Andre Orlov (popular culture), 1991

Interview with Andre Orlov, 23-07-91
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
This interview is pretty useless, which is a pity because he told me some interesting stories when I wasn’t taping the conversation. He’s about 30, he’s in the music business, making and dealing with American rock records. I interviewed him in the communal apartment he and his wife shared with another couple. He had been in the army and said that if they were ordered to shoot in a war, they would sabotage the gun. He also told me the story about the Harmonic Convergence (New Age mystery event) when he went to Lake Baikal to perform a ritual. There were people at special spots all around the world performing rituals with conch shells, sweetgrass, etc. Julia introduced me to him as an example of a New Age young person. She had dated him years before. Some of his stories were quite funny, but this interview is rather dumb.

MS — I need to know a lot more because when I go home I am one of the sociology professors. I will go to Ohio and I will give a paper on the Soviet Peace Movement in the 1990’s. So now I must learn as much as possible.

ANDRE ORLOV — The idea of the political movement is that because at this moment, many political parties have the idea of civic peace, it was not so popular in the Soviet Union. There are maybe thousands of parties in the Soviet Union, only in Moscow there are maybe one thousand.

MS — So how did that happen? Is it the change in climate that anyone can do it now?

ANDRE ORLOV — One thing, there are a lot of people on the American side use to have a long, and got addicted, let’s say. They started some kind of citizen diplomacy tourist running around finding a way of making some money. Here I think it has changed a lot. A lot of Soviets, especially people who work, get in touch with these groups, almost professionally, talking it has lost its charisma. After a while it becomes, after a while you get tired of repeating the same conversation. There is not much to discuss, like in the matters of peace after you have a lot of people around you who share the same opinions. You have to explain why you did this, why you did that. After a while people know who you are, and why you teach about how to deal with prejudice, and there is not much you can tell the white kids about prejudice, after they have overcome their prejudice. Why should I repeat these Gorbachev phrases. I have no reason to think about him as being a good person or a bad person, he is just a person.

MS — I guess what I am interested in now is how the culture got to such a point that this happened. I mean, these readers are part of a society which you are constantly conversing, and somehow , I would assume, I believe that your conversations became a string of conversations from which they took part which had quite an effect.

ANDRE ORLOV — Much of society has changed, well the part of society that implants its politics on the part of society that is interested in these issues has changed a little. The majority of society here as well as in the States does not care about world politics, they care about how to put food on the table. They do not care about Americans. They do not think they will ever go there (to America). We do not want another WW2, and I do not think that there is such a thing as educated or changed nuclear mentallity or nuclear age or an understanding of what is going on. The people are more concerned with being at peace with other nations here in Russia.

MS — It does not look to me as if the trends indicate that it is working in this way.

ANDRE ORLOV — An enormous amount of my struggle, not long ago — I do not think you can start thinking about world peace before you can really be at peace with yourself and your family.

MS — OK, so what you are saying is that their conversations really did not have any impact on anybody.

ANDRE ORLOV — No, they did have impact on my immediate plans. My newspaper articles did have some impact on what I was doing, but I do not think that going in the same direction would be of significance now.

MS — OK, I do not necessarily disagree with that. I mean, I do not know weather I agree with it but…

ANDRE ORLOV — I mean it is like talking about religion repeating the same phrases of prayers daily. I know the peace religion pretty well, People who appreciate them. There is no such thing as opposed to religion, it is still pretty practical. We do not want WW3, and this is it. After you read about it daily in the newspapers, a lot of people who do not think that there is any reason not to believe their governments after all. If the president of the United States or the president of Russia, has come up with a good phrase that you agree with finally after all these years, a lot of people tend to think that now he makes sense, you know. It makes sense what the president says.

MS — Yes.

ANDRE ORLOV — But now, I am opposed to this system, both Russian and American as I ever was. A lot of phrases they say right now, are the same that I was saying ten years ago and was close to being arrested for.

MS — OK, give me some examples of how you are opposed to — I am not sure of what you are referring to when you say that you are opposed to the system.

ANDRE ORLOV — Well I do not consider myself part of the Soviet system as it is, or the Soviet state. I do not consider myself a Soviet or a Russian, national or patriot. Just as an animal does not have to be a way of being a certain species or this or that territory. But I do not think that Gorbachev did that much good for the Soviets trying to find inner peace or the world peace movement or the Soviet-American ties. You know it is mostly Soviet and American. i do not think I know or ever heard about any Canadian citizens although I think that the first on this breaking the ice — one of the first — music for the young people. Where five thousand Canadian tourists coming to Moscow in late August and early September in 1972 for the first national series.

MS — That is interesting.

