SERAGLIO 55 by Georgy Pryakhin
The International Press Institute based in Vienna nominated Seraglio 55 for the International Human Rights Book Award presented at a public ceremony in the Vienna City Hall on 18 May, 2010. This was in recognition of Pryakhin’s contribution to press freedom by dismantling Communist Party control of the media in the USSR under Gorbachev. Ironic to see this book nominated alongside Anna Politkovskaya’s A Russian Diary and Wild Swans by Jung Chang when its publication in Ireland was undermined by a campaign of hate and lies. Ah well!
'Seraglio 55' is a sequence of sketches based on
the author's experiences traveling around the world and
through life. Observing and reflecting, he filters his
experiences through dreams to tease out personal
significance. Here is variety, from stories about
growing up in a village which was the remnant of a
Stalinist penal colony, to stories of meeting
international figures with Gorbachev.
Pryakhin was born in 1947 in a village in the steppes of
Southern Russia, a penal colony to which his father and
mother had been separately deported by the Stalin
regime. Orphaned as a child he was brought up in one of
the infamous Stalinist orphanages. After graduating from
Moscow University he worked as a newspaper, then a
Pryakhin's first novel,
'A Boarding School', an exposé of the Stalinist
orphanages, was published in the 70's by the legendary
radical journal, 'Novyi Mir'. The Cold War being in full
swing, the Voice of America radio station broadcast the
novel across the USSR as anti-Soviet propaganda.
Nevertheless, Pryakhin rose through the ranks of the
Communist Party and he was sent to Armenia when the
catastrophic earthquake struck in 1988. There he met and
engaged with the President of the USSR, Mikhail
Gorbachev, who invited him to join his Inner Circle of
After the fall of Gorbachev, Pryakhin
concentrated on the publishing house, Voskresenye, which
he heads. But in 2000 he helped to found the centre-left
political party, Russia Revival, in an effort to bring
the social-democrat option into Russian politics.
His books have been translated and published
across Europe and Asia, but this is the first to be
published in English.
To read more about
Georgy Pryakin, click here.