By Valentin Rasputin


The Montréal Review, April 2024


Russian Muzhik (1920) by Boris Grigoriev (1886-1939)



Born in Siberia in 1937, the late Valentin Rasputin is widely regarded as one of Russia’s most revered and influential modern writers.  The leading figure of the village-prose movement, a literary movement that emerged in the post-Stalinist era of the 1960s and 1970s, Rasputin penned a series of masterpieces that embraced the simplicity and spiritual and moral values of the rural countryside: Деньги для Марии (Money for Maria, 1967), Последний срок (The Last Term, 1970), Живи и nомни (Live and Remember, 1974), and Прощание с Матёрой (Farewell to Matyora, 1976).  These novellas represented a welcome and much-needed alternative to the works of Soviet orthodox writers who, following socialist realism, a literary formula scrupulously enforced under Stalin, depicted the proletarian as hero and the peasantry and his way of life as “backwards” and “in need of modernization.” 

Why this search for enduring values? As was often the case with Soviet literature, the explanation could be found in contemporary reality.  With the accelerated development of the scientific and technological revolution and the waning of Marxist-Leninist ideology, such features as apathy, duplicity, greed, and philistinism became widespread in modern Soviet society, while hopes for the future were replaced by spiritual emptiness and a kind of hedonistic “live for today” creed.  So seeking refuge elsewhere, Rasputin, along with other Soviet writers, looked to his roots---to the countryside and the spiritual and moral wealth intrinsic to the age-old peasant culture---as a substitute for modern technological civilization.

Although adherence to Marxist-Leninist ideology and commitment to the Party’s aims were absent from Rasputin’s writings, the author still adhered to one tenet of socialist realism: “народность” (“national spirit”) and love for the Fatherland, a feature that allowed his prose to be published and even applauded.  On two occasions, he was awarded the USSR State Prize, one of the most coveted prizes during the Soviet era.  Many of his stories have also been adapted for the stage and the screen.    

When Rasputin died in 2015 (March 14, a day before his 78th birthday), his passing was lamented by all of Russia.  Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, delivered the memorial service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, while mourners turned out in full force, including President Vladimir Putin, who, after laying flowers on Rasputin’s coffin, expressed his condolences to family and friends.  In his eulogy, Putin stated:

“A great writer has passed away.  He was a true citizen and patriot, an honest man with a great sense of dignity, who had he everyone’s trust and deep respect.  He served his nation and its people selflessly and with devotion, taking Russia’s fate very personally.

It is with a feeling of great warmth that I recall my meetings with Mr. Rasputin, his amazing sincerity and openness, his staunch devotion to his ideas and principles.

Valentin Rasputin is no longer among us, but his books remain.  They are filled with love for his homeland and faith in man’s lofty mission and in the triumph of spiritual and moral values.”1     

Given the above, it is clear that Putin admired Rasputin not only for his literary works, but also for his service to Russia.  In fact, in 2002, Putin even bestowed on the author the Order of Merit for the Fatherland.  

Not surprisingly, Putin’s high regard for Rasputin is politically motivated, especially when we consider how close his ideology is to the author’s far-right nationalist worldview.  Mirroring Putin’s Russia today, Rasputin was disdainful of the West and liberal reforms, supported the Russian Orthodox Church along with its extremely conservative moral values, and endorsed any military strategy that would widen Russia’s sphere of influence (and, conversely, stave off western influence).  In 2014, for example, Rasputin signed a letter by writers in support of Putin’s annexation of Crimea, a territory historically controlled by Russia; he also spoke out against the pro-Western government in Kiev.  Based on his position then, it is reasonable to surmise that if he were alive today, he would have given his blessing to Putin’s current invasion of Ukraine. 

