Hans Boland, a Dutch translator of Russian literature, has refused to accept Russia’s Pushkin Medal because of his objections to President Vladimir Putin as a ‘very great danger to freedom and peace on our planet’. Established in 1999, the Pushkin Medal is awarded by the Russian government to individuals for extraordinary achievements in arts and culture.
Written in Dutch and Russian, Boland’s letter (http://www NULL.ceatl NULL.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014-08-29-Boland NULL.pdf) declining the honour, addressed to the Russian cultural attaché at the Russian embassy in The Hague, Fyodor Voronin, reads as follows:
Dear Mr Voronin,
It’s hard for me to have to react to your noble, touching and unusually flattering invitation. To my regret, I am unable to accept it.
I would like to believe that you will not reproach me with ingratitude or even rudeness. But I must be honest towards my conscience, towards the memory of my parents and towards you.
As the translator of almost the complete works of Pushkin, immersed in his spirit and almost imagining myself as his shade, I must be sincere and get straight to the point; as a devoted apostle – I can’t find a better word – of Anna Akhmatova, for whom I have boundless respect, I must be tough if the truth demands.
I would receive such an honour with the greatest possible gratitude were it not for your president, whose behavior and way of thinking I despise and hate. He represents a very great danger to freedom and peace on our planet. May God grant that his ‘ideals’ meet with swift and total destruction. Any relationship between him and me, between his name and Pushkin’s, is disgusting and unbearable to me.
Once again I wish to stress that my refusal causes great sorrow to myself too, and that I am forced to take this step in spite of the respect and gratitude that I owe you.