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Berezin, Fedor

Entry updated 27 June 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1960-    ) Russian-Ukrainian soldier, author and, subsequently, politician, once lauded by the New Yorker as the "Russian Tom Clancy" for his prolific output of novels involving War and Military SF. He studied at the Engels Higher Anti-Aircraft Missile Command Air Defense School of the USSR, graduating in 1981 and serving as a rocket officer in what is now Kazakhstan. Retiring at the rank of captain after ten years' service, he returned to his hometown, just in time to witness its rebranding with its former pre-Soviet name of Donetsk, and the controversial veto by the Kyiv government of a local referendum to make Russian the official local language. He worked in security and mining throughout a period of economic decline and growing criminality that led to the characterization of Donetsk, not without justification, as the "Detroit of Ukraine", turning his hand to writing in the late 1990s.

Much of Berezin's early work has a sense of nostalgia for the Soviet era, not merely for the surety of its propaganda, but for the ease of identifying the enemy. His first novel Pepel ["Ashes"] (2001) began with a quote from Homer's Iliad, reimagining its tensions and conflicts as a tale of Colonization of Other Worlds gone awry, in which military officers on the ground are obliged to make snap decisions with wide-ranging strategic consequences. In its original form, it won him the Best Debut prize at Kharkiv's Star Bridge sf Convention and was picked up by the larger press Eksmo/Yauza, uplifting him to wider attention and publisher support. Several other novels mined the veins of Survivalist Fiction, imagining nuclear war (see World War Three) as a ready means of swiftly restoring the enmities of the twentieth century, and also favouring a milieu for continued scenarios involving the clash of conventional Weapons Technology. In the series that would eventually be parsed as Krasnyye zvezdy ["Red Stars"] (not the only Berezin work to be retitled and repackaged, turning much of the Checklist below into deduction and guesswork), Alien invaders are revealed as humans from an Alternate History timeline in which the Soviet Union has conquered the world, and now seeks to carry the torch of Communism into other universes.

He followed with Lunnyy variant ["Lunar Variant"] (2004), a tale of conflict on the Moon over the discovery of a Forerunner artefact, although Berezin's narrative notably looked not forward to a futuristic milieu, but backwards to the US-USSR tensions of the Cold War. Playfully appropriating the title of Red Dawn (1984), his own Krasnyy rassvet ["Red Dawn"] (2005) posited a dominant, imperialist USA in the year 2030, attempting to raid Africa for resources but resisted by Russian-backed rebels. Its sequel, Pozhar Metropolii ["Fire in the Metropolis"] (2005), juxtaposes the increasingly savage fighting in Africa with unrest back in the United States, as the promises of interrogators that a prosperous American life awaits collaborators and traitors is found to be wanting. The flashpoint turns out to be America's misplaced faith in multiculturalism (see Race in SF), and Berezin outlines an imagined race-war between blacks, whites and Latinos with a degree of smug satisfaction.

Atomnaya krepost ["Atomic Fortress"] (2011) melded these two modes of fiction, a combination of the off-world Cold War allegory of Oneamisu no Tsubasa (1987) with the tropes of Survivalist Fiction, as atomic bomber pilots, masterless after a nuclear holocaust, are forced to make executive decisions about the direction and fate of their wrecked civilisation (see Ruins and Futurity). Golovan (2012) features the uncovering of a post-holocaust conspiracy, in which a doctor discovers documents that reveal a cover-up regarding a draconian decision to fight a plague by destroying the infested zone with nuclear weapons.

At the close of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Berezin embarked upon a new series of Future War novels that would forever alter his media footprint. Voyna 2010: Ukrainskiy front ["War 2010: The Ukrainian Front"] (2009) and its sequel Voyna 2011: Protiv NATO ["War 2011: Adversary NATO"] (2010) imagined Ukraine beset by multiple invaders, including land-grabs by Turks and Romanians, and "peace-keeping" operations by NATO opposed by a local partisan resistance. Calculatedly provocative, described as "politically incorrect" in its own publicity, Berezin's "turbo-realist" Technothriller owed much to one of the dystopian scenarios in Omega (2005) by Andriy Valentynov, but seemed to practically welcome the onset of hostilities and the likelihood that only resistance from within the military, Soviet-era weaponry taken out of mothballs, and the likelihood of intervention by Russian saviours. It was published alongside similar contemporaneous works by Georgiy Savitsky and Glev Bobrov, all outlining a putative war over Ukraine with a chillingly mutual sense of confident Prediction.

The sudden rise in such works prompted Arsen Avakov, politician and co-founder of the Star Bridge convention that had formerly bestowed awards on a younger Berezin, to write the article "Khotyat ly russkye voyny?" ["Do Russians Want War?"] (19 March 2009 Ukrainski Pravda). In it, he decried the genre's "Bad style, cheap American-formula primitive plotting, Russian great-power chauvinism, hatred and contempt in every word. Our future history is how Great Russia saves (by the way, conquering, as usual!) a stupid and insignificant Ukraine." Singling out Berezin in particular, Avakov archly noted that Moscow publishing houses had suddenly found the money in a recession, and Berezin the time and inclination, to release four books on the same subject in the space of just two and a half months: "1660 pages of hatred with a total circulation of 25,000 copies. What is this? What does this series of literary works prepare the Russian reader for? What is the target audience of these books? Is it ignorant young people who don't know much about history but are used to American chewing gum? Or on the Soviet people nostalgic for the days of their youth and health, ready to swallow the pill of Russian chauvinism?"

In retrospect, we might describe Berezin's themes as a slow walk back from the Far Future, to the Near Future and its parallels, and then to a contemporary world in which Berezin himself is a participant. In 2014, he became a key figure in the militia of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, swiftly rising to become its deputy minister of defence. Subsequently, he became the chair of the Donetsk Writers Union, curating a new "national" body of literature much like his fellow author, Gleb Bobrov in neighbouring Luhansk. In 2018, he was elected as a deputy to the People's Council of the Donetsk People's Republic, a state still only recognized by the Russian Federation.

"I am concerned," wrote the author Dmitry Bykov in his article "Voyna pisateley" ["The Writers' War"] (8 July 2014 Novaya Gazeta), "about why the Fantastika writing community took such an active part in the 2014 war, why it first diligently predicted and then carried it out. It is easiest to say that science fiction rules the world in general – such legends are popular with fans – but they will have to be discarded: after all, there are talented science fiction writers out there. How it is that only the predictions of the least talented and most odious come true is an unsolvable question." [JonC]

Fedor Dmitrievich Berezin

born Stalino, USSR [Donetsk, Ukraine]: 7 February 1960

works (selected)

series

Krasnyye zvezdy ["Red Stars"]

Voyna 2030 ["War 2030"]

Voyna 2010 ["War 2010"]

individual titles

  • Pepel ["Ashes"] (Moscow: AST, 2001) [binding unknown/]
  • Lunnyy variant ["Lunar Variant"] (Moscow: Eksmo, 2004) [binding unknown/]
  • Atomnaya krepost ["Atomic Fortress"] (Moscow: AST, 2011) [binding unknown/]
  • Golovan (Moscow: AST, 2012) [binding unknown/]

links

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