‘Russia's last great writer:’ The scandalous story of Eduard Limonov – exiled by the KGB, before he shocked post-Soviet Moscow

The convinced revolutionary, and literary icon – who grew up in Ukraine – was born 80 years ago

An enfant terrible, and a lifelong teenager, who became Russia’s "last great writer;" an emigrant and a patriot; a bohemian and an uncompromising revolutionary with the spirit of a field commander; a politician ideologically tied both to the government and the opposition, yet an irreconcilable enemy of both; a sensual and tender man full of primordial rage and hatred for the living and the dead – any attempt to describe Eduard Limonov inevitably boils down to contradictory opinions expressed by his contemporaries, fans, friends, and foes.

Throughout his 77-year life and until his death in March 2020, Limonov never stopped being a source of controversy and contradiction. He was an outsider in the Soviet system, but not a dissident. Abroad, he was not accepted by the emigrant circles and considered pro-Moscow.

In the new Russia, which replaced the USSR, the authorities persecuted Limonov the politician: His party was banned, and he was imprisoned. The opposition also steered clear of him, considering his views too radical and imperialist. And even his books, indisputable from the point of view of artistic merit, cause a mix of conflicting emotions in readers, ranging from admiration to disgust.