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Kirill Martynov, Leonid Gozman, Askold Kurov and Masha Myers present a documentary on foreign agents in Russia in Berlin


The film "This message is created and distributed" by Russian documentary makers about foreign agents was screened in Berlin. It was presented by director Askold Kurov and Kirill Martynov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe.

According to Askold Kurov, the film was conceived a year ago to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the "philosophical steamroller". This is what the mathematician and philosopher Sergei Horuzhiy called the Soviet authorities' operation to expel intellectuals abroad in 1922 - 1923 in his articles.

"A hundred years have passed and the attitude towards independent, thinking, free people in Russia has not changed. People are still trying to eliminate them.

Today, with the help of the law on foreign agents," says the director. We started the film about the new 'philosophical steamroller' with the trial for the liquidation of Memorial (the trial was started in November 2021, - ed.). And then what began, began to happen. The film took on a different meaning: the state was removing those who could testify to their war crimes. It turned out that this film is also about the war.

Screenshot from "This message is created and distributed"

The film chronicles the events of 2022. How Novaya Gazeta makes the difficult decision to suspend its work and prints its last issue in Russia. How Ekho Moskvy is cut off the airwaves. How the memorialists go into their trashed office after a search.

The footage is unique, in that, for the first time we see specific people behind the names of organisations. They take pictures from the walls of the office, pack their suitcases and take pictures of their own yard as they leave the country.

In parallel, there is footage of the bombing of Ukraine, pro-government and anti-war rallies, propaganda broadcasts and even the life-threatening funerals of Russian soldiers filmed.

Screenshot from "This message is created and distributed"

"Behind my name in the credits is a group of directors. My collaborators remain in Russia. It is not safe to reveal their names," stresses Askold.

"I watched the film as if I was on the inside, through the eyes of a participant in the events," shares Masha Myers, a journalist at the liquidated Ekho Moskvy radio station. Of course, it's emotional. The view from my window. The table at which I spent many hours on air. The feeling of being away from home forever. To quote Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, ed: "We live inside a history textbook".

After this brilliant film, I would like to put an ellipsis, because nothing has ended. We keep leafing through the history book.

The filmmakers have recorded the events, but after that we have continued to lived through another events. We don't know how it will all end. Thank you and we look forward to the next series from you!".

Screenshot from "This message is created and distributed"

"I agree with Masha," commented Askold. I remember that I was on air in 2017 when I shot a film about Oleg Sentsov, who was then on hunger strike in the colony. The news came today about the death of Gennady Afanasyev, one of the defendants in the Sentsov case and one of the first political prisoners in Crimea (For a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, he was pardoned in 2016. At the beginning of the war, he joined the AFU - ed.) Events are happening with incredible intensity and tragedy. But I hope that we will shoot a sequel. And the finale will take place in Russia."

"Not only am I a foreign agent, I am also a criminal," jokes Leonid Gozman, a Russian opposition politician on the register of foreign agents, from the stage - I have a lot of merit for the state".

Leonid Gozman

"The film takes the heart," he shares. The parting shots resonate particularly well, as I didn't want to leave until the last moment. I was declared a foreign agent in May (2022 - ed.). My wife and I were in Italy. Everyone was saying 'understand that you must not go back'. A comrade of mine called and said, "You're such an idiot! The country is at war. It needs traitors! It needs enemies!". But we came back then.

Then all sorts of miracles began to happen. By some miracle I ended up here. Askold's right: The next film should be about coming back. I will end with a line from Mandelstam: "For I am not a wolf by my blood / And only an equal will kill me. They are not our equals. Thank you."

The audience shared their stories. For example, Alexander, an electrician from Moscow, has been in Berlin for just 1.5 months: "Everything was clear to me at once. I went out to the first rallies. On March 6, I spent seven hours in the Troitsk IAB. Afterwards I started collecting documents for emigration.

The hardest thing during the visa waiting period was going to work, looking at all this surrounding life as if nothing was going on, listening to my colleagues.

The question is rhetorical. What words can you choose so that relatives, relatives, friends would understand? Thank you very much for the film".

Screenshot from "This message is created and distributed"

They also ask about the future of Novaya Gazeta. Kirill Martynov answers: "March 28th was the last working day in Moscow. On 7 April we started work in Europe.

The story of a newspaper whose six contributors were murdered; whose editor-in-chief received the Nobel Peace Prize; whose issue on the first day of the war came out in two languages - Ukrainian and Russian; this story cannot end when some bastards decide to ban it. We will not give them the paper.

Kirill Martynov

In 2014, the Russian authorities hid the fact that they were waging war. Elena Kostyuchenko and Pavel Kanygin, authors of Novaya, were telling people stories that prevented the war.

This year things have changed: Putin is no longer shy, and whatever stories we tell, there is nothing stopping him.

I tried to think of a new meaning for what we do and I came up with this: War crimes are committed every day. Both international and Ukrainian journalists investigate them. Some of them have already died. Our task is to do this from the Russian side. To record each specific war crime, to tell their stories. At some point, it will be impossible to turn away from them. Just as it was impossible to turn away from the events of the 20th century."

By: Marina Merkulova
Photos by author


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