Fedor Berezin is a former Soviet military officer and science fiction writer in Ukraine. Now, two of his novels — War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO — have become reality. And he's not the only Ukrainian SF author who imagined the Russian invasion before it happened.
In a fascinating story by Cathy Young in Slate, we learn that Berezin is just one of many local authors who imagined a near-future dystopia where Russian troops and NATO forces threaten the Central European state's sovereignty:
A forerunner of the genre, Omega, by veteran sci-fi/fantasy writer Andrei Valentinov, came out in 2005, shortly after Ukraine's pro-Western Orange Revolution. It depicted three alternate-history versions of 2004, one of them a dystopia in which Crimea had been invaded and occupied by NATO forces in 1995; while the main characters were resistance fighters, they were both anti-Moscow and anti-NATO. (Valentinov, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian whose real name is Andrei Shmalko and who lives in Kharkiv, one of Eastern Ukraine's major cities, has professed equal distaste for "Russian chauvinists," "Ukrainian nationalists," and "American globalists"; more recently, he has strongly affirmed his loyalty to Ukraine.)
Young writes that one Russian commentator dubbed the current conflict "the writers war" because it follows these science fiction novels so closely. In many ways, it makes sense that this war would find its first expression in science fiction. The genre is incredibly popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union used it to promote its vision of socialist Utopia (as well as capitalist dystopia).
Leaders in the region haven't forgotten the role science fiction played in political ideology. Ukrainian politician Arsen Avakov worried publicly that futuristic Russo-Ukrainian war stories were a strategy to enlist support for the exact kind of armed conflict the nation is seeing right now.
Young describes the kind of books that Avakov was concerned about:
A far more straightforward vision of Russian good vs. Western evil is offered in The Age of the Stillborn by Gleb Bobrov, who like Berezin is an ethnic Russian from Eastern Ukraine (Luhansk) and an Afghanistan war veteran. The apocalyptic novel, set in a near future in which a brutal Kiev regime seeks to quash rebellion in the East with NATO help, was first published online in 2006 and became a hit on the Russian Internet before going to print in 2007. Donetsk citizen Grigory Savitsky made his literary debut in 2009 with Battlefield Ukraine: The Broken Trident, which depicts a scenario uncannily similar to Berezin's saga, right down to 2010 as the start of the war. The back cover summary refers to " 'Orange' Nazis" who provoke a civil war in Ukraine and unleash genocide against the Russian-speaking population, "wiping entire cities off the face of the earth"—aided by NATO "peacekeeping" troops and American air power.
It seems that the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has been a popular topic in Ukraine fiction for about 15 years, much the same way that "what if the South had won the Civil War?" fiction is popular in the United States. Except so the U.S. hasn't had a return to Civil War fighting — yet. One day those of us here in the States may realize in horror that Harry Turtledove's alternate history books have become reality.
Read more in Slate