Part of the interview with Vladimir Megre
for the Russian newspaper Zavtra [Tomorrow]
We are speaking with the writer Vladimir Nikolaevich Megre at his Kin's Domain near the city of Vladimir.
ZAVTRA: I am meeting with you at the peak of your literary prominence, success, fame. How did it all start?
MEGRE: I used to be a businessman. In general, I'm like that by nature. Then I had the good fortune to meet people like Agafia Lykova, who live in the taiga, far from any cities. Agafia herself was taken by force from her squatter's holding. She became ill. And went back. Where she continues to live peacefully. People like this interested me very much. But I noticed that everyone, including Vasiliy Peskov, wrote about the difficulties of their way of life. I, on the other hand, decided to write about their philosophy. This excited me so much that I gave up my entire business. I sat down for a year and wrote Anastasia. It was printed by Moscow Printing - House No. 11, which did not have its own distribution network. The manager was an acquaintance of mine. He printed two thousand copies for me as a favour, consider it to be free. "Go ahead, take them away," he said. I took a bundle of them, went out to the Moscow flea markets. People were asking me: "What's it about?" "Well," I'd say, "about people, how they live in nature, their spiritual life." "No one needs that," they'd say. "Unknown author. There's no gilding on the book. Bring us a mystery novel." I went off empty handed. I wondered how I got into this mess! No money. Literally nothing to eat. I stopped at the Taganskaya Metro Station. Decided to sell the books myself. When the militia chased me away, I'd go to another spot. I sold a few that way. About two days later, I'm standing on my "spot," selling. A car suddenly pulls up. Out steps a business man - you can tell right away. I still even remember his name: Nikitin. "How many books do you have left?" "About fifteen hundred." He says: "Let's go! My wife has been driving me crazy." We go to the printing - house. He takes what's left. Sells them all quickly. Asks for more to be printed. This edition again sells out. That's how it went. Soon the St. Petersburg publisher DILYA began to print editions of thirty thousand each. It's being translated in dozens of countries. And it's strange, I don't feel any particular changes in myself. I simply feel like writing more about what I am thinking.
ZAVTRA: Your epic, if we can call it that, involves one family. Mother, father, son, grandfather.... Everything happens around them. They are the main characters in the books. In the last, The New Civilization, I remember the episode where a village boy proposes a brilliantly simple way to bury nuclear waste.
MEGRE: Children who are not riveted to a computer have much stronger thought processes. That is why China and Japan are now on the rise. Because the consciousness of these nations is in many respects childish in comparison to European consciousness. The children there are not cut off from nature. Any computer program is less perfect than a small insect crawling on a leaf. The Chinese and Japanese child always bears this in mind. And because of that, the child is able to operate this same computer incommensurably more effectively.
ZAVTRA: Let us turn to more basic matters. National projects have been adopted here in Russia...
MEGRE: Medvedev said some wonderful things about a one - storied Russia, about the fact that people are returning to abandoned lands. This is a revolution, and a spiritual one as well. But notice how they are dragging this into the mud. Have you read even a single inspired article about this? Neither have I. On the contrary, there is a hidden criticism written between the lines. The press really maliciously ridiculed Medvedev when he came to a village for the opening of a gas pipeline in Bryansk Oblast. Here, they wrote, a event for Russia! I even saw a cartoon where Medvedev is frying eggs on a gas stove for an old woman, and a chicken in the background is reproaching him for breaking the last egg. That creates a negative image for the entire project of reviving the village. Without a positive image, the people will not go to the land. But a wonderful image of the future was created in my "Ringing Cedars." And following that image people without money went to the land. They started to create kin's domains. There are now about three hundred villages like that across Russia. But this is just small - scale marketing. What would happen if they weren't knocked down? If a film were made and released on the main television channel? If "The Year of the Kin's Domain" was announced? You know, I'll say it again, these people would go reclaim abandoned lands without looking to someone for assistance. In ten years, still in our lifetime, Russia, this same Russia of meadows, forests, and provinces, would flourish! Women, young people, have begun to build homes with their own hands. It turns out that you don't have to pay five thousand dollars for a square metre. You can build a good house for a hundred thousand rubles ($4000 USD). That's fantastic!
At a country home, on six ares of land, it is impossible to create an ecosystem. It is impossible to plant a good tree. It will unavoidably cast a shadow on your neighbor's land, the roots will also cross the lot line. It is impossible to dig a pond there. Or plan a meadow with herbaceous vegetation, with medicinal plants. Of course, you won't get a good garden either. On a hectare, on the other hand, you can "hurry" the natural processes in such a way that they will supplement themselves, the expenditures of labour will be minimal. I acquired this plot, where the garden had not been tended for about five years. But it is bearing fruit. I got four hundred and fifty litres of good wine. Why should we import cheap plonk? We must be closer to nature. To the bear and the wolf. Previously, newlyweds were given a puppy, kitten, colt, calf, and a piglet. The newlyweds placed them into one flock. And the animals lived harmoniously in this small space. In contact with humans, animals lose the need to defend their own territory. In Siberia, in remote villages, bears are kept and used for plowing instead of horses.
ZAVTRA: And you are suddenly exchanging the freedom of Siberia for this little hill in Vladimir? What's the reason?
MEGRE: It's related to the publication of my books. You just can't drive from Novosibirsk to Moscow. And the editions are coming out one after another. In addition, I was actively involved, from proof - reading to designing the dust jacket. And in the texts, of course, something changes with time. I began to wonder where I should base myself. I came here - the air is so fresh, and it's so quiet. Moscow is two and a half hours away. St. Petersburg - a night on the train. You couldn't imagine anything better. It's more convenient to live here, more peaceful, less expensive.
I wrote the first book by hand. And I lived very poorly then. My best friends didn't believe that something would work out for me. I even skimped on the subway. I handed the manuscript to a student for typing over the turnstile so I wouldn't spend any money. The friends to whom I showed the first chapters initially laughed. And then, once, one of them says, it would be good if Anastasia came here and peeled some potatoes for us. I realized that the image had come to life. Some student programmers made a model for me as a favour. I am so grateful to them. After a while, when readers' conferences about the books began to gather together, I invited the young people, wanted to put them up on the stage, but they are so modest that they were too shy to go.
ZAVTRA: This summer I vacationed in Gelendzhik for a week. And that's where all of a sudden I heard about you. About your books. It was related to the dolmens - the ancient burial places in the mountains. Conferences about your books are held there as well. A lot of pilgrims show up. To tell the truth, I thought you had some sort of base there.
MEGRE: That's always the way it is. No one believes that I don't organize anything. I don't have a base, other than this house. In general I am inclined to solitude. Sometimes I won't talk to anyone for a month, not even by telephone. To live here on my domain, for me this is the greatest happiness. All those conferences are absolutely spontaneous. I happened to be in many European countries where my books are published. I saw, felt the impassioned response from "civilized" Europeans. I know that Putin recently received a letter from Germany, where 60 of our former countrymen asked for help in acquiring kin's domains, in hastening the adoption of the Kin's Domains Act, then they would move to Russia permanently. I think that there will be floods of settlers from other countries as well. We shall again settle Siberia, the route of the Baikal - Amur Railway. The idea of kin's estates has been tested in practice. It only needs to be written into law, and the demographic situation will be turned around.
Used by permission