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Oleg Vassiliev Pathways to Violent Extremism Depicting Gorbachev Harriman Magazine is published biannually by Design and Art Direction: Columbia Creative Opposite page: the Harriman Institute. Alexander Cooley Harriman Institute (Photo by Jeffrey Managing Editor: Ronald Meyer Alexander Cooley, Director Schifman) Editor: Masha Udensiva-Brenner Alla Rachkov, Associate Director Ryan Kreider, Assistant Director Comments, suggestions, or address changes may Rebecca Dalton, Program Manager, Student Affairs be emailed to Masha Udensiva-Brenner at [email protected]. Harriman Institute Columbia University Cover image: Oleg Vassiliev, White Skiers, 1990. Oil on 420 West 118th Street canvas, 51 x 39¼ in. Courtesy of the Kolodzei Collection New York, NY 10027 of Russian and Eastern European Art, Kolodzei Art Foundation, www.KolodzeiArt.org. Tel: 212-854-4623 Fax: 212-666-3481 Image on this page: Oleg Vassiliev, 2 from the Metro Series, 1961–62. Linocut, edition 15. Courtesy of the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, For the latest news and updates about the Harriman Kolodzei Art Foundation, www.KolodzeiArt.org. Institute, visit harriman.columbia.edu.

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www.facebook.com/TheHarrimanInstitute FROM THE DIRECTOR

hen we renovated the Harriman Institute thirteen years ago, under the W leadership of the late Catharine Nepomnyashchy, we created a beautiful exhibit space. One of the first exhibits mounted was Perestroika + 20: Selections from the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, a series of works by contemporary Russian artists. This began a long-standing collaboration with the Kolodzei Art Foundation, with the Harriman mounting several fantastic exhibits from the organization’s collection over the years. The Kolodzei Collection consists of more than 7,000 works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videos, by more than 300 artists from and the former , and chronicles more than four decades of Russian and Soviet nonconformist art from the post-Stalin era to the present. It is an honor for us to feature a cover story by the foundation’s executive director, curator and art historian Natalia Kolodzei. She writes about the prominent nonconformist artist Oleg Vassiliev, whose work we displayed at the Harriman Institute in 2017. We are also delighted to include a profile of our alumnus, the Pulitzer Prize– winning biographer William Taubman, who recently published Gorbachev: His Life and Times, the first full-length English-language biography of Mikhail Gorbachev. Taubman earned a certificate from the Russian Institute in 1965 and a Ph.D. from Columbia’s Department of Political Science in 1969; in 2004, he was named our Alumnus of the Year. His new biography is not only a literary feat but also a great resource for understanding U.S.-Russian relations. We are pleased to publish a timely article from another alum, Peter Zalmayev (’08), who comments on the current political situation in Ukraine, in light of the recent wave of protests there, as well as a piece from our postdoctoral research scholar Edward Lemon. Lemon discusses his research on the pathways to violent extremism in Tajikistan, work that is particularly relevant given the recent spike in media attention devoted to Central Asia and the region’s potential connections to Islamic terrorism. In his article, Lemon helps to debunk some of the myths surrounding Central Asia and violent extremism, and to add nuance to the generalizations that have prevailed in the mainstream media narrative. Also in this issue, we have a profile of historian Catherine Evtuhov, who joined the Columbia faculty from Georgetown University two years ago, and the second part of our two-part interview with journalist and Carnegie Europe senior fellow Thomas de Waal. De Waal discusses his book Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, the interviews for which have recently become available in audio and transcript formats at Columbia University Libraries. We hope you enjoy this issue and look forward to hearing your feedback and ideas for future stories.

Alexander Cooley Director, Harriman Institute


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Pathways to Violent Extremism: Evidence from Tajik Recruits to Islamic State COVER STORY By Edward Lemon The Journey of Oleg Vassiliev By Natalia Kolodzei In recent years, Central Asia has received an unusual share of Oleg Vassiliev belongs to the generation of Soviet nonconformist artists mainstream media attention due to the that emerged during the post-Stalin “Thaw” of the 1950s, championing involvement of some Central Asians an alternative to . Like many of his fellow artists, Vassiliev in Islamic terrorist groups. But is the escaped the ideological confines of the Soviet system by exploring spiritual region really a “hotbed of extremism”? dimensions within the self. Vassiliev never considered himself a political artist; his main purpose in art was to capture his impression of the world, as well as to comment on the relationship linking viewer, artist, and painting.

Like Levitan, the major interpreter of the Russian landscape in art at the close of the nineteenth century, Vassiliev explores and expands the concept of landscape as emotion, while reminding the viewer about the process and A Portrait of Catherine Evtuhov construction of painting. He can render the true beauty of nature in all the By Ronald Meyer diversity of its changing states and all the subtleties of the human soul and Catherine Evtuhov is best known for human memory. her prize-winning Portrait of a Russian Province. She has said, “I had a very strong sense of swimming against the current, of wanting to undermine approaches and paradigms.”


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A Revolution! Depicting Gorbachev: Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Alumni & Postdoc Notes William Taubman in Profile Through Peace and War By Masha Udensiva-Brenner An Interview with Thomas de Waal By Masha Udensiva-Brenner Following his 2003 Pulitzer Prize– winning biography of Nikita The journalist and Carnegie Europe Khrushchev, Harriman alumnus senior fellow Thomas de Waal has Giving to Harriman William Taubman published the donated a collection of audio files to first full-fledged English-language Columbia Libraries and the Harriman biography of Mikhail Gorbachev last Institute, containing all the interviews fall. What few people know is that for his first two books, Chechnya: Taubman had not originally intended Calamity in the Caucasus and Black to become a biographer. Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. In this interview about his book on Armenia and Azerbaijan, de Waal discusses the origins of the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict and the tensions that continue to plague the The Radicalization of Post-Maidan two countries. Ukraine By Peter Zalmayev

Many Ukrainians are unsatisfied with the post-Maidan trajectory of their country, but a recent wave of popular protests in Kyiv attracted few followers. Harriman alumnus Peter Zalmayev explains why.




ver the past few years, Central Asia as a “Hotbed to frame Central Asia as a potential Central Asians have of Extremism”? source of chaos and considered ways attracted international to calm local tensions. attention for their This latest concern over militancy in But, with the exception of Tajiki- Oinvolvement in Islamic terrorist Central Asia is nothing new. During stan’s bloody civil war between 1992 groups. Attacks in New York, St. the Soviet period, many Sovietologists and 1997, the region has seen limited Petersburg, Istanbul, and Stock- viewed Central Asia as the USSR’s soft political violence. A search for Central holm have all been linked to Central underbelly by virtue of its recalcitrant Asian states within the Global Terror- Asian citizens. In May 2015, the head Muslim population. After the 1979 ism Database (GTD), an open-source of Tajikistan’s paramilitary police invasion of Afghanistan, the doyen of database that provides information (OMON) dramatically defected to the Sovietological commentators on Cen- about terrorism events around the Islamic State. At these moments, tral Asia, Alexandre Bennigsen, wrote world, yields 269 results. The dataset Central Asia received rare attention in his 1983 book, The Islamic Threat to is problematic. Despite its purported from mainstream news agencies. the Soviet State, that “the Muslim com- focus on nonstate actors, it includes Coverage from outlets such as the munity is prepared for the inevitable incidents such as the Andijan mas- Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and showdown with its Russian rulers.” sacre in 2005, when Uzbek troops Business Insider painted the region as Since Central Asian republics became attacked protestors, and the 2014 a “growing source of terrorism” and independent from the Soviet Union violence in Khorog, Tajikistan, which “fertile ground” for recruitment. in 1991, observers have continued pitted local commanders against the

“Trekking and climbing in Fann Mountains 2013” photo by Oleg Brovko, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

HARRIMAN | 5 ­­ central government. Almost half of exclude the region from becoming an in Syria by October 2013. Despite its the entries for Central Asia (126 in exporter of terrorists, with citizens dubious origins, this figure quickly total) took place during the Tajik civil going to fight in foreign conflicts or became widely circulated, including war. While the GTD covers incidents immigrants like New York attacker by the London-based International dating back to 1970, there are no Saifullo Saipov radicalizing in Western Centre for the Study of Radicalization, entries for the Soviet period. The GTD countries. Mapping the precise num- the leading think tank focusing on includes deaths that occurred during ber of Central Asians who have gone to foreign fighters. But, even if we rely on the May 1992 protests in Dushanbe, fight in Syria and Iraq is difficult. Many the figures available, the involvement but not those during the February spend time in Russia before flying to of some 2,000 to 4,000 Central Asians 1990 clashes between the Communist Turkey and crossing into Syria or Iraq, in the conflict in Syria and Iraq is still government and organized criminal making efforts to track them across rather marginal, with recruits making groups. Setting these issues aside, these multiple jurisdictions challeng- up just 0.0001 percent of the region’s Central Asia, home to 1 percent of the ing. The authoritarian governments population. The unnewsworthy story world’s population, accounts for only in the region are not known for of terrorist groups in Central Asia is 0.001 percent of entries in the attacks producing accurate statistics. Central one of widespread popular ambiva- recorded in the GTD. Asian regimes are caught between the lence toward extremist messaging. Even if Central Asia itself has not desire to instrumentalize the terrorist seen many attacks, this does not threat in order to crack down on other What Do We Know about groups, as we have seen in Tajikistan, Radicalization in Central Asia? or to downplay the terrorism issue, which has been the case in Uzbekistan. We do know that a few thousand citi- The process by which the numbers zens from Central Asia have traveled on terrorism are established is often to Syria and Iraq. But the paucity of opaque. Syria’s grand mufti, Ahmad reliable evidence makes it difficult Badr Al-Din Hassoun, for example, to talk about root causes of radical- claimed that 190 Tajiks were fighting ization or to make generalizations. Although thus far I have spoken about Central Asians in toto, important differences between each individ-


ual country exist. Political systems cism. Parents’ testimonies about their age age of fighters from Tajikistan is vary across the region, from Uzbeki- children invariably describe them as twenty-eight years old, with over half stan’s closed state under Karimov “good” boys or girls, but this could be a of the fighters between the ages of to Kazakhstan’s modernizing “soft result of them not being close to their twenty-four and twenty-nine. Almost authoritarianism” and Kyrgyzstan’s children or not wanting to be blamed. all the fighters have at least a high school chaotic pluralism. Whereas most Testimonies of returnees have gen- diploma; some have attended univer- Tajiks seem to be have been recruited erally conformed to the government sity. For example, Nasim Nabotov, the while working as labor migrants in narratives, framing themselves as young Tajik who made news when he Russia, Emil Nasritdinov’s research having been “tricked” into joining ISIS was killed in Syria in 2015, studied eco- on Kyrgyzstan, published by the and undermining their own agency in nomics at Russia’s prestigious United Nations Development Pro- making that decision. By triangulating State University before dropping out to gramme in 2018, suggests that Kyrgyz sources, I have managed to find basic fight with the Islamic State. migrants have been more resilient biographical data on 236 recruits and Being a strict Muslim, Central to radicalization. Most Tajiks seem to more detailed profiles of more than Asian governments tend to argue, have joined ISIS in Raqqa and Mosul, forty fighters. makes individuals more suscepti- but more Uzbeks have joined several My tentative findings, published in ble to radical Islamic ideas. Societal groups linked to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham the RUSI Journal in 2015, run counter Islamization is equated with political (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) around to the government of Tajikistan’s radicalization. The Tajik government, Aleppo. These different contexts and narrative that blames youthful pathways matter. naïveté, unemployment, and strong My research on the subject has religious beliefs for driving its citizens (Above, far left) Sher-Dor mostly focused on Tajikistan, the to violent extremist groups. Each Madrassa in Samarkand; region’s poorest and most migra- individual Tajik’s pathway to violent (middle and right) Dushanbe’s tion-dependent country. I have been extremism is different and catchall Central Mosque (Hoji Yaqub collecting data since the first reports of explanations of recruitment do not Mosque). All photos by Tajik citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq. apply. Nonetheless, it is possible to Edward Lemon. Again, finding reliable sources is prob- make some general observations. lematic. Government accounts need Far from being young and naïve, to be treated with a degree of skepti- as the government claims, the aver-

HARRIMAN | 7 ­­ Celebrating Eid-al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, in Vanj, Tajikistan (2013).

