Svetlana Alexievich:  I think that the idea of socialism is actually a good idea. But what the Bolsheviks did to the country, it’s a crime.  When I was writing this book, I was actually studying a lot of memories of Bolsheviks; there are letters and other documents. And it’s interesting to see, in their youth, they were actually beautiful people, and they wanted to create a paradise.  I think it’s an eternal Russian problem, the idealism. People were not ready for socialism yet, but they were forced into it. And Stalin actually was saying — one of his sayings was, in the camps where people were tortured — that “We need to force freedom on people.”

Of course, my generation was different, and I didn’t witness camps. My father told me about those days. He worked in the university, and he said many of the teachers from the universities were in camps. My generation didn’t see so much blood. People weren’t sent to their death. It’s a different time.  I wrote, in parts of my book, about the notes of accomplices. I believe that we all were part of it because we believed in the same thing. We believed in the socialist idea; we believed in freedom; we believed in the better world. I remember, when I was young, we even were talking about going to other parts of Russia to develop it, to make it better. We were all idealists.

I would say my family was a common (typical) family. My father was director of a school. He was a member of the Communist Party. He went to war. That was his generation and his idea. And it’s difficult for that generation to say goodbye to all of those ideas.  For example, when I was writing my book about Afghanistan, I told my father all of those stories, horror stories, about what was happening. I told him, “Those people, they are actually torturing people in Afghanistan.”  When I told my father, he did not believe me, and he was crying.