On a wooded hillside outside Vladivostok, Russia, fourteen Canadians found their final resting place in 1919. Five others died at sea. They were ordinary folk who had enlisted in the closing days of the Great War for service in an unlikely theatre — Siberia. Consisting of 4,209 men and one woman, Canada's Siberian Expedition mobilized alongside a dozen Allied armies in a bid to defeat Lenin’s Bolsheviks. The mission failed — in the face of a robust partisan insurgency, divided Allied strategies, and heated domestic opposition.This is their story, including over 2,000 photographs and images. Also available in French and Russian.
Here is a follow up to a previous post: An interview with AD Harvey, the man behind the Dickens meets Dostoevsky hoax. [more inside]
Cosmarxpolitan! Karl in the bedroom: "From each according to his ability, to each according to her needs."
Photographer Richard Pare spent from 1992 to 2007 documenting the modernist architecture that flourished in the newly-formed Soviet Union. Many of the building are now underused, decayed, or demolished. Here is an interview. Here are some reviews of a 2007 show at MOMA and the current exhibit at Chicago's Graham Foundation, which ends on the 22nd. Previously.
History of USSR for Children. (SLYT)
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War. Then, they made a documentary. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD, the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels. You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
Человек с киноаппаратом ("Man with a Movie Camera") is a classic experimental documentary film that was released in 1929. Directed by pioneer Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, this classic, silent documentary film has no story and no actors, and is actually three documentaries in one. Ostensibly it documents 24 hours of life in a single city in the Soviet Union. But it is also a documentary of the filming of that documentary and a depiction of an audience watching that documentary and their responses. "We see the cameraman and the editing of the film, but what we don't see is any of the film itself." [more inside]
Atlas Obscura provides a Guide to Communist Mummies, and there's plenty more online. Visit Lenin's Mausoleum, where he has been kept since 1924, defying his wishes to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. He wasn't alone forever, as Stalin's body was kept in the mausoleum after his death in 1953, until his body was quietly removed in October, 1961. Just under eight years later, Hồ Chí Minh died, and against his wishes to be cremated, a very large state funeral was held and Uncle Ho's embalmed remains were placed in a mausoleum. Chairman Mao Zedong made A Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death in 1956, but his wishes were overlooked when he died in 1976, and he joined the growing ranks of the preserved communist leaders in his own crystal casket, housed in a grand mausoleum. [more inside]
The picture of a boat approaching a wooded island held a strange sway over the early twentieth century imagination. Strindberg closes The Ghost Sonata with the image; Rachmaninoff brought forth a symphonic poem from it; Freud, Lenin, and Clemenceau all owned prints, while Hitler hung one of the original five paintings on his wall. The work's creator, a Swiss Symbolist painter named Arnold Böcklin, never cared to give it a name. It was an art dealer who first called it Die Toteninsel —
"The Isle of the Dead."
Lenin Statues around the World. Reason 1: It is a tribute to cool propaganda statues and the work of the sculptors. Reason 2: Very likely the typical tourist picture taken by a westerner visiting mother Russia would be: To make that touristic one standing beneath Lenin and imitating him pointing out the way to the perfect society with his giant hand while the other hand is holding his ridicolous but cute cap. When shooting your picture the locals laugh and laugh and some drunkards might even yell at you for taking this, in their mind, very stupid picture. (sic)
"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian. Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)
The Passport: the next step in its evolution may include invisible information encoded into your mug shot, but if you are wondering where it all began, the Canadian passport office identifies one Nehemiah of Persia, ca. 450 BC, as candidate for very first passport holder. Some think that it was all downhill from there. Regardless, there might be very good reasons for getting more than one passport, which you can do legally, or less so. Lenin had a fake passport. So did Hitler, though he didn't know it. (More inside.)