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Apparatchiks with typewriters, or, in the Soviet archives

February 28, 2012
Russian Cyrillic typewriter of the type found in Soviet archives

I recently got my hands on a research collection from the Soviet archives of government documents on Jewish immigration, dating from 1957 to 1989. The book was published in 1998, just as the post-collapse euphoria came to a close and Russian archives began to fold back in on themselves, so these documents are no longer…

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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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Live, in the kitchen, from Moscow

September 26, 2011
The Kitchen Debate - Nixon and Kruschev in Moscow at the American National Exhibition, 1959

It took the Kremlin until 1959 to realize how starved for things the nation was. In July of that year, Moscow’s Sokolniki Park hosted the American National Exhibition. …In just two week two million Russians had had their faces mashed into a perfect tableau of Yankee wealth. The Cadillacs, the TV dinners, the cosmetics, the…

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Hiding out in the ‘burbs

September 21, 2011
Film still representing the lives of immigrants in the suburbs

Surprisingly to some, many of the people living in the suburbs – places like Peel or Scarborough – do so voluntarily—almost as if they like it or something. Moreover, a very significant chunk of those suburbanites aren’t white and weren’t born in Canada, a fact that raises some rather sticky questions. To wit, as downtown…

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A suitcase full of matryoshkas and salami (Immigrant Decor Part 2)

July 15, 2011
Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls at the Ottawa Children's Museum

Today’s peek into the immigrant home comes from Anna Tarkov, a journalist and blogger from Chicago. She’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out Chicago, and others, and her blog, THE OUTSIDER… and the rueful dilettante, is full of insights on the state of journalism today. Though she left the USSR much later than…

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Do Russian and Soviet memorabilia an immigrant make?

June 23, 2011
Anna Sui makeup display representing Russian tchotchkes

I talked about Russian tchotchkes a few weeks ago. And then recently, I spotted this make-up collection from Anna Sui, and though it’s called “Dolly Girl” and references wind mills, it has an unmistakable waft of the Slavo-folksy to me. $27 worth, no less. I’m not a fan of the Russian “look”—tchotchkes, nostalgia, kitsch, call…

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A Russian primer on making journalists irrelevant

June 9, 2011
Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya's grave

  In Russia today, journalists are murdered like Anna Politkovskaya, beaten like Oleg Kashin and intimidated like me, but — as terrible as this will sound — that is not the real problem. The real problem is that journalists are ignored. The risks they take in challenging Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchy have ceased…

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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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Soviet Georgian soup is reclaimed as Shabbat meal

May 9, 2011
Soviet soup pot for kharcho, a Soviet Georgian soup

Please check out my recent post on the Forward/Jew & Carrot blog, as part of their Shabbat meals series. Previous contributors include Claudia Roden, one of my kitchen heroes, and Joan Nathan, so I was very flattered to have my kharcho, a Soviet Georgian soup, included among such company. If you are Russian, then you…

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