Boris Bykov

Boris Bykov

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Boris Bykov was born in Russia. A talented linguist, in 1920 he joined Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU). After serving in Nazi Germany he moved to the United States in the summer of 1936. He worked for Joszef Peter who introduced him to Soviet agent, Whittaker Chambers, who was based in New York City.

According to Sam Tanenhaus, the author of Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (1997): "Bykov, about forty years old and Chambers's own height, was turned out neatly in a worsted suit. He wore a hat, in part to cover his hair, which was memorably red. He gave in fact an overall impression of redness. His lashes were ginger-colored, his eyes an odd red-brown, and his complexion was ruddy.... He also was subject to violent mood swings, switching from ferocious tantrums to grating fits of false jollity. And he was habitually distrustful. Time and again he questioned Chambers sharply on his ideological views and about his previous underground activities." (1)

Chambers wrote in Witness (1952): " When I was with Colonel Bykov, I was not master of my movements. Most of our meetings took place in New York City. We always prearranged them a week or ten days ahead. As a rule, we first met in a movie house. I would go in and stand at the back. Bykov, who nearly always had arrived first, would get up from the audience at the agreed time and join me. We would go out together. Bykov, not I, would decide what route we should then take in our ramblings (we usually walked several miles about the city). We would wander at night, far out in Brooklyn or the Bronx, in lonely stretches of park or on streets where we were the only people." (2)

Chambers questioned Colonel Bykov about the Great Purge that was taking place in the Soviet Union but it was clear that he completely supported the policies of Joseph Stalin. "Like every Communist in the world, I felt its backlash, for the Purge also swept through the Soviet secret apparatuses. I underwent long hours of grilling by Colonel Bykov in which he tried, without the flamboyance, but with much of the insinuating skill of Lloyd Paul Stryker, the defense lawyer in the first Hiss trial, to prove that I had been guilty of Communist heresies in the past, that I was secretly a Trotskyist, that I was not loyal to Comrade Stalin. I emerged unharmed from those interrogations, in part because I was guiltless, but more importantly, because Colonel Bykov had begun to regard me as indispensable to his underground career." (3)

In December 1936 Bykov asked Chambers for names of people who would be willing to supply the Soviets with secret documents. (4) Chambers selected Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Julian Wadleigh and George Silverman. Bykov suggested that the men must be "put in a productive frame of mind" with cash gifts. Chambers argued against this policy as they were "idealists". Bykov was adamant. The handler must always have some kind of material hold over his asset: "Who pays is the boss, and he who accepts money must give something in return." (5)

Chambers was given $600 with which to purchase "Bokhara rugs, woven in one of the Asian Soviet republics and coveted by collectors". (6) Chambers recruited his friend, Meyer Schapiro, to buy carpets at an Armenian wholesale establishment on lower Fifth Avenue. Cambers then arranged for the four men to be interviewed by Bykov in New York City. The men agreed to work as Soviet agents. They were reluctant to take the gifts. Wadleigh said that he wanted nothing more than to do "something practical to protect mankind from its worst enemies." (7)

With the recruitment of the four agents, Chambers's underground work, and his daily routine, now centred on espionage. "In the case of each contact he had first to arrange a rendezvous, in rare instances at the contact's house, more commonly at a neutral site (street corner, park, coffee shop) in Washington. On the appointed day Chambers drove down from New Hope (a distance of 110 miles) and was handed a small batch of documents (at most twenty pages), which he slipped into a slim briefcase." (8)

Alger Hiss was the most productive of Bykov's agents. According to G. Edward White, the author of Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars (2004): Hiss was so productive in bringing home documents that he precipitated a further change in the Soviets's methods for obtaining them... Chambers, however, only visited Hiss about once a week, since his practice was to round up documents from his sources, have them photocopied and returned, and take the photocopies to New York only at weekly intervals. In order to continue this practice, but protect Hiss, Bykov instructed Hiss to type copies of the documents himself and retain them for Chambers." (9)

Whittaker Chambers, later admitted in Witness (1952): "It was Alger Hiss's custom to bring home documents from the State Department approximately once a week or once in ten days. He would bring out only the documents that happened to cross his desk on that day, and a few that on one pretext or another he had been able to retain on his desk. Bykov wanted more complete coverage. He proposed that the (Lawyer - the Soviets's code name for Hiss at the time) should bring home a briefcase of documents every night." (10)

One day Chambers asked Boris Bykov what had happened to Juliet Poyntz. He replied: "Gone with the wind". Chambers commented: "Brutality stirred something in him that at its mere mention came loping to the surface like a dog to a whistle. It was as close to pleasure as I ever saw him come. Otherwise, instead of showing pleasure, he gloated. He was incapable of joy, but he had moments of mean exultation. He was just as incapable of sorrow, though he felt disappointed and chagrin. He was vengeful and malicious. He would bribe or bargain, but spontaneous kindness or generosity seemed never to cross his mind. They were beyond the range of his feeling. In others he despised them as weaknesses." (11). As a result of this conversation, Chambers decided to stop working for the Communist Party of the United States.

