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Leonid Kruglov: Tuva is our Eastern pole

Leonid Kruglov: Tuva is our Eastern poleOn 20 May 2012, the famous Russian sailing ship "Sedov" departed form Sankt-Peterburg and started on a 14-month circumnavigation of the world..

The journey of "Sedov" - the largest training sailing ship of the world - is dedicated to the 1150th anniversary of the birth of Russian statehood and the 200th anniversary of the first Russian circumnavigation of I.F. Kruzenstern and Yu.F. Lisianskiy.

For the explorer, film director, ethnographer and member of Russian Geographic Society Leonid Kruglov, the journey of "Sedov" represents the last stage of his project "Seven courageous ones. In the footprints of great Russian explorers.". After the completion of the circumnavigation, the First Channel will show a seven-part serial film of the same name, which will incorporate fresh footage as well as archival materials.

On board of the ship, there is also the winner of a contest of Russian Geographic Society "In the footprints of Kruzenstern" Alexandra Mushta, who is keeping a journal of the Pacific segment of the voyage.

Now, at the end of November, the sailing ship is approaching Tahiti.

SPB.AIF.RU: - Sailing ship "Sedov" has completed almost half of its circumnavigation. You were involved in the preparation of the expedition - tell us, please, how the itinerary for the sailing ship was chosen?

Leonid Kruglov: - The route of "Sedov", of course, differs from the route of the first Russian circumnavigation - we left out the North American ports and, on the contrary, we added several points associated with expeditions of "hatchlings of Kruzenstern's nest". Sailors who participated in the first Russian circumnavigation performed their own circumnavigations years later, and discovered various new lands. Otto Kotzebue took part in two other circumnavigations and discovered many islands, and Grigoriy Ivanovich Langsdorf was the first to explore Brazil. The most significant discovery, definitely, can be ascribed to Bellingshausen and Lazarev - they found Antarctica.

SPB.AIF.RU: - Tell us about the first Russian circumnavigation.

Leonid Kruglov: Two sailing ships took part in the circumnavigation - Kruzenstern's "Nadezhda" and Lisianskiy's "Neva". Now, of course, no country can send two ships on a single voyage. So, in a way, these really were two circumnavigations at the same time, because Kruzenstern and Lisianskiy each had his own itinerary.

The ships got to Cape Horn, then Lisianskiy went to Easter Island and Kruzenstern to the Marquesas. There they met up and separated again. The finale of the first Russian circumnavigation turned out to be very dramatic. Near Africa they lost sight of each other. Kruzenstern hit a calm, and Lisianskiy, on the contrary, got a strong traveling wind, and even set up a record, getting to Sankt-Peterburg from Africa in two weeks. It is understandable that any sailor will try to get maximum use from a good wind. But it turned out that he arrived two weeks before Kruzenstern. Lisianskiy's act was perceived as unseemly. From that time on they had little to do with each other.

SPB.AIF.RU: Was this conflict by chance?

Leonid Kruglov: We have many diaries from this circumnavigation at our disposal - Kruzenstern's and Lisianskiy's official logs, and personal journals of officers Ratmanov and Loewenstern. They clearly show that there was no competition between Kruzenstern and Lisianskiy. They were good friends from the time that they were young cadets together. Officially Kruzenstern was the chief, but there was mutual respect between them. Of course, because of personality differences, they each had his own interest in the voyage.

Kruzenstern was of scholarly and scientific bent, and cared about the good of his country. Lisianskiy had a tendency towards adventure, tried to divert from the itinerary, hoping to discover something - and he really was successful in discovering several atolls.

SPB.AIF.RU: N.P. Rezanov (prototype of main hero of rock-opera"Yunona i Avos"), who was traveling to Japan with diplomatic mission, was on board of "Nadezhda",. He was designated as the nominal head of the expedition - and he, without any sailing experience, attempted to command the officers. A serious conflict developed between Kruzenstern and Rezanov. There are arguments to this day about who was the first to apologize…

Leonid Kruglov: In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, there was a very serious clash between the two - Kruzenstern was prepared to hand in his sword, there was a possibility that he will be accused of treason and imprisoned. We found unpublished diaries of Lieutenant Makar Ivanovich Ratmanov, who traveled with Kruzenstern on his ship. He had his own private diary, and it shows clearly how the conflict evolved.

