europa, Frankreich und Großbritannien, Schweden und Polen, Orte voller Entartung, Heuchelei und „Russophobie“. Eine Untersuchung des russischen Fernsehprogramms zwischen 2014 und 2017 ergab, dass auf den drei wichtigsten, allesamt staatlich kontrollierten russischen Kanälen durchschnittlich 18 Mal am Tag negative Nachrichten über Europa gezeigt wurden. Einige der Geschichten waren erfunden („die deutsche Regierung nimmt Familien gewaltsam Kinder weg und gibt sie an homosexuelle Paare“), aber auch wahre Geschichten bedienen ein bestimmtes Narrativ. Das tägliche Leben in Europa wurde als beängstigend und chaotisch dargestellt, Europäer als schwach und unmoralisch. Der Terrorismus greift um sich, die Menschen leben in Angst und Schrecken. Die Europäische Union ist aggressiv und regulativ, mal will sie die Ukraine als Atommüllsonderdeponie missbrauchen, mal zwingt sie ihre Mitglieder zu einer „russophoben“ Politik.

Selbst innerhalb dieses sich ständig verändernden Dramas aus Wut und Angst, das sich jeden Abend in den russischen Abendnachrichten abspielt, kam der Ukraine für lange Zeit eine besondere Rolle zu. Für die russische Propaganda ist die Ukraine kein richtiger Staat, hat keine Geschichte, keine Legitimität, und ist eigentlich nichts weiter als der „Südwesten von Russland“, ein unveräußerlicher Teil der „Geschichte, Kultur und des geistigen Raums“ unseres Russlands, wie Putin es formulierte. Schlimmer noch, dieser Nicht-Staat dient den amerikanischen und europäischen Feinden Russlands mittlerweile als Waffe und wurde von den degenerierten, dem Untergang geweihten westlichen Mächten in ein hasserfülltes „Anti-Russland“ verwandelt. Putin bezeichnete die Ukraine als „vollständig von außen kontrolliert“, als „Kolonie eines Marionettenregimes“. Er sei in die Ukraine einmarschiert, um Russland „gegen diejenigen zu verteidigen, die die Ukraine in Geiselhaft genommen haben und sie gegen unser Land und unser Volk ausspielen wollen.“

In Wirklichkeit ist es Putin, der in die Ukraine einmarschiert, um sie zur Kolonie seines Marionettenregimes zu machen. Dass die Ukraine längst eine andere Entwicklung genommen haben könnte, liegt außerhalb seines Vorstellungsvermögens, denn sein durch den KGB geprägtes Weltbild schließt die Möglichkeit einer authentischen Politik, einer Basisbewegung, einer öffentlichen Meinung aus. In Putins Sprache, in der Sprache der meisten russischen Fernsehkommentatoren und jetzt auch in der Sprache der meisten Russen haben die Ukrainer keine Handlungsmacht. Sie können keine Entscheidungen für sich selbst treffen. Sie können keine Regierung wählen. Sie sind nicht einmal Menschen, sondern „Nazis“. Und deswegen kann man sie, wie vormals die Kulaken, ohne Gewissensbisse, Bedenken oder Schuldgefühle beseitigen. Und genau das geschieht heute.


Es sei angemerkt, dass eine genozidale Sprache nicht zwingend mit einem genozidalen Verhalten einhergeht oder dieses vorwegnimmt. Menschen können sich gegenseitig kränken, erniedrigen, beschimpfen und trotzdem nie versuchen, einander zu töten. Aber selbst, wenn massive Hassrede nicht zwangsläufig zu Massenmorden führt, gehen Massenmorden zwangsläufig massive Hassreden voraus. Rückblickend hat sich der Propagandastaat, den Wladimir Putin schuf (mit Hilfe Zehntausender anderer Menschen, von grauen Apparatschiks und Armeeobersten bis hin zu eleganten, gut gekleideten und frisierten Fernsehmoderatorinnen), als ideales Vehikel für einen Massenmord und dessen Verschleierung vor der russischen Öffentlichkeit erwiesen. Sie hatten noch gar nicht begonnen und wussten schon, dass die Zerstörung dieses nichtexistenten Staates, dieses Anti-Russlands keinerlei Mitgefühl oder Mitleid auslösen würde bei einem Publikum, dass sie zu Skepsis und Zynismus erzogen hatten in Bezug auf alles und jeden, besonders jedoch in Bezug auf die ukrainischen „Marionetten“ Amerikas und Europas.

