In this exceptional collection of dispatches from occupied Donbas, writer and journalist Stanislav Aseyev details the internal and external changes observed in the cities of Makiïvka and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Aseyev scrutinizes his immediate environment and questions himself in an attempt to understand the reasons behind the success of Russian propaganda among the working-class residents of the industrial region of Donbas.
Aseyev focuses on the early period of the Russian-sponsored military aggression in Ukraine’s east, the period of 2015–2017. The author’s testimony ends with his arrest for publishing his dispatches and his subsequent imprisonment and torture in a modern-day concentration camp on the outskirts of Donetsk run by lawless mercenaries and local militants with the tacit approval and support of Moscow. For the first time, an inside account is presented here of the toll on real human lives and civic freedoms that the citizens of Europe’s largest country continue to suffer in Russia’s hybrid war on its territory.
A rare and unsettling insider’s account of conditions in the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic.’…Aseyev examines unrelentingly, piercingly, and scathingly why Ukrainians in the east of the country supported, and continue to support, the separatists and mercenaries and their Kremlin sponsors—in effect, how Putin’s misinformation campaign successfully revived the Soviet mindset in the Donbas.
[A] fascinating account of life in the [Donetsk People’s Republic]…Aseyev’s book is a kind of Lonely Planet guide to a republic that doesn’t officially exist, except in the minds of its fervent believers…The DPR is a Soviet Disneyland. There are icons of Stalin and Lenin, Komsomol youth leagues and shops selling cheap Russian sausage in Back-in-the-USSR–style packaging. It is a glorious march forward to a largely imaginary past, although there is nothing make-believe about the violence in the DPR.
Few people can better articulate the experience of life under Russian occupation than Stanislav Aseyev, [who] gives a first-person account of the shelling, propaganda, and internal power struggles of Donetsk in the early days of the war that began there in 2014. The brutality and arbitrariness of rule in Russian-occupied Donbas that Aseyev depicts hint at what would await Ukraine in the event of a Russian-imposed regime, underscoring why the stakes of the war today could not possibly be higher.
Provides a focal point for understanding the highly intense and entangled background of the current Russo-Ukrainian war.
Aseyev’s writing captures the surreal moment when eastern Ukraine went from a familiar country to an eerie, apocalyptic landscape. Towns went from places of comfort populated by friends and family to hostile territories patrolled by former friends turned vigilantes. To read his essays is to be transported to a savage, backwards world that some of us would rather forget.
Stanislav Aseyev, imprisoned for almost three years for his candid reports included in this book, tells the story of the Donbas people and how they sought to make sense of an absurd war on their land. In Isolation is an extraordinary account of the Donbas as seen from within, and the people trapped there. It reveals in minute detail the inner workings of the hybrid war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine in 2014.
What strikes one in this collection is the cool, precise recording of the details of this Soviet Dismaland, like an anthropologist studying hell. This is a remarkable portrait of how propaganda deforms life, from one of the world’s greatest battlegrounds of information warfare. We hear much on the dangers of current disinformation—in the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ these dangers take on a demonic dimension.
- 320 pages
- 5-1/4 x 8 inches
- Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
From this author
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