Dostoevsky is canceled

Alexei Sorokin
4 min readJul 21, 2022

I could never imagine I’d say this. Soon after Russia started bombing Ukraine I wrote a piece about the end of Russia. I stand by it but there is a change — for the worse. At the end of that story, I expressed my admiration for my favorite book — Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Now I fear that Russia’s cultural legacy has suffered irreversible damage. And I am not referring to public opinion. I’m talking about how I feel. That’s a very important distinction. Say you love someone deeply, maybe for decades, but then love is no longer. Then there is a break-up, maybe of an ugly kind. That kind of a break-up is not some momentary over-reaction. It changes your entire life, your identity.

This story was triggered by… a visit to a Russian shop not far from our home in Florida. I know — the connection between getting a couple of food items and Dostoevsky is not obvious. You can criticize me for over-reacting. But…

So we are an immigrant family in the US but we are eclectic in our habits and lifestyle. I wouldn’t call our nutrition habits “Russian” in any way, except for a few items that most Americans would probably find unusual. For example, we often have buckwheat (grechka) which can be eaten for breakfast with milk or as a side dish. Or we eat quite a lot of farmer’s cheese (tvorog in Russian). While you can find these items at most major grocery stores, if there is a Russian shop near where we live we’d often pay it a visit once every few weeks. The other day my wife asked me to stop by a Russian market in Boca Raton. I had to get buckwheat, and farmer’s cheese and she also included kartoshka (“potato”) in her list, which is a well-known Soviet dessert. It’s like a brownie or chocolate cake. I used to love kartoshka. In my childhood years in the 1980s, every time I’d finish swimming my Mom would get me a kartoshka at the swimming complex’s cafeteria. I still find kartoshka delicious though I don’t touch it these days ’cause so it’s so rich and sugary! My kids like it!

So I walk into this Russian food market in Boca Raton and it’s like a flashback to my life in Russia and even to the Soviet era — the brands on the shelves and how the ladies behind some store sections weigh and hand you the foods that you then take to the counter. I’m a little curious to experience this flashback but the emotions are not strong. I don’t feel sentimental and I don’t feel anything unpleasant.

Or do I? There is music playing. I recognize instantly one of the Soviet pop music icons Kuzmin. Kuzmin’s…

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day.