Kalle Kniivilä

Journalist och författare

Children of the Empire

sovjetsbarnbarnChildren of the Empire – Russian life in the Baltics

Russian speakers in the Baltic countries are one of the largest minority groups in the European Union. They appear in the news whenever Russia invades a neighboring country and analysts suddenly discover that there are a million ethnic Russians living in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Might they be a security risk? Are they Putin’s fifth column? And when the crisis is over, we forget all about them.

In his new book Sovjets barnbarn (literally ”Great-children of the Soviet Union”, 2016) the Swedish-Finnish journalist Kalle Kniivilä lets the Russian speakers in the Baltic countries tell their own story.

During his travels through the three countries he meets 84-year-old Maria, who reminisces about the beautiful evening in early May, just a few weeks after Josef Stalin’s death, when she met her future husband at a dance in the Estonian mining community of Kohtla-Järve. We also hear from 15-year-old Kjara who is studying for her Latvian language A-level exams, and Yevgeny, a middle-aged computer engineer who was born in Soviet Tajikistan but now lives in the Russian speaking Lithuanian town of Visaginas, built for the staff of a Soviet nuclear power plant. The nuclear plant was shut down as a precondition of Lithuania’s entry to the European Union, and many people have since left the town.

This travelogue, with dozens of in-depth interviews, paints a multifaceted and nuanced portrait of Russian speakers in the Baltic countries.

Ingmar Oldberg wrote the following in his review in Baltic Worlds 3/2016:

The author of this book has been likened to Nikolai Gogol and Ivan Turgenev, since he shows there is another Russia than that of Stalin and Putin, and to Chekhov, who exposes dilemmas to the reader without solving them. A more appropriate and up-to-date comparison can be made with Svetlana Aleksievich, because of Kniivilä’s use of interviews and his empathetic and respectful approach to interviewees of various ages, origins, and professions and to their often touching or dramatic lifestories.

However, there are of course significant differences: Kniivilä asks questions concerning the identity of the Russians living in the three Baltic states, the problems they encounter in daily life, their view of Russia and the West, and how and why they or their parents came to the Baltics. Second, unlike Aleksievich, Kniivilä as a political journalist provides context for the interviews, explaining facts and sometimes arguing with his interlocutors. He describes his trips and the places he visits, thus producing a travelogue that could even be used as a guidebook for ambitious travelers.

Kalle Kniivilä is author of two highly praised books on the former Soviet Union: Putins folk (”Putin’s people”, 2014, best non-fiction book in Finland 2014) and Krim tillhör oss (”Crimea is ours”, 2015).

Crimea is ours

krim-tillhor-ossThe annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 shook the world. The Crimean crisis remains a ticking time-bomb whose ultimate consequences are still impossible to predict. And it is a question that divides the local inhabitants.

Anna in Sevastopol doubled her state salary. She could buy the tall, white kitchen cabinets she’d always dreamed of — but otherwise her life is mostly unchanged. The area in which she lives has largely welcomed the actions of President Putin.

For Eskender, things are different. He encountered the new regime when heavily-armed police knocked in his door in the early morning hours and up-ended everything in his apartment. Eskender is a Crimean Tatar. For him, Russia is the successor to the old Soviet Union, which once exiled his entire people.

For his new book, Krim tillhör oss (”Crimea is Ours”, 2015), Kalle Kniivilä travelled around Crimea to interview both supporters and opponents of annexation. Everyone he spoke with wanted order and a functional society — rather than chaos and corruption. But they favored different solutions.

Those who wanted Crimea to remain a part of the Ukraine, frequently made reference to democracy and human rights. For them, a functional state in the Western model with closer ties to Europe represented a path forward. But many voices were already going silent. Others departed the occupied peninsula and travelled to Kiev to be able to speak freely and advance their agenda. For them, the Russian occupation of Crimea was a continuation of Soviet oppression, a disagreeable echo from the past.

Those who wished to belong to Russia frequently brought up the Russian language which, according to them, was being suppressed in the Ukraine. Most of them also hoped that the Russian annexation would lead to higher salaries and better living conditions. But almost as many, also spoke glowingly about the good old days. Often supporters of annexation would mention Stalin as a great leader. But Stalin, of course, was not as perfect as Putin, according to one.

Kalle Kniivilä is author of two highly praised books on the former Soviet Union: Putins folk (”Putin’s people”, 2014, best non-fiction book in Finland 2014) and Krim tillhör oss (”Crimea is ours”, 2015). Forthcoming: Sovjets barnbarn, (Children of the Empire, 2016).

