"What did you do when Russia entered Crimea?" Igor Kondratiuk - about a famous Russian cousin, a letter about Oksana Marchenko and a trip to Moscow
TV presenter and music producer Igor Kondratiuk, who has been directly involved in the Ukrainian television business for almost 40 years, admitted that he considers Kvartal 95 to be too non-Ukrainian. He also spoke about his godfather, the famous Russian TV presenter Andrey Kozlov, with whom he has not spoken since the beginning of the war.
What did you talk about with your closest friends during your last visit to Moscow? What did he write in a letter to the head of STB about Oksana Marchenko after the annexation of Crimea? Read about this and much more in the interview with OBOZ.UA.
- Recently, we were walking in the center of Kyiv with our family and I caught myself thinking that a place near the Passage on Khreshchatyk is associated with your "Karaoke on the Maidan" programs. What do you feel when you go there?
- I feel that this place is not working at full capacity(laughs). My older sister once decided to sign up for a tour of Kyiv and told me later that one of them was on Hrushevskoho Street, Zankovetska Street, near the Franko Theater, and ended at 15 Khreshchatyk Street. And the guide proudly announced that the folk show "Karaoke on the Maidan" had been filmed there for 20 years. My sister giggled, and when the tour was over, she called me with the words: "I'm so proud."
In January, it was 25 years since the "Karaoke on the Maidan" program was founded. It has been gone for five years. What can we say? Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but I don't understand people who live only for it. You have to live in the present, or even better, in the future. Although it is difficult to do this now, given our realities. Our life is now modeled by the war and everything that is tied to it. The participation of our relatives in military operations, in volunteering, the inability to see our loved ones whenever we want.
For example, we see our daughter, who is studying in the United States, only twice a year, and we go to see her in July, her birthday this month. We have this opportunity, I still have some money left over from my television work. And she comes to visit us once a year, during the New Year's holidays. During this time, we try to spend a lot of time as a family - to celebrate together. We had a great New Year's Eve - we watched two episodes of The Avengers from the Marvel comics, which are Polina's favorite stories.
- Why not what the TV channels prepared for us?
- I watched the TV program and didn't like it, so I decided I didn't need it. That's the first thing. And secondly, you're calling a person who will be 62 in March - I have slightly different criteria for watching television, which I've been around since 1985. I didn't find any new movies that I would like to watch, although maybe I didn't watch them very carefully. For example, on the plus side, there was Home Alone, which we had already seen many times. And I don't watch Kvartal 95, I don't like their jokes.
I'm afraid I'm wrong about the year, but I think the last time I watched it was in 2005, when it was broadcast on Inter. And I turned on the episode because I was invited to perform there, like all the other hosts of that channel at the time, with the final song. This episode was broadcast when Inter was celebrating its anniversary. However, I wasn't interested - I had already seen enough KVN in my life. What has changed since then? I don't know. "Kvartal was too non-Ukrainian for me back then. Until they switched to the Ukrainian language, I didn't perceive them as comedians working for Ukrainians. I am one of those Ukrainians who consume content in Ukrainian in Ukraine.
- You say that you don't watch Kvartal 95, but, as you can see from your Facebook posts, you know about all the scandals that surround them.
- They appear in my feed before I wake up. There are many cuts on YouTube. When Zelenskyy became president, he asked me: did it offend you? It wasn't that it offended me, it was absolutely impossible for any person who has at least some love for their homeland. It seemed that many of their issues were written by anti-Ukrainian authors. Like jokes about ebonite sticks or the Holodomor lord. How can this be funny to me when I believe, as a citizen, that the greatest crime of the Soviet Union against Ukraine was the artificial famine? I am from the countryside, so it was very painful to watch all this, knowing how people in the countryside try to grow something on every piece of land, because the memory of the terrible times will live with us for generations.
- Many people, like you, say that the humor in Kvartal 95 goes somewhere else...
- I am against censorship. Kvartal could have been closed down if, for example, several high-profile cases had been launched against them. And in this way they would have gone bankrupt. But no one did that. We saw their representatives sitting in the hall laughing during the rule of all the governments. Although, by the way, a lot of this is edited. I remember Yuriy Lutsenko in the shot allegedly laughing at a joke about himself, but I'm not sure if it was filmed when the act was on stage. An editing director can make even unfunny jokes funny.
