In honour of Labour day, enjoy a documentary on Jewish anarchism at the turn of the 20th century, and the story of The Free Voice of Labour, their Yiddish newspaper that ran from 1890-1977. [more inside]
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.
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
The Cossacks Are Back. May the Hills Tremble. [New York Times]
"In his third term, President Vladimir V. Putin has offered one clear new direction for the country: the development of a conservative, nationalist ideology. Cossacks have emerged as a kind of mascot, with growing financial and political support."
Anyone familiar with the contemporary Russian humorous folklore (jokelore, or in Russian anekdoty) knows that one of the most popular series of such jokes revolves around the Chukchis, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia. These jokes, especially popular in 1990s and 2000s, fit the international genre of ethnic stupidity jokes . . .
In the first years of the Fifteenth Century Henry III of Castile sent Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo as his ambassador to Samarkand. His journey introduced him to giraffes and many other sights unknown to Europeans of the time. Samarkand was then the center of the largest empire in the world, that of Tamerlane the Great (a.k.a Timur), the last of the nomad conquerors. His capital began as a city of the Sogdians, which became an important center of culture and trade, as is recorded in these 7th Century wall paintings. Samarkand was refashioned by Timur and his descendants, the most famous being the astronomer Ulugh Beg, and the Timurid legacy is still visible in Samarkand. After Timur's death, his empire disintegrated, and soon fell into decline, but left enough of a mark to inspire both Christopher Marlowe and Edgar Allan Poe. The Russian Empire conquered Samarkand in 1868, and the city was documented in the early 20th Century in color photograhs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii (this one's a favorite) and remained an out of the way place in the Soviet era.
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat. The battle was reenacted at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
Rio Wang has posted a fantastic 1892 photo album of Russian army fashions.
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]
Growing up, she was a beloved celebrity in her home country. Thousands of girls were named after her. So was a bestselling perfume. But Josef Stalin's "Little Sparrow," his only daughter, (born Svetlana Stalina) defected to the United States in 1967. Upon arriving in New York, she promptly held a press conference that surprised the world, denouncing her father's regime. Svetlana became a naturalized US citizen, moved to Taliesin West, married an American, changed her name to Lana Peters, then returned to the Soviet Union in 1984, declaring that she had not been free "for one single day" in the U.S., only to once again return to America in 1986. She lived out her remaining days in a small town in Wisconsin. Mrs. Peters passed away from colon cancer on November 22nd, at the age of 85. [more inside]
Hanover Historical Texts Project is a collection of primary source texts from ancient times to the modern era in English translation. There is a great number of interesting texts, for instance accounts of Zeno, he of the paradoxes, the diary of Lady Sarashina, a lady-in-waiting in Heian era Japan, a letter from Count Stephen of Blois and Chartres, a crusader writing to his wife, Arthur Young's travels in France before and during the Revolution, a report by the American ambassador in St. Petersburg on March 20th, 1917, immediately after the February Revolution, and finally Petrarch's letter about his graphomania. That last one is from what is perhaps my favorite part of the website, a trove of Petrarch's Familiar Letters. But there's much more in the Hanover Historical Texts Projects besides what I've mentioned.
I am not going to try now to open the eyes of the world to the Leningrad Blockade. What I will write about here is less ambitious and somewhat more promising: the literature of the siege. [more inside]
"Howe snapped more than 400 photographs in Moscow and St. Petersburg with his hand held Graflex camera, a state-of-the-art device that allowed its user to shoot without a tripod. His photographs of pedestrians, street vendors and aristocrats are rare glimpses of everyday life before the upheavals of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution — and sparked huge interest in Russia among history buffs and local museums."
