Magazine article World Literature Today

Tanjas Gata: Rysk Vardag 1917-2017

Magazine article World Literature Today

Tanjas Gata: Rysk Vardag 1917-2017

Article excerpt

Kalle Kniivilä Tanjas gata: Rysk vardag 1917-2017 Stockholm. Atlas. 2017. 279 pages.

Tanjas gata: Rysk vardag 1917-2017 (Tanya's street: Everyday life in Russia, 1917- 2017) is the fourth volume in a quartet of books about contemporary Russia and its roots in the Soviet Union. In all of them, the analysis is illuminated by records of interviews with ordinary Russians and of their writing. Tanjas gata is set apart by its greater historical reach-in it, Kalle Kniivilä attempts an overview of an entire century of complex and violent change. In a characteristic move, he frames his narrative within a modest street in St. Petersburg: "Tanya's street is barely 1,500 meters long yet encompasses the history of both the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. The extraordinary fates of ordinary people over the past century."

Tanya Savityeva's family ran a bakery in the street until the Wehrmacht encircled the city in 1941 and kept it under siege for two and a half years. Most of them had starved to death when Tanya wrote in her diary: "Mother, on 13 May in the morning 1942. The Savityevs are dead. All have died. Only Tanya is left." Two years later, starvation had killed her, too, at the age of fourteen. The stories of the Savityevs and their neighbors are told in a sequence of chapters, each devoted to a decade between 1917, the year of the revolution, and 2017, a year when the great leader of Russia is (still) a boy from Tanya's street-Vladimir Putin. Only one chapter is allowed to break the orderly sequence: "1942. …

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