Friday, April 25, 2014

Theme: Soviet Union

  • Poet and performer Olga Krause traces her life as a lesbian in Russia—from Soviet times, when the word itself was barely known, through increasing acceptance, and back to a newly violent and hostile environment. Read more
  • The Left has a checkered history when it comes to Palestine. For at least the first two decades of Israel’s existence, due in part to the attempted extermination of European Jewry, in part to the distorting effects of Soviet foreign policy, and in part to sympathy for a purportedly socialist movement, almost the entire Western left lived with illusions about Zionism.Read more
  • American writers are familiar with the manifest injustices of the literary marketplace. They are also accustomed to feeling outrage on behalf of censored writers abroad, signing petitions from Amnesty International or PEN. But Sinyavsky's story addresses some of the aspects of state control of literature that we consider less often. Read more
  • How did Paul Dehn become the preeminent screenwriter of the Cold War? Like most information about screenwriters, the answer might as well be top secret. There exists no biographical dictionary of screenwriters. The number of good biographies of screenwriters can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.Read more
  • We were twenty-six men, twenty-six living machines locked in a damp cellar where from morning to night we kneaded dough, making kringles and crackers. The cellar’s windows opened to a brick-lined hole, green with moisture; the frames bolted from outside with thick iron grating, and the sunlight could not pierce the glass, covered in flour dust.Read more
  • The many fallen ones into the deepest Insatiable abyss! One of these days I’ll also vanish, guiltless, From earthly living blissRead more
  • I remember growing up in the Soviet Empire and my father always warning me not to talk too much against the authorities on the phone. “They are constantly listening to us and we may be arrested” – he used to tell me and we would cover our phones with the pillows before talking about politics. Read more
  • It is already 20 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union. We were the generation who was filled with hope in 1989, who expected great transformation of the world after the demise of the totalitarian state. We expected so much. This generation rebelled against domination and violence in the name of a State.Read more
  • Even though Gennady Aygi, who passed away six years ago, began writing poetry as a student in Moscow back in the 1950s, it was only in the early 1990s that his first major book collection appeared in Russia. What accounts for the time lag? On the one hand, it was not unusual for prominent Soviet-era poets to have to wait until the perestroika years to see their work in print, but on the other, Aygi’s seems an extreme case.Read more
  • During this generation’s childhood and young adulthood, the Soviet leadership dismantled the Gulag, ruled without terror, promoted consumerism and opened the country in teaspoon-size doses to an outside world that feared Soviet-style Communism. Reaching their prime during the Gorbachev era, these Soviet Baby Boomers today constitute elements of Russia’s, and the professional urban class of diaspora countries.Read more
  • On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On that day he was also made anew—the first of a series of personal makeovers. He left earth’s atmosphere a human being (at the rank of senior lieutenant). He returned to earth a national icon (at the rank of major, a heavenly promotion).Read more
  • Valzhyna Mort reads from her 2008 Poetry Collection, Factory of Tears. Read more
  • Many writers, perhaps historians and novelists more than others, find themselves returning again and again to some big theme that captivated them early in life.Read more
  • Martin Simecka, you once said that the biggest political moment for Slovakia was not 1989 but 1998, referring to a moment in Slovakian political history when the nationalist authoritarian government of Vladimir Meciar fell. Read more
  • The Soviet-era repression of Christian clerics has led to the posthumous recognition of many new Orthodox saints. But the faithful, it seems, are not interested. They still prefer the quick fix of traditional saints to these humble “new martyrs”. Read more
  • Chess can teach you important life skills, like learning how to deal with failure—and so can wine. Read more
  • There is no need to travel to remote areas of Russia to find evidence of the country’s demographic crisis. Tver and its region (known as Kalinin from 1931 to 1990) are only a few hours from Moscow, but have recorded more than two deaths for every birth throughout the last decade. Read more
  • Every revolution is a surprise. Still, the latest Russian Revolution must be counted among the greatest of surprises. In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union.Read more
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