A Review of In Isolation: Dispatches from Occupied Donbas by Stanislav Aseyev
Review By Justin Kempf
Many of us recognize the Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014 in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. However, few of us know much about the conflict before 2022. For so long it was a distant affair in what many perceived as the periphery of Europe. Even many in Western Ukraine grew detached from the conflict in the Donbas. Of course, the seriousness of the conflict manifested after Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 22nd. Inevitably, many of us found ourselves feverishly cramming like a student the night before an exam.
An essential addition for anyone interested in better understanding the war is Stanislav Aseyev’s In Isolation: Dispatches from Occupied Donbas. It’s a collection of very personal accounts made while living in the Donetsk People’s Republic. The preface sets the stage for his writings and puts them into historical context. He explains how he was eventually discovered, imprisoned, and tortured. After 31 months, he was released in December of 2019. However, these writings focus on his life before his imprisonment. Many focus on life in his hometown of Makiivka where fighting remains active.
Aseyev, however, does not so much detail the events of the conflict as describe the change in attitudes and feelings as the conflict progressed. He asks difficult questions such as why he chose to stay when so many others left. And while he remains loyal to Ukraine, he makes some pointed criticism toward how they handled the secessionist crisis. He also offers important insights into why many fought against Ukraine. But Aseyev also strives to understand something that transcends his own experience. He thinks deeply about notions of identity, loyalty, and purpose. So for those who want to better understand, not just Ukraine, but human nature, In Isolation is essential reading.
About the Reviewer
Justin Kempf manages this blog and hosts the podcast Democracy Paradox. He lives with his family in Carmel, Indiana.
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