When AH Becomes Propaganda: A Vile Tale of Chickenhawk Russian AH writers in East Ukraine

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Greg Grant, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. Greg Grant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2007
    This may not be the appropriate forum or subforum for it, and if so I apologize, but in my defense, everyone I am about to discuss is a published AH writer and I have written about some of their works in the past in this very subforum. What I am about to write is true, real and (for the most part) verifiable.

    I am fluent in Russian. That is, I can read and speak it at about a university student level. I speak it far less these days then when I was in college, but I try to read it every chance I can. I read articles, novels and textbooks. Given I am an AH fan, I also read Russian AH when possible. I have written in this forum on the phenomena here before, and talked of the strain of militarism with in it. What I had not realized at the time was how miraculously timely some of the authors were on the topic of Ukraine.

    For eight to five years prior to the outbreak of civil war in Ukraine, a small but quite visible segment of Russian AH writers would set their tales in Ukraine. This in it of itself is not unusual, but what is unusual how consistent they were in their tales: all authors presaged a Ukrainian Civil War with NATO backed Western Ukrainians rampaging against peaceful Russian speaking folk in East Ukraine, who could takes no more and rose up against the foreign invaders and with the fraternal assistance of Mother Russia finally managed to throw off the yoke of the hated foe. What is also rather curious that all of these writers belonged to the same imprint of the same publisher: Yauza, founded in 1993, and whose company's mission statement is to, and I translate now, verbatim: "to bring militarily-patriotic spirit into the education of the next generation of Russia." For those wishing to translate better on their own, here's how that reads in original: "воспитание военно-патриотического духа в подрастающем поколении России." The imprint started life by stamping out PG-rated tales of daring-do from World War Two featuring young protagonists killing Nazis, branched off into military biographies of great Russian generals who killed a lot of Nazis, then transitioned into memories of men who killed Nazis and finally settled on stories of modern day patriotic Russians falling into the past and ending up in World War 2 Soviet Union, where they (you guessed it) killed Nazis. But among these Nazi killing books soon appeared more contemporary AH and future-history, all centered on a conflict between Russia and NATO, or Britain, or France, or all three. The standout author of the imprint was Fedor Berezin, about whom more than one user has posted in this very forum, so I will not spend much time on him, except to re-iterate that if you never had a chance to read his novels, picture the worst far-right, irredentist, cringe-inducing claptrap ever spewed and add exclamation points at the end of each sentence.

    But while Berezin is by far and away the biggest star of the imprint, others swim in his wake and have made literary careers out of it. Among them: Gleb Bobrov, Aleksandr Kontorovich and Lev Vershinin. Today I wish to shine a spotlight on Mr. Bobrov, who has become a star in his own right. First, a cover from his 2008 AH novellette about a (then) future-war in Ukraine:

    [​IMG]

    The granite jawed Russian lad in camouflage is pistol whipping a Ukrainian caricature. The unfortunate fellow not only has decided to get a Ukrainian Cossack haircut (one long forelock, all the rest shaved off, a hairstyle as popular and timely in Ukraine these days as Scottish nationalist in 2017 painting their face blue in honor of Mel Gibson in "Braveheart"), has Ukrainian colors (blue and yellow) on the band over the fallen helmet and even went to the trouble of getting a Ukrainian symbol (trident) on the right sleeve. It is the equivalent of a parent of newborn swaddling their infant in pink to avoid anyone coming up to them at a party and going, "oh he looks like a lovely boy... oh, it's a girl... ah, I couldn't tell."

    When the Ukrainian Civil War became reality rather than just future-history, Mr. Bobrov was as delighted as a fourteen year old discovering his parents did not realize tumblr has pornographic sites and forgot to block them. He quickly volunteered to be the head of propaganda for one of the many newly minted breakaway Russian government backed "republic" in East Ukraine: The People's Republic of Luhansk. Then again, he had a leg up on the competition, he actually lives in Luhansk. He became the head of their literary union, edited their magazine and official government newspaper and also recently edited an anthology of the experiences of the separatists under the heading "New Russians Fight Back!" Yes, the exclamation mark is in the title.