The first one to apologize was precisely Kruzenstern. As far as I understand his historical personality, he was a person of magnanimous soul, a knight, so that such a thing was much more natural for him.

SPB.AIF.RU: Did many people on board of the ship write diaries?

Leonid Kruglov: All the officers of the circumnavigation were under orders to keep official journals, which they had to hand in after the expedition. For that reason, the sailors kept two or even three journals - an official one, and another private one.

The officers' journals represent a view from the side, and they present a more objective point of view; they tell about human mutual relations, and add depth to the situation. The official documents and diaries were not meant to include extraneous matters.

SPB.AIF.RU: What kind of curious things can one find in Kruzenstern's official log?

Leonid Kruglov: Kruzenstern's diaries contain notes on the mores of island natives, descriptions of adventures, storms and weather. It is interesting to see his Atlas of South Seas, his scientific observations of the ocean - it is not by chance that he is often called the father of oceanography.

SPB.AIF.RU: In your opinion, have the mores of local natives changed a lot since the times described by Kruzenstern?

Leonid Kruglov: Of course. Right now I have many tasks ahead of me as a film director, what and how to film, because in 200 years colossal changes have taken place. A strong influence of contemporary civilization can be felt everywhere. Cultures have been subjected to huge destruction, they have practically disappeared - in the Marquesas, in French Polynesia, in Alaska.

SPB.AIF.RU: At one time Alaska was Russian America. Was our behavior towards conquered countries different from that of Europeans?

Leonid Kruglov: When you study historical processes, you will see that Russia, when it annexed territories, sacrificed more. We invested effort, and gave much to the new territories - the level of education went up, new factories and industries appeared. Russia was a spiritual and cultural donor.

SPB.AIF.RU: But was that good? Possibly, the native people did not need education or factories at all…

Leonid Kruglov: The general human processes can't be stopped. It is difficult to imagine that some region in the world would remain isolated now. Even in Papua-New Guinea it is impossible to keep enclaves of primitive cultures in isolation. All people on the planet are gradually becoming in a way one nation. The process would have started in any case.

When we left Russian America and were replaced by Americans, many more problems developed for the local natives. For example, during the Second World War, nuclear explosions were set off on the Aleutian islands.

SPB.AIF.RU: But a comparison is not in our favor, if we speak of contemporary Eskimos and Chukchi - they live much better in Alaska. Maybe Americans have improved?

Leonid Kruglov: If you look at it from the point of view of economy, they live better. But if you speak of preservation of traditions, then our nations, even regardless of the difficult period of Soviet times, have kept their traditional way of life better.

SPB.AIF.RU: How much value have native traditions for a contemporary person? Can they give us something?

Leonid Kruglov: It is interesting to talk with a personality who has an original point of view, which is vividly expressed. And it is the same with nations - the one which preserves its own original traditions and culture is incomparably more interesting. But if a nation simply blends into the mass world culture and adopts alien ways of life and thinking, losing its own, it simply becomes faceless.

SPB.AIF.RU: There is a theory that really mighty civilizations develop in places where, on one hand, there are enough resources for life, and on the other hand, where it is necessary to expend some effort to maintain security. Great civilizations of extreme points - beyond the Arctic circle or in tropical Africa are unknown. What is interesting about cultures of primitive nations?

Leonid Kruglov: To speak of appropriate level of culture is not quite correct, because then we will be comparing everything to Western culture. In reality all nations developed their own civilizations, but these were not necessarily expressed in material terms. Some had a tendency to express their culture in material objects - palaces or pyramids, while others made astonishing spiritual discoveries, and their traditions were not material. Knowledge was transmitted from person to person while the spiritual leaders of these nations were alive - as soon as they perished, the cultures disappeared.

