Gidon Kremer on Russia: When elephants clash, the grass suffers

Gidon Kremer on Russia: When elephants clash, the grass suffers


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2015

The magazine Music & Literature has published a somewhat unidiomatic translation of an interview given by the great violinist in Kiev last November. It contains some sublime and surreal reflections on the state of the world, as well as Gidon’s strongest statements yet on the Russian intervention in Ukraine.

To draw any newsworthy conclusion would risk taking his humane and principled views out of context. But read the paragraphs below and you will catch the drift of his thinking.

Ôîòî Íèêîëàÿ Òèì÷åíêî 18.11.14 Ôèëàðìîíèÿ. Ãèäîí Êðåìåð. Êèåâñêèé êàìåðíûé îðêåñòð. Äèðèæåð Ðîìàí Êîôìàí

When I think about the events of the past year, I find that the concept of “human life” has been profoundly devalued. What we are all given is a single life to share. If that sounds sentimental, so be it: it was Ostrovsky’s opinion, and Brodsky’s, and that of many others. And there are those today who want to destroy this notion of life as a physical and spiritual gift. It doesn’t matter what they hide behind—politics, economics, ethics, religion. When talk turns into destruction, everything within me rises up. The Nazis murdered, the Bolsheviks killed, the Latvian gunmen fired. Once you have followed them, unable to respect the right to life of your neighbor, colleague, or brother, then it’s a very short stretch from one victim to one million victims. How terrifying, that the person who sends another to kill and the person who is sent to kill are both infected with the belief that murder is the key to moving forward, to perfecting justice. The very people defending “their land,” “their language,” “their homes” become the unwitting victims of a tragic calculus. Some, denying others the right to question anything, call it “belief in an historic mission.”

Let me reduce this to a formulation so simple as to seem trivial in comparison with today’s tragedy: when a couple splits up, one of them inevitably has to pack a bag and leave first. It happens sometimes that the one who ups and goes is in the right. Or that the one who stays behind is. But it rarely happens that both people pack their bags at once.

Now click here to read the full interview.


  • Eli says:

    Why not ask Mr. Kremer to translate his own statements?

  • Adrian Bryttan says:

    Stylistic translation niceties aside, Mr. Kremer’s views about the Russian invasions of Ukraine come across pretty clearly: “…ideological barbarism… the notion that “Crimea is for Russians” was—what?—dreamed up, worked out, strategically calculated… it’s a psychological war waged by the creators of political dogma…the demonic, like the vulgar, lives right among us… I wish more people could show tolerance and openness like I experienced it in Odessa, where the Russian language is spoken along with Ukrainian and many others.”

    Unlike some other present-day artists who shill for Putin, Mr. Kremer, like Rostropovich and Milstein before him, showed courage and backbone in exposing what the Kremlin is doing.

  • Milka says:

    He exposes nothing .. we all know what the present Kremlin is doing and have for some time .Prime Minister Harper of Canada addressed the invasion of the Ukraine directly to
    Putin himself “Get out of the Ukraine ” Putin denied being there … Europe is terrified
    of another world war and plays sanctions game . That Mr. Kremer cautiously speaks
    out is well and good , what we need is a Zola ,a J’accuse statement by” leading” artists,
    but unfortunately down from the Canadian Ehnes, the Italian Accardo ,the German
    Quasthoff ,the two ex Met Fisher & Billingshurst amongst a host of others
    all seemingly have a moral compass if any quite different from that of Mr. Kremer .
    One must understand that many so called artists will do almost anything that
    keeps their name before the public .