ANDRE ORLOV — Well yes, I was told that the Canadian flag was never a symbol or any kind of an enemy. Canada’s maple leaf or like there were thousands. Moscow was literally full of tourists, Canadians. They were pretty average, the people who came over. There was a big two week long party in Moscow, with Canadians in all the streets, with Canadian flags, thousands of people around, and that was perfect citizen diplomacy for me.

MS — What did that accomplish?

ANDRE ORLOV — Well, no one would have believed that Canada can possibly be an enemy of Russia. Because they are fun, they play great hockey, thay beat us at hockey and we know that, we have met thousands of people who tested those Canadians. There were five thousand. This was the first big figures ever to come in from one country for one cause: ice hockey. And if you are a man or a woman and you love ice hockey and there is a guy sitting next to you and he is booing your team and yelling for his team, then he is a friend. I have a lot of those.

MS — Do you? (laughing)

ANDRE ORLOV — Maybe that is why I became a journalist because I finally ended up covering, collecting signitures of some Canadian ice hockey players. After a while I was covering ice hockey I do think that for music. There was something for my generation or for people who are older that I am. And after that no matter what they wanted.

MS — So the culture is not a matter of changing particular beliefs as much as it is changing trust. Trust based on just common humanity. And changes that you are referring to you were not particularly engaged in, if I am hearing you right, altering that particular policy, philosophies of the meaning of freedom.

ANDRE ORLOV — Yes, I would, I was involved in a lot of seminars, I was involved in a lot political and religious discussions. But that was part of everyday life. When you get into that cycle. And you discover the matters that you have never thought about in that conversation. And one thing that I realized is no matter how well you think you know the other side of the other language, there is still no way to translate the words going through the dictionary, you say freedom, you translate it as (Russian word for freedom) and it is two different words. Here you say a woman, and a Russian women is different from an American woman. Something that hurt me when I was very little was that the colour of my shirt — this is yellow — How do you know that I see the same way that you do. And there is no possible way for you to tell me that you see it as the same colour that I do. So there are too many conversations to find the words on both sides. You know because if you translate it into the Russian word, you can only know the word by one translation. There is no way for me to really understand American, the meaning of the words. there are some good books on literature, someone explaining how the Russian culture works you know. Someone must first overcome the language barrier, give it a lot of thought. But things that are just natural for a Russian person, you know, they can count how many times you use this or that word. And they are looking for the significance of it. While he speaks the language and pays attention to it. Believe me this does not mean this and that. How can you explain something you do not understand or you do not think that you understand. You are sometimes creating the reasons or the consequences for — you know, for things happening. And sometimes it is much easier that you have to think who has a different education or a different training.

MS — No matter how much content you have with people from another culture, you never really get it.

ANDRE ORLOV — I did what I thought was the right thing to do.

MS — Great.

ANDRE ORLOV — You know if you drank fresh water from a train for instance, you do not care what happens with the water in your stomach and in your body and how it gets to you know, what happens to it inside the system. a person should follow his or her inner guidance of what is right to do. If a person thinks that the right thing to do is to join the military, then somthing is wrong with this person. But I do not care what the terms of the INF treaty really are, you know, when I eat bread I do not care what kind of molecules, when I want peace, I do not care what the terms are. I want peace today and tommorrow and the day after tommorrow! And that is pretty easy when you think of the philosophy. You know one thing I am not going to participate in any real political thing or organization or rally or something unless it is some real thing and the only physical participation can be to prevent immediate physical violence or physical threat. But I am not going to go out and say I support this INF treaty. I think that maybe the important thing that happens there, are there are proffs, here is a good example. Physical contact with the other set is what matters. they can sit across the table for months saying we want five hundred missiles, we want seven hundred missiles and then they talk for five hours, then they go to their rooms, the first night and you know, they party, drink whiskey, vodka. Then the next morning, they are sitting there with hangovers saying we want five hundred missiles, and then the guy sees that the other guy also has a hangover, you know, then they become friends.

MS — Did you see that wonderful play called “A Walk in the Woods”?

There is a play exactly about the treaty, the negotiators in Geneva. They had been there for 20 years all negotiating, they were not supposed to reach any agreement, but their relationship was really wonderful. It was a wonderful play.

ANDRE ORLOV — And I think Gorbachev is a good example because he is saying the things he was present to say that he could deliver. For example, pretending to be a good guy, a public relations thing. the bid media. Which he proved because if remarks but the American’s said Gorbachev was such a great guy. You see he had to become a great guy because if you pretend you are a nice person, you are a nice person to the people around you, you know, no matter what you do, you are pretending, you know, if you are going to be nice to a guy, you shake his hand, the chemistry that happens between the people when they actually shake hands and they do not want to accept — to show the knowledge that they know how basically same they are.

MS — That is right, that is a great place to start. I know stories of people who did the equivalent of attending a football match and become, understand each other, there or feel better about each other because of it. Or shake hands, gritting their teeth but never the less shaking hands, and find themselves changed as a result of it. That is not the only thing I am interested in but that is where your functionings are here. And that is a very important part of the thing that I need to look at. Can you recall an encounter in which you felt something really changed during the encounter in a significant way?