    Not to be outshone, his one time patron, Mr. Berezin volunteered his services to the other breakaway republic: People's Republic of Donetsk, where in addition to being named head of their literary union (take that Bobrov), he also got named Deputy Minister to the Commandant of the Ministry of Defense for Procurement. Which kind of makes him the Alan Clark of the tiny republic, minus the charm or literary skill but with more fascism. And, unlike Bobrov, he was made a Deputy in the Union of New Russia (the confederacy of dunces that is the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk). This is the flag of said union:

    [​IMG]

    No, I am not making that up. That is the official flag of the Confederacy of New-Russia (click the link). This is not a joke. They literally picked that flag and are quite proud of it.

    For a little less than a decade, these men beat the drum of war in Ukraine under the guise of AH fiction. For over eight years, these men made a concerted effort to promote an ethnic conflict in East Ukraine where Russian speaking "natives" beat back the "West" Ukrainian speakers would roll back the frontiers of Ukraine and fold East Ukraine into a "natural" union with Russia. And they were far from alone. My research, and that of Russian journalists, found other AH Russian authors who are now wearing military uniforms despite never once firing a shot in the heat of battle and strutting about East Ukraine wearing medals for spewing hate and propaganda. They got their wish. They got their ethnic war and they got to look like prophets. And they used the medium of AH to achieve their means.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
    John Farson, JALC, Jape and 28 others like this.
  2. Aqua817 The Means of Production

    Joined:
    May 11, 2014
    Location:
    Naw'taest Gawijah, Trau Comfeherratcy
    Novorussoya shall rise again!
    Gone with the Winter
    Slavs and bars

    But on a more serious note, this was a really informative post about something that seems to have begun to fade from American consciousnesses. Its a shame that they've "used their powers for evil" so to speak. Hopefully stuff ends up working out for the good.
     
  3. KuboCaskett Resident Japanophile

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    Location:
    Indiana, USA
    While I'm not sure if calling them "far-right/fascist" would be fitting but I am disappointed that the AH genre is being exploited for propagandistic purposes; I sure hate to see what the contents of that book you featured are like.
     
    Petike likes this.
  4. Suvareshkin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Pretty sure that flag is based off the Russian naval ensign, and has no connection to the Confederates.
     
    JALC, Thon Taddeo, Damian0358 and 5 others like this.
  5. Iluvatar The British

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2016
    Location:
    Kent, England, United Kingdom
    Wait, Russia has AH/FH about a war between it and Britain? Is it like some techno-Second Crimean War or something? Sounds interesting.
     
  6. okami New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Fedor Berezin,Gleb Bobrov, and Lev Vershinin are ukranian writers. Berezin living in Donetsk, Bobrov living in Luhansk, Vershinin living in Odessa.
     
  7. Greg Grant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2007
    I apologize for not clarifying that bit, but the anti-Ukrainian agitprop in these books is invariably sandwiched between screeds against "Anglo-French liberalism" and "failings of democracy."

    I'll spot you the blue St. Andrew's cross as it is part of the ensign and is considered an imperial Russian standard, but the field of red... calling shenanigans on that. "Gone with the Wind" was beloved in the Soviet Union and I read at least two Russian ASB AHs featuring Russian ex-special-forces lads falling back in time to fight Yankee "Reich" side by side with Confeds. Viktor Polyakov's "Kondeferat" series is the one that springs to mind.

    The concept is interesting, the cover art is lurid, but the actual exercise is awful. There are four sub-genres at play.

    1. Right thinking modern day Russian ex-special forces lads (please note, they are ex-special forces modern day lads 65% of the time, 20% of the time they are World War 2 soldiers who fall further into the past, and the other 15% are modern day hardcore re-enactors that just happen to re-enact the time period into which they fall) fall back into the past in 1812 and decide to kick the shit out of Napoleon and then, kick the shit out of Britain too, because screw it! Cover art of WW2 lads who fell back into time and decided to ruin Napoleon's day worse than OTL (from anthology series):

    [​IMG]

    2. Right thinking modern day Russian ex-special forces lads fall back in time and kick the crap out of the Frenchies, but make them realize the real enemy is Britain! They form a kick-ass alliance and kick much ass. Britain is overwhelmed, the Empire is dismembered and Russia reigns supreme.

    3. Right thinking modern day Russian ex-special forces lads go into North America of 1790s and kick the shit out of anyone speaking English and make Russia kick ass and reign supreme. Cover art (from an audio version of a long running series):

    [​IMG]

    4. Future History. Right thinking Russian politicians guided by right thinking Russian lads challenge the hated British led NATO in Ukraine and roll back Ukraine and humiliate Britain and (sometimes) invade England.


