‘Nobody in Uzbekistan knows who Pushkin is’?
In an interview on June 8, TV personality Ksenia Sobchak raised the hot-button issue of ethnicity with opposition politician Alexey Navalny, asking him if he considers his country to be a Russian monoethnic state or a multinational state. Navalny answered that most citizens self-identify as ethnic Russians, while clarifying that the Russian Federation is nevertheless a multiethnic state.
Sobchak then argued that Russian literature once united the peoples of the USSR, but these links have broken down, she claimed, since the fall of the Soviet Union. “Yes it goes without saying that nobody in Uzbekistan knows who Pushkin is,” Navalny said in agreement.
The apparently prejudiced remark has made waves in Uzbekistan, where Facebook users are responding with videos demonstrating their enduring knowledge of and appreciation for the works of Alexander Pushkin.
In the finest memorization traditions of Russian education, many of the videos showcase poetic recitations by particularly adorable children.
One Uzbek man filmed a personal appeal to Sobchak and Navalny, explaining that he grew up in an apartment on Pushkin Street. He also pointed out that Tashkent has a subway station named after the famous poet, in addition to a Pushkin Park that has its own Pushkin monument. “As little children, we learn about all your writers, but you know absolutely nothing about us. You don’t know a thing about us. That’s what you proved with your conversation,” the man says in his video, which has drawn more than 210,000 views on Facebook.
Photo on front page is Orest Kiprensky's 1827 portrait of Pushkin / public domain