Rasputin, however, identified himself as a “cultural nationalist” and as a “patriot” (a person who “vigorously supports his country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors”2); “patriot” is also one of the words used by Putin to describe him in his eulogy.  In a series of conversations that first appeared in the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya (Soviet Russia), the author stated his position in unequivocal terms: “It seems that there are no grounds to believe, but I believe that the West will not get its hands on Russia.  It is not possible to drive all patriots to the grave. . . . And if they were driven to the grave, the coffins would raise upright and move to defend their lands.”3  As to be expected, conservatives viewed Rasputin as a kindred spirit, while liberals of a pro-western orientation, both in Russia and in the West, took serious issue with his public statements and political endorsements, finding them both alarming and a cause for concern.

Initially a journalist, Rasputin later made the transition to creative writing, producing literary works that were realistic and shaped by his conservative nationalist worldview.  “Senya is Coming” (“Сеня едет”) is no exception, although it is necessary to add some qualifications.   Written after the dissolution of the Soviet Union,4 a time when Russia was transitioning to a free market and adopting western-style liberal reforms, this story presents Rasputin’s nationalistic views in a more straightforward and pronounced manner, essentially making it a work of political protest.  His deviation from earlier literary practices here is easy to explain: However difficult the situation was in post-Stalinist Russia, it was, at least from Rasputin’s perspective, less urgent and egregious than what unfolded in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In other words, the circumstances in the early 1990s were such that they demanded his direct and immediate commentary, prompting him in turn to write this piece. 

As suggested above, “Senya is Coming” mirrors the harsh realities of the early post-Soviet years; it also reflects the author’s negative reaction to these new realities, which he directly conveys though his protagonist “Senya,” a мужик (peasant) living in a small Russian village.  While watching television broadcasted from Moscow, Senya is horrified by the changes and events he sees taking placing in Russia, with horror eventually turning into obsession.  What exactly is it that he sees on the screen?  Concerts with wild musicians and teenagers, exemplifying the mass infusion of western-influenced popular culture into post-Soviet Russian society; commercials hawking cars and other expensive items, all of which were well beyond the means of the average Russian at that time, including Senya, who had not received a salary in three months; mass insurrection, with armed anti-Yeltsin demonstrators (mostly communist supporters and nationalists) storming the Ostankino broadcast center in Moscow --- and then being killed by military troops; and finally, pornography, group sex, and unwed preadolescent mothers, revealing a dramatic erosion of spiritual and moral values.   For Senya, much like Rasputin himself, these changes and events are nothing less than catastrophic: a disastrous calamity that threatens Russia’s honor and dignity, its unique cultural heritage, and its centuries-old spiritual and moral values.  Unable to stand by idly, Senya quits drinking, sells his livestock for travel fare, and sets out for Moscow to join his compatriots who seek to stem the tide of change and restore “order” to the country. 

In this piece, Rasputin provides a full and satisfying treatment of his characters and subject, which is the criteria for a successful short story.  However, due to the story’s relatively limited scope (five pages in the published Russian version), the setting is simplified and there are no nature descriptions.  This represents a dramatic departure from Rasputin’s longer works, where he devotes countless pages to describing daily rural life and extolling the wonders of the Siberian region, arguably one of his greatest strengths as a writer.  Nonetheless, “Senya is Coming” makes for an interesting and compelling read, especially against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine --- and the current polarization of politics in the United States.

Elisabeth Rich (the translator) with Rasputin in Irkatsk, Siberia, 1994

In 1994, when I visited Rasputin in his native Irkutsk, I asked him what he succeeded in accomplishing as a writer.  Without the slightest hesitation, he responded:

“What I succeeded in doing in literature was to remember those traditions, the peasant civilization that existed before---to remember those values, those traditions by which the Russian people lived and to present them again for use.  Yes, to return entirely into the past is impossible, but one shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, and in living the new life one shouldn’t lose one’s heart and soul.  That’s what I tried to do, and to what extent I succeeded is not for me to judge.”5   

Simply put, Rasputin urged his readers to “live and remember,” a directive that, as mentioned earlier, is the title of one of his novellas from the 1970s.  