ANDRE ORLOV — It is hard for me to re-enact this, OK, on March 28, I had that meeting and I changed for instance, I would have changed by march 29th anyway. I would have become one day older and I am a religious person. I do not think that people can change themselves. People can talk of the indoctrination or the kind of social and ideological dirt and bull shit that are in the governments, well some people in some governments. in the system are trying to put — all you have to do is take off the blinds, the shades and see the face of the enemy. It takes so much but it does not really change the shapes that someone puts on your eyes. There is not a change in your physical body. I believe that — well, a human being is created, is born with no need for purification. The only purification, that is, to take off what has been wrongly put on him.

MS — OK, I am not looking necessarily for purification.

ANDRE ORLOV — Well in a way you are.

MS — Maybe, but not necessarily. I mean I am different for having met Julia, I would not call it purification. I have a hard time saying how I am different for knowing her. Certain things that we have done that hurt and I am grateful for, but I know I am somewhat different from knowing her and what is interesting is that if I can identify those. I may go home and actually make an effort to say what happened to me as a result of this encounter. Sometime it works. I cannot identify it. I think this is something you do a lot of and you did it because you thought it was right. And I assume you did it because you thought somehow, someone was different because of it.

ANDRE ORLOV — I do not believe in doing good to other people for the sake of changing them for the better or doing good to the person for the sake of them realizing it.

MS — What about for yourself?

ANDRE ORLOV — Not eating meat. There are different types of vegetarians as you know. All kinds of people who are doing this thing to their bodies for different reasons. And some people do not eat meat because they do not feel like eating meat. They do not make a big deal, animals are being killed because of the protien contents — whatever. So I think that some people just really, and I do not think that I can really generalize the changes in myself. Or, maybe I am just the wrong person to interview.

MS — Insofar as you are not looking to go but you are looking for the experience. You have not even told me once about anything you did for any reason. Everything I get from you is “I did it because it felt like the right thing to do” or something like that, but not in terms of looking to the outcome.

ANDRE ORLOV — You see the outcome and it is fun. Sometimes when you have to prove to your friends for instance that you are doing the right thing, you are predicting the outcome. Most of the time, I can tell you honestly, that having fun here with my Russian friends. I do for the same reason, I like it and I can understand and be with my American friends. My Russian friends who happened to be in the same room at the same time. For home, they were the first Americans I had ever spoken to or saw or touched physically. It was not something made deliberately for — 20 Americans and 20 Russians — get together and get drunk.

MS — OK, you do not do things for any particular reason, you just do them.

ANDRE ORLOV — In a way yes. For example with hitchhiking. You do not know where it is going to take you, you just hope that everything goes OK.

MS — Are you generally successful?

ANDRE ORLOV — Yes, for instance, I was very involved with a girl, a long time ago and I think that changed a lot of my friends because first of all I am dating an American girl, OK you are going to ruin your career, and your father’s career and he or I might get arrested and everything and when I first sneaked her to my birthday party and my father was not there, my friends were protecting him from knowing she is American because he would be really upset.

MS — Yes?

ANDRE ORLOV — Well yes because well it was not paranoia he was well under the belief that that would have been enough to give him and me 15 years in camp. If that was real for you when you were 14 or 15, it stays real for you for the rest of your life, you know there is, OK the rules have changed but what if something returns, because it was that way not long ago. I see my father asking — what is the world like in Chicago. He is not upset when he should be — you know, being himself. Because she is a human being. She is fun, she is not a threat. So he tells me, OK, just do not mention it if you talk with someone from my office because the kind of security clearance that he has says that he is supposed to report any and all of those contacts. Similarly, people in Canada and the US — a contact with the soviets right now if you work for the State Department. I know a girl from the embassy who was fired for having a Soviet mother, so it happens on both sides.

MS — Still?

ANDRE ORLOV — Yes, you know the FBI and the Canadian Mounted Police, they are all there, now they still retain Soviet KGB officers who are defecting. It is working. I would shoot something and now there is no KGB listening. I do not care. I never care if they are listening to my conversations. My idea is that the more they know the more exposed I am and the more protected I am.

MS — In what way?

ANDRE ORLOV — Well, if someone just knows that I speak for two hours with these tapes daily, they do not have a way of tapping the phone or hearing it. They would be upset. They can create things in their minds. If they hear that I am just talking to my girl friend, they would be more comfortable of just having me there, spending my own money for my own phone conversations. Lets say if in this book for instance or some similar publication, or interview, I am telling what I am about. Someone who I hope has different intelligence but some brains understands this, I am not doing anything wrong and I am not selling my father’s secrets.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books