Sunday interview. “Dictators are afraid to laugh,” says author Sacha Filipenko

Born in 1984 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, Sacha Filipenko has published a new novel. a lost son (Black on White) is a book that has been translated all over Europe and where he defends his country’s cause. Report.

Tell us about your country, which has not been spoken since the war in Ukraine…

“Belarus has been forgotten. We admired the Belarusians who fought the dictatorship two years ago, now they are treated as complicit with the Russians… Still nothing has changed, they continue to fight for their freedom, the people take to the streets against the war, the repression continues. »

The courage of Belarusians is impressive. Did it surprise you?

“No, because I know my friends. What surprised me when I came from Russia to attend the demonstrations? [en août 2020, après la présidentielle, NDLR]is the number of people going out. in 2010 [premières manifestations contre Alexandre Loukachenko]We were much less in number. »

The hero of your novel is in a coma like his country… What does a country in a coma look like?

“The French reader will have a hard time imagining this: no political parties, no independent media, no debate… You have to imagine being arrested for wearing red-white-red socks. [couleurs nationales interdites sous l’URSS puis par Loukachenko]. »

“They arrested a clapping penguin, a mute who allegedly shouted hostile slogans…”

In Minsk, your father was also arrested because he was wearing a Bayern Munich football club scarf…

“Yes, a red and white scarf. For clapping a penguin, they arrested a mute penguin for allegedly chanting hostile slogans…”

It’s scary and at the same time makes you want to laugh…

“And you should definitely laugh at that! Dictators are afraid to laugh because laughter guards against fear. »

In Belarus, Ukraine, the exit from the political coma is made in violence, in war. Can we imagine a smooth exit?

“You cannot compare the two countries, their stories are different, the traumas of the Soviet Union are not the same. We wanted to try a smooth, gradual exit in Belarus, and it was the violent state. If our demonstrations were peaceful, this is the choice, and because people in Belarus do not have weapons. But today we see the Belarusian battalion Kastous-Kalinowski. [du nom d’un héros national] Fight in Ukraine alongside the Ukrainian army. »

And how do you see the European position?

“Europe is a war lover, she falls in love, and then this love passes quickly… I have a friend who is looking for money to equip Ukrainian soldiers. When I asked if painting the Eiffel Tower in Ukrainian colors helped him a lot, no, I’m looking for more help from Europe! »

“It is true that Europe is helping Ukraine, but I have the impression that Putin is always one step behind. Everyone in Germany told me that they wanted to help Ukraine, but when I asked if they were ready to close the airspace, to hand over weapons as Ukraine wanted, they said no because they are afraid of the Third World War. …”

The sanctions will have an effect, but when Putin razes Ukraine…”

And penalties?

“Sanctions do not work. Europe believed that they would protest the Russians, but the last mass protests date back to 2012, when Russian society was still wealthy. Then there was no one on the street against the murder of Nemtsov. [février 2015] or Navalny’s poisoning [octobre 2021]. »

I’m in favor of sanctions, but they should have been passed in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. We see that Putin wants to destroy Ukraine. It only knows the language of power, it has money, and Ukraine has no means to resist it. Putin knows that Europe is not ready for radical action. He despises Europe so much after Crimea that he even hoped that there would be no sanctions! So these sanctions will have an effect, only when they have already destroyed Ukraine…”

You’ve been living in Russia for fifteen years, your spouse is Russian… Do you understand the Levada Institute’s polls showing the majority of Russia’s support for Vladimir Putin?

“Don’t believe the polls: in a concentration camp people should answer what they know, not what they think. But we can clearly see that the popular support is genuine, otherwise the war could not have continued. »

“There are many reasons for this… Firstly, Russian society has become atomized, there is no more civil society. There is no unity in the country anymore: Kazan lives its life, Moscow lives its life, Chechnya too… And the Russians do not have a culture of protest. We also see the power of Russian propaganda working abroad with Russia Today. [RT] : There are ten RTs in Russia. And then the level of police violence in Russia is unimaginable in France…”

“I also want to show that Russian can also be a language of freedom. »

You are writing in Russian while the Belarusian language is experiencing a renaissance in opposition to Russia, such as the Ukrainian language. Can you write in Belarusian?

“I don’t like language becoming political. I am Belarusian, I feel Belarusian, I speak Russian and dream, my mother is Russian, my father is Ukrainian and my surname is Ukrainian. I am ready to help the Belarusian language to be treated the same as Russian in education, in the media, but I will always write in Russian. I also want to show that Russian does not belong to the Empire, Putin, but can also be a language of freedom. »