molotov cocktail


To say that Rachel Polonsky is a lifelong Russophile probably still understates the level of her engagement with the country that has so captured her imagination, heart and soul. This British journalist has written about its culture and experienced its realities, first when it was synonymous with the Soviet behemoth and then in the two decades of its more recent transformation. But exactly what has it become in that extraordinary metamorphosis? Foreign observers and analysts of Russia have come away perplexed by its unique nature and the difficulty of governing it. For Polonsky, who moves to Moscow, Russia is one giant echo chamber of historical and cultural resonances, every corner filled with the ghosts of past glories and terrors. Having thought, studied and written about great literary figures including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, she is so steeped in their essence that they serve as guides and even more as templates for her as she breathes in the atmosphere of Russia today. But the important dissident writers of the Soviet era — Mandelstam, Pasternak and Akhmatova — are also very much with Polonsky. So when fate places her in an apartment block once reserved for the Communist elite, with access to no less a treasure trove than the actual library of Stalin’s henchman Vyacheslav Molotov, it is a gift from the gods.

more from Martin Rubin at the LA Times here.