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Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule. After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of the survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule. After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of the survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Italian graphic novelist Igort was compelled to illuminate two shadowy moments in recent history: the Ukraine famine and the assassination of a Russian journalist. Now he brings those stories to new life with in-depth reporting and deep compassion. In The Russian Notebooks, Igort investigates the murder of award-winning journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkoyskaya. Anna spoke out frequently against the Second Chechen War, criticizing Vladimir Putin. For her work, she was detained, poisoned, and ultimately murdered. Igort follows in her tracks, detailing Anna’s assassination and the stories of abuse, murder, abduction, and torture that Russia was so desperate to censor. In The Ukrainian Notebooks, Igort reaches further back in history and illustrates the events of the 1932 Holodomor. Little known outside of the Ukraine, the Holodomor was a government-sanctioned famine, a peacetime atrocity during Stalin’s rule that killed anywhere from 1.8 to twelve million ethnic Ukrainians. Told through interviews with the people who lived through it, Igort paints a harrowing picture of hunger and cruelty under Soviet rule. With elegant brush strokes and a stark color palette, Igort has transcribed the words and emotions of his subjects, revealing their intelligence, humanity, and honesty—and exposing the secret world of the former USSR.


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Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule. After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of the survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule. After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of the survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Italian graphic novelist Igort was compelled to illuminate two shadowy moments in recent history: the Ukraine famine and the assassination of a Russian journalist. Now he brings those stories to new life with in-depth reporting and deep compassion. In The Russian Notebooks, Igort investigates the murder of award-winning journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkoyskaya. Anna spoke out frequently against the Second Chechen War, criticizing Vladimir Putin. For her work, she was detained, poisoned, and ultimately murdered. Igort follows in her tracks, detailing Anna’s assassination and the stories of abuse, murder, abduction, and torture that Russia was so desperate to censor. In The Ukrainian Notebooks, Igort reaches further back in history and illustrates the events of the 1932 Holodomor. Little known outside of the Ukraine, the Holodomor was a government-sanctioned famine, a peacetime atrocity during Stalin’s rule that killed anywhere from 1.8 to twelve million ethnic Ukrainians. Told through interviews with the people who lived through it, Igort paints a harrowing picture of hunger and cruelty under Soviet rule. With elegant brush strokes and a stark color palette, Igort has transcribed the words and emotions of his subjects, revealing their intelligence, humanity, and honesty—and exposing the secret world of the former USSR.

30 review for The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule

  1. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    I am not naturally drawn to graphic books, but I am fascinated by Eastern Europe so it was hard to pass up an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, a book of graphic non-fiction. The Notebooks are based on interviews Igort -- pseudonym for Igor Tuveri -- conducted with a number of Ukrainians and Russians living in contemporary Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian part of the notebooks focuses on the 20th century history of Ukrainian, including the horrendous I am not naturally drawn to graphic books, but I am fascinated by Eastern Europe so it was hard to pass up an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, a book of graphic non-fiction. The Notebooks are based on interviews Igort -- pseudonym for Igor Tuveri -- conducted with a number of Ukrainians and Russians living in contemporary Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian part of the notebooks focuses on the 20th century history of Ukrainian, including the horrendous forced famine in 1932 and extreme violence under Stalin. The Russian part focuses on contemporary Russia, and the death of a female journalist who was investigating atrocities in Chechnya. There is nothing cheery or lighthearted about this book despite the fact that it is in the form of drawings. What Igort depicts is not new to me nor does the format allow for much in depth information, but there's definitely a powerful and disturbing quality that Igort conveys with his expressive black and white drawings. This will not be for everyone, but it's a good -- although truly brutal -- graphic primer on 20th and 21st century Ukraine and Russia. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    A harrowing account of the Holodomor, the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 and the murder of journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya are the two stories depicted in this graphic novel. Because of Stalin's collectivization program, millions of people starved in the USSR, the Holodomor in the Ukraine alone has numbers cited from 3 to 7 million. Other estimations even run into the 10 million. There were several factors that contributed to these numbers. Low harvest, the A harrowing account of the Holodomor, the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 and the murder of journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya are the two stories depicted in this graphic novel. Because of Stalin's collectivization program, millions of people starved in the USSR, the Holodomor in the Ukraine alone has numbers cited from 3 to 7 million. Other estimations even run into the 10 million. There were several factors that contributed to these numbers. Low harvest, the massive export of grains by the USSR, the killing of livestock resulting in less food and available labor, and the deportations and executions of the peasants for fear of uprisings. The book is designed in the form of a journal and recounts several accounts of eye witnesses as short vignettes, showing how they hid their grains, killed their horses, were evicted from their homes, even how cannibalism was a common occurrance. In the second story, we learn of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who reported on Chechnya and even wrote several books about the atrocities there. This was not taken lightly and she received several death threats during her life. In 2006 she was murdered in the elevator of her flat. The artwork was nicely done. Graphic and dark, you can feel the pain and sadness coming through. As you can only tell so much in a comic, the narrative was also at times hard to follow because of some continuity issues. It is however, a fantastic book. History in the form of a graphic novel makes it quite interesting to actually read up on a topic. Review copy supplied by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a rating and/or review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    The 1932 Holodomor is looked at through first person interviews in the Ukrainian NB. The new Russia and the Chechen War are examined in the Russian NB. Igort connects the stories with stark art that makes you feel the oppression that permeates the subject matter...highest recommendation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    MissBecka