Boris Bukov returned to the Soviet Union in 1939 where he became a lecturer at the Higher Special School of the Red Army Staff. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), Bukov headed the chair of foreign countries study of the Second Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages.

Bykov, about forty years old and Chambers's own height, was turned out neatly in a worsted suit. His lashes were ginger-colored, his eyes an odd red-brown, and his complexion was ruddy. He had as yet little English and spoke German with a guttural Yiddish inflection that Chambers strained to decipher. More than once, in the months ahead, Chambers's struggle with his new boss's accent sent the Russian into fits of rage.

After briskly introducing Chambers to the new reziderit, Peters left. The Russian instantly grew panicky. He told Chambers they must get away. The two executed the usual series of tedious maneuvers so as to elude any possible surveillance. Bykov, suspicious even of Chambers, refused to divulge either his phone number or address, though he grudgingly gave out an alias, Peter, by which Chambers knew the Russian for the duration of their uneasy partnership, the most difficult of Chambers's underground career.

Cowardice was only one of Bykov's unpleasant traits. Time and again he questioned Chambers sharply on his ideological views and about his previous underground activities.

When I was with Colonel Bykov, I was not master of my movements. We would wander at night, far out in Brooklyn or the Bronx, in lonely stretches of park or on streets where we were the only people. As we walked and talked, I would think: "Does he know anything? Is there anything in my manner that could make him suspicious? Where is he taking me?"

I always assumed that one member of the Washington underground acted for Bykov as a pair of eyes and ears to observe and report my conduct. This is routine Communist practice. I never knew to whom those eyes and ears belonged. I also had reason to believe that the Soviet counter-intelligence had me under routine surveillance.

Thus, my practical problem was to organize my flight and the safe removal of my family under eyes which could see me but which I could not see, while I took the calculated risk of nightly meetings with men and women who seemed perfectly unsuspicious. On the other hand, they might be suspicious and therefore operating against me with the same calculation with which I was operating against them....

For defense, I bought a long sheath knife. I bought it chiefly with my lonely walks with Bykov and my automobile rides with other Communists in mind. It was a poor weapon, but the most easily procured and concealed, and therefore the only equalizer I risked carrying at that time. I wore it belted around my undershirt, and kept the strap across the handle and the shirt under my vest unbuttoned so that I could reach it more easily in a fight. About the time I began to carry a knife, Colonel Bykov developed a curious habit. He would crowd close to me when we sat together in a street car or subway train and repeatedly lurched against me when we walked on the street. He had never done this before. I instantly suspected that he was trying to feel if I was armed. I still think this must have been his purpose, not because he suspected that I was breaking, but because, by coincidence, it occurred to him at that time to find out if I was armed. And, by coincidence, he was right, though he did not find out....

The Purge struck me in a personal way too. Like every Communist in the world, I felt its backlash, for the Purge also swept through the Soviet secret apparatuses. I emerged unharmed from those interrogations, in part because I was guiltless, but more importantly, because Colonel Bykov had begun to regard me as indispensable to his underground career, so that toward the end of his grillings he would sometimes squeeze my arm in his demonstrative Russian way and repeat a line from a popular song that had caught his fancy: "Bei mir bist du schon:"

Actually, Bykov's cynicism was harder to bear than his grillings. He was much too acute to suppose that I was sound about the Purge, and he took a special delight in letting me know it. Sometimes, after the purgees had been sentenced to be shot, there would be no official announcement of their execution, as if to emphasize playfully that this official silence was part of the silence of death. "Where is Bukharin?" Bykov asked me slyly some weeks after the Communist Party's leading theoretician had been sentenced to death for high treason, while his death had not been announced.

"Dead," I answered rudely. "You are right," said Bykov in a cooing voice, "you are right. You can be absolutely sure that our Bukharin is dead."

The human horror of the Purge was too close for me to grasp clearly its historical meaning. I could not have said then, what I knew shortly afterwards, that, as Communists, Stalin and the Stalinists were absolutely justified in making the Purge. From the Communist viewpoint, Stalin could have taken no other course, so long as he believed he was right. The Purge, like the Communist-Nazi pact later on, was the true measure of Stalin as a revolutionary statesman. That was the horror of the Purge - that acting as a Communist, Stalin had acted rightly. In that fact lay the evidence that Communism is absolutely evil. The human horror was not evil, it was the sad consequence of evil. It was Communism that was evil, and the more truly a man acted in its spirit and interest, the more certainly he perpetuated evil.

But, at the time, I saw the Purge as the expression of a crisis within the group - the Communist Party - which I served in the belief that it alone could solve the crisis of the modern world. The Purge caused me to re-examine the meaning of Communism and the nature of the world's crisis.

