The book by Nadezhda Azhgikhina “Honest word. Masters of journalism about the boundaries of truth and freedom", M., 2020
We can say that this is an encyclopedia of Russian journalism at the turn of eras and after it. And journalism is a reflection of life. Including when the journalists themselves seem to only talk about their work, about its details and stories. In fact, it turns out a brighter, more voluminous reflection of reality in paintings drawn by such masters of pen and ether as Svetlana Aleksiyevich, Leonid Zhukhovitsky, Lidia Grafova, Yuri Rost, Yeva Merkachyova, Boris Minayev, Oksana Pushkina, Vladimir Mukusev, Yulia Kalinina, Pavel Gusev and others.
The book of Nadezhda Azhgikhina "Honest Word" is interesting to everyone. But does everyone fully understand? Certainly, it is understandable to the older generation, regardless of their occupation, and to young editorial staff, because they work side by side with veterans, know from them what and how it was. But their peers from other areas will be more difficult, since they grew up in a different country. Therefore, especially for them I will tell a couple of tales that recreate the paradoxical realities of that being.
In 1975, having come to live in the old Russian town of Tarusu and became there an employee of the regional newspaper "October", I published a feuilleton "For the hens to laugh at". And he was amazed at the public effect like a bomb explosion. It turns out that in the foreseeable past 15 years, there were no feuilletons about the local authorities in this newspaper at all. (Probably, here you need a certificate of what a feuilleton is. According to the definition of the Soviet literary encyclopedia: "Publicistic form, characteristic of periodicals and characterized by topicality of the subject, satirical acuteness or humor").
According to the prevailing stereotypes about those times, it follows that the editor was immediately given such a hassle that he forgot such a word - "feuilleton". But here the plot is more complicated. Editor Vladimir Sergeevich Petrov (in private so that no one else would hear!) Conveyed to me an oral message from the first secretary of the district party committee, Alexey Sergeyevich Venikov: “Come on! Only the two of us are newcomers, all the others have intertwined and reborn for a thousand years, no one will touch anyone and say a word. Fear nothing, I'm with you!"
The editor, as a representative of the old school of journalism, asked me to use - for biting and colorfulness - antique, ancient Greek and ancient Roman motives. And I have used. The feuilleton "Carthage must be destroyed" began like this: "Oh, great Cato, rise from oblivion and look at the director of the city farm Nikolai Stepanovich Demchenko!" When I walked down the street, people stopped and watched. Unfamiliar hard workers - the proletarians have nothing to lose! - they ran up, shook hands, clapped on the shoulder, laughed. There could be no greater glory.
Many of our comrades from small regional and city newspapers lived in such hot, searing glory then (and still live!). But they, in the majority, primarily editors, risked their positions and well-being, and I denounced right and left in complete safety - I, a long-haired frontier individual, was in the "secret service" of the first secretary of the district party committee! That was the plot.
Another example of the paradox of that life is from the highest, all-Union spheres and, accordingly, the all-Union scale. Anatoly Agranovsky - "Soviet journalist No. 1", endowed with the highest confidence in the authorities: he wrote a memoir of the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee L.I. Brezhnev's "Renaissance". Four years earlier, Agranovsky had published an essay "Fairings" in Izvestia.
There was such a form of mobilization of workers in production - "socialist competition". This is when collectives and individual workers took "socialist commitments" - to overfulfill the plan by a certain percentage. (It's another matter, why overfulfill it, if everything is being produced according to plan?) Here one of the workers at the aircraft plant, like everyone else, was slipped a paper with prepared words and numbers for signature. And he balked: "I'm a cool turner, I can do more than it says here." Him: "Don't show off, do like everyone else." And that principled communist - not in any. The conflict rolled from instance to instance, growing like a snowball. It got to the city party committee, and ended with the fact that the principled turner (the working class!) Was expelled from the party! With the light hand of Izvestia, newspapers began to publish materials under the heading "Against Formalism in Competition," but an order to stop was soon followed. Because it became clear that there was no competition, and there was no sense in it, but only formalism and stupidity.
In 2012, Valery Vyzhutovich, one of the heroes of the book "Honest Word", wrote to the 90th anniversary of Anatoly Agranovsky: "I was not a dissident, I did not conflict with the authorities, but with each of his essays he undermined the foundations, showing the absurdity of Soviet reality".
