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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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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Soviet Jewry books: A reading assignment

February 6, 2012
Russian Reading List for trip

I made a reading list! Or “curated” if you want to be fancy about it. You all should go read it. It’s for the Jewish Book Council and covers what I consider some of the best reading on Soviet Jewish history. The books are: When They Come for Us, We’ll be Gone: The Epic Struggle…

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Not my perestroika: Shades of might have beens

December 15, 2011
My Perestroika documentary screenshot

Every year, on September 1, Russian children start their first day of school. All of them, en masse. And before them, it was Soviet children. My mother went to school in pinafored uniform, braids and bows in her hair, flowers in her arms. Twenty years later, a carbon copy photo of my cousin doing and…

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On Russian tchotchkes and Soviet design

June 6, 2011
Unsung Icons of Soviet Design book cover

A very long time ago (in internet years), I had a Twitter conversation with blogger and general funny girl Vicki Boykis (@vboykis) about our attitudes towards Russian tchotchkes. The original link is dead, but it was probably something along these lines. Her response was an unequivocal “yea,” while I was firmly on the “ugh, why?”…

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Exploring a haunting oral history of the Chernobyl disaster

May 23, 2011
Graffiti in Chernobyl to illustrate oral history of Chernobyl disaster

[Update: In 2015, Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature] I’m going through my Instapaper links, catching up on reading about many things, including Chernobyl. These two quotes below so perfectly describe the tensions underlying Soviet society: the complete and utter indignity of daily existence, with its arbitrary cruelties and humiliations. But then there’s…

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So much to envy: Reading about North Korea

February 16, 2011
Cover of Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy book on North Korea

As one dictator fell this weekend, I was reading about another, very different one. A friend recently recommended Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which I started and finished in two days. Yes, it’s that good. I didn’t realize until now just how little we know about North Korea. The book…

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Lego and Monopoly: What's history got to do with it?

November 29, 2010

A few links that have been hanging around in my bookmarks and Twitter feed… a lot of video, a little bit of Lego, a little bit of Monopoly… History via Lego Up above, we have the complete history of Soviet-Russia for children, told through Lego. Need I say more? (If you liked that, you should…

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A Q&A on the Soviet Jewry movement with Gal Beckerman

September 23, 2010
Book cover for Gal Beckerman's When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone

When I first started this blog, I’d stated that very little has been written about the Soviet Jewry movement, and that most of it focuses on the movement in North America and on the better known refuseniks such as Natan Sharansky. A new book coming out today goes a long way to undo all that.…

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