- Why do people keep going to these events? For example, Diesel Studio's New Year's Eve concerts were sold out, although they were also criticized for their content.
- An interesting fact: in the first year of its existence, Diesel Studio won several Teletriumph awards and beat Kvartal 95 in terms of ratings. I remember this award ceremony, which was hosted by Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Masha Yefrosinina. Diesel won the award in the nomination "Best Comedy Program". And Zelenskyy said at the time that he was upset on the one hand, but happy on the other, because, according to him, Kvartal had a hand in the formation of the Diesel Show. I understand that some of the authors then moved to Diesel.
Why do people go there? They want to have fun - it's trite, but it's a fact. Most people need to turn off their brains for a while, because if they don't, we'll kill each other here because of the emotional tension. The issue here is different: the quality of the jokes. Comedians should understand that it is low to make frivolous jokes about Ukrainians from Skadovsk. People there are in terrible trouble. Although I know that the majority of the population of my Kalanchak village in Skadovsk district, where I graduated from high school, is no longer the same as those who lived there. The locals were pushed out by imported citizens from the aggressor country. But Ukrainians continue to live there, praying every day for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to come and free them from the hated Russian rule.
Kvartal's issue about an IDP from Skadovsk is a mockery. It can probably be funny when you drink a lot. Or for those who don't know what really good jokes are. I haven't read at least 12 Chairs by Ilf and Petrov. The Kvartal people don't have subtle humor or satire, but they have a lot of other things - pseudo-humorous laughter. But many people still want less than more. That's how they're built. Especially with the advent of social media, which brings a lot of things down to the level of the baseboard.
- You say that entertainment programs are needed, but some of your colleagues say that even feature films are not relevant now.
- From the point of view of the psychology of our society, this should be the case. It's another matter when a situation arises, such as the one that happened with the information that the state allocates too much money to the Dom TV channel. This TV channel may not be needed, but it is involved with the president's friends, so it exists. The problem is that many people, looking at the spending of public funds on entertainment, realize that this is nonsense. On the one hand, Serhiy Prytula announces a gathering of the GUR, and he is good, but this is a state structure. Meanwhile, it was planned to allocate quite a lot of money from the state's pocket for a TV series called Ingulets. People who see this and are closely involved in the war will never understand this. Why call on people to raise money for drones if you spend money so foolishly?
I don't understand why money is being allocated for private channels to broadcast the telethon. The state should allocate funds only for the creation of a news telethon on the state-owned Suspilne channel. That's it. All others should buy news from Suspilne or quote them. I do not understand why our leaders neglect the Suspilne TV channel. Why is there such indifference to the state-owned TV channel, and therefore to taxpayers' money?
- Is it a fantasy to defeat Russian propaganda or is it realistic?
- I don't think we need to do that. We need to educate Ukrainians so that they don't watch Russian TV and consume anti-Ukrainian lies. We need to conduct fact-checking lessons (the process of checking the factual accuracy of questionable information). And at the end of the class, summarize: we have given you 20 examples of Russian lies today. And then to announce the figures that over the past month, for example, investigators have registered 1500 false news from Russia, so it is pointless to watch it.
And another argument: we will never interrupt Russian propaganda with money. How can we interrupt an oil and gas country that spends billions of dollars on propaganda? Who cares if the Russians are making movies about Mariupol? Their movie "Crimean Bridge" failed at the box office, even Russians didn't go to see this low-artistic sh*t. What's the point of making a movie for us if everything is wrong? We shouldn't care what they say. Even if some Russian says that the Yenisei flows into the Arctic Ocean, without verification this fact cannot be taken as true. It does flow into this ocean, but it doesn't matter. Russians cannot be trusted. Now it is a country of lies and propaganda chaff.
- Do you still have friends in Russia?
- The last time I was in Moscow was during the New Year holidays, from 2013 to 2014. My wife started a very big discussion about the Maidan when she was visiting, and I didn't participate because I knew it would end in nothing. I just said that I completely agreed with everything she said. It was our last visit to Russia and the last meeting with our close friends at that time.
