Saxophonist, member of the group "Krambambulya"

Paval Arakelyan

moved from Belarus to Vilnius.

The musician remained in Minsk until the end, although there was no work there, and in order to survive, he had to sell his instruments.

In a conversation with Svaboda, Paval told how Minsk is living today, what the prospects are in the regime, and why he decided to move to another country.

Paval Arakelyan on stage.

Archive photo

"You haven't been put down yet?"

- What did you feel when you were in Minsk for the last two years?

- This is the atmosphere of a concentration camp, very difficult, people are depressed.

And I felt the same as the rest.

- What saved you in such a situation?

- Kotik, in particular, does not save anything anymore.

I would say that it is so hopeless.

If you talk to someone who couldn't leave for various reasons, the attitude is: "Oh, it's all a mountain."

The planning horizon has literally shrunk to a couple of hours, and the most annoying thing is that you are getting used to it.

- In the morning, you listened to the movements in the driveway, is someone coming for you?

- Of course.

Now it's a situation where you don't have to do anything to be picked up.

Everyone understands that they can come for him.

That's how they say: "And I once put a like somewhere."

And they can for any donation, for a repost from five years ago, for anything.

Every man left says he knows why they might come for him.

Of course, you wake up every morning with the expectation that they can visit you today.

And most importantly, you know that people around you wake up with the same feeling.

The most frequent thing I heard in Minsk: "Haven't you been arrested yet?"

Music by Paval Arakelyan, November 28, 2022

- Is there a cultural life in Minsk now?

- None.

There are small attempts.

Cultural life in Minsk was never particularly rich, and now there are only remnants left.

Nothing has been done underground for a long time.

There are lists of allowed musicians and artists who are still trying to do something, but nothing interesting, from my point of view.

- If you watch the video from Zybitskaya, you get the impression that there are still a lot of people there.

- I have not been to Zybitskaya even in the best times, it is difficult for me to answer for that.

But it seems to me that there were concerts in Auschwitz and someone hung out there.

Of course, Minsk does not look like something from a horror movie with the Eye of Mordor, but something bad is clearly happening.

You see, in Nazi Germany there was a stratum of people for whom everything was fine.

Maybe it's just this story, I don't know.

"Blacklists were introduced at corporations"

- Did you really have to sell your instruments in order to have money to live on?

Tell this story.

- Yes.

I am not burdened by my wife and children, but I also have an elderly mother and a sick cat, I need to live for something.

First, the work was stopped during the covid times, and then due to political events.

In Minsk, the salary came through private events mainly: corporate events, weddings.

"Black lists" have always existed, but they did not go into the private sphere, and now they have twisted everything here as well.

To perform at a birthday party in a cafe near Molodechno for 20 people, I must be approved.

As a result, they say: "No, no."

He sat without work for almost three years.

Jazzman Paval Arakelyan on stage.

Archive photo

- Don't you have a saxophone now?

- I have one soprano saxophone left, which I failed to sell.

I sold baritone, tenor, flugelhorn, keys.

The lack of money was felt, of course.

But I still had friends who didn't leave, I didn't ask them for anything, but someone would buy groceries, someone would pay the bills, they would call on the phone.

Such that there would be no famines, of course.

The expenses before the illness of the cat (he has diabetes) were not so great.

I thought that after selling the instruments, I would have enough funds for 6-9 months.

He ate what was available, he was never a fashionista.

- When was the last time you played in Belarus?

— It seems to me that in the winter of 2021 it was a private IT company.

They invited me to their events three or four times while it was still possible.

"I felt like the bassist of Deep Purple"

- Did you feel forgotten?

- Not a feeling, but an understanding that this is a natural process.

That's how showbiz works.

At the end of 2020, I was known on the streets in Minsk, I felt a bit like the bassist of Deep Purple.

It was understandable, because we covered hundreds of thousands of people only with street concerts.

But time is passing.

Only those who left remained in the media.

And those who remained were forgotten.

It's normal, I have no complaints about it.

- How many street concerts did you give in 2020?

- When we tried to count, it turned out to be about a hundred.

It is difficult to calculate more precisely, because there was a huge pace.

There was a march on Sunday.

Monday is a day off and I spent the whole day at the computer planning my schedule for the week.

I have bad orientation in space, I looked at the map in order to catch as many locations as possible on the way.

The record seems to have been seven concerts in one day.

I remember coming home, opening Telegram, and the feeling that only you are being written about: there are videos, there are videos.

Music by Paval Arakelyan, November 28, 2022

- What did you feel then?

- That I am in my place.

Afterwards, I reflected on what could have been done differently, and I came to the conclusion - nothing.

Even knowing how it will all end.

I had a brief period of euphoria that started and ended on August 16.

I saw that the people had finally come out.

And when I returned home, the euphoria ended.

I said once (I don't remember whether it was in the media) that I did not participate in the election campaign, it really annoyed me, as did many people who have been on the topic for a long time.

With a squeak in my heart, I went to the elections and put a tick for Tikhonovskaya, although it was not easy to do it.

But when I saw that my people went out into the streets, I decided that I would be with them wherever they went.

Now I would have done the same, there was no choice.

Paval Arakelyan on stage.

Archive photo

"There was not enough work with the security forces"

- Do you understand what was missing for victory then?

- I understand.

There were two options: we had to leave and not leave again (there was a period when it would have worked), or five hundred armed men ahead of the marchers.

I know for sure that various security forces in those days were sitting on their knees and were ready to flee across the border to Russia.

