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Hard fight ahead

Interview: Roman Goncharenko / smsDecember 27, 2012

The lead singer in the underground rock band DDT in the 1980s, Yuri Shevchuk, looks back at the state of the Russian protest movement in 2012 and tells DW why he's counting on young people to change the country.

Two of the organisers of the opposition rally "For Fair Elections," Boris Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister and opposition leader and rock musician Yuri Shevchuk take part in the rally in central Moscow, on February 4, 2012, Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

DW: Over the last year, you have taken part in several demonstrations organized by opposition groups. And you called for parliamentary elections held in December 2011 to be repeated because of allegations of fraud. Are you disappointed that new elections have not taken place?

Yuri Shevchuk: No, because it's what I expected. In the last year, the government was a little speechless and shocked by the protests. But it quickly reordered itself and splintered the opposition. It is, of course, a shame that the waves of protests have decreased, but it's not terrible. Now is the time to restructure the opposition and think over what has happened.

You have to understand history to be well-grounded. I think of it this way: In 1991, there was a civilian-democratic revolution. The people were promised property and civil rights. But the powerful divided property among themselves and simply forgot about civil freedoms. The people received neither property nor civil institutions nor freedom. In my opinion, democracy has not ruled here for a single second. We still have to work long and hard. My great band and I, as an artist, speak with people about it. I try to re-establish people's trust in democracy.

Has the protest movement failed?

Nothing has failed. There has not been an Armageddon, and - thank God - the world has not ended. We have a bright future ahead of us. We do not need to be afraid of it. All we have to do is work and live life to the fullest.

You recently ended a tour of Russia. What are people talking about?

Yuri Shevchuk Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images
Shevchuk said he's counting on young people in RussiaImage: Getty Images/AFP

Young people in every city asked me, "Yuri, when is the revolution going to happen?" I try to philosophize and ask them what revolution is and what a rebellion is and how they differ. A revolution can be of an intellectual nature, as occurs in the arts, and there can be social revolutions. This is something I'm thinking over as well as young people.

What do young people want?

Justice. Why are Russian young people voluntarily joining charity organizations? This year there have been a lot of benefit concerts and there were lots of young people everywhere. I trust Russian young people because there is nothing they are indifferent about. They do not see money as the most important thing in life. They count on other things - like more humanity, which is very important.

What is the most important change to happen in Russia in recent years?

The youth. They are brave and active. Young people want a bright future for Russia. There aren't a lot of these young people but they're around today.

Russian parliament passed laws in 2012 that have been criticized in Russia and internationally. Freedom of assembly has been limited. Non-government organizations have been labeled "foreign agents" if they received funding from abroad. Some people have even likened the situation to repression under Stalin.

That is an exaggeration. My grandfather and great-grandfather were shot in 1937. There aren't any shootings yet. I would not make such a comparison. But today other measures are being taken, since some people are afraid of civil society. Because they are scared, people are turned to zombies by television, radio and all the politicians and parties in power. In Russia, there is a battle between the old and the new. This has happened before and is not unusual. I do not know who will win.

A few years ago you met with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. If you had the opportunity now, what would you say to current President Putin?

I don't know. Everything is so clear to me. Back then, several things were unclear, and I had questions. There's a line in one of our songs to summarize it, "What will become of our homeland and of us?" Today, I understand the situation.

What is it?

It will be a hard fight.

Yuri Shevchuk is the founder of the rock band DDT. It was one of the most well-known bands in the Soviet underground in the 1980s and remains popular. The 55-year-old musician is also a poet, composer, producer and actor. He is regarded as a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin. In the winter of 2011, Shevchuk supported the protest movement that arose after allegations of voter fraud in parliamentary elections.

Interview: Roman Goncharenko / sms