Review: Flight from the USSR, by Dato Turashvili

This books tells the tragic story of a group of young Georgian men (and one woman) who chose to hijack a Soviet airliner in November 1983 in an attempt to escape to the West.

As the author explains at the beginning, this was not a book he intended to publish, and that he hoped Georgia could put its Soviet past behind it. But following the Russian attack on Georgia in 2008, he went ahead with the book.

The hijackers were all artists of various kinds, and the central character in the book is a young actor who was already quite well known in Georgia. When the bungled hijacking failed following the storming of the aircraft by Soviet special forces, the surviving hijackers were arrested, interrogated and tried — and all sentenced to death except for the one woman, who had been pregnant. A monk who had nothing to do with the hijacking was framed by the Soviets as the ringleader of the conspiracy.

Georgian Communist leader (and later Soviet Foreign Minister) Eduard Shevardnadze comes off particularly badly in the book, despite his reputation in the West as something of a liberal.

This book tells the true story of this event clearly and well, and doesn’t flinch from the horror of it all (in particular what the Soviets do to the woman).

A terribly sad story and very good book by one of Georgia’s best known living writers.

(There’s a Wikipedia article about the hijacking here.)

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