In August 2013 I was fortunate to attend the performance of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony, entitled Babi Yar in tribute to the almost 34,000 Jews murdered in the ravine of that name near the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in the midst of World War II. by the Nazi invaders aided by Ukrainian collaborators.
The work was masterfully performed by the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Gergiev is one of the greatest current conductors, he is also a personal friend of Vladimir Putin.
A few days ago Gergiev was expelled from those Western orchestras in which he played a leading role, the Munich Philharmonic, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Milan Scala, for not condemning the Putin regime’s aggression against Ukraine.
Gergiev chose to fully support Putin’s action and that, like other Russians, leads him to territories of ignominy and affront for a few years, perhaps many years. Gergiev’s mastery is one thing, the intolerable aggression of the current tsar another.
Babi Yar, the work by Shostakovich that I had the pleasure of listening to under the extraordinary direction of Gergiev, is based on a poem by the Russian writer Yevgueni Yevtushenko, to commemorate the massacre carried out by the Nazis in that area near Kiev, which today is part urban of the Ukrainian capital. Precisely, next to the commemorative monument of the massacre, the television and communications tower was raised, which, also a few days ago, was destroyed by Russian missiles in a premeditated attack within the framework of this intolerable and insufferable invasion.
In September 1941 the Nazis surrounded Kiev, as the Russian army will do now. History repeats itself.
The man with that point of malignity in his eyes that is Putin, or his foreign minister, Lavrov, face of reinforced concrete, scare the world. And they are scary because they have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads. Germany trembles at the possibility of being cold in winter because the Nord Stream 2, which was going to solve its problems of energy dependence, and which was promoted by Angela Merkel and Putin himself, is now a cursed project. The West trembles, in turn, when it sees Putin, and that point of malignity in his gaze, on television, and wonders if he will be able to unleash the nuclear apocalypse.
Meanwhile, comedian Zelensky, the Ukrainian president who Putin thought would run like rats as soon as the guns rang out and the missiles rained down, has become the hero of the hour and his Ukrainian people are going to lose the war. but he will win peace, if it comes. On the way are the Gergievs on duty, the great Russian names of culture, sports, business… is it fair to ban them?
If they are on Putin’s side, they can continue like this, it is their right. The mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, is also within his rights to give the conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra a period of two days to condemn the aggression against Ukraine or, in another case, be fired, no matter how Gergiev it is. It is time to show decision and forcefulness, at least the same that Putin shows with his order to send thousands of young people to die for who knows what, to a sister country.
Russia is a country used to having great outlaws. It was Lenin, with the Tsar. Trotsky and millions of Russians were with Stalin. Shostakovich himself became an outlaw and his play Babi Yar, performed multiple times by Valery Gergiev, was considered anti-revolutionary. The same as Yevtuchenko’s poetry that gave rise to the work. Under Putin, the drive to outlaw continued. Now Putin himself becomes an outlaw in the Western world.
There is a story about Yevtuchenko that is very relevant these days of fire at will in Ukraine. The poet, who spoke Spanish and some other language, was in Leticia, a town in Colombia located next to the border of two countries, Brazil and Peru, in the middle of Amazonian territory. Yevtuchenko noticed that on the other side of the river there was a big fire and told those who accompanied him if it would not be good to cross the river to support those who were trying to put it out. “Nothing’s wrong, they told him, it’s on the Peruvian side.”
Yevtuchenko wrote a poem as a result of that fact in which he said:
“There is no Colombian side.
There is no Peruvian side.
There is only human side.”