Peasant culture and Russian folklore in Soviet animation (~400 minutes whereof): Soviet animation abounds in fantasies about the natural, wholesome lives of honorable, strong-willed Russian peasants and folk heroes and their struggles against villainy and adversity. Decorated with splendid folk art motifs that verge on horror vacui, these cel-animated cartoons are excellent aids for learning about (popular conceptions of) Russian folk material culture: decoration, architecture, dress, weaponry, textiles, domestic culture, manners, and so on. [more inside]
A visually inventive, super-stylized, 27 minute Soviet cartoon telling of The Little Mermaid / Rusalochka from 1968.
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]
SoftPanorama / SoftPanorama Switchboard, created by Nikolai Bezroukov, is one of those vast, practical resources with a fun side too. There is the excellent and very useful Classification of Corporate Psychopaths | Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment | Surviving a Bad Performance Review | Information Overload: How Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime | Science, PseudoScience and Society. But then there is the fun side of the site too: Russian Music Oldies on YouTube | economic crisis humor | Songs from Famous Russian Cartoons on Youtube. [more inside]
An ever increasing accumulation of film stills from Sergei Bondarchuk's 8-hour long epic film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace [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]
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]
You've probably heard Madonna's Holiday. You might be aware of the Dutch rap version by MC Miker G & Deejay Sven. What may be new to you is the Soviet parody. [more inside]
Soviet era arcade remains full functionally in Armenia. While Funspot is impressive, check out this working arcade in Gyumri, Armenia. [more inside]
Sovlit.com is a very large and comprehensive site dedicated to the literature of the Soviet Union (both official and dissident), with summaries (fans of the genres might find the examples of Soviet science fiction and spy novels to be particularly interesting), biographies, and even some full translations of short stories from authors such as Isaac Babel, Vasily Grossman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, and others.
NOON, 22ND CENTURY. The research vessel Pegasus is getting ready for liftoff from a spaceport near Moscow. Its small crew of three comprises interplanetary zoologist Dr. Seleznev, his adventurous nine-year-old daughter Alisa, and the terminally pessimistic Captain Zeleny. As they search for rare animal specimens to expand the Moscow zoo's collection, they will discover which of the ferocious tigerat's two tails is longer, save a planet of robots from a paralyzing epidemic, and deliver a modestly sized birthday cake. [more inside]
Get ready to meet the fourth or fifth most famous pairing in Soviet children's animation: the meek, civil Leopold the Cat, and the rowdy mice who endlessly harass him in the course of 11 animated shorts (and a non-canonical feature made after the fall of the USSR). [more inside]
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.