Nasur Yurushbaev: ''The first film customer was Gazprom, the second — the government of Bashkortostan''

The German-Russian film director tells about how he managed to find traces of the Tatars and Bashkirs in Europe and about the rehabilitation of names

Nasur Yurushbaev found himself in Europe not by his own will. But his life in a strange land has turned out to be happy. He managed to acquire a profession, to build a career as a film director, to make films about his native country and countrymen. Moreover, he is looking for traces of the Tatars and Bashkirs throughout Europe. It is the rehabilitation, restoration of lost names and justice, says the film director in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.

Making a camera and becoming an operator

You have a fortunate destiny of an emigrant. You have managed not only to successfully settle abroad but also to preserve a very close relationship with the home country, to succeed in profession that you acquired here. Could you tell us how did it happen?

Actually, I'm a simple village lad from the Urals from a family of eight children. I wasn't going to leave, I worked as a Tatar journalist in a local newspaper after the army. The editor in chief saw something in me and said, ''Nasur, you should develop futher, go to Kazan.'' Here I graduated from the department of Tatar journalism, met my future wife, she is German. She graduated from the university two years earlier than expected and went to Germany to give birth to our first child, but we agreed that we would return to live in the USSR. The wife was planning to teach the German language at the university, I was planning to go to graduate school. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the parents refused to let her into the Union, and she herself decided not to return. I had to stay there. Not knowing German, I decided that once trained journalism, I had to find work by the specialty. But I even didn't have a driving license. Once on a street, I saw a film crew and it dawned on me that I could work in journalism, but without knowing the language — as an operator. I came to the television Saxony, I was given 2 weeks to prove myself.

But you didn't even had held a camera in your hands by that time?

No, but said that I did. I needed a job, after all. I began to study the operator's work like the devil. I met with the most experienced operator, made in the basement of the house a layout of the camera from old furniture and trained all movements, button layout. I became a so good hand in that and in two weeks surpassed the teacher. So good that when the television started to downsize the staff and fired 45 out of 88 employees, and I kept the job. It was even despite the fact that at that time I was still a citizen of the USSR. I was left because I replaced three workers: a journalists, driver and operator. I worked without a miss for four years and made my way in the world as they say. That time I started to think that it was time to open a business. I began to write scripts and to seek orders for documentary films.

Who was the first customer?

The first was Gazprom, the second — the government of the Republic of Bashkortostan. I was living both in Germany and here. I used to go to Russia and tried to find orders. The film for Gazprom appeared on my initiative, it was called Trassa (Pipeline), I made it in 2002. It tells about the construction of the Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhgorod pipeline, which 110,000 workers from the GDR helped to build. This pipeline passed through my native village, there worked 6,000-8,000 Germans, I saw it with my own eyes. I found these Germans, brought them to Russia. In the film, I showed what trace they have left in Russia. Literally in the course of the gas pipeline I went in the film the path from where the gas comes out (in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug) to the native village and further to Germany, where we talked with those people who receive this gas.

I worked without a miss for four years and made my way in the world as they say. That time I started to think that it was time to open a business. I began to write scripts and to seek orders for documentary films

Did this become the first film in the series of works about the interpenetration of cultures?

Yes, in parallel I was working on the film The Sound of Quray over the Seine telling about how the Bashkir Cossacks and the Tatars reached Paris in the war with Napoleon. The Cossacks are my ancestors, about whom little is known. They are free people, each with two horses, arrows, and lances. They were not given firearms for fear of riots, which happened constantly. These people, like the Don Cossacks, were in the service of the state and guarded the eastern borders. In the film, I traced all the way of 15,000 kilometres that they went — and crawled — to Paris, and some even returned to the Urals, keeping their horses alive. The Sound of Quray over the Seine was the first film that participated in the film festival in Kazan. Then there were other two.

So, am I right that you found yourself in Germany not by your own will and decided to look for traces of the Tatar people there?

