The war on Russian writers against the war on Ukraine

A blurry Leonid Parfenov at an event in London in 2011

Next week will see the launch of collaborative work to bring some of the UL’s Ukrainian material together into a pop-up exhibition.  This week, we will focus briefly again on the effect Russia’s war on Ukraine is having on its own country, this time through the prism of the leaked list of authors that the Moscow Dom Knigi bookshop network have apparently banned their staff from putting on display (a full ban is thankfully not in place); an article in Russian about this can be found here.  The ban largely relates to the authors’ appearance on the list of ‘foreign agents’ (inoagenty) this blog has mentioned before, which ultimately boils down to their stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Mogilizatsiia and Pugacheva

The news about Russia’s war against Ukraine gives us each week new names and/or new vocabulary.  This week, we’ve heard a lot in Russian about mobilizat︠s︡ii︠a︡ (mobilisation) but some of us might also have seen the rise of the term mogilizat︠s︡ii︠a︡, a grimly wry portmanteau of the words mobilisation and – mogila (the grave).  The name for a call-up paper is simply povestka, a word related to “telling” (eg povestʹ means a story).  Judging by news coming from Russia, povestki are arriving in huge numbers and not only to those within the parameters Putin set out that; the scale of mobilisation is far greater than the president will openly admit.

The cover of ‘Alla Pugacheva’ by Alekseĭ Beli︠a︡kov (C202.d.4981)

In terms of names, Alla Pugacheva will either have been abundantly known to you already or also a new thing this week.  Pugacheva was an absolutely huge music star in Soviet times and has remained so in modern Russia (she gets her own two chapters in David MacFadyen’s Red Stars : Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955-1991; you can find other Cambridge library books, not all of them, admittedly, highly academic, about her here).  Earlier this week, Pugacheva wrote an open letter to the Russian authorities requesting that she be added to the list of inoagenty (from inostrannye agenty – foreign agents) to which her husband, Maksim Galkin, a consistent opponent of the “special military operation”, had just been added.  Pugacheva’s dramatic stand against the war may have come over 6 months after Russia invaded Ukraine, but it was pretty seismic.  Until, that is, Putin outdid her with his address about “partial” mobilisation, about the referenda that (properly stage-managed) will allow him to claim parts of Ukraine under Russian control as parts of sovereign Russia, and about the possibility of using a nuclear bomb (no ‘blef‘, he said – no bluff)…

We should end on a light note.  Alla Pugacheva’s husband, Maksim Galkin, became famous as a comedian, singer, and much more around the year 2000.  He won my delighted respect in 2002 when, in response to the rather self-admiring singer Nikolaĭ Baskov’s release of an album called ‘I’m 25!’, Galkin released a rather less earnest album named ‘Well, I’m 26!’  Not many images can be found of the latter, sadly, but here is Baskov’s.

Mel Bach

Russian ‘publications provocateurs’ and the war against Ukraine

In a previous post, I referred to the years-long pattern of publishing in Russia of “popular” titles undermining Ukrainian sovereignty.  I was reminded of the subject in an excellent seminar held yesterday called On the Cultural Front: Ukrainian Publishers in the Time of War, which saw three Ukrainians prominent in the publishing world – Iryna Baturevych, Yulia Kozlovets, and Halyna Lystvak – interviewed by Ksenya Kiebuzinski of the University of Toronto.  A recording of the seminar has been put online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTnBj0stpzc

Iryna is the co-founder of Chytomo (literally ‘Let’s read’) which now has its site in English too.  Chytomo provides important, useful, and interesting news and information about Ukrainian publishing and more – including advice and suggestions about how Ukrainian material might be made available abroad in the original Ukrainian and in translation.  During yesterday’s seminar, Iryna provided a link to a Chytomo piece about the kinds of Russian publications that I had referred to previously, called Fifty anti-Ukrainian propaganda books: How Russian publishers stoke hatred against Ukrainians.  The article is topped and tailed with analysis, but its main body provides the quite shocking blurb of each of the 50 books in English and shows each book cover with an image from the Russian war in Ukraine as the backdrop, as the sample screenshots here show.

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Ukraine and films in the Klassiki database : the August 2022 Slavonic items of the month

Last year, Cambridge University Libraries started providing access to the Klassiki database of films from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.  The subscription was started specifically to support courses taught under the auspices of Film Studies and/or Slavonic Studies.  In its own words: “Klassiki hosts a highly curated permanent collection of films that represent the best of classic filmmaking from the region. We also offer a brand new ‘Pick of the Week’ contemporary title, selected by the curatorial team. Each of our films are accompanied by programme notes, journal essays, newly commissioned subtitles and online interviews with the best filmmakers from the region.”

In terms of Ukraine, the Klassiki database currently has 6 films in its Ukraine section.  It did have a 7th – the documentary film Mariupolis (2016) directed by Mantas Kvedaravičius.  As readers will probably already know, that film was about the experience of Mariupolʹ under fire from Russian-backed separatists, and its director was tragically murdered there this year in March, a victim of the 2022 full-scale war.  He had been in the city to make a sequel.  The 2016 film is no longer on Klassiki, since ARTE.tv have been able to license it to make it fully and freely available on YouTube here.  Kvedaravičius’ 2013 Cambridge PhD thesis, Knots of absence : death, dreams, and disappearances at the limits of law in the counter-terrorism zone of Chechnya, is at the Haddon Library and in the Library Storage Facility, and here is his home department’s tribute to him.

The Ukrainian films on Klassiki were made in Ukraine and chiefly by Ukrainian directors, with one in Ukrainian (and Hutsul), two silent, and three in Russian.  They include two films by Kira Muratova, two by Oleksandr Dovz︠h︡enko, one by Serhiĭ Paradz︠h︡anov (Sergei Parajanov here), and one by Marlen Khut︠s︡iev (who Cambridge was fortunate enough to host in a 2014 visit).  The films’ descriptions from Klassiki follow. Continue reading