Yegor Gaidar Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
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Dr. Gaidar, welcome to Berkeley.
Tell us a little about your background. Your grandfather was the author of children's books and your father was a military correspondent for Pravda.
Yes that's right. Both of my grandfathers were writers and Arkadi Gaidar was probably one of the most famous in our country. He also was a very well known hero of the Civil War and of the Second World War. He really was a very good writer, but also a part of the communist pantheon. He is pictured, usually, as a perfect communist hero. That was not really the truth. He was a talented man caught in a terrible tragedy of revolution and civil war. He started to write when he was 14, a regiment commander when he was 17, many times wounded. At 22, demobilized from the army, after the war, as a regiment commander, very ill. So with this kind of biography, you could expect the person to be a misanthrope. He started to write very, very nice, very interesting children's books.
How does having a grandfather like that influence a young person? He was killed in the war, so he was dead before you were born.
Yes. Well, there were two visions of this. First of all, he really was part of this ideology and this pressure on the children, somehow, so when I came to school, everybody all the time tried to speak with me about my grandfather. I think of the first words that my first teacher spoke to me: "Well, how could you write so badly when your grandfather was so great a writer?" So I was so sick of it, I tried to study hard so that nobody would compare me with my grandfather. But all the same, I really love his books even now. I read them a year ago and they're really interesting. It's good Russian literature. So it was as if there were two Arkadi Gaidars, one a part of the communist pantheon, and another very talented, not very happy person whom I was able to know from the tales of my father and grandmother.
So that was a real challenge, moving between these two images. And your father was a military correspondent for Pravda, but he wanted you to be an economist?
Yes. He was in the navy before and I wanted very much to follow his steps and also to go into the navy. I was very much interested in it. But then he very delicately pushed me in the direction of economics. Somehow, he had a feeling that the economy would play a very important role in the history of our country during the next generation.
And he proved to be right.
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