Sovjets barnbarn

sovjetsbarnbarn”Det är ett storartat reportage, både om Sovjetunionens sinnessjuka historia och det komplexa dagsläget i en av världens brännpunkter. /…/ Boken Sovjets barnbarn krånglar till det för oss i Tjechovs anda, och Kniivilä gör därmed empatin och freden en stor tjänst. Utan att moralisera skapar han moralisk klarhet.”
Niklas Ekdal, DN

När Ryssland invaderar ett grannland brukar de politiska analytikerna yrvaket konstatera att det bor en miljon ryssar i Estland, Lettland och Litauen. Det är en av de största minoritetsbefolkningarna i EU. Är de en säkerhetsrisk, är de Putins femte kolonn?

Boken är en oberoende fortsättning på Putins folk (utnämnd till årets bästa fackbok i Finland 2014) och Krim tillhör oss – en berättelse om storpolitik sedd genom vanliga människornas ögon.

Ges ut av Atlas förlag och finns att köpa hos Adlibris och Bokus. E-bok hos Dito och Bokon

Boken finns även på finska och esperanto.

Kapitel ur boken

Recensioner

Intervjuer om boken

Neuvostomaan lapset

NEUVOSTOMAAN-LAPSET_kannet-1-194x300Aiheellisesti voi kysyä, kuinka paljon yksittäisen entisen neuvostomaan kansalaisen tai Virossa syntyneen venäläisnuoren pitää kantaa vastuuta tai syyllisyyttä menneistä ajoista ja Kremlin teoista? Kniivilä vastaa näihin kysymyksiin monelta kantilta, mutta itse juurikaan kantaa ottamatta. Se on kirjan suuri ansio. Ääni on haastateltavien ääni.  /…/ Juuri vastakkaiset tai ainakin ristikkäiset mielipiteet tekevät Kniivilän teksteistä antoisia.
Pentti Stranius, Savon Sanomat

Tallinnalaisista lähes puolet puhuu äidinkielenään venäjää. Latvian pääkaupungissa Riiassa venäjää puhuu kotonaan useampi kuin latviaa. Onko venäläisvähemmistö näissä maissa turvallisuusriski, Putinin ”viides kolonna”, kuten erityisasiantuntijat huolestuneena toistelevat?

Tässä kirjassa Baltian venäjänkieliset saavat puhua itse. 84-vuotias Maria kertoo siitä ihanasta toukokuun illasta muutamia viikkoja Stalinin kuoleman jälkeen, kun hän Kohtla-Järven kaivoskaupungin tansseissa tapasi tulevan miehensä. 15-vuotias Kjara Riiassa valmistautuu latviankieliseen ylioppilastutkintoon, ja narvalainen Aleksei kertoo miten kävi kun hänen panssari-Sisunsa ajoi miinaan Afganistanissa.

Kirja jatkaa kertomusta jonka aloittivat vuoden 2014 parhaaksi tietokirjaksi valitulle Putinin väkeä ja Krimin miehityksen ensimmäisenä vuosipäivänä 2015 ilmestynyt Krim on meidän.

Saatavissa Into-kustantamon nettikaupasta (myös e-kirjana) sekä esimerkiksi Adlibriksestä. E-kirja myös Elisa-kirjasta.

Kirja on ilmestynyt myös ruotsiksi ja esperantoksi.

Arvosteluja

Haastatteluja kirjasta

Крым наш

Polski Svenska Esperanto

В конце сентября 2014 года я посетил Крым, чтобы взять интервью у сторонников и противников аннексии. Все они желали порядка и нормально функционирующего общества – вместо хаоса и коррупции. Однако они предпочитали разные решения.

Те, кто хотел, чтобы Крым остался частью Украины, охотно говорили о демократии и правах человека. Функционирующее правовое государство, построенное по западной модели, и общее сближение с Европой – вот было их видение пути вперёд. Но многие из них уже замолчали. Другие покинули оккупированный полуостров и переехали в Киев, чтобы иметь возможность говорить свободно, чтобы развивать то, во что они верят. Для них российская власть в Крыму – продолжение советского режима подавления, неприятное эхо прошлого.

Те же, кто хотел принадлежать России, охотно говорили о русском языке, который, согласно их мнению, ущемлялся на Украине. Подавляющее большинство из них, разумеется, надеялись, что российская аннексия приведёт к более высоким зарплатам и уровню жизни. Но с не меньшей готовностью многие говорили о старых добрых временах. Многие сторонники аннексии вспоминали Сталина как хорошего руководителя. Но Сталин, разумеется, не был столь же безупречен, как Путин, пояснил один из них.

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