1. In her girlhood Anna looks up to Vasily, seeing him as a hero – even if she doesn’t fully understand his cause. How do you think the novel addresses the idea of heroism; of fighting for the things that are important?
2. What do you think drives Sofia to escape the camp and find Vasily? Do you think her motivations change as the novel progresses?
3. Throughout the novel Anna remains convinced that Sofia will come back for her, even when the other prisoners doubt her return. Do you think this conviction stems more from a deep binding trust between the two friends, or from desperation and blind hope?
4. Work is an Act of Honour, Courage and Heroism. Stalin’s words are emblazoned over the gates of the Davinsky labor camp. How does the reality of prison life for Sofia, Anna and their friends differ from this idea? What do you think the Communist regime was trying to encourage – or discourage – with this statement?
5. At the end of the novel Sofia resolves to stay in Tivil and accept her part in its future. Would you have made the same decision?
6. Do you think Sofia really believes in the magical powers of Rafik, or is she just going along with it because it gives her a sense of belonging?
7. What do you think the relationship is between Sofia and Pyotr? How do you think he feels about her by the end of the novel?
8. The tangle of misunderstandings surrounding Vasily, Alexei and Mikhail springs from something quite incidental: a forgetful moment on Maria’s part. Do you think Under A Blood Red Sky is a novel about the individual, or a novel about the collective? Do the actions of the individual carry repercussions for the whole, or is it the other way round? How does this relate to the novel’s exploration of Communism?
9. The end of Under a Blood Red Sky sees Anna and Vasily/Fomenko reunited. Do you think he would eventually forsake his Communist ideals and become a leader of resistance to Stalinist terror?
10. Can Mikhail adapt to his new role in the village or will his refusal to conform bring more danger to the people of Tivil?