for instance, has claimed that 80 per- beard” before he went to Russia, his Sadriddin came to Russia from cent of those who have joined ISIS are mother told Radio Ozodi in September a mountain village in the Rasht Salafis, followers of a fundamentalist 2014. Muhammad al-Tojiki, born Alan Valley for the first time in 2013, Islamic movement. In response to this Chekhranov, also did not practice Islam when he was nineteen years old. perceived threat, the government has until he migrated to Russia. With the He worked as a porter (araba introduced restrictive religious laws, exception of six of the earliest recruits, kash) in a bazaar in the Moscow such as forcing bearded men to shave who were all studying at madrassas in region. He was approached in the and women to remove their hijabs. Syria at the time of the start of the con- gym one day by a Tajik man who An assertively secular system, Central flict in 2011, I have found no evidence invited him to a meeting. There Asian governments argue, is the best for reports that other recruits had any he was told about the importance way to guarantee stability and prevent formal religious training. of jihad and was connected to radicalization. But evidence suggests Conversely, those with formal reli- Russian speakers in Raqqa. Soon that very few recruits could be consid- gious education have been involved in we noticed he had changed. ered pious before they were recruited. countering recruitment. On a warm He spoke of the killing of Mus- Fewer still have any formal religious July evening in Moscow in 2014, I sat lims in Syria and called for the education. After a video of Islamic down with a group of young Tajiks death of nonbelievers (kufr). So State fighter Akhtam Olimov appeared living on the outskirts of the city. Over I invited him to dinner and we online in September 2014, his family the fast-breaking iftar meal, conversa- staged an intervention. I invited was in shock. Neighbors commented tion turned to the Islamic State, which other religious individuals who that he was never particularly pious had just declared its “caliphate.” “We knew the Quran and hadith, and when growing up. “He never wore a real Muslims are disgusted that they we explained to him the true are using our terms—caliphate, jihad, meaning of Islam. Eventually, he umma—and blackening the name of realized his mistake and came our peaceful religion,” one young back to proper Islam. participant from Gharm, in the east of Tajikistan, stated. My host qori Abdul- Such community-led informal coun- rahmon, who studied in a madrassa terextremism is not uncommon among in Pakistan until 2010, related a story Tajik migrant communities in Russia. about his friend: During my fieldwork in Moscow in 2014 and 2015, I heard three similar stories. If ideology does not drive young Tajiks to join extremist groups, what


does? Again, it differs from case to He arrived in Moscow back in research on and limitations of our case. But many of the cases for which 2013. He was a smart guy, spoke understanding of radicalization, it is the we have sufficient evidence mirror good Russian, and wanted to find topic of attempting to explain radical- Olivier Roy’s observations about Mus- a good job. But he couldn’t. So he ization that draws the most attention lim migrants and converts in Europe. ended up in construction. In 2014, from journalists, policy makers, and Roy argued in Foreign Policy that we are he went home and married a girl civil society. As someone who studies seeing “not the radicalization of Islam, from his village. But he soon came extremism in Central Asia, I have been but the Islamization of radicalism.” In back. The marriage was not good. drawn into these debates and asked the Guardian, he described the “typical He became angrier and more to comment on what drives citizens to radical” as “a young, second-generation bitter. When the recruiters came, join violent extremist groups. But this immigrant or convert, very often he found their promises attractive. is not my main research focus. Instead, involved in episodes of petty crime, He never prayed before or talked my research primarily focuses on with practically no religious education, about religion, but now he talked government-led counterextremism, but having a rapid and recent trajectory about jihad. One day he disap- mapping the ways in which Central of conversion/reconversion.” peared. The next thing we heard, Asian governments have used the Evidence from Tajikistan reflects he was in Syria. specter of Islamic extremism to repress this description. Many Tajiks migrate observant citizens and opposition to Russia, leaving their authoritarian The allure of adventure and brother- groups. Although conducting research system and close-knit communities hood in a violent extremist organization on this topic is challenging in itself, behind. They come from a society appeals to many young Tajiks like sources are more abundant. Instead where the government has closely Nasim, who have experienced personal of focusing on the 0.0001 percent who monitored and restricted religious failures and become disillusioned with have joined terrorist groups and carried practices for the past hundred years, to their lives. Central Asian states are not out attacks, a more interesting question migrant communities where religion “exporting” terrorists, and migration is why the other 99.9999 percent have in its different guises is discussed more itself is not a causal variable in recruit- remained quiescent, despite widespread openly. According to a 2014 brief pub- ment. Radicalization is a dynamic, poverty, corruption, and authoritarian lished by the Central Eurasia–Religion in nonlinear process. It is transnational; governance. The absence of extremism— International Affairs (CERIA) initiative, cumulative experiences while living in rather than its limited presence—is a far almost none of the Tajiks who embrace Central Asia and as migrants in other more pertinent puzzle. Islam as a way to negotiate the difficul- countries have shaped the pathways by ties of migrant life in Russia gravitate which a small minority of Central Asians Edward Lemon is a postdoctoral research to violence. But a small minority of have been recruited to violent extremist scholar at the Harriman Institute. His disillusioned migrants do. In April organizations. research has appeared or is forthcoming 2015, I sat down to tea with a group of in Central Asian Affairs, Review of young Tajik construction workers in Perspective Is Needed Middle East Studies, Foreign Affairs, their converted container homes. At Central Asian Survey, First World War the time, they were in the process of A threat of political violence, albeit Studies, Central Asian Survey and the building a new overpass for the 2018 limited, does exist within Central RUSI Journal. Lemon wrote the Tajikistan World Cup near Moscow’s Spartak Asia. A few thousand Central Asians chapter for Freedom House’s Nations in stadium. They recounted to me how have joined terrorist groups and been Transit report in 2015. recruiters from the North Caucasus involved in attacks outside the region. had come around their encampment Despite the challenges to conducting calling people to Islam. One young man, whom they called Nasim, was drawn to the group:

HARRIMAN | 9 ­­ A PORTRAIT OF Catherine Evtuhov


Philosophers (Portrait of Pavel Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov) by Mikhail Nesterov (1917). Opposite page: Catherine Evtuhov.


atherine Evtuhov, professor of history, is now many prominent intellectuals had attempted to make finishing up her second year at Columbia, social change through the church, which led her to the after being lured away from Georgetown Uni- whole notion of religious reformation and the Church C versity—her first teaching appointment after Council of 1917–18. The council’s documents had been defending her Berkeley dissertation in 1991—where she had under seal for decades, and she had unsurprisingly been been happily teaching and writing for a quarter century. denied access when beginning her dissertation research Though to be fair, she was hardly a stranger to Columbia in the Soviet Union, only to have them become available before her new appointment. She is a long-standing mem- some months later. ber of Richard Wortman’s History Workshop; a founding She defended her dissertation in 1991, and then the member of Valentina Izmirlieva’s Black Sea Networks Soviet Union fell apart. “The ’90s were like a festival. I was initiative, run out of Columbia’s Department of Slavic able to go to Russia, pose new questions, talk and collab- Languages; and coeditor, with Columbia colleagues Boris orate with colleagues in Russia in new and meaningful Gasparov and Mark von Hagen, and Alexander Ospovat ways.” And it was in this almost giddy atmosphere that from UCLA, of the collection Kazan, Moscow, St. Petersburg: the seductive opportunity to write a post-Soviet history Multiple Faces of the Russian Empire (1997), the fruits of a con- of Russia arrived. “My wonderful Georgetown colleague ference held in Kazan three years earlier. Richard Stites had this offer, and it seemed like an inter- esting project: to write the history of Russia at the moment We met on a sunny February day, the light streaming when history itself had changed. Although we thought into her Fayerweather office. The ponderous oak desk that our idea of the Soviet Union would change a great deal had dominated the room previously had been banished with information from the archives, etc., it actually didn’t. in favor of a modern table just right for small groups and Interpretations of the nineteenth century, on the other conversation. We talked about, among other things, her hand, changed dramatically. And I got to be one of the peo- current projects, her books, and becoming a historian just ple doing that.” A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, at the time when the Soviet Union fell apart. Forces—Since 1800 came out in 2003; Evtuhov wrote the As Evtuhov is quick to acknowledge, she landed at chapters on the long nineteenth century, ending in 1914, Berkeley at a very good moment. Graduate school in the and Stites took the twentieth century. The volume ends 1980s was still “open minded and open ended and a true with her other contribution: the first large-scale synthetic learning experience.” Her dissertation was guided by account of the three waves of Russian emigration in the Nicholas Riasanovsky and Martin Malia—the latter in many twentieth century, by no means a standard component of ways the intellectual inspiration for the dissertation. In a history of Russia but one which might be read as a tribute fact, a decade later she would coedit with Stephen Kot- to her grandparents, who immigrated to the United States kin The Cultural Gradient: The Transmission of Ideas in Europe, from the postwar displaced persons camps in . 1789–1991, dedicated to Malia’s scholarship. The research The book includes a personal photo of a German mili- for her dissertation on the religious philosopher Sergei tary barrack turned Bulgakov came at an exceptionally propitious moment, Russian Orthodox as she was able to reap the benefits of Gorbachev’s pere- Church, the center of stroika and glasnost in the form of newly opened archives. religious and cultural Subtitled “A Study in Modernism and Society in Russia in life, from the camp in 1900–1918,” her dissertation—which she would rework into Schleissheim, outside her first book, The Cross and the Sickle: Sergei Bulgakov and the Munich. She had first Fate of Russian Religious Philosophy, 1890–1920 (1997)—represented approached the topic an attempt to understand the cultural and spiritual of the earlier interwar movement in the Russian Silver Age as a historical phe- Russian emigration nomenon in its own right and to rescue this period “from as a graduate student the shadow of the Russian Revolution,” which for obvious in at the Institut reasons had dominated historical inquiry on that period. d’Etudes Politiques, Evtuhov found the nexus for her study in religion, since but she ultimately

HARRIMAN | 11 ­­ Nizhny Novgorod. Lower Bazaar by Alexei Bogolyubov (1878).

wrote her French thesis on economic relations between slice—and it could be any slice, she says—to illustrate how and Indochina, which she researched in the New connections work and how people interact and how the York Public Library. economy functions. Before Evtuhov, the standard view Evtuhov is best known for her prize-winning Portrait of the provinces had it that these were peasant lands, of a Russian Province: Economy, Society, and Civilization in thus industry and artisanal trades were largely ignored. In Nineteenth-Century Nizhnii Novgorod (2011). At a time when nineteenth-century Russia, however, heavy industry was studies of borderlands, empires, and the non-Russian often located outside the cities; moreover, the stereotype nationalities dominated historical inquiry, Evtuhov was of cultural backwardness seemed suspect to her, given consumed by the feeling that we really did not under- many indicators, including the number of important stand how Russia itself functioned. “I had the hypothesis cultural figures in the Russian Silver Age from provin- that a study of the province would contradict many of the cial backgrounds. As she told a Georgetown University assumptions about how Russia works. The big narrative, reporter, “While I was working on this book, I had a very which is centrally structured and linear, would fall apart, strong sense of swimming against the current or wanting and we could put it together in new and interesting ways.” to undermine approaches and paradigms that had domi- Portrait of a Russian Province is not local or regional history, nated the field of Russian history for many decades.” the domain of kraevedenie in Russian, but rather it views the Going to Nizhnii Novgorod in the early 1990s was an province as “an integral and indispensable part of a larger adventure. From 1932 the city had been known as Gorky historical narrative.” In other words, the book presents a (named for the author of Mother, a native son) and had


View of the Nizhnii Novgorod Kremlin from one of the streets that slopes down into the town. Photo by Catherine Evtuhov (2007).

become a “closed” city after the war, until it reassumed “I had the hypothesis that a study of the its original name in 1991. Andrei Sakharov and his wife, province would contradict many of the Elena Bonner, lived in exile there for much of the 1980s. Evtuhov went to the university, unannounced, and visited assumptions about how Russia works.” faculty members, who quickly offered to take care of all the permissions required for living and working in the city. They found her a place to live in accommodations outside the city, in Sormovo, a working-class neighborhood since surroundings, and we must first understand specific, the 1840s, from which she commuted via a sardine-packed locally circumscribed interactions before proceeding to bus. She had full access to the library and archives. During analysis in terms of sociological categories (class, status, Soviet times regional studies, like so many topics, had been civil society) or generalized historical processes (indus- proscribed and difficult to publish; and so librarians had trialization, modernization, urbanization).” As a result, occupied themselves with the next best thing—namely, one is immediately struck by the physicality and tactile organizing and cataloging the archives. To a certain extent, nature of her descriptions of the “soil, forest, river: the the portrait of the province had been created for her in ecology of provincial life”—categories then largely absent outline to find and interpret. from the Russian historian’s arsenal of analytical tools. Evtuhov’s approach is entirely “space-specific”: “Human To this Evtuhov adds portraits in the more conventional beings’ activities are played out in entirely concrete sense; for example, the great and at the same time typical

HARRIMAN | 13 ­­ Alexander Gatsisky (1838–93). Photo by Andrei Karelin.