I know two or three such cases, but you need to know the psychology of these "monkeys" to understand that the rest are the same.

There was a video of people walking with balloons, and they shout: "Faster, help, they're coming at us."

And if armed men were walking ahead, then there would be no one there, everyone would run away.

It is impossible to persuade a shopkeeper in a dark doorway with words not to take money.

But there was an option for a strike on August 11-12: not to go to work, to dismantle Voladarka into bricks.

There was not enough work with normal employees of the bodies.

We know that about 30% of the security forces have left, and they are trained and know how to use weapons (there is no official or unofficial confirmation of this information. — RS).

We always said: "There are normal people in the system."

But no one organized them.

Instead, our Headquarters-Office-Cabinet was engaged in world tours.

There were real options.

The "great strategist" Putin would most likely sit still and then swallow what happened in the country.

And even if the Russians had come, they would have taken weapons and started to put down this Pskov riot police.

I don't want to sound like a big hero, because I'm sure I'd be the first to be put...

- Earlier you said that you were ready to die.

- I'm ready.

But I'm not a soldier, I can't even shoot.

It's just that freedom cannot be obtained in any other way, it has to be paid for.

It doesn't work otherwise.

Music by Paval Arakelyan, November 28, 2022

"There is no hatred, there is disgust"

- Do you now have any hopes for the future, when part of the posiionaries are sitting, and even more have left the country?

— The USSR must collapse.

Putin accelerated the process with the war in Ukraine.

But we must understand that the end of Putin does not mean the end of Lukashenka.

Second, even if Lukashenka really follows Putin, there is no one to take power.

We have Lukashenka's cannibals on one side, and Tsikhanovskaya's tent on the other.

We still need to understand that there will be a lot of work, but many people will not return to Belarus, and that's normal.

I don't know how long it will continue - a year, two, five, ten, I'm not an analyst.

In my opinion, the countdown is still on for years, but not for decades.

One way or another, it will all fall apart.

- Did you hate the state system?

- I never loved her.

I have been very freedom-loving since childhood, I was poorly integrated.

In 2010, I realized that this is evil, a devil, with which we must fight.

There may be no hatred even today, but there is disgust and ugliness.

If you respect your opponent, then that's one thing, but here we are treated with ugliness.

Even terrorists get rid of them, because they can torture your relatives and children just for their own pleasure.

They are maniacs, and their system is the same.

The dictionary says that a man who has killed once is a murderer;

a person who has raped once is a rapist.

You can't expect that now everything will be different, because he is already a murderer and a rapist.

- When you were given the opportunity to speak, was there no hope that the system would change from within?

- Never, she cannot change.

We must give credit to Lukashenka, who built his system for 28 years while we quarreled and divided something.

He chose people who were as loyal and stupid as possible.

He built himself such a monolith.

Music by Paval Arakelyan, November 28, 2022, Vilnius, Lithuania

"Belarus has run out of insulin for cats"

- What was your motivation to stay in Belarus until the end?

- I could not abandon my family, no one will take care of them.

But when I realized that I will now go to prison and no one will take care of them, we all left together.

- What was the last straw?

- I have known since 2021 that there is a criminal case against me.

I was contacted by a person who once worked there (forces - RS) and said that there are materials for me, without details.

Recently, medicine, insulin and special food have been missing for my cat.

I decided that it was time to go and take care of my loved ones.

- Was it a difficult decision to make?

- Yes, I am a homebody, like that cat.

And he is still "sick" of Belarus.

Paval Arakelyan.

Vilnius, November 28, 2022

"I couldn't work"

- Have you already taken up the instrument in Vilnius?

- I am lucky, I have a friend in Vilnius, Eva Baranauskaita, we participated in the same project with her once.

She was very worried about my fate.

When she heard that I was moving to Vilnius, she became my guardian angel, took me by the hand and began to drive me everywhere, helped me find a temporarily very cheap house.

She started driving to various jazz sessions.

I haven't practiced for two years, it's very difficult, I need to reproduce my form.

Local musicians have been very positive towards me, offering various help.

I don't know if it will be possible to earn here.

Music needs about a year to adapt in another country.

There are more good musicians here than in Belarus.

- Did you also quit working as a trainer in a gym in Belarus?

- I gave up everything.

Only for the last six months, I have been taking my mother to the gym, because she needs it for her health.

This is such a hall on the edge of Minsk, when I came there, there were no trainers at all.

I helped a little, explained so that no one was injured.

But it was not a salary.

I couldn't work, my hands just couldn't rise.

- Maybe it's depression?

- No, of course.

Depression is a clinical condition, I didn't have it.

I couldn't live a normal life, I still can't until the end: how many of my friends are sitting, how many more are sitting, how many are being tortured.

This is all against the principles of humanity.

Open war would be easier for me.

— Somehow I read that your health deteriorated a little after the "day" in 2020.

How now?

- I got sick with covid there for the first time, and it hit my heart hard.

And I didn't even understand it then, that these were the consequences of covid.

I remember being out of breath when I had to climb one flight of stairs, my heart pounding.

It took about half an hour to climb five floors to the studio.

Now recovered.

Paval Arakelyan

- Earlier, you reacted aggressively to people leaving the country.

— When they started in 2020, when there was no serious threat, just after participating in the marches, that was one thing.

There was such a flow that people left, others looked at them and did the same.

But there were those who sat 4-5 times, but stayed.

In 2020, I received summons after summons, I simply did not go there, although, apparently, I could have gone.

I didn't go as a matter of principle: I couldn't do anything else, I just stayed.

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