In sum, despite the critical view taken by Russian and western liberals towards Rasputin and his far-right nationalist beliefs, the fact remains that he was a gifted writer who had an enormous impact on an entire generation of Soviet readers.  Indeed, he was a Soviet icon who leaves behind a legacy placing him well within the ranks of Solzhenitsyn and other Russian literary giants. 

Elisabeth Rich 



Senya Pozdnyakov, unlike other people, liked to reward himself with nicknames. It was so successful that the names stuck. While bumming around the country, he was the "Hobo." On one fine day, he did away with his dissolute life, snapping up the best bride in the village, and became our "Eagle." The folks of Zamory also christened him, as they would any new arrival, "Settler." Each nickname had its own use: They said nice things behind his back when he was the Settler, but when he was the Eagle, they mocked him and poked fun at him to his face. Somehow, it turned out that in both cases—when they praised him and when they laughed at him—they treated Senya in a good-natured way, as if he were an orphan. He was a harmless, complaisant, and smiling Russian peasant (muzhik). Only two or three times did his wife Galya say, in unguarded moments: "You've ruined me, Senya. You've ruined such a woman!"

Galya knew what she was worth; Senya, on the other hand, wasn't worth much. At one time he read books, he came from a decent family in the city, graduated from high school, and prepared for life in earnest. But after the army he was swept over to a romantic side, the lessons about which the village knew by heart from a song, which our Eagle chanted more than once when he was on his way home:

"Oh, what a romantic bitch I am:
I went to construct Bratsk dam!
I came there with a bow on,
When I left there, it was gone."

These tragic lines had no sequel. Senya ripped them from his chest with such pain, with such despair, that they pierced the entire street. He would loudly cough up his excessive suffering, and then start again at the beginning. Galya would hear him singing and come outside to meet him. This would cut the singing short.

Of course, he arrived in Zamory "without a bow." Besides this, he had no possessions—neither an employment record book nor a passport. He wasn't even wearing a shirt. His "appearance" has still not been forgotten, although this happened more than a quarter of a century ago—when from a scheduled motor ship, following the arrival of the regular decent passengers, they carried out the lifeless body of an unknown man by the hands and feet, throwing him like a bag onto the shore under the silent gazes of the local people, and then pushed off. Such questions as "who, where, why" only surfaced after the white motor ship, whipping up the water, throttled up on its way from Irkutsk to Bratsk. There was no one to answer; the young muzhik, who revealed traces of an unsuccessful battle with drunkenness, showed no signs of life. Before breaking up, the locals dragged him under the tattered awning of the arrivals-and-departures shelter and left him there under the watchful eye of some stray dogs. By dusk almost every household had had someone go and take a look at the newcomer. The scouts found, with relief, that God had spared them the misfortune of being acquainted with or (worse yet) related to this lost soul. As dusk fell, in order not to take the sin of neglect upon themselves, the locals delegated some young fellows to take the stranger to the closest bathhouse, which turned out to be the bathhouse of the Stukovs.

It was in the fall, in September. Two months earlier, Galya Stukova, who had finished three years of study, had returned to her native Zamory to take her mother's place at the local paramedic station. It was up to her to take a chance on Senya, which brought him back to life. She was the first to hear the mournful story of his life, the last page of which remained outside the confines of memory: He set out for the place of his next job, with other recruits like himself, but he never arrived.

The young studs, who were just beginning to circle tentatively around Galya, the village belle, could only gasp when the all-but-dead body that had recently been thrown off the motorboat got to its feet, donned the pants and shirt of Petr Andreevich, the area logging camp manager, and declared that it was our "Eagle." This pronouncement came before Galya, Petr Andreevich, and Vera Vasilevna, either altogether or individually, had time to consider what kind of bird it was and with what purpose it had dived into their family nest. Galya's mother, until death itself, never recovered from her amazement: What kind of delusion had afflicted them, when, right before their own eyes—in front of two people, who couldn't be described as feeble-minded—a child of theirs was abducted. Insult to injury was added when, in order to avoid public disgrace, they had to present the abductor to other people in a favorable light.