Alexander Gatsisky (1838–93), who appears throughout reading experience and provides a strong impulse for schol- Portrait of a Province and dominates the final chapter in ars to rethink the dynamics and texture of Russian life in the particular. Gatsisky, like his counterparts throughout the late imperial era.” (One does not read the phrase “deeply Russian provinces, was responsible for organizing sta- pleasurable reading experience” often enough in praise of tistical investigations of artisanal production; published academic writing.) local guidebooks and histories; championed the provin- cial press; and came up with the principle of “province as We moved on eventually to discuss current projects, of total biography,” by which the history of a province can be which three are listed on her curriculum vitae: (1) Russia in captured through telling the stories of all the people who the Age of Elizabeth (1741–1761); (2) New Directions in Rus- ever lived there. Following his example, Evtuhov inter- sian Environmental History; and (3) This Side of Good and weaves his life story into the events of local history, thereby Evil: Vladimir Soloviev for the Twenty-First Century. inscribing his personal biography into the larger story. As Evtuhov remarked, one can observe her creeping back Sergei Bulgakov, whose Philosophy of Economy: The World in time, from the early twentieth century, then spending a as Household Evtuhov translated for Yale University Press long time on the nineteenth, and now happily ensconced in (2000), reappears in this same chapter as another figure the middle of the eighteenth. She explained that she became who contributed to the idea of province. As she explains, aware of the very large blank spot between the two Greats, for Bulgakov “economy was conceived as the working, Peter and Catherine, and yet Elizabeth ruled for twenty years. interactive relation of man and nature”; the essential And it had been a brilliant and important reign, which Cather- economic functions are production and consumption. ine tried to obscure as much as possible. Evtuhov is modeling “The economic process itself—inspired by Sophia, the her work on Isabel de Madariaga’s magisterial Russia in the Age of Divine Wisdom—becomes the creative essence of human Catherine the Great (1981), hence the allusion to the title. existence.” Evtuhov credits Bulgakov’s philosophy It should come as no surprise to the reader of Portrait of of economy for setting her on the path to look at the a Russian Province that Evtuhov has embraced the study of province as a whole, taking into account the physical Russian environmental history. For over a decade she has environment, and local administrative structures and been a member of a working group with scholars from services, and finally understanding economy as politics: Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, which “the transformation of material existence (byt) is politics in 2013 received a Leverhulme Trust Grant for “Exploring or becomes politics.” Russia’s Environmental History and Natural Resources.” Portrait of a Russian Province was awarded the presti- The funding has allowed them to organize a series of con- gious Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize by the Association for ferences in places as diverse as Solovki, Lake Baikal, and Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) for Chernobyl. In July 2016, Evtuhov organized the conference her paradigm-shifting treatment of the Russian province. “Industry, Mining, Transport, and Industrial Heritage To quote an excerpt Tourism,” which took the group to Ekaterinburg and Perm. from the citation: Her “Postcard from the Ural Mountains”—detailing the “The book offers a “She examines Nizhnii group’s travels to the Romanov salt mines in Perm, which deeply pleasurable Novgorod both as date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the a concrete space eighteenth-century iron foundries in Ekaterinburg, which reading experience (soil, rivers, ravines, catapulted Russia into its place as the biggest iron exporter and provides a urban spaces, market in Europe on the eve of the “industrial revolution,” not strong impulse for networks) and as an to mention underground lakes and magnificent wooden scholars to rethink the imagined project for architecture—can be accessed on the website Origins: local intellectuals, Current Events in Historical Perspective, published by the dynamics and texture professionals and Ohio State University and Miami University. of Russian life in the activists in the Together with David Moon (York University) and Julia late imperial era.” post-reform period. Lajus (Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg), . . . [The book] offers Evtuhov received a Rachel Carson Center Fellowship —ASEEES a deeply pleasurable and spent a month in the summer of 2017 in Munich

HARRIMAN | 15 ­­ Clockwise from upper left: Stroganov residence at Usolye, 1720s; map of Nizhnii Novgorod, created from OpenStreetMap project data (2015); Factory-Museum of Nizhnii Tagil—a metallurgical plant that had functioned consistently from the first half of the eighteenth century up until the 1980s. Photos of Stroganov residence and Factory-Museum by Catherine Evtuhov (2007).

assembling a volume of articles from the group on Rus- an environmental philosopher and is considered by many to sian environmental history over several centuries, to be be Russia’s foremost academic philosopher. A signal feature accompanied by a substantial, coauthored interpretative of Soloviev’s thought is that it builds a philosophical system introduction, formulating the current “state of the art” whose point of departure is not the isolated self but the self in of this relatively young field. She hopes to meet with her productive, loving interaction with another person. coauthors this summer to wrap things up. Evtuhov is the editor of the collected volume Across the She is currently completing a précis on Vladimir Soloviev Black Sea: Russian-Ottoman Encounters in the 18th and 19th for the Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Philosophy and also Centuries, which will be published as a special issue of the envisions a very brief book, written for nonspecialists, that journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. highlights what is interesting about this poet and pamphle- Her engagement with Black Sea studies goes back to the teer, who is best known for his religious philosophy but is also late ’90s, when she first taught what is now a staple course


special projects editor. She hopes that this will become a regular event, every two years. The conference, “Infor- mation in the Russian-Eurasian Space,” is an attempt to introduce the notions of communication and knowledge as important historical factors. For now, Evtuhov eagerly looks forward to her sabbat- ical next year, to forge ahead with Elizabeth and take a breather from the administrative grind.

Books (authored and coauthored) Portrait of a Russian Province: Economy, Society, and Civiliza- tion in Nineteenth-Century Nizhnii Novgorod. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize for “the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences,” Asso- ciation for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), 2012. A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces—Since 1800. With Richard Stites. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2003. —Also published in full-length version as A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces. With Richard Stites, Lindsey Hughes, and David Goldfrank. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2004. —Turkish translation as 1800’den İtibaren Rusya Tarihi: Halklar, Efsaneler, Olaylar, Güçler. Istanbul: Islık. Forthcoming. The Cross and the Sickle: Sergei Bulgakov and the Fate of Russian Religious Philosophy, 1890–1920. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Books (edited and coedited) Across the Black Sea: Russian-Ottoman Encounters in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Special issue of Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. Forthcoming. Reginald Zelnik, Lichnost’, protest, istoriia: sbornik statei [The Individual, Protest, and History: collected articles]. St. Peters- on the Black Sea in history and politics. She started learn- burg: Nestor-Istoriia (Academy of Sciences Press), 2007. ing Turkish in the ’90s and spent a Fulbright year in Turkey, The Cultural Gradient: The Transmission of Ideas in Europe, living on the banks of the Bosporus and teaching Russian 1789–1991. Coedited with Stephen Kotkin. Lanham, MD: history to Turkish students. As she explained to me, while Rowman & Littlefield, Inc., 2002. she did not jump on the borderlands and empire band- Sergei Bulgakov, Philosophy of Economy: The World as wagon, what she found interesting was the idea of Europe Household. Edited, translated, and with Introduction. and its peripheries; her particular interests were the Otto- New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000; paperback man Empire and Spain. She even delivered a paper on the edition, 2014. “Spanish Anna Karenina,” penned by Clarín (Leopoldo Alas). Kazan, Moscow, St. Petersburg: Multiple Faces of the Russian In mid-May 2018, Evtuhov will convene a conference at Empire. Coedited with Boris Gasparov, Alexander the Harriman Institute in collaboration with Kritika as its Ospovat, and Mark von Hagen. Moscow: O.G.I., 1997.

HARRIMAN | 17 ­­ Gorbachev: His Life and Times William Taubman W. W. Norton & Company (2017) ISBN 978-0-393- 64701-3 PROFILES A Revolution! Depicting Gorbachev: William Taubman in Profile


ne day in November 1985, adding a previously unthinkable level Immediately after arriving, the General Secretary Mikhail of transparency and accountability couple felt skeptical about the extent Gorbachev, who had just met to the Soviet system. And now he to which Gorbachev’s reforms could with President Ronald Reagan was allowing that the entire standoff transform the system. They lived oat the Geneva Summit, was giving a between the Soviet Union and the in a standard two-room apartment standard press conference, when, in United States was no longer a zero- building on Ulitsa Gubkina. Every the middle of an otherwise forget- sum proposition. “It was a total day, it seemed, they encountered table statement, he looked into the reversal of a key axiom of Soviet long lines at food stores and sea of reporters and flashing cameras thinking,” Taubman told me recently. overwhelming bureaucracy. But and said that the Soviet Union’s secu- Taubman, a political scientist, when they left Russia in June, rity depended on the United States derived his insights into the Soviet they concluded that the “Moscow also feeling secure. Watching on Union from decades of research Spring,” their term for this period television from his home in Amherst, and travel. He’d been going there of Gorbachev’s reforms, “may prove Massachusetts, William Taubman since the 1960s, but visits to Moscow to be more revolutionary than the (Russian Institute ’65; Ph.D.,’69) leapt during Gorbachev’s first years Russian Revolution itself.” out of his seat. “That was a revolu- made him anxious to experience, The quote is the opening sentence tion!” he said to his wife, Jane. “That firsthand, how the new leadership of Moscow Spring (Summit Books), single sentence!” was affecting the lives of ordinary a book the Taubmans coauthored Gorbachev’s tenure had just begun, citizens. So, in January 1988, he about their experiences in the USSR. but he had already distinguished and Jane, a Russianist, moved to At the time of publication, in 1989, himself from his predecessors. Not Moscow, with their two children, for the couple had no way of knowing only was he significantly younger a five-month academic exchange that, nearly two decades later, they and more dynamic but also he had sponsored by IREX (International would return to Moscow to interview proposed reforms—perestroika Research & Exchanges Board). Gorbachev, alone in his office, about (restructuring) and glasnost Taubman would work at the Academy his life, his career, and the events that (openness)—that would revamp his of Sciences, and Jane at Moscow State had precipitated the demise of the country’s economy and policy, while University (MGU). Soviet Union.

HARRIMAN | 19 ­­ A sunny late-winter morning. Taubman—a tall, fair-skinned man with a booming voice and a friendly, inquisitive demeanor—sits in a magenta chair in his daughter’s Brooklyn home. He is in town from Amherst for the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Awards. His biography, Gorbachev: His Life and Times (W. W. Norton & Company), is one of five finalists for the category, and this eve- ning he will be attending the awards ceremony with his wife and family. (The last of his books to be nomi- nated—a 2003 biography of —won the award. It also received a 2004 Pulitzer Prize.) Taubman leans back and recalls Moscow in 1988: long lines accumulat- ing at the newsstands every morning, Muscovites eagerly waiting to buy thick, previously neglected liberal literary journals like Novy mir (New World), magazines like Ogonyok (Little Light), and liberal newspapers like Argumenty i fakty (Arguments and Facts). Millions of people devouring publica- tions that divulged the atrocities of the The period was exciting, but it was a Ukrainian city near the Black Sea, Stalin era. Atrocities that, just a couple also riddled with tension. Party leader or maybe it emerged because of his of years prior, had only been written Nikita Khrushchev had attempted parents, who had traveled to the about in samizdat (self-published and to liberalize the Soviet Union more Soviet Union during the 1930s and clandestinely distributed literature). In than two decades prior, and he was instilled in him an avid interest in Moscow Spring, the Taubmans compare eventually silenced by hardliners and world politics. Either way, Taubman the Moscow of that period to a seminar removed from office. No one knew was a “news junkie” from an early age “where, miracle of miracles, every- whether Gorbachev’s reforms would and clearly remembers the headline one had done the reading.” Taubman meet the same fate. “We lived on announcing Soviet General Secretary brings up the parallel today, too. “A tenterhooks, constantly filled with ’s death in 1953. whole damn city, and everybody was suspense,” Taubman recalls. “What Stalin had always been something reading everything.” was going on? Would it last?” of a puzzle to Taubman. Dating back to his adolescence, Taubman wanted Taubman became fascinated with to understand the process by which the Soviet Union as a child. Perhaps the leader had turned the utopian “I had never written a the fascination arose from the stories vision of Karl Marx—“this kind of passed down from his maternal heaven on earth”—into a “killing biography. I hadn’t even grandparents, who had immigrated ground.” He read avidly about Soviet read that many biographies.” to the United States from Mykolaiv, life and studied Russian language


and history as an undergrad at Har- mind as he precipitated the demise vard University. Then, he enrolled of the very system that had brought as a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia’s him to power? Department of Political Science. In 1964, during his second year in the When he began his career, Taub- program, he finally saw the Soviet man never imagined that he would Union for himself. Part of Indiana become a biographer. In 1967, he University’s summer language joined Amherst College’s political program, the trip was a whirlwind science department, a rewarding job tour during which Taubman and that came with its own challenges. his colleagues visited nine Soviet Teaching, which he had not been cities, including Moscow, Riga, and prepared for as a student, was more Donetsk, and faced a barrage of difficult than he had anticipated. questions from Soviet citizens. He And the field of political science was left there in awe of the Soviets’ insa- quite different from what he had tiable interest in the United States. envisioned. At Harvard, he had been The following academic year, exposed to a qualitative approach to Taubman returned for a longer, less the discipline. When he chose to pur- chaotic experience as a student at sue it in graduate school, he expected Moscow State. He lived in the dorms, to study “contemporary history.” And, worked on his dissertation about the at Columbia’s Russian Institute, that is mechanics of governing Soviet cities, precisely what he did. His professors, (Top, left to right) William Taubman and and attempted to get to know his many of whom had entered academia Mikhail Gorbachev. Bottom: Mikhail Soviet counterparts. But no matter after careers in government or jour- Gorbachev, Jane Taubman, and how much time he spent with his nalism, had been “observers of the William Taubman. Photos by Phoebe peers, Taubman found it difficult contemporary Soviet Union,” rather Taubman (2007). to truly get inside their heads. He than theoreticians or quantitatively always wondered, What are people oriented scholars. really thinking? He returned from But as soon as Taubman departed the exchange, postponed his dis- from student life, he realized that, sertation, and sat down to write a in the broader context of political memoir about his year at MGU. The science, the theoretical and quanti- resulting book, The View from Lenin tative approach overshadowed the Hills: Soviet Youth in Ferment, was pub- qualitative one. And it unmoored lished by Coward-McCann in 1967. him. “For a long time, I tried to be Taubman was twenty-six years old. what I thought a political scientist The desire to understand the should be,” he confessed to me over Soviet mentality remained at the the phone last February. forefront of Taubman’s work. For the next decade, Taubman Decades later, it would be the struggled to find book ideas that guiding force behind his Gorbachev would both capture his interest and biography: What was Gorbachev stay within the parameters of his really thinking as he rose up field. He considered writing politi- through the ranks of the Commu- cal philosophy, but felt no spark; he nist Party? How did others perceive edited a book of commentary on U.S. him? And what went through his foreign policy, which he enjoyed.

