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Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style

February 25, 2014

  A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks whether I have any national pride for Russia during these Olympics. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before about cheering on another country. It’s never even occurred to…

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Growing up Refusenik: A Q&A with Maxim Shrayer on his new memoir

December 12, 2013
Maxim Shrayer memoir - Leaving Russia Interview

[Update – Want to read this in Russian? Click here to read a translation of my Q+A on Booknik.ru] Memoirs about Soviet-Jewish life during the immigration period of the 1970s and 1980s have not yet saturated the memoir genre, so I’m excited to tell you about a new book that’s just come out this month. Leaving…

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Share your story! Looking for Soviet-Jewish immigration stories from the 1970s

December 11, 2013
Early 1960s Soviet schoolchildren for Soviet-Jewish immigration stories

Hi guys, I’m really excited to tell you about funding I’ve received to do an oral history project on the 1970s immigration period!! I’ll be interviewing people and posting it as part of an online exhibit on the history of the Soviet-Jewish immigration. Here’s where you can help – I’m looking for Soviet-Jewish immigrants to…

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Tintin’s secret anti-Soviet propaganda roots

December 10, 2013
Tintin anti-Soviet roots: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

The library of my elementary school had an extensive collection of Tintin books. I managed to read them all in the three years I spent there. I haven’t picked up a Tintin since, even when the movie came out a few years ago. But I recently found a copy of “Tintin in the Land of…

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Russian Kompot: I’m probably doing it wrong (with recipe)

November 25, 2013
Russian kompot recipe

I finally made the kompot. What’s kompot? Russian kompot is essentially a homemade fruit juice. It’s been around for centuries and is popular in Russia and the former East Bloc. I only recently learned that what I always thought was kompot was actually compote, which is also made with cooked fruit, but has less liquid…

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Operatsiya Y: A Soviet movie flashback. With kompot!

November 21, 2013
Operatsiya Y Soviet movie - Operation Y with Shurik

Park yourself at a dinner table of Russians, and inevitably, as the eating part winds down and the drinks are doing their thing, someone says “And the kompot?” And everyone else laughs uproariously and the kompot rarely, rarely ever appears. It’s a line from an old Soviet movie. And, since it’s a line from every…

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Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive

November 11, 2013
Kristallnacht on Twitter post - interior of burnt synagogue in Berlin

This weekend was the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass, when thousands of Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked and destroyed across Germany. Ninety-one Jews died that night. That was the night of November 9/10, 1938. (Awkward anniversary tie-in – on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.) Media…

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An Instagram worthy of royalty and madmen (with video!)

October 28, 2013

Following up on last week’s post, some related notes on the dictators of the interwebs. Because once you’re done Photoshopping those propaglamour shots, where else do you turn but to Instagram? Slate posted a round-up video of Assad & his cohort are getting up to on Instagram a few months ago. Yes, dictators on Instagram is…

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Can you Photoshop that? Our tone-deaf response to the Kim Jong-Uns of the world

October 24, 2013
Kim Jong-Un Photoshop contest - Statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il

One of my favourite Soviet-era jokes goes something like this: Three Russians are in the gulag. The first one says, “What are you in for?” The second one replies, “I called Zbarsky a revolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the first one says. “I called Zbarsky a counterrevolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the third one says. “I am Zbarsky.” (I may have…

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What we really mean when we copy Soviet constructivism from Alexander Rodchenko

October 18, 2013
Alexander Rodchenko and constructivism - famous 1925 poster

I was writing a post about how the internet is keeping the USSR alive – or at least, its “stuff,” like posters and old medals – but I got distracted by this poster, so instead you get to read about Alexander Rodchenko and constructivism. Question: Was this poster as familiar to its original, Soviet audience, as…

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