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Alexander Dolinin’s Against Destiny is a striking and powerful novel that maybe occupies a unique place in English, translated, and also Russian literature, in which it has its roots. There have been numerous documentary and fictionalized accounts of life in the Stalinist GULag, but this is virtually the first full length story of one of those rare but still conceivable escapes from the Soviet punitive system. The escapers, together with their fellow prisoners, their guards and pursuers, as well as various personalities they encounter en route, offer a microscopic view of Soviet society in the postwar years, reminding one of Solzhenitzyn’s First Circle and Cancer Ward. Although a work of fiction, every detail of the novel and its background has been minutely and scrupulously researched , in a manner reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth. The result is a novel that has a cogency, a sense of psychological and documentary realism, and an ideological message that place it among the best writings in any language on this harrowing subject matter.

Christopher Barnes, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature , University of Toronto

author of Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography (Cambridge University Press)


Alexander Dolinin's Against Destiny is a fast-paced political thriller, a story of endurance, determination and passion for freedom. It involves four political prisoners and their Chukchi tracker-guide-shaman in their trek from the Soviet gulag in eastern Siberia to the Bering Strait and asylum in Alaska. Their 1400-mile-long escape is well-drawn, realistic and wholly credible, full of tension, threat and hardship. Dolinin's first-hand experience of life in the Soviet Union and his subsequent, considerable historical research provide firm foundation for this impressive first novel. It would make a very suspenseful and successful movie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Brian John, Professor Emeritus of English, McMaster University


I have just about completed reading Against Destiny by Alexander Dolinin. As I have not thoroughly completed the book I cannot comment on what I have not read. However, thus far, and I'm on the last section of the book, I have felt the chilling effect the Siberian climate has to offer, the discomforts of life, and the incredible drive to reach some version of freedom from a society fraught with a silent sort of Reign of Terror. Even the most dedicated and honourable of men can end up as part of the miserable Gulag that Russia has become so infamous in supporting for its so-called traitors to the Communist regime. There is a standard of compassion and decency in this book that has not been buried in the Russian psyche  of Stalinism. How it has been preserved is why you need to read this story of native Siberians’ strength and regard for their own beliefs, alongside a humanistic Christian ethic that makes this riveting tale one that will keep your attention.

No nation should have to be wrapped up in such a  society that they have no chance to say what they need to say without the fear of being silenced forever.

I believe that the author has caught the power of man to find something better than a system of life that keeps you in bondage even though you are not in prison.

Jane Evans, retired nurse’s aide


Alexander Dolinin’s Against Destiny is a gripping, unsparing tale of the imprisonment of five men in the Kolyma slave labour camp in Eastern Russia immediately after WWII, and of their escape from it. At a time when Russian authorities are once again trying to suppress the memory of Soviet brutality, Against Destiny brings the sufferings in the Gulag to life and reminds us of the shameful Soviet past.

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights

Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada


This historical novel is the first fictional account of an escape from Stalin's Gulag. Set in the period soon after the Second World War, it tells the story of four ex-soldiers who find themselves in a labour camp in eastern Siberia for political offences. Facing almost certain death from the harsh conditions, they join with an aboriginal prisoner in a daring escape. Pursued by units of the Soviet army, they make their way east towards the Bering Strait, with the aim of crossing it in winter when it is covered with ice. The first part, set in the camp, is gruesome but accurate. The rest of the novel, as the friends make their escape and encounter pursuers, is absolutely gripping–I found it hard to put it down. Along the way, the friends talk about their past–the reader gets a sense of the variety of political reasons why people ended up in Stalin's camps. I won't spoil the reader's pleasure by revealing how the book ends.

David Hitchcock, Professor of Philosophy, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada


Mr. James McKinnon

Editor, Kunati Inc.

I received from Mr A. Dolinin the galley of his novel Against Destiny and read it with pleasure. I highly appreciate your publishing such a book. Hitler's crimes are recognized by the whole world and definitely condemned. But the unconditional condemnation of Communists' crimes, which are more horrible, is still not part of the Western psyche. There are still countries where you see monuments to Lenin! There are still Communist countries—even if some of them call themselves differently. To preach Nazi ideology is a crime in many countries; but in no country is it a crime to preach Communist ideology. And in fact, it is not strange that extreme Muslim fanatics and Communists form always a common front. Therefore, your publishing Against Destiny constitutes an important contribution to the cause of the defense of our civilization. I have no doubts that, for any reader, this novel will be an eye-opener.

Igor Mel’čuk, Professor, Dept. of Linguistics and Translation, University of Montreal

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada


... novel is FANTASTIC. My mother loved it, my sister is reading it next, and I will soon give it to my neighbour. What a story!!

Jan Sobocan, London, Ontario


The book depicts the inhuman conditions of a Soviet labour camp and an incredible escape of five prisoners. The novel portrays the extraordinary survival skills of these men, their struggle against the harsh environment of the North and their determination to seek freedom even if the price for it is life.

Some of the best pages of the novel depict the traditional lifestyle of the Chukchi people, their worship of ancestral deities and their mistrust of the "Big Mustache" and the Soviet authorities. Owing to the Chukchi hospitality and their help, the five runaways manage to prepare themselves for their risky crossing of the Bering Strait and their encounters with the pursuing Red Army soldiers.

The fictional characters are drawn with a great skill and empathy and are conveyed mostly through dialogue, rather than through external description or evaluation. With its strong presence of direct speech and its dynamic plot, the narrative reads like a script for an action movie.

Nina Kolesnikoff, Professor, Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University


Against Destiny is a horrifying, gripping and utterly credible story of life in a Stalin-era detention camp followed by the suspense of an escape across the northern icy wastes of the Soviet Union.

Margaret John, retired teacher, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada


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Praise for Against Destiny