HARRIMAN | 21 ­­ suggested he write a biography of his father and his maternal grand- Khrushchev instead. parents, with whom he’d been Taubman was initially taken very close. But suddenly he was aback. “I had never written a recalling an incident from early biography,” he told me. “I hadn’t adolescence, when his mother, even read that many biographies.” the family disciplinarian, once But he decided to give it a try. again picked up a belt to whip Instantly, he felt rewarded. The him. This time, instead of acqui- more he researched, the more escing, Gorbachev grabbed her engrossed he became in trying arm and pulled it away, saying, to understand the driving forces “That’s it! No more!” She burst behind Khrushchev’s behavior into tears. “I was the last object and decision-making. “I discov- she could control,” Gorbachev ered a three-dimensional person told Taubman. with all his shrewdness, intelli- Taubman felt that he had gence, crudeness, and insecurity.” struck gold. “I remember think- Taubman spent nearly two ing, Aha! Aha! So she whipped decades on the book. Ten years him; she treated him this way; William Taubman. Photo in, he developed chronic fatigue this must have meant that he by Michele Stapleton. syndrome. It got so bad he had desperately needed affirmation to write in ten-minute intervals, and adoration, which he could resting on the floor between para- get as a political leader!” Later, graphs. But he never considered when Taubman shared his the- Then, in the late 1970s, he started stopping. “I wanted to prove to ory with Jane, who was helping a book project on the debate about myself that I could do it,” he said. him with the research and had the origins of the Cold War. While He published the biography, in been present at the interview, she researching, he discovered a series 2003, to critical acclaim. Then it challenged his thinking. “Don’t of transcripts, published by the won the Pulitzer. More than three leap to conclusions,” she said. “We U.S. government, from the negoti- decades into his career, Taubman don’t know that yet.” In the end, ations between Stalin and Franklin had tapped into his passion. Taubman agreed. He mentions D. Roosevelt. Instantly hooked, he the incident in the book, but shies adjusted the topic of his book. The The first time Taubman inter- away from lending it great weight. resulting work, Stalin’s American viewed Mikhail Gorbachev, It is this approach—a pre- Policy: From Entente to Detente to Cold in April 2007, Gorbachev was sentation of the facts without War, came out with W. W. Norton talking about his childhood in the overpsychologizing or nudging in 1982, and, Taubman said, “it small southern Russian village the reader to oversimplified cau- really amounted to history.” of Privolnoe, when, completely salities—that allows Taubman to He wanted to do something unprompted, he launched into portray Gorbachev as a complex similar for his next project and a detailed personal narrative and often contradictory charac- decided to research Khrushchev’s about his mother, Maria Gop- ter; a man who is arrogant and U.S. policy. There were few pri- kalo. She was a tough, illiterate humble, conservative and lib- mary sources available on the peasant whose relationship with eral, and endlessly devoted to his subject, and what he found most the hyperintellectual and analyt- wife as he prioritizes his political interesting was the material about ical Gorbachev had been rather ambitions above her well-being Khrushchev as a person. But he strained. And so, Gorbachev and personal career satisfaction. pitched a Khrushchev U.S. policy hadn’t devoted much interview Taubman makes the relation- book to W. W. Norton anyway. They time to her, preferring to discuss ship between Gorbachev and his


wife, Raisa, a prominent theme Morning has turned to afternoon “I discovered a three- in the biography. We follow the at Taubman’s daughter’s home. dimensional person with all couple from the moment Gor- Jane comes down the stairs and sits bachev notices her at a university on the couch. She is a tall, dignified his shrewdness, intelligence, ballroom dance—she pays no woman, with closely cropped white crudeness, and insecurity.” attention to him—through their hair and stylish earrings. courtship, the various stages of “Bill is getting tired,” she says, their marriage, and, of course, shaking her head. “He can talk his political career, in which she about this stuff forever, but he with Gorbachev around the long, participated until she died of leu- needs to eat.” rectangular conference room kemia in 1999. Taubman smiles and agrees to table. Gorbachev, wearing short Taubman’s focus on the rela- wrap up our interview. Behind sleeves and allowing the couple to tionship makes sense—Raisa was a them is a wall of photographs: their interview him in Russian, without sensation. Unlike the wives of pre- daughter’s wedding; their grand- the presence of an interpreter, vious Soviet leaders, who tended children; a young Taubman, full was warm and informal. to dress drably and remain largely head of curly blonde hair, looking “We felt entirely comfortable in his invisible, and who always seemed down lovingly at a young Jane. presence,” recalled Taubman. And his subdued and expressionless when In 2007, when Taubman and tactics worked: Gorbachev granted they did appear in public, Raisa Jane arrived at Leningradsky them seven more interviews. was, Taubman told me, “a real first Prospekt and entered the mod- I test my theory—that, with lady—intelligent, sophisticated, ern building that housed the their various collaborations and tastefully dressed, elegant in every Gorbachev Foundation, they utter devotion to one another, way.” But what was most shock- wondered whether their first Taubman and Jane resemble Gor- ing, he said, was that Gorbachev interview with Gorbachev would bachev and Raisa. involved her in state affairs. Within be their last. Through Anatoly Taubman pauses. “You know, months of his ascent to power, “She Chernyaev, Gorbachev’s close it’s possible that my showing up [had] pretty obviously become one confidant and former foreign pol- for that first interview with my of his main advisers.” icy adviser, Taubman had received wife may have helped to convince As Taubman spoke about this Gorbachev’s tacit support on the Gorbachev that I was a good guy relationship, I found it hard not biography project, but he had who would do an objective job.” to notice the parallels between never officially asked the former Gorbachev and Raisa and Taub- leader for his permission. man and his own wife. Like Raisa To hedge his worries and allay with Gorbachev, Jane has been his nerves, Taubman prepared instrumental in Taubman’s career. a strategy. He would begin his And, like Raisa with Gorbachev, questions with something that Jane did not look up when, during Gorbachev had already said, his second year at Amherst, thereby proving he’d done his Taubman walked into the room homework and encouraging where she was sitting. Taubman Gorbachev to say something new. took her aloofness as a challenge And he’d start at the beginning of and “spent the evening trying to Gorbachev’s life, ensuring that evoke her interest.” What finally there would be big, crucial topics, “won her heart,” he told me, was like perestroika, that they couldn’t his impression of the announcer cover in the first interview. from Moscow Radio. But the tension dissipated the They’ve been inseparable since. moment he and Jane sat down


n the fourth anniversary of Euromaidan, Kyiv Most of the protesters—whose numbers dwindled from faced yet another round of popular protests the initial several hundred to a few dozen by the time the pressing for change. These demonstrations took camp was dismantled by riot police on March 3, 2018— O place over the course of five months in the form were followers of opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, of an encampment by the Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. formerly president of Georgia and briefly governor of They were much smaller in scale than those that ignited Odesa. The rest were members of the ultranationalist the 2013–14 revolution, but the protesters were just as Svoboda Party and the conservative Samopomich Party. angry. They accused President Petro Poroshenko and his The hostilities in eastern Ukraine have further fanned government of betraying the spirit of Euromaidan and the flames of popular discontent by recycling former demanded that the current leadership make way for fighters back into civilian life and politics. Several of the genuine reformers. most radical soldier-cum-populist politicians who have

“Barricade with the protesters at Hrushevskogo street on January 25, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine. The anti-governmental protests turned into violent clashes during last week” photo by Sasha Maksymenko, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

24 | HARRIMAN demobilized in the last three years came from nationalist stripped of his short-lived Ukrainian citizenship in July and often xenophobic private battalions. The latter 2017, only to charge back in over the border in September proliferated at the start of the hostilities in the Donbas, to and surround himself with a group of between one and two make up for the army’s woeful lack of fighting capacity. thousand dedicated supporters. Ever since, he has resorted In January, Kyivan residents were stunned by the to revolutionary rhetoric and populist demagoguery. In sight of several hundred well-built men clad in identical February 2018, Saakashvili was deported from the country paramilitary gear, many of them wearing balaclavas, once again, but he has continued to rally his troops via social marching down central Khreschatyk Street. They were networks, promising a speedy and triumphant return. apparently members of the “National Corps” of Andrei Meanwhile, the slogans at his rallies in the center of Biletsky, an ultranationalist member of parliament (MP) Kyiv have acquired an increasingly radical character, with and former commander of the Azov battalion. Their slogans occasional anti-Semitic undertones. At one demonstration included the ominous, “Ukraine needs Ukrainian order!” in early March 2018, a speaker described a “Zionist Of all the movement’s leaders, Saakashvili in particular takeover of Ukraine” and called for an “ethnically pure has attempted to shape this militant protest energy by Ukrainian nation.” While Saakashvili never explicitly trying to unite the disparate elements of radical opposition endorsed such views himself, it is often the case that under the banner of his Movement of New Forces. he and his movement do not convincingly disavow the Though his early reforms earned him the reputation of extremist rhetoric of their supporters. a democratizer in Georgia, Saakashvili drifted toward an At the same time, two MPs from the otherwise mainstream authoritarian-like model during his second presidential conservative Samopomich Party—Semyon Semenchenko term. In Ukraine, where he was granted citizenship and and Egor Sobolev—held a rally attended by several hundred appointed governor of Odesa by his former university supporters, where they decried the ineffectuality of peaceful buddy, President Poroshenko, he ran out of reformist demonstrations, hinting that arms may be considered for steam after a series of setbacks and a general inability future protest actions. Such pronouncements are especially to reform the notoriously corrupt region. Rather than dangerous in view of the several armed skirmishes that acknowledge defeat, the Georgian firebrand decided to go have taken place between police and protesters over the last rogue on his now former friend and benefactor, declaring three years. But, for fear of further inflaming tensions, the the entire ruling political class corrupt and eventually government has failed to hold such violent demagoguery branding Poroshenko a traitor working in Putin’s interest. criminally accountable, which inadvertently lends further Unsurprisingly, he was deported from Ukraine and weight to the perception of its weakness.

HARRIMAN | 25 ­­ (Left to right) “Mikheil Saakashvili” photo by European People’s Party, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko at Columbia’s World Leaders Forum (September 29, 2015); photo courtesy of the World Leaders Forum.

The words and deeds of Ukrainian populists and hopelessly mired in corruption, and in cahoots with venal radicals feed off legitimate popular demands, but they oligarchs. And their accusations are not far from the have added to the climate of disenchantment and truth—five top Ukrainian oligarchs, President Poroshenko distrust of all politicians, all reforms, and all institutions. among them, are said to control nearly 10 percent of They have also helped undermine support for the the country’s GDP. In comparison, the top ten Polish programs required by Western financial institutions as a businessmen control only 3 percent of Poland’s GDP. condition for assistance to Ukraine’s economy and have With the national currency, the hryvna, losing two-thirds provided ample fodder to Russian propaganda TV shows, of its value over the last four years; the parallel precipitous parading Saakashvili’s escapades as evidence of Ukraine drop of living standards; the unrelenting Russian as a “failed state.” propaganda; and no end in sight for the war in the Donbas, Echoing the populist wave flooding Western liberal the only surprise is that the demonstrators have attracted democracies, the protest leaders denounce Ukraine’s so few followers and that Poroshenko’s government political elites as being out of touch with regular people, remains in charge.


The only surprise is that the demonstrators have attracted so few followers and that Poroshenko’s government remains in charge.

and populists. President Poroshenko’s support is at a record low, but it seems that he may be banking on being reelected as the least of all evils. According to recent polls, populist slogans continue to fall on deaf ears, and most Ukrainians, at least for now, seem impervious to pie-in- the-sky promises from the opposition, such as a threefold raise in pensions or rollbacks in energy prices. The polls also show that the majority of Ukrainians are even more wary of the appeals of those political fringe elements that peddle the traditional tropes of Ukrainian nationalists with a wholesale demonization of the moneyed class, calls for a total ban on the Russian language, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Euromaidan may have inaugurated Ukraine’s decisive break with Russia and “Eurasianist” policies in favor of integration with Europe’s political and economic institutions, but Ukraine’s gains have not translated into a sense of well-being for the majority of Ukrainians. In 2014–15, after the loss of Crimea and industrial Donbas, where Ukraine has been fighting local insurgents and Russian mercenaries, the country’s economy nose-dived with a cumulative GDP contraction of 16 percent. Since then the GDP per capita The simple explanation for the dearth of revolutionary has been hovering under $2,500 (though significantly zeal is that Ukrainians are exhausted by the cataclysms of higher if we include the black market, which makes up recent years and in no shape for another upheaval along between 30 and 50 percent of the nation’s GDP—the the lines of Euromaidan. A more generous explanation, highest percentages in the region), making Ukraine however, highlights Ukrainian wariness of staging another Europe’s second poorest country, after Moldova. revolution during a do-or-die confrontation with their Exacerbating the economic crisis are the disruption of giant neighbor to the north. There is also the matter of trade with Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, Russia, the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections and an influx of 1.5 million internally displaced persons in 2019, which many believe may well be the best way to from eastern Ukraine. register their discontent. It is no surprise, then, that a majority of Ukrainians have A year before these elections, Ukrainian voters are soured on the country’s trajectory, believing that “nothing disappointed and distrustful of the entire political elite— has changed,” and that the political class lacks the will to from mainstream politicians to extreme nationalists root out corruption and implement genuine reforms.

