I was five years old when my parents brought me from beyond lake Baikal in Siberia to Chernivtsy in western Ukraine. The whole family came: mother, father, my older brother Valentin, and me. In Chernivtsy I was the younger brother, but because I was an emissary of imperialist Russia in colonial Ukraine, I became an older brother to ancient Hutsul men with grey beards and wizened Hutsul grandmothers with sagging breasts. It made me feel good.
As I grew up, I was a model older brother: I sympathized with the younger ones. I didn't look down on them, and I even took an imperial interest in learning their language. But when I was about eighteen, I realized I no longer wanted to play this game, or count myself among the infinite millions of Russians who, without a trace of irony, called themselves a « great nation ».
In 1965, at almost my first lecture as an undergraduate of Chernivtsy University, I understood precisely why. The professor teaching the « History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union » course asked what language we wanted him to use, Russian or Ukrainian.
From the office of the future to the office of the past. What endures?
On Natalia Ginzburg’s Valentino, newly translated: a Q&A with Alexander Chee.
An iron curtain makes a powerful canvas. Images from Sven Johne & Falk Haberkorn’s Aus Sicht des Archivs, documenting life in the former East Germany in the 1990s.
Ukrainian ethnic group in the Carpathian Mountains
Natalya Gorbanevskaya, 1936-2013. Russian poet and civil rights activist. One of the eight protesters to walk out onto Moscow’s Red Square on 25 August 1968 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Ancient city to the north of Moscow, played an important role in Russian history and culture.
Yasha, Izya. These diminutives would immediately identify the boys as Jewish, and hence subject them to ridicule and discrimination.