Our Comrade the Electron.
Maciej Cegłowski (previously
) delivered a talk at Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand on theremin inventor Lev Termen (previously
), futurism, the Dutch Golden Age, and the modern surveillance state.
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper
"Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper
credited with 309 kills
—and an advocate for women's rights. On a U.S. tour in 1942, she found a friend in the first lady." [more inside]
If you truly would like to hear this story, first of all you will probably want to find out where I was born, how I spent my stupid childhood, what my parents did before my birth—in a word, all that David Copperfield rot. But truthfully speaking, I don’t have any urge to delve into that. "If Holden Caulfield Spoke Russian" (SLNYer)
was the Popular Mechanics of the Soviet Union. The magazine, whose name means Technology for the Youth, had illustrations of everything from space stations
, computerized farming
, transport of the future
, friendly robots
, to more abstract images
. If you don't want to hunt through the archive
, Mythbuster's Tested website has a gallery of 201 great images
from the magazine.
Black Soviet Icon's Lonely American Sojourn: For decades Jim Patterson was arguably the most famous black man in the Soviet Union, a debonair homegrown poet whose childhood role in an iconic film cemented his celebrity and who later roamed the vast country reading his work to adoring audiences.
These days Patterson, whose African-American father emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1932, is convalescing in a threadbare subsidized apartment in downtown Washington, where he has led a reclusive life plagued by illness and depression since his Russian mother died more than a decade ago.
"Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle [...]"
- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
TWILIGHT STRUGGLE is a card-driven board game simulation of the Cold War. It has been called a game of crisis management
; dealing with them yourself, creating them for your opponent, and their proper timing. There is a extensive blog about the game, Twilight Strategy
. This is that site's article on starting out play. This page could help you decide if it's for you. ("Do you enjoy games that are extremely tense and nerve-wracking?") Here's a YouTube video on how to play it.
And, although I suggest learning to play with a physical set, the online multiplayer wargaming client Warroom has a Java Twilight Struggle client/server program available
. There is also a VASSAL module
, but it currently doesn't work with VASSAL 3.2 or later. There's a lot more on the game after the break.... [more inside]
Our Man in Great Neck: 'In June 1982, my grandparents, Murray and Helene Cohen, traveled to the Soviet Union as part of a secret mission
headed by the Great Neck chapter of the long island Committee for Soviet Jewry in order to pass information and contraband goods to Jews attempting to leave Russia.'
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]
"In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable.
Instead of a new world order—that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable—we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters." -- Mikhail Gorbachev writes about the world after the Cold War in The Nation
"It begins with a freshly showered person riding naked for hours on a clean, washed horse inside a two-meter-high 'forest' of marijuana.
Afterwards, the human body and that of the horse are covered with a thick layer of resin mixed with sweat. This produces a substance that is usually dark brown in color, which is then thoroughly scraped off the human and horse's bodies." The Chu (sometimes Chui or Chuy) valley produced much of the marijuana available in the Soviet Union, and continues its unique harvest to this day. Via The World
on PRI (audio link
). [more inside]
In 1976, in response to NASA's development of the Space Shuttle, the USSR began it's own reusable launcher program, the Buran
(Snowstorm), based at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
in what is now Kazakhstan. [more inside]
are tragedies of war that are not always directly associated with combat. Systems failures at sea are often mysterious, with evidence and remains disappearing to all but the deepest diving vehicles. This was no different in the Cold War, with non-combat losses from the US
and the Soviet Fleets
. In that era of nuclear secrets, both those of nuclear-powered submarines
and nuclear weapons
, learning about the enemy's technology was paramount. Such an opportunity came to the US with the sinking of K-129
, a Golf Class II Soviet submarine
that went down with 98 men on board. The recovery took over six year, involved the possible payback of Howard Hughes, a videotaped formal sea burial
that was eventually copied and given to then-President Boris Yeltsin, and decades of CIA secrecy. [more inside]
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 USSR - the birthplace of feminism. via
Animatsiya in English
is weblog (warning: livejournal) with a narrow focus: tracking the production of Russian animated
feature films. Russian animation has a long history
with output both abstract and obstructed; from the early influence of the Russian avant-garde
and the work of small groups of enthusiasts
, through Stalin-era Socialist realism
and a style known as Éclair
that was marked by the use of extensive rotoscoping
, to the 1960's and beyond
when surreal and politically charged
(and unfortunately, in this case, anti-Semitic) as well as unconventionally structured, emotionally fueled
films found release. Fortunately, when Pilot Studio
—the Soviet Union's first private animation studio—decided to relegate parts of that history to the dumpsters out back
, the people were ready to sift through the mess
. [more inside]
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."
Documents and articles about one of the twentieth century's greatest composers, some of them focusing on the problems he encountered working under a totalitarian system. Some highlights :- 'Do not judge me too harshly': anti-Communism in Shostakovich's letters
; 'You must remember!': Shostakovich's alleged 1937 interrogation
; About Shostakovich's 1948 downfall.
More related material can be found at the Music under Soviet Rule
There are a number of interesting sites dealing with music expression and censorship generally. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has a site on the music of the concentration camps
- 'While popular songs dating from before the war remained attractive as escapist fare, the ghetto, camp, and partisan settings also gave rise to a repertoire of new works. ' Here's a Guardian article on the Blue Notes
, who 'fought apartheid in South Africa with searing jazz'. Here's a page about the Drapchi 14
, Tibetan nuns who 'recorded independence songs and messages to their families on a tape recorder' (and were subsequently punished). Finally, a page on records which were banned from BBC radio
during the 1991 Gulf War (example :- 'Walk Like an Egyptian').
Stalin's Forgotten Zion.
In 1934, the Soviet Union established the Jewish Autonomous Region
in remote Birobidzhan
as a permanent agricultural colony for all Soviet Jews. Substantial incentives from the Soviet government drew many new settlers. Today, only a few thousand Jews remain
. A few more links: pictures from the BBC
, a travel diary
, a recent economic overview