Not Russian by Mikhail Shevelev
The complex and sometimes confusing state of Russian politics and culture is at the heart of this tale of desire, idealism and reality on a collision course. Profoundly revelatory narrative limns the dark aspects of life in this volatile nation.
If it appears that our politics are especially complicated or Machiavellian, the impression that they are may be dispelled by this deeply Russian novel. The machinations of factions, movements, religious groups, individual actors and a government that is mistrusted and disbelieved by its citizens is dizzyingly complex. Written by a journalist plying his craft in one of the most dangerous places in the world for free speech, this tale is rife with intrigue, posturing, dissimulation and concealment while striving to speak the truth.
A newspaper reporter and editor recalls events that occurred when his publication was still solvent concerning a political prisoner and the struggle to free him and his comrades from servitude and to include them in civil society. Having seemingly achieved success in this assimilation exercise, he parts ways with and loses touch with the subject of his efforts only to be contacted to act as a negotiator when the former outlaw takes a hundred hostages and barricades himself and accomplices in a church and demands apologies for wars in Chechnya and Ukraine from Vladimir Putin. The number of military, political and religious figures involved in the resolution of these events is astounding and revelatory. Many, many factors aggravate the difficulty of navigating Russian culture and politics.
The narrative deals with patriotism, treachery, friendship, love, death, war, and a constant tightrope walk between freedom and imprisonment or worse. In the end, it is personal relationships that make things either happen or fail. As a chronicle of the current situation involving Russia, Chechnya and Ukraine it is enlightening and simultaneously disheartening. The inclusion of numerous real personalities will cause the reader to wonder how this author gets away with it and stays out of prison.