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The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule

(Cuadernos de Igort)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  642 ratings  ·  159 reviews
Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule.

After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of the survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Itali
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Simon Schuster (first published 2010)
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Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I am not naturally drawn to graphic books, but I am fascinated by Eastern Europe so it was hard to pass up an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, a book of graphic non-fiction. The Notebooks are based on interviews Igort -- pseudonym for Igor Tuveri -- conducted with a number of Ukrainians and Russians living in contemporary Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian part of the notebooks focuses on the 20th century history of Ukrainian, including the horrendous fo ...more
A harrowing account of the Holodomor, the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 and the murder of journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya are the two stories depicted in this graphic novel.

Because of Stalin's collectivization program, millions of people starved in the USSR, the Holodomor in the Ukraine alone has numbers cited from 3 to 7 million. Other estimations even run into the 10 million. There were several factors that contributed to these numbers. Low harvest, the ma
Jon Nakapalau
The 1932 Holodomor is looked at through first person interviews in the Ukrainian NB. The new Russia and the Chechen War are examined in the Russian NB. Igort connects the stories with stark art that makes you feel the oppression that permeates the subject matter...highest recommendation.
MissBecka Gee
The illustrations had an innocent simplicity to them that I thought paired well with what I expected from the content.
Sadly the writing lacks cohesiveness.
With the exception of Igort retracing Anna's steps after her death. That portion seemed to flow quite nicely.
The rest of the graphic (especially the first half) was inelegant and emotionless.
I felt like I was reviewing notes for his first draft.
There are many interesting tidbits in here and you will certainly learn from it...
But I was hoping f
Dov Zeller
How many ways can people come up with to torment and kill each other when they are fed dehumanizing propaganda and forced to choose between violence against others or violence against themselves and their families? How much damage can people do once they've given up hope on the possibility justice in any form?

What happens to people who don't go along with the narratives an authoritarian regime has demanded they accept and propagate?

At what point did truth telling become so dangerous and governm
Stewart Tame
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow. This was a difficult read, not in the sense of being hard to comprehend, but in the emotional impact. So much pain ... so much suffering ... so much death ... Igort's narrative jumps around a bit, telling stories in quick bursts. It helps keep the bleakness from being overwhelming. The artwork is lovely, reminiscent in some ways of the classic EC war comics. The sequence from page 276 to 281 where a young soldier is ordered to perform an execution is phenomenal. Artistically, this book is a ...more
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Graphic nonfiction featuring first-person accounts of the real-life horrors that occurred during the Ukrainian famine of 1932 and the recent conflict in Chechnya. Content warning: Graphic descriptions of brutality.

"Maybe we'd like to share our secret, that secret called war, but those who live in peace have no interest in hearing it." - Anna Politkovskaya

It was actually the subtitle rather than the title that caught my attention: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule. Author Anthony Marra's books ha
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was my very first attempt at reading a graphic novel. It only took me a couple of pages to get accustomed to the format before I got sucked into the story. There are two parts to this graphic novel: the first set in Ukraine and largely focused on telling the stories of those who lived through the Holodomor genocide (a Stalin-made famine meant to punish Ukrainian insubordination); the second is focused on the human rights violations committed during the wars in Chechnya and the reporters who ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in Russian and Soviet history and current Russian politics
Recommended to Olga by: Sal
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is an important work, asking questions that have no answers. Igort excels at bringing to life history, in this case it is the history of Ukraine and the USSR. I had no trouble reading a graphic novel of this size (more than three hundred pages), but I had trouble with the content. My main complaint is that there are no links to the sources. Igort wrote a non fiction book, non fiction graphic novel. And non fi
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway.
This graphic novel is in two parts. The Ukrainian section is a series of "chapters", each a graphic rendition of someone's retelling of their experiences. Interspersed are short pieces on the relevant history. The Russian portion of the book examines the death of the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya and also retells several of the stories that she and her fellow journalists have reported.
This was not a get-through-it-in-one-setting book, despite t
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm fascinated by the Soviet Union and the Cold War so I always try to pick up new releases that look interesting. I came across this one by accident and I am so glad. First off, the book itself is so beautiful! I've never been this impressed before by a graphic novel. I love Igort's drawing style. He created such an eerie atmosphere with his drawings of people suffering and being tortured.

