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Andrei Kourkov talks to broadcaster, comedian, russophile  and Pushkin House Trustee Viv Groskop about his new book Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev and his well-loved surreal comic novels of post-Soviet Ukraine, with Dr Uilleam Blacker of UCL.  The latest in our series looking at Ukraine through its best-known Russian-language writers.  In English.

'-16°C, sunlight, silence. I drove the children to school, then went to see the revolution. I walked between the tents. Talked with rev­olutionaries. They were weary today. The air was thick with the smell of old campfires.'

Ukraine Diaries is acclaimed writer Andrey Kurkov’s first-hand account of the ongoing crisis in his country. From his flat in Kiev, just 500 yards from Independence Square, Kurkov can smell the burning barricades and hear the sounds of grenades and gunshot. Kurkov’s diaries begin on the first day of the pro-European protests in November, and describe the violent clashes in the Maidan, the impeachment of Yanukovcyh, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the separatist uprisings in the east of Ukraine. Going beyond the headlines, they give vivid insight into what it’s like to live through—and try to make sense of—times of intense political unrest.

Andrey Yuryevich Kurkov (Ukrainian: Андрій Юрійович Курков; Russian: Андре́й Ю́рьевич Курко́в) (born 23 April 1961 in Leningrad, Russia) is a Ukrainian novelist who writes in Russian. He is the author of 13 novels and 5 books for children. His work is currently translated into 25 languages, including English, Japanese, French, Italian, Chinese, Swedish and Hebrew. He has also written assorted articles for various publications worldwide.

Viv Groskop is a writer, comedian, broadcaster and committed Russophile. Raised in Bruton, Somerset, she is the Artistic Director of the Independent Bath Literature Festival. A fluent Russian speaker, she has a First in French and Russian from Selwyn College, Cambridge, and a Masters with Distinction in Russian Studies from SSEES. A regular contributor to BBC Radio 4 (Front Row, Saturday Review, Loose Ends), over the past twenty years her byline has appeared in all the major newspapers from the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph to the Guardian and the Observer.  She has reported in depth on the Nord-Ost siege, Beslan and the Litvinenko case. She worked for Russian Vogue from London as a contributing editor for 10 years and has lived in Moscow and St Petersburg. Her best-selling comedy memoir I Laughed, I Cried ("heroic" - The Times) charted her move into stand-up comedy in her late thirties and formed the basis of her first five-star Edinburgh show in 2013. 

Uilleam Blacker began studying central and eastern Europe during his undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow, where he studied Russian and Polish. After graduating, Uilleam spent two years in Kraków, including one year studying the cultures of Poland, Ukraine and Russia at the Jagiellonian University. He first came to SSEES in 2005 to study for his MA in Russian and East European Culture, and stayed on to complete his PhD, on representations of space in contemporary Ukrainian literature, in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2013, Uilleam was a postdoctoral research fellow on the 'Memory at War' project at the University of Cambridge. He subsequently spent a year at St Antony's College, Oxford, as Max Hayward postdoctoral fellow in Russian literature. Uilleam rejoined SSEES as Lecturer in Comparative Russian and East European Culture in 2014.