I had always known, of course, that there were books critical of Communism and of the Soviet Union. There were surprisingly few of them (publishers did not publish them because readers did not read them). But they did exist. I had never read them because I knew that the party did not want me to read them. I was then entirely in agreement with the European Communist who said recently, about the same subject: "A man does not sip a bottle of cyanide just to find out what it tastes like." I was a man of average intelligence who had read much of what is great in human thought. But even if I had read such books, I should not have believed them. I should probably have put them down without finishing them. I would have known that, in the war between capitalism and Communism, books are weapons, and, like all serviceable weapons, loaded. I should have considered them as more or less artfully contrived propaganda.

Bykov's arrival, and the new procedures he instituted for photographing stolen government documents, coincided with Hiss's occupying a position that would expand his opportunities for espionage. Before long Hiss's brief case was "well filled," as Chambers put it, with documents he thought of interest to the Soviets. Hiss was so productive in bringing home documents that he precipitated a further change in the Soviets's methods for obtaining them...

Chambers, however, only visited Hiss about once a week, since his practice was to round up documents from his sources, have them photocopied and returned, and take the photocopies to New York only at weekly intervals. In order to continue this practice, but protect Hiss, Bykov instructed Hiss to type copies of the documents himself and retain them for Chambers. "When I next visited him," Chambers noted, "Alger would turn over to me the typed copies, covering a week's documents, as well as the briefcase of original documents that he had brought home that night. The original documents would be photographed and returned to Alger Hiss. The typed copies would be photographed and then returned to me... I would destroy them."

In recollecting his espionage activities Chambers gave no indication that the procedure employed for documents Hiss supplied was replicated by any other of his sources. Hiss may have been the only agent who produced enough documents to merit bringing them home on a daily basis, or he may have been the only one whose household was capable of supplying typed copies. One thing remains clear: when Whittaker Chambers broke with the Soviets, virtually all the copies of stolen government documents that he retained were documents that had been typed on a typewriter from the household of Alger Hiss. This may have been an entirely fortuitous choice on Chambers's part. The Hiss documents might have been the only typed copies Chambers had available to him to use as part of a "life preserver" he was seeking to create against the possibility of reprisals once the Soviets learned of his defection. In any event, the decision on Alger Hiss's part to acquiesce in Bykov's new procedure, and to supply typed copies as well as originals to Chambers, would change Hiss's life.

(1) Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (1997) page 108

(2) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 37

(3) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 76-77

(4) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 43

(5) House of Un-American Activities Committee (6th December, 1948)

(6) Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (1997) page 108

(7) Julian Wadleigh, Why I Spied for the Communists, New York Post (14th July, 1949)

(8) Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (1997) page 111

(9) G. Edward White, Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars (2004) page 42

(10) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 425-429

(11) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 439


Religion and British politics Boris Johnson’s confusing and contradictory religious history

BRITAIN’S RELIGIOUS leaders, a relatively small and embattled community in an ever more secular land, are wondering what to make of Boris Johnson. As with many areas of his chaotic life, the new prime minister’s spiritual antecedents, and his present convictions, are a bundle of contrasts and confusion.

In a nutshell, he has Muslim, Jewish and Christian ancestors. He was christened a Catholic by his mother. He was confirmed in the Anglican faith (thus formally lapsing from Catholicism) while attending Eton College, Britain’s poshest school. In 2015 he told an interviewer it would be “pretentious” to call himself a “serious, practising Christian”. But as a guest on “Desert Island Discs”, a BBC radio programme in which celebrities imagine themselves as castaways, he said he would “sing a few hymns and march up and down” to keep his morale up. On the other hand, none of the music he chose to have played on the show was spiritual: it ranged from Brahms to punk-rock.

Seven Christian denominations, mostly non-conformist, have already written to him warning that no-deal Brexit, an option he is firmly keeping on the table, will exacerbate poverty and food shortages. Although not a signatory of that letter, Archbishop Justin Welby, the head of England’s established church and a fellow Etonian, is known to share that worry.

Catholics have observed that Mr Johnson is the first person baptised into their faith who has been master of 10 Downing Street, the prime ministerial residence, and that his godmother came from a fervently Papist family. But the Roman faith doesn’t seem to have left much mark on him, to judge by the prime minister’s professed indifference to monogamy.

Jewish commentators noted with approval that as foreign secretary, Mr Johnson visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, spoke fondly of his Jewish roots, and praised Israel as the region’s only democracy. But his immediate Jewish ancestors were not devout. Mr Johnson’s great-grandfather Elias Avery Lowe, a Russian-American palaeographer, never practised Judaism and seemed more interested in Latin texts, including Christian ones, than in Hebrew ones. Lowe’s mother was said to come from a rabbinical line but the link is distant.

Meanwhile a Muslim businessman, Mohammad Amin, responded to Mr Johnson’s elevation by resigning from the Tory party in protest at the politician’s record of inflammatory references to Islamic face-veils (such as “letter-boxes”). Mr Johnson defends his stance by saying his own Muslim great-grandfather, the Ottoman politician Ali Kemal, admired England because it was a land of openness and tolerance: that is the spirit he now wants to preserve.