HARRIMAN | 27 ­­ According to the latest poll, 80 percent of respondents opposition’s intensifying presidential and parliamentary consider the war on corruption a lost cause. campaigns. Western aid programs, though, have been Yet this pessimism belies the fact that a series of a double-edged sword—they are vital to Ukraine’s significant reforms have been enacted, notably in development, but their slow progress has engendered education and medicine, as well as in the pension system. the belief that they are ineffective. In their pursuit of Reform of the pricing structure of the state oil and gas an uncompromising vision of instant and absolute company, Naftogaz, has allowed it to rid itself of many transparency and justice, civic activists have attacked the of the old corrupt schemes prevalent under presidents ruling elite, often appearing to play politics, wittingly Kuchma, Yushchenko, and Yanukovich. Economic growth or not, which has boosted the government’s political is projected to be 3 to 4 percent in 2018–19—impressive opponents. Claiming that the e-declaration system has considering the precipitous drop in GDP in 2015–16. And been inadequate, several of these activists have themselves last year, in acknowledgment of Ukraine’s efforts, the EU refused to volunteer to submit to the procedure. Others finally granted Ukrainians visa-free entry to its twenty- have fallen victim to their own prescription, after failing to eight member states. declare substantial assets, including, in several cases, lavish The pro-European, protransparency zeal of Euromaidan 2,000-square-foot apartments. protesters has led to the creation of several anticorruption Ukraine’s fate hangs in the balance. Cool heads have agencies, not yet fully independent of the government prevailed so far, but populism and nationalism are but vested with broad discretion to pursue violators. A awaiting the chance to fill the political void, as they law on the creation of an anticorruption court—among have elsewhere in Europe. Unless President Poroshenko the EU’s and IMF’s long-standing demands—has been steals the initiative and reignites a reform process that drafted and is pending the president’s signature. Purchases made substantial progress in the first two years of his of goods, services, and works for public needs are now administration, the situation may spin out of control, made transparently though a public e-procurement encouraging Russia to increase its already significant system, ProZorro—the result of painstaking collaboration efforts at destabilization. brokered by Ukraine’s government, business sector, and Throughout his presidency, Poroshenko has urged civil society. And, finally, more than a million Ukrainian Western leaders to support Ukraine as Europe’s main government officials have been subjected to one of the bulwark against “revanchist, barbarian” Russia. In his most comprehensive and detailed income and asset speech celebrating the visa-free status with the EU last e-declaration procedures anywhere in the world. These June, he went so far as to mock Russia with lines from require officials to itemize any personal object above Mikhail Lermontov’s poem: “Прощай немытая Россия / $3,000. (Of course, these reforms have famously resulted Страна рабов, страна господ” (Farewell, unwashed Russia / in retaliation from MPs, who have responded to the land of slaves, land of lords). measures by requiring human rights activists and civil Poroshenko would do well to temper this premature reformers to submit to a similarly stringent disclosure jubilation. Ukraine’s shift toward Europe has been dramatic, procedure, which they view as an intimidation tactic and but it is far from assured and irrevocable. Indeed, amid rising an attack on civil society.) public discontent and increasing populism, Europe’s future Ukraine retains its robust, albeit fractious and divisive, itself, as a federation of liberal democracies, is far from system of democracy, where a denial of the effectiveness certain. And unless the Ukrainian president demonstrates of any and all recent reforms is part and parcel of the the will to continue with difficult reforms, sometimes at the expense of his political allies, the forces of populism, nationalism, and xenophobia—for now still consigned to the margins—will step in and take Ukraine in an unknown direction, toward social chaos and political darkness. According to the latest poll, 80 percent As this was going to press, Ukrainian TV viewers were of respondents consider the war on getting a shocking glimpse of what that political darkness may look like. Addressing MPs, Ukraine’s prosecutor corruption a lost cause. general, Yuri Lutsenko, showed secretly taped footage


Peter Zalmayev, standing to the right of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, asking a question during a presentation by Newt Gingrich at the Victor Pinchuk Foundation in Kyiv (May 2017).

of their fellow MP, former POW Nadezhda Savchenko, in Peter Zalmayev is director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, which she was huddled with two of her coconspirators in a nonprofit organization. Currently, he divides his time between a cramped tiny apartment, discussing the various options New York and Kyiv, where he takes active part in local civil for taking out the country’s political elite. Savchenko’s society, hosts a weekly TV program, and provides frequent proposed solution: set off bombs inside the Rada during a commentary to print and broadcast media on international presidential address. Ukraine may not have the luxury of and local political developments. He received his M.I.A. from continuing to waffle on the hard choices it needs to make, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2008, as other Savchenkos surely wait in the wings. along with a certificate from the Harriman Institute.

HARRIMAN | 29 ­­ Azerbaijani refugee from Karabakh (1993). Photo by Ilgar Jafarov.


continue—the two sides clashed in April 2016, causing thirty casualties; and, most recently, in May 2017, when Azerbaijan Black destroyed an Armenian air mis- sile defense system. Six years after the ceasefire agreement, journalist Thomas de Waal, currently senior Garden fellow with Carnegie Europe, embarked on a book project about the conflict. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Institute of Armenia and Peace, de Waal spent the year from 2000 to 2001 poring over archives; interviewing conflict victims, witnesses, and partici- pants; and traveling intensively Azerbaijan between Armenia and Azer- baijan. The logistics were complicated—to circumvent the closed border, he had to travel Through Peace hundreds of miles each time he wanted to get from one country to the other. But the trouble was worth it—in 2003, de Waal published Black Garden: Arme- n 1988 the unthinkable and War nia and Azerbaijan Through Peace happened: two Soviet and War (New York University republics—Armenia and Press), a nuanced portrayal of Azerbaijan—entered An Interview with the conflict and its aftermath. Iinto a violent territorial The book was rereleased in dispute, and the previously Thomas de Waal an updated tenth anniversary omnipotent Kremlin was addition in 2013 and continues powerless to stop them. The to be the definitive account of dispute—the first in a series the conflict. of nationalist uprisings that BY MASHA UDENSIVA-BRENNER In November 2017, all 120 of would contribute to bringing the original interviews de Waal down the Soviet Union— conducted for the 2003 edition revolved around Nagorny became available at Columbia Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region located University Libraries as part of the new Thomas de Waal inside Soviet Azerbaijan. Technically, the conflict ended Interviews Collection. I spoke to de Waal about Black when the two newly independent nations agreed to a Garden over Skype last spring. What follows is an edited ceasefire in 1994, but the agreement did not bring peace. version of our conversation. (You can read my interview To this day, the Armenian-Azerbaijani border remains with him about Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, the closed and heavily militarized. Not to mention that vio- other book in the Thomas de Waal Interviews Collection, lent flare-ups between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Fall 2017 issue of Harriman Magazine.)

HARRIMAN | 31 ­­ De Waal: I think there have been a I wanted to write the book I wanted few crossings, but you can probably to read. count them all on one hand. It’s a very rare occurrence. Udensiva-Brenner: Can you give us some historical context for the Udensiva-Brenner: Your reporting relationship between Armenia and Thomas for this book took place from 2000 to Azerbaijan before the conflict de Waal 2001, six years after the conflict ended. broke out? How did the project come about? De Waal: There’s this concept I’ve De Waal: I’d been spending time in come across frequently in the Azerbaijan since ’95 and in Karabakh, Caucasus, that all these conflicts are Masha Udensiva-Brenner: Your book in Armenia, since ’96. I liked both ancient conflicts and people have opens with you crossing the ceasefire places. But, obviously, the narrative hated each other for centuries and line between Armenia and Azerbaijan. from each one was very black-and- waited for the opportunity to fight No one had crossed it since the two white. When you’re on the Armenian one another. It has been debunked by nations signed a ceasefire agreement side and you hear about this conflict, scholarship and also by the empirical in 1994. But there you were. How did you begin to inhabit their worldview; experience of the people living there. this happen? you begin to see everything through Armenians and Azerbaijanis began their eyes—that they were the victims to come into conflict perhaps in the Thomas de Waal: In May 2001, when of this injustice, that they tried nineteenth century, and certainly in they were gearing up for big peace political means to give freedom to the the early twentieth century. But, at talks in Key West, Florida, the U.S. Karabakh Armenians and were met the same time, they’ve always had a cochair [of the OSCE Minsk Group with violence. That’s their version lot in common; they’ve shared the mediating the conflict], Carey of reality. When you go over to the same territory. I think both sides Cavanaugh, invited some journalists to Azerbaijani side, you see a different would tell you that in cultural terms come with him on a symbolic crossing reality. That they thought they were they have a lot more in common with of the ceasefire line, which is also living in a peaceful republic with each other than they do with the called the Line of Contact. I was one of all these Armenians, and suddenly Georgians, the other big nation in the the people he invited. Just to give you the Armenians start revolting. It’s Caucasus. They’ve always tradition- an idea, the ceasefire line had started very scary for them; they aren’t sure ally done business with one another as trenches—not very fearsome—but whether the Armenians are backed more than they have with the Geor- it became more and more fortified by Moscow, and the whole thing gians. And if you look at the culture over the years. Now it’s incredibly descends into violence. They’ve in terms of music, in particular, there militarized, with artillery and drones lost control, they try to reassert are a lot of songs that an Armenian and minefields and helicopters. So, it’s control over their republic, and the would say are Armenian songs and an basically this big scar running through Armenians start attacking them. Azerbaijani would say are Azerbaijani the territory of Azerbaijan. When we Both sides obviously have a certain songs. And there’s always been some crossed it, we started in Azerbaijan validity to their view, but the prob- intermarriage, particularly in Baku. and walked across. They demined it lem is that they have no empathy for So these are people who have mixed for us, but we were actually crossing a one another. I wanted to get a deeper together culturally, historically, minefield. Most of the time we do this understanding of what was happen- demographically. metaphorically, but I did this literally ing. But there was nothing written But, politically, there had been in 2001. about the conflict that presented the collisions between them. Part of this view from both sides. Everything was was for socioeconomic reasons— Udensiva-Brenner: Has anyone quite biased, quite partisan, very pro- Armenians were closer to the top of crossed the line since then? pagandistic. So, eventually, I decided the social pile, particularly in Baku,


and Azerbaijanis were down toward weaken under Gorbachev—during There was nothing written the bottom. But the main clash has all those periods, tensions about always been over the highland part of who this place owed its allegiance about the conflict that the Karabakh region, which we tend to, who deserved to be there, and presented the view from to call by its Russian name, Nagorny who deserved to be running things Karabakh. This ambiguous place had resulted in conflict. both sides. Everything was been part of the culture and history of quite biased, quite partisan, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. As Udensiva-Brenner: The conflict long as Armenians and Azerbaijanis erupted during perestroika in 1998. very propagandistic. were part of the Russian Empire, or What happened? the Soviet Union, it didn’t matter so much whose territory it was. During De Waal: For that we have to take those times, there was this kind of a brief excursion to 1921, which is province in Azerbaijan, run by central policeman who looked after when the Bolsheviks held a meeting Armenians but within the Republic of things. People lived together, and in Tbilisi that decided what to do Azerbaijan. That was in 1921. In 1923, if there was a dispute, the with all these conflict regions in the the autonomous region of Nagorny could always restore order. But at Caucasus, including Abkhazia and Karabakh was created. There is times when the empire weakened— South Ossetia. Stalin chaired the lots of speculation about why this such as during the early twentieth meeting—he was the Commissar decision was made. But I think a century with the Russian Empire; for Nationalities—and they basically primary reason was economic. It after the Bolshevik Revolution when allocated Nagorny Karabakh to was part of the economic space of the Russians left the Caucasus; and Azerbaijan, but with autonomous Azerbaijan, and there wasn’t even then again during perestroika, status. The idea was that it would a good road at that point between when the Soviet Union started to become an Armenian majority Yerevan and Karabakh.

Men working by war-ruined building in Shusha, Nagorny-Karabakh. Photo by Adam Jones (2015).

HARRIMAN | 33 ­­ Shell-pocked facade, Stepanakert, Nagorny-Karabakh. Photo by Adam Jones (2015).