This story is told in two parts. The first is Ukrainian Notebook which deals with the Holodomor in 1932-33
This is not light reading. This is not fun and games. This book is deeply disturbing because although it is history, it is modern history and still going on, and still unchanged. Reading this book would be equivalent to reading about the concentration camps in Germany while it was still going on.

So, if you want to know what has happened, and is happening in Russia and the Ukraine, this is an excellent, well written book to explain the whole thing. There is old history, setting things up, there a
This. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks comic is probably the most important comic of the year. It's a devastating story consisting of smaller incidents that has led the world to this point - it tells us how the Soviet Union destroyed so much and how the flame from those times still lives strongly in Russia. I live in Finland next to Russia. The comic is divided in two sections, Ukrainian and Russian notebooks. The Ukrainian part is mostly about the great famine and what the Russians actually ...more
Ed Erwin
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I normally rate books on how much I enjoy them, but that won't work here. This isn't a book for enjoyment.

It is a very well-done introduction to two horrific chapters of recent Russian history. The graphic format works well. I almost certainly would not have picked up a textual book about these subjects, because I simply wouldn't want to read a long, scholarly description of them. The German atrocities of WWII are well-known today. But the atrocities of Stalin, which killed even more people, are
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good graphic novel mainly focusing on the Ukrainian famine of the 30s and the Chechnyan war.
Horrible personal stories of starvation, cannibalism, torture. Also many political comments and explanations, Anna Politkovskaya's story (murdered for writing about the horrible things going on in Chechnya) and an epilogue about the recent Ukrainian-Russian war (which I actually did not really get).

Very good art and I learned many things.
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is really two books in one. I had a rough start with this work but it got better as I continued reading. The book is presented as a journal in the format of a graphic novel. I think the editor is right to say this work will go down in history with other graphic journalists work. In this review I will look at book one, “The Ukrainian Notebooks” and part two, “The Russian Notebooks” respectively.
Since this is a “journal” it was a bit frustrating for me at the beginning of the book one to see
Dinara Tengri
For more reviews, you can visit my blog

The Ukranian and Russian Notebooks is the first graphic novel I've read in my entire life. It's also the second book about Life under Soviet rule that I have read since I started this blog. The first was, of course, Voices from Chernobyl: the Oral History of Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich.

For this review I'm actually going to share my first impressions that I wrote down after finishing this book:

"I should never h
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Oof, this was BRUTAL. I mean, I know Russia and Eastern Europe is kind of messed up right now, but I actually had no idea about the atrocities that Igort covers in the notebook-style comic work.

As the title insinuates, this work is divided into two parts: The Ukranian Notebook, in which Igort interviewed Ukranians who had survived the government-sanctioned famine (aka The Holodomor) that occurred in 1932-1933. The second part, The Russian Notebook, takes a closer look at
Wayne McCoy
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks' by Igort with English translation by Jamie Richards is an excellent non-fiction graphic novel, but it's not one that is easy to read because of the subject matter.

It's really a two part story, with enough atrocity for both stories. The Ukrainian notebook is about something called the Holodomor that happened in the 1930s under Stalin. The events of that time are told as vignettes by survivors that the author has run across. Millions of people starved or were
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
You simply cannot finish this graphic novel---the stories made that much more intense by the harrowing drawings of the horrors historically inflicted upon Ukraine and Chechnya by Russia---without feeling great emotion and anger. To me, there is no difference between what Stalin did in his time, and Putin is doing now. Millions of Ukrainians then and today have been killed, while millions more have somehow survived almost unimaginable horrors, from violent beatings to deportations. And yet, so li ...more
These harrowing stories of life under Soviet rule. Stories of starvation. Of cannibalism. Living without any kind of healthcare - no doctor or medicine.