    The illustrations had an innocent simplicity to them that I thought paired well with what I expected from the content. Sadly the writing lacks cohesiveness. With the exception of Igort retracing Anna's steps after her death. That portion seemed to flow quite nicely. The rest of the graphic (especially the first half) was inelegant and emotionless. I felt like I was reviewing notes for his first draft. There are many interesting tidbits in here and you will certainly learn from it... But I was hoping The illustrations had an innocent simplicity to them that I thought paired well with what I expected from the content. Sadly the writing lacks cohesiveness. With the exception of Igort retracing Anna's steps after her death. That portion seemed to flow quite nicely. The rest of the graphic (especially the first half) was inelegant and emotionless. I felt like I was reviewing notes for his first draft. There are many interesting tidbits in here and you will certainly learn from it... But I was hoping for something more captivating given the subject matter.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    How many ways can people come up with to torment and kill each other when they are fed dehumanizing propaganda and forced to choose between violence against others or violence against themselves and their families? How much damage can people do once they've given up hope on the possibility justice in any form? What happens to people who don't go along with the narratives an authoritarian regime has demanded they accept and propagate? At what point did truth telling become so dangerous and How many ways can people come up with to torment and kill each other when they are fed dehumanizing propaganda and forced to choose between violence against others or violence against themselves and their families? How much damage can people do once they've given up hope on the possibility justice in any form? What happens to people who don't go along with the narratives an authoritarian regime has demanded they accept and propagate? At what point did truth telling become so dangerous and governments so corrupt that assassination becomes just a fact of every day life, so much so that it is barely noticed by so many? Well, I suppose those in power have always had PR problems that they try to solve through violence and efforts to control. And those who acknowledge injustice always have been a danger to those who wish to dominate people. Tyranny has always eliminated enemies of their desired narratives--threatened or killed those who try to break the spells wrought by propaganda and misinformation. Even in a somewhat functional democracy speaking truth to power is dangerous. How much more so in a world in which human life has no value? And it is clear from this book how little human life is valued in the eyes of so many leaders and movements that have taken hold in Russia and connected regions. This book is a testament to the power of truth and stories, the survival of suppressed narratives that live on even after their tellers have lost the will to live. And the work of journalists and activists and lawyers, risking their lives to try to defend or protect people and uncover and share their stories and predicaments. One such person discussed in the pages of this book is journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated in 2006 at the age of 48 for her work investigating the 2nd Chechen war. If you are looking for a light or uplifting read, stay far away from this collection of illustrated and cared for oral histories and investigative journalism. Its intimacy and compelling, often cinematic art, much of it in sepia tones, draws the reader (at least this one) on a journey that will not end once the book is set down. Igort's Notebooks sheds a painful light on hushed histories of Ukranian genocide in the 1930s and offers glimpses into the lives of soldiers fighting in the hellish Chechen wars--it gives voice to soldiers and human rights warriors fighting for their lives against a government war machine that sees them as worthless pawns or outright enemies. This book delves into a history of large scale violence and corruption as well as individual assassinations of people who insists on telling the truth about injustice and government corruption. This is so many books/experiences in one volume, held together by multifarious voices all attesting to brutality of one kind or another. And it is as sobering as it is tragic and horrifying. And it is beautiful, too. Not just the art, but the people willing to share their experiences and weaving a richer and richer tapestry of life, a kind of fighting that is also a testament to courage and love and compassion and the tenacity of truth even in the face of tyranny. Reading it now it feels like a cautionary tale. Is this really the world the right wing government and right-wing populist movements here in the U.S. want to build? I asked a friend this question and they responded, without pausing: "Yeah. I think so." Devastating to consider. It's definitely not the world I want to live in. I fear for us all as I witness the degradation of an already tenuous and corrupt democracy. And, each day I see acts of courage, people taking risks, making themselves vulnerable, and raising their voices to honor their vision of a more just and tenable home and a better world...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Wow. This was a difficult read, not in the sense of being hard to comprehend, but in the emotional impact. So much pain ... so much suffering ... so much death ... Igort's narrative jumps around a bit, telling stories in quick bursts. It helps keep the bleakness from being overwhelming. The artwork is lovely, reminiscent in some ways of the classic EC war comics. The sequence from page 276 to 281 where a young soldier is ordered to perform an execution is phenomenal. Artistically, this book is Wow. This was a difficult read, not in the sense of being hard to comprehend, but in the emotional impact. So much pain ... so much suffering ... so much death ... Igort's narrative jumps around a bit, telling stories in quick bursts. It helps keep the bleakness from being overwhelming. The artwork is lovely, reminiscent in some ways of the classic EC war comics. The sequence from page 276 to 281 where a young soldier is ordered to perform an execution is phenomenal. Artistically, this book is amazing. Narratively, it's harrowing. This is as it should be. Events such as these should be examined and documented and remembered, but should never become familiar or comfortable.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    Graphic nonfiction featuring first-person accounts of the real-life horrors that occurred during the Ukrainian famine of 1932 and the recent conflict in Chechnya. Content warning: Graphic descriptions of brutality. "Maybe we'd like to share our secret, that secret called war, but those who live in peace have no interest in hearing it." - Anna Politkovskaya It was actually the subtitle rather than the title that caught my attention: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule. Author Anthony Marra's books Graphic nonfiction featuring first-person accounts of the real-life horrors that occurred during the Ukrainian famine of 1932 and the recent conflict in Chechnya. Content warning: Graphic descriptions of brutality. "Maybe we'd like to share our secret, that secret called war, but those who live in peace have no interest in hearing it." - Anna Politkovskaya It was actually the subtitle rather than the title that caught my attention: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule. Author Anthony Marra's books have made me really interested in this region and its history. If you've ever read Constellation of Vital Phenomena or The Tsar of Love and Techno, you will find many of the situations in this book familiar. This nonfiction book is bleaker than Marra's fictional works. There is no humor and there is very little hope, just survival. The glimmers of humanity are quickly extinguished. It was written and illustrated by Igort, an Italian comic author. It is 384 pages, but it only took a couple of hours to read since the pages are filled with artwork. The artwork is effective and haunting. The illustrations emphasize the reality of the events described. The drawing style and color palette suit the content; the published version is sepia-toned with selective splashes of black and saturated reds. You can get a good sense of the book by looking through the pages available on Google Books. This book is a collection of survivor and witness testimony, historical records, and author reflections. The historical information wasn't extremely in-depth, but it gave much-needed context to the interviews. Igort's analysis and reflections made it obvious how deeply he cares about the subject. The phrasing was a little awkward sometimes. I'm not sure if that was because of translation or a very conversational writing style. Human brutality sparks the imagination… The content is divided into two sections: The Ukrainian Notebook and The Russian Notebook. The organization of this book is a little scattered within its individual sections.* It really is structured like a notebook. At times, it reminded me of a documentary in book form. My issues with the organization made it hard to have a complete understanding of the historical facts, but the individual elements are all very impressive. I did not finish the book feeling that I could produce a coherent summary of historical facts, but I did finish it with a fuller understanding of the human impact. The most powerful (and horrifying) parts of this book are the personal accounts of the survivors. One can adapt to anything. The patience of Ukrainian peasants is proverbial. The Ukrainian Notebook deals specifically with the situation in Ukraine during the late 1920s/early 1930s, with a focus on dekulakization and Holomodor (man-made famine). The Kulaks (property owners) of Ukraine resisted collectivization. In retaliation, the Soviet government, led by Joseph Stalin, devised a regimented plan to obliterate the problem and remove them from their homeland.* The situation became so desperate that cannibalism and necrophagy became commonplace. 131,409 individuals were deported. The Soviet campaign was successful and the Kulak population had been reduced from 5.6 million to 149,000 between the years of 1928 and 1934. Rage. It lashes out at life's little things. The Russian Notebook focuses on Russia in the 2000s and the Second Chechen War. The focal point of this section is Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist and human rights activist, who was assassinated near her Moscow apartment. Anna was an inspiring woman and a vocal opponent of the Second Chechen War. I am always in awe of people who fight on behalf of others, despite the threats to their own survival. I admire those that are able to preserve their value system and their empathy for all people, even when they have seen the darkest of humanity. I thought this author description particularly chilling: "the sense of oppression one feels in a place that only appears to be free, where the system depends on a cloak of indifference that can cover up any kind of crime without any punishment ever taking place." I could remember many of the events discussed and this book and the format helped me form a complete picture of the human beings behind the events I saw on the evening news. Anna's was a better Russia, and perhaps what we have learned from her is the need to remember, to not turn a blind eye or look the other way, to not accept prepackaged truths but to defend everyday values no matter what, the values that make us, after all, human. The author closes the book with a postscript that ties the events of 2014 (the Russian annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine) to the historical context he provided in the previous pages. He tells the story of a Russian soldier, "not an activist, not a troublemaker, simply a man who had made a decision. A just man who paid for his choice." The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks isn't easy subject matter; it is difficult to read what fellow humans have endured. It tells the stories of people who are most affected by the political decisions made in distant cities and who are doing the best they can to survive. It serves as a reminder that barbaric methods did not die with the past and how all the events of the past have a profound effect on the present and future. It gave me greater historical context for the fiction works I have already read and served as an introduction that encourages me to do further reading on the subject. I am adding The Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder to my "to read" list. _______________________________________ I received this copy from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. * The organization was sometimes hard for me to follow. On page 32: "This famine was intentionally provoked; the documents prove it." I expected to see an example of this, but all that followed were callously casual observations from officials. Further research led me to a Wikipedia summary of American historian Timothy Snyder's research, Deliberate targeting of Ukrainians.  Three hundred pages later in section two, there is a part regarding the deportation of the Kulaks that would have made more sense with the proper time period in section one, rather than the proper country in section two. It also includes a telegram that seems to be some of the documentation mentioned on page 34. I think it may have been structured this way to tie the two notebooks and the events together, but the way it was done was confusing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    abby

