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* Named a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker and TIME * A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice *
“A haunting book of rare courage.” —Clarissa Ward, CNN chief international correspondent and author of On All Fronts
To be a journalist is to tell the truth. I Love Russia is Elena Kostyuchenko’s unrelenting attempt to document her country as experienced by those whom it systematically and brutally erases: village girls recruited into sex work, queer people in the outer provinces, patients and doctors at a Ukrainian maternity ward, and reporters like herself.
Here is Russia as it is, not as we imagine it. The result is a singular portrait of a nation, and of a young woman who refuses to be silenced. In March 2022, as a correspondent for Russia’s last free press, Novaya Gazeta, Kostyuchenko crossed the border into Ukraine to cover the war. It was her mission to ensure that Russians witnessed the horrors Putin was committing in their name. She filed her pieces knowing that should she return home, she would likely be prosecuted and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. Yet, driven by the conviction that the greatest form of love and patriotism is criticism, she continues to write.
I Love Russia stitches together reportage from the past fifteen years with personal essays, assembling a kaleidoscopic narrative that Kostyuchenko understands may be the last work from her homeland that she’ll publish for a long time—perhaps ever. It exposes the inner workings of an entire nation as it descends into fascism and, inevitably, war. She writes because the threat of Putin’s Russia extends beyond herself, beyond Crimea, and beyond Ukraine. We fail to understand it at our own peril.
About the Author
Elena Kostyuchenko was born in Yaroslavl, Russia in 1987. She began working as a journalist when she was fourteen, and spent seventeen years reporting for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s last major independent newspaper until it was shut down in the spring of 2022 in response to her reporting from Ukraine. She is the author of two books published in Russian, Unwanted on Probation and We Have to Live Here, and the recipient of the European Press Prize, the Gerd Bucerius Award, and the Paul Klebnikov Prize.
Bela Shayevich is a Soviet American writer and translator. She is best known for her translation of 2015 Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time,for which she was awarded the TA First Translation Prize. Her other translations include Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Vsevolod Nekrasov’s I Live I See, which she cotranslated with Ainsley Morse. Her writing has appeared in n+1, Jewish Currents, and Harper’s Magazine.
Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse was born in Soviet Belarus. She has translated three novels by Yuri Rytkheu, including most recently When the Whales Leave, Aleksandr Skorobogatov’s Russian Gothic, and Galina Scherbakova’s short stories for the Dedalus anthology Slav Sisters, as well as The Village at the Edge of Noon by Darya Bobyleva. She lives in London.
“Defined by trauma and disorientation, hardiness and resolve . . . a wrenching and visceral text whose details almost seem to waft off the page. . . [Kostyuchenko] filed dispatches on Russia’s occupation and bombardment of Ukraine’s southern cities, bracing accounts laced with a sense of guilt and the utter futility of that guilt . . . Kostyuchenko’s writings are also a personal reckoning, an attempt to work through how she missed—or, rather, failed to adequately react to—Russia’s descent into fascism.” —The New Yorker, Best Books of 2023 (Essential Read)
“A stunning collection . . . [Kostyuchenko] has been assaulted, arrested, and, she writes, nearly killed in retribution for criticizing her country . . . a portrait of a country falling ever deeper into fascism. She says this vital read will be the last book she ever publishes.” —Shannon Carlin, TIME, 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
“Jaw-dropping . . . her style of brave, intimate reporting is likely to be a rarity in Russia for years to come.” —Valerie Hopkins, New York Times Book Review
“[With] selfless courage and uncompromising journalistic style . . . Kostyuchenko describes the personal, social, and political environment of modern Russia . . . a convincing rebuttal of Russian nationalist self-perception and propaganda.” —Jon Tell and Balthazar de Robiano, Jacobin
“Kostyuchenko did not lose her desire to write about the truth . . . a mosaic of vivid short stories about the Russians she grew up with, the people she met on assignments, and discovering her sexual orientation and coming out. She writes as if the reader is there with her witnessing the scene.” —Heather Cassell, The Bay Area Reporter
“The story of [Kostyuchenko’s] own life is the story of the Russia that was decisively lost in February 2022 . . . Even in writing, she’s cool about her exposure to violence, making the choice to endanger her life sound as banal as the choice to wake up in the morning . . . Her motivation, as ever, is the love she feels for her place of origin.” —Signe Swanson, The Cleveland Review of Books
“I Love Russia, while true to its name, holds that the greatest form of patriotism is criticism. It’s a mixture of Kostyuchenko’s reporting—on the 2014 war in Donbas, Ukraine, the contract killing of six of her colleagues, the Russian government’s grim denial of the fighting in Donetsk in 2012—and her deeply personal essays . . . makes a point to foreground the overlooked and oppressed.” —TIME, Best Books of October
“Part memoir, part anthology of her fearless reporting . . . shocking and moving . . . gritty insider’s take.” —Matthew Campell, Sunday Times, Book of the Week (UK)
“Brilliant and immersive . . . brave and luminous . . . Kostyuchenko’s fearless coverage of the war in Ukraine speaks for itself . . . She argues that to love one’s country—truly, deeply—is to view it critically, through a harsh and unblinking gaze.” —Luke Harding, The Guardian (UK)
“Bold, revelatory . . . eschews the usual authoritative voices, and instead speaks to people who have been erased . . . remarkable, courageous first-person journalism.”—Jane Graham, Big Issue (UK)
“Sharp-edged . . . harrowing . . . With gritty determination, she ventures beyond the Kremlin and its state-managed propaganda . . . Kostyuchenko’s journalistic integrity is unquestionable and the dangers she faces are very real. It’s a vivid and poignant account.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Intimately, disturbingly detailed . . . important. A deeply felt, fractured collection reveals a fractured, benumbed society.” —Kirkus
“Would you like to know where Putin comes from? What the Russians are like today? And why? Read this book. For years, the author has been keeping a diary of the soul of her people, with love and with hate. Scientists claim that there is no place in the body where the soul resides. So where is it then? The author goes to homes and schools, sits at weddings and celebrations, asking about love and hate, children and parents. We get to see the rise of the monster that now leaves its footprints in Kyiv, Bucha, and Irpin — and how it forces the whole world to fear the future.” —Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of Secondhand Time
“Elena Kostyuchenko is an important guide to the twenty-first century. She exemplifies all the reportorial virtues, from physical courage through careful prose. The Russia she recounts here is the Russia we need to understand.” —Timothy Snyder, author of The Road to Unfreedom
“A haunting book of rare courage. Kostyuchenko’s searing reportage takes the reader under the skin of a Russia that few outsiders get to see. With spare, unflinching prose she lays bare the cynicism and corruption, but also the bravery and heart, of her beloved country.” —Clarissa Ward, CNN chief international correspondent and author of On All Fronts
“Not only does Kostyuchenko find her way into the very darkness, she goes for its blackest corners. . . . The good news that emerges is her talent. Read her. It’s worth it.” —Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
“A fascinating, frightening, compulsively readable chronicle of life in Putin’s Russia. As a girl, Elena Kostyuchenko wanted to believe in her country; as a journalist she has dedicated her life to exposing its darkness. Her prose is haunting, edgy, searing. Her stories are unforgettable, and deeply important.” —Carol Off, author of The Lion, the Fox, and the Eagle and former host of CBC As It Happens