Now Vera Vasilevna has already for a long time not been among the living, and Petr Andreevich lived out the century with his oldest son in the city. But our Eagle had plenty of time to lose his feathers. Shrunken, battered by vodka, with fading impetuosity, the only thing Senya managed to save was the clear blue eyes on his wrinkled face. A year and a half ago, forced to retire with the curtailment of forest work, he accomplished a feat in life—he quit drinking. He quit drinking, but he didn't become vigorous; he should have quit earlier. And more and more often, without having anything to do, he would freeze like a rock, staring somewhere in front of himself without memory and thoughts.

Only Galya, still beautiful, straight, taller than Senya, robust, and slender, was full of life. But it wasn't long before she had to part with medicine—and not only Galya, but the entire village. The new order, rejecting the old ways, fought with everything that was attached to the old way of life, including people, even refusing them medicine. A year and a half ago they closed the paramedic station.

Senya's and Galya's son and daughter, who each had a little boy and girl, had moved with their families to the city, while Senya and Galya kept a big farm in the village. They did so for the sake of city residents who were being crushed by inflated prices. On the farm, they had two milking cows, two pigs, five sheep, chickens, and a vegetable garden, all of which kept them busy from dusk until dawn. At forty- five, life is just beginning, but she had to be her own cattlewoman, gardener, and cook. When Senya was still working at his regular job and drinking, he helped more. Now he had lost interest in everything.

A "fever" took hold of Senya. At least that's what they called it in the old days.

Senya and Galya rarely turned on the television. When the yard is full of animals and one harvest follows the next, you have no time to stare at the TV. They kept one in each dwelling more as an acquisition than for the sake of application.

At his peril, Senya decided to turn on the television. This story began when he was still working. He pressed the power button and suddenly, without any tuning, just as it was, such a picture floated to him that he jerked back. He pushed the apparition away with the help of that very same button, and looking with fright at the eclipsed screen, thought: Is China fooling around again? There was a time when you turned on the Moscow channel and you found yourself in China instead, at an opera. In order to check, Senya pressed the button again—and again it pushed out a frightening sight. Was it China or did he have too much to drink? Was it sabotage by means of mass information or was he hallucinating? He had once reached this point of intoxication, but he didn't cross over the edge. Here... Senya forced himself to look. Here was the most real... Senya knew what it was called. No matter what you called it, this was not a matter for display. He clearly had had too much to drink. He pressed the button again, pulled the cord out of the socket, and while getting undressed for the night, threw his pants at the flickering bulging eyes of the television. They had been drinking some rubbish from a big, imported bottle in the garage— it wasn't vodka or rubbing alcohol, the kind of stuff that didn't even make you properly drunk, but what an effect there was now! Senya was tempted to test the apparition on Galya, but when he was under the influence, she slept in a separate bed.

In the morning, he listened in the garage: Did they see it or didn't they? No one saw anything. "It's a sign — he decided — It's the second one. Not just a sign, but one with a twist. It's time to quit drinking for good." Still, his doubts lingered. This very business did not allow you to agree where the twist took place. It had never bothered him in the past, so he had never really focused on it before. While he would support "folklore" in manly conversations, it was never to the point that it eclipsed his powers of reason. Yet something was not right here. Senya began to turn on the television not simply to refresh himself after work with culture and politics, but in order to search for traces of what had appeared to him. Now, when he took it upon himself to peer more attentively, he saw a lot of interesting things, which earlier, when he turned it on for a minute or two, he had not noticed. You may not see far from the forest, but you still have eyes: While they were living according to the old ways, a uniform U-turn had occurred on all degrees from the previously indicated direction of life: No one works, everyone is having fun. No one walks, everyone rides around in cars. Like shaggy caterpillars reared to an upright position, long-jointed singers were spawned, who, wriggling and twitching, as if energized, shout out from under the roar of equipment about some kind of passion, while huge, wild, crazy teenagers, weaving with bare hands and swaying, roar unpleasantly from one screaming mouth. Then there's the roar of a car motor—and bang! Boom-boom-boom on the brain: Buy! Buy! Buy! What can you buy when they haven't given you a salary for three months? But they were nonchalant, even though the world was falling apart around them! Buy, sell, jump, shoot, war, blood, grave voices...

