Fyodor Chistyakov: Why I Have Left Russia

Fyodor Chistyakov: Russia Is the Freest CountryYou Can Adopt a Constitution and Then Throw It Out
Musician Fyodor Chistyakov has left Russia because of his religious beliefs, but promises to come back. True, only on tours. The newly minted New Yorker told Fontanka.Office what happened.

Have you really emigrated to the US?
Its not quite like that. Circumstances are such in Russia at the moment that make it difficult for me to live there. But that doesnt mean Im planning to cut all the ropes and drown everything there. In the fall, for example, Nol [Chistyakovs band] is planning to play concerts we promised to play long ago, and they should come off unless there is an act of God. Were playing November 18 in Moscow, and November 23 in Petersburg. Otherwise, I will be spending more time in a different place.

Have you requested political asylum?
Im not going to discuss that. Ill just say things are in order on that front. I have an employment contract.

Did the ban on Jehovahs Witnesses in Russia influence your decision to stay in the US?
That decision turned all members of the organization, including me, into outlaws. How can I live in a country where Im an outlaw? The answer is simple: theres no way I can. Hence everything that has happened.

Did you or your friends get any signals or threats after the Jehovahs Witnesses were outlawed?
Yes, we did. For example, the authorities came to a friends house, confiscated all his computers, and searched the place, because he is a Jehovahs Witness. I think this is a nightmare. I have a music recording studio at home. I cant allow the state to dig around in computer files looking for signs of extremism. At the end of the day, its simply humiliating. Its not a matter of danger, but of your state of mind: youre always waiting for something to happen. I do long-term musical projects. It takes six months to record and release an album. But with things like this I cant promise anything. What if Im arrested tomorrow, say. Then I wont be able to fulfill my obligations.

But earlier you did not publicly identify yourself with the organization or did you? What are you afraid of, if youre not promoting anything?
A Danish citizen has been arrested and jailed in the city of Oryol. When you look into the matter, you discover law enforcement has not even formulated the charges, but the man sits in jail. This is lawlessness. There are no laws or norms, no Constitution that protects human rights. As long as no one has taken an interest in you, you are free to party, so to speak, but if something controversial comes up, you wont be able to prove anything. Youll be ruined.

Yes, but now that youve openly said why you left, how are you going to give concerts in Russia? How can you avoid the risks youve mentioned?
According to my beliefs, every week I have scheduled events for worshiping God. This is what the Russian authorities consider extremism. If, for example, I come to Russia to give concerts, that is a specific goal. I come and go. But if I live in Russia, I would have to do all this somewhere on the sly.

Meaning the corpus delicti is the religious ritual, which you will not be performing in the Russian Federation?
Yes.

How have your friends in Russian and colleagues in the US taken the news of your move?
There are different opinions. There are people who support me, and people who openly mock me. Opinions are quite polarized.

What about the musicians in your band?
I think well continue working together. There will be collaborations.

Can you explain the rationale behind the banning of the Jehovahs Witnesses in Russia? Why was it done?
The most terrible thing is there is no rationale. Its inexplicable. The Jehovahs Witnesses have lots of enemies. But I dont understand why the Russian authorities had to adopt this ruling. There is talk of property they plan to confiscate. But this amounts to kopecks on the scale of the Russian state. The Witnesses were persecuted in Nazi Germany. But in the US, you ride the subway and read an ad that says if you encounter racial or religious discrimination, you can contact so-and-so.

But if someone promised you that everything here in Russia would be cool, would you come back?
Thats the thing. Thats the essence of life in Russia: there is no law. Someone says one thing today, and tomorrow he forgets it. Or he is replaced altogether. And who cares about me?

Ill put it more simply. What must change for you to return?
I havent disappeared. I plan to visit. I plan to make music, only remotely.

What if the ban in Russia were overturned?
Hard to say. Right now the circumstances in Russia are quite alarming, and not only for the Witnesses. Whats alarming is that all the foundations have fallen and crumbled. Until a certain order emerges, it will be dangerous to live in Russia.
I recently read that a lawyer was unable to get a response from the court on a case. They failed to respond to his requests. He published an open letter in a newspaper, in which he described how the case had been handled by the judicial authorities. The courts should try and figure out the truth, but there is no objectivity in Russian courts. Russia is the freest country. You can adopt laws and then not enforce them. You can adopt a Constitution and then throw it out. Anything is possible. But that makes things a bit tricky if you want to have rights.

You will be told its like that everywhere in the world, but on a different scale.
I wouldnt argue with that. But as long it doesnt affect anyone personally, you can philosophize. But when the problems kick off, you just have to make a decision that will solve the problems. This is completely different.

What do think about how things in general are shaping up on the planet? You felt alarm in Russia. Is there no alarm in the US?
Things in Russia are quite disturbing. The main cause are the media. When you open a news website and read the headlines, the headlines are enough to flip your wig. Completely. But here [looks out window] life is calm. There is nothing like that here, in fact. You can avoid thinking about it if you dont want to, if you dont open your browser. In Russia, this is hard to pull off. You walk outside and immediately read something printed on banners. Here, on the contrary, you get the sense that politics is god knows where. The police are also god knows where. They are somewhere round the corner, but you dont see them. Im talking about New York. Its calmer. As for real threats, the situation is unpleasant. It resembles the Cold War again. You could say its already underway. Weve gone full circle. Everything is happening all over again, and Im quite tired of it all, in fact. Generally, I have hope, of course, but I wont talk about, because it is now considered forbidden in the Russian Federation. For the time being, there is little of this hope in the Russian Federation.

Okay, what are your future musical plans. Time to Live, the first track from the resurrected Nol, has been released. Is an album the obvious next step? Will it be nostalgic, like your previous LP, Fyodor Chistyakov: Nol + 30? Or will it be something different?
Yes, aside from the fall concerts in Russia, we have the idea to record a Nol LP. Ill start working on it in the very near future. In any case, it will be a new album with new songs. The new song Time to Live I recorded with Alexei Nichols Nikolayev [a member of the classic Nol line-up]. It was just the two of us who recorded the track. I really liked it. It turned out quite well. I would like to keep working and record the whole album in this vein.

Will you be recording in the States or Petersburg?
Its going to be an intercontinental project.

Better intercontinental Nol albums than intercontinental missiles, eh?
Probably. [Laughs.]

Will the new Nol album be as militant as your last songs, from the LP No Fools, and the new singles Went Mental and Time to Live? Or will it be more lyrical? How much material do you have and what is it about?
I wouldnt say the material is ready. Some songs are more or less ready, while others are still only sketches. But, ultimately, I think the material will be good. It wont leave you bored.

Thanks, Fyodor, for this intercontinental conversation.
Its just like from a space station.

The voting in our official group broke down as follows. 84.8% of users said they understood people who leave Russia. (Yes, its everybodys right.) Only seven percent agreed with the statement, No, who then will be left? An interesting outcome?
Quite interesting, and quite encouraging that are so many people who respect the rights of others, at least, on Fontanka. Office.


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https://therussianreader.com/2017/08/02/fyodor-chistyakov-emigration-jehovahs-witnesses/

02.08.17