Jamey Gambrell is a writer on Russian art and culture. She has translated works by Marina Tsvetaeva and Tatyana Tolstaya, in addition to Vladimir Sorokin’s three-volume Ice Trilogy and his Day of the ­Oprichnik. Her translation of Sorokin’s novel The Blizzard will be published in December 2015.


The Man Who Flew Like a Bird

Svetlana Alexievich
…He wanted to leave unnoticed, of course. It was evening. Twilight. But several students in the nearby dormitory saw him jump. He opened his window wide, stood up on the sill, and looked down for a long time. Then he turned around, pushed hard, and flew… He flew from the twelfth floor…

A woman was passing by with a little boy. The youngster looked up: “Mama, look, that man is flying like a bird…”

Putin Strikes Again

Russian journalists have suffered crippling attacks in recent years, as Vladimir Putin pursues his policy of strengthening the “vertical” dimension of his administration’s “power pyramid.” The Kremlin’s geometrical terminology means enforcing, from the top down, an ideology intended to align all sectors of Russia’s “managed democracy” (another key phrase of …

An Affair of State


Russia! Nine Hundred Years of Masterpieces and Master Collections

Catalog of the exhibition by Gerold Vzdornov, Sergei Androsov, and others
The list of sponsors and their remarks in the longer of the two catalogs indicates that the Russian organizers, as well as the increasingly multinational Guggenheim Foundation empire, view this show as an affair of state. Vladimir Potanin, the exhibition’s biggest sponsor, is director of the huge holding company Interros, …

Russia’s New Vigilantes

In July, for the first time since censorship was abolished in post-Communist Russia, a criminal case was brought against a writer and his publisher, under Article 242 of the criminal code: “Illegal distribution of pornographic materials or objects.” The writer is Vladimir Sorokin and his publisher is called Ad Marginem. …

The Making of Mr. Putin

First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait

by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, with Nataliya Gevorkyan, Natalya Timakova, Andrei Kolesnikov, Translated from the Russian by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The Russian original, Ot pervovo litsa, is available on the website www.vagrius.com.
At this year’s forum in Davos the question “Who is Putin?” was put to the members of the Russian delegation. They became confused, looked at one another, and mumbled something incomprehensible. There was laughter in the hall. But indeed, who is he? For a certain group of Russians—let’s call them …

On Joseph Brodsky (1940–1996)

When the last things are taken out of a house, a strange, resonant echo settles in, your voice bounces off the walls and returns to you. There’s the din of loneliness, a draft of emptiness, a loss of orientation and a nauseating sense of freedom: everything’s allowed and nothing matters, …

The Wonder of the Soviet World

The Exhibition of the Achievement of the People’s Economy, a six-hundred-acre park in the north of Moscow, just a half-hour by metro from Red Square, isn’t on many tourist itineraries nowadays. But once VDNX (the Russian acronym, pronounced vway day en ha) was one of the wonders of the Soviet …


Revolution from Another Angle

Alexander Rodchenko: Pioneer Playing a Trumpet, 1930

The serendipitous confluence of technology, art, and politics in the fields of photography and film is the subject of the Jewish Museum in New York’s current exhibition, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film.” In his catalogue essay, the Russian art historian Alexander Lavrentiev, grandson of the artists Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, gives a nuanced view of the complex situation in which Soviet photography developed: photography was dominated by three groups or tendencies, whose aesthetics mirrored, to some extent, the spectrum of political factions on the post-Soviet cultural stage. None of these groups opposed the Revolution, however; initially, in fact, most artists and the intelligentsia supported the regime.