Editor's Note: Yevgeny Yevtushenko, internationally acclaimed Russian poet, novelist, essayist, playwright and film director died on April 1, 2017. He was 83. In honor of his tremendous work and legacy, we are sharing an interview he did with Katrina vanden Huevel for our magazine in 1987.
Born in Siberia in 1933, Zhenya, as Yevgeny Yevtushenko is familiarly called, spent his childhood shuttling between Moscow and his Siberian birthplace of Zima Junction. At the age of fifteen, he joined his father, a geologist, in the southern republic of Kazakhstan, where he worked as a digger with a geological expedition. Yevtushenko returned to Moscow in the early 1950s and studied literature at the prestigious Gorky Institute. His poetry soon began to be published in the official journals and newspapers. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the years of Nikita Khrushchev's "thaw," Yevtushenko, along with such other young poets as Andrei Vosnesensky, articulated the discontents and aspirations of the first post-Stalin generation. In a country where popular poets sometimes achieve the celebrity of American rock stars and where culture is often an intense form of political expression, Yevtushenko's verse was read by millions of people, and his poetry readings electrified audiences across the broad expanse of the Soviet Union.
Yevtushenko developed an international reputation as a daring anti-establishment figure—a rebellious young man who assaulted Soviet dogma and conformity, who debated the merits of abstract art with Khrushchev, and who fervently protested, in poems such as "The Heirs of Stalin" and "Babi Yar," the legacy of Stalinism and official anti-Semitism. Even during the relatively liberal Khrushchev years, Yevtushenko was frequently and savagely criticized in the Soviet press for his outspoken views. In 1964, Khrushchev was ousted and Leonid Brezhnev's conservative reign soon led to cultural stagnation and political repression. Yevtushenko adapted to the more conservative times, and his poems became more conformist in content and style. Yet he remained faithful in important ways to his own personal convictions. In 1968, for example, he sent a letter to the government protesting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and in 1974 he sent a telegram to Brezhnev expressing concern for the safety of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had just been arrested. Yevtushenko's position in Soviet culture and politics—that of rebel and envoy—has engaged and enraged readers and critics at home and abroad.
He is defensive about suggestions that he has adapted to whatever political climate prevails in Moscow, and that he has vacillated between defiance and conformity. Yevtushenko insists that he has never abandoned his unpublicized efforts in behalf of victimized Soviet writers and dissidents. Whatever the full story, thirty years after he first burst onto the scene Yevtushenko is again a leading activist in the conflict-filled effort to reform and liberalize the Soviet system. Over the last two years, in speeches, articles, and poems, he has campaigned for glasnost, for openness, in Soviet cultural and political life. Americans will soon be able to sample Yevtushenko's most recent poems for themselves.
In April, Almost at the End, a collection of his poems written during the Gorbachev period, including his controversial work 'Fuku," will be published by Henry Holt and Company. Meanwhile, Yevtushenko has launched a new career as a filmmaker. His movie Kindergarten was shown in the United States last spring, and he is working on a new film about the Three Musketeers.
This interview took place in two parts and in two cities. Yevtushenko and I talked in March 1986 in New York City, and we continued the conversation at his home outside Moscow last December. He spoke in English during both interviews. Yevtushenko is fifty-three. His blond, tousled hair is thinner, his face more lined, and his frame lankier. But his blue-gray eyes and unflagging enthusiasm still recall the brash young poet of the 1960s.
Q: How is Mikhail Gorbachev changing Soviet society?
YEVTUSHENKO: He has changed the air over the soil. When I say "air," I mean first of all a fresh wind which penetrates or tries to penetrate to all levels of our society. And by soil, I mean objective reality. I mean the economic situation. I mean the psychology of a people. The main change is a change of atmosphere. It's been seventy years since the Soviet Revolution, and seventy years from one point of view is a long time. But if you will remember how long the history of humanity is, it's a very short time. Our society is still very young, and I hope we are now entering the beginning of our maturity. One of the signs of the maturity of a person or the maturity of a society is being tolerant of difference. We were many times not tolerant, and I hope what's now happening, with the release of Sakharov and some other people, is a symbol of the maturity of a society that could permit human tolerance. And so we have big hopes now. We are living in a very promising time. I don't want to be a false prophet and idealize the future. But I have been working for this future, and I am working for this future, with my speeches, with my poetry.
Q: Could you give an example of how the society is becoming more tolerant?
