Russia Washed in Blood

Russia Washed in Blood

A Novel in Fragments

By Artyom Vesyoly
Introduction by Elena Govor & Kevin Windle
Translated by Kevin Windle

Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

This book is the first English translation of a vivid fictionalised account of the Russian Civil War of 1918–1921 by a gifted writer, Artyom Vesyoly, who made it his mission to record the full horror of the events of that period. For his failure to recognise the ‘leading organisational role’ of the Communist Party, he was executed in Stalin’s Great Purge.

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August 2020

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August 2020

£50.00, $80.00

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About This Book

Russia Washed in Blood, first published in full in 1932, is the longest and best-known work by Nikolai Kochkurov (18991938), who wrote under the pen-name Artyom Vesyoly. The novel, more a series of extended episodes than a connected narrative with a plot and a hero, is a vivid fictionalised account of the events from the viewpoint of the ordinary soldier. The title of the novel came to symbolise the tragic history of Russia in the 20th century.

The novel’s main theme is the relation between freedom and dictatorship, reflecting a view that the cruelty which comes with elemental freedom destroys that freedom and prepares the ground for dictatorship. Vesyoly’s writings belong to the literature of moral resistance to Stalinism. For his failure to recognise the ‘leading organisational role’ of the Communist Party he would be executed in Stalin’s Great Purge. 

Born in Samara, on the banks of the Volga, the son of a waterside worker, Artyom Vesyoly was the first member of his family to learn to read and write. He took part in the Civil War of 19181921 on the Red side, and at its conclusion, began a prolific literary career. Vesyoly took as his main theme the horrific events he had witnessed and participated in during the fierce fighting in Southern Russia between the contending forces – Red, White, Cossack, anarchist and others – and the effects of these on the participants and unfortunate civilians caught between them.


‘Artyom Vesyoly’s harrowing novel belongs on the shelf beside the works of Isaac Babel, Mikhail Bulgakov and other modernist masters of the early Soviet period. Translator Kevin Windle’s flawless command of idiom and sensitivity to the slightest nuances of tone impresses on every page.’ — Boris Dralyuk, Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books

‘This translation is a gift to anyone interested in Russian history and to readers in general. The immediacy of Vesyoly’s account of the Civil War is reminiscent of Babel’s Red Cavalry but conveys to an intense degree a sense of having been lived. This is a gem, presented here in full for the first time. Kevin Windle’s translation gives the impression of detracting nothing from the vivid authenticity of Vesyoly’s experience as rendered in these arresting tales.’ — Tom Keneally, Novelist

‘Windle’s monumental work brings English-speaking readers Vesyoly’s panorama depicting the violence and complexity of Russia’s civil war in the peripheral regions of Georgia, North Caucasus and southeastern Ukraine -- contemporary conflict zones of Donetsk and Lugansk. Through Windle’s masterful translation readers experience the terrible years following the Bolshevik Revolution.’ — Mary Schaeffer Conroy, Emeritus Professor, Russian/Soviet History, University of Colorado, Denver, USA

‘The broad canvas and episodic structure of Vesyoly’s masterpiece captures the chaos and contradictions of the revolution unfolding across Russia in 1917. Russia Washed in Blood captures the horror, but there are shafts of humour and heroism as well.’ — Sheila Fitzpatrick, Professor, Australian Catholic University

‘Vesyoly vividly conveys the atmosphere of the Russian Civil War -- its impossible hopes, its numbing brutality, its wild music.’ — Robert Chandler, Honorary Research Fellow, Queen Mary University, London

Author Information

Artyom Vesyoly (1899–1938) was a prominent Russian writer of the early Soviet period, executed in the Great Purge for his ‘incorrect’ depiction of the revolution and civil war, and posthumously rehabilitated in 1956.

Kevin Windle is an emeritus fellow at the Australian National University, translator, and historian of the early Russian community in Australia. 

Elena Govor, granddaughter of Artyom Vesyoly, is an Australian historian specialising in the history of Russian-Australian contacts.


Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

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