Both Tatar and Bashkir, and the Turkic trace in general. And there were many of them. When I started making the film The Sound of Quray over the Seine, the German press published an article that I was making a film about the Battle of Leipzig. Then I was approached by a German and was told about a grave of a Tatar, whom the Germans wounded brought home, nursed. The Germans buried him in respect to all traditions, the Germans were surprised how Bashkir soldiers looked like: riding a horse in the coat. The grave is 6 metres long. I am preparing a scenario about his life story, it will be a feature film. When I was in the Museum of Goethe and Schiller in Weimer, there I found a letter where the poet wrote to a friend: ''Dear friend! Today the knyazes (refers to the Bashkir Cossacks, they looked so curious) came to me, I gave them a church for a mosque. They read there Surahs, they gave to me a bow and arrows.'' I asked the museum workers where these bow and arrows were. They didn't know but then they found traces and even a picture where the artist accidentally captured the weapons on a fireplace, where Goethe placed the gift.

I am engaged in a lot of social activities. When Mintimer Shaimiev came to Europe, he assigned me as 'major' Tatar in the middle Germany. In the framework of this activity, I collect materials about the Tatars in Germany. I have found the graves of 24 Tatar soldiers, the participants of different wars since the war with the Swedes. The first printed Tatar book has been looked for 400 years. I was lucky to find it in Germany archives. I gave Shaimiev the reprint as a present. In the First World War, 120,000 people were in captivity in Germany, and the Germans made audio recordings of voices of Tatar people. It is songs, stories. They made 43 records. As far as I understand, the Germans had scientific goals, and the military wanted to know the language of the enemy. Among the voices I found one that belonged to a Tatar, who lived not far from Kazan in the village of Kun. There was his daughter still alive. So it appeared the film My Father's Voice from this story.

After 38 years of wandering, I finally returned home

Who funds your films?

Mostly it is public money: the ministry of culture of Tatarstan, the ministry of culture of Bashkortostan, German non-state funds. For example, recently I have won a lot for filming of Niguez Yort (The Paternal House), which is financed by the ministry of culture. My Father's Voice was made on German money.

Do you have the aim to distribute films?

I have it with the film Niguez Yort. After 38 years of wandering I have returned to my native house, bought it back after my younger brother sold it. As soon as I was called in Germany and told that the house was empty, I flew to Russia, bought it, made repairs. The first night I was afraid to spend the night here — I didn't know whether the spirits of parents wanted to accept me back, if they were not offended at me for walking around the world. I always take with myself a book of my university teacher Galimzhan Gilmanov, it calms. That night I opened this book and immediately came across a small, four-page story Father's House, I read it until the morning many times. In the morning I fell asleep and only good things dreamt to me, I realized that the house took me in. I decided that this will be my film based on the book by Gilmanov. The film has been already finished, it is being edited.

Why do you want to give this film a wide release?

The idea of this film is global — preservation of parents' house, it gives us strength as well as the native language. If we don't know where our parent's house is, if we do not know where the graves of grandparents are, if we do not know where they were born — it is a shame. I want to get this idea across to the youth, so I need the widest possible release.

The war is not over

On November 20th, it is the anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, in the gallery Okno you will screen your film about the participation of the Tatars in the Second World War. How did this film appear?

I'm always interested in details, I want to find things which others do not notice. I thought: there are so many films about the war, and I decided to make a film about prisoners of war. It has always been a taboo subject up to this time because Stalin said that the Soviet army did not have prisoners, only traitors. And one of the characters in my film is a German, who was in our captivity, and a Russian, caught up in German captivity. According to the script that I wrote, the two heroes were supposed to meet at the Brandenburg Gate. I wanted they were approached by Merkel who gave them flowers. It was easy to reach Merkel, it was arranged by my producers. Everything was negotiated, but the Russian hero, Dzhavid Kuzeyev, died. I'm glad I had time to make the film with him. He thanked me, because all his life he was considered to be a traitor, he was ridiculed. Even close people did that. To live with it, he always tried to be the smartest and the best. Even ministers consulted him! And his children are academics. I rehabilitated him. When he was in captivity, he was attempted to shoot two times, to hang — two times, he escaped at the end of the war, participated in the capture of Berlin — he has an amazing story. Meanwhile, what there is a big difference with what they told. The German said that being in captivity was like being in a vacation: he went to banya, got fat. Seven and a half million Soviet soldiers were captured, four million of them were killed. The Germans had four and a half million captured and two million — killed. According to the materials of my films, there have been found the names of 80 Nazis, the police thanked, and the neo-Nazis blew up my inbox, threatened, threw stones in the windows, tortured in the basement of the own house!