Von den ersten Kriegstagen an war offensichtlich, dass die russischen Militärstrategen viele Menschen, Millionen von Menschen zu töten, zu verwunden oder aus ihren Häusern in der Ukraine zu vertreiben gedachten. Auch früher hat es schon massive Angriffe auf Städte gegeben, von der alliierten Bombardierung Dresdens über die deutsche Bombardierung Coventrys bis hin zu Hiroshima und Nagasaki. Sie aber ereigneten sich nach Jahren eines schrecklichen Konflikts, dem schlimmsten in der europäischen Geschichte. Im Gegensatz dazu begann die Vernichtung von Mariupol und seiner Einwohner nur wenige Tage nach einer Invasion, der keine Provokation vorangegangen war, und sie diente allein dem Zweck der Entvölkerung dieser russischsprachigen Stadt. Mehr als 90 Prozent der Gebäude wurden zerstört, Stahlwerke und eine wirtschaftliche Infrastruktur, die eine erobernde Armee zu anderen Zeiten unter ihre Kontrolle gebracht hätte, wurden zusammen mit Wohnblocks, Straßen, Schulen und Krankenhäusern dem Erdboden gleichgemacht. Auf dem Höhepunkt der Kämpfe war die Zivilbevölkerung noch immer in der Stadt eingeschlossen, ohne Nahrungsmittel, Wasser oder Medikamente. Männer, Frauen und Kinder starben an Hunger und Dehydrierung. Fliehende wurden unter Beschuss genommen. Außenstehende, die Nachschub bringen wollten, wurden beschossen. Unbestattet blieben Leichen von ukrainischen Zivilisten wie auch die von russischen Soldaten auf den Straßen liegen.

Selbst in dem Moment, als dieses Verbrechen vor den Augen der Weltöffentlichkeit verübt wurde, vor laufenden Kameras, wonach die Fotos auf jedem Handy und Laptop auf unserem Planeten verfügbar waren, verheimlichte der russische Staat die Tragödie erfolgreich vor seinem eigenen Volk. Wie in der stalinistischen Vergangenheit kam ihm dabei der Jargon zu Hilfe. Im russischen Staatsfernsehen und in der Sprache der russischen Beamten war es keine Invasion, sondern eine „militärische Spezialoperation“. Es handelte sich nicht um einen Massenmord an Ukrainern, sondern um eine „Verteidigung“ der Bewohner in den von Russland illegal besetzten ostukrainischen Gebiete. Es war kein Genozid, sondern eine Abwehr des „vom Kiewer Regime verübten Genozids“.

Am Vorabend des Krieges hatte Putin zudem zur jahrzehntealten Propaganda über den perfiden Westen zurückgefunden und sich dabei einer Sprache bedient, die den meisten Russen bekannt vorkommen dürfte: „Sie waren bestrebt, unsere traditionellen Werte zu zerstören und uns ihre Pseudowerte aufzuzwingen, die uns, unser Volk, von innen heraus zersetzen würden – jene Haltungen, die sie bereits aggressiv in ihren Ländern durchsetzen und die direkt zu Degradierung und Entartung führen, da sie gegen die menschliche Natur selbst gerichtet sind.“

Während die Hungersnot das Ziel hatte, die existenzielle Bedrohung durch die Kulaken zu beseitigen, so hat dieser Krieg das Ziel, die existenzielle Bedrohung durch „Pseudowerte“ der demokratischen Welt außer Kraft zu setzen. Allen, die wegen der Zerstörung von Mariupol ein schlechtes Gewissen hatten, wurde zur Vertreibung dieses Gefühls folgendes an die Hand gegeben: Mariupol war eigentlich nur ein kleiner Teil einer existenziellen Bedrohung, die früher oder später beseitigt werden muss.

