Steppes, snow, apples and the sound of an ax cutting wood into uneven pieces. These foreign images and sounds nurtured our childhood due to the excessive presence of the Soviet Union in the Cuba of the seventies and eighties. We shivered with the cold watching Bulgarian and Czech cartoons, while outside the tropical sun reminded us we were in the Caribbean. Some say we learned to say “Koniec” before “The End,” until one day the bears migrated, leaving us without their films of victorious soldiers and smiling mujiks.
After 1991 the large runs from the Russian publisher MIR could only be found in secondhand bookstores, under the dusty mantle of abandonment. This February, however, the International Book Fair has dedicated its XIX year to the country that for decades was a mentor and economic supporter of the Cuban process. The comrades who once paid astronomical prices for our sugar, while selling us their oil for a trifle, have returned, dressed in suits and ties. They landed on the island they once subsidized, but this time to market their works, printed in brilliant colors, on themes alien to Marxism.
In the esplanade of the Cabaña Fort large, intersecting lines form to buy the new titles from the East. Children here and there leaf through illustrations of golden ears of wheat or of people under sombreros with huge earrings. But it is no longer the same. The forced presence these iconographic images once had in our lives is, for the children of today, a mere curiosity about the exotic. In their young minds fir trees will not replace the palms, nor foxes the lizards; for them, Russia will be nothing more than a distant and different place.