The poet Vitaly Pukhanov, who was expelled from the expert council of the Lyceum literary award, told The Insider that he does not consider himself a political activist, but got into a difficult situation solely because he honestly did his job, fought mediocrity and criticized the Z-poets . He also explained why he did not leave the award earlier, as did the director of the "Lyceum" Giorgi Urushadze.
“I worked quietly for myself and last year, when our life turned upside down after the well-known events, I stayed at the Lyceum despite the fact that the leadership changed. Georgy Urushadze left his post, but I stayed, because in one way or another I represented the interests of a whole range of young poets. I always urged them to participate in the Lyceum. I stayed, we finalized it, and the result was not bad - Olga Skorlupkina, a good St. Petersburg poet and human rights activist, won. A good result was obtained, despite the pressure that was exerted on the Lyceum.”
According to Pukhanov, a member of the award's expert council is not a permanent position. Writers are invited to take part in it every year and a new contract is concluded with them. This year, Pukhanov, as usual, was invited to become an expert for the award, he agreed and wrote a sub-post in which he explained his decision.
“I had to explain why I went this year, in this political situation, as an expert at the Lyceum. And I wrote that this is the work that I used to do - I love it, I want to read poets, I want to discover poets, I want to help poets. These are such simple and understandable words. I wrote that, while working at the Lyceum, in all the years I had not allowed a single mediocre bastard to win, which is true, and it is the task of any editor to prevent a mediocre bastard. It's written in the code. Further, I wrote that Russian poetry of recent centuries did not glorify the war. There is the poetry of defeat, there is the bitterness of war, this is great military poetry with us, a tradition, but not the glorification of war, and therefore I said that poetry that glorifies war has no right to exist. And so I wrote that Z-poets have no right to exist and to be considered.
On this occasion, of course, they were indignant, and denunciations began. And in some way, apparently, they put pressure on the leadership of the Lyceum Prize, and the management kicked me out of the experts, that's all. I didn't do anything special, I just did my job.
I did not have any conflict with the management of the Lyceum itself, there was a conflict with some third parties. More precisely, I didn’t even come into conflict with them, it’s just that the country is mobilizing, but these liberals are still entrenched in culture and don’t give. Well, how is it? We need to cleanse our culture of this bastard. Here it is cleared. No one insulted me or was rude, I'm just not an expert anymore.
Our literature is very small and very provincial. And the people in it are irreplaceable. We will have the editor-in-chief of the magazine for forty years, and the curator will also be irremovable - I have been supervising major literary projects for twenty years, and we all try to communicate carefully with each other. If we break up with someone, then this is also forever. It is clear that I broke with everyone who supported the war. It's not that it's immoral. A poet shouldn't be a fool, and that's all stupid. Even if you are a bastard, but you would at least not be a fool. I mourn my colleagues who got into all this and signed up, because the state will eat and spit out a person.
It is clear that I am now an unemployed outcast. I make a living cleaning toilets. I do aggressive cleaning. It's just such a thing. I won't have any other job, and I don't want one. I'll live, and then we'll see."
The composition of the expert council of the Lyceum Prize for 2023 was announced in early February, and Pukhanov was named among the experts. However, on February 28, it became known that he was replaced by another person. Officially, the reasons for the replacement were not called. The page with information about Pukhanov has already been removed from the award website.