    This was my very first attempt at reading a graphic novel. It only took me a couple of pages to get accustomed to the format before I got sucked into the story. There are two parts to this graphic novel: the first set in Ukraine and largely focused on telling the stories of those who lived through the Holodomor genocide (a Stalin-made famine meant to punish Ukrainian insubordination); the second is focused on the human rights violations committed during the wars in Chechnya and the reporters who This was my very first attempt at reading a graphic novel. It only took me a couple of pages to get accustomed to the format before I got sucked into the story. There are two parts to this graphic novel: the first set in Ukraine and largely focused on telling the stories of those who lived through the Holodomor genocide (a Stalin-made famine meant to punish Ukrainian insubordination); the second is focused on the human rights violations committed during the wars in Chechnya and the reporters who were assassinated for daring to write about it. The material in the second half was more shocking to me, if only because it seems inconceivable that Nazi-era civilian war tactics are happening right under Western Civilization's nose. It is, of course, important to remember than the author/artist is not a journalist or a historian and only tells one side of the story. The author/artist does a masterful job of bringing the story to life with his drawings. His drawings express the pain, the sadness, the hopelessness and the death in ways words can't always convey. However, I found that the author bounced around a bit, and the timelines got a bit wonky. It was difficult to keep track of who was who and, at times, named persons appeared into the narrative with no explanation of who they were in relation to anything else going on. *I received an ARC of this title courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

