Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 842
Andrei Arsenievich Luchnikov
Andrei Arsenievich Luchnikov (ahr-seh-NIH-yeh-vihch LEWCH-nih-kov), the handsome, Oxford-educated, red-mustached, forty-five-year-old editor of the Russian-language publication Courier. He supports Crimea’s unification with the Soviet Union. After exploring Russia alone, he returns to Crimea, lives with Tanya, and wins the Crimea Rally. His victory propels his political cause, so that Crimea requests unification with Russia.
Arseny Nicholaevich Luchnikov
Arseny Nicholaevich Luchnikov (ahr-SEH-nee nih-koh-LA-yeh-vihch), Andrei’s father, nearly eighty years old, a tall, thin scholar who wears jeans and a leather jacket. A former colonel in the White Army during the civil war, he is killed surrendering to occupying Soviet forces.
Anton Andreevich Luchnikov
Anton Andreevich Luchnikov (ahn-DREH-yeh-vihch), Andrei’s tall, blond, nineteen-year-old, politically opposed son. He escapes Crimea with his wife and child during the Soviet occupation.
Marlen “Marlusha” Mikhailovich Kuzenkov
Marlen “Marlusha” Mikhailovich Kuzenkov (mih-KHA-ih-loh-vihch KEW-zehn-kov), Andrei’s friend, the head of the Soviet Foreign Division of the Central Committee and an expert on Crimea. He commits suicide after he realizes that the election will produce reunification.
Dmitri (DMIH-tree), or Dim Shebeko (dihm sheh-BEH-koh), Kuzenkov’s twenty-five-year-old son, a saxophonist with a jazz-rock band who helps Andrei go underground in Russia.
Tatyana (Tanya) Lunina
Tatyana (Tanya) Lunina (tah-TYAH-nah LEW-nih-nah), a thirty-eight-year-old Soviet athlete and KGB agent who is Andrei’s mistress. She disappears with Fred Baxter after the Crimea Rally.
Gleb, also called Hub and Champ, Tanya’s husband of fifteen years. A former Soviet decathlon champion, he joins the Soviet Olympic team when Tanya joins the KGB.
Colonel Sergeev (sehr-GEH-yehv), a KGB official in the Foreign Division. He pursues Crimean leaders for arrest and execution during the Soviet occupation.
Colonel Vadim Vostokov
Colonel Vadim Vostokov (vah-DIHM voh-STOH-kov), a member of the Crimean security forces; he fails to arrest Andrei and friends during the Soviet occupation.
Vitaly Semyonovich Gangut
Vitaly Semyonovich Gangut (vih-TAH-lee sehm-YOH-noh-vihch GANG-gewt), a friend of Andrei. He is a famous Soviet film director who, Andrei believes, stages the Soviet occupation of Crimea for a motion picture.
Oleg Stepanov (OH-lehg steh-PAH-nov), a brutal, anti-Semitic, ambitious Communist who secures the release of Andrei and Gangut from Moscow police.
Krystyna (Christie) Sage
Krystyna (Christie) Sage, a young, brown-haired American connected with Amnesty International. After the Crimea Rally, she lives with Andrei until the Russian occupation of Crimea, when she is burned to death.
Pamela, a young American with luxurious, sun-bleached hair who marries Anton and bears his son, just before their escape with Ben-Ivan during the Soviet occupation.
Petya Sabashnikov (sah-BAH-shnih-kov), Andrei’s blond, balding school classmate, now the Crimean representative to UNESCO. He meets Andrei in Paris.
Volodya (voh-LOH-dyah), Count Novosiltsev (noh-voh-SIHL-tsehv), also called Kamchatka and Novo-Sila, Andrei’s forty-six-year-old school classmate, killed driving in the Crimea Rally.
Temosha Meshkov (teh-MOH-shah meh-SHKOV), Andrei’s school classmate, now the owner of Arabat Oil Company. He encourages Volodya to enter the auto rally.
“Colonel” Sasha Chernok
“Colonel” Sasha Chernok (CHEHR-nok), Andrei’s school classmate, now the commander of Crimea’s North Buffer Zone. He is killed when his helicopter is destroyed during the Soviet occupation.
Yury Ignatyev-Ignatyev (YEW-ree ih-GNAH-tyehv-ih-GNAH-tyehv), a Crimean school friend of Andrei who violently opposes Andrei’s politics and wants to assassinate him despite a homosexual love for him.
Fyodor Borisovich Buturlin
Fyodor Borisovich Buturlin (FYOH-dohr boh-RIH-soh-vihch bew-TEWR-lihn), sometimes called Freddy or Fedya, the fifty-year-old Oxford-educated deputy minister of information in Crimea. He urges Andrei to modify his pro-Soviet stand.
J. P. “Jack” Halloway
J. P. “Jack” Halloway, sometimes called Octopus, a big American associated with Paramount Pictures. He proposes a blockbuster motion picture about the reunification of Russia and Crimea, for which, Andrei thinks, the Russian occupation is staged.
Vitold Yakovlevich (VIH-tohld yah-KOHV-leh-vihch), General von Witte, a Crimean general in exile in Paris who tells Andrei Stalin’s attitude toward Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Benjamin (Ben-Ivan) Ivanov
Benjamin (Ben-Ivan) Ivanov (ee-VAH-nov), born in 1952, a member of Dim Shebeko’s underground jazz group. He helps Anton, Pamela, and their child escape from Crimea to Turkey.