Udensiva-Brenner: And this is this was a completely devastated place were no mechanisms for dialogue interesting because while the because it was taking in refugees from or for working things out through Soviet regime separated Nagorny the Armenian genocide in Turkey democratic means. Basically, the Karabakh from Armenia, it also gave in 1915–1916. All of this shaped the center decided what got done, and Armenians a homeland for the first collective Armenian mentality. It left when the center broke down, no one time in recent history. And this had them with this fear of being killed, decided what got done. The result? an effect on Armenian attitudes fear of reprisals, a need for belonging, You end up with a conflict. And so, during the conflict . . . a need for solidarity. certainly, this fear of Turkey, fear of being massacred, was pervasive. And, De Waal: That’s right. Prior to the Udensiva-Brenner: How did these ironically, it meant that Armenians formation of the Soviet Union, there fears, and this sense of victimhood, engaged in some preemptive were Armenians scattered all over affect the evolution of the conflict? aggression against Azerbaijan, which the Caucasus, in Anatolia and what’s only fed the whole cycle of violence. now eastern Turkey. But they’d had De Waal: In part, it explains the very very little statehood. They had had strong emotional reaction in Armenia Udensiva-Brenner: And how did the some statehood back in the Middle toward the cause of Karabakh violence start? Ages. They had a brief independent Armenians. And it certainly meant republic again for a couple of years that both sides escalated pretty De Waal: It all happened within a few after the Bolshevik Revolution. But quickly. In the Soviet Union, there days. On February 20, 1988, there was


Young woman with photos, including her missing brother, at the Museum of Missing Soldiers in Stepanakert, Nagorny-Karabakh. Photo by Adam Jones (2015).

a resolution from the local Soviet of janis on Karabakh and two of them The Politburo was completely the Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous were killed, Azerbaijanis who had blindsided. They didn’t know what Region of Azerbaijan, asking for fled Armenia and turned up in this to do. It took twenty-four hours to the transfer of Nagorny Karabakh seaside town of Sumgait just north of deploy Interior Ministry troops to from the Republic of Azerbaijan Baku on the coast. It was a very poor, restore order. By that time, to the Republic of Armenia. There industrial, criminalized town. And twenty-six Armenians and six was this huge naïveté that “justice” they were telling tales of horror, which Azerbaijanis had been killed. could be restored at the stroke of were exaggerated, but they were in a The six Azerbaijanis were killed a pen. That Mikhail Gorbachev traumatized state, saying that they’d mainly by Soviet troops. Many would sign the order and everything been thrown out of Armenia. The local more were injured. would miraculously turn out well. leadership was out of town, and then, Hundreds of Armenians were That Karabakhis would live in their suddenly, this crowd—most of them taking refuge in a building. One of my homeland and this kind of nationalist not so much nationalists as opportun- most extraordinary interviewees was dream would fill the Soviet vacuum ist thugs—started rampaging through this guy called Grigory Kharchenko, that was being created. the Armenian part of town and doing who was basically the first official At first, there were some isolated, a classic pogrom, violently attacking from Moscow to arrive on the scene violent incidents. People grew scared Armenians. There were murders, trying to restore order. He gave this and started to flee. Within a few days there were rapes; it was pretty horrific. incredibly vivid interview about what there was a march by some Azerbai- And it lasted twenty-four hours. he had seen there. The Armenians

HARRIMAN | 35 ­­ in the building took him hostage at one point, in order to guarantee their own safety. These were completely unprecedented scenes in peacetime Soviet Union, and it was a point when the political system started to melt down. As a result, there was this massive outflow of Armenians fleeing from Azerbaijan. There were reprisals in Armenia against Azerbaijanis. So just one week after the resolution on February 20, everything was pretty much out of control and remained so from that point on.

Udensiva-Brenner: And what’s the relationship like between Karabakh Armenians and Armenians on the mainland?

De Waal: So, Karabakh is this highland territory that’s quite geographically separate from the Republic of Armenia, eastern Armenia. They speak a very different dialect. I don’t speak Armenian, but, even to my ear, it’s fairly obvious. They also have a very different history. They’re more pro-Russian. This is partly because, during the Soviet years, many of them didn’t go to Baku to study—they didn’t want to go to the regional capital of Azerbaijan; they went straight to Moscow. They’re fluent Russian speakers. Both Karabakh Armenians who’ve been president of Armenia, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, certainly used to speak better Russian than they do Armenian, although they wouldn’t admit that publicly. So, they have a very different mentality as well. Karabakh Armenians are famous (Top) Armenian village guards from Nagorny-Karabakh (1918–1921); photo by for being more stubborn, being Movses Melkumian (1891–1937). (Bottom) Tank monument near Mayraberd good fighters. And what we’ve (Askeran), Nagorny-Karabakh; photo by Adam Jones (2015). seen throughout this conflict is the


Karabakh tail wagging the Armenian them send that message. And when There was this huge naïveté dog. This small group of Karabakh people said things that I disagreed Armenians has basically dominated with or thought were untrue, I that “justice” could be restored Armenian politics, and they’ve wouldn’t just keep silent. I would at the stroke of a pen. kind of set the course of modern actually engage them in dialogue Armenian history, where defend- and try to give them a different ing Karabakh has been the number point of view. I met a lot of people one priority. And this is a bit of a who’d been displaced. There was one now lives in Baku, or does it belong paradox, because Karabakhis as a Armenian lady from Baku, whom I to this Armenian lady who’s found people are often rather unpopular met while she was working as kind a home because she lost hers?” In a and disliked in Yerevan because they of a hotel servant in Armenia, in way, it belongs to them both. are perceived to have taken over. pretty poor circumstances. She There’s even a joke that you hear in really missed Baku, and I was able to Udensiva-Brenner: Was the swap of Armenian—that first the Karabakh deliver a message back to her friends houses governed by any official body? Armenians occupied Azerbaijan, and there, who hadn’t heard from her then they occupied Armenia. for years. In another instance, I De Waal: I think in the beginning met a group of Azerbaijanis in Baku it was pretty improvised. But then Udensiva-Brenner: How did regular who were from Shusha, a town in I’m sure there was some kind of citizens feel about the conflict when Karabakh that had been a major system. More recently, it became it started? center of Azerbaijani culture. They, much more organized and people too, really missed their homes. I were allocated to houses. And then, De Waal: In my book, I have a lot passed a message to some of the of course, on the Azerbaijani side, of examples of Armenians and Armenian friends they’d grown up all these hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis who were friends and with in Shusha. It was very touching; IDPs [internally displaced persons], didn’t want to fight each other and quite difficult, at times, too, because refugees—many of them lived in tent even passed messages to one another there was obviously resentment camps for ten, fifteen years until they across the radio while the conflict there as well as friendship. were rehoused. There was nowhere was going on. “How are you getting There was one case where an for them to go. along?” “How is it on the other side?” Azerbaijani from Shusha gave me It’s a great tragedy. More than a This was a conflict between neighbors the address to his old apartment and million people were displaced in a who didn’t really want to fight but asked me to check whether or not it very small region. Many of those were forced into it. was still there. The town was pretty people were displaced from towns badly destroyed during the war, but and cities that are not very far from Udensiva-Brenner: And you played his apartment was still standing. where they ended up, but they a role in passing messages back and There was an Armenian lady leaning could never go back or see their forth between the two sides. Can over the balcony. She invited us up, original homes. There was a lot of you discuss some of the experiences and we had a friendly conversation loss and longing. you had? that turned a little bit tense as it became clear that I’d actually met the Udensiva-Brenner: And you De Waal: When I started writing previous occupant. It was a very com- mentioned that there had been the book, I decided that I wasn’t plicated story, because this woman a lot of intermarriage between just going to try to be an academic had had her house burned by some Armenians and Azerbaijanis. What author. I was interested in trying to Azerbaijanis during the war, and then happened to those couples during be helpful in the conflict. If anyone, found this apartment in Shusha. So, and after the conflict? whether a politician or an ordinary the question was: “Who does this person, wanted to send a message to apartment belong to? Does it belong De Waal: A lot of people went to the other side, I would try and help to the guy who was thrown out and Russia. A few stayed in Azerbaijan,

HARRIMAN | 37 ­­ but mostly they went abroad. I actually got a letter from someone in Australia; I think she was of mixed parentage. She wrote: “As far as I was concerned the world went mad when that conflict started, and I ended up in Australia. Thank you for writing a book that describes the conflict and describes my life. It makes me feel a little bit saner.” There are people like that all over the world.

Udensiva-Brenner: How did the collapse of the Soviet Union affect the evolution of events?

De Waal: You could make an argument that this conflict was the first stone in the avalanche of territorial conflicts that ended the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union collapsed, it became a conflict between two states, the newly independent states of Armenia and Facade with boy walking, Shusha, Nagorny-Karabakh. Photo by Azerbaijan. This gave a certain trump Adam Jones (2015). card to Azerbaijan, because the world recognized the territorial integrity of these new states on the basis of Soviet borders. Armenians could argue for Armenians more. They got more we look at other conflicts in the as long as they wanted that this was a weapons and fuel and things like that. region—in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, border drawn by Stalin, but this was Third—and I think this was the major Transdniestria, Ukraine—we see de jure how the world recognized the reason—Azerbaijan was in complete a definite Russian role, a definite former Soviet states. Then, in 1994, political turmoil; there was political Russian strategy. In this case, the Armenia won the conflict by capturing infighting and massive instability, Kremlin has multiple agendas, not just Karabakh itself, but all of the after which eventually Heidar Aliev, probably more so on the Armenian surrounding regions as well—a much the old Communist leader, came side if we consider the larger bigger territory, and certainly home to back to power. A lot of people in Baku picture, but, at certain significant a lot more people. were more interested in capturing moments, on the Azerbaijani side power than they were in defending as well. Certainly, at the beginning, Udensiva-Brenner: How were the Karabakh or the regions around it; so when Moscow rejected the central Armenians able to do this? many of them fell without a fight. Armenian demand for Karabakh Armenians to secede from Azerbaijan De Waal: There are three reasons Udensiva-Brenner: Can you discuss and join Armenia. why the Armenians won the conflict. Russia’s role? When the war started things First, they were better organized, became even more complicated and they organized earlier. Second, De Waal: This is probably the most because the Russian military got there was Russian help to both sides, confusing question of all in what is involved. And we have evidence of but Russia ended up helping the already a confusing conflict. When Russian tank drivers and Russian air

38 | HARRIMAN Soldiers of the Army of Azerbaijan during Karabakh War (1992–93). Photo by Ilgar Jafarov.

pilots participating in some of the ’92 forced to resign in ’98 in a kind of This was a conflict between battles in Karabakh on both sides. But palace coup. Ter-Petrosian said it’s difficult to tell how many of them a number of interesting things, neighbors who didn’t really were actually sent there by the Russian including confirming something that want to fight but were army—some of them were Russian many had already suspected—that officers left behind in the Caucasus Russians had sold a lot of weapons to forced into it. after the Soviet collapse, who signed the Armenians. He told me that they up for the states of Armenia and Azer- had done this in order to preserve baijan as freelance fighters in order to a military balance, because the earn some income. Azerbaijanis had a stronger army. Udensiva-Brenner: And how did “Yeltsin would be pretty tough about the two sides come to a ceasefire Udensiva-Brenner: But there is clear not selling me more than he thought agreement in ’94? evidence that Russia sold weapons to I was due,” he told me. There was one the Armenians . . . famous incident where Ter-Petrosian De Waal: By that point, the actually flew to St. Petersburg to Armenians had captured enough De Waal: Yes, that is another factor. plead with Yeltsin. So, this tells us that territory to secure what they would In 2000, I interviewed Levon Russia’s strategic interest was not so regard as a buffer zone around Ter-Petrosian, who was a leading much about the Armenians winning Karabakh. Some wanted to carry politician in Armenia and then its the conflict as the Armenians not on fighting, but I think, in general, president from 1991 until he was losing the conflict. they had tired themselves out. The

HARRIMAN | 39 ­­ describing Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers on the border swapping cigarettes and stories. They don’t actually want to be fighting . . .

De Waal: I think people who actually fight the wars and deal with the other side are often the most peace-loving because they understand the cost of violence, they understand what it’s about. Who actually wants to go kill in the name of a political slogan? And you still see a basis of pragma- tism in ordinary people. In Georgia, for instance, outside the conflict zones, there are Armenian villages with mixed Armenian and Azerbaijani populations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Armenian President Serzh They happen to live in areas outside Sargsyan before a meeting on the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict, in Vienna (May the political context of the conflict, and 16, 2016). they find ways of getting along. So, I believe that if a decision was made to pursue peace, the population could go along with it. Unfortunately, I just don’t fighting was getting more intense, De Waal: I’ve described it as a see how to get from here to there. the weapons were getting stronger, “Karabakh trap,” in which the leaders more people were dying, and the decide not to have a proper dialogue Udensiva-Brenner: The construction war was becoming less popular. And with society about how they can get out of the BTC [Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan] the Azerbaijani side was exhausted. of this situation; how they can make pipeline has had quite an impact on Heidar Aliev wanted to consolidate compromises, make peace. They prefer the conflict’s status quo. Can you power in Baku, and he agreed to a to pursue the nationalist narrative discuss that? ceasefire in order to consolidate his of the conflict, which helps them own power. politically at home. But that means De Waal: This is a major new factor And the Russians mediated the that when they do talk to the other since the ceasefire in the region. ceasefire. Their goal was to get a side about peace, they’ve suddenly The new Azerbaijani oil boom in Russian peacekeeping force on the got problems at home; because of the Caspian Sea, led by a number ground, as they had done in Abkhazia this nationalist narrative, 99 percent of Western oil companies, BP in and South Ossetia. That would have of the population isn’t interested in particular, resulted in a new major given the Russians leverage. But nei- peace. Leaders have created a context Western oil export route from the ther side wanted the Russians there, in which there’s no support for peace, Caspian to the Mediterranean. That because it would give them too much even though they know deep down was opened in 2006, and it did a few power, so you had a ceasefire without that this is in the long-term interest things. It gave Western oil companies any peacekeepers. of their countries. For that reason, the a strategic role in the region; it whole thing is stuck in a vicious cycle anchored Azerbaijan and Georgia as a Udensiva-Brenner: You’ve called the that doesn’t have any way forward. transit route to Europe and the West; resulting situation between Armenia and it also made Azerbaijan incredibly and Azerbaijan one of the worst “peace” Udensiva-Brenner: At the same time, wealthy for ten years. There was an periods in history. What did you mean? there’s an anecdote in your book enormous influx of wealth, some


of which was spent on useful things Udensiva-Brenner: And how likely of some kind of small operation such as rehousing refugees, and do you think it is that something getting bigger; and if that happens infrastructure, and so on, and a lot will happen again? . . . A few years ago that would of which has been, unfortunately, just have been a very low intensity wasted or stolen. And also spent on De Waal: I’m quite worried, to be thing, but now, given the scale of weapons. This is the other major honest. I think there’s a danger the weaponry they have, it could significance of the BTC pipeline: of misjudgment, miscalculation blow out of control, and at that Azerbaijan massively boosted its defense budget after having had this very weak army in the ’90s. Now it has some very formidable weapons— (Top) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Azerbaijani President aviation, drones, heavy artillery, and Ilham Aliyev before a meeting on the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict, in Vienna (May long-range missiles—which it uses to 16, 2016). (Bottom) Homemade rifle with photo of mourning at the Museum of Fallen Soldiers in Stepanakert, Nagorny-Karabakh; photo by Adam Jones (2015). intimidate the Armenian side.

