People in Russia are very proud of the wars they participated in, ‘cause they’ve won them all (or at least they like to think so). It’s like a sub-culture that hangs out in subways, you always spot them there with one leg, one arm, and a jar you can put your money in. My Russian great-grandmother always used to tell me stories about the terrible World War I and the awful World War II (yes, she’s that old!). Her whole house was like one big monument, full of portraits of her dead husbands. Pretty scary actually.
Now I don’t live in Russia anymore, but apparently at one point there were complaints about a lack of contemporary Russian war literature. Today there are no poets like Lermontov (a hero of our time – is a must-read!) or prosers like Tolstoy to portray the Chechen War (both were war veterans). There are no serious fictional accounts of the Russian experience in Afghanistan and one can only find low-standard «superhero» action novels or pompous official propaganda works. Those were the complaints.
So than the Russian literary journal for veterans of recent wars Art of War decided to show that that’s not true, that Russia has a modern war literature. The concept of the journal is to publish creative works in prose, poetry and journalism written by veterans of recent and current wars, because they have a lot to share (for example Arkady Babchenko. The principal purpose underlying the foundation of this journal is the psychological rehabilitation of soldiers who have endured the losses and hardships of combat.
What amazes is me is that in the Netherlands, where I live now, the veterans are invisible.
Though I have to admit I don’t use the subway here that much. But really, where are all the stories about the Dutch boys and girls in Afghanistan? Why are they being kept on the background? Why isn’t there a veteran-subculture here? Why don’t we have a literary journal on war? Are the Dutch less proud? Are they shy? Or do they just don’t care? I know that’s a pretty provocative statement, so feel free to comment.