Syrian anti-Semite, Assad lackey, and 9/11 cheerleader Ali Ukla Ursan can add another accolade to his distinguished résumé: the Pushkin Medal, a top Russian cultural prize. The New York Times rehashes some of Ursan’s greatest hits:
On Sept. 25, 2001, Mr. Ursan described his reaction to the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings two weeks earlier. “My lungs filled with air, and I breathed in relief as I had never breathed before,” he wrote. . . .Mr. Ursan has frequently spoken out against Israel and Jews. . . . “The covetous, racist and hated Jew Shylock who cut the flesh from Antonio’s chest with the knife of hatred, invades you with his money, his modern airplanes, his missiles and his nuclear bombs.”
The choice of Ursan is probably not a Stalinist-type political signal, but rather a reward for his years of steady hackery. Socialist regimes have long used “writers’ unions” to control culture and maintain a ready supply of flacks and hacks to support the party line of the moment. Today’s Russian Writers’ Union is the direct descendant of the Soviet-era institutions that persecuted and hounded great Russian writers during the Communist era. (Syria, too, has such an institution.) The new Pushkin medalist is being commended for years of faithful service to these eminently sterile institutions, and the “cultural bureaucrats” in Russia who pushed the award through likely didn’t care about his more controversial pronouncements.In any case, they know all too well not to take seriously writing by a member of an official writers’ union in a non-democratic country. Such people say what they must rather than what they think. It’s the price of doing business.The biggest shame in this black political comedy is that poor Pushkin’s good name got dragged into it.