Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 776
The Island of Crimea is a fantasy about a state which has remained free and democratic for sixty years. It is the story of democracy and socialism clashing over the tiny country of Crimea. The principal character, Andrei, is the catalyst bringing about “The Idea of Common Fate,” a movement to reunite Crimea with the Soviet Union.
The novel begins with Andrei Luchnikov driving along a modern, Westernized roadway to visit Kakhova, the mountain estate of his father, Arseny. Andrei is a middle-aged, attractive, and powerful man, who is not only the editor of the nation’s only Russian-language newspaper but also a leading political figure in Crimea. Arseny has uncovered a plot to assassinate Andrei for his efforts toward reunification with the Soviet Union. Andrei considers the threat idle and continues writing columns on the glories of the Soviet Union and the need for Crimea to reunite with her historic past.
Crimea has become a multinational democracy filled with Western-style capitalism. The traditional Crimean people have intermarried with foreigners, creating a cosmopolitan culture. The younger generation has created a language called Yaki, which is a conglomeration of English, French, and Russian. These young people have traveled and consider themselves part of a world community. Andrei sees this as a passing fad, although his son Anton participates in the Yaki movement.
The novel follows Andrei on trips to Paris and Moscow, where characters are introduced who are either opponents or advocates of Crimean reunification. In Paris, at a cocktail party, Andrei is greeted by a Western film director who agrees with the idea of reunification because he anticipates a film spectacle. The Soviet emigres at the party either avoid Andrei or talk to him under the assumption that reunification is a radical idea but not a serious issue. The first attempt on the hero’s life occurs when he leaves the party, but he continues with his schedule of events and meetings. Andrei prepares for his trip to Moscow by buying presents and goods not available in the Soviet Union, including clothing for his mistress, Tatyana Lunina.
Although he speaks fluent Russian, Andrei is given a state interpreter in Moscow. He is allowed to visit only a few places and is constantly followed by Colonel Sergeev’s KGB operatives. Andrei meets Tatyana at a cocktail party where she is escorted by her husband, Sasha. Sasha was a member of the Soviet Olympic team, as was Tatyana; both are now sportscasters. Andrei accompanies them home and a scene ensues. He believes himself in love with Tatyana and wants her to come away with him. She chooses to stay with her husband.
The trip changes dramatically at this point and becomes a revitalizing experience for Andrei. He slips away from his KGB guards and, in the company of a dissident rock group, wanders throughout the Soviet Union. Marlen Kuzenkov, a member of the Central Committee, plays an important role in allowing Andrei to see the real Soviet Union. Kuzenkov is torn between loyalty to the Soviet state, the Communist Party, and the Crimean democracy. Although he allows Andrei to slip away, he reports to the Central Committee that he can control the outcome of the Crimean election. Kuzenkov does not try to help the Soviets, nor does he interfere with the election, assuming wrongly that the Crimeans would prefer democracy to a police state.
Andrei returns to the Crimea after three weeks of travel, having crossed into Sweden with Benjamin Ivanov, a member of the rock group. Instead of being appalled by the way the Russian people live, Andrei rejoices in their tenacious hold on life. He enters the Crimean Car Rally with his friend Count Novosiltsev, a professional auto racer; they hope to score a victory for “The Idea of Common Fate” and gain votes for reunification in the upcoming election. Tatyana joins Andrei in Crimea to lend her support to the cause of reunification. Another assassination attempt is made against Andrei; though Tatyana warns Andrei, Novosiltsev is killed. Andrei wins the race and uses his victory as a political platform. He realizes, however, that Tatyana is a KGB agent and blames her for Novosiltsev’s death; she leaves.
The novel then moves very quickly toward a conclusion. The Crimeans vote to reunify with the Soviet Union and are immediately invaded. Kuzenkov commits suicide, realizing the enormity of his sin in not interfering with Andrei. Arseny and Tatyana are killed, and Andrei’s son Anton, his wife, Pamela, and their newborn son, Arseny, leave by boat for Turkey and freedom. Andrei is left at a church burying his dead while Colonel Sergeev of the KGB looks on.
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