This is a very insightful piece that shows the Soviet collapse from a completely different angle than one would expect.
EXT. STREET -- TWILIGHT. A dreary day in 1971. Wearing a trilby hat and a hideous overcoat, a LONE CROCODILE stands on the rain-slicked sidewalk. Singing in tune with the plangent sounds of the concertina he clutches in his claws, he tells the viewers that today, of all days, is his birthday. This scene presages the appearance of one of the most emblematic characters in Soviet animation. [more inside]
An interesting article from Wired about Soviet photo manipulations from the 1960s space race. [more inside]
The last Japanese man remaining in Kazakhstan: A Kafkian tale of the plight of a Japanese POW in the Soviet Union. This is the story of Tetsuro Ahiko, a Japanese national who was living on Sakhalin Island during WWII, and was sent to gulags after the war instead of being repatriated to Japan. Ahiko has turned down multiple offers to be resettled in Japan and has spent 60+ years in Kazakhstan (what was then the Soviet Union.)
A look at how fatwas are issued, and how Iranian authorities were able to change the classification of caviar from haram (forbidden for Muslims to eat) to halal (permissible for Muslims to eat) in order to retake the caviar industry from the Soviets. [PDF]
The funny thing about the National Anthem of the Soviet Union is that through the sixty-so years of its existence the lyrics were written all by one man. [more inside]
The Soviet Collapse "The document which effectively concluded the history of the Soviet Union was a letter from the Vneshekonombank in November 1991 to the Soviet leadership, informing them that the Soviet state had not a cent in its coffers."
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]
The Russian mafia and criminals have their own type of music. It's called shanson [chanson]. A couple of contemporary examples by Michael Krug- Kolschik and Lesovopal- Sit Boy l Arcadiy Severnyj (1939-1980) was considered the king of street (prison-folk) songs. Shanson MyRadio channel. [more inside]
So where would you go looking if you wanted to find the deepest and sickest cold wave synth-beats of all? Then I think we would have to look all the way back to John Bender, avant-garde synth pioneer, who released three seminal albums in the early '80s and then just disappeared, forever. What else sounds this fantastic, and has that addictive, computerized, lo-fi ice beat? Maybe Ultravox, and the frosty, hollow majesty of Hiroshima Mon Amour. Or Soviet with Candy Girl, or Lori and the Chameleons and Touch
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]
Road to the Stars (Doroga k Zvezdam, 1958) was a remarkable Soviet documentary about the future of space exploration, directed by the "Godfather of Star Wars" and still admired for its impressive miniature effects. Watch the entire film.
A Complete History of the Soviet Union through the eyes of a humble worker, arranged to the melody of Tetris by Pig With The Face Of A Boy. (previously)
This is a small collection of Soviet Animated science fiction from the 1980s, including the work of Vladimir Samsonov, Mikhail Titov (whose "Сражение" is one of Stephen King's "Dollar Babies"), Vladimir Tarasov, Nazim Tulyakhodzayev and Anatoly Petrov. [more inside]
"Wow, a talking fish!" is a cheerfully deranged bit of animation based on an Armenian fairy-tale, starring a poor old fisherman, a talking fish, and probably the most psychedelic wizard ever committed to film.
Simo Häyhä is often revered as the deadliest sniper in history. Using nothing more than a Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle with stock iron sights, Häyhä is credited with felling 542 Soviet soldiers during the Finnish Winter War (with as many as 150 more kills by SMG). Nicknamed "The White Death", Häyhä spent weeks in snow-covered forests, enduring sub-zero temperatures while sniping Russian officers, weapons crews and snipers. The Soviets placed a bounty on Häyhä's head, utilizing counter-snipers and artillery fire in an attempt to kill him. Over the course of only three months, the 5'3" Häyhä (a farmer by trade) killed upwards of 800 of the Red Army soldiers deployed to Finland. Despite eventually being shot in the face by a Russian sharpshooter, Häyhä recovered and passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.
The strength of post-Soviet math stems from decades of lonely productivity. Russian math.
The Kalinin K-7 was a giant flying fortress that might have redefined aerial combat in the 1930s. The hugely expensive and trouble-prone prototype was scrapped by Stalin and its designer was later executed. Here are some renderings of the planes that might have been, with spacious lounges, battleship-sized cannons, and the ability to defend us from UFOs.
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
70s/80s Soviet album covers. Until today, I had no idea Soviet hair metal existed. Prepare for keytars, mall hair and proof that 80s cheese was not solely a product of degenerate kepitalist decadence.
