Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Window on Eurasia: New Russian Novel has Finno-Ugric Alliance, Ukrainians Dividing Up Russian Lands

Paul Goble

Baku, May 6 – More than most nations, Russians have used dystopian novels about the future to talk about the challenges they face, a pattern that has produced works of genius that help people to understand them, like Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, as well as potboilers that intensify the fears they describe, like Elena Chudinova’s The Mosque of Notre Dame de Paris.
Now there is a new entrant in this field, Fedor Krashennikov’s After Russia, a novel set “20 years after the end of Vladimir Putin’s administration” in which various ethnic groups within what is now the Russian Federation, Ukraine and outside powers fight to divide up Russian territory.
The novel describes the civil war that breaks out among what Krashennikov, a well-known “political technologist,” “the semi-feudal Moscow elites headed by a certain General Pirogov,” an ethnic Russian Urals Republic, a Confederation of Finno-Ugric Peoples, and the Eurasian Commonwealth, a country consisting of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Kazakhstan.
Another player is Ukraine, and behind it and all the others, the novelist says, are the governments of China, Japan, and the United States. After many battles, the book concludes with a joint attack on Moscow by all these groups, now empowered by the possession of what had been Russia’s natural resources, who are against any restoration of “Great Russia.”
According to Krashennikov’s account, “Moscow was decapitated remarkably quickly,” and what had been the capital of an already much-diminished Russia became a city in “the northern borderlands of Ukraine,” one that Kyiv announced it had no need of and worked to depopulate.
In the space of “a few years,” the novel continues, the Ukrainian rulers cut the population of Moscow to two million,” thus ending Russia’s existence as a state and that city as its most important expression and organizer. And the other victors of this “civil” war go their own way, living as the title of the novel puts it in a world “after Russia.”
Just as Chudinova’s recent novel was not about the situation in what she projected as a Muslim-dominated European Union in 2048 but rather about her fears of the rise of Islamic communities in the Russian Federation, so too Krashennikov’s is not about Russia 20 or more years in the future.
It is a reflection of his fears and the fears of many others that Russia’s demographic transformation is so radical that the country they think they have cannot possibly survive and that various groups, some ethnically Russian as in the Urals and others non-Russian like the Finno-Ugric nationalities and the Turks of the Middle Volga, will soon be able to go their own way.
But in positing such a future, Krashennikov like others who write dystopian novels is in fact issuing an appeal not to surrender to such developments but to organize in order to prevent them from occurring. And consequently, his novel is important not as an indication of what will happen in some future but of what Russians fear here and now.
Krashennikov’s novel is available online at www.zvezda.ru/prn_655.htm. For an extensive first review of his work which hints at its importance as a guide to current attitudes, see www.rupor.info/news-v-mire/2008/05/05/rossijskij-politolog-predrekaet-razdel-rf-mezhdu-u/.

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