Making War on “War and Peace”

Vladimir Putin and Ludmila Verbitskaya. Photo courtesy of

There is no less genuinely patriotic crowd in today’s Russia than Putin and his cronies. They have a wild hatred for everything really good about the country, its history, culture, and language:

Ludmila Verbitskaya, president of the Russian Academy of Education, has suggested removing Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace from the school curriculum and replacing it with “works of spiritual literature.” According to her, children “cannot understand the full depth” of this work, but everyone should read the Bible.

Read the details (in Russian) and weep on RBC.

UPDATE. Comrade VK has drawn my attention to the following statement by Professor Verbitskaya. While it does complicate the picture a bit, it brings home again the thoroughgoing hypocrisy of the current regime, whose alleged conservatism consists only in battering, dispiriting, and tricking their would-be constituents by hook or by crook to keep themselves in power for as long as humanly possible.

“I have almost no free time, and so I am obliged to read what I still poorly understand due to the fact that my generation was deprived of it: the Bible. Since I was educated as a Russianist, I sense how imperfect my English is, and so before going to sleep I make sure to read something interesting, like Agatha Christie, in the original. But my favorite novel is War and Peace. I pick it up quite often and reread parts of it.”


International Translator’s Day: Victoria Lomasko

I have it on good authority that today is International Translator’s Day. Since this blog consists mostly of things I’ve read in Russian and felt like sharing with you all in English, every day that I post something here is translator’s day to me.

But there are things that I get more pleasure from translating and thus dispatching back to the world of my native language. One of those things has been the unique graphic reportage work of Russian artist Victoria Lomasko. And over the past four or five years I’ve been translating Ms. Lomasko’s work, the piece that has touched me most has been “Feminine” (2013), which I’d like to reintroduce to you today in a slightly shinier version. TRR


Victoria Lomasko



“When I was young, I had a date lined up on every corner.”

In the series Feminine, all the characters are drawn from life, and their remarks are recorded verbatim. However, I have tried to move away from reportage and towards symbolism—to generalize specific situations in images that express my feelings and experiences.

The portraits here are not so much images of specific people as they are archetypes: the faded, lonely woman; the slutty boozer; the rigid old Soviet woman, etc.


“There are no factories in this town and no dudes.”

 tetay Luda

“He just couldn’t put on slippers and become a domesticated dude.”

Each drawing adds its own tint (of sadness, irony, and anger) to the overall picture—the life of women in the Russian provinces.


“I’ve been feeling slutty since December.”

I was born in Serpukhov, a town in the Moscow Region.

The women and girls I knew talked about men: acquaintances and strangers, exes, current husbands and boyfriends, future husbands and boyfriends. We believed that love would change the monotonous course of our lives.



“I’m not sloshed. I’m a saint.”

I had one other belief—in my calling as an artist. Only my dad, a self-taught artist, supported my plan to study in Moscow and then work as an artist. Believing the nonsense I was spouting was infectious and a hindrance to finding a husband, some of my girlfriends’ moms tried to force their daughters to spend less time with me. They were right: I’m still not married, and I don’t have any children.

v bory

“We’re used to the fellas paying for everything.”

I have lived in Moscow for over ten years. When I travel to the provinces, the scenes I see and the conversations I hear are familiar to me. Even divorced girlfriends sympathize with my “bitter plight.”

I became an artist, but I do not feel like a winner. In this country, their life strategies and mine are transformed into losses. I look at the “heroines” in Feminine and find a part of myself in all of them.


“Where can I get hold of a machine gun to kill Putin?”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Originally published by Chtodelat News. Victoria Lomasko’s book Other Russias will be published by n+1 in December.