The way I see it: Nikolai Khalezin and Natalya Koliada

Khalezin and Koliada are playwrights and co-founders of Belarus Free Theatre, a banned organisation

1 Does art make a difference?

Art influences our condition; our condition influences our behaviour; our behaviour influences society; society influences art. Thus the circle becomes closed.

2 Should politics and art mix?

If politics and art do not interrelate, both art and politics die. Politics must find approval through the media, civil society and art. If art distances itself from reality, it becomes like a dead language, existing only in manuscripts that sit for centuries in the storerooms of libraries.

3 Is your work for the many or for the few?

Our work is for those who want to wake their sleeping feelings, for those who are ready to experience strong emotion and confirm that they are still alive.

4 If you were world leader, what would be your first law?

A tax on meanness.

5 Who would be your top advisers?

Since Nikolai’s arrest, we do everything separately, even going to the supermarket. So, if one of us became world leader, the other would be top adviser. These people we just admire: Martin Luther King, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Václav Havel, Tom Stoppard, the Dalai Lama, Kurt Vonnegut and Mick Jagger.

6 What, if anything, would you censor?

Populist speeches by politicians. All dictators come to power with the help of populist speeches.

7 If you had to banish one public figure, who would it be?

Robert Mugabe. He embodies all the worst aspects of the world’s remaining dictatorships.

8 What are the rules that you live by?

Family, Freedom and Arts!

9 Do you love your country?

Yes, despite all its drawbacks. Our country is living through its worst time, but one day, if there is international solidarity with all of us in Belarus who value freedom, our situation will improve.

10 Are we all doomed?

We are all doomed for just our own part of happiness.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Now it gets really dirty