YEVTUSHENKO: For the first time in many years, we have incredible openness in our press—sometimes dealing with very painful questions, openly criticizing very high-ranking officials, including ministers, members of the government. For the first time, we are publishing in many of our newspapers editorials that are signed by people. This is wonderful, because it means people are taking on personal responsibility, showing personal points of view. There is a struggle against facelessness; that's what the main fight is now. It's very visible in the arts. There are more possibilities for talented, gifted people and happily fewer possibilities for mediocre ones, for one-sided minds, one-dimensional people, the knights of inertia.
Q : But won't these knights of inertia fight back?
YEVTUSHENKO : There are always comrades—the "but-whatifs"—who try to halt change. They do exist. And they always will. They barricade from their wooden minds any show of progress. I am absolutely sure they will not give up very quickly because they know what they will lose—their privileges. They will fight for them. But at the same time, they're a minority. A majority wants openness. In many countries, many kinds of systems, you could find a mortal struggle between mediocre people and talented people. Mediocre people have comfortable, soft armchairs under their asses. In my opinion, they have no ideologies. Their main ideology is their armchairology. We have a Russian proverb that says, "Under the lying rock water can't flow." What we're trying to do is to move these rock-minded people, stone-minded people, and make our society more flexible, more vital and ready for innovations, for reforms. Times are changing. The old guard is getting very old. And they were educated in another time.
Q: What makes the new generation of leadership so different from the old?
YEVTUSHENKO: Now in the Soviet Union, the people who are taking charge in all fields—including newspapers, factories, and regional party committees—are people who are not guilty of Stalin's crimes. They don't have spots of blood on their conscience. They don't feel guilty, and they are not guilty. That's why they don't have an inferiority complex. That's a very important nuance. My hope is that they know what needs to be changed now. They are former engineers, they are former agriculturalists. They know industry and agriculture very well, and they know the daily needs of people much better. In Stalin's time, Party professionals were ordered to lead heavy industry, or to be responsible for vegetables, for agriculture, or roadways, or metro, or something. These people had no professional knowledge of such things. It was very destructive.
Q: To what extent is Gorbachev in the tradition of Nikita Khrushchev?
YEVTUSHENKO: Khrushchev was a child of a certain epoch, of Stalin's era. He did wonderful things—he opened the borders of our country to foreigners, and he organized the first youth festival in 1956. He was a man who destroyed, as much as he could, the Iron Curtain, and he released so many people from our concentration camps. I think this man will go down in history in a positive way. But at the same time he belonged to Stalin's day. He was one of his Party leaders. Our new generation of leaders, they are not involved in such tragic mistakes, or even crimes. About Khrushchev someone said many years ago, "He wanted to cross the abyss in two jumps." I think it's a very exact impression because he was a Stalinist, and at the same time an anti-Stalinist. He was a rebel against those epochs; he was slightly a rebel against himself. So this was a man full of contradictions, but he made one heroic step which I think not only Russia but all humanity will never forget—when he made his speech at the Twentieth Party Congress, and he organized a commission which released so many innocent people.
Q: In how many jumps does Gorbachev want to cross the abyss?
YEVTUSHENKO: First of all, I think he is not trying to jump; he is trying to make a bridge.
Q: Some commentators in America, including Alexander Haig, have said that Gorbachev is a neo-Stalinist.
YEVTUSHENKO: That's absolutely shit. Absolutely shit. If he were neo-Stalinist, he could never support the sharpest anti-Stalinist creations, like some of the poems now being published.
Q: So you think he's part of the new anti-Stalinist movement?
YEVTUSHENKO: I'm not telling you that he's specially anti-Stalinist.
Q: Wait a minute. You said you are an anti-Stalinist.
YEVTUSHENKO: I am.
Q: Do you think Gorbachev is an anti-Stalinist?
YEVTUSHENKO: It's difficult to give such a kind of definition for one politician.
Q: Is it too early to say?
YEVTUSHENKO: No, no, no. I'm not saying that. I think this is a man of anti-bureaucratization.
Q: Why do you think people like Haig are misreading Gorbachev?