Over and above these more or less tenuous connections to the Abrahamic faiths, there is another worldview which, in the view of Mr Johnson’s biographer Andrew Gimson, holds much stronger personal appeal for the new prime minister: the polytheism of ancient Greece and Rome, whose literature he studied at Oxford University.

In fact, Mr Johnson has some sympathy with the view that Christianity, with its emphasis on guilt, meekness and self-denial, sapped the strength of the Roman Empire. As Mr Gimson notes, “it is clear that [Mr Johnson] is inspired by the Romans, and even more by the Greeks, and repelled by the early Christians.”

The prime minister apparently shares the classical belief in omens and portents, along with a Homeric sense that great heroes should be free to act out their passions and break free from moral constraints. All that may sound like an utter contradiction with the conventional forms of Christianity that marked Mr Johnson’s upbringing and education.

But that contradiction is hardly unique to Mr Johnson. It pervades the entire cultural tradition in which he was raised. The educational ethos of 19th-century Britain, which is still palpable in some private schools and ancient universities, aimed to revere both the classical tradition and the Christian one in equal measure. It therefore played down the many points of difference between the two. Only a few people have been rude and clear-sighted enough to point this out. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), the anti-Christian chronicler of Rome’s decline, was one Mr Johnson may be another.

Yet that will not stop him belting out childhood hymns if he finds himself on a desert island. Given Mr Johnson’s background, he will be perfectly at ease with ceremonial duties in which he and Archbishop Welby must rub shoulders as fellow members of the establishment. Indeed, under England’s quirky constitution he will have at least a formal role in choosing the archbishop’s successor. Mr Johnson may not be much of a Christian, but he is comfortable enough with Anglicanism—an easy-going tradition which, since the era of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), has never aspired “to make windows into men’s souls”.

You've only scratched the surface of Bykov family history.

Between 1955 and 2003, in the United States, Bykov life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1955, and highest in 2003. The average life expectancy for Bykov in 1955 was 31, and 74 in 2003.

An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Bykov ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family. The SSDI is a searchable database of more than 70 million names. You can find birthdates, death dates, addresses and more.

Dmitry Bykov: History and Irony in the Spirit of Protest

In an interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dmitry Bykov was asked what he thinks the role of the writer is in today’s society, to which Bykov responded: “As Strugatsky said, ‘To see everything, to hear everything, to understand everything.’” In his career, Bykov has certainly taken this quote to heart. He is known for his socially-relevant work as a journalist, novelist, satirist, and poet. He is especially known for works that call on history or recognizable historical forms to present criticism of Russia’s modern day situation.

Bykov was born on the 20 of December in 1967. His mother, Natalya Bykova, taught Russian language and literature. His father, Lev Silbertuda, was a doctor. Bykov’s parents divorced early in his childhood and Bykov was raised by his mother. In an interview with The Jewish Journal, Bykov has stated: “I bear the name of my mother, because I am proud of my mother.” In interviews, such as one Bykov had with Leonid Velekhov for Freedom, Bykov hardly mentions his father but does frequently note that his mother was his main “teacher” in life, whom he believes raised him well.

In 1984, Bykov entered the esteemed faculty of journalism at Moscow State University. Whilst attending university, Bykov began writing for the Soviet weekly publication Interlocutor. Today, he is the creative director and the editor-in-chief of this newspaper.

In 1989, Bykov became an active member of a poetic association called the “Order of Courteous Mannerists,” which strove to mix refinement with cynical humour. In an article for Independent Newspaper journalist and literary critic, Andrey Letanev described the poets’ writing as an “abyss of cynicism and sharp satire hidden behind brilliant courtesy.” In 1991, Bykov graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in journalism. Shortly thereafter, he left the Order of Courteous Mannerists to pursue a career in literature separate from the group.

Throughout the 1990s, Bykov taught the History of Soviet Literature in Moscow’s School No. 1214. He also continued to write for the Interlocutor. During this time he was published in almost all of the weekly and daily newspapers in Moscow, including: Evening Club, Work, New Newspaper, Russian Life, and Profile. Beginning in 1993 Bykov became a regular writer for Little Flame, one of the oldest weekly illustrated literary magazines in Russia.

In 1995 Bykov and writer Alexander Nikonov wrote a humorous April Fool’s article entitled “Mother” containing obscene language for Interlocutor. The article contained the phrase: “It’s high time… Mother, understand Russia with you mind,” which was followed by a crossword puzzle filled with foul language. At the bottom of the page the pair noted: “only with obscenities can one honestly tell our government, our politics, our way of life, and our love.” After the article caused a swirl of controversy and eventually led to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office opening a criminal case of hooliganism against the two. After they were arrested, a public campaign was organized in support of the journalists. Eventually both Bykov and Nikonov were released and the charges against them were dropped.