Fred Baxter, a New York banker friend who proposes to Arseny that he lead Crimea into a pro-American policy. He is enraptured by Tanya, who he thinks is a prostitute in Crimea.
Billy Hunt, a South African professional driver in the Crimea Rally.
Conde Portago (KOHN-deh pohr-TAH-goh), the lean and haughty, aloof, thirty-six-year-old Spanish driver in the Crimea Rally.
Mustafa or Masta Fa, a young, Crimean-born Tatar racing driver, an associate of Anton and a member of the Yaki party. He participates in the Crimea Rally.
Hua, Arseny’s Taiwanese majordomo for forty years.
Vladko Mercator, the owner of a shop in Simferopol, Crimea. He is befriended by Kuzenkov, who wonders why the man should want Soviet unification.
Lidochka Nesselrode (LIH-doch-kah), a young Crimean beauty set on marrying Andrei; she finds herself snubbed.
Sasha Brook, an associate editor of the Courier.
Father Leonid, Andrei’s priest, who buries Krystyna.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 632
Andrei Luchnikov is aloof from the realities of day-to-day existence. He is part of Vassily Aksyonov’s own generation of intellectuals who believed that the Stalinist legacy was dead and that a new, freer Russia would emerge. As the intellectuals of the late 1960’s were disappointed, so is Andrei. The character becomes involved in the destruction of his own country. Andrei sets the wheels of change in motion only to be crushed under them.
Andrei cannot understand his father’s love, nor his attachment to an independent Crimea. Arseny sees the problems of reunification. He sees reunification as a retreat from historical reality. He himself has retreated to his mountain home, Kakhova, named after the battle in which Crimea won her independence from Soviet Russia. This retreat from political life and Andrei’s inability to value his father’s views are themes similar to those in Ivan Turgenev’s Ottsy i deti (1862; Fathers and Sons, 1867). Arseny is killed during the Soviet invasion when the Volunteer Army, the old men who served during the civil war, approach the Soviets to lay down their rusty weapons.
Anton, Andrei’s son, offers Aksyonov’s view of a younger generation participating in the community of humanity regardless of nationality. There is more than a generational conflict between father and son. Anton is not a political activist but believes that all people should have freedom. He joins the Yaki movement not to antagonize Andrei but to feel a part of a group. In the end, Anton is saved along with his wife and son by Benjamin Ivanov, the man who led Andrei out of the Soviet Union.
Andrei’s mistress, Tatyana Lunina, is the major female character of the novel. She is expected to entrap Andrei for the Soviets through her sexuality. Instead, she creates a trap for herself. Tatyana must either submit to the will of the Party or she and her family will have none of the advantages acquired by her liaison with Andrei. Tatyana is a product of the Soviet mentality. To retain her material well-being she must prostitute herself for the Party. Tatyana attempts to delude herself that she loves Andrei, but she is incapable of sustaining any human relationship, as exemplified by her divorcing Sasha in order to be free for Andrei. She subsequently leaves Andrei for a rich,elderly American businessman, ensuring her eventual murder by the KGB.
Tatyana is the link between Andrei and Colonal Sergeev, as well as between Andrei and Marlen Kuzenkov. Sergeev is a Party hack, doing as he is told without question. He is an example of the worst excesses of Stalinism. Kuzenkov is a Soviet intellectual. He questions the Party and is, at times, at odds with it. Kuzenkov speaks to Andrei at the end of the novel, begging him to understand the consequences of reunification with the Soviet Union. Sergeev is beneath Kuzenkov but has him under surveillance, proving that no one is outside the reach of the KGB.
There are many minor characters who add flavor and liveliness to the novel. Kuzenkov meets an old Russian soldier of the civil war period, who tries to justify the collectivization of agriculture and Stalinism. Andrei has a group of friends with whom he went to the Czar Alexander II school, who are all high-ranking officials in the Crimean government, businessmen, or military officials. These men join with and support “The Idea of Common Fate.” They are representative of the 1917 revolutionaries and are all murdered by their own revolution. The character Vitaly Gangut is a Soviet dissident film director. He comes out of his obscurity to film the reunification of Crimea, which turns into a very real invasion. Aside from Tatyana, the women in the novel play sexual roles and are primarily mannequins without human emotions.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 94
Johnson, John J. “Introduction: The Life and Works of Aksenov,” in The Steel Bird and Other Stories, 1979.
Meyer, Priscilla. “Aksenov and Soviet Literature of the 1960’s,” in Russian Literature Triquarterly. VI (1973), pp. 447-463.
Meyer, Priscilla. “A Bibliography of Works by and About Vasily Pavlovich Aksenov,” in Ten Bibliographies of Twentieth Century Russian Literature, 1977. Edited by Fred Moody.
Mozejko, Edward, Boris Briker, and Per Dalgard, eds. Vasiliy Pavlovich Aksenov: A Writer in Quest of Himself, 1986.
Slobin, Greta. “Aksenov Beyond ‘Youth Prose’: Subversion Through Popular Culture,” in Slavic and East European Journal. XXX (Spring, 1987), pp. 50-64.