Toward the beginning of Zinky Boys, Svetlana Alexievich states that she didn't use people's real names in the book (mostly to protect their privacy) but kept a record of them in case her sources ever wanted to "go public." She then has a list of names of various people. What is this list? Are these people who ultimately decided to "go public"?

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At least one name on the list isn’t real.

Later editions of the book are supplied with the materials of Alexievich’s court trial on the charges of slander and offending Soviet veterans. One of the complainants, Oleg Liashenko, said that his words in the book were distorted, and his last name was printed incorrectly.

The book list still puts him as “Private Oleg Lelyushenko”, not Liashenko.

In court, Alexievich explains that she changed the name to protect her interviewee (Soviet soldiers signed non-disclosure papers). She also notes that since the name is not real, the hero in the book is a composite character (собирательный образ).

Here’s an account of these events in Telling and Retelling a War Story: Svetlana Alexievich and Alexander Prokhanov on the Soviet-Afghan War by Holly Myers:

She [Alexievich] was afraid for him, afraid that he would run into trouble with the KGB, because “all of you” had been forced to sign an agreement not to disclose military secrets. “And I changed your surname,” she continued. “I changed it in order to protect you, but now, I should use this to protect myself from you. In so far as it is not your surname, then it is a collective image... And your claims are groundless...” At this, Liashenko seems to become confused, protesting: “But no, they’re my words. I said this... That’s where and how I was wounded... And... Everything there is mine.

She characterizes Liashenko as “a prototype” in her interview with a journalist Tatiana Beck (PDF)

This implies two possible reasons for name-changing:

  • a) To protect the witnesses

  • b) If some stories in the book were composed out of several sources, the interviews should be ascribed to a fictional name

Comment on the interview from Iryna Hniadzko, Svetlana Alexievich: Fiction and the Nonfiction of Confessions (PDF):

What we can understand in these words is that Alexievich’s texts are collages of different little stories told by several people which she would later montage into one coherent narrative. With time, all those collages stories would get into a bigger collage of a book under one unifying theme. We do not know for sure if the name of the interviewee was real or it was a random name for a composite character. […] It is very important that we understand that a name of the interviewee might be made-up, and one narrative itself might be a collective semi-fictional story of multiple interviewees put together under one title.

Some names on the list are truncated: e.g., Konstantin M., military adviser.

So this is not the list of real names from the author’s diary. Some of the names are real, but not all of them. Its usage also can be discussed in the terms of artistic purposes. The names provide a sense of authenticity. Natalya Sivakova, Belarusian scholar, in her paper ОСОБЕННОСТИ ТЕКСТУАЛЬНОЙ ОРГАНИЗАЦИИ ДОКУМЕНТАЛЬНОЙ ПОВЕСТИ СВЕТЛАНЫ АЛЕКСИЕВИЧ «ЦИНКОВЫЕ МАЛЬЧИКИ» (“Aspects of the textual organization of Svetlana Alexievich’s Zinky Boys”, PDF) argues that omitting the names in the main section of the book echoes the seal of confession. Out of self-preservation the heroes have to give up their individuality, and they are not the same after the war.

And LA Times review says

The effect is of confronting a series of everymen and everywomen, archetypal and yet wholly specific — or perhaps more accurately, interchangeable: What happened to them could happen to anyone.

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