Do you know why none of them write or call me now? Because they know they are wrong. And they have nothing to say except: "Igor, I'm sorry, we were brought to our knees." Do you understand? They can't find any sympathy in me for the situation they are in. And if they say that we have nothing to do with it, we are just TV producers, we are not interested in politics, I will answer: "You are c*nts!" Because you didn't protest in 2014, when the shameful occupation of Crimea took place and the war broke out, a lot of people died. You don't count your own, you don't count your shit that is now storming the positions of the Armed Forces. But you don't care that civilians also died, thousands of innocent Ukrainians who lived on their own land.
- You also have relatives in Russia. For example, Andrey Kozlov, a Russian TV presenter with whom you played in the TV club of experts "What? Where? When?" - is he your godfather?
- Yes, he baptized our middle son, but now we have no contact with him. And I feel that we both understand why this happened. I don't know what to talk to him about now. How is "What? Where? When?" doing? The club claims to be out of politics, but meanwhile, the experts are flying to a military base in Syria to play a game for the Russian military? They probably consider it heroic, but in the Ukrainian sense, they are jerks. Meanwhile, many experts refused to participate in the program. After 2014, after the full-scale invasion, they did too. Ilya Novikov, for example. Rovshan Askerov, who openly opposes the war, was persecuted and forced to leave the country.
Now Russian Nazism is flourishing in full bloom. It is served by the Russian so-called elite, including those from the cultural sphere. Many people left because they could not live with it. Many took an active anti-war position, while others moved to protect themselves. But they are all not doing the main thing: they are not shaking Russia from within. Yes, I may be told that there is a large repressive apparatus there, but these are excuses. And if Russia is not shaken, the efforts of the whole world may not be enough to stop the invasion.
I want to ask everyone: "What did you personally do when Russia invaded Crimea?" Did you record any video on Facebook? No. "Be silent and you will be killed" - I love this phrase from the song "The Diligent Waltz" by bard Alexander Galich. I first remembered it when I wrote a letter to the then head of STB, Volodymyr Borodyansky, about Oksana Marchenko. I asked him how we would coexist on the air when Oksana kept silent about the Russians seizing Crimea. He wrote to me: "Igor, I understand your anger, but Oksana is an adult. I can't force her to write anything." However, a year or two later, he did fire Oksana from the TV channel.
- Did Andrey Kozlov contact you when he needed help for his brother, who could not leave Mariupol?
- It was not Kozlov who approached me, but other people. They asked if there were any opportunities to help. I answered that, to be honest, there was not. My children tried to rescue our daughter-in-law's grandparents in the same circumstances of occupation. And they failed. Moreover, they paid someone to take them out, and the carrier turned out to be a fraud. There are many such cases, needless to say. Later I found out that Oleksandr, Kozlov's brother's name, got out of Mariupol. Some Ukrainians helped him.
- As a person who knows a lot about the occupation of the Kherson region from the inside, because you have many relatives there, can you explain where collaborators among Ukrainians come from?
- I noticed that a lot of collaborators have the surname "ov" at the end (or maybe it's just me?) Most likely, these are people who came to Ukraine during the Soviet Union or in the times of modern Ukraine. But they continued to live in Russia and watch their TV channels. I even know them personally. I have an acquaintance who says: "I can't do anything about my mother!" She watches the Vremya program. I said: "Mom, we live in Ukraine." And she replies: "This is important to me."
I read several Telegram channels about Kherson, so in all this time, if I have seen a thousand names of traitors, it's good. Before the war, more than a million people lived in the Kherson region. I take out a calculator: this will be one thousandth of the population. I assume that one hundredth of the local residents wanted to go either to the USSR or to Russia. This is one out of a hundred. Is it critical? There are very few Ukrainians who cooperate with the occupiers, even in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. And in Crimea. Russian propaganda, of course, will say that this is not true.
Read the second part of the interview on OBOZ.UA on Thursday, February 1. Igor Kondratшuk will tell about the fate of perhaps the most famous winner of the TV show "Ukraine's Got Talent", reveal the details of where Slava Frolova disappeared to, and stun with unexpected details of a new twist in the long-running conflict with singer Vitaliy Kozlovsky.