March 01, 2015

Prison, Alexis and Siberia

It is noteworthy that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, recently amnestied and exiled abroad after his long prison term in Siberia, chose as his first western publication not a long, political tract, but a diminutive sketchbook.

But do not be deceived. This little book’s power is inversely proportional to its size.

Chekhovian in its brevity (81 pages), it is a compilation of perceptive, respectful portraits of people whom Khodorkovsky met in prison, people whose principles set them apart – for good or ill. And since the greatest and worst aspects of human character are expressed in times of profound difficulty, the book offers a grim, hazy reflection of Russian society more generally (and much of humanity) – its apathy and despair, its courage and character.

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