In 2001, Bykov released his first novel, Justification. In the novel Bykov offers his own fictional version of the past century in Russia: a young man named Rogov looks for information on his grandfather, a victim of Stalin’s terror. In his search, he learns about other interrogations and GULAG imprisonments. Soon he discovers that over time, and repeated mistreatment, the victims became a breed of superhumans –flexible, invincible, and unaffected by heat and cold. Bykov’s Justification uses fiction to delve into a collective guilt about Stalin’s purges and shows that there was no justification for the atrocities that went on in these camps. His debut novel was received positively by critics who were interested in Bykov’s interpretation of repression as something literally taking over victims’ bodies and changing them into an entirely different species of human. Interestingly, this uses a false idea once long-held by soviet geneticists, especially under Stalin, who personally championed it – that an organism’s environment could directly affect an organism’s genetic code. It also references the communist’s long drive to build a new “Soviet man” that would be stronger and smarter than any before. Thus, Bykov’s work drips with ironic references to Soviet ideas of greatness, casting them directly in the context of Soviets’ darkest hours. Today in Russia, Justification has sold close to 25,000 copies.

In 2003, Bykov released his second novel, Orthography. In Bykov’s fiction, after the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks abolish orthography, or the prescribed spelling of a language. The decree sends St. Petersburg philologists in a frenzy, and many of them move down the Neva River and set up a colony, which then struggles with the Bolsheviks. The novel further depicts a series of unpredictable and tragic events in 1918, where the main character Yat is trying to find his place in a rapidly changing world. The novel thus takes the historical event of the Bolshevik’s simplification of Russian spelling and casts it in a grotesque genre. This is made all the more evident by the main character, who shares his name with the Russian “hard sign,” a letter that, while still part of the Russian alphabet, was dropped from most words after the revolution. As Orthography progresses, the reader realizes the novel is not only about rules of writing but is also an allegory for the moral laws which keep a person from becoming a monster.

In Russia, Orthography was warmly received by readers as it has sold over 50,000 copies. The novel was similarly received by critics as well. For example, in an interview with the magazine Freedom, literary critic Boris Paramonov states that Orthography “is taken as a synonym for culture – a system of quite conventional norms, a violation or failure of which leads, however, to social collapse.”

In 2005 Bykov became a national-bestseller with the release of Boris Pasternak. This novel explores the life of Pasternak, a great Russian author, and has now sold over 150,000 copies. In it, Bykov delves into Pasternak’s feelings and emotions in times of joy and heartbreak. The novel provides a new way to look at the novel Doctor Zhivago by exploring Pasternak’s personal life rather than analyzing the novel itself, which played a significant role in Pasternak’s success and notoriety. Critics praised Bykov’s ability to recreate the poet’s emotions, and focus on his inner life, rather than focusing on the mundane cataloguing of days.

Later in 2005, Bykov published the experimental How Putin Became the US President: New Russian Tales. In this collection of political fables, Bykov brings together major modern figures of post-Soviet Russia, like Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Gusinsky, in the genre of satire. The collection depicts Russia as a kingdom with no order, with hungry, barefoot citizens who eventually support a great rebellion that leads to new rulers taking control. This new leadership opens Russia up to the rest of the world and reintroduces Russia to its former enemy, the United States. Critics were interested in Bykov’s witty sense of humor to depict the sometimes sad consequences of the dissolution of the USSR. Some critics, however, found that the novel was not unique in the political satire genre. Despite mixed reception, How Putin Became the US President has sold close to 100,000 copies in Russia alone.

Bykov’s experimentation in satire is highly influenced by the works of Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, known by his penname Nikolai Shchedrin. Shchedrin was a major Russian satirist of the nineteenth century whose first major work Provincial Sketches, brimmed with anti-serfdom pathos and cutting criticism of provincial bureaucracies. Similarly, in How Putin Became the US President, Bykov explores the USSR’s collapse and the resulting relationship between post-Soviet Russia and the United States.

Today, after the 2016 election in the United States of America, the title of Bykov’s collection seems eerily topical to many.

In 2010, Bykov released The Report, a collection of poems and ballads which depicts Bykov’s life, as it was written over a period of 25 years. The poems are sometimes light in tone, but are more often cynical and heavy-handed, as they note changes in Bykov’s life and surroundings. Critics received the collection warmly, observing Bykov’s unique lyricism. Readers too enjoyed the collection, which has sold 50,000 copies in bookstores in Russia.

