Rights sold: Russia - EKSMO
Londglisted title for the 2017 Big Book Literary Award
When the Soviet-Afghan War triggered a downfall of Homo Soveticus ideology, and the Communist regime collapsed in 1991, there was an expectation, both in the West and in Russia, that the country would embrace Western values and join the civilised world. It took no account of a ruined economy, depleted and exhausted human capital and the mental and moral dent made by 70 years of Soviet rule. Nobody knew what kind of country would succeed the Soviet Union, or what being Russian really meant. The removal of ideological and geographical constraints did not add moral clarity. In particular, the intelligentsia—the engine of Soviet collapse—was caught unprepared. When their “hopeless cause” became reality, it quickly transpired that the country lacked responsible elite able and willing to create new institutions. Herman Bronnikov, a protagonist of Andrei Volos’s tetralogy Judgement Days, was one of these Soviet intellectuals.
Herman Bronnikov’s son Artem receives a summons from the army enlistment office. His family and friends are afraid that he will be sent to Afghanistan, but Artem is sure that it’s an opportunity for him to get an invaluable experience that will help him later to become a great battle painter.
Despite all warnings, Artem subscribes to a military service in Afghanistan, but instead of interesting adventure, what he sees there is blood, murder, and deaths of his friends. Soon he realizes the senselessness and uselessness of this and any other war. Eventually, Artem is taken prisoner by Mujahideen guerrillas.