ONE HUNDRED YEARS IN FIVE HUNDRED PAGES

Thursday, 08 June 2017 06:45

Having written about the Russian Revolution’s fiftieth anniversary along with her husband, Achala Moulik returns to the subject to mark its centenary. Aakriti Narang reports

Achala Moulik has been fascinated with Russia as a country ever since the age of seven. This passion of hers, as expressed through the numerous books she has written about its culture, allowed her to receive the Sergei Yesenin Prize in 2013 for promoting Russian literature. Speaking about her interest in Russia and its history, Moulik gives credit to the man who wrote what is now sung as our national anthem. “Rabrindranath Tagore acted as my introduction to Russia at the age of seven, which was sixty five years ago. From then on I felt fascinated by this country. Tagore had wished that India should be like Russia. He had fallen in love with Soviet Russia. In his works, he would express his sadness about how Indians are so poor, uneducated and oppressed. His books are written so beautifully and in such chaste Bengali that even a seven-year-old could, excluding the understanding of the philosophical aspect, read it.”

On June 6, the Embassy of the Russian Federation held the launch of Achala Moulik’s latest novel called The Russian Revolution and Storms Across a Century 1917 –2017, which marks the centenary of this epochal event. The book launch took place in the presence of the Charges d’Affaires Anatoly Kargapolov, Achala Moulik, JNU Professor Arun Mohanty and retired Amassador to Russia K Raghunath. The book is dedicated to Alexander M Kadakin, late Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India who died on January 26, 2017.

The book is centred on the Russian Revolution. “The book talks about the revolution’s impact and how it had changed Russian society, literature and music. It deals with how the revolution had an impact on the Western world, how the Western world had started devising its own socialist society as well as the introduction of the welfare state. The revolution’s impact on the non-Western world had resulted in the retreat of the empires. They knew they could no longer retain their control. Additionally, old doctrines such as Asians being inferior to people from the West and the white man’s burden had been smashed. Despite what many people believe, the Russian Revolution was a liberating movement and as such it should not be trivialised. It gave self respect and dignity to the people who had been ruled for three centuries. That’s why I think it was such an inspiring event.”

This is not the first book that Moulik has written on the Russian Revolution. In fact, she tells us, “I have written about Russian society and literature on the revolution’s fiftieth anniversary as well. At that time, I was just newly married and very young. My husband and I had agreed that we will both jointly write another book on the centenary if we stay around that long. He passed away so I had to do the work myself.” For this book, however, she has drawn material from things that she had written earlier on Russian literature, music and art. Therefore, it took her about three years to write it.

One third of the book deals with the post-Soviet state of Russia. It covers the dismantling of the Soviet Union and what happened afterwards. “This was difficult to write as I didn’t wish to offend my Russian friends. The dismantling of the Soviet Union led to so many bad things. In particular, it led to the creation of a unipolar world. Today, West Asia is in flames because the world that we are living in is unipolar. Afghanistan and Iraq were torn to bits. Mr. Putin said that the end of the Soviet Union was a disaster. Indeed, it was a disaster for many people. There was no balance of power left,” she concludes.

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