In February 2011, Bykov created a YouTube show where popular Russian actor, Mikhail Efremov performed Bykov’s satirical poetry verses from The Report. After the YouTube clips became popular, the show was picked up by the television channel Rain and called Citizen and Poet. The television show followed the same format as the YouTube show: Efremov read poems written by Bykov which offered sharp commentary, and often criticism, on Russia’s political and social situation. The poems were modeled on canonical texts by famous Russian poets like Pushkin, as well as English language authors like Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. For example, a poem performed on October 3rd, 2011 mimics a scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In Bykov’s re-imagining, Hamlet is in conversation with his father’s ghost, and the ghost says: “I’m afraid son, after twelve years, the / country here will be purely shadow. / She is already almost in the shadows already.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet depicts a unsavoury political world where deception is used as an important political tool, thus Bykov uses Hamlet to critique Russia’s political situation in the runup to the 2011 elections. The powerful combination of recognizable poems paired with bold political satire made Efremov’s performances quite memorable.

Efremov reciting one of Bykov’s poems.

The sixth season of Citizen and Poet focused on disagreements between the then-Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and then-President Dmitry Medvedev. The CEO of Dozhd, Natalia Sindeeva, chose not to air the show. In response, Efremov and Bykov moved the show back to YouTube, changing its name slightly to Citizen Poet. It was eventually also picked up by Echo of Moscow radio station and played until the end of 2012.

Later in 2011, Bykov released Living Souls, the title of which alludes to Deal Souls by Nikolai Gogol. The novel depicts a futuristic world in which old political and social models are collapsing. In the future, a newly discovered substance has made fossil fuels obsolete, and Russia with them. Russia is torn apart in a civil war between two groups: the Varangians who advocate authoritarian traditionalism, religion, and militarism, and Khazars, who champion secular liberalism, reason, and commerce. The main thesis of the novel is that Russia is caught between two powerful invaders which forces them into cycles of dictatorship and revolution.

In classic Bykov style, history plays an ironic role in Living Souls. The Varangians, a Viking people, and the Khazars, a Turkic people were both once powerful civilizations that did have powerful early influence on Russia. However, neither has existed since at least medieval times. Thus, Russia’s future is spent in a dystopic cycle driven by what are, in fact, forces from its distant past.

Living Souls became the first of Bykov’s novels to be translated from Russian into English. Western critics were divided on the work. Gordon Weetman, writing for Literateur, said that “Living Souls is a sprawling, shapeless book – much like the nation it aims to chronicle” and further that, “sardonic gems are few and far between. All too often, Bykov’s carefully weighted ironies descend into a rant, and his use of free indirect narration […] makes it difficult to tell the numerous characters apart.” On the other hand, Steve Finbow, on his blog Bookmunch called Living Souls a “masterpiece” of “satire and magic realism rolled into one,” and compared Bykov’s novel to the works of Tolstoy, Martin Amis, and Gabriel Marquez. Despite divided reception, the translated book has sold over 20,000 copies to date.

In August 2011, Bykov with various journalists and politicians launched the Nahk-nahk: Vote Against All movement. The group called for a boycott of the December 2011 elections, calling them “illegitimate” because of the suppression of non-systematic opposition and the lack of political freedom in Russia. Bykov chose the symbol of the movement from a virtual character, a pig called Nakh-Nakh. For Russians the pig evokes the fable of the Three Little Pigs hunted by The Big Bad Wolf, and who simply wants the wolf to go away.

During those elections, young middle-class Russians used their cellphones to document and circulate election violations in real time. This resulted in the largest protest movement in Russia since 1991. Several massive rallies, eventually growing to tens of thousands were held, calling for new elections. In a rally on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, Bykov urged a diverse crowd of 30,000-50,000 protestors, with differing political views, to unite in a peaceful struggle for political change, which the writer also called “inevitable.”

In January 2012, Bykov, together with Gregory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin), Leonid Parfenov, Rustem Adagamov, Ilya Varlamov, Yury Shevchuk, and Olga Romanova founded the League of Voters, which was envisaged as a continuation of the protest movement. The goal of the League was defined as “ensuring transparency of elections and the wide publicity of any violations.”

Bykov dreamed that a new political party, representing the interests of the middle class, would be birthed from the League. The other founders of the league, however, did not share the same interest in being directly involved in politics. Both Parfenov and Adagamov for instance, preferred to stay out of politics which meant Bykov’s dream was not actualized.

In the Spring of 2012, after multiple protests resulted in arrests, Boris Akunin contacted Bykov to participate in a “writers’ walk” in Moscow, to see, as Akunin put it, “if Muscovites had enough freedom to gather in a large group.” On May 13th, 2012 the Writers’ Walk was attended by thousands of supporters, Bykov included.

In October of 2012, Bykov was elected one of the 45 members of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition. The opposition planned to use these elections to form a legitimate body for negotiations with the authorities, in hopes of developing a program for their further actions… However, the popularity of the protests diminished due to the fact that little tangible change was achieved.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sasha Razor asked if Bykov would prefer to be remembered as a novelist, a biographer, a poet, a journalist, a professor of literature or a radio host, to which Bykov replied: “poetry is considered a prestigious occupation in Russia, because a poet is a prophet, a pillar of civic disobedience […]. Therefore, I prefer to consider myself a poet.” Bykov certainly has left a lasting legacy in not only poetry, but also in his poetic language and his trademark use of using history presented in ironic forms. Today he has written 18 collections of poetry, as well as 15 works of fiction and nonfiction. His unique voice is one commonly associated with Russia’s liberal opposition and calls for change in Russia.

