May 01, 2017

To the Editors

To the Editors:

I read your recent article about Sergei Dovlatov with alacrity, not only for the subject itself but also because two profound articles in the Russian press last year show how germane Dovlatov remains in the interplay of Russia and the United States. Sergei Yakovenko’s article “Servility Without Fear and Reproach” in the Chicago immigrant newspaper Seven Days begins its trenchant analysis with a reference to Dovlatov’s research into the mass denunciations under Stalin. On that score, Dovlatov famously wrote: “We endlessly curse comrade Stalin, and, of course, with good reason. And yet, I want to ask, who wrote four million denunciations?”

In addition, I was surprised to learn of Dovlatov’s growing depression over his separation from the familiarity of the life he had known back home. After Ksenia Kirillova’s article “Servility and Blame” was published on Radio Svoboda’s website, I responded in the comments that, as the descendant of immigrants, I believe Russians immigrating to the United States would do well to heed Dovlatov’s words in “March of the Lonely”: “It’s not my place to bad-mouth America. After all, I’m still alive only thanks to emigration. And I’m loving this country more and more. Which doesn’t, I believe, prevent me from also loving the homeland I left behind.”

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