But as contemporary research in psychology has shown, the ancient cultural strata did not disappear - they are expressed by means of images, dream visions, spontaneous creativity. Inside us, representatives of contemporary Western materialistic culture, reside aborigines of Australia and Papua-New Guinea.
SPB.AIF.RU: Is there something about their world view in general that all the primitive people of the world have in common?

Leonid Kruglov: What they have in common is non-materialistic philosophy of life, the world-view of nomadic cultures, where material things are not put in the first place. They have a meaning, but only in terms of survival, because a good knife and a yurt are necessities. They don't think about building gigantic structures.

SPB.AIF.RU: Why did European way of thinking come out on top, and why do we take the West for an example to imitate?

Leonid Kruglov: If you take a short segment of history, then it seems that the Western civilization is leading. But if we look at the whole existence of humanity, then it becomes clear that there were periods when the world view of nomads took the lead, and whole nomadic empires evolved.

SPB.AIF.RU: Do the nations for the most part strive towards European civilization, or do they hold on to their ideals? What have you observed during your travels?

Leonid Kruglov: The same tragedy is taking place everywhere. Spiritual leaders oppose it, because they understand very well that their nation is being taken over by a foreign civilization - bright and beautiful on the surface, and in our times supported by guns and rockets. They show opposition, but, in contrast to materialistic cultures, are not very successful.

When Russians got to Tibet, monks came out to meet them and explained that foreigners are not allowed to enter their spiritual capital of Lhasa. Przewalski, who spent many years trying to get there, turned away with tears in his eyes. When the English corpus came to Tibet and the soldiers were welcomed with the very same explanation, the English shot up the monks as well as dozens of local civilians who came to defend the city with old-fashioned muskets in their hands.

(Photo: "Sedov" on Lieutenant Schmidt quay. Photo from Leonid Kruglov's personal archive.)

SPB.AIF.RU: Which world-view is closer to Russian people?

Leonid Kruglov: Russians have always been in the middle - we understand ways of thought of the East as well as of the West. Russian culture combines both because of its geographic position. I believe in prophecies according to which Russia will save the world. In Moscow, one can feel the frenzied pace and constant hurry, characteristic of the West. But already in Peterburg, and so much more in Siberia and the Far East, people are more deliberate. Russia will be able to present an original example of how to unite opposites, the two extreme tendencies of world-view.

SPB.AIF.RU: Your first film was dedicated to Tuva. What can you tell us about this republic and its people?

Leonid Kruglov: Tuva is our Eastern pole. We are in contact with the West through the European part of Russia, and we have always been in contact with the East through our Asian regions. Tuva has been called the Heart of Asia, and for me it has always been the center of nomadic, non-materialistic Asian culture..

The film about Tuva was my first and is still the most beloved. Stylistically it is composed in such a way as to show the unhurried, contemplative way of life in Tuva. Here a person can sit for a long time, looking at the space unfolding around him, and think about the creation of the world, sensing himself to be a part of this world.

SPB.AIF.RU: The film about the circumnavigation is the culmination of the "Seven courageous ones" project, where you talk about the famous Russian expeditions. How will the film be made? The world has changed much since those times.

Leonid Kruglov: We will film not just on the water, but also on land - to tell about Langsdorf's Brazilian history, about Bellingshausen and Lazarev's search for Antarctica, about the Far East expeditions, about Przewalski. In such a way, the film will reflect Russian geographic discoveries, which took place soon after the first Russian circumnavigation. We will demonstrate parallels with the present. There will be a historical journal as well as a story about what is going on in contemporary world, and how.

The events of the past are turning out to be astonishingly relevant. I have noticed long ago, that when you are following in the footprints of some great explorer, suddenly events begin to unfold that show that history moves in spirals. If you go to the roots, to the plot of the situation, it turns out that there really are not too many possible themes. One and the same history is repeated, only with some minor variations.

ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, translated by Heda Jindrak
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