Rocky and Bullwinkle: Boris hates Rocky and Bullwinkle with a burning passion, due to them constantly getting in his way. Unless ordered otherwise, he will try to kill them at every opportunity.

Natasha: Natasha is Boris' partner, and he thinks fondly of her. However, he tends to give her the hard work whenever possible. In some adaptions, they are implied to be in a romantic relationship.

Fearless Leader: Boris, like most Pottsylvanians, is afraid of Fearless Leader and obeys him out of this fear. However, Boris holds no loyalty towards him, and has attempted to double cross him multiple times. Boris and Natasha have both trash-talked Fearless Leader behind his back.

Theodore Decker

Boris and Theo are best friends almost from the very moment of their meeting. They bond over their unstable home lives, their troubled pasts and inconsistent conditions. They look after each other the best they can as young teens. Later on, as adults, Boris does everything in his power to set things right with his old friend.

Volodymyr Pavlikovsky

Boris has a troubled relationship with his father, including abuse and neglect. Boris's mother, his father's second wife, d

Early career [ edit ]

Bykov graduated from Commanders' Upgrading Training School of Razvedupr of the Red Army Staff in 1929. He received further training at the Red Army Military Academy of Chemical Defense, the Military-Industrial Department (September 1932 - February 1935), and the Red Army Stalin Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization. As he was fluent in German, Bykov served as an Officer of Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) from 1920-1941, working in Germany. In 1928 Bykov became the section chief of the 2nd Department of the Razvedupr later he was appointed Assistant Chief of the 2nd Department of the Razvedupr.

Early career

Bykov graduated from Commanders' Upgrading Training School of Razvedupr of the Red Army Staff in 1929. He received further training at the Red Army Military Academy of Chemical Defense, the Military-Industrial Department (September 1932 - February 1935), and the Red Army Stalin Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization. As he was fluent in German, Bykov served as an Officer of Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) from 1920-1941, working in Germany. In 1928 Bykov became the section chief of the 2nd Department of the Razvedupr later he was appointed Assistant Chief of the 2nd Department of the Razvedupr.


Boris's cooking videos remain a much popular part of his channel. He knows much about the Russian cuisine as seen in his videos. But his cooking style becomes weird sometimes (for example- using sledge hammer, chainsaw etc).

Some of the foods made by him are:

    (a deep-fried turnover with a filling of ground or minced meat and onions) (a fermented non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverage commonly made from rye bread) (a rice dish made with spices, vegetables or meat) (a soup of meat and vegetables usually seasoned with paprika and other spices) (a non-alcoholic sweet beverage) (a gelatin dish made with a meat stock) (a thick, spicy and sour soup) (a sour soup) (a layered salad composed of diced pickled herring covered with various ingredients)

Boris Akunin: the evolution of Russia’s dissident detective novelist into a master historian

This month, Grigory Chkhartishvili, who writes under the pseudonym Boris Akunin, will bid farewell to Erast Fandorin, the ingenious sleuth he created for the detective novels that have made him one of Russia’s most well-known writers. The last book featuring Fandorin, ironically titled Not Saying Goodbye, is set to be published on February 8, exactly 20 years to the day after the release of The Winter Queen, the first Fandorin novel. Fans of the eccentric detective will finally be able to find out whether he will be killed off — or will live happily ever after.

Whatever Fandorin’s fate, the character is inextricably associated with Chkhartishvili. Millions of Fandorin books in dozens of languages have been sold over the course of two decades, making the 61-year old Chkhartishvili famous and wealthy.

There is “a bit of sadness”, the author admits, at the prospect of leaving behind Fandorin and the stylised tsarist-era world he inhabits. But he says “relief” is the overwhelming emotion. “I have outgrown this game. I am motivated by other interests now,” he says in an email exchange, his preferred way of giving interviews.

described Akunin’s history as “folk-history” written “by a dilettante for dilettantes”.

Chkhartishvili is unapologetic. He cheerfully admits he is not a professional historian — maintaining that is the whole point — and mocks the naysayers as unable to see the wood from the trees. Indeed, he does nothing to hide his own ambitions and embraces a comparison with Nikolai Karamzin, the most famous Russian historian of the 19th century, who started out as a poet. Chkhartishvili’s History of the Russian State has almost exactly the same name as Karamzin’s 12-volume work.

By his own admission, Chkhartishvili’s history is carefully structured: we are currently seeing, he says, the Russian state’s sixth iteration — the fifth being the Soviet Union and the first the 10th-century kingdom of Kiev Rus. But schematism is combined with a lightness of touch and sense of mischief. To find an example you have to look no further than the front cover: the title, The History of the Russian State, is juxtaposed with his pseudonym, Boris Akunin, an obvious reference to 19th-century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, a sworn enemy of states in general, and the the Russian state in particular.

