Historical wizard-muggle relations always appeared slightly fuzzy to me in the books, so I was intrigued to stumble accross a fic that attempts to throw some light onto the matter! In Hogwarts era, wizards are shown as not even capable of figuring out Muggle clothing, let alone aiming to cooperate on mutually expanding their empires parallel to the Muggle ones. But I always thought that was just some sort of wizard pop-culture delusion and that wizards had always been involved in Muggle politics as well as highly influenced by muggle thought and culture (key word: christmas). I must say, though, I never imagined the relationship would be quite as tight as you seem to imply. So, if I got it right, if we were to draw a wizarding political map and a muggle one of the 50-60s, then they would basically be the same? It's cute how you even have the wizards wear the Soviet red star...No wonder wizards hate the Muggles so much: they are the more powerful ones and yet can't seem to come up with anything of their own ;)
You got me quite inspired, so I'm going to start picking away at tiny details now, I hope you don't find it too annoying!
This got me slightly confused: "but Vladimir at least knew that the mysterious young man was strongly opposed to both the Muggle born and Albus Dumbledore, which was good enough for him." So if the wizarding world evolves culturally and politically hand in hand with the Muggle one, then what is their opinion on Soviet ideology? Germany was THE ENEMY ever since Hitler betrayed Stalin...so consequently the wizards must have picked up on some of the ideological duality here...If the Germans are wizard-supremicists, then shouldn't the Soviets be aiming at a completely opposing self-definition? What would wizard communism look like? Wouldn't it be interesting to introduce a different wizarding political model? Not the rainbow and butterfly Dumbledore model where Muggles and wizards live in peace, but also not the tyranical Grindelwald model where all Muggles must be EXTERMINATED. One reason why the Cold War era will never stop being fascinating is that it was a time of many different ideologies - multipolarity, hope for a brighter new future, belief in the power of civilization over nature, conflicts of religion versus humanitarianism, communitarianism vs individualism... oh and don't forget SPACE. So, before I use up all the characters in this review by gushing about political theory, what I want to say is this: Maybe it's not too late to bring in some more political complexity to the wizarding world, since the Muggle world of the time has more than enough inspiration to offer in that regard. For now, I got the impression that RAWR I'M EVIL I WANT POWER is the main driving force of all wizards...:P
Oh and if you care about such details, then Antonin is not a Russian first name (would work as a surname). Try Anton or Anatoli ;)
Now to the actual story! I liked how you brought in Karkaroff (although I never thought he was Russian and I'm not sure where that concensus comes from...) and also Avery et al. I'm curious to see what the future Death Eaters will learn from the Soviets! I also was VERY happy with the presense of magic in the story. Most non-Hogwarts fics forget all about magic for some reason and I don't know about other people but I like magic :D
In terms of flow, I thought the exposition at the beginning of each character introduction was a BIT too much. Especially Vladimir...before we even saw him make a single charactersitic gesture we already had so much taken for granted information about him. Maybe switch the info bit with the description of his appearance so that the info comes second? Also, I had to laugh at him stroking his beard and being impressed all the time, haha. I imagined him with a tsar crown perched on the tip of his head and just nodding silently while an arrogant sevant at his side squeaked "Master is impressed"...if you want to add some more complexity to his first appearance, maybe make his reactions a bit less straightforward?
That being said, the obstacle course descriptions were perfect. It's not easy to write action sequences, but you managed very well! Not too many details, not too fast. Enough perspective through the reaction of the audience. It was exciting and clearly relevant to the plot, which is all one can ask from an action sequence :)
Also,I just loved this: "Her long blonde hair flowed freely over her shoulders, and her crimson lips added a pleasant touch of color against her pale complexion and the snowy white backdrop. Though she possessed an incomparable beauty, the expression in her light blue eyes was colder then the Russian winter itself." So simple, yet vivid. It also reminded me of the work of a popular Russian-Estonian photographer who has made several self-portraits in the snow with bright lipstick. The result IS visually very striking!
Well, I think I'll stop here because I really didn't intend to write you the War and Peace of reviews...I hope you will find something useful among my ramblings and be sure that I will be back to read some more of this :D
Author's Response: Thank you so much for such a thorough review, and my apologies for taking so long to respond to it.
What really planted the seed for the ideas for this story was the brief bits we get from canon about Dumbledore's past with Grindelwald. All we get to see is that Dumbledore defeated a seemingly Germanic wizard in 1945, obviously the same year that Germany was defeated in WWII. I was very intrigued by the obvious parallels, and then even more so after the seen in Book 6 in which Fudge meets with the Prime Minister, opening the door to the political relations between the two worlds, something I would like to see a lot more of in fanfiction. Anyway, the gap in canon surrounding Dumbledore's pariticipation in WWII was the plot bunny for my first fanfic story, to which this one is somehting of a follow up, existing in the same universe, but standing on its own as a story.
Also, Cold War spy stories are one of my favorite literary/film genres, and given how its pretty much an unknown era in HP canon, I saw the opportunity to try to adapt this type of story to the magical world. It's very interesting to think about if the political boundaries are the same in both worlds, but since we don't know for sure, I just kept it more or less the same as the muggle world. Since Grindelwald was basically the wizard version of Hitler, that would make Vladimir the wizard Stalin. It would be fascinating to explore the relevant political theories and how Vladimir's ideology correlates with communism, but alas its a plot driven story and I didn't want to get too bogged down, so it just focuses on the superficial things that all dictators seem to have in common, namely the quest for more power.
It's kind of implied in canon that Tom Riddle was probably in Eastern Europe at this time, so I'm taking that and running with it, as well as including some of the early Death Eaters. The Death Eaters seem to have an Eastern connection with the likes of Dolohov and Karakaroff as well. That's interesting that Antonin isn't actually a Russian name, but since he's a canon character, I don't think I can change it.
I'm really glad you enjoyed the image of Anastasia, that's the type of initial impression I was hoping she would make, and well, you'll find out a lot more about her if you keep reading.
Thank you so much for such a long and helpful review, I can assure you it is much appreciated. I hope you come back for more sometime!