PRAVDA.Ru had an interview with a wonderful woman, a Russian actress, whose roles will always be in the history of the Russian cinema, Elena Drapeko. Now Elena is a deputy of the Russian parliament, deputy chairwoman of the State Duma committee for culture and tourism.
Question: Miss Drapeko, how come you got involved in politics?
Answer: My teacher, professor Makaryev, one of the most remarkable actors of the Russian and Soviet theatre, was saying: “You can not be an actor, but you have to be a citizen.” This was the way we were raised in the Institute of theatre. An actor is a public profession, which implies the influence to be exerted on the people. When I was an actress, my profession was a very respectable one in the society. The people were listening to the words we were saying in our movies, they wanted to dress like us, tried to behave like us. If you watch my movies, you will see that I always wanted to bring the most important message to the people – honesty, motherland, love and duty, not depending on what kind of character I was playing – positive or negative. That is why I had to make a choice during the period of the perestroika, when the spiritual, moral grounds started breaking into pieces, - I had to choose, if I was going to simply watch it, or take a civil position. I chose the latter.
I was politically active before too. I was a member of the central committee of the cultural trade union during the period 1980-1990, I was the vice president of the Guild of actors of the USSR, the manager of the Leningrad department of it. It is normal for me, when I consider my profession as a part of my life, not as my whole life. Nowadays I am not only a politician, but also a teacher. I was invited for the position of the chief of the department for culture. In 1992-1993 I was the chief of Leningrad’s department for culture. It was the huge responsibility, I was making very serious decisions. I think I do not have to be ashamed in front of my viewers for those years. It was the time when the law on culture was passed, which did not allow to privatize all the state cultural institutions.
Q: They were trying to privatize culture too?
A: Of course. In the beginning of the 1990s, when the mass privatization started, they wanted to get hold of some of our cultural institutions. They were saying things like: “Why so many libraries? There are 300 libraries in St.Petersburg, but everyone has books at home, everyone receives newspapers. Let us use these buildings in a more useful way, make cafes, stores.”
Today we realize how right we are. The people can not afford to subscribe to newspapers or buy books, since the majority of them live below the poverty line. Students go to the libraries to study and read, and so do the pensioners - the public libraries are so in demand right now. We did not allow to privatize the theatres, museums, concert halls. Now we are witnesses the second stage of the privatization. The State Duma is preparing some bills, according to which the privatization of the cultural and educational objects will be allowed. We believe that such bills will be very dangerous. For the time being the state is offering to divide the society into the elite and the mass. The elite can afford to buy a ticket for expensive concerts, or performances in the expensive theatres, so they will have access to the culture. The rest of the people will not have it. They will have what the masses can have – cheap public concerts in the streets, cheap videos with bad American movies. We can see such things happening already in Moscow, there are some music artists, which give very expensive concerts, even a State Duma deputy can not afford to buy their tickets.
Q: The widow of the former mayor of St.Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak (died of heart attack in 2000) said in one of her interviews that her husband had saved the culture of St.Petersburg. Do you think it is really so, or was he with those, who wanted to divide it?
A: Neither yes or no. Sobchak was working in the legislative field, which was existing at that moment. The privatization of the cultural objects was prohibited during his time, so it is hard to say he had saved the culture. The Supreme Council voted for the law to prohibit this kind of privatization, so the council saved it, to be more precise. Look what happened with the movie theatres. A lot of them stopped their existence, there were a lot of those, who were turned to commercial centers, furniture stores. A big part of them became commercial movie theatres. They are equipped with expensive systems, and a ticket costs 100 rubles (about four dollars). If you go there with your family of three, this will be 300 rubles. Are there a lot of Russian families that can afford that? Many of the movie theatres turned to casinos.
Q: What made the administration of the city do that? Did they want to fill their pockets with money, or were they trying to attract the investors?
A: It was the remake of the property, the property of the people became the property of certain people. That was the time, when criminality was everywhere. I know that there were many officials of the city administration, who participated in those intrigues. They were also selling out the military property too, the factories and works were privatized and sold to the western owners. It was the privatization of the plundering character, no one is rejecting it now, even the president's team. I can not say that they were the dishonest people. Maybe they were hoping that Russia would get better, but the history proved it wrong. It has been ten years, and now we can say that their policy put Russia in a very difficult situation.
Q: Why did many of the people, who are called bohemian, like Mstislav Rostropovich and others, support that remake of the property? Why didn’t they stand against it? What is happening with our intellectual elite?
A: I do not want to judge Rostropovich, let the history judge him. He was thinking he was protecting democracy. Speaking about our intellectual elite, it is subjected to the influence of the mass media. They do not have the analytical abilities, that is why it is very easy to deceive them. These people love the power of any kind, not depending on what it leads to. They think about themselves first and foremost. But there are of course those people, who deeply regret what they have done.
Q: Do you think Russia is being plundered now, like it was ten years ago? Does the government care about what is going on?
A: The Central Bank has recently published the list of ten leading branches, with the help of which the money laundering process take place. Some 25 billion dollars are flowing out of Russia - Russia is investing this money in the Western economy. I am in charge of the branch that is called tourism. The Central Bank put it on the third position of those branches, where the money laundering happens. Some eleven billion dollars will be taken away from Russia this year with the help of tourism.
Q: What is the scheme of that money laundering?
A: Let us suppose that we buy the tickets in the West, take the money out, pay their hotels, their restaurants. We take the money on plastic cards, which is absolutely not registered. The Security Council has the information that there are about 200 hundred foreign firms, which do not have the legal representation in Russia, work on our market, selling their tickets here. They do not pay taxes, but take the money out.
This happens due to the criminal negligence of the officials. That is why our committee is doing its best to make this hole smaller. We do not want to restrict the resting opportunities of our citizens, we want to legalize this business. We want to make everyone pay taxes, and to increase the foreign tourism in Russia. The level of foreign tourism gained only 4% in Russia, whereas the level of Russians, leaving abroad gained 60% last year. I consider this to be one of our major objectives. We sent a letter to the chairman of the Russian government, Mikhail Kasyanov.
Q: What can you say to your colleagues, the actors, who do not think about who is going to be at power, but do care about their lives only?
A: I have nothing to say to them. They are not colleagues to me. I think the life will show it. If nobody needs them tomorrow, they will only have the meager pensions and will ask for our protection. Only we are to blame. On the other hand, we are the intellectual elite of Russia, there are a lot of us, who made the careers during the Soviet power era, getting medals from that power and then betrayed it eventually, having lost the respect of the people. Those who did not betray it, those, who have the conscience, must protect the people today.
Elena Drapeko was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/07/36749.html