At the centre of a region of occupied and disputed territories, Crimea juts into the map of the Black Sea like a trigger. We forget its significance at our peril. Yet since the dramatic events of 2014, media outlets have largely consigned Crimea to afterthoughts and back pages. Prominent international relations pundits in the West have declared it “surely lost for good,” making little effort to connect geostrategic dots between its annexation and the war in Donbas, two sites of armed conflict – one “frozen,” the other “hot” – only three hundred miles away from each other.1 Such throes of “Crimnesia” do not change the fact that the peninsula remains a global flashpoint whose “structural predisposition” to conflict has only worsened under Russian occupation. According to the United Nations General Assembly, the Kremlin has overseen a “gravely concerning” “transfer of nuclear-capable aircraft and missles, weapons, ammunition, and military personnel” to Crimea.2 This militarization of infrastructure has coincided with a militarization of consciousness, which today normalizes draconian crackdowns on independent civil society, most especially among the Crimean Tatars.

In the words of Crimean Tatar activist and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Emir-Usein Kuku, this militarization of consciousness has done swift work to turn Crimea into a space of Orwellian “thoughtcrime.” “Doesn’t it seem strange,” he asked in his “Final Word” while on trial in Rostov-on-Don in 2019, “that in the twenty-three years under Ukrainian authority there were no ‘extremists,’ no ‘terrorists,’ and no ‘acts of terror’ for that matter? But then Russia arrived with its FSB, and suddenly all of these things appeared together?”3 This book has traced the anxieties of possession behind this militarization to Stalin’s Crimean atrocity, which was a culmination of a project of settler colonialism that sought to expunge Crimea’s indigenous people from the territory that helped define them. As a cultural study of the Black Sea, it has cast the Crimean Tatars not as “intermittent presences” in the history of the region but as key determinants of its past, present, and future trajectories.4

At the same time, Blood of Others has also sought to combat a different “Crimnesia” – a forgetting of acts of transnational literary solidarity in the aftermath of this atrocity. “Solidarity wavers,” writes Avishai Margalit, “when the memory of a strong feeling of solidarity fades away.”5 The book has traced the disruptive vibrations of Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars across the cultural spaces of Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine to renew memory of this solidarity and to consider how literary texts can inspire its strong feeling. Myroslav Marynovych calls this corpus of poetry and prose “invaluable” today. It exposed audiences to the brutal realities of the Sürgün, often well before news reports or other documentary sources, and aimed to elicit a prosocial response in the empirical world. “It is a testament from the past,” Marynovych continues, “that we, as heirs to these writers, must fulfil.”6 From the Soviet underground to the realm of Turkish popular culture, these texts invited readers to process an emotion with quiet motivational utility – guilt – and engaged them in a poetics of solidarity that ultimately played a role in achieving something many thought impossible: the return of the Crimean Tatars to their ancestral homeland after nearly half a century in exile.

Today, in an era of disconnected connectivity, when social networks spawn thought-silos based more on the putative threat of enemies than on the comfort of friends, solidarity can seem a rare commodity. In a region of the world beset by contestation and conflict, where a persecuted indigenous people is targeted once more, it can even appear naive. But the literary works at the heart of this book – texts of poetry and prose composed under similarly challenging historical conditions – see little point in cynicism. They speak instead to the way culture can empower us to envision new alternatives to the political status quo and to foster empathic human connection in the face of difference and distance. With uncanny foresight, Carol Weaver wrote in 2013 that “the Black Sea region is still an area where some people are afraid of invasion, ethnic cleansing, or general oppression.”7 Blood of Others has sought to show how the Black Sea region is also an area where people have succeeded in comforting Stalin’s victims with verse and in spurring people to activism with stories. It is an area where people embraced imaginative artistic expression in a fight against invasion, ethnic cleansing, and oppression – and secured a victory whose remembrance today is not indifferent to tomorrow.


I am finishing this book under COVID-19 lockdown in Cambridge, at a humbling time when giving regular thanks has never had more urgency.