YEVTUSHENKO: The so-called hard-liners are making their own business when they are trying not to notice these changes. Because otherwise their image of the Red Bear with long teeth wanting to cut the throat of innocent and peaceful Americans will collapse. Your hard-liners explain their position by saying there are hard-liners in the Soviet Union. And our hard-liners are trying to close our openness, our democratization, because they are waving this image of American hard-liners. So they both need each other. But even for them, for your hard-liners, because they are also human beings, it is a very dangerous game that they're playing; they are practically sawing off the branch on which they are sitting. Because of these hard-line games, even their lives are at stake, as well as the lives of the whole world. Some of them, your right-wing people, by their characters, if they could live inside the Soviet Union, they would behave like the old guard of Stalin, like dogmatic Communists. And some American bureaucrats and right-wing journalists who take very anti-Soviet positions, I could imagine them living in the Soviet Union. They could make anti-American propaganda in the Soviet Union with no problem. They could say the same words. They're just the same people, but in reverse. If you are a conformist in the United States, it means you are more or less a hawk. It's a very comfortable position, you know, but the hawk is everywhere a hawk. A hawk couldn't be a nightingale in another country. He will still be a hawk. Unfortunately, there is an international nation of conformists. They just live in different countries. But happily, there is also an international nation of good people. They will always understand each other. But a third kind of people are in between them. There is a fence between them, a fence made of mugs. We're divided by this fence made of mugs, faces.
Your hard-liners explain their position by saying there are hard-liners in the Soviet Union. And our hard-liners are trying to close our openness, our democratization, because they are waving this image of American hard-liners. So they both need each other.
Q: Americans view the Soviet Union partially through Hollywood. During your tour of America last year, you did something most Americans haven't done: You saw Rocky and Rambo on the same day.
YEVTUSHENKO: Yes, and the year before I saw Red Dawn and other great stuff. That was when I invented a word, "warnography." I don't think Mr. Sylvester Stallone himself is anti-Russian, or that he would like to eat live Russian children, or anything like that. For him, the Russians are like extraterrestrials, but frightening extraterrestrials. And probably when he made this film for commercial reasons, he forgot something very important: that the future of all humanity, including Mr. Sylvester Stallone's future, depends on Russian-American relations. There isn't one movie in the United States where you can find even one good Russian who is not defecting from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, these films remind me of how Japanese people were shown during the war. We Russians are not—happily not—at war with America, but it's a frightening sign when even before a potential war, the American cinema is already portraying all Russian people as if they were enemies. Such films create mistrust, mistrust creates missiles, and missiles create the danger of war, which will abolish everyone, including Mr. Stallone and all those teenagers who are applauding these films.
Q: How would you compare American cinema to Soviet cinema?
YEVTUSHENKO: Our new films are more rebellious than yours. They are sharper, not as conformist as American cinema. I'm not speaking about independent American cinema; that's different. But your mainstream commercial cinema is more conformist, even more Stalinist, than in Russia at this moment. There is some primitivization of Americans in Russian cinema, but in our films about international problems, we never show Americans like wild beasts, like animals. We never create, in our cinema, an image of an enemy country or an enemy people, like your Rocky IV or Rambo. The creation of the image of the enemy is self-destructive. It's always connected with a kind of self-megalomania, self-exaggeration, gigantomania. And the mother of gigantomania is always an inferiority complex.
Q: Why has this image of the enemy been created?
YEVTUSHENKO: Any kind of society, any state, needs an enemy. It's terrible. It was George Orwell's point, if you remember. We waste too much time in mutual accusations. I don't want to argue with President Reagan, but he has argued many times with our government. For instance, he once said Russia is a focus of world evil. I don't blame him for saying this. I'm just trying to analyze it. First of all, I think he wrote this expression in a rush, because if he had thought more carefully about this phrase, he would have realized that it is an anti-Christian definition. I'll explain why. All Christianity is based on Dostoevsky's formula, "Everybody is guilty in everything." You must first find the focus of evil inside yourself. And afterwards, you can accuse others, but only by accusing yourself first. And I don't like it when some dogmatic people in our country try to show America as the whole center of world evil. I will never say that America is the focus of evil. There are so many beautiful people whom I know. When I wrote my famous poem, "Between the City of Yes and the City of No," I didn't mean that the City of No was American society or Russian society. I think we have some streets of No in America and some streets of No in the Soviet Union. The focus of world evil could never be concentrated only in one country. So the focus of world evil is inside all of us, that's human psychology. And we must be very careful in our expressions, because we have now a war of words. But such wars, unfortunately, can very easily be transformed into missiles and other terrible, terrible stuff.
Q: What role did you and your fellow artists play in bringing about the changes that are under way in the Soviet Union?
