Interview with Katja Petrowskaja, author of Pushkin Prize 2019 shortlisted book 'Maybe Esther'

Interview by Andrew Jack (@AJack)

What is your nationality?

I find questions on identity completely over-estimated. I am from beautiful Kiev. I am Jewish, have a Ukrainian passport, am Soviet born, live in Germany. But it’s better to tell stories, to describe what I love. The shortest answer on the question about identity is my book. One of the 1,001 reasons to write it was to avoid the short answer to “who are you?” Automatically you start to tell your story. Maybe it’s the Soviet syndrome: if you grow up in a system which always tries to describe you, one of your main impulses to resist is just to tell stories – a narrative which cannot be reduced to any kind of statement…

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Interview with Taylor Downing, author of Pushkin Prize 2019 shortlisted book '1983'

Interview by Andrew Jack (@AJack)

How did you become interested in Russia?

I had always been interested in Russian history from studying it at university onwards, but had never had an opportunity to dig deep. Then in the 1990s I was a producer on a 24-part TV documentary series on the Cold War and co-author of the book of the series. I made lots of trips to Russia, mostly interviewing people. The whole 1983 Able Archer story came up then but we knew very little about it. We didn’t really know what had happened or how serious the scare had been. I became quite fascinated with whether World War Three had nearly started by accident…

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Interview with Eleonory Gilburd, author of Pushkin Prize 2019 shortlisted book 'To See Paris and Die'

Interview by Andrew Jack (@AJack)

What is your connection to Russia?

I was born in the Soviet Union. My family left in 1989. When I was in college at the University of Chicago, I was interested in several disciplines, all of them having something to do with Russia. I decided to study history given my predilection for stories and a particular form of argumentation…

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Interview with Serhii Plokhy, winner of the 2019 Pushkin House Book Prize for 'Chernobyl'

Interview by Andrew Jack (@AJack)

Why did you want to write about Chernobyl?

It was a mixture of my personal interest and the availability of new materials. Chernobyl is the story of my own life. It was very emotional and personal for me and my family. I grew up in Ukraine, 500km down the Dnieper River from where it all happened. I remember this complete lack of information, and then gathering little pieces of advice on what to do from the BBC. So in summer 1986, I kept my children in our apartment, not allowing them outside. My friends and some of my students were summoned to the army and sent to Chernobyl…

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History or Narrative?

Erik Alstad reports on a new play in St Petersburg.

Spoiler warning: For those of you who may watch the play, this blog discusses its ending.

Among the theatre posters plastered all around the St Petersburg metro, one may have recently stuck out for you. There's nothing on it except the words Rozhdenie Stalina — ‘The Birth of Stalin’ (or his “genesis”, as the company's English translation would have it), set in stark white letters against a black background. It's not just the play's title but also an opening provocation…

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