TOP: Arkadiy Babchenko
BOTTOM: An English-language translation of Babchenko's book, One Soldier's War


Program Bio
September 2006: UNC-Chapel Hill and New York
Back to More Open World Past Participants in Literature

Arkadiy Babchenko is a writer and journalist. In his own words: 

I was born in Moscow, in 1977. I was done with school by the age of 16, which gave me the chance to attend law school before serving in the army. I got through two years and then the letter came. Law school offered me a deferment of service, but I decided not to make use of it. So, you could say I went into the army of my own will. I served in Yekaterinburg, Mozdok, and then in Chechnya. Then my father died, and that saved me—I was given leave under personal circumstances. In those days they didn't let anyone leave Chechnya: it was August of '96, the guerillas had taken the city, and leaves were cancelled. I may have been the last to fly out at that time. At home, I fell ill and overstayed my leave so I was detained for three months while under investigation. I spent some more time in the mad house, I guess I got lucky: all us suspects were examined in chronological order, so I was stuck at that spa for a month. Fun times. I finished up my military service in Tver. 

After I was demobilized, I rematriculated at the institute. Finished up, got my diploma (a BA in Jurisprudence) and just then the second war started in Chechnya. So I went down for another half-a-year. I was assigned to grenade-launch in the infantry. Wasn't wounded, wasn't hit. Nor did I get any medals, or any thanks. 

Returning home the second time, I wrote an article about what I'd seen and sent it around to all the papers. Moscow Komsomolets called me back and offered me some work. That's how I got started in journalism. Around that time I started writing. I was laureate (sounds so important) of the Debut Prize for my story "Ten Series about the War," and twice a laureate (!) of the Eureka prize for "Alkhan-Yurt," and some other story. 

Then there was TV—a war correspondent. I worked for many programs, but after NTV [Independent TV] was closed up, my oppositional soul couldn't find itself a home anywhere. I can't work under censorship. Now I'm a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta. 

This year, the publishing house Eksmo-Yauza, put out my first book. It's nothing to write home about, I must say. And that's about it.

Career Updates

  • Babchenko was awarded one of four “Writers in Translation” prizes by the English PEN Center in 2007. Subsequently, Babchenko’s memoir, One Soldier's War, is now available in English translation in both the US and the UK. See the book’s page on

  • Links
  • Babchenko in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, March, 2009.
  • Boston Globe interview with Babchenko, from February, 2008.
  • Babchenko's online magazine for soldiers and former soldiers, "The Art of War" (in Russian). An English version of the magazine was recently made available.