  9. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is an important work, asking questions that have no answers. Igort excels at bringing to life history, in this case it is the history of Ukraine and the USSR. I had no trouble reading a graphic novel of this size (more than three hundred pages), but I had trouble with the content. My main complaint is that there are no links to the sources. Igort wrote a non fiction book, non fiction graphic novel. And non I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is an important work, asking questions that have no answers. Igort excels at bringing to life history, in this case it is the history of Ukraine and the USSR. I had no trouble reading a graphic novel of this size (more than three hundred pages), but I had trouble with the content. My main complaint is that there are no links to the sources. Igort wrote a non fiction book, non fiction graphic novel. And non fiction requires from an author to provide links to his sources. When he describes interviews, I understand that the source is this exact person telling the story he or she remembers. But when Igort makes claims that Holodomor was artificially created in order to kill specifically Ukrainians, that sounds groundless. Why is that? Because if he cared to look up history books, he’d know that in 1932-33 not only Ukraine suffered from famine, but many other Soviet regions too. To name a few: Siberia, Volga region, Kazakhstan, Southern Ural and others. Yes, partly the famine was caused by the policy of the USSR against kulaks (rich peasants) and because of the USSR goal to export grain. But besides that it was caused by a combination of factors, including low harvest and increased demand for food because of an industrialisation (too many people moved to the cities, too few stayed to work the land). It was a tragedy of several nations. Ukrainians has a specific word that means the famine was targeted specifically against them - Holodomor. That is their choice. But people in the other regions and of other nationalities died too. They killed and ate their babies. Because there was nothing to eat. They ate horse skin. They died. Not only Ukrainians, but Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities. That’s how stalinism worked. There was one great goal for everyone, to export as much grain as possible, and no one could simply say: Ha, I don’t feel like doing it today. You had no choice. Not only in Ukrainian SSR, but everywhere else too. I feel I’d like that part much more if Igort put more effort into making it more objective. As for the second part, describing life and death of Anna Politkovskaya, I pretty much remember the times described. And I can say Igort painted more accurate picture than in the first part of the book. It pains me to admit, but journalists _were_ killed in Russia because they wrote what they decided to write, not simply what was safe to write. Politkovskaya was one of those journalists. She wrote about Chechnya and what happened there, describing all the atrocities of war. She reported what happened recently there and wrote books on what happened some time ago there. She was respected by many different people, but unfortunately her narrative didn’t match the official one. The outcome was that she was killed in an elevator of her own home. Shot at four times, to be exact, including one shot at the head. The killers were quite professional. What pains me even more to admit, is that these two books were written by Igort. Not because he is a foreigner painting more or less an objective picture of my fatherland. But because there are no such books in Russian. A nation wide tragedy called stalinism took place, and some people still can say things like ‘Stalin won WWII and he did what he had to do! He was great!’ When I hear something like that, said sometimes even by my friends or relatives, I am lost. I don’t know how to respond. And my only hope can be that they don’t know all the details. Like, for example, they don’t know about the famine of 1932-33, caused partially by Stalin’s crazy goals. Or how many people perished in Gulag. In order for them to know that, there have to be books. Different books, painting different pictures, not the only picture in which Stalin is a great war strategist and a national leader. Igort created such books, but where are books written by Russian authors? Sure, we have scientific historical works on specific topics, as the said famine. Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago contains about 1200 pages. Needless to say not many enthusiasts will plunge into the grim descriptions of the Soviet rule, extending for more than one thousand pages. Graphic novels present a great opportunity to combine the power of a word with the power of a picture. I don’t believe we would see in a near future any Russian artist/writer creating a graphic novel on the Gulag or stalinism. But maybe this is what we need. We need closure. We didn’t have it when the USSR finally decomposed. That’s why some people still believe in some mythical Stalin who did what he did for the good of every Soviet comrade. And books like Igort’s help to dissolve this illusion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Narumon

    I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. This graphic novel is in two parts. The Ukrainian section is a series of "chapters", each a graphic rendition of someone's retelling of their experiences. Interspersed are short pieces on the relevant history. The Russian portion of the book examines the death of the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya and also retells several of the stories that she and her fellow journalists have reported. This was not a get-through-it-in-one-setting book, despite I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. This graphic novel is in two parts. The Ukrainian section is a series of "chapters", each a graphic rendition of someone's retelling of their experiences. Interspersed are short pieces on the relevant history. The Russian portion of the book examines the death of the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya and also retells several of the stories that she and her fellow journalists have reported. This was not a get-through-it-in-one-setting book, despite the graphic format, for two reasons. One, the topic was just too dark for me to get through in one sitting. I had to take breaks and remind myself that there was goodness to be found in humanity. And because it was a graphic novel, the images reinforces the message so there really was no looking away from the brutality. Two (and slightly unfortunately for me), after a while the stories just blended together into a chain of unending human suffering. And I think the stories deserved more from me. Reading one or two a day gave me time to properly reflect on the individual voices, instead of just remembering the gloom and doom. That being said, I think the art in the book is fantastic and really lends itself to setting the mood for the story. You can tell the author put in a lot of time to listen and put together everyone's story. It is a stark, unforgiving, and hard hitting book, and well worth the read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    backlist bitch

