When Galina Balashova designed her first space habitation module for Soviet cosmonauts, she drew a landscape on its interior wall, something that could remind them of home. In a 2015 interview, she said, "When I popped by to commission the final product they asked me where to procure the painting for the wall. When I replied that it was not needed I was reproached: 'No, it’s been signed off and so we will build it exactly that way.' So I sat down one night and painted pictures for the space capsules. Usually watercolors depicting Russian countryside. They all burned to nothing on re-entry." [more inside]
How the Soviets invented the internet and why it didn't work - "Soviet scientists tried for decades to network their nation. What stalemated them is now fracturing the global internet." [more inside]
This huge, grey hulk sports the red stars of the Soviet Union. No-one in the West has ever seen one before.
Among the lesser-known post-Milne works involving Winnie the Pooh is Disney's syndicated comic strip, running from '78 to '88 (following all but one of the theatrical featurettes, preceding the first animated series and beginning before the live-action Welcome to Pooh Corner). It is most well known for its characterizations, as seen in a series of examples aptly named Poohdickery. You can read much more of the comic starting here (earliest comic in archive with working image). And apropos of this post about online Russian movies, the beloved and brilliant Soviet adaptation, Vinni Puh (One, Two, Three Part 1, Three Part 2) (Wikipedia: One, Two, Three).
Free Soviet movies, with English subtitles. Cartoons! Comedy! Sci Fi! Melodrama! Drama Drama! Adventure! Everything!
"Power and Architecture" is the name of the Calvert 22 Foundation's "season on utopian public space and the quest for new national identities across the post-Soviet world." Included in the "curated digital content" being published as part of the season is "Restricted Areas," a series by Russian photographer Danila Tkachenko, who photographs "abandoned buildings of almost inhuman complexity.” [more inside]
We wrote the Navy: ‘We think it is inadvisable to land the airplane.’ They came back with one paragraph that said ‘We agree.'” The 10 worst US aircraft. [more inside]
Out with bourgeois crocodiles! How the Soviets rewrote children's books (Guardian). A new exhibition, A New Childhood: Picture Books from Soviet Russia, will be at the House of Illustration. [more inside]
The Calvert Journal's Special Report: Red Africa: When international socialism met the developing world [more inside]
The Mixtape 24: Soviet Space Disco courtesy of The Calvert Journal: [October]'s mixtape is a collection of cosmic disco music from the archives of Soviet state record label Melodiya. Compiled for the launch of the exhibition Soviet Space Archive: Configuration II (on display at Calvert 22 Gallery between 10 October — 31 October 2015), it showcases the otherworldly highlights of the label’s eclectic Diskoklub series, including the swirling synths and tight brass of groups such as Zodiak from Latvia. For the exhibition opening, curators Rory McCartney and Ella McCartney will host a Soviet Space Disco. This mix captures the futuristic soundtrack to the opening event.
In a daring attempt to ease cold war tensions, the 19-year-old amateur pilot had flown a single-engine Cessna nearly 550 miles from Helsinki to the center of Moscow—probably the most heavily defended city on the planet—and parked it at the base of St. Basil’s Cathedral, within spitting distance of Lenin’s tomb. Newspapers dubbed the pilot “the new Red Baron” and the “Don Quixote of the skies.” The stunt became one of the most talked-about aviation feats in history. But it was politics, not fame, that motivated Rust.
The Cold War gift that keeps on giving. Just testing the the Davy Crockett may have contaminated 12,000 acres around Fort Carson with uranium and depleted uranium residue. “In the general mindset of the era, it was deemed a requirement for more covert, squad level nuclear weaponry…called the ‘Davy Crockett,’ it was a 155mm caliber tactical nuclear recoilless gun” With an explosive yield of .01-.02 kilotons, or the equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT the Davy Crockett was developed for covert units to destroy Soviet infrastructure, engage tank formations or repel larger units. As the largest conventional ordinance has a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT and was short ranged, very inaccurate and likely to expose users to radioactive fallout and contaminate large areas for years, the weapon was wisely discontinued. Previously [more inside]
In 1983, the US got a tip-off that the Soviets had designed a new breed of hard-to-find bug, capable of relaying information from office equipment. The Moscow Embassy had more than ten tons of gear, all of which was immediately suspect. It had to be fixed, and now. Problem one: how do you replace it all? Problem two: how do you get the old stuff back? Problem three: what on earth were they looking for? What they found surprised them! A tale of bureaucracy, secrecy, narrow corridors and IBM Selectrics that weren't quite what they seemed. (SL NSA PDF)
"Inside the crates were maps, thousands of them. In the top right corner of each one, printed in red, was the Russian word секрет. Secret" -- Inside the Secret World of Russia’s Cold War Mapmakers by Greg Miller, WIRED
Fifteen miles from Vilnius, Lithuania, in the forest of Nemenčinė, a crumbling, underground Soviet Bunker contains Europe's most terrifying theme park: a KGB torture prison that's still operating on its visitors. [more inside]
Russian urban exploration photographer Ralph Mirebs recently paid a visit to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where inside a giant abandoned hangar are decaying remnants of prototypes from the Soviet space shuttle program.
"Computers, once vilified and now championed, were constant in one thing: They amplified the virtues and deficits of the system that implemented them." The Tangled History of Soviet Computer Science. [more inside]
Yozhik v tumane - Soyuzmultfilm Yuri Norstein (YT, 1975) (Hedgehog in the Fog, Wikipedia) is ten delightful minutes of one of the most beloved animated movies in the world. That hedgehog, that owl: just look at them. Just a small good thing for your day. Discovered via Thomas Pynchon's "Bleeding Edge," source of the post title.
