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Vassily Aksyonov: Остров Крым (The Island of Crimea)

The Soviet authorities maintain a firm and realistic view of geography. They know that the world rests on three whales and two elephants.

This novel takes as its premise that the White Russians successfully held out against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War and managed to hold on to Crimea. Democracy has run riot (thirty-nine officially registered political parties. Any number of extremist groups. And Marxism spreading like the flu.) Luchnikov senior is running for president. Andrei Luchnikov, his son, a former poet-playboy, runs a magazine called Courier, which advocates reunification with Russia, along the lines of the Crimean system, of course. Most of the novel is about Andrei and his friends, particularly his is-she-isn’t-she girlfriend, newscaster and sports star, Tatyana. Aksyonov wastes no chance at poking fun at the Soviet system and makes it very clear that, despite the apparent imperfections of democratic Crimea, it is clearly superior to Soviet Russia. That Crimea has become like America, with everything from CNN-like news (TVMig there) to beach-front condos, is taken as a blessing. There is, of course, a plot, involving dirty deeds and the future fate of Crimea and the Soviet Union. Democracy is thoroughly compromised as the reunification moves forward and Tatyana pays the price but it is never easy, is it?

Publishing history

First published 1981 by Ardis
First published 1984 in English by Vintage
Translated by Michael Henry Heim