"Galya!" Senya roared. "Galya! Come quickly!" And he jumped up to meet her. "Where are you?"

"Why are you screaming like a fool? What's the matter with you?"

"Take a look."

Galya looked, spit, and turned off the television.

"Why are you staring at something so shameful? You don't have anything else to do? You've gone completely off your rocker!"

"But they're showing it!"

"Then don't look. They're not showing it for you and me."

"Then who are they showing it for?"

"For them smart ones."

Of course, it's possible not to watch. But if they're showing it, then people watch. The entire city was drowning in television, and he has children in Moscow, his grandchildren are growing up there. Why is this happening, why have they begun to allow this? This, of course, is not from an oversight, but from some kind of political intrigue. They just put the harness on and rode it. Where? They didn't just start today, it was obvious that they had already gained momentum. Where did you soar, our Eagle? And where did you look if you missed the obvious? Don't look. You will not notice what sneaks up under your threshold or how they force you to walk the streets naked.

No, Senya could not calm down. As he called it, "combat readiness" had approached, and the excitement that embraced him was like the excitement he felt at hay harvesting until the last shred of hay was picked up. Until then, he couldn't think about anything else, and not even a shot glass could tempt him. And now the very same had taken hold of him, carrying him away completely.

In the evening, as they sat eating dinner, Senya couldn't restrain himself.

"And what if they did that to us, huh?"

What is it again?

"And what if we... What if we lay down, and this 'kisser,' this 'bug-eye' ..." — Senya nodded towards the television, and it seemed to him that it had begun to gloss even more pleasure, as if accepting his proposal, — "to the whole world? How would you like that?"

"Cut it out Senya!"

"I understand, it's impossible without this, but why show it to everyone? These are our people. But they're like dogs, worse than dogs. Take a look."

What prompted Senya to push the television button again, he himself did not know. But this was perfect timing. The television buzzed and hissed, and rolled its picture over Galya and Senya. They had no idea this was even possible. Before them flashed something resembling a huge spider, white, many­legged, many-headed, naked, wriggling, and scary. Galya, suddenly losing her voice, wheezing, raised herself above Senya:

"How dare you? What are you doing?"

"What am I doing? It's them who are doing."

"Why did you set this up for me?"

"How could I have set this up? Think, think a little!" The spider had meanwhile turned around, revealing itself from all sides, shrinking and heaving back up. Senya was thinking: And why did he actually need to make excuses? Was it really necessary to make excuses here? Was it really necessary to bicker with one another? He forced the spider to go into hiding, controlling himself with difficulty so as not to make the television follow it, and then proclaimed:



"Sabotage at the most basic level. They're getting to us through our head and through down below. We'll see about that," Senya added menacingly and got up, ready for anything.

In the garage, he approached the other muzhiks.

"Do you watch television?"

"What's to watch there?" Vasya Somov answered, heavily truncating his words, sullen without the bottle, rude, without polish, a muzhik from the locksmiths. He responded only because they had conjured up a bottle. "There's only ..." Vasya obscenely identified two subjects of interest on the television—politics and the very same thing that had hit Senya on the forehead.

They see it, this means they all see it, not just him. They're coarse people, and even they don't approve.
"Muzhiks, why do we tolerate this? Why do we allow this? We're up to our heads with this .... Is this what you call culture? They should be promoting culture there, but what are they doing? They think we don't know how to handle a woman without them?"

"We do!" Vasya confirmed.