It is difficult to judge on the scale of neo-Nazism in Europe while being in Russia. How do you see it from your side, is it exaggerated?

No, it is not. Some small-town events are being exaggerated. But in general, the number of these events is increasing. The Germans started to feel themselves cheated by the government due to the fact that the country has allowed nearly 2 million migrants. Although Germany is developing rapidly economically, and there is no problems with the migrants in this respect, but they are not assimilated and behave impudently. Suddenly everywhere there has become dirty, the Germans do not like it.

If we don't know where our parent's house is, if we do not know where the graves of grandparents are, if we do not know where they were born — it is a shame. I want to get this idea across to the youth, so I need the widest possible release

So, is neo-Nazism aimed at the present situation or past events?

Both. More likely, it is aimed at migrants, but the story is urgent and painful. There are circles that finance neo-Nazis in Germany.

Probably the most important is not what this phenomenon exists but how the majority of people respond to it.

That's right, the majority of Germans are against the spread of these ideas. Ninety percent of Germans hate neo-Nazis. They go outside and do not let them march.

You say that many films about the war have already been made. What do you think, maybe it's time to stop making films on these topics? Especially because there are a lot of inflamed minds, who are ready without end to fight for their wounded pride?

The war is not over until the last person is buried. And we have millions not buried, somewhere in the archives…

That is why you are working with archives to end the war as soon as possible. Let me reformulate the question: will there be a time when you feel that enough is said about the wars and stop making films on these topics?

It has already come. I have made a trilogy about the war of 1812, the First World War and the Great Patriotic War. I found the own details about each story. Another thing is how well it is made. Unfortunately, there is not always enough money, and one can see it. But the fact itself.

What is the budget needed for making a film?

I won 1 million rubles for Father's House. It is very little, given that one camera costs 200,000 rubles a day. To say nothing about the salaries. Good film should cost at least 35 million rubles. It is financially easier to make documentaries. But I have already been in Kazan for three months, I am happy that now I have the parental house.

But why are making feature films and not continuing work on documentaries?

I like drawing, telling stories since my childhood. Once I made a kind of TV from a large matchbox and told brothers and sisters stories like I was in Greece, in Africa. I made up all these stories. In our house, for some reason, there always were a lot of guests, my mother had 10 brothers and sisters, and each of them had eight children.

''The war is not over until the last person is buried. And we have millions not buried, somewhere in the archives...'' Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

So you are interested to put the ideas into an art form, right?

Yes! Soon I'm going to make a film in Kazakhstan according to the scenario of Victory Day about how when withdrawing the troops from Germany they forgot 10 Kazakhs. I like the theme of love and friendship of peoples. In the film I will slightly change the story, it will be not 10 Kazakhs, but three, the rest are representatives of different peoples of the former republics. I want to show that there was a time when there was friendship between the peoples. Vladimir Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union is one of the ugliest events of the twentieth century. All conflicts are artificially invented because of a narrow circle of politicians. People want to live in peace.

How to live in peace with our Soviet Union republics when there is so much disrespect in relationships?

There are many exaggerations, from all sides. I am often asked in Germany how I feel about Crimea. I say yes, it belonged to Ukraine, the document was signed by Khrushchev. But I know that if we had not come to Crimea, there would be NATO missiles. It is a fact. For me, it is better that there are our tourists. Of course, the war in Ukraine now — it's terrible. Right in front of us, in the center of Europe. Young guys are dying. It may take be a century before we can be friends again.

By Aygul Chuprina