Finnish YouTube user Ishexan has uploaded seven English subtitled movies in parts: Broken Blossoms (1919), Aelita (1924), The Gipsy Charmer (1929), The Tragedy of Elina (1938), The Activists (1939), The Wooden Pauper's Bride (1944), and Sampo (1959), which is based on the epic poem The Kalevala. The films are mostly Finnish, though Aelita is a silent Russian sci-fi film, and Sampo was a joint Finnish and Soviet production. More film clips inside (mostly Finnish documentaries and "dorky musical numbers"). [more inside]
In the scale of its intensity, its destructiveness and its horror, Stalingrad has no parallel. It engaged the full strength of the two biggest armies in Europe and could fit into no lesser framework than that of a life-and-death conflict which encompasses the earth. - The New York Times, February 4, 1943 [more inside]
Russian films worth watching l Russian cuisine l Russiapedia l Historama l War Witness films l from rt.com the first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news. The Russia Today YouTube channel. [more inside]
RussianFilter: Historical Chronicles with Nikolai Svanidze is an ongoing Russian television documentary series which, starting with 1901, picks out one person per year, every year, of the 100 years of the 20th century in Russia. It's entirely in Russian, of course, but for them as speaks it, it's one fascinating perspective on Russian history, with excellent narration, copious detail, and fascinating interconnections of events, people and places. All of the episodes that are available through Google Video and various other sources, and [more inside]
'Priceless collection' in Russia was never registered so is therefore worthless and does not officially exist, say developers
In 1926, Nikolai Vavilov founded the world's first modern seedbank, and amassed a collection which today contains over 90% unique varieties of plant, contained in no other collection in existence. For his opposition to Lysenkoism he died in prison, and several of his colleagues famously starved to death instead of eating their specimens during the Siege of Leningrad. Now the Pavlovsk seedbank facility has been seized by the Federal Agency for Public Estate Management, and pending a court ruling will be demolished - contents and all - to build a housing development. The collection cannot be moved in time because it is a working seedbank of living plants.
The professor, his wife, and the secret, savage book reviews on Amazon 'An extraordinary literary "whodunnit" over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain's leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife.'
Selections from a handmade military discharge scrap book and comic made by a USSR army recruit, 1984-1986.
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.
September 22, 1939: In the Polish city of Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, in Belarus), "a monumental military parade took place.... What is unusual is that the parade was held not by the Polish army, but by the soviet Red Army and the Nazi German Wehrmacht – together." The excellent blog Poemas del río Wang (which usually features gorgeous illustrations from books) provides historical context, many photos, posters, and cartoons, even a five-minute official German newsreel (the parade takes up the first half). The event itself is a historical footnote, but in Russia, with the "cult of the victory of Soviet people and of the Soviet state in WWII," the very idea of it was anathema and it was denied until last year. [more inside]
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.
From 1864 to 1904, the Russian Empire tried to quelch the nationalism of Lithuanians by ordering all Lithuanian texts to be printed with Cyrillic characters instead of in the Latin-derived Lithuanian or Polish alphabets. But they didn't count on the Knygnešiai - the Booksmugglers. [more inside]
"Exactly one hundred years ago a Russian photographer, began a remarkable project. With the blessing - and funding - of the Tsar, Nicholas II, he embarked on an extraordinary journey to capture the essence of Russia in full color photographs." [more inside]
Georgia and Russia: This is the most balanced and informative discussion I've seen since the invasion over three months ago (MeFi thread). If you've been wanting to catch up, this essay and its many useful links are the way to go. The author, Donald Rayfield, is professor of Russian and Georgian and knows both countries well. (Via wood s lot.)
Eufrosinia Antonovna Kersnovskaya was a Russian woman who spent 12 years in Gulag camps and wrote her memoirs in 12 notebooks, 2,200,000 characters, accompanied with 680 pictures. How Much Is a Person Worth? has all 12 notebooks online, in Russian, some images NSFW and disturbing. (Just click on no 1 to 12 to see thumbnails of notebooks.)