And the stark black and white art really lend to the feeling of emptiness that these men and women are reflecting on.

In the Ukraine Notebooks, it might have been nice to have more background about what was going on. Or maybe I should know the background.

And even the atrocities being committed in the 21st century during the Chechen wars as desc
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A remarkably powerful work of graphic non-fiction, a genre I am not particularly comfortable with, but which in this case won me over completely. The depiction of the horrors that have occurred in both Russia and the Ukraine are here vividly conveyed with very little need for commentary. Much to my surprise I found this a compelling and engaging book which teaches much about what has happened – and still happens – in this part of the world. The drawings are excellent, stark and moving. An origin ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This was a turning point in graphic novels for me; I was more interested in Ukrainian and Russian history after reading this, and the relevance of the graphic novel to events occurring today are almost parallel. People who speak out against the government end up dead.

I thought this was put together really well. It drew me in from the beginning and had me wanting more at the end. I want to read more by Igort.
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Touching and wonderfully illustrated stories from the author's travels in Ukraine and Russia. He hits all the right notes with very difficult stories of hard times in the recent past. "Harrowing" is a good word for the contents of both notebooks, maybe moreso because they're mostly focused on the stories of individuals, either through their own words or the words of their surviving family and friends. ...more
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Terribly sad. Terribly scary and terribly true. A hard work to read with its study in human suffering during the 1932 Ukranian Holdomor (Stalin-triggered famine/genocide) and the Chechnya wars with special focus on Anna Politkovskaya.

But - you ought to read it nonetheless. It's terribly good.
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very well illustrated and written graphic novel covering the "ethnic cleansing" in the Ukraine in the 1930s-(this was carried out by an imposed mass famine.) However, a very depressing read as all of the events that were recorded were true -(and horrific). ...more
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Adding the the string of depressing and demoralizing books I've been reading, let's read one about Soviet Ukraine and the murder of Anna Politkovskaya / The Second Chechen War. Because why be happy when you can read about how horrible humanity can be to each other?

In one sense, the stories are light. Most are people telling about their lives, without poetics, without justifications. This is how it was. This is the, to modify Kundera, the incredible lightness of being. But this is also where the
Titus Bird
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010s, coconino
As someone with first-hand experience of the former Soviet Union (plus a bit of academic expertise), I'm always wary of media about the region that are produced by people who are neither from there, nor recognized experts on it. I have little patience for depictions that employ reductive stereotypes and clichés, and I'm simply more likely than most Western Europeans to notice inaccuracies, distortions and things that don't quite ring true. Even with well-intentioned, factually accurate non-ficti ...more
Autumn Kotsiuba
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I feel a little raw after this. Exposed, like the ending of a nerve. I know that's cliche but it's still true. Maybe it's the fact that I've heard of tragedy, okay, but now I'm learning more of tragedy taking place in my lifetime. Not just tragedy but evil. Or maybe it's the fact that I have a connection to this part of the world. I don't know. What's really messed up is that I feel like I need a reason to care.

This graphic novel wasn't perfect. It could be a little redundant, a little too forc
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this quite a bit, the stories were touching and tragic, the artistry beautiful, the topic just as salient as it was in the 1930s, and opens the door to further inquiry and reading. My only complaint was that it wasn't longer ...more
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Igort, pseudonimo di Igor Tuveri (Cagliari, 1958), è un fumettista, sceneggiatore e regista italiano.

Igor Tuveri was born in 1958 in Cagliari on Sardinia. He is known as a comic author under the pseudonym »Igort«. When he was twenty, he moved to Bologne where his career began and, in 1978, he published works in »Linus«, the first Italian comic magazine that was aimed especially at an adult readers

Other books in the series

Cuadernos de Igort (5 books)
  • Quaderni ucraini: Memorie dai tempi dell'URSS
  • Quaderni russi: La guerra dimenticata del  Caucaso
  • Quaderni giapponesi. Un viaggio nell'impero dei segni
  • Quaderni giapponesi. Il vagabondo del manga
  • Quaderni giapponesi. Moga, Mobo, Mostri

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