    I'm fascinated by the Soviet Union and the Cold War so I always try to pick up new releases that look interesting. I came across this one by accident and I am so glad. First off, the book itself is so beautiful! I've never been this impressed before by a graphic novel. I love Igort's drawing style. He created such an eerie atmosphere with his drawings of people suffering and being tortured. This story is told in two parts. The first is Ukrainian Notebook which deals with the Holodomor in 1932-33 I'm fascinated by the Soviet Union and the Cold War so I always try to pick up new releases that look interesting. I came across this one by accident and I am so glad. First off, the book itself is so beautiful! I've never been this impressed before by a graphic novel. I love Igort's drawing style. He created such an eerie atmosphere with his drawings of people suffering and being tortured. This story is told in two parts. The first is Ukrainian Notebook which deals with the Holodomor in 1932-33 in which Stalin's policies caused a famine that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians. The second is Russian Notebook which deals with the Russian war in Chechnya and assassination of journalist Anna Politkoyskaya who asked the wrong questions. Overall, these are two stories which I don't think the West is as aware as we should be. This was the first time I read about the famine, and although of course I'm familiar with Chechnya I did not know about the torture prisons and all the godawful things that happened at the hands of the Russian soldiers. I wanted to give this 5 stars, but I felt the ending was too fragmented as there were a couple stories tacked on at the end that weren't directly related to the Ukraine or Chechnya. 4.5 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is not light reading. This is not fun and games. This book is deeply disturbing because although it is history, it is modern history and still going on, and still unchanged. Reading this book would be equivalent to reading about the concentration camps in Germany while it was still going on. So, if you want to know what has happened, and is happening in Russia and the Ukraine, this is an excellent, well written book to explain the whole thing. There is old history, setting things up, there This is not light reading. This is not fun and games. This book is deeply disturbing because although it is history, it is modern history and still going on, and still unchanged. Reading this book would be equivalent to reading about the concentration camps in Germany while it was still going on. So, if you want to know what has happened, and is happening in Russia and the Ukraine, this is an excellent, well written book to explain the whole thing. There is old history, setting things up, there are written reports, as well as people the author has interview who remember things, like the famine under Stalin. The first book is about the Ukraine. The second part is about Anna Politkovskya who reported on some of the atrocities of modern day Russia. Here is a sample page about the famine. And here is a sample page about the murder of Anna. If you know nothing about what human torture is like in Russian, and parts controlled by Russia; if you want to want to learn about recent Soviet and Russian history; and if you want to understand why these things are happening, this would be a very easy book to pick up. I would not say it was a pleasure to read, because it was not. It was disturbing, dark and sad. However, sometimes that is how we have to learn about the world. Thank you to Netgalley for supplying this book for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Siina

    This. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks comic is probably the most important comic of the year. It's a devastating story consisting of smaller incidents that has led the world to this point - it tells us how the Soviet Union destroyed so much and how the flame from those times still lives strongly in Russia. I live in Finland next to Russia. The comic is divided in two sections, Ukrainian and Russian notebooks. The Ukrainian part is mostly about the great famine and what the Russians actually This. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks comic is probably the most important comic of the year. It's a devastating story consisting of smaller incidents that has led the world to this point - it tells us how the Soviet Union destroyed so much and how the flame from those times still lives strongly in Russia. I live in Finland next to Russia. The comic is divided in two sections, Ukrainian and Russian notebooks. The Ukrainian part is mostly about the great famine and what the Russians actually did to Ukraine during their rule. The Russian notebook then is mostly about Anna Politkovskaya, her murder and Chechnya. The reading experience is immense, scary and makes you feel ill. It's hard to believe what's happening in Russia and what the Russians did not long ago, poor Chechen people. I can only compare this to Joe Sacco's Palestine and this is just as marvelous. The art works very well with the story line and the structure works out too. There are some structural problems though, as in, the Russian part is a bit scattered compared to the Ukrainian one. It would've needed a better pacing mostly. Anna's role and the analyses of her deeds are definitely the best part as well as the Chechen disaster and the Ukrainian famine. The latter ones are hideous in nature. It doesn't matter that the comic isn't perfect, since it goes through stuff that's hard to depict and I congratulate Igort for being brave enough to do this. I hope we will get this in Finnish, even if Russia wouldn't approve that. That country has a tendency to interfere, but not let anyone else do the same to them. I'm not a big fan of Russia and now even less. Comics like this change the world. I highly recommend this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zizeloni

