So, what is the balance-sheet of transition? Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world. Many are falling behind, and some are so far behind that they cannot aspire to go back to the point where they were when the Wall fell for several decades. Despite philosophers of “universal harmonies” such as Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Bernard Henry Lévy, and scores of international “economic advisors” to Boris Yeltsin, who all phantasized about democracy and prosperity, neither really arrived for most people in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Wall fell only for some.On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall Branko Milanovic looks at how the transition to capitalism worked out for the ex-communist countries of the USSR and Eastern Europe.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
English Russia often chooses odd subjects but the ladies in this article have lived sadly sweet lives through some of the most intense and difficult years in an intense and difficult place. It was originally published in Russian Esquire if you prefer the Russian language version
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).
UVB-76 is a Russian short wave station that has enthralled and mystified enthusiasts for decades.
The BBC World Service has put together a special report on the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe (they also have a simpler portal). There is a wealth of material, including TV reports on key events from the BBC archives, interviews, a map timeline, a report on Catholicism's role in the 1989 revolutions, a first-hand report of what it was like to gather news in East Germany during that time and much more.
Real USSR is a blog containing commentaries on everyday life in the former Soviet Union. The liberal use of family and other amateur photos provides unusual insight into the daily experience of Soviet life. Topics range from 1940s homemade double-exposure photography to queueing to USSR - the birthplace of feminism. via
Kommunalka - communal apartments - were begun by the Bolsheviks in Russia at the end of the Russian Revolution to address overcrowding in cities - and also to punish the bourgeoisie who had previously lived in comfort. Kommunalka were an enduring social experiment, where multiple families were assigned by the state to live together in close quarters with no expectation of privacy. It was not uncommon for tenants to spy on each other. Though communism ended in Russia almost two decades ago, Kommunalka still exist today.
Peasant! Free your pregnant wife from work, don't allow her to pick up heavy items since this will harm her and the child. An excellent collection of vintage soviet propaganda, public health, and infographics posters from 20s to 30s, many with full translations.
Dead Road - Museum of Communism in the Open. "It was one of the most ambitious projects of the Stalin era, known as the 'railway of bones'. At least 10 people a day died during the four years of its construction [actually 1947-1953], but unlike most of Uncle Joe's grand designs it was never completed and now sits unfinished in the tundra, an icy road to nowhere." The transpolar railway was built by labour camps^ 501 and 503 and construction was stopped after the amnesty following Stalin's death in 1953; 800km, about half, was built. Some sections are currently in operation, but much is abandoned: depot and locomotives in Dolgoe, Dolgoe itself, labour camps, more spectacular decay. (Previously: Norilsk, which was supposed to see an extension of the line.)
Diary of a Collapsing Superpower - "Seventeen years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, and two years later the Soviet Union broke apart. More than 1,400 minutes published earlier this month in Russia from meetings that took place behind the closed doors of the Politburo in Moscow read like a thriller from the highest levels of the Kremlin. They reveal Mikhail Gorbachev as a party chief who had to fight bitterly for his reforms and ultimately lost his battle. But in doing so, he changed the course of history and helped bring an end to the Cold War."
Riding the rails in Russia And I thought my guitar took up some space on the bus...
Russian photographs 1917-1945 A collection of photographs from the Howard Schickler Gallery,including the Battle of Stalingrad, the Arctic, the collectivization of agriculture, and others. I liked the photos by Olga Lander, in particular.
She interviewed Mussolini. She wrote plays for Eugene O'Neill's Provincetown Players. She got letters from Trotsky. Freud and Helen Keller were in her address book. She married journalist John Reed, and Diane Keaton played her in Reds. And she was nearly forgotten. Now, Louise Bryant is remembered. More here and much more here.
Was Stalin assassinated to prevent him from launching a nuclear attack on the United States? "'The circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of non-fortuitous death,' said Jonathan Brent, a professor of Russian history at Yale University. 'And to support this further, we now have solid evidence, non-circumstantial evidence, of a cover-up at the highest level.'"