"Come on, Uncle Senya," Genka intervened, a boy who had finished high school and was spending a year in the garage before going into the army. He ran errands, but when it came to drinking, he always felt himself an equal among the muzhiks. Genka had just procured a bottle and was still at the height of this feat. "You're all worked up, like you saw it yesterday for the first time. They've been showing it for a long time."

"For a long time." Vasya agreed.

"Hardy had they brought in the democracy .... They've already shown everything ten times over. At the movies they show it even more.

'Yes, and the movies are for idiots! ...

Opening the bottle, Rogov, the foreman, added:

"They've turned everything on its head—and lifted up the legs—and the mechanics of it got exposed. And so everyone jumped on it."

"Muzhiks, what will we do?" Senya was not letting it go.

"What can we do? What will you do? If the interests of the state are on par with Tyumen oil, if the wells pump money."

"Nothing at all can be done? Just drink vodka?"

"Senya, don't touch our vodka. Don't confuse horseradish with the bottle."

Senya lost his mind. He arrived home from work, hastily, almost running, helped with the housework, and rushed to his magical button. He couldn't wait to find out where things were heading, and if there had been any changes. Things were moving deep and wide, but not backwards. When there were no practical activities, propaganda and agitation were in full swing. The agitators, all from science and culture, all dark and bearded, as though chosen, trilled like nightingales and shifted like snakes in order to show where the happiness of life was hidden. Snotnose girls about fourteen to sixteen years old were gathered around one of them, a man who already was not young and was squinting his eyes. He jabbed at each of them: Are you sexually active or not? If not, it's time for that, as it's good for the health and development."

"Galya!" Senya shouted. "Come and look! Come and see what bullshit he's saying! Earlier they would have cut out your tongue for saying such things!" 'Turn it off!" Galya said fiercely. "You don't like it, turn it off."

"I'll turn it off, but they, these kids, won't turn it off... They listen. They believe.

As a result of this, they then showed these very same snotnose girls, who, after watching and listening, were going around having sex with multiple men. Senya didn't have the heart to look at the cute little faces of the young girls who had been pulled with baited hooks from a childhood where they were only supposed to play with dolls. But instead they were going through such games, such an upbringing! ... Lord! The Germans, Tartars, didn't touch them, they allowed them to grow up, but here our own... barely out of the cradle and opening their legs. And how are they our own, can they really be our own? Then where are our own? Where are they? Why are they giving their daughters away to a dragon,1 without saying a word? Twelve-year-old girls are giving birth, Lord! In succession, one after the other. They show them in some shelter, their eyes rolled up and inhuman, but they maintain their arrogance before each other. What will they give birth to? What kind of people will come after this?

Senya became more and more hardened in his conviction: He had to do something. He went to the office of the district supervisor, who listened with habitual pain — they all lived as if after a paralysis, with a subsiding pain --- and nodded:

"Well, what are you suggesting?"

"We need to express protest from the collective. We say that we don't agree, we don't want this."

"What kind of protest? Where to? There's nowhere to send this. There's nothing left. What, you don't see this?"

"Then let's arrange a strike. We're ruining our children. Everything is going to hell."

"What strike? They already arranged one for us a long time ago. Can't you see? There's cut-down timber everywhere, but they're not taking it out. Haven't you noticed that for three months we haven't been paid? Where, into what hole, are you looking? I have to lay off workers again, and that includes you." He then added gloomily: "Here's the list. Get ready, Eagle, you're retiring in a month, you're done flying. There's your strike."

Senya retired, but he didn't calm down. He stopped drinking immediately, as if he were lopping off a branch. Enough horsing around in shit, but we've reached the point that we don't see that it's shit. The muzhiks related to his sobriety as they would to a regular dry spell before a new heavy storm, but Galya, after twenty years of pleading with Senya to part with the shot glass and having lost hope long ago, this time guessed instinctively: He had quit drinking for good. The muzhik had climbed out, but what is he getting into next? It didn't look like he was ready to settle down. With sadness and fear, she looked at Senya on duty in front of the television, pondering how she could get rid of it.