Every attempt to make Russia a freer country inevitably ended in another, often worse, form of unfreedom. Is there something wrong with Russia and Russians, I started to ask myself?

Chkhartishvili has not given up literature: each volume of history is accompanied by a book of fiction set in the same period, giving the project a more playful feel, and perhaps helping it sell better. Alongside the volume about Kievan Rus and the origins of the Russian state, for example, he has written a trilogy of novellas: The Flaming Finger, The Spit of the Devil and Prince Cranberry. But despite the constant switching between history and literature, Chkhartishvili says he has two separate approaches. “In a sense these two genres are opposite,” he explains. “When writing, say, a novel or a play you can never be direct with your message – or you’ll dilute it. The right way to hit the target is to be like Chekhov. You write about some silly cherry orchard that’s due to be cut down, and your reader sighs and thinks: ‘why am I wasting my life?’ But this approach wouldn’t work with history. You have to be as clear as possible.”

Just like his Fandorin novels, Chkhartishvili’s volumes of history have been popular with readers, often topping weekly bestseller lists in Russia. They have not yet, however, been translated into English — although Chkhartishvili says a condensed one-volume history might appear in due course.

But where did his preoccupation come from? Chkhartishvili’s fascination with history did not emerge out of nowhere: it has been closely tied up with his political activism, which was born during the anti-Putin movement in Moscow during 2011 and 2012 (the first volume of his histories was published in 2013). Chkhartishvili was closely involved in street rallies, sometimes addressing the crowd from the stage, and in 2012 even led his own “writer’s walk” with authors Dmitry Bykov and Lyudmilla Ulitskaya, which was attended by thousands of supporters. But the anti-Putin movement fizzled out later that year amid a Kremlin crackdown and a failure to achieve any concrete change. Chkhartishvili left Russia after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, amid growing nationalism and what he describes as intolerable “ugliness.”

“I began to feel that I do not understand my own country,” says Chkhartishvili of the decision to write history. “I saw how Russia got rid of totalitarianism in 1991 – and then how it started to create another version of an unfree society. I knew from history that similar things had happened before. Every attempt to make Russia a freer country inevitably ended in another, often worse, form of unfreedom. Is there something wrong with Russia and Russians, I started to ask myself?”

Although he describes himself as an expat (rather than an emigre), Chkhartishvili has not returned to Russia since 2014. The author, who wears full-moon glasses and has a something of an owlish air, currently divides his time between the United Kingdom, France and Spain. Flitting between countries and cultures is something he has been doing his whole life. Born in Georgia, he learned Japanese in Moscow and spent years working as a Russian-Japanese translator before becoming a detective fiction writer (readers of the Fandorin books are very familiar with Chkhartishvili’s love of Japanese culture). In December, he took a month off writing to learn Spanish. Geography, he says, defines his writing habits. “I am very surrounding-dependent,” he explains. “London is ideal for writing non-fiction, the north of France — for serious fiction, the south of Spain — for hilarious adventure novels.”

London is ideal for writing non-fiction, the north of France — for serious fiction, the south of Spain — for hilarious adventure novels

Despite culture-hopping, Chkhartishvili remains closely tied to Russia. He says he would never attempt to write fiction in a language other than Russian, and last year he was one of a group of experts who drafted a political programme for Kremlin-critic Alexey Navalny ahead of Russia’s presidential elections in March.

Chkhartishvili maintains his history is “non-ideological” — but discussions about the past have increasingly become a proxy for political debates in contmporary Russia, for both supporters of the regime and their opponents. Officials pronounce on the merits of past leaders, from Stalin to Ivan the Terrible, and monuments are erected, or toppled according to the ideological demands of the moment.

Unlike many in the Kremlin, Chkhartishvili rejects the notion of a “European” origin for the Russian state, instead locating its beginnings in the “Asian” political traditions imported under the Mongols. “The Russian state was built in the second half of the 15th century (not in ninth like they taught me at school) according to rules of statesmanship devised by Ghenghis Khan. And no Russian ruler, no revolution or reform has ever seriously tried to remake that original layout,” he says. Two of the “indestructible” cornerstones of this Mongol state, which survived through tsarist rule and communism, he says, are an absolute centralisation of power and the sacralisation of the ruler.

Though it has persisted for half a millennium, Chkhartishvili does not see this type of Russia government as inevitable. “There are two ways of ruling such a diverse and immense territory,” he says. “One is the Ghengisian state, totally centralised and autocratic. This method has been tested and found wanting. The other is to remodel Russia into a real federation united by a common purpose.”

It’s hard not to see Chkhartishvili’s history writing project as an attempt to nudge his homeland towards the latter.

Watch the video: Один. Дмитрий Быков.