    I do not disagree with you, but pretty sure if you were to ask these men to classify themselves, they would not self-identify as Ukrainian. If pressed, and with the cameras rolling or a newspaperman standing near them, they would identify with their breakaway republics. Well, Berezin and Bobrov, at least. I have no idea what Vershinin would say, because I get the feeling Vershinin does not know what Vershinin would say when the cameras are rolling.
     
  8. tus3 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2016
    Russian Leeaboo's? Now I feel like if I have seen everything.
    Is there any ideological similarities which made them like the CSA, or is it only based on a hatred of the 'Yankees'?
     
    cpip and CaliBoy1990 like this.
  9. New Cleo Genesis Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2013
    Now "Leeaboo" is a term I've never seen before. I wonder, where does it stem from?
     
    CaliBoy1990 likes this.
  10. Suvareshkin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    [​IMG]
    The official Russian naval jack.
     
    RGB likes this.
  11. InfernoMole Putin/Medvedev 2020!

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2016
    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    You forgot the broad "sub-genre" where not so right thinking Russian lads and other odd characters end up in wholly different worlds, usually those of fantasy.

    Or worse.

    [​IMG]

    Either way, modern Russian "science fiction" and fantasy tend to be surprisingly varied in their kinds of crap, which you can see here (as long as you know Russian).

    Also, it should be noted that most authors of Russian ASB AHs tend to have little to no historical knowledge and an irrational hatred of liberals, as seen here (in which a Chechen War vet in the body of Alexander III allies himself with Confeds several decades after their downfall, breaks the Polish jackal's teeth, even though the Polish jackal is already under the Russian yoke, and rekts Britain) and here (in which a Russian expeditionary force led by Suvorov goes to British America to crush a rebellion of "liberals and Voltaireans", directly going against Catherine the Great's interests).
     
    Petike, JALC, Asp and 4 others like this.
  12. Iluvatar The British

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2016
    Location:
    Kent, England, United Kingdom
    While I approve of the first clause, the second is rather less appealing to an Englishman!

    Odd, since IOTL it was the French that tried to make the Russians see that 'the real enemy is Britain' in 1812. No accounting for hindsight, I suppose.

    A dystopia indeed!

    Wait, 'British led'? What happened to America, did they hermetically seal the Great Wall of Trump or something? :p

    Let them try :rolleyes:
     
  13. tus3 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2016
    It stems from general Lee.
    Or at least that was what I assumed when I saw it for the first time being used a term to refer to CSA fanboys.
     
  14. New Cleo Genesis Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2013
    Hmm, guess that makes sense.
     
  15. Octosteel Disciple of Ye

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Location:
    Rust Bucket, Pennsylvania
    Russian cinema and TV also seems pretty propagandic at times with a lot of really unrealistic WWII shows or movies with killing lots of Nazis. There's even a movie about modern day people being sent back to WWII to go shoot Nazis.
     
    John Farson, Petike and Greg Grant like this.
  16. Greg Grant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2007
    Pure stone cold Yankee hatred and love of Gone With The Wind. Although one author tried to explain it thus: "of course you will be on the side of people who oppose bankers!" That one hurt my brain to decipher.

    Oh this. That was glorious. The timetravelling tale and it's sequel was just pure cheese.
     
    Petike and CaliBoy1990 like this.
  17. InfernoMole Putin/Medvedev 2020!

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2016
    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    ...if only because the resulting Russia, given how such authors tend to roll, is ruled by ultraconservative tsarists.

    Oh, and STALIN. Few Russian ASB AH books go without STALIN.
     
    Petike and Greg Grant like this.
  18. Octosteel Disciple of Ye

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Location:
    Rust Bucket, Pennsylvania
    It's kind of hard not to have Stalin when he basically was Russia during this time period.
     
    CaliBoy1990 likes this.
  19. KuboCaskett Resident Japanophile

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    Location:
    Indiana, USA
    What the heck is that called? It looks like the cover to some Evangelion ripoff or some Last Action Hero-esque shenanigans where the dude obviously is from our world that got sucked into the anime-ish world. If it was trying to be a "parody" of Evangelion then it fails because the dude's shirt obviously has Eva stuff on it, unaltered.
     
    Petike and cpip like this.
  20. InfernoMole Putin/Medvedev 2020!

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2016
    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    It's not even a ripoff, pal. Another's Life is literally about a guy ending up in the world of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In a way, it's a glorified fanfic.
     
    Petike likes this.