by Arkadijus Vinokuras
You have to have malice to call me a Russophobe. I am addressing several Russian-speaking Jews of Vilnius who are spreading this lie. I have the highest regard for all kinds of Russian art. By personal invitation of legendary clown Yuri Nikulin I performed in his circus in Moscow. Also at the invitation of legendary Taganka Theater director Yuri Lubimov, I performed in his presentation of Master and Margarita at Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theater. Several of my best poems were written in Russian. Incidentally, I write poetry in Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, English and Spanish.
So what horrible thing has happened to begin this malicious campaign against my person? Is it that I have foundation to say the Vilnius Jewish Community elections for chairman initiated by Simonas Gurevičius have nothing in common with democratic principles? If that’s it, no one has even attempted to rebut my arguments. So what else is left? To turn my well-founded criticism into the accusation that I am insulting the Russian-speaking Jews of Vilnius. That’s just cheap. But if anyone does feel falsely “suspected” of something, I sincerely apologize.
The accusation is without basis. When the fascists of any European state murdered our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, they didn’t care a bit which language they were speaking. After the 1917 Revolution around 100,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms. When Lithuanian Jews were deported to the gulag by order of Josef Stalin, it didn’t matter what language they spoke. Before and after World War II Russian Jews were subject to “cleansing” and tens of thousands of Russian Jews died in the gulags.
This is my statement which brought on the storm: “There is another problem, that of mentality, afflicting the Vilnius Jewish Community. For instance, the majority of those 260 VJC members who assembled speak Russian exclusively among themselves. They only watch Russian television channels. The don’t understand terms such as democratic elections and democratic election and democratic election campaign procedures.” I am clearly talking only about 260 people and I stress “the majority of them.” In other words, my statement has nothing to do with the 2,000 other Jews in Vilnius, many of whom are Russian speakers. On what considerations was my statement based? I wanted to explain what I believed were the reasons the democratic rules of the game were violated and ignored. After all, 260 people voted in elections which clearly violated the principles of fair elections and the community was divided. The easiest thing to do was to reject my arguments at a primitive and emotional level, shouting “Gospodin Vinokuras padsadnaya utka Faini.” And also by accusing me of belittling Russian-speaking Jews.