YEVTUSHENKO: Who are these people who lead our country? They are people who were listeners of our poetry readings in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That's true. That's reality. Some people absorbed my message that bureaucracy is stifling them. We created a new generation with our poetry. We created people who now are recreating our country. For instance, there is a new openness in the Soviet Union. This is an echo of our poetry.
Q: Are you saying that writers and poets prepared the way for Gorbachev?
YEVTUSHENKO: Of course. Absolutely. I'm sure. They absorbed our spirits. They were students—some of them were students squeezing without tickets on the balcony of our poetry readings. I think my generation of poets did a lot of things to break the Iron Curtain. We wounded our hands breaking this Iron Curtain with our naked hands. We didn't work in gloves. Sometimes there were victories, sometimes there were defeats. Some retreats were preparatory, and sometimes we sat under the ground after a hail of insults. But our literature, our art, didn't come as a gift from the so-called upstairs. We worked for it. We didn't get this as a gift. We forged this gift for ourselves and for future generations. Of course, we didn't think that we would produce new kinds of people. But it's happened. We've produced a new kind of person, a new-minded person. Poetry plays a great role in the Soviet Union, and so I am very happy that we worked for it not in vain.
My generation of poets did a lot of things to break the Iron Curtain. We wounded our hands breaking this Iron Curtain with our naked hands. We didn't work in gloves.
Q: You mean you think that the poetry of your generation is the political soul of the new leadership?
YEVTUSHENKO: I hope so. If I say this, it sounds immodest, but I hope so. I'm almost sure.
Q: What are some of the areas where you would like to see the policy of openness extended?
YEVTUSHENKO: We now have what I think is an open discussion about our current problems. But in my opinion, we don't have enough openness when we speak about our past. Without having more open conversations about the problems of our past, we can't decide the problems of our present. There are some people who don't want to have open conversations about the tragedies of our past. So there are two points of view. There are people who don't want open speech, openness in our textbooks, or anything like that. Their point is, "Okay, that's our past. We don't want to repeat it. But why must they put salt on the open wounds? We just rehabilitated the wound so it could heal." That's their point of view. My personal point of view, which is shared by the majority of our writers, is that to put sugar on the open wounds is even more dangerous. Ever since ancient times, professional seamen have cured their wounds with salty water. It was the only way for them. Salt, honest salt, could be more helpful than dishonest sugar. That's why I wrote a poem like "Fuku." In "Fuku" there are very important lines: "Someone who forgets yesterday's victims will be a victim tomorrow." That's probably my point of view on all of history, not only on Russian history. My hope is that now is a time for summing up in Russia. Summing up all of the positive and negative lessons of our experience in the first years of socialism. To be fearless builders of the future is only possible if we are fearless social archaeologists of our past. Yes, we must not only put salt on open wounds, we must dig into them as deep as possible, because there is still some infection which doesn't give us the possibility to be absolutely healthy. Great literature is always a great warning. If we see some danger, we must prophylactically write about it. Even if it's very painful. This literature must be like acupuncture. We mustn't be afraid to put needles into the most painful points of the conscience. It's painful, it's unpleasant, but you might be saved. That's why I don't like so-called pleasant art.
Q: What about the artists who have left the Soviet Union? Are you angry at them for not staying and fighting to change your country?
YEVTUSHENKO: I don't think I have any kind of moral right to be their judge. I understand only one thing: that it is a tragedy for a writer to be abroad, out of his own range. I couldn't imagine myself in exile. It would be the worst punishment to spend the rest of my life abroad.
Q: We get our image of the Soviet Union largely from people who have left. What about what those people say?
YEVTUSHENKO: You can't generalize about all émigrés; they're all very different. For instance, Joseph Brodsky I think is a good poet, the best Russian poet who lives abroad. And I helped him, and he knows it, when he was in exile. I wrote a letter defending him. Then he came to the United States and began to say—not in the newspapers, but he began to say in so-called private circles—that I was one of the people who was guilty. He later asked for my forgiveness. You know, America, like Russia, is a big village. I asked him why he said such things. He told me, "I'm sorry, Yevgeny, when you are an émigré, sometimes you artificially force yourself to find someone to blame." That was a sincere answer.
Q: But don't you get angry?
