Olga BertelsenJun 6, 2022
In the Labyrinth of the KGB
Ukraine's Intelligentsia in the 1960s-1970s
Lexington Books 2022
Olga Bertelsen's In the Labyrinth of the KGB: Ukraine's Intelligentsia in the 1960s-1970s (Lexington Books, 2022) focuses on the generation of the sixties and seventies in Kharkiv, Soviet Ukraine, a milieu of writers who lived through the Thaw and the processes of de-Stalinization and re-Stalinization. Special attention is paid to KGB operations against what came to be known as the dissident milieu, and the interaction of Ukrainians, Jews, and Russians in the movement, their persona friendships, formal and informal interactions, and the ways they dealt with repression and arrests. This study demonstrates that the KGB unintentionally facilitated the transnational and intercultural links among the Kharkiv multi-ethnic community of writers and their mutual enrichment. Post-Khrushchev Kharkiv is analyzed as a political space and a place of state violence aimed at combating Ukrainian nationalism and Zionism, two major targets in the 1960s-1970s. Despite their various cultural and social backgrounds, the Kharkiv literati might be identified as a distinct bohemian group possessing shared aesthetic and political values that emerged as the result of de-Stalinization under Khrushchev. Archival documents, diaries, and memoirs suggest that the 1960s-1970s was a period of intense KGB operations, "active measures" designed to disrupt a community of intellectuals and to fragment friendships, bonds, and support among Ukrainians, Russians, and Jews along ethnic lines domestically and abroad.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University.