Tag Archives: ussr
October 12, 2012

Off to the ‘Stans

Just a super quick note before I head off to the airport. For the next three weeks I will be traveling around Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. So after a few years of being stuck stateside, I will finally have some new content and photos for this blog.

CentralAsiaMap 300x255 Off to the Stans
(Courtesy WikiTravel)

April 4, 2012

“Visit the USSR”

visittheussr Visit the USSR

The Retronaut, my new favorite website, posted this unintentionally hilarious image taken from the Soviet brochure for the Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58). If it weren’t for the “Visit the USSR” emblazoned across the image, I would have thought they were trying to sell potential tourists on a trip to Monaco.

November 4, 2010

POTD: “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” in Moscow

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Designed in 1937 by Vera Mukhina, the “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” is a 78 foot high stainless steel sculpture that crowned the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. The sculpture currently resides at VDNKH in Moscow and is one of my favorite examples of socialist realism. This photo was
taken in 2003 while the sculpture was undergoing restoration.

November 8, 2009

“Immediately”


The NYTimes has an excellent series of articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was only seven years old when this happened, but can still remember watching the news reports showing Berliners attacking the wall with sledgehammers as they were sprayed with firehoses. What an amazing moment in history. I’m looking forward to visiting the city, hopefully next month.

Günter Schabowski, a member of the East German Politburo, was designated to announce the new travel regulations at a news conference in the late afternoon. I had no way of filing to the paper from East Berlin, so even before he finished I rushed back to get through Checkpoint Charlie ahead of the mob of newsmen. All through the evening there were reports that people were gathering at checkpoints on both sides. As midnight approached, I was writing away in my room at the Kempinski Hotel in West Berlin when there came a knock on the door. It was Victor Homola, my translator from East Berlin.

“I’m busy, Victor,” I snapped.

“But, Serge…”

“Not now! Not now…”

Wait! Victor was an East German. He was not allowed to cross into the West!

He’d never been to the West! And it was midnight.

“Victor, what on earth are you doing here?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Serge. The wall is open!”


October 27, 2009

On Stalin and Obama


This is for all the illiterate idiots (hello, Glenn Beck) who invoke the names Stalin, Hitler, Kim, and Mao when discussing Obama. Pick up a goddamn history book for once and realize what you are actually saying. From “A Trip to Chon Tash”:

The crimes of the old regime were on exhibition to those swearing an oath to uphold the new order. In the museum at the site the possessions of many of the victims were displayed with some biographical details. Documents from the archives of the NKVD/KGB showed the trappings of legal formalism that accompanied the brutal deeds, every murder judicially authorized with a sentence stamped and sealed. The execution of the sentence was scrupulously documented. And on one wall was a simple display that spoke powerfully: a portrait of Stalin, and below it a skull, resting on stones taken from the pit.

In America today, the name and image of Stalin are invoked heavily by fringe critics of Barack Obama. The critics disagree with his policies on health care and see in it the basis for increasing power of the state. The role the state will play in the healthcare system is a legitimate political issue on which well-informed citizens can have different views. But the comparison to Stalin makes clear that these critics really have no inkling of who Joseph Stalin was, what he did, and why his name lives in special infamy at hallowed spots like the pit at Chon Tash. This frivolous use of his name and image cheapens our nation’s political dialogue, and it is also a mark of disrespect to his victims. And it points to the fundamental crisis of which Aitmatov wrote so powerfully: the failure to know the past, to be informed by it, and to distill guidance from it. The age of the mankurt, alas, has not passed.


December 16, 2008

‘Cos there’s a red star up on the Christmas tree


What the EFF?!

I wish they would play this on WashFM (Christmas music 24/7)


December 8, 2008

Bears playing hockey


Russian bears, of course. And some of them skate better than I do. Moscow Circus, 1970s.


November 25, 2008

POTD: Nixon/Khrushchev Kitchen Debate, 1959

nixon_khrushchev_kitchen_debate_1959.jpg


Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (2L) vehemently arguing w. VP Richard Nixon (2R) who is furiously objecting as an excited interpreter (C) translates their firey words re US ideas on home construction during “kitchen debate” at American Natl. Exhibit at Moscow Fair

The entire transcript is worth reading, but this is the best line:

Khrushchev: You’re a lawyer of Capitalism, I’m a lawyer for Communism. Let’s kiss.

Sounds like the title of a Panic! at the Disco song.

nixon khrushchev kitchen debate 1959 POTD: Nixon/Khrushchev Kitchen Debate, 1959
(Howard Sochurek, 1959)


November 22, 2008

POTD: Apollo-Soyuz “vodka” rations, 1975

apollo_soyuz_vodka_rations_1975.jpg


American astronauts Tom Stafford and Deke Slayton holding tubes of vodka given to them by Russian cosmonauts during historic rendezvous and linkup of Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft.

Who cares what space food tastes like when your meal comes with a tube of vodka?

(The tubes of vodka didn’t actually contain vodka, as that is probably the last thing you want your crew to drink when piloting spacecraft. As a joke, the Soviet cosmonauts pasted vodka labels onto tubes of borscht and presented them to the Americans for a toast. Yes, tubes of borscht. I think I’d rather have the vodka.)


(1975)


November 9, 2008

In which Gorbachev slays Stalin zombies and gets all the ladies

This music video by Russian metal band ANJ leaves me almost speechless. In it, a buff Mikhail Gorbachev slays Stalin-like zombies and frees the Soviets to party on the beach and consume Coca-Cola and Twinkies. No need to study the fall of the Soviet Union, as this video says it all.


GORBACHOV: THE MUSIC VIDEO – BIGGER AND RUSSIANER from Tom Stern on Vimeo.