    A very good graphic novel mainly focusing on the Ukrainian famine of the 30s and the Chechnyan war. Horrible personal stories of starvation, cannibalism, torture. Also many political comments and explanations, Anna Politkovskaya's story (murdered for writing about the horrible things going on in Chechnya) and an epilogue about the recent Ukrainian-Russian war (which I actually did not really get). Very good art and I learned many things.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars Oof, this was BRUTAL. I mean, I know Russia and Eastern Europe is kind of messed up right now, but I actually had no idea about the atrocities that Igort covers in the notebook-style comic work. As the title insinuates, this work is divided into two parts: The Ukranian Notebook, in which Igort interviewed Ukranians who had survived the government-sanctioned famine (aka The Holodomor) that occurred in 1932-1933. The second part, The Russian Notebook, takes a closer look at Actual rating: 4.5 stars Oof, this was BRUTAL. I mean, I know Russia and Eastern Europe is kind of messed up right now, but I actually had no idea about the atrocities that Igort covers in the notebook-style comic work. As the title insinuates, this work is divided into two parts: The Ukranian Notebook, in which Igort interviewed Ukranians who had survived the government-sanctioned famine (aka The Holodomor) that occurred in 1932-1933. The second part, The Russian Notebook, takes a closer look at Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist who was assassinated for her coverage of the atrocities happening in Chechnya. Both notebooks covered subjects that I was 100% ignorant about. As I noted in my review of March: Book One, I'll forever be grateful to books that highlight lesser-known history (contemporary or otherwise) and political issues. The work is presented in a vignette-style and what I appreciated most was how unobtrusive Igort is - he really lets the interviewees speak for themselves and that's apparent in the text. Occasionally, Igort would provide context about who he was interviewing, or some relevant history, but it never overshadowed the voice of the speakers. The art is a muted red-ish colour palette which suited the somber material. Many passages were also drawn without panel borders - they would simply be start pencil etched images with text to accompany them - which were often used to delineate from the interview transcriptions. This was a smart and subtle way to separate the texts and also lent to the "notebook" style of the work. Would highly recommend this, and I really hope more of Igort's work gets translated in English.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    You simply cannot finish this graphic novel---the stories made that much more intense by the harrowing drawings of the horrors historically inflicted upon Ukraine and Chechnya by Russia---without feeling great emotion and anger. To me, there is no difference between what Stalin did in his time, and Putin is doing now. Millions of Ukrainians then and today have been killed, while millions more have somehow survived almost unimaginable horrors, from violent beatings to deportations. And yet, so You simply cannot finish this graphic novel---the stories made that much more intense by the harrowing drawings of the horrors historically inflicted upon Ukraine and Chechnya by Russia---without feeling great emotion and anger. To me, there is no difference between what Stalin did in his time, and Putin is doing now. Millions of Ukrainians then and today have been killed, while millions more have somehow survived almost unimaginable horrors, from violent beatings to deportations. And yet, so little is known here in the West about both these historical and present events. More people should read this, and many other books, what reveal the truth. "The past is never dead. It's not even past." (Faulkner) [It makes me wonder about the stories my mother (an Ukrainian DP who emigrated to the United States after WWII and who lived through the forced famine) told me, that while many of them were horrifying, she may have chosen to leave out even more terrifying parts because they were so hard for her, or to protect my siblings and me.]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    These harrowing stories of life under Soviet rule. Stories of starvation. Of cannibalism. Living without any kind of healthcare - no doctor or medicine. And the stark black and white art really lend to the feeling of emptiness that these men and women are reflecting on. In the Ukraine Notebooks, it might have been nice to have more background about what was going on. Or maybe I should know the background. And even the atrocities being committed in the 21st century during the Chechen wars as These harrowing stories of life under Soviet rule. Stories of starvation. Of cannibalism. Living without any kind of healthcare - no doctor or medicine. And the stark black and white art really lend to the feeling of emptiness that these men and women are reflecting on. In the Ukraine Notebooks, it might have been nice to have more background about what was going on. Or maybe I should know the background. And even the atrocities being committed in the 21st century during the Chechen wars as described in the Russian Notebooks. It's amazing what we can turn away from. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a copy in return for an honest review. (This must be an early copy. There are some odd mistakes. Like page 39 has some odd formatting and stops in the middle of a word. And that's not the first page where a sentence just stops, but the next page starts a new sentence.)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    A remarkably powerful work of graphic non-fiction, a genre I am not particularly comfortable with, but which in this case won me over completely. The depiction of the horrors that have occurred in both Russia and the Ukraine are here vividly conveyed with very little need for commentary. Much to my surprise I found this a compelling and engaging book which teaches much about what has happened – and still happens – in this part of the world. The drawings are excellent, stark and moving. An A remarkably powerful work of graphic non-fiction, a genre I am not particularly comfortable with, but which in this case won me over completely. The depiction of the horrors that have occurred in both Russia and the Ukraine are here vividly conveyed with very little need for commentary. Much to my surprise I found this a compelling and engaging book which teaches much about what has happened – and still happens – in this part of the world. The drawings are excellent, stark and moving. An original and unusual approach which works very well indeed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    Touching and wonderfully illustrated stories from the author's travels in Ukraine and Russia. He hits all the right notes with very difficult stories of hard times in the recent past. "Harrowing" is a good word for the contents of both notebooks, maybe moreso because they're mostly focused on the stories of individuals, either through their own words or the words of their surviving family and friends.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    This is really two books in one. I had a rough start with this work but it got better as I continued reading. The book is presented as a journal in the format of a graphic novel. I think the editor is right to say this work will go down in history with other graphic journalists work. In this review I will look at book one, “The Ukrainian Notebooks” and part two, “The Russian Notebooks” respectively. Since this is a “journal” it was a bit frustrating for me at the beginning of the book one to see This is really two books in one. I had a rough start with this work but it got better as I continued reading. The book is presented as a journal in the format of a graphic novel. I think the editor is right to say this work will go down in history with other graphic journalists work. In this review I will look at book one, “The Ukrainian Notebooks” and part two, “The Russian Notebooks” respectively. Since this is a “journal” it was a bit frustrating for me at the beginning of the book one to see the author starts focusing on one’s person life or something that happened only to move on prematurely to another subject that left the readers hanging. But when the book really starts with the interviews of older Ukrainians to get their account of living through the Cold War the book gets really good. Book one tells the incredible and almost unbelievable suffering of Ukraine during the Ukrainian famine of 1932 and life subsequently after that horrific experience. People died from starvation and survivors pursued drastic means of survival including eating roots, cannibalism and digging up dead people from the grave. The biggest part of this tragedy was the fact that much of it was the result of Communist Russia’s economic policies; it was largely a man-made phenomenon. This is a story that people today need to hear especially in Russia and the Ukraine where some have started to idealize “the glory days” of the USSR. I was quite sadden to read the various accounts of the effects of Stalin’s war on the peasants. I know the term “never again” is often associated with the Holocaust but I think it is just as applicable to Soviet economic ideologies. Book two of the book is titled “The Russian Notebooks” and tells us of events more contemporary. It focused mainly on the work of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya whose work was controversial and was mysteriously murdered on October 7th, 2006 in Moscow. The author starts out with an account of her murder and moves backward to her work for human rights and justice that led her to expose the Russian atrocities during the war against Chechnya. Like book one, “The Russian Notebooks” also tells stories of horrific evil against innocent people. The brutality will be more shocking for readers since it is more recent and no doubt some might think we have progressed from the method of warfares in the past. It is not so much that war is terrible that the book gives an account of; it is the fact that systematic human rights violations were committed by the Russian military against civilians that the authorities knew were innocent. Anna’s journalism vetted through various sources including survivors and Russian soldiers with guilty consciences. The book also touches a little on the recent Ukrainian conflict today. Why is this book important? I think it is to wake people up from their apathy of the evils that are still ongoing but also for justice. There is a role of global public opinion that speaks out against what is evil and while some wrongs won’t be right on this side of eternity it is hoped the global community speaking out against what is wrong might restrain future evils committed. On a more personal note I’ve had the opportunity when I was younger to have trained with the Russian military and also the Ukrainian military. It is saddening to read this book in light of those experiences. I also want to note minor editorial issues that perhaps might be helpful for future editions: On page 32 we see the author say “Ukraine has seen its share of famines in 1922…” but then page 33 talks about the 1932-33 famine and the story before this page was also about the 1932 famine. Was this a typo? If not I think the author should explained why the sudden jump to 1922. On page 39 at the bottom of the page we read “A decisive tool in implementing this plan was the Secret police, a for-” then it just stopped. Something similar can be seen on page 46. NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Simon & Schuster and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Adding the the string of depressing and demoralizing books I've been reading, let's read one about Soviet Ukraine and the murder of Anna Politkovskaya / The Second Chechen War. Because why be happy when you can read about how horrible humanity can be to each other? In one sense, the stories are light. Most are people telling about their lives, without poetics, without justifications. This is how it was. This is the, to modify Kundera, the incredible lightness of being. But this is also where the Adding the the string of depressing and demoralizing books I've been reading, let's read one about Soviet Ukraine and the murder of Anna Politkovskaya / The Second Chechen War. Because why be happy when you can read about how horrible humanity can be to each other? In one sense, the stories are light. Most are people telling about their lives, without poetics, without justifications. This is how it was. This is the, to modify Kundera, the incredible lightness of being. But this is also where the weightiness comes in, from what it was/is. There was no need to put the weight of writing into the narrative, because the weight is the reality. The reader isn't meant to be emotionally-exploited into caring, because trying to add that on top of the weight of what happened/is happening would drag us all down. The stories are stark enough as it is, difficult enough to chew through without an addition of faux-literary pretension and posturing. They float like a helium balloon. They drag you down like a concrete block. But then there are gaps, or misprints, or entire sections seemingly misplaced. Ukraine in the first half, pages cut off mid-sentence. Then later, in the 2000s, in Chechnya, Ukrainian sections reappear. A misprint? A throw-back? Proof that Russia as a concept has often been a fascist one, with concept-mother-Russia first, the humans in the edges of her empire second? Or just questions? Questions questions questions. How can we be so cruel? How can we be so empty? Add more and the book sinks under the weight of all the wrongs it wants to document. But as it is, it's transience can feel like an insult. Can you fix this? Can anyone? How do you write about the worst of humanity without sickening us to the point of not wanting to read? So what to do? More questions. All I have is questions. I can play as Stalin in Civ IV, the man who starved my distant relatives in the Holodomor, which the first half of this book talks about (and which, contrary to the blurbs, I did know about beforehand since I am Canadian, of part Ukrainian descent, and it's a teeny-tiny deal here). But to play as Stalin, how is that appropriate? How is any of this fair? I feel sick with not knowing the way out of this maze. The front says like Joe Sacco. I scoffed. Then I read it. It is like Joe Sacco though. I shouldn't have scoffed. Read at your own risk. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks by Igort went on sale March 15, 2016. I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dinara Tengri

