Victor Erofeiev visits UCLA

Photo for Victor Erofeiev visits UCLA

Erofeiev, who oppposes Russia's war against Ukraine, published "Vykhod" in 2022. The edited collection features essays by contemporary Russian writers that could not be published in Russia and recalls his edited 1978 collection, "Metropole."

“A nightmare is worse than Hell…because you know the rules in Hell.”

On May 3 Russian writer Viktor Erofeiev recently visited UCLA and spoke on contemporary literature and Vladimir Putin’s regime. Erofeiev met with students, faculty, and guests at Bunche Hall 10383 on Wednesday, May 3, at 6pm, with a hybrid format allowing 17 additional audience members to attend over Zoom. Sasha Razor, UCLA’s Russian Flagship outreach director, led the event and assisted with the Q&A session .

Born in 1947, Erofeiev has been an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin’s restrictions on publishing contemporary writers and journalists’ work. His criticism of the Russian government is consistent with his views as a writer during the Soviet period; In 1979, he was expelled from the USSR Writers Union for publishing texts that were banned by Soviet authorities. In February, 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erofeiev moved to Berlin, where he currently teaches and writes.

Erofeiev’s talk focused on Russia’s war against Ukraine, which he opposes. In April of this year, he published Naked Russia,which criticized Russia’s contemporary society and its attitudes towards the invasion. Erofeiev also discussed  his newest book, The Great Gopnik, to be published later this year. A gopnik in Russian culture belongs to a delinquent and violent subculture. On Wednesday, Erofeiev characterized Putin as a gopnik and discussed his views on Putin’s motivations for beginning the war, pointing out that Putin appears to enjoy causing tensions with the West. 


Victor Erofeiev speaking at Bunche Hall

Erofeiev criticized the Russian people for supporting the war, which he attributed to the development of Russia, or rather its lack of developed history: “Russia has not had a history at all…history is the free development of a nation.” He characterized Russia’s history as a “carousel” of autocratic rulers in addition to a culture and literature that have not developed freely: “this lack of free development has contributed to the culture justifying the war; this lack of development interacts with Putin’s regime to justify war. . .” 

During the Q&A session, Erofeiev was asked his views on the importance of literature and writers in contemporary Russian society. Erofeiev was asked whether he believed Russia could become a democratic state. He pointed to the increasing frustration of Russian elites with the invasion of Ukraine as a sign that Putin’s regime is developing cracks. Erofeiev concluded by expressing optimism that Russia will in time develop and encourage freedom of personal and literary expression.