BBC: Russia will turn back its clocks for the last time on Sunday to permanently adopt winter hours. It will also increase its time zones from nine to 11, from the Pacific to the borders of the European Union. For the last three years, Russia experimented with keeping permanent summer time, but it proved to be highly unpopular with many Russians. The Soviet Union introduced Daylight Saving Time in 1981. [more inside]
Gottland is not a novel, but that proves difficult to remember. The book, playfully subtitled Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia, is technically a work of reportage, and its author, Mariusz Szczygieł, one of Poland’s best-known journalists. Most of Gottland’s tales, however, seem better suited to Soviet science fiction—or even Russian absurdism—than to actual European history. Szczygieł, aware of his essays’ incredibility, alludes to it not only in Gottland’s subtitle but also in a more blatant disclaimer to his readers: “From here on, most of what we know . . . should be labeled with the first sentence from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which goes: ‘All this happened, more or less.’”
Russiatrek.org's blog has a nice collection of Soviet propaganda posters. Soviet space program 1958-1963 Part 1. Part 2. International Workers' Day. Soviet Patriotism. Soviet propaganda - the beginning 1917-1923. Stalin's Soviet Union tourism posters. Socialism vs. Capitalism. WWII Part 1. Part 2. Soviet posters of the 1970's. The blog's art category.
A Soviet take on Rambo (brief clip; Rutube) is "unique in its violence and anti-Americanism." A Russian point of view on James Bond remarks that "so widespread was the interest in Bond that an official Soviet spy serial ... was released." But the spy novel / miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring (somewhat digestible in 17 highlights with commentary: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17) is for interesting reasons not a Soviet counterpart to James Bond or Rambo. See also Seventeen Moments fanfic, two pages of jokes about its hero, and how he figures in the present. [more inside]
The Light-Blue Puppy is a visually extraordinary India Ink-animated Soviet musical children's cartoon made in 1976, only recently translated into English. It tells the tale of a small, sad puppy who has been rejected by his peers for his unusual color, but nevertheless manages to find his way in the world (with some help from a few other colorful characters, of course). On its surface it appears to be a cute, cleverly-animated story with a simple message of tolerance. [more inside]
Inside the Soviet Union's Secret Erotica Collection (The Moscow Times). "Across from the Kremlin, the country's main library held a pornographic treasure trove." Photogallery. "Legend has it that Soviet henchmen used to come to the archive".
That Time The CIA And Howard Hughes Tried To Steal A Soviet Submarine | You may recall this (previously) epic post about this subject, but it is time to update the story with recently declassified documents (PDF: Search it for the term "Azorian" and you'll find some 200 pages of info.) Or just read the first link for the Cliff's Notes.
Photographer Chris Herwig (previously) has successfully kickstarted a photo book on the oddball bus-stops of the former Soviet republics, compiled over 12 years and spanning 12 countries. You can browse many of the photos at Herwig's website. Reporter Alina Simone reported on the project and the bus stops for PRI's The World. The PRI site also has a video slide show of the stops narrated by Herwig.
In 1945, the 153 Soviet POWs of Fort Dix disappeared into a void. Their ultimate fate is unknown. [more inside]
Today marks 25 years since Buran, the enigmatic Soviet Space Shuttle clone, made her single unpiloted 2-orbit flight before an inglorious retirement like her known siblings.
From 1949 onwards, the closed city of Semipalatinsk (now Semey, Kazakhstan) was the test site for 456 nuclear devices. The test site was known as "The Polygon." Testing was stopped in 1989, but the long term effects remained. [more inside]
Полигон (Polygon), also called Firing Range, is a Soviet short film from 1977. It concerns a tank that is able to read the brain impulses of enemy soldiers, and the man who designed it. The generals have great plans for this tank, but the designer, and the tank, have other plans. [more inside]
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
Richter: The Enigma 1, 2. In Tours. At the Moscow Conservatory. At the Barbican 1, 2. Well-Tempered Clavier. Italian Concerto. Beethoven Sonatas. TL;DW: Richter plays Chopin
Featured previously, Vice does a 35 minute video chronicling a rare visit to the sole surviving member of the Lykov family, Agafia. [more inside]
They had to be fully autonomous, because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for a years without service and any external power supply, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power up those structures. So, special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series to be delivered to the Polar Circle lands and to be installed on the lighthouses.
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.
The Real Cuban Missile Crisis: Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.
In 1978, geological explorers in a remote region of southern Siberia made an unexpected discovery: a family living alone, more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement. They had lived in isolation since 1936 and were unaware that World War II had happened.
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]
"Mountain of Dinosaurs" (1967) A Russian cartoon, directed by Rasa Strautmane. WARNING: things don't end well for the Dinosaurs. [via]
Beautiful images from the USSR. Someone has scanned over 10,000 photos from the Soviet Union. Sources seem to be mainly the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Soviet Life magazine and catalogs and magazines. [more inside]
It's the turn of the 90s and you're back in the USSR, sitting on the Persian carpet that covers every inch of your Soviet living room and facing the old Rubin-714 set. As the clock strikes nine, you hear those familiar strains… [more inside]
Seed collectors themselves are a bit like foraging animals, wandering far and wide in search of the same plants, and [Sergey] Shuvalov, the expedition's chief logistics planner, translator and route finder, often has to whistle them back to the vehicles. He is aware of the honor of following Vavilov's footsteps, but doubts that he will have time this trip to collect anything near the 200 species and varieties that his compatriot did here 100 years ago. [more inside]