    For more reviews, you can visit my blog http://dinaratengri.blogspot.se/ The Ukranian and Russian Notebooks is the first graphic novel I've read in my entire life. It's also the second book about Life under Soviet rule that I have read since I started this blog. The first was, of course, Voices from Chernobyl: the Oral History of Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich. For this review I'm actually going to share my first impressions that I wrote down after finishing this book: "I should never For more reviews, you can visit my blog http://dinaratengri.blogspot.se/ The Ukranian and Russian Notebooks is the first graphic novel I've read in my entire life. It's also the second book about Life under Soviet rule that I have read since I started this blog. The first was, of course, Voices from Chernobyl: the Oral History of Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich. For this review I'm actually going to share my first impressions that I wrote down after finishing this book: "I should never have read this book before bedtime. When I was finished, I was left emotionally drained and with all the facts and images the author had dumped on me. He dumped this horrible load on me and left me there, alone, to process it all." When you're starting a book with the words "Soviet" and "death" in the title, you know you're not in for an easy read. Especially if the the stories in the said book are all real. You can't just turn off your emotional tap as soon as you're done reading. Terrible things happened to these people, and you're left wondering how and why. It's one thing to read about Holodomor or torture of Chechen civilians in a newspaper. There it's a fact, and you just accept it. It's too far away from you. It's a whole other thing to read a first-hand account of a person whose life has been directly affected by these atrocities. And as if the stories in this book weren't shocking enough, the author goes an extra mile and illustrates them. They're black-and-white illustrations, but they're so vivid and realistic, and they add to the reading experience. In some cases, I think, the illustrations aren't that necessary. Sometimes it's enough to just read about a certain horrible event that took place to get the full picture. But for the most part, these grim illustrations work. They make you face reality, by coaxing your imagination. You can also tell, just by looking at the pictures, how moved the author was by the stories that these people shared with him, and how they have affected him emotionally. You feel like he's opening up his soul in these illustrations. Like I wrote in my review for The Voices of Chernobyl, this is an important book. Not just because it's about a chapter in human history that is too atrocious to be forgotten, but because it's told by people who actually lived it. When it comes to history, I prefer first-hand accounts to the history books written by professional historians. I always want to know about the individuals behind the facts and statistics. Historians can alter and falsify history to serve certain political agendas, but they can't change the personal experiences. I can't rate this book based on content and subject matter, but I can rate the execution. And it is excellent. Igort has basically taken horrific real-life experiences and turned them into a comic book. And he has done it with utmost care and respect. This is a fantastic book created by a man with a lot of talent. I definitely recommend it. My rating: 5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wayne McCoy

