Why We Should Read About the Soviet Past In Order to Understand Ukraine Now
My journey to Ukraine might just have started with its most famous dish, bortsch. I ate plenty of it as a child in my second home country, Estonia, a place that has much more in common with Ukraine than its earthly cuisine and shared pickling expertise.
Both of them were behind the Iron Curtain before regaining independence once the Soviet Union collapsed. We share the same experience of Soviet reality, forced collectivization, oppression of our culture and the same deportation stories. Stalin’s transplantation politics were targeted against the resistance in both countries.
That’s why the protagonist in my novel Dog Park is born to a Ukrainian-Russian family in Estonia: her Ukrainian grandmother was deported to Siberia but was never allowed to move back home. She ended up in the Soviet Republic of Estonia. This was the reality behind the propagated “happy internationalism”: forced mixing of different ethnical groups was supposed to create homo sovjeticus. In Eastern-Ukraine this operation was successful enough to keep the Soviet-flame burning until the war started there eight years ago. Separatists armed by Russia were at first supported by Soviet-minded locals.