YEVTUSHENKO: I get angry because these people are full of ignorance and hatred. Such people are part of the focus of evil. They are morally not ready for mutual understanding. They don't want mutual understanding. But their ignorance is dangerous for themselves. Because if they don't want mutual understanding between such two great peoples, they are working for their own death, with all their screams, their cries, and always their declarations.
Q: What about Alexander Solzhenitsyn? You defended him in the Soviet Union.
YEVTUSHENKO: Look, Solzhenitsyn, in my opinion, wrote some good books, some very good books: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, "An Incident at Krechetovka Station," his short stories, and there are some very beautiful pages in Cancer Ward. But in Cancer Ward, there are some very primitive pages, too. Because when a writer hates something too much, he ceases being a great writer, because hatred is a kind of blindness. A writer must have open eyes to see life. I defended him many times, many times, until the last moment when he was arrested before he was sent abroad. He is a gifted writer, a very strong character as a man, and he wrote some books condemning the tragedy of the Stalin past, and I am very grateful to him. But in fighting against fanaticism, unfortunately, he became a fanatic. He put himself into a cage of his own design, a procrustean bed of his own schemes.
When a writer hates something too much, he ceases being a great writer, because hatred is a kind of blindness. A writer must have open eyes to see life.
Q: You mentioned Brodsky's remark about you being one of the guilty. Your critics ask why the Soviet state, which will not tolerate others, tolerates you.
YEVTUSHENKO: Some of the American press accuse some Russian writers of being conformist, not rebellious enough, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I am a victim of this accusation, because I am not in prison, I am not in a mental hospital, nothing like that. Such a writer's life is sometimes interpreted in your country as a kind of dishonesty. But I am a poetician, not a politician. As a poet, I don't like any kind of borders, prisons, any kind of police, army, missiles, anything which is connected with repression. I don't like it. And I never glorified it. And I did everything that was possible. I am not God. Nobody is God—not even God himself. I am doing everything to make life in my own country much better, freer in many ways. And I try, and I tried, and I will try, to help many people. I wrote a poem against anti-Semitism. I wrote a poem against Stalin and his era. I wrote many poems against bureaucracy. You have a fighter, the toreador. You have the police and the public, those so-called observers. I've seen the public get unhappy when the toreador professionally and skillfully sneaks away from the tow's horns. Unfortunately, inside many audiences is hidden the thirst to see real human blood. In the arena, I've seen some wonderful toreadors accused of being cowards. And they were not cowards. They didn't want to be killed by the bull. But there are some people who just observe your fight from a distance, and they are unhappy with it. They would like to idolize you. But if you fall down, with some horns on your head, it's only human nature. As Pushkin said once, "Only dead people can laugh."
I am a poetician, not a politician. As a poet, I don't like any kind of borders, prisons, any kind of police, army, missiles, anything which is connected with repression. I don't like it.
Q: Why have you devoted so much of your writing to opposing the bureaucracy?
YEVTUSHENKO: Because bureaucracy is based on indifference, and indifference is a kind of aggression. Indifference is a kind of war against your own people and against other people. One bureaucrat, for instance, who sits in his office and has the Picasso drawing with the dove of peace on the wall, he may be a pacifist, but at the same time he is in a permanent war with his people. He is an aggressor because he is indifferent. But in my opinion, to accuse bureaucracy alone is too easy. To accuse governments is too easy a way out. I think all governments are far from perfection. But the rest of humanity is far from perfection, too. I disagree with the expression that every people has the government it deserves. No people deserve their government. In a way it's true. But when we accuse bureaucrats, sometimes we absolve ourselves. Sometimes we are responsible for the bureaucracy, the bureaucrats.
Q: You are called the rebel poet. Where did the first anger, the first urgency come from?
YEVTUSHENKO: I am a child of the barracks. I am a child of the flea markets. I am a child of Siberian platforms. I am a child of the crowd. I am a child of lines, endless lines, for bread. And they helped me, these poor suffering people on lines, who can't write. They helped me. What I write is a way of paying them back. And I feel a responsibility to them. Once I described myself in one of my poems as a writer for those who don't write. In my opinion, everyone can write a book. That's why I felt ashamed when I was at Babi Yar, standing and staring at mountains of rubbish over these nameless graves where many dead bodies were thrown like wood into this valley. Nobody had written about these graves. I'm not a mystical man, but I remember that moment. It seemed to me that I heard through the mountains of rubbish secret whispers of those who died, those murdered people who were asking me to write about what had happened. I felt them accusing me for having forgotten them. Do you understand? That made me ashamed. And my shame helped me to write "Babi Yar." I am absolutely convinced that all poets, all real poets, are rebels. They could have been rebels in different ways. Let me make myself clear. You must not demand that all poets write political poetry, political declarations. You must not demand that. But it's my character. A human being can be a rebel only if he is concerned about others more than about himself. When I use this word "rebel," I don't use it only in a political sense. Because as I said in one of my early poems, "Conversations with an American Writer," unfortunately in all centuries simple honesty looks like courage. Rebels are not only very famous people who make public statements. If someone doesn't give to others the possibility of engaging him in their hypocrisy, he is a rebel. Not famous, but a rebel. There are so many unknown rebels in the world, just simple, honest people. Any kind of honesty is rebellion.
