Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Writer

That is a difficult question, and my answer will not be trivial.

I have a feeling that the future course of events will have nothing to do with whether or not Putin is in power, because a flowerbed sown with thistle seeds, turnip seeds, and who knows what else cannot grow tomatoes, strawberries, or even pineapples. Today there is no force capable of rapidly and sharply changing the current situation, which has developed over the course of almost two decades.



The consciousness of the formerly Soviet person, who has become a Russian, has not changed, and I would even venture to say that new traits, which are highly unfavorable for the development of the country, have appeared in him. The general corruption of our society has taken on an all-encompassing character. It reaches not just the upper echelons of our state, but all of the lower classes as well. For this reason, serious changes to the life of our society, though they are desirable, will require more than one year and not just the replacement of one person by another.

We see the Putin-Medvedev situation — they’re practically one person. When Medvedev came to power as president, many Westerners asked me: “How do you see this situation developing?” to which I replied (and it turns out I was correct) that the litmus test would be the [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky affair. If Khodorkovsky was released, we would consider that the government had changed. If not, then the government had remained the same. Unfortunately, it turned out to have remained the same.

I don’t think that the upcoming election can radically change the general direction of the development of our society. I’m afraid that several decades of “oil stability” await us, followed by severe turmoil. Will we be able to find a new way, to join the ranks of civilized nations who respect the law? That is an important question.

I am not very optimistic, but on the other hand, I’m a realist with a sort of mystical inclination. In our situation, we can only have faith in some unforeseen event, which we could call a “Black Swan” miracle (thank you to Nassim Taleb for this term). This black swan is an unexpected event that is totally unpredictable. My hope is for a good black swan to arrive, flap its wings, and cause a beneficial event that will change the direction we’re moving in. This is, perhaps, the only hope that I think is more or less realistic.


Lyudmila Ulitskaya was born in 1943 in Bashkiria. She graduated from the Moscow State University with a degree in Biology. Subsequently, she worked at the Institute of General Genetics at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, but in 1970, she was fired for reproducing a “Samizdat” (a censored publication copied by hand with the intention of redistribution, — trans.). She declared herself a writer in the late 1980s, when she began writing short stories. In 1992, the magazine Novy Mir published her novella, Sonechka. The story brought Ulitskaya worldwide attention: in France, the book was awarded the 1996 Medici prize for best translated novel. Several novels followed, each of which became a literary event of the year. In 2001, Ulitskaya received the Booker Prize for her novel Kukotsky’s Case, and in 2007, she received the Big Book Prize for her novel Daniel Stein, Interpreter.

Ulitskaya’s books have been translated into 32 languages. As a member of a literary rights organization, Ulitskaya is also famous for her active civic participation. She is the head of a project called Another One, Others, About Others, a series of children’s books about cultural anthropology. In 2009, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta published correspondence between Ulitskaya and the imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky.