Donald Rayfield – England

MARCCH.org – Medical Aid and Relief for the Children of Chechnya.

Donald Rayfield is emeritus professor of the school of modern languages, Queen Mary University of London. Among his books is Stalin and his Hangmen (Random House, 2005), which has appeared in five other languages. He is editor-in-chief of the Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary (Garnett Press, 2006), a work of 1,440,000 entries and nearly 1,800 pages in two volumes. (openDemocracy).

Donald Rayfield (born 1942) is professor of Russian and Georgian at the University of London. He is an author of books about Russian and Georgian literature, and about Joseph Stalin and his secret police. He is also a series editor for books about Russian writers and intelligentsia. (wikipedia).

He writes: It is a bold historian who writes a history of the Caucasus, as events of the past week have made all too clear. The region may not be much bigger than England and Wales, but its history involves three unrelated indigenous groups of people – the Abkhaz and Circassians in the north-west, the Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis in the north-east, the Kartvelians (Georgians, Mingrelians and Svans) in the south – and representatives of many Eurasian groups (Iranian, Turkic, Armenian, Semitic, Russian) who have settled there over the past 2,000 years … (full text).

The Georgia-Russia conflict: lost territory, found nation, 18 August 2008.

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He says: “An intimate past and bitter present make it hard for Russians and Georgians to live as neighbours but impossible to separate completely”. (live journal).

Solzhenitsyn’s literary career spans more than 60 years, from verse he composed and memorised in prison and the camps before Stalin’s death, to the handful of short stories and novellas (A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Matriona’s Yard) of the 1960s which propelled him to fame, together with Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation, and the major novels, In the First Circle and Cancer Ward (both 1968), composed simultaneously with the monumental historical documentation of Stalin’s political penal system The Gulag Archipelago (1973-8) … (full text).

He has just been awarded an OBE for Chekhov: A Life and for his work on Russian history.

He writes also: … The third Russian illusion about Georgia is one of patronage, that Moscow can effectively direct Tbilisi’s choice of political leader. The extraordinary antagonism displayed by Vladimir Putin’s officials and army officers towards Georgia can be perhaps explained by their initial support for the “rose revolution” of 2003-04 that brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power: so great was their hatred for Eduard Shevardnadze (Saakashvili’s predecessor as Georgia’s president and the former Soviet foreign minister, whom they blamed for the Soviet system’s demise) that anyone who overthrew him was bound to find some sympathy in Moscow … (full text Russia vs Georgia: a war of perceptions, 24 August 2007).

The two regions at the heart of the Georgia-Russia war of August 2008 must be understood in their own terms if the problem of Georgia – and western illusions about the country – are to be seriously addressed, says Donald Rayfield … (full text).

… Donald Rayfield on Open Democracy did readers a service by lending context to a conflict that to many outsiders, appears baffling. Noting Russian priming of the area through the issuing of passports, and integration into state welfare, Rayfield dubbed Russian tactics “salami slicing,” explaining that it: “ … amounted to a covert process of assimilating first the population, and then the actual country, into the Russian federation” … (full text).

The Literature of Georgia, 2000, 320 pages. Also on wikipedia.

Of all Russian writers, Chekhov is one of the best liked and most easily appreciated. Yet he is also one of the most elusive. Here Donald Rayfield reveals the layers of meaning on which the great dramatist’s stories and plays are built. He examines his brief twenty-year creative life, from medical student supplementing his income by writing comic stories to his rapid rise as the father of twentieth-century drama and narrative prose. Understanding Chekhov is enriched by revelations from previously unexplored archival material, which deepen our understanding of Chekhov’s sources, preoccupations, philosophy, and his relations with theater, with fellow writers, and with contemporary ideas. (Understanding Chekhov, by Donald Rayfield).

ANTON CHEKHOV – A Life Biography, by Donald Rayfield.

… The proximate causes of the Georgia-Russia conflict lie – as openDemocracy writers such as Neal Ascherson, George Hewitt, Donald Rayfield have explored – in the modern history of the region. They include the policies of leaders such as Joseph Stalin (who created the political context in which South Ossetia and Abkhazia became “problems” at all) and Zviad Gamsakhurdia (the first president of post-Soviet Georgia, whose nationalist policy helped drive these territories away from Georgian control). But the most important factor in today’s situation is that the external actors (primarily Washington and Moscow) have their conflicting global and regional interests and they are, using legal terminology, acting as principals; while Georgian, Abkhazian and Ossetian leaders have to be seen as their agents, even though often having their own agendas and even trying to manipulate the principals …  (full text, Sept. 8, 2008).

… He is currently leading a team compiling a Georgian-English dictionary.

Rayfield charts Joseph Stalin’s progression from provincial seminary student to power-hungry tyrant – cunning, cynical, highly intelligent, totally lacking in conscience, prepared to countenance almost any atrocity in the search for power, determined to crush all opposition to hang on to it — and a jolly good personnel manager. Stalin’s ability to `read’ and promote people accordingly lies at the heart of Rayfield’s approach, focusing as it does not just on Stalin himself but on five key henchmen – his secret police leaders appointed to do the dirty work and jointly responsible with their leader for some of the worst mass crimes of the 20th century … (full text).

Georgia and Russia: with you, without you, 3 October 2006.

… These statistics from an unimpeachable group of Russian reformers determined to expose the truth about totalitarianism appear, unfortunately, to be wrong. In The Forsaken, Tim Tzouliadis tells the story of American workers in the Soviet Union, some of whom were laid off by Henry Ford in the Depression and then offered work assembling Ford cars in Nizhny Novgorod (then Gorky), others who were lured by the prospect of well-paid work helping the Soviets industrialise, and others (not necessarily the majority) who believed Stalin’s myth and went to build a socialist paradise … (full text FORGOTTEN BY FORD, by Donald Rayfield).

Find him and his publications on BORDERS; on wikipedia; on amazon; on openDemocracy;  on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

links:

Russia and Iran: crisis of the west, rise of the rest, by Paul Rogers, Aug 24, 2008;

El derecho a la vida y la escala de valores;

andrei platonov;

Audio books with Anton Chekhov.

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