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.
Interested in Soviet era spying by the KGB in the United States? Bummed that you cant get into the KGB archives? Well it turns out that someone copied all the good stuff already, and you can take a peek. [more inside]
Soviet Army dance ensemble + Run DMC = the invention of breakdancing in the mid-1900s. (slyt, via kottke)
"This is a regular Russian school biology textbook owned by some Russian school. He has modified some illustrations so now it’s hard to say sometimes what was there originally and what has appeared as a result of his imagination."
"I am Russian so, obviously, I like this film. It has typical Russian humor, it is a farce, so do not look for higher meanings in the jokes, it makes fun of the social standards of the Soviet regime as well as the people who served it so well. It features some of the best Russian actors that we love seeing and acting; they sing in the movie and it is lovely as well. If you are a tough judge of movies, then please make sure you know Soviet history a bit and understand that the humor differs from what you see in American movies before you call it crap." [more inside]
In 1969, Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm released Nu, Pogodi! (Well, Just You Wait!), a series that followed the multitalented and comical Wolf in his quest to capture the Hare. Having very little dialogue but considerable music, it was an international hit across eastern Europe. Most who followed the show will tell you that despite attempts to portray Wolf as anti-authoritarian and decadent, Wolf had a much greater fanbase. Why else would the Nu Pogodi game be based on him, and not Hare?
Soviet Music "You are browsing a resource which is devoted first of all to the history and culture of the Soviet Union, the country which the West for a long time usually named as "The Empire of Evil", the country to which some people in the West perceive as "something big and snowy". I offer you to try to look outside the frames of usual stereotypes, to try to understand life of a unique country, with its interesting history, beautiful culture and miraculous relations between people. The music submitted on this site - is an evident sample of a totally new culture, which completely differs from all that, with what Hollywood and MTV supply us so much. This culture, being free from the cult of money, platitude, violence and sex, was urged to not indulge low bents of a human soul but to help the person to become culturally enriched and to grow above himself." [more inside]
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has died. ( BBC ) The great author and opponent of totalitarianism lived to see the end of Communism in the Soviet Union and almost everywhere else. He survived WWII as a commander in the Soviet army before being put into gulags where he spent 20 years. He went on to write the Gulag Archipelago and win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970.
When people think of Soviet culture in the Stalin era, jazz usually isn't the first music to come to mind. But it was there, and some of it was pretty good, whether adapting Western standards, partying with a Russian twist, or just being adventurous. If that's a little too old-school for you, try some Soviet funk.
Comrades! Glory once again in the display of
Soviet Russian military might at the revitalized May Day Victory Day Parade!
On February 19, Armenia hosted a presidential election. The winner with 52% of the vote was (as expected), current Prime Minister and BFF to the current president, Serge Sargsyan. The runner-up with 21.5% of the vote was former president (taken out by the current president in 1997), Levon Ter-Petrossian. The elections were flawed, lots of people protested over the past week, the protests have gotten violent, LTP is under house arrest and the government has issued a 20 day state of emergency. At least 3 (including a police officer) have been killed. [more inside]
Russian cold war bombers - The Tu 95 Bear and Tu 160 Blackjack, based in central Russia, which resumed long range patrols in August.
GULAG: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom. An online exhibit which includes photographs of work in the gulag, women in the gulag, living in the camp, what were their crimes, Perm-36 Gulag Camp, the history of the gulag system, the inspiring stories of dissidents and what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union. [more inside]
Some photo galleries (and youtube video) of Buran, the USSR's space shuttle program (previously) from the 1980's, long since abandoned. Bonus: A comparison between Buran and the US space shuttle. Double Bonus: More on Buran from russianspaceweb.com, which is awesome. Combo breaker: An official page with NASA's take on Buran, (and their photos), frozen in time a decade ago.
Recently deceased Leona Helmsley left $12 Million to her dog, as predicted by Soviet propagandists in 1963. Other predictions have been less than accurate.
A Soviet Poster A Day delivers what it promises, one propaganda rich helping of Soviet art every day to help you on your daily doings.
That the first space race was politically motivated shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of Soviet propaganda space art. More here and here.
Robbery American Style. Robbery French Style. Robbery Italian Style. Classic Soviet animation from Soyuzmultfilm.
Norilsk is a big city in northern Siberia. On the permafrost. It was built by slave labor in the 1930s. Norilsk Nickle, a very profitable company, wants you to invest there. Some think it's a hell hole. Others think it was the downfall of the Soviet economy.