The publication of our special issue BASTA! has generated a lot of interest in Russian leftist and liberal circles. Hard on the heels of the issue’s presentation, in late February, the Russian politics web portal Polit.Ru interviewed two Chto Delat co-founders, Dmitry Vilensky and Artemy Magun. They discussed the newspaper’s history, the current conjuncture in Russia, and the differences between western and Russian leftism. Below, we present our readers with part one of a two-part interview. We hope to publish part two in the next week or so. (The original Russian text of the interview can be found here.)
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“We Are Westernizers Who Struggle Against the Local Westernizers”
A Conversation with Dmitry Vilensky and Artemy Magun, Part I
The reconfiguration of Russian state power and the public discussion that should complement this process present us with the task of taking stock of the social and political stances that exist in our society. It is not the orthodox Soviet variety of leftist thought that is underrepresented in serious discussion. We don’t have in mind the run-of-the-mill leftism and the “anti-bourgeois” attitude that is fairly fashionable in bohemia and intelligentsia circles, but the attempt to make sense of the Soviet and post-Soviet past of our country, its current state and perspectives for the future from a leftist viewpoint. One such attempt is the Chto Delat platform. The group was founded in the summer of 2003 after the action “New Foundations for Petersburg.” In August 2003, the Chto Delat collective began publishing an eponymous newspaper (in Russian and English). The project’s creators define it as follows: “To create a space of cooperation between theory, art, and activism that aims to politicize all three forms of activity. The platform carries out its work through a network of collective initiatives in Russia and their interaction with the international context.” Tatyana Kosinova discussed the Chto Delat platform, leftist discourse, and the political context with two members of the Chto Delat workgroup—artist Dmitry Vilensky (Saint Petersburg) and Artemy Magun, a professor in the department of political science and sociology at the European University in Saint Petersburg.