Udensiva-Brenner: So the weaker military side remains the winner of the conflict, but the military balance has shifted.

De Waal: That’s right. The Armenians still have the advantage of having won the conflict and captured the territory. They are holding the high ground. And, obviously, it’s easier to defend that than to fight if there were to be a new conflict. Ne dai bog [God forbid], as the Russians say. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. So this is where we are at the moment. We had a kind of low-tech conflict that ended in the 1990s and a rather low-tech ceasefire with no peacekeepers and militaries on either side of these trenches, and now, suddenly, you have this incredibly militarized zone with two very well-equipped armies on either side of the trenches. Rationally, neither side really wants to fight a war. They both have much to lose. Yet the risks of a miscalculation or a misjudgment are huge, and we saw in April of 2016 this so-called four- day war in which about 200 people died, which I think is a dangerous portent to what could happen again, unfortunately.

HARRIMAN | 41 ­­ point you factor in all the political my mind. One thing that interests in general. That’s certainly how this calculations. Once you’ve started me is the issue of identity, of how conflict started. something there’s a lot of pressure we all have not just one identity not to stop and not to back down. So but multiple identities—within our Udensiva-Brenner: What I found I think there’s a real danger that we family, our work, our region; but really striking in your book is the big could see another flare-up. obviously there’s national identity role that academics played in shaping as well. What a political conflict the conflict. Can you talk about that? Udensiva-Brenner: And what can situation does is it starts to put you we learn from this conflict about into categories, and that results in De Waal: This is a very interesting conflicts in general and how they start having to make choices. And that one. In Western countries, we tend and evolve? includes people in mixed marriages to think of academics as the kind and someone who’s got an Armenian of New York Review of Books–reading De Waal: I’m glad you asked that mother and an Azerbaijani father. class, the sort of people who want to question, because it’s certainly They’re suddenly told, “OK, there’s seek compromise, and understand something that is very much on this argument, this dispute, and all points of view; who have a you have to choose: which side are global vision. We assume that, in you on?” That, in turn, leads you to times of conflict, they would be a regard the other side as the “other,” progressive, moderating force. But, to demonize them, to cease contact in the Caucasus—and I think this with them. I guess what I’m saying is was the case in the Balkans as well— that conflicts start when people start intellectuals can very much be the to see another category of people as drivers of conflict. “other,” when identity boundaries In the Caucasus, this started harden. Only when that happens during the Soviet era, with historians is it possible to start fighting. producing work that was not polit- You can’t fight someone that ically controversial on the surface, you’re in daily contact with, because it was ancient history. But, that you have good relations they were actually writing history with. You have to start to that was very nationalist, that was draw lines with them, and denying the agency and historical I think that has a lot of participation of others. For instance, lessons for the world you could read ancient histories of Armenia and Karabakh, written by the Armenian side, that don’t even mention the word “Azerbaijani.” There are also whole histories written by Azerbaijanis that don’t even men- tion Armenia. And the Azerbaijanis came up with this bizarre theory about how the Caucasian Albanians, this national group who most people think died out about a millennium ago, have mysteriously lived on and were inhabiting Karabakh; that the Karabakh Armenians were not proper Armenians but Caucasian Albanians. Intellectuals were very much the driv- Above: Shusha, Nagorny-Karabakh, in February. Photo by Ilgar Jafarov (1992). ers of the nationalist narrative, which Opposite page: Haghpat Monastery in Nagorny-Karabakh. Photo by Saro was used in reaction to the Soviet Hovhannisyan (2011). system. When conflict broke out, they were some of the most implacable people, wanting to see it continue.

Udensiva-Brenner: Do they continue never met an Azerbaijani or an work on a new edition. The text did to play a role today? Armenian. They’ve grown up with a not change; I corrected a few small very simplistic, clichéd, black-and- things, added a new chapter, and De Waal: They do. Maybe not as white view of this conflict, which is that’s what happened. much. What we’re seeing now is a then unfortunately perpetuated by But, that’s it; I’m not going to do kind of internet culture, where a the internet. another edition. It can be quite lower level of intellectual discourse difficult dealing with this conflict. that relies on a few myths, a few Udensiva-Brenner: The book came Anything you write attracts angry conspiracy theories, drives the out in 2003, and you published a comments from Armenians or mentality. But it started from these second edition ten years later, in Azerbaijanis. I wrote something intellectuals forty years ago. 2013. Why did you decide to do this? warning of the dangers of war in 2017, and then on Twitter someone Udensiva-Brenner: And what role De Waal: The book obviously found accused me of being pro-Armenian. has this internet culture played? a niche on the market. It was the Fortunately, someone else wrote, first book on the conflict that tried “it’s well-known that you take Azer- De Waal: Unfortunately, 90 percent to deal with how it started and what baijani oil money.” So I was able to of what’s on the internet is myth- happened from both sides. It was connect those two people and say, making, it’s hate speech, it’s translated into Russian, Armenian, “You better talk to each other and misrepresentation, it’s conspiracy Azerbaijani; into Turkish as well— sort it out among yourselves.” I’m theories; and there’s a lot of that in so it was a resource for people. A glad I wrote this book, but I don’t this conflict. And what this means is few years after it was published, I want to be living with the Nagorny that the younger generations who looked around and saw that there Karabakh conflict until the end of have grown up with this conflict, was still no new major text on this time! So I think that having done but weren’t alive when the Soviet conflict, but quite a lot of things had the update, and now giving you this Union existed—many of these young happened since. So, I talked to my archive, is a way to draw a line on my Armenians or Azerbaijanis have publisher, and we decided I would main contribution to this field.

HARRIMAN | 43 ­­ Oleg Vassiliev, Anniversary Composition, 1983. Collage, black and white paper, 21¼ x 20½ in.

The Journey of Oleg Vassiliev BY NATALIA KOLODZEI

Biographical Note

Oleg Vassiliev was two grants from the born in Moscow Pollock-Krasner in 1931; relocated Foundation (in 1994 to New York in and 2002). His works 1990; and moved have been displayed to Minneapolis, in museum exhi- Minnesota, in 2006, bitions across the where he passed globe, including Russia! away in 2013. Vas- at the Solomon siliev studied at the R. Guggenheim Moscow Art School Museum in 2005. In and graduated from 2004–5, the Kolodzei the V. I. Surikov Art Foundation State Art Institute organized two large in Moscow, special- solo exhibitions of izing in graphics Vassiliev’s works, in and printmaking. the Tretyakov From the 1950s to Gallery in Moscow the mid-1980s, he and the Russian earned a living as a Museum in St. book illustrator, as Petersburg, and was common for a edited the mono- number of Musco- graph Oleg Vassiliev: vite nonconformist Memory Speaks artists, including (Themes and Vari- , Erik ations). Vassiliev’s Bulatov, and Victor prominent solo Pivovarov. This occupation allowed artists such as Vladimir Favorsky exhibitions at U.S. museums include them to experiment with formal (1886–1964), (1886–1958), The Art of Oleg Vassiliev at The Museum techniques, as well as to work on and Arthur Fonvizin (1882–1973)— of Russian Art, Minneapolis, Min- their own art. In the late 1950s known as the “three F’s—Formalists.” nesota, in 2011, and Oleg Vassiliev: Vassiliev and some of his friends dis- Today, Vassiliev is a widely recog- Space and Light at the Zimmerli Art covered and were inspired by works nized artist; he was the recipient of Museum, New Brunswick, New of the generation of avant-garde numerous artistic awards, including Jersey, in 2014–15.


Above: Oleg Vassiliev, 4, 6, 8, from the Metro Series, 1961–62. Linocut, edition 15. All images in this essay courtesy of the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, Kolodzei Art Foundation, www.KolodzeiArt.org.

n important and fascinating feature in Oleg Vassiliev’s principal themes, which emerged while he Vassiliev’s art is the profound intimacy in his was in Russia and engaged him throughout his life, are work, where personal memories have univer- his memories of home and houses, roads, forests, fields, sal appeal. The division between personal and friends, and family. Vassiliev always starts his creative political, between private and public, had been ideologized process from a very personal memory, from his sacred in Soviet Russia. Vassiliev eschews ideology to capture very space—the safeguarded inner center—and connects it to the personalA memories of art and life. As is the case with many visual image. He masterfully incorporates elements from artists who had left their homeland for the West, Vassiliev different times and spaces and arranges them throughout had to confront questions of identity and authenticity. his paintings according to the logic and “energetic” space of Despite Vassiliev’s move to New York in 1990, his art never the painting. On a formal level, Vassiliev combines the tradi- lost its connection to Russia. As his fellow artist Erik Bula- tion of Russian realist and landscape painting—exemplified tov writes in the book Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes by such artists as Isaac Levitan (1860–1940)—and the and Variations), “Oleg Vassiliev is the most Russian of the traditions of the Russian avant-garde of the 1910s and Russian artists living today, because he expresses not just 1920s, as he creates on canvas and paper visual images and one particular quality of Russian art, but its essence, its impressions, memories and recollections. Capturing the very core from which the various qualities of Russian art intangible memory with a realistic depiction of the subjective spring forth.”1 world is one of the goals of Vassiliev’s work. The notion of the Russian-American or American-Russian One of Vassiliev’s first mature paintings, House on the artist has been problematic for both cultures. Vassiliev Island Anzer, dates from 1965. In 1968, he had his first solo enjoyed living in two major metropolises—the cultural exhibition at Café Bluebird in Moscow, where a number capitals of Moscow and New York. In New York, he did of Russian nonconformist artists, including Komar and not make any noticeable attempts to assimilate into his Melamid, Kabakov, Bulatov, and Pyotr Belenok also had American environment. He was comfortable, however, their first semiofficial shows. Vassiliev was in constant in the company of artists like his old friend Ilya Kabakov, dialogue with his close friends Kabakov and Bulatov, each as well as Grisha Bruskin, Leonid Sokov, Vitaly Komar, of whom plays an important role in Russian culture. All and Alexander Melamid; and he found a new audience of three spent most of their artistic career in Moscow before collectors for his work. In the 1990s, politics and history moving abroad and were later welcomed back in Russia reentered some of his paintings as he began to rethink with accolades and major retrospectives. Russian history in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse Oleg Vassiliev belongs to the generation of Soviet non- and his own departure. It is as if Vassiliev needed the conformist artists that emerged during the post-Stalin distance of exile to contemplate his history and memo- “Thaw” of the 1950s, championing an alternative to ries. In some of the works created in America, Vassiliev Socialist Realism. Nonconformist artists did not share a used English—the most global of languages—to indicate a single aesthetic or unifying theme. In general, they tend to bridge between the cultures. be unhappy with the terms “nonconformist” and “second

HARRIMAN | 45 ­­ “The river of time carries me further and further, and vivid moments immersed in golden light remain on the banks. Moments experienced just now, in my youth, in my childhood . . .” —Oleg Vassiliev, “On Memory”

second open-air exhibition and many apartment exhibitions in Moscow and Leningrad, served to reignite hope. But a renewed ideological onslaught from the Brezhnev regime squelched that hope. The deportation of the writer Alexan- Oleg Vassiliev, Self-Portrait with Taratorkin, 1981. Wax pastel, der Solzhenitsyn and the internal exile of physicist Andrei collage on paper, 21⅛ x 20¾ in. Sakharov were among the most infamous examples of the harassment to which creative people were subjected. This unexpected crackdown led not only to an incalculable loss of artistic talent but also to a stifling period of stagnation avant-garde” nowadays. In their view, a vast difference and conservatism in politics and society. exists between the first, politically committed generation, Like many other nonconformist artists, Vassiliev escaped and the second, apolitical one. Most seek simply to find the ideological confines of the Soviet system, not by con- their own individual place within the international art fronting that system directly, but by exploring spiritual scene. Vassiliev always pursued his personal artistic vision. dimensions within the self. Vassiliev never considered In the mid-1950s, an atmosphere of spiritual awakening himself a political artist; his main purpose in art was to and new hope for freedom in the arts appeared. Khrush- capture his impression of the world, as well as to comment chev’s denunciation of Stalin in his “secret speech” in 1956; on the relationship linking the viewer, the artist, and the the return of political prisoners, including such import- painting. In fact, he believed in the incompatibility of ant artists as Boris Sveshnikov; and the easing of aesthetic art and politics. But even his desire to eschew politics in restraints during the Thaw provided an environment that his work did not stop him from being criticized by Soviet encouraged artistic creativity. In addition, major exhibi- authorities. “Officially . . . I found myself in the circle of tions of Western art (including works by Pablo Picasso, Paul ‘unofficial’ artists, winding up in the pages of the maga- Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and Henri Matisse) came to Russia. zine A-YA in Paris,2 and afterwards being criticized at the In 1957, the Sixth World Festival of Youth and Students in MOSKh [the Moscow branch of the official Union of Artists] Moscow held an exhibition that incorporated many con- by ‘The Troika’ [composed of the director of the Surikov Art temporary trends in Europe and the United States, while Institute, the Communist Party, and the Union of Artists’ in 1959 the National American Exhibition introduced the leaders],” he recalls in his piece, “How I Became an Artist.”3 Soviet public for the first time to works by such artists as Vassiliev’s landscape is a combination of the Russian Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. These factors all contrib- landscape and contemporary means of expression. As uted to a flourishing of abstract and nonfigurative works in Levitan became the major interpreter of the Russian land- nonconformist art. scape in art at the close of the nineteenth century, Vassiliev The Manezh exhibition and the renewal of censorship continued this tradition into the twenty-first century. in 1962 were followed by the overthrow of Khrushchev Vassiliev explores and expands the concept of landscape and his replacement by Leonid Brezhnev. In the following as emotion, while reminding the viewer about the process decade of the 1970s, Soviet nonconformist artists sought and construction of painting. to make the world aware of Soviet censorship and harass- Like Levitan, Vassiliev can render the true beauty of ment. The breakthrough Bulldozer show (1974), followed by a nature in all the diversity of its changing states, and at the


