Roman Sokolov is 36 years old and works as a director in the largest Russian animation project for children, Smeshariki. He spent almost half of his life in St. Petersburg, where he had come to study at the time. When once in a French cultural center he first saw mountains of comic books, Roman fell in love with this art form forever. In France and Belgium, it has a long tradition. “In Russia, comics are treated differently. Everyone thinks they should be fun and not touch on serious topics, ”says Roman. He cannot earn money on comics either. He draws them for fun - in his free time and for major events, such as, for example, for the Moscow festival "KomMissia". In the mid-nineties, he first participated in the festival, presenting work on the topic of death. Roman says that then she stood out sharply among the rest. "However, today there is nothing special about this: for several years now there have been various genres on the market dedicated to funny, serious, fictional or real problems."
Despite the fact that the production of comics in Russia is gradually growing, it is still difficult to call it a source of high-grade earnings. In Moscow, there are several artists working in the advertising business. From time to time they work in magazines. Real comic books in Russia are still considered an exception - unlike manga. Manga came from Japan and has gained widespread popularity over the past few years. “Manga is cool. It is believed that the comics for children. With the help of the RESPECT project, this attitude should change, ”says Roman.
In May 2017, the Goethe Institute organized a seminar in Moscow and invited nine comic artists from Russia, Germany, England, Turkey, Ukraine and Spain. Roman Sokolov also took part in it. “I was interested in the topic of racism,” he says. During lectures and conversations, participants talked about the reason for the appearance of racism and its manifestation in different countries. In addition, they discussed the popularity of comics in different countries. So, in Germany, comics are recognized as an equal type of art, according to which you can get an appropriate education and then earn money on it.
Each of the nine artists drew their own comic, which was then released as a book and sent to schools in Russia. “I know that this does not change everything at once,” says Roman Sokolov. “But with the help of comics, we are gradually attracting the attention of the younger generation to the topic of racism.” There are big problems with racism and radical extremism not only in Germany, but also in Russia. There are cases when Dagestanis are persecuted, Tajiks are beaten up, and Vietnamese are killed right on the streets. Twenty years ago, in the Soviet Union, everyone was united by one common idea. But now the differences between nations have become increasingly apparent. Often they are perceived not as enrichment due to a large number of cultures, but as a threat to their identity, causing fear. Therefore, Russian politicians formulate new slogans, such as “Russia for Russians”, which are met with a bang.
In this case, we are talking about, on the one hand, self-identification and coexistence with other cultures, on the other. To make people think about it, several exhibitions were held. Comics play a major role in this regard. They have to enlighten, but at the same time excite the minds. The main principle: "You should not love your neighbor, just start to respect him."