Isaak Babel: Konarmiya [Red Cavalry]

(2227 words)

“A Jew who climbs onto a horse stops being a Jew and becomes a Russian.” This statement – from Isaak Babel''s play Zakat [Sunset] – expresses the central dilemma of Konarmiia [Red Cavalry]. For in 1920, Babel' – a myopic, asthmatic Jew from Odessa – was despatched as a correspondent to cover the Soviet Union's first foreign military adventure, the Soviet-Polish war, where he observed the infamously anti-Semitic Cossacks of General Budyonny's cavalry. Babel' kept a record of his experiences (published in English in 1995 as the 1920 Diary), but soon realised that his gifts were not those of a historian: “in the process of writing, my aim …

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Bullock, Philip Ross. "Konarmiya". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 27 September 2006
[, accessed 08 October 2015.]