Stalin’s long shadow

“In March 1953, after Stalin’s death, the chief editor of the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta Konstantin Simonov wrote that the main task of Soviet literature henceforth would be to understand Stalin’s role in Russian history. He had no idea how right he would be!” writes Alexander Cherkasov.

“It was literature that fostered the growth of interest in history at the end of the 1980s: memoirs and fiction, from Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn to Iskander and Rybakov; works published internally as samizdat and as tamizdat abroad that later spilled onto the pages of the literary journals of the perestroika era. The time for historians would come later.”

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The man saving us all

“There are lives that seem remarkable, but if you look closely, you’ll see that another could have done as well,” writes Russian author Sergei Lebedev. “There are lives, however, that are an ideal fit. You can’t imagine anyone else doing the same. Yury Dmitriev is one of those.

“Journalists have called him Khottabych (or even Gandalf), a wizard or a folk hero. At first this seemed amusing and appropriate. Yet at some point it ceased to be helpful: it was as though the writers themselves weren’t sure what to do with Dmitriev — where to place him, how to describe him.”  Continue reading

Detention Centre No 1

“I have experienced for myself what those imprisoned in the late 1930s were feeling. Now I know the words to convey their pain, indignation and hurt, the bitterness of separation from their dear ones. Now I know how dispiriting it is, this waiting: ‘They’ll sort things out and let me go — I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.’

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