The pandemic has placed stories of solidarity – or of its absence – at the forefront of our attention. Through the noise, I find myself regularly returning to one story in particular. It is a story about the Native American indigenous Choctaw people, who in 1847 sent precious relief aid to Irish families in the grip of famine, and about the people of Ireland, who in 2020 responded in kind with a flood of grassroots donations to Choctaw families hit hard by COVID-19. For nearly two centuries, poetry and song have helped keep this bond of solidarity alive.

I remember learning of the “Choctaw gift” as a child. My parents, Farrell and Paul Finnin, filled our home with music and with stories of acts of empathy and friendship across borders. I am grateful to them for their love and care and to my sister Anni for her laughter and for the example of her strength. Mary and John Lally have staggered me with their kindness and generosity for more than twenty years, and I am proud to be their second son. With David and Sheila Lally, midnight has always been a glimmer, and noon a purple glow. I also have brothers and sisters in Karl and Megan Kleinert; John and Jill McCormac; Chris Long and Kathleen Lapenta Long; Erik Ekroth and Leslie Rubisch; Ihor and Yulia Potapchuk; Tania and Yura Kovalchuk; Mary Brendler Zouaoui and Slim Zouaoui; and Christina Fanelli and Mick Daly. I am grateful to them and to all my friends and family – Finnins, Lallys, DeVitoes, McLaughlins, Walshes, Thomes, Freckmanns, Pallases – for their support and encouragement. My nieces and nephews and godchildren – Adare, Aidan, Jane, Liam, Patrick, Nicholas, and Cate – are an inexhaustible source of pride.

In a sense, this book began in a village in central Ukraine, where Tetiana Mykolaїvna and Ivan Opanasovych Kaplun changed my life with the gift of their friendship and with a slim volume of poetry. My fascination with the cultures of Ukraine and the Black Sea region later matured at Columbia University, where I had the privilege of working, sometimes in a suit and tie, with the wonderful Vitaly Chernetsky, Frank Sysyn, Cathy Popkin, Valentina Izmirlieva, Irina Reyfman, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Volodymyr Kulyk, Valerii Kuchynskyi, Rebecca Stanton, Etem Erol, Antonina Berezovenko, Yuri Shevchuk, Alla Smyslova, David Goldfarb, Mark Andryczyk, Maria Rewakowicz, Colleen McQuillen, Christopher Harwood, Elazar Barkan, Nader Sohrabi, Bohdan Rubchak, and Alexander Motyl. Two visionary, intellectually adventurous mentors at Columbia who helped shape this project – Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Mark von Hagen – passed away before its publication. Theirs are the voices I hear most often as I look over the final manuscript.

My academic home at the University of Cambridge has spoiled me with giving colleagues, some of whom have read and workshopped chapters in this book: Simon Franklin, Emma Widdis, Stanley Bill, Rebecca Reich, Hubertus Jahn, Harald Wydra, Ivan Kozachenko, Marta Jenkala, Natasha Franklin, Susan Larsen, Mel Bach, Olesya Khromeychuk, Uilleam Blacker, Rachel Polonsky, Jana Howlett, Olenka Pevny, Elena Filimonova, Brendan Simms, Olga Płócienniczak, Sander van der Linden, John Barber, Aleksandr Etkind, Julie Fedor, Dominic Keown, Diane Oenning Thompson, Chris Ward, Wendy Bennett, Andrii Smytsniuk, Brad Epps, Rhiannon McGlade, Dominic Lieven, Tony Cross, and many others. I am also very grateful to the officers of the Ukrainian Studies Endowment Fund at the University of Cambridge for their support of the publication of this book. Robinson College has been a warm, welcoming community of scholars at Cambridge, and I thank all of my colleagues in the Fellowship and on staff for their help and input, especially Joanna Page, Liz Guild, Mary Stewart, Emily Price, Scott Annett, Robin Kirkpatrick, Glenys Denton, Dzintra Kilbloka, David Woodman, Elizabeth Pettit, Bill Nolan, David Yates, and Susanna West Yates.

I have been very fortunate to work with many talented undergraduate and postgraduate students who inspire and motivate me with their creativity and enthusiasm. Special thanks go to my brilliant doctoral students, who have taught me so much and whose searching questions, kindness, and good humour have always invigorated me: Daria Mattingly, Mariia Molodyk (Terentieva), Jon Roozenbeek, Iryna Shuvalova, and Bohdan Tokarskyi.

