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Google turns the lights on in North Korea

February 26, 2013
Mapping Gulags - What Happened When Google Turned the Lights on in North Korea

When journalist Barbara Demnick wrote her book about the lives of North Koreans (Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea), she opened with a darkened map – the black mass that is North Korea at night, surrounded by the flickering lights of an Asia immersed in modern life. But last month, those lights went on.…

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Has the Soviet Jewry movement anniversary forgotten Soviet Jews themselves?

February 19, 2013
March for Soviet Jews pin - commemorating Soviet Jewry movement anniversary

Have you joined the virtual march to commemorate the real march for Soviet Jews yet? On December 6, 1987, some 250,000 people rallied in Washington, DC, to demand immigration rights for Soviet Jews. If you missed it, you can “remember” by joining the virtual march. There are a lot of people talking about the Soviet…

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An A-Z of Russian hospitality to Jews for Shimon Peres: The outtakes

December 5, 2012
Moscow Jewish Museum of Tolerance logo - Peres at Jewish Museum in Moscow

You might have heard something about Israeli President Shimon Peres and the Jewish museum in Moscow? It’s just opened and Peres was among the important so-and-so’s in attendance. At some point in the proceedings, overcome with emotions dredged up from childhood, he opened his mouth and and the following came out: “My mother sang to me in…

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The social media revolution, World War II, Syria, and oh, Walmart

August 17, 2012
Wal-Mart Supercenter Parking Lot in Virginia

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media – mostly Twitter – and whether the increased speed and availability of global communicating is really going to make the world a better place (see: every Twitter revolution, everywhere). But Twitter just reflects ourselves back to us – the good and the bad. It’s not going to…

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The mommy wars vs the reality of working motherhood

August 14, 2012
Working mothers - women welders working during World War 2

Here’s something: the US Bureau of Labour Statistics says that in 2011 only 16% of US households skewed 1950s, with a breadwinner dad and stay-at-home mom (SAHM). In Canada in 2010*, 20% of families had one parent at home – 90% of those were moms. In other words, MOST OF US WORK. (Sorry for the…

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An interview with Swimming in the Daylight author Lisa Paul

July 17, 2012
Cover of Swimming in the Daylight by Lisa Paul

I am really excited about today’s post – an interview with Lisa Paul, whose memoir, Swimming in the Daylight, is about her time in Moscow and friendship with Soviet refusenik and dissident Inna Meiman. In 1985, after returning from her trip, Lisa went on a hunger strike to bring attention to her friend’s plight and…

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CLOSED: A hunger strike! A memoir! A giveaway!

July 13, 2012
Cover of Swimming in the Daylight by Lisa Paul

I’m very excited to announce that I’m doing a book giveaway in the next issue of the Soviet Samovar newsletter. Those of you who follow my page on Facebook can also sign up through the giveaway tab on the page. In 1985, an American student named Lisa Paul went on a 25-day hunger strike, to…

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Wind of no change and KGB anniversaries

July 13, 2012

Last week, after my post on Hammer and Tickle, I looked up “Wind of Change”, which is featured in the documentary. For those of you not schooled in the nuances of hipness, this is one of those songs one never admits to have stuck in your head. Or to have looked up on YouTube. I…

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Soldiers, homecomings and YouTube surprises

July 11, 2012
Moscow World War 2 announcement - people listening in the streets

Found: Soldiers coming home to surprise their families and uploading it to YouTube. There is an endless reel of these videos, and you can watch them for hours without repeating the same clip. I thought I’d share a few with you, because when I discovered this little universe, it was just days after the anniversary…

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A joke to die for: Old communists telling Soviet jokes

July 2, 2012
Soviet jokes in Hammer & Tickle by Ben Lewis

Every time you tell a joke, a dictator gets a little weaker. If you grew up in any household of former eastern European emigres, then you’re probably familiar with the very particular form of Soviet black humour. There is no North American equivalent to the anekdot – aside from the jokes that periodically make the rounds…

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