Senya made trips to the regional center, updated his glasses, and after planting them on his nose, maintained a certain protocol in front of the television. Twice he wrote to the Ostankino Tower.2 They answered one of his letters, acknowledging his alarm, the alarm of an elderly person who has been raised by other ideals. And as it turned out, if you're elderly, you're a fool. They didn't even bother to respond to his second letter. But Senya did not need their answers anymore. After sitting for a week over some notes and calculations, he arrived at a decision. And he immediately sighed easily, freely: That's it. Forward!

"I'm going to Moscow," he declared.

His announcement hit Galya like a deluge:

"You're the last thing they need there right now! Look at what's happening there, look!"

There truly was something to look at. In Moscow, war was breaking out. On the TV, Senya watched as a street army of untrained civilians advanced towards the Ostankino Tower. Like him, these people were rebelling against everything being turned "upside-down."3 Senya began to scream at them, tensely and powerlessly, knowing full well that they could not hear him.

"Not this way! Not this way! Wait! You'll just ruin everything! You will all be killed!"

Senya guessed correctly: They were killed. For the entire day after this, he lay on the couch in a state of numbness, silently, without eating or drinking. The radio in the kitchen was breathless: Enemies of the people, fascists, attack aircraft, but in front of Senya were floating the cute little faces of the twelve- year-old mothers, taken from their school desks in order to... Towards evening Senya calmed down and got up.

He left only recently. He was held off by the warm fall — he couldn't slaughter the bull while it was still warm out. While he was selling meat for the journey, while he was getting ready, the cost of an airline ticket had soared up to such an altitude that you could only see it through binoculars. He would have to switch to the railroad. But they also were not dozing there — the ticket for a train was already so expensive that it hit not only in the pocket, but in the head. Senya had to return to Zamory, and after the bull, he had to lead two sheep from the yard to slaughter.

Nothing could stop him now.

Senya is coming, he's coming. Just wait and see.


Elisabeth T. Rich is Associate Professor of Russian in the Department of Global Cultures and Languages, Texas A&M University



* I would like to thank my colleague, Petr Kandidatov, for checking the accuracy of my translation and making several helpful suggestions.


1 Condolences to Valentin Valentin Rasputin Rasputin’s family and friends, March 15, 2015

2 If you look online for the meaning of the word “patriot,” this is one of the first definitions to appear.

3 This excerpt, along with other conversations with Rasputin, was later published in Victor Kozhemyako’s book Valentin Rasputin: Bol dushi (Pain of the Soul), Moscow: Algoritm, 2007.  As for the translation, it appeared in The New York Times.  See Sophia Kishkovsky, “Valentin Rasputin, Russian Writer Who Led ‘Village Prose’ Movement, Dies at 77,” Section A, p. 25, March 18, 2015.

4 This short story was first published in 1994 in the Moscow journal Москва (Moscow).

5 “Valentin Rasputin,” Elisabeth Rich, trans. Laura Weeks, South Central Review, Vol. 12, nos. 3-4, 1995, p. 50.


1 This is a reference to a multi-headed dragon, which appears in Russian fairy tales.

2 The Ostankino Tower is a television and radio tower in Moscow.

3 This is a reference to the unsuccessful mass insurrection, which occurred in Moscow in early October 1993. At that time, President Boris Yeltsin, whose agenda included carrying out economic reforms, establishing a market economy, and preventing a return to the Soviet past, was engaged in a power struggle with parliament (speaker of the Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and his own vice president, Aleksandr Rutskoy). On the night of October 3, at the behest of Khasbulatov and Rutskoy, thousands of armed pro-parliament/anti-Yeltsin demonstrators (mostly communist supporters and nationalists) tried to seize the Ostankino Tower. At the tower, they were met by military troops, culminating in a battle where hundreds of people were wounded and killed.





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