Q: Do you sometimes feel you're not courageous enough?
YEVTUSHENKO: Sometimes. I hope I am honest, but I don't think I am a courageous man. That is different. There is a special power when you can openly recognize your own weaknesses. That's why shame is the real and main engine of humanity. I feel shame for many things. First of all, I think shame must begin in yourself. No one has the right to accuse an epoch, a century, a period in history, if he has no courage to accuse himself. I accuse myself of being criminally lazy. I haven't written many books, and they're probably dead in me now. Because I am too thirsty for life. I want to be everything, everybody, in every place, at the same time. I don't like people who are not thirsty for life. When they aren't curious, and lose their childish curiosity, and kill the child inside of them, they can't write poems. So I accuse myself of not concentrating enough. Not being courageous enough. I can't accuse myself of betraying anyone— not in friendship, not in love, not in personal relationships.
Q: Do you fear, as you grow old, that you will lose the rebel inside of you?
YEVTUSHENKO: There is a beautiful South American expression: "Where are the former incendiaries now? The incendiaries of all the revolutionary fires. Where are they? They are working as firemen. They are all of them in the firemen's service now." It's very easy to be progressive and rebellious when you're young, when you have no responsibility for others and you're responsible only for yourself. It's very easy. But if you are married, you have a first child, and then, as in so many former rebels' lives, the diapers of the child are like the white flag of capitulation. I once wrote, when I was forty, a very sad poem about getting older. A friend of mine, a poet, reproached me. Don't take growing old too seriously, he said. There are just two dates in everyone's life: the date of birth and the date of death. And he said, you know, Don Quixote was old, but he wasn't old. And he said, don't lose the Don Quixote inside yourself, and you will always be young. It was good advice. Pasternak, when he was sixty-six years old, wrote beautiful, youthful poetry. And his writing was a great example for us. It's not really a matter of age.
Q: What is your impression of young people in the Soviet Union?
YEVTUSHENKO: They're very different. When you ask me about them, I try to generalize. I see so many different faces, it's very difficult to generalize. But I think they are more informed about what is happening in the world. Most of them study foreign languages, unlike our generation. But now they get so specialized; they have the same danger in Russia that you have in America. To be a really great specialist, you must read so much technical literature. And we have one danger with this younger generation that they will be locked in the knowledge of their specialization. Sometimes some of them don't know our own history, which is very dangerous. Dangerous.
Q: In one of your poems, you ask a sixteen-year-old, "How many people did Stalin kill?" And somebody says twenty or twenty-five, and then the highest estimate that you got was what?
YEVTUSHENKO: Two thousand. They have a lack of knowledge about history. As I said in my Writers Congress speech of December 1985, we must rewrite our books about history, because if you don't know your own history, you can repeat mistakes. But generally I like our young people. They want what most Americans, all human beings, want. They would like to have a good job, a comfortable life, a good family, to have children, and not to be frightened by the threat of nuclear war.
Q: How hopeful are you that Soviet-American relations will improve?
YEVTUSHENKO: Mr. Reagan has never been to Russia. I'm absolutely sure if, for instance, Mr. Reagan could sit down on the shores of Lake Baikal near a hunter's fire and drink vodka and speak with our fishermen, with workers, with others, he would be a different man, as would many other Americans. And many Russians would be different if they would come to America and sit near a hunter's fire in the Rocky Mountains and speak with Americans. I'm absolutely sure that would change their minds. Both systems have some good features, some bad features. Probably if you find common mutual understanding, both societies, both structures could absorb the best features of each and we'll get an absolutely new structure in the future. But nobody knows. I don't know. I just want to be in my own place.