Writing this book has involved meeting some of my heroes: Mustafa Dzhemilev, Liliia Karas-Chichibabina, Myroslav Marynovych, and Raïsa Rudenko. I am deeply indebted to them for their time and for our fascinating exchanges. Throughout the Black Sea region, from Kharkiv to Ankara, colleagues and friends in libraries, archives, universities, and non-governmental organizations have assisted me in more ways than I can count, especially Alim Aliev, Stas Menzelevskyi, Sait Ocaklı, Oleh Kotsarev, Zenife Seydametova, Balkız Öztürk Başaran, Mubeyyin Batu Altan, Tony Greenwood, and Hakan Kırımlı. For their comments, conversations, and collaborations, I am also very grateful to Andrii Portnov, Serhii Plokhii, Vsevolod Samokhvalov, Timothy Snyder, Michael Flier, Idil Izmirli, George Grabowicz, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Victor Ostapchuk, Volodymyr Dibrova, Maria Sonevytsky, Anne Applebaum, Oleksandr Halenko, Nataliya Gumeniuk, Maria Montague, Eleanor Knott, Sophie Pinkham, Taras Koznarsky, Gwendolyn Sasse, Charles King, Serhy Yekelchyk, Simon Lewis, Sabra Ayres, Kateryna Stetsevych, Volodymyr Dubovyk, Mikhail Minakov, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, David Marples, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Sasha Dovzhyk, Maxim Tarnawsky, Marta Dyczok, Peter Pomerantsev, Michael Moser, Kevin M.F. Platt, Andrew Wilson, Molly Brennan, Bill Brennan, Tanya Zaharchenko, Halyna Hryn, Olga Zeveleva, Jack Rathschmidt, Mila Rosenthal, Jonathan Birchall, Elektra Birchall, Ivy Birchall, Linda Fisher, Stanley Rabinowitz, Mícheál Ó Mainnín, Janice Carruthers, Andrew Fedynsky, Peter Fedynsky, Justin DeKoszmovszky, Tatiana Thieme, Paul Robert Magocsi, Phil Bautista, Jeff Gamble, Mike Graf, Thom Yorke, Andy Heil, Larry LoPresti, Tom Kelley, Daniel Cleary, Doug Latham, Chris Hunkins, and all the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Group V (Ukraine). Filmmakers Oles Sanin and Nariman Aliev and Ivan Kozlenko of the Dovzhenko Centre in Kyiv generously allowed me to reprint images in this book. Three anonymous reviewers read the manuscript with thoughtful circumspection and helped me to improve it. The enthusiasm, critical rigour, and steady hand of my editor at University of Toronto Press, Stephen Shapiro, polished it into a finished product. My copy editor, Angela Wingfield, brought a very keen, meticulous eye to the manuscript. Of course, any unintended errors or shortcomings in the book are mine alone.

Public lectures based on material in Blood of Others were given at Harvard University, the University of Oxford, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Alberta, and New Europe College, Bucharest. I am grateful to my colleagues at these institutions for the honour of their invitations and to the audiences in attendance for their curiosity and their feedback. Parts of chapter 1 first appeared in “The Poetics of Home: Crimean Tatars in Nineteenth-Century Russian and Turkish Literatures,” Comparative Literature Studies 49, no. 1 (January 2012): 84–118. Parts of chapters 2, 3, and 7 first appeared in “‘A Bridge between Us’: Literature in the Ukrainian–Crimean Tatar Encounter,” Comparative Literature Studies 56, no. 2 (Spring 2019): 289–319. Parts of chapters 3 and 4 first appeared in “‘Forgetting Nothing, Forgetting No One’: Boris Chichibabin, Viktor Nekipelov, and the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars,” Modern Language Review 106, no. 4 (September 2011): 1091–124. Parts of chapter 6 first appeared in “Captive Turks: Crimean Tatars in Pan-Turkist Literature,” Middle Eastern Studies 50, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 291–308. I thank all of these journals for granting me permission to adapt this material here.

Finally, I dedicate this book to my partner, Anne Lally, and our son, Shane, who lift me every day.

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