    'The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks' by Igort with English translation by Jamie Richards is an excellent non-fiction graphic novel, but it's not one that is easy to read because of the subject matter. It's really a two part story, with enough atrocity for both stories. The Ukrainian notebook is about something called the Holodomor that happened in the 1930s under Stalin. The events of that time are told as vignettes by survivors that the author has run across. Millions of people starved or were 'The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks' by Igort with English translation by Jamie Richards is an excellent non-fiction graphic novel, but it's not one that is easy to read because of the subject matter. It's really a two part story, with enough atrocity for both stories. The Ukrainian notebook is about something called the Holodomor that happened in the 1930s under Stalin. The events of that time are told as vignettes by survivors that the author has run across. Millions of people starved or were executed during this time. There are stories of people killing their horses, or hiding food, or eating things that are not true food to have something in their bellies. There was even cannibalism. The Russian Notebook portion deals with more modern events in Chechnya and the death of a journalist. The author visits the building she lived in and recounts stories that she reported on. Increasingly, her life was threatened, so it is a tragic inevitability that her life should end. Individual stories in this section are by soldiers who were witness to, or participated in, atrocities. The stories are not pleasant, but the tragic events of history need to be told so that they can never be repeated. I think a graphic novel works well to tell this sort of story because the violence is vivid and the stories are unflinching. A truly interesting work. I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Simon & Schuster and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this graphic novel.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ed Erwin

    I normally rate books on how much I enjoy them, but that won't work here. This isn't a book for enjoyment. It is a very well-done introduction to two horrific chapters of recent Russian history. The graphic format works well. I almost certainly would not have picked up a textual book about these subjects, because I simply wouldn't want to read a long, scholarly description of them. The German atrocities of WWII are well-known today. But the atrocities of Stalin, which killed even more people, are I normally rate books on how much I enjoy them, but that won't work here. This isn't a book for enjoyment. It is a very well-done introduction to two horrific chapters of recent Russian history. The graphic format works well. I almost certainly would not have picked up a textual book about these subjects, because I simply wouldn't want to read a long, scholarly description of them. The German atrocities of WWII are well-known today. But the atrocities of Stalin, which killed even more people, are much less known and discussed today. The events in Chechnya are also little-discussed in the US. The 'comic' format, based largely on interviews, makes the stories come vividly alive. The stories are so unpleasant that they could give nightmares. It is always hard for me to believe how cruel ordinary humans can be to each other when they find themselves in certain situations. There are some drawbacks to this presentation. A few maps would have helped. Much of it is based on interviews, so we are essentially seeing a few first-person accounts. That is fine. But other parts are filled-in with the authors interpretations of what happened. Those should be checked against other sources. Truth is, they say, the first casualty of war, so we may never really know what took place in some of these events. But they are important to know about, as they continue to influence current events.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Autumn Kotsiuba

    I feel a little raw after this. Exposed, like the ending of a nerve. I know that's cliche but it's still true. Maybe it's the fact that I've heard of tragedy, okay, but now I'm learning more of tragedy taking place in my lifetime. Not just tragedy but evil. Or maybe it's the fact that I have a connection to this part of the world. I don't know. What's really messed up is that I feel like I need a reason to care. This graphic novel wasn't perfect. It could be a little redundant, a little too I feel a little raw after this. Exposed, like the ending of a nerve. I know that's cliche but it's still true. Maybe it's the fact that I've heard of tragedy, okay, but now I'm learning more of tragedy taking place in my lifetime. Not just tragedy but evil. Or maybe it's the fact that I have a connection to this part of the world. I don't know. What's really messed up is that I feel like I need a reason to care. This graphic novel wasn't perfect. It could be a little redundant, a little too forceful. But the stories here...I don't even want to quote them because I won't capture the full force. Chechnya...I can't wrap my head around Chechnya. Books like this remind me that the truth is rarely fun to see. But that's all the more reason to look.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonesy

    Wow. This was a turning point in graphic novels for me; I was more interested in Ukrainian and Russian history after reading this, and the relevance of the graphic novel to events occurring today are almost parallel. People who speak out against the government end up dead. I thought this was put together really well. It drew me in from the beginning and had me wanting more at the end. I want to read more by Igort.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Terribly sad. Terribly scary and terribly true. A hard work to read with its study in human suffering during the 1932 Ukranian Holdomor (Stalin-triggered famine/genocide) and the Chechnya wars with special focus on Anna Politkovskaya. But - you ought to read it nonetheless. It's terribly good.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    4.5 stars -- When I read a book like this, I am fairly helpless to say anything at all. I'm glad these peoples' stories have been preserved, so those of us privileged enough to spend time reading comics can learn from them.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    I enjoyed this quite a bit, the stories were touching and tragic, the artistry beautiful, the topic just as salient as it was in the 1930s, and opens the door to further inquiry and reading. My only complaint was that it wasn't longer

  30. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

    Very well illustrated and written graphic novel covering the "ethnic cleansing" in the Ukraine in the 1930s-(this was carried out by an imposed mass famine.) However, a very depressing read as all of the events that were recorded were true -(and horrific).

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