It stands as one of the more unusual turning points of the Cold War, thanks mostly to the surprise appearance of several naked middle-aged women. Taking The Cure: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia. [more inside]
Soviet Museum has some great retro photography, industrial, postcards, propaganda, "Soviet Union" magazine, aspects of moscow, red army, etc [did I mention erotic too?]. It even has 'Vladimir Putin Favourite Places' (which as far as I can tell, is one place). Set aside some time if this sort of thing interests you.
"The "American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919," nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition," (wikipedia) was a U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I." The ostensible purpose was to open an Eastern Front following the Russian withdrawal from World War I, but in practice the unit stayed to fight Bolshevism. An archive of the expedition, which gives wonderful insight into early Bolshevik Russia as well as war-weary United States, is online. [more inside]
The Alexander Palace Time Machine. This deep site on pre-revolutionary Russia was not at all unearthed as a result of noting this bit of news today. The site was linked in passing previously this past August, in a post about the exact news the Times is reporting today.
"Trotsky lived on after Stalin, and to some extent is still alive today, not because young people want the world he wanted: a phantasm that not even he could define. What they want is to be him."
Zvukovye Pis'ma: Musical letters from the Soviet Union during the 1950s, with images and audio. More information for those that can decipher it.
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."
Sechtl-Vosecek. A collection of photographs taken over the last 150 years are in the process of being digitized. Check out the Sokol costume ball Šibřinky or take a trip from Bechyně to Tábor. Also available is a selection concentrating on Bukhara from the Prokudin-Gorsky Collection. And much, much, more.
Benny's Postcards "is devoted to the postcards my grandfather collected from approximately 1906-1918. The collection is comprised of 435 postcards, most of which were produced in Russia, Poland and Germany." [coral cache]
Pobediteli: Soldiers of the Great War. In this year of the 60 Anniversary of the Victory we wish to personally thank the soldiers of the Great War living among us, and tell the story of their heroism.
The Emperor's Bunker. "The Japanese, with sadness and irony, stressed that Hirohito couldn't even speak properly. This was partly to do with the fact that he didn't have to speak - people spoke in his name and he was isolated from real life". "The Sun", the third part in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's 'Men of Power' tetralogy after the gloom of Moloch (1999), about Hitler and Eva Braun, and the despairing tones of "Taurus" (2001), focused on the wheelchair-bound Lenin in his death throes, "The Sun" seems almost upbeat. This, after all, is a film about reconciliation. More inside.
The Amber Room : [flash] Stolen by the Nazis in WWII from the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Amber Room remains one of the greatest missing treasures of Europe. The room has now been reconstructed, and the search for the original may have come to an unhappy end.
The mathematician Anatoly Fomenko is one of a number of Russian academics advancing revisionist chronologies which portray a greatly foreshortened view of European history. He argues that mediaeval and classical histories as we know them today were fabricated in Renaissance times. In his book 'History: Fiction or Science', he 'proves' that Jesus Christ was born in 1053 and crucified in 1086, and that the Old Testament refers to mediaeval events... Fomenko's theories have been debunked, but his ideas have nevertheless gained some currency in Russia: among his supporters is the former chess champion Garry Kasparov. Of course, Fomenko is by no means the first mathematician to grapple with the subject of chronology: indeed, any history must be founded in part on a calculus of dates... Are there any parallels, I wonder, between the spread of theories like Fomenko's and the renewed prevalence of Biblical chronologies in the US, for example: is there some kind of psychological solace in perceiving history on a smaller scale than current academic orthodoxy allows? (more inside).
Exhibition of Deportation 14 June 1941. Some history, moments and life stories. Via the Estonian National Museum.
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.'"
Early (around 1910) amazing COLOR photographs from Russia by Prokudin-Gorskii, photographer for the Czar. He essentially had three cameras, each with a separate Red, Green, or Blue filter, and snapped the same shot at the same time. So all the "reds" were recorded, in B&W, on one photographic plate, and likewise down the line. Then he could use the filters to recreate the scene and project it onto a screen in color. (more inside) (props to slashdot for the link)