About the same, only in a different way, said another hero of Nadezhda Azhgikhina's book - the executive secretary of the legendary "Ogonyok" of the perestroika years, Alexander Shcherbakov: "We were not dissidents, but anti-Soviet".
Here again it is necessary to explain to the young semantic paradoxes and shape-shifters. We were not "anti-Soviet" either! This is how the communist government branded us. We were just for the democratically elected Soviets of Working People's Deputies - against the dictatorship of the CPSU. This was manifested in the years of perestroika and glasnost, when the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” Reappeared, put forward, by the way, by the communist, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachyov.
It should also be added that some authors in some modern media sometimes stigmatize someone: “He was a“ commie ”! Here we need to understand. I, who have never been part of a party or even a Komsomol, must remind: glasnost and freedom of speech began in the bowels of the apparatus of the CPSU Central Committee, headed by General Secretary Gorbachev. Many leading journalists of that era were members of the CPSU. Of course, the editors-in-chief of the most "anti-Soviet" newspapers and magazines, which the country was read with - Alexander Chakovsky, Yegor Yakovlev, Vitaly Korotich, Mikhail Poltoranin, Pavel Gusev... Chakovsky is a candidate for the Central Committee. His status was a shield not only for LG as a whole, but also for the authors of the newspaper, employees, especially for the correspondents, who were constantly sharpened by the local authorities.
Now it is difficult to imagine in what conditions one had to work. Fierce censorship, ideological pressure, the idea of journalists as “the party's henchmen”, the fear of editors that any critical speech on a private (only private!) Occasion will be perceived as a “generalization”, an attempt on the “Soviet social system”. The atmosphere was familiar from childhood, nothing else was imagined, but, nevertheless, they tried to be, as another hero of the book "Honest Word" Boris Minaev says, "free people in an unfree country." Now, in any case, everything is different. However, the editor-in-chief of the most popular Moskovsky Komsomolets Pavel Gusev looks more than skeptical at the present:
“We live in an upside down world ... We must not humiliate the profession, calling everyone a journalist who reprints all sorts of nasty things for money on different Internet platforms. We ourselves are destroying our profession when we are trying to keep up with those who seek to gain as many likes on the Web as possible. We don’t think that in five to ten years nothing of journalism will be left ... Journalism is a vocation, the main thing in our business is a sense of duty to the word, to the reader, viewer, listener ... The most important thing is that the state must understand that it destroys itself by its existing relationship with the media. The fact that today more than 80 percent of our media are state-owned or somehow affiliated with the state is essentially the destruction of media and journalism".
Pavel Gusev is echoed by others, including the author of the book Nadezhda Azhgikhina:
“Never in the history of the press have journalists been subjected to such systemic pressure as they are today ... They are not needed by corrupt politicians. They are a hindrance to arbitrary policemen ... Tycoons and officials, including the most senior, convince fellow citizens that the time of journalism as a public mission is irrevocably gone".
I think the essence of the complaints that there is no freedom of speech in Russia is rather connected not so much with the concept of freedom of speech as such, but with what was previously called "the effectiveness of the press", in the reaction of society and the state. There is freedom of speech in Russia! There is independent Internet television, there are newspapers that print such that the hair stands on end... Only on our freedom of speech the authorities have "freedom of hearing". According to the principle: but we don't hear what you are shouting at all - write what you want, we don't give a damn about it...
By the way, I (and not only me) have long been using the expression "freedom of hearing" as my own. And the first to introduce it into circulation was Lydia Grafova, the heroine of Nadezhda Azhgikhina's book "Honest Word", back in the second half of the 80s:
“We were told to freedom of speech with“ freedom of hearing ”... I was spoiled by efficiency, and how many bright victories there were!.. The most tragic thing is that the lower classes stopped reading. In a normal country, journalism relies on people, but here..."
Let us dwell on the last words of Grafova. The strength of journalism lies in the reaction of society and the population. And here it is close to zero. There is no awareness that the authorities must be held accountable. There is no tradition that is even stronger than the law.
