Moscow’s first hybrid war: review of Дорога на Асмару [The Road to Asmara] by SERHII SYNHAIIVSʹKYI, 2016

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationBook/Film/Article review


An astounding novel. A rare find. The unhurried but spell-binding and precise prose, which becomes this roman-fleuve, takes the reader on a trip to a forgotten corner of the communist world, to the Horn of Africa, to the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. At that time, Eritrea was an Ethiopian province, as decided by the United Nation in 1952. In English, novels devoted to Ethiopia are typically authored by émigré Ethiopians or their children, who tend to focus on their family stories. As a backdrop they choose the Second World War, when the country was occupied by the Italians (for instance, in Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King, 2019), or the postwar Empire of Ethiopia (in Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, 2009). I should also mention Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Emperor (1978), ostensibly about the last years and fall of Haile Selassie, but in reality a parable on the author’s own home country of communist Poland. The 1974 Revolution, which led to the rise of Soviet (Derg, communist) Ethiopia, marks the end of the narrative in the last two of the aforementioned titles. In contrast, Synhaiivsʹkyi – drawing on his own experiences as a Soviet interpreter in Africa – probes into the beginning of the end of communist Ethiopia, treated as an integral part of the Soviet bloc. Communism survived in this African country for two years longer than in Europe, and fell only in 1991 when the system’s ultimate protector, the Soviet Union, broke up. Three decades down the line, these events continue to impact Ethiopian and Eritrean politics and society, including Ethiopia’s 2020 civil war against its northern region of Tigray.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Specialist publicationCEU Review of Books
PublisherCentral European University Press
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2024


  • Ethiopia
  • Eritrea
  • Holodomor
  • Soviet imperialism
  • Communism
  • Totalitarianism


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