[review] Krasnym po belomu: stat’i, ocherki, esse, Veronika Cherkasova / [рец.] Вероника Черкасова Красным по белому

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  This article was downloaded by:[University of Western Ontario][University of Western Ontario]On:18 April 2007Access Details:[subscription number 769429659]Publisher:RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Nationalities Papers Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713439073 Book Reviews To cite this Article:, 'Book Reviews', Nationalities Papers, 35:1, 187 - 201To link to this article: DOI:10.1080/00905990601124595URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00905990601124595PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThisarticlemaybeusedforresearch,teachingandprivatestudypurposes.Anysubstantialorsystematicreproduction,re-distribution,re-selling,loanorsub-licensing,systematicsupplyordistributioninanyformtoanyoneisexpresslyforbidden.Thepublisherdoesnotgiveanywarrantyexpressorimpliedormakeanyrepresentationthatthecontentswillbecompleteoraccurateoruptodate.Theaccuracyofanyinstructions,formulaeanddrugdosesshouldbeindependentlyverifiedwithprimarysources.Thepublishershallnotbeliableforanyloss,actions,claims,proceedings,demandorcostsordamageswhatsoeverorhowsoevercausedarisingdirectlyorindirectlyinconnectionwithorarising out of the use of this material. © Taylor and Francis 2007     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   B  y  :   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   O  n   t  a  r   i  o   ]   A   t  :   1   8  :   0   5   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   0   7 another related oral history project based on the entire set of interviews), and their lifestories tell us much about what it was like to be a woman in a time and place whenwomen were expected to raise the children, do the shopping, and perform nearly alldomestic chores, all while working full-time outside the home.One of the great strengths of this volume is Raleigh’s skills as an interviewer. Hisline of questioning is generally consistent and unobtrusive; he allows his subjects totell their life stories with only the gentlest of prodding and without a hint of judgment.Overall,  Russia’s Sputnik Generation  is an excellent collection of oral histories and isrecommended to the widest possible audience, from non-specialist general readerswho simply want to know more about how people lived and thought in SovietRussia during “normal” times, to undergraduates taking courses in Russian andSoviet history. Students will find it a quick, easy, and sometimes entertaining readthat shows the ordinary humanity of those who lived on the other side of the IronCurtain. By focusing on people rather than events and processes, this volume wouldmake a superb complement to the usual textbooks on Soviet history.Kevin O’Connor # 2007Gonzaga University Krasnym po belomu: stat’i, ocherki, esse  [  Red on White: Articles and Essays ],Veronika Cherkasova. Collected by Olga Babak, Natalia Kulinka, AleksandrStarikievich, and Ilona Urbanovich-Sauka (Moscow: Prestizh-buk, 2005), 262 pp.Belarus occupies a special place in the post-communist world. Located in the middleof Europe, Belarus has a complicated history (it was part of the Polish Kingdom, theRussian Empire and the Soviet Union and suffered World Wars I and II). Belarus has acontroversial linguistic situation and current political regime: it is known as thelast dictatorship of Europe. Nonetheless, Belarus remains on the margins of post-communist, post-socialist and Slavic studies. Cherkasova’s book   Red on White  byoffers new perspectives “from within” on contemporary Belarus.  Red on White  is a posthumous collection of Veronika Cherkasova’s newspaperarticles and short essays. Cherkasova, a well-known Belarusian journalist, was mur-dered on 20 October 2004. Her body was found in her apartment in Minsk mutilatedby as many as 20 cut wounds, her throat slashed and a broken knife blade stuck inher chest (see, for example: http: // www.globalrus.ru / news / 138617 / , http: // www.bdg.by / news / news.htm?63870, cited 25 September 2006). The circumstancesof Cherkasova’s tragic death are still unclear. It is difficult to judge whether thiswas a domestic murder (the Belarusian police see it this way) or whether Cherkasovawas killed for political reasons. This is not the first case of journalists being ostracized,put in jail or disappearing for expressing their oppositional political views in contem-porary Belarus (e.g. Dmitry Zavadskiy and Pavel Sheremet, to name a couple). In the BOOK REVIEWS 195     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   B  y  :   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   O  n   t  a  r   i  o   ]   A   t  :   1   8  :   0   5   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   0   7 last 10 years Veronika Cherkasova contributed to almost all of the Belarusian,popular, oppositional newspapers including  Imya ,  Belorusskaya delovaya gazieta ,  Belorusskaya gazieta , and  Salidarnas´ c´  . However, Cherkasova’s writings mostlyconcerned social and economic issues that did not directly “threaten” the existingpolitical regime. On the other hand, Cherkasova’s analytical and critical reflectionson the present-day state of Belarusian society exposed another side of this societythat is usually not mentioned in the “airbrushed” official reports.  