In Vasily Aksyonov's novel "The Island of Crimea" (1981) the plot focuses on a violent occupation of Crimea by the Soviet Union. Crimea in the novel is not a peninsula, but an island, which could not be conquered by the Red Army in 1920 and developed into an independent, democratic capitalist state, inhabited by successors of the White Guard and their allies. In my talk, I aim to read this novel in the context of the genre of counterfactual fiction, and to place it in the broader context of the cultural history of counterfactual narratives in the Soviet Union. On more than one level The Island of Crimea bears testimony to the ambivalent attitude of Soviet culture to the conjectural in history, which oscillates between fascination and rejection, necessity and impossibility. At the same time, however, the text also explores the imaginative potential of “what-would-have-happened-if” scenarios and thus anticipates a downright explosion in the popularity of alternative historical fictional narratives that characterizes much of Russian post-Soviet culture.
Professor Riccardo Nicolosi