Olga BertelsenMay 20, 2022
In the Labyrinth of the KGB
Ukraine's Intelligentsia in the 1960s–1970s
Lexington Books 2022
Olga Bertelsen’s timely book, 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 “active measures” against what came to be known as the dissident milieu, and the interaction of Ukrainians, Jews, and Russians in the movement, their personal friendships, formal and informal interactions, and how they dealt with repression and arrests. Her book demonstrates that the KGB unintentionally facilitated the transnational and intercultural links among the 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. Bertelsen shows that, in the face of intense KGB operations, Kharkivite writers and intellectuals attempted to survive in the state’s “labyrinth” with their integrity, creativity, and human relationships intact. This book sheds light on the history of Soviet intelligence tactics and the creative intelligentsia, and helps explain the legacies of Soviet/Russian state violence that are erupting once more in Ukraine.
Olga Bertelsen is an Associate Professor of Global Security and Intelligence at Tiffin University’s School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences in Ohio, USA.
Anna Bisikalo is a PhD candidate in history at Harvard University. She is writing a dissertation on the social history of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine from 1945 to the early post-Soviet period.