Red on White  was collected after Cherkasova’s death and published in small print inMoscow. This book presents a selection of Cherkasova’s writings from 1991 to 2004.The texts in this volume are kept in their srcinal form, as they appeared in the news-papers, in keeping with Cherkasova’s principle that any changes are ethical only afterthe author’s approval (p. 3). As with any posthumous publication, this collection maycontain the pieces that Cherkasova’s would not have included herself. She may haveput them together differently to “straighten up” a certain narrative line or topic. At thesame time, it is important to remember that srcinally these essays were published innewspapers, a medium the format of which must have, in some ways, influenced theirform, length and the manner of argumentation. Possibly, some of the essays in thisbook were written specifically for “themed” issues of the newspapers or as part of aseries on a certain subject. Nonetheless, re-contextualized in a separate volume,Cherkasova’s essays become an insightful ethnography of Belarus over the last40 years.Strictly speaking,  Red on White  has no linear structure and is not dedicated to anyparticular subject, apart from the general theme “life in Belarus”; rather, this book appears as a colorful mix of the author’s reflections on different topics. Cherkasovaanalyses the issues of social and ecological crisis, history, education, art, nationalism,gender and politics in Belarus; she repeatedly questions these subjects in variouscontexts. This multifaceted approach proves fruitful and allows Cherkasova toaddress her topics at the intersections of social categories, cultural contexts andhistorical circumstances.In some of her writings Cherkasova addresses politically engaged topics, suchas illegal immigration to and through Belarus, children’s health problems afterChernobyl, homeless people in urban centers, etc. In others she shows the transform-ations of Belarusian society through the telling of personal stories and the relatingof day-by-day routines. The characters and interviewees of Cherkasova’s mini-biographies are diverse: a female pharmacist who tried running a privately ownedpharmacy, a professional violin player who now plays at funerals and restaurants,an artist who had to leave his native Georgia for Belarus because of the civil war, aGerman youth, who decided to serve his alternative (army) service at the cancerhospital near Minsk, and many more. Using biographies of not-so-ordinary people,Cherkasova shows that every human life is included in and subjected to numerousstate and cultural regulations and to a broader systemic violence. BOOK REVIEWS 196     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   B  y  :   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   O  n   t  a  r   i  o   ]   A   t  :   1   8  :   0   5   1   8   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   0   7 At the same time, historical retrospectives on various spheres of life from the 1960sand 1970s to the present day help the reader to understand the conditions, circum-stances, and possibilities of the lives of the common people in Belarus. Cherkasovaoffers mini-histories of the prosaic, routine and thus usually overlooked sides of Belar-usian society, such as: Belarusian television in the 1960s and 1980s, women’s fashionin the 1970s, private business ( koopierativy ) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, sex-and video culture in the 1980s and 1990s, rock music and the going out culturein Minsk in the 1970s and 1990s, etc. Cherkasova’s essays allow a tracking of thechanges in the thought and perception of these “ordinary” things over thelast several decades of Belarusian history: from the Soviet times of the 1970s andearly 1980s (  zastoy ) to perestroika, to the fall of the USSR in 1991, to theearly post-Soviet years before Lukashenka (1991–1994), to Lukashenka’s presidency(1994–present).These retrospectives point to another important issue: how should Belarusiannational identity be interpreted? In her writings Cherkasova clearly addressesBelarus as a country, an independent and developed culture. However, in talkingabout the evolution of several concepts and cultural practices she does not distinguishthe Belarusian from the Soviet. Cherkasova acknowledges that as part of the USSRBelarus, and Minsk in particular, were quite close to the cutting edge of their timeswhile still peripheral in comparison to Moscow, and thus not totally subject to centra-lized control. Cherkasova is rather pro-nationalist in her views; however, she does notsee the “Soviet” as a foreign element in Belarusian culture: for several generationsBelarusian conditions and practices were imposed by the same totalitarian Sovietsystem as the rest of the USSR. The degree of influence varied depending on the geo-graphical distance from the center or the time of being the part of the Soviet system(e.g. the Baltic States). These variations point in the direction of the debate concerningwhether the “Soviet” should be categorically seen as the “Russian” or if, on the otherhand, the “Soviet” does not replace national identities but rather organizes discourseaccording to other principles.Overall,  Red on White  by Veronika Cherkasova is a thoughtful, interesting, at timeshumorous, well-written analysis of present-day Belarusian society and culture. Thiscollection is an insightful ethnography that pays great attention to the details androutines of day-to-day Belarusian life, and helps one to better understand the dynamicsof the post-Soviet transformations of Belarus.Alexander Pershai # 2007University of Western Ontario  Asie centrale, la de´ rive totalitaire. Cinq re´  publiques entre he´ ritage sovie´ tique, dicta-ture et Islam , Marlene Laruelle and Se´bastian Peyrouse (Paris: Editions Autrement,2006), 139 pp. BOOK REVIEWS 197
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