Oleg Vassiliev: Metro Series and Selected Works on Paper n 2017, the exhibition Oleg Vassiliev: Metro Series and Selected Works on Paper from the Kolodzei Art Founda- tion was on display at the Harriman Institute, featuring linocuts from the late 1950s and early 1960s and selected Idrawings and collages. Most of the prints produced in the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the 1970s were created by the artists themselves in small editions due both to the absence of an art market and limited access to mate- rials. For example, the Experimental Lithography Studio was accessible during Soviet times only to members of the official Union of Artists. Lithographic stones were numbered and inspected from time to time by state officials, making it very difficult for nonmembers of the Union to gain access to materials. Despite these difficulties artists persisted, however, creating prints and experimenting with varieties of styles and techniques. In his linocut series Metro (1961–62) one can trace the ideas of Vladimir Favorsky, whose studio Vassiliev visited in the late 1950s. Favorsky—an engraver, draughts- man, and theorist who reintroduced woodcuts into book printing—was a key figure in the history of Soviet xylography after the 1920s. He was a teacher to a whole constellation of fine masters and promoted innovations in graphic art. Favorsky taught drawing (1921–29) in the Graphics Faculty of Vkhutemas (Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops) in Moscow and was popular because of his commitment to technical skill, his lack of dogmatism, and his tolerance of experimentation of all kinds. Although he was sympathetic to avant-garde ideas, Favorsky’s own work was firmly representational. His engravings, along with his theoret- ical analyses of the artistic and technical bases of wood engraving, had a great influence on the development of modern Russian graphics. Until his death Favorsky wel- comed younger artists in his studio. Oleg Vassiliev fondly remembered visits to Favorsky’s studio. In his Metro series, Vassiliev wanted to investigate and explore the space, its relationship to surface and border, the energy flow in the image, and the transformation of subject and space, using Favorsky’s system as the basis.

Oleg Vassiliev, 7, 5, 3, from the Metro Series, 1961–62. Linocut, edition 15.

HARRIMAN | 47 ­­ same time present, through landscape, all the subtleties Faulkner, and contemporaries like Vsevolod Nekrasov. For of the human soul and human memory. In Vassiliev’s art, example, Memory Speaks, the title of the exhibition and the the viewer is often confronted with the painting’s accompanying book, alludes to Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, spatial-temporal layers of construction, its energetic Memory; Nabokov’s moving account of a loving family, ado- space. In many works the viewer can trace the artist’s lescent awakenings, flight from Bolshevik terror, education hand, a gesture, as the artist purposely leaves out the in England, and émigré life in Paris and Berlin vividly grid to emphasize the painting’s construction. evokes a vanished past in Nabokov’s inimitable prose, Vassiliev’s paint- while Vassiliev’s ings are executed art represents a with considerable journey into the mastery, char- life of an artist acterized by the in Soviet and complexity in contemporary composition of Russia, presented colors and the through an often variable density very personal of the paint, the selection of visual combination and images from past juxtaposition of and present. As thick and thin Vassiliev writes strokes, and the in his essay, application of “On Memory”: a light source. Due to his aca- Memory is demic training, capricious in its Vassiliev could, choice of subjects. with virtuosity, Often, one recalls create artwork in something quite almost any style. unimportant; But sometimes it at first glance, could take him it seems incom- days to capture prehensible why the once-seen memory retains and experienced some things and moment of lets others go. . . . nature, until it The river of time was finally ren- carries me further dered with great and further, and finesse. It is the vivid moments combination of immersed in the traditional golden light landscape and remain on the the new treatment of space and light that makes banks. Moments experienced just now, in my youth, Vassiliev’s works unique. in my childhood . . . I become, as it were, stretched in Vassiliev very often uses literary references (ranging time, simultaneously moving in two opposite direc- from antiquity to contemporary literary sources), refer- tions. The first movement takes me, in violation of the ring, for example, to Anton Chekhov, Homer, William natural course of events, further and further back into


Above, from left: Oleg Vassiliev, Portrait of Ratgauz, 1964. Oil on canvas, 26¾ x 19¾ in.; Oleg Vassiliev, Near the Sea, 1966. Oil on canvas, 35½ x 47½ in. Opposite page: Oleg Vassiliev, Perspective, 1983. Black and white paper, collage on cardboard, 21¼ x 20½ in.

the past, into “the glow of days gone by”; the second Natalia Kolodzei is the executive director of the Kolodzei Art carries me, the way it’s supposed to be, “ahead” into Foundation and an honorary member of the Russian Academy the silent abyss of the future of which I know nothing of Arts. Along with Tatiana Kolodzei, she owns the Kolodzei and which I experience as a black hole, as an emptiness Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, which contains devoid of matter; a hole that, for me, fills up with life to more than 7,000 pieces including paintings, drawings, sculptures, the extent that it turns into the past.4 photographs, and digital art and videos by more than 300 artists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Active as a curator By extracting and elevating a personal, almost intimate and art historian, Kolodzei has curated more than eighty shows selection of visual images from the past and present and in the United States, Europe, and Russia at such institutions as transformed into the future, some of them intensified, some the State Treyakov Gallery in Moscow, the State dramatized, Vassiliev captures something more universal, in St. Petersburg, and the Chelsea Art Museum in . something common to all human memory. In his art Vassiliev She is coeditor of Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes can take a small sketch or a drawing and bring it to the view- and Variations). er’s attention by monumentalizing it and pointing out details The Kolodzei Art Foundation, Inc., a US-based 501(c)(3) that you would not have noticed otherwise. He creates in not-for-profit public foundation started in 1991, organizes pictorial form an analogy of the very process by which mem- exhibitions and cultural exchanges in museums and cultural ories become incorporated into the mind’s consciousness, centers in the United States, Russia, and other countries, often inviting the viewer to explore the landscape of memory. utilizing the considerable resources of the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, and publishes books on For further reading: Russian art. Natalia Kolodzei and Kira Vassiliev, eds. Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes and Variations) (St. Petersburg: For additional information, visit http://www.KolodzeiArt.org Palace Editions, 2004); in Russian and English. or email [email protected].

1 Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes and Variations), ed. Natalia Kolodzei and Kira Vassiliev (St. Petersburg, Palace Editions, 2004), 114. 2 S.S., “Atelier: Oleg Vassiliev,” A-YA, no. 2 (1980): 26–31. 3 Oleg Vassiliev, “How I Became an Artist,” Pastor, Cologne, Germany, 1997. 4 Oleg Vassiliev, “On Memory” in Ilya Kabakov, “The Sixties and Seventies: Notes on Unofficial Life in Moscow,” Wiener Slawisticher Almanach, vol. 47 (Wien, 1999), 253.

HARRIMAN | 49 ­­ Alumni & Postdoc Notes

I received my Ph.D. from Columbia in 2014 and was a Harriman Institute postdoctoral fellow in 2015–16. I have taught Russian language and literature at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where I will be starting a new position as assistant professor of Russian in the fall of 2018. My research falls into three main categories: Russian Romanticism in its European context, post-Soviet literature and culture, and Russian theater and performance. I am currently working on two book-length projects: a study of Alexander Pushkin’s sense of the tragic, which is titled “Pushkin’s Tragic Visions,” and a second study that examines the proliferation of documentary practices in post-Soviet culture. In addition, I am coediting and Maksim Hanukai translating a new anthology of plays from the New Russian Drama movement for Columbia University Press (forthcoming in 2019). My recent articles include “Tragedy in the Balkans: Pushkin’s Critique of Romantic Ideology in The Gypsies” (The Pushkin Review) and “After the Riot: Teatr.doc and the Performance of Witness” (TDR/The Drama Review).

—Maksim Hanukai (Ph.D., Slavic Languages, 2014; Harriman Postdoctoral Fellow, 2015–16)

I graduated from the School of International and Public Affairs in 1967 and have spent my entire career with a Swedish bank, working both in Mexico and in France and covering our relations with the Andean Pact countries and African countries. Before studying in New York I had spent approximately eight months working as a tour conductor in the former Soviet Union, and as a tour conductor for Scandinavian tourists in Romania and Bulgaria. It was a Filip Scherf (né Tucek) tremendous privilege to get the opportunity to study at the Russian Institute and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. I served as secretary of the local Columbia University Alumni club here in Stockholm for a couple of years during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This association is still alive, arranging meetings from time to time.

—Björn Norrbom (M.I.A., SIPA, 1967)

The Harriman Institute (HI) was central to my life-changing time at SIPA. As a research assistant, I had the pleasure to learn from the most accomplished experts, to organize events with people of global repute, and—most importantly—to become a member of the HI family. Since I left the Institute in 2015, I have done my best to represent it through my work. After graduation I moved to Brussels to join the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NPA) as a researcher. Having successfully concluded the Tirana, Albania, NPA Summit, I decided to expand my skill set into the world of business. But I could not completely abandon my passion for Russia and Eastern Europe, and I continued to do consulting projects for organizations such as the Eurasia Group and Kroll, and other transnational corporations and investment funds with activities in the region. This was a fantastic opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge of the region! In the fall of 2017, I was offered a St. Petersburg–based position at G-TEAM, a major engineering firm, to develop the company’s business interests in Russia and other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. The challenging role combines my desires to study Russia firsthand and to learn new skills through practical work. At the same time, I continue to publish articles popularizing the modern history of Eastern Europe and am working


to launch a series of public seminars on the subject. I also recently became a correspondent for the Economist’s Intelligence Unit. Often, I think back to where all of this began, and to the wonderful people who work on the twelfth floor of Columbia University’s International Affairs Building. Thank you, Harriman Institute.

—Filip Scherf (né Tucek) (M.I.A., SIPA, 2015)

I received my B.A. in history and Russian language/area studies from Duke University in 2011 and my M.A. in Russian, Eastern European, Balkan, and Eurasian studies from Columbia University’s Alexa Voytek Harriman Institute in 2013. Currently, I serve as a program manager and energy analyst for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Energy Programs (TDEC OEP). In this role, I oversee various funding and financing programs, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation initiatives, and external communications efforts. I also assist with administration, research, and planning with regard to the State of Tennessee’s allocation under the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement’s Environmental Mitigation Trust. As a beneficiary of this Trust, the State of Tennessee is expected to receive an initial allocation of $45.7 million, which will be used to fund environmental mitigation projects that reduce NOx emissions. In addition to my work at TDEC OEP, I also serve as cochair on the National Association of State Energy Officials’ Transportation Committee, coordinator for Middle and West Tennessee Clean Fuels (a U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Coalition), and Public Sector cochair for the Tennessee Chapter of the Energy Services Coalition. Prior to joining TDEC, I interned with the Tara Wheelwright United Nations Division for Sustainable Development and the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, (née Collins) Russia. Most recently, I served as assistant account executive for the New York City–based public relations firm Ketchum, Inc., where I acted as a public relations and communications liaison for both the Federal Government of the Russian Federation and Gazprom Export.

—Alexa Voytek (MARS-REERS, 2013)

After graduating from Hamilton College in 2011, the romantic allure of Lermontov’s Caucasus prompted me to move to Georgia. I spent a year working in a liberal arts school in Tbilisi, teaching literature and eating as much khachapuri as possible. Upon my return, I pursued my interest in Russian studies at Columbia University, earning my M.A. at the Harriman Institute in 2014. Looking to explore the professional sphere, I worked in various organizations throughout New York City, initially in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi, where I specialized in campaigns for Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Having experienced the fast-paced world of international advertising, I decided to embrace a field closer to my heart: the performing arts. I worked at American Ballet Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera, where I gained vast experience and appreciation for an art form that I decided to pursue academically. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Slavic Studies department at Brown University, where my research focuses on the development of ballet from eighteenth-century Russia through the Soviet era.

—Tara Wheelwright (née Collins) (MARS-REERS, 2014)

HARRIMAN | 51 ­­ Oleg Vassiliev, Tarusa. Early Spring, 1993. Pastel on black paper, 19¾ x 25½ in. Image courtesy of the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, Kolodzei Art Foundation, www.KolodzeiArt.org. Giving to Harriman

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