I will give an example of not a particular dramatic, tragic incident, made public by the press, but a general one, materially affecting everyone . The so-called loans-for-shares auctions at the end of 1995 followed a scenario that entirely fell under the Criminal Code. Fraudulently, for nothing, the largest enterprises of the country were given to the private hands of those close to the authorities. The Accounts Chamber (the highest body of state control in the Russian Federation) in 1996 and 2004 applied to the Prosecutor General's Office and the State Duma. Of course, the newspapers immediately wrote that the country had been brazenly plundered in front of everyone. The authorities did not answer. The people were silent. Maybe you didn't understand?
If the people did not react to this, what can we say about their indifference to freedom of speech in general, and even more so to journalists.
Remembering the past, Nadezhda Azhgikhina writes:
“The trust in the journalists was incredible ... Circulation was unrealistic by today's standards. Komsomolskaya Pravda published 17 million copies ... The journalists were known by their names, they wrote personal letters - they received hundreds of envelopes every day. And if a journalist went on a business trip with a letter, then surely something happened later - the publication could also release the unjustly convicted person from prison..."
She speaks from her experience of working for an all-union, incredibly popular newspaper. And I - from the hinterland, from the "district". I will never forget how on New Year's Eve from 1975 to 1976, on a patch between the district restaurant and garages, Tarusa driver Volodya Shavokshin opened a bottle of champagne, poured it into cut glasses and proclaimed: “For journalists! Fuck, where can you find people like journalists!"
Now Azhgikhina, in an interview with Novy Izvestia, notes with bitterness: “Less than 40% of Russians consider the problem of civil liberties, including freedom of speech, important for themselves personally. Probably, the situation will change in earnest only when people begin to consider freedom of speech - and the safety of journalists - as their personal pressing issue".
Freedom of speech is still something in common. But the “safety of journalists” is concrete, human. But ... “When Politkovskaya died, no more than 50 people gathered for the rally, we were guarded by about the same number of policemen,” continues Azhgikhina. - And at the rally in her memory in Italy a year later gathered 30 thousand! Many, I am sure, did not read it, but the very fact of the murder of the journalist angered them".
But the Russians, it turns out, no. They did not particularly notice. Despite the fact that Anna Politkovskaya is a big name, all the newspapers wrote about her murder. Others, less well-known, are not known at all.
Pavel Gutiontov said at the 2016 congress of Russian journalists:
"It can be considered a national shame that almost 350 journalists have died in Russia over the past quarter of a century, and at the same time not a single significant, high-profile case has been fully investigated, and those who ordered these crimes have never been named".
Suppose the state, closing its eyes and ears, pursues some of its own goals. But why is the people silent? In Soviet times, even for the little that could be done, the workers of the editorial offices were considered by the people as intercessors. Now investigative journalists are being killed for speaking the truth - but the people do not notice. Not up to them, your worries and worries full?
Perhaps our attitude to freedom of speech is affected not only by the general ill-being of life, causing indifference and misunderstanding, but also by fear. Fear of active participation in social and political life, participation in protest actions. This is both a partial explanation and a partial justification. It is normal to be afraid, it is an instinct for self-preservation, you want to live, you do not want trouble. In what conditions people live - and so they react.
Probably, my response to Nadezhda Azhgikhina's book "Honest Word" turned out to be extremely lengthy, but I think any colleague in my place would have written about the same. Because the book is like this - leads to many, many thoughts and memories. Already the title - “Honestly. Masters of journalism on the boundaries of truth and freedom".
Journalism is a word about life.
Here is a photograph I took on the banks of the Yauza, in the Moscow district of Otradnoye. This is a pipeline across the river. And it is written on it...
Of course, this was not written by adult fathers of families (they don't do graffiti), but young people, teenagers. What did they want to say? What to convey to the world? What thoughts and feelings? The magical, mysterious beginning of the Gospel of John - "In the beginning was the Word ..." A word about what was seen, about the appearance of the world and about the world? The word is the world reflected in perception, the materialization of thought. A person thinks - it means he exists. And vice versa.
Leo Tolstoy explained the magical, mysterious first words of the Gospel of John as follows: "The beginning of everything was the understanding of life." The word is the understanding of life.
Briefing note from Novye Izvestia:
Nadezhda Azhgikhina is a graduate of the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University, Ph.D. in Philology, worked in Komsomolskaya Pravda, Ogonok, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, executive director of the Russian non-governmental human rights organization PEN-Moscow, which unites writers, journalists, translators, editors, publishers, professional Russian language bloggers, Russian member of the International PEN Club.