- Taschenbuch: 272 Seiten
- Verlag: Harvill Secker (31. Juli 2014)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 1846559472
- ISBN-13: 978-1846559471
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13 x 2,3 x 19,8 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 112.253 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Ukraine Diaries (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 31. Juli 2014
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"Andrey Kurkov's Ukraine Diaries offer a unique personal insight into one of the world's most complex trouble spots. The fact that Kurkov lives in the heart of Kiev, and the fact that he can write so well, give an eloquence and immediacy to his account of day to day life in the teeth of a crisis. This is history, with feeling" (Michael Palin)
"[Kurkov writes] in the style of an informed but convivial flaneur, and his entries crackle with irony and humour" (Marcus Tanner Independent)
"Controlled rage and wry wit, nicely captured in Sam Taylor’s translation… Kurkov’s diaries are valuable" (The Economist)
"As his diaries make clear, real life has outstripped his blackly comic fiction for surreal detail, political cynicism and latent menace" (Ben Hoyle The Times, Book of the week)
"The power...lies in the interweaving of the extraordinary and the mundane" (John Thornhill Financial Times)
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His diary rings true as just that - a diary. It is entirely in the present tense. It has not been redacted to look prescient, nor has the author gone to much trouble to ensure that a reader who is not familiar with Kiev, Ukraine and the politics of the area knows what is going on where.
The Maidan uprising and subsequent Russian invasion have been awash in propaganda, mostly from Russia though the West does its part. This diary serves as a database of observations by a (very alert and well connected) common man of events as they happened. He assumes that the readership of his diary shares the common knowledge of people in Kiev. He does not go out of his way to make the case that:
* President Yanukovych was Putin's choice for President of Ukraine, and Russia was deeply involved in installing and manipulating him.
* Therefore, the Russian FSB (national security service), successor to the KGB, played a large role in Ukrainian politics. Under Yanukovych Ukraine's analogous SBU did likewise, though their service of Ukraine's real interests after Yanukovych left has impressed this reviewer.
* Putin is aggressively working to reestablish Russia's empire. This has been evident through his wars in Georgia and Moldova, and his constant bullying of Ukraine Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Baltic states. He uses natural gas prices, promises of loans and trade restrictions to constantly jerk them around.
* The Moscow Patriarchy of the Orthodox Church is essential an organ of the government, subordinate to Putin. Peter the Great brought them under his control three centuries ago.
The evidence of the diary will convince the reader that these suppositions are correct. Kurkov makes a number of wry comments about the transparency of the lies offered by Yanukovych and Putin, and about Yanukovych's stupidity. This diary quote could have come from anyone in Kiev: " This country has never had such a stupid president before, capable of radicalising one of the most tolerant populations in the world!"
There are some very important terms that Kurkov does not explain. For example:
* The titushki are paid troublemakers that Yanukovych bused in from the countryside to cow the more civilized urbanites of Kiev. They are thugs: members of local fight clubs. They would be promised 400 hryvnya (then, about $50) to raise havoc. One of Yanukovych's many mistakes was to constantly stiff these thugs, paying them less than the agreed amount.
* The berkut were the highly trained riot police. They use tactics going back to the Roman "turtle" and improved during the US antiwar riots of the 60s and 70s. They generally moved in a phalanx, protected by large shields. They were armed with truncheons and rubber bullets. Disciplined as they were, they would probably not have used live ammunition without authority.
* The byudzhetniki (the root word is budget) are low-level civil servants, encouraged/coerced to turn out in support of the government.
Wikipedia will be useful for looking up others.
The diary describes where events took place. It will be convenient to keep Google Earth open in a window as you read the book. Important places are:
* Lazarevka is where Kurkov has his dacha, his country house. There are tens of places by that name. This has to be the tiny village 40 miles west of Kiev.
* The places he describes in Crimea are along the southernmost coastline, a beautiful and rugged stretch reminiscent of the Amalfi Drive, France's Corniche, or California's Big Sur.
* Downtown Kiev is quite small. It is a five-minute walk from Kurkov's house to Maidan, another five to the houses of parliament, and just another five to the presidential mansion. All of the action took place within ¼ mile of the main drag, Khreshetik, which is a bit more than a half-mile long.
The diary assumes that the reader is familiar with events. He does not describe the shootings on Maidan or the invasion of Crimea, assuming that the reader knows what is going on. It will be useful to have a chronology of events at hand.
This book ties in neatly with other books on Russia and the war. Letters from Russia (Penguin Classics) clearly describes the tsar's power, his instruments for projecting that power, and the country's foreign policy objectives. They have not changed in 175 years. Archie Brown's The Rise and Fall of Communism describes how it worked in the 20th century. Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin describes how Russia and Germany made Ukraine the bloodiest place on earth for a decade and a half. John Keegan's A History of Warfare starts with a description of the Cossacks - the same Cossacks that Putin has revived to serve as his palace guard and terrorists in Ukraine. Lastly, Putin's Wars: The Rise of Russia's New Imperialism describes the extensive planning that went into the wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea and now Ukraine. Nothing is by accident.
The author is a famous writer of mystery novels, very dark, and in a uniquely Ukrainian stylr.
Kurkov records that on Sunday 8th December he spent some time in the Maidan and joined in the chanting, calling for the widely-despised Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, to resign. For the most part, though, he skirts the action as he passes between his home, his office and various other points in the city. Nevertheless, he is extremely well-informed and deeply interested at the political level.
One of his most prescient remarks is, 'This country has never had such a stupid President before, capable of radicalizing one of the most tolerant populations in the world!' Not that Kurkov has any admiration either for Victor Yushchenko, the previous President and chief beneficiary of the 2004 Orange Revolution, or for Yulia Timoshenko, the former Prime Minister who, although imprisoned, clung to the hope of succeeding Yanukovich.
I have so far felt that there is an enduring question about Yanukovich's ultimate departure: - Why did he flee when he did (in the early hours of Saturday 22nd February), when an agreement to leave him in office for a further ten months had just been signed? Kurkov helps me towards an answer.
We have known for some time that Yanukovich's packing began on Wednesday 19th, and that many of his associates left Kiev on Thursday 20th. So the realisation that all was over evidently came on Wednesday 19th.
Kurkov reports, 'This night of warfare (Tues 18th - Wed 19th February) has transformed the city centre to ruins.' The Kiev Metro stopped running on Tuesday 18th and was still not running on the 19th. On Tuesday 18th, the Maidanistas set fire to the headquarters of Yanukovich's Party of Regions. The Berkutovsky (thugs used by the government as auxiliary police) invaded the Trades Union building - used by the Maidanistas as a dormitory and a hospital - and set that on fire. The Central Post Office and the Music School were occupied by the Maidanistas on Wednesday 19th. With minute-by-minute rolling headlines reporting events such as those, no wonder if those in power felt their time had come to its end.
Moreover, it is alleged that on the night of Tuesday 18th Yanukovich telephoned Vladimir Putin but failed to win his support. Putin effectively confirmed that (as early as Thursday 20th) when he said that he gave Yanukovich no advice - and that his earlier offer of a multi-billion dollar loan to Ukraine was now withdrawn.
So, on Wednesday 19th Yanukovich knew that for him it really was Game Over. He perhaps didn't know that the infiltration of unidentified Russian troops into Crimea was to begin on Thursday 20th, whilst he was still President and active in Kiev, an overlap of timing that Kurkov points out.
I found the book a depressing read. That is because of the many pointers to the mess that has ensued. Nevertheless, it is a valuable read, and definitely recommended if you want to know more of the background to EuroMaidan and the events that have followed.