Literary roundup: Pushkin and Russian bombs

“Russia’s regular historical paradox is that its rulers want one thing but the result is often something entirely different. Peter the Great wanted to strengthen the empire, but instead he placed a bomb beneath it, which destroyed it. In our time, Gorbachev wanted to save communism and instead he buried it.”

Author of Maidenhair, Mikhail Shishkin has an excellent essay in The New Republic on the relation between poets and czars in Russia titled “From Pushkin to Putin: the sad tale of democracy in Russia”. He discusses Pushkin’s “answer” to dealing with the autocratic rule of Nicholas I and how today’s increasingly authoritarian Russia under “the gray little KGB colonel” is both sadly similar and sadly different to those days. He also writes about how Pushkin has been used throughout Russian and Soviet history to legitimize the ruler of the country, perhaps most dramatically in the centenary of Pushkin’s death in 1937 at the height of Stalin’s terror.

Pushkin1937Pravda

“Czars, general secretaries, presidents—in Russia they change, but Pushkin remains, and each regime bows to the poet, hoping to derive from him a spiritual legitimacy.”

Grozny gallery

Another novelist touches on another of the good works of “the gray little KGB colonel” as Czech journalist and author of the recently translated novel Freshta, Petra Procházková, presents a photo gallery on Radio Free Europe on her return to Grozny, where she reported from as a war correspondent. A gold car, massive portraits of the Kadyrov father and son, a shopping center owned by the Kadyrov family are some of the photos on display.

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