Rechtfertigungen wurden auch für jene bereitgestellt, die versehentlich ein paar Fotos von Mariupol gesehen hatten. Am 24. März zeigte das russische Fernsehen tatsächlich Aufnahmen von den Ruinen der Stadt – Drohnenaufnahmen, die möglicherweise bei CNN gestohlen wurden. Aber anstatt die Verantwortung zu übernehmen, wurden die Ukrainer beschuldigt. Eine Fernsehmoderatorin beschrieb die Szene mit traurigem Ton als „schreckliches Bild. Die [ukrainischen] Nationalisten wollen auf ihrem Rückzug kein Stein auf dem anderen lassen.“ Das russische Verteidigungsministerium beschuldigte sogar das Asow-Bataillon, eine bekanntlich radikale Kampftruppe, das Theater von Mariupol in die Luft gesprengt zu haben, die Zuflucht von Hunderten von Kindern. Warum sollten überpatriotische ukrainische Kräfte absichtlich ukrainische Kinder töten? Das wurde nicht erklärt, aber es wird ja ohnehin nie etwas erklärt. Die russischen Fernsehzuschauer sind darauf trainiert, alles, was sie sehen und hören, mit Vorsicht zu genießen: Wenn man nichts sicher weiß, kann man auch niemanden beschuldigen. Vielleicht wurde Mariupol von „Nationalisten“ zerstört. Vielleicht auch nicht. Da können keine Konsequenzen gezogen werden, da ist niemand verantwortlich.

Bisher funktioniert das ganz gut. Selbst jetzt, bei der voranschreitenden Mobilisierung, schweigt die russische Öffentlichkeit. Die Täter fühlen sich zumeist im Recht. Mitschnitte von Telefongesprächen zwischen russischen Soldaten und ihren Familien – sie benutzen gewöhnliche Sim-Karten, die leicht abzuhören sind – zeigen Verachtung für die Ukrainer. „Ich habe auf ein Auto geschossen“, sagt ein Soldat bei einem der Telefongespräche zu seiner Frau oder seiner Schwester. „Erschießt die Wichser“, antwortet sie, „Hauptsache, es trifft euch nicht. Scheiß auf sie. Verdammte Drogensüchtige und Nazis.“ Im Gespräch werden gestohlene Fernsehapparate erwähnt, das Trinken von Cognac und das Erschießen von Menschen in Wäldern. Keine Betroffenheit über die Gefallenen, nicht einmal die eigenen. Präsident Selenski wunderte sich in einem Interview über die Unbekümmertheit, mit denen die Russen den Ukrainern ein paar Müllsäcke anboten für ihre eigenen Leichen: „So behandelt man nicht einmal einen Hund oder eine Katze, wenn sie stirbt.“

Das ist keine Begeisterung für Gewalt, sondern nur Gleichgültigkeit gegenüber Gewalt, dem menschlichen Leben und jeder Art von Moral. Selbst der Versuch des russischen Staates, mit der Z-Kampagne ein wenig patriotische Begeisterung für den Krieg zu wecken, scheint gescheitert. Sie existiert in sozialen Medien, nicht jedoch im realen Leben.

Russische Bürger und russische Soldaten haben den Krieg hingenommen, weil sie aus der eigenen Geschichte nichts gelernt haben, weil der ukrainische Holodomor, der Gulag oder der stalinistische Terror von 1937/38 nie aufgearbeitet wurden. Nie haben die Täter Reue gezeigt. Die Krawtschenkos und Kopelews waren in der Minderheit und schlugen lediglich kleine Wellen im großen Ozean der Gleichgültigkeit. „Das sind keine Menschen, das ist Kulakengesocks“ – dieses Gefühl beherrschte die Herzen der meisten Sowjetbürger, die wussten, was geschehen war. Die anderen versuchten mehrheitlich nicht einmal, es herauszufinden. Der Krieg gegen die Ukraine ist nun das Ergebnis. Er sollte uns alle daran gemahnen, dass Geschichte erinnert werden muss, ihre Lektionen verinnerlicht werden müssen, heute wie in der fernen Vergangenheit.



Übersetzung ins Deutsche von Franziska Zwerg