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American dreams and the state of statelessness

April 10, 2014
Jasper Johns American flag painting at the MOMA

Review of Stateless in Tablet When I was at Limmud last month, I had a chance to see a new documentary on the Soviet-Jewish immigration of the late ’80s, called Stateless. I also got to review it for Tablet Magazine and naturally, I think you should go read it. The movie looks at why the…

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A Soviet-Jewish nightmare comes true on The Americans

March 27, 2014
The Americans Cold War spy show on FX

Well. That was gut-wrenching. I’m a little speechless. Our anti-hero protagonists just reached into my own personal life and gave it a shake. Or, more to the point, it’s like the KGB reached out and tapped my parents on the shoulders — really, every Russian that I knew as a child — and said “Here…

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Why I can’t stop watching The Americans

March 26, 2014
Poster for watching The Americans

Can we talk about The Americans? Let’s talk about The Americans. Because I can’t stop watching The Americans and meanwhile no one in my Russian-Jewish circles is talking about this show, and now they’ve got a storyline about Soviet-Jews and you should all start watching it. Even Gary Shteyngart is watching – it’s his favourite…

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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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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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Soviet Propaganda Porcelain: Inside the Imperial Porcelain Factory

July 18, 2013
Soviet Propaganda Porcelain - Lenin plate

While we were in St. Petersburg, we went on a private tour of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and got to see some Soviet propaganda porcelain for the first time. I didn’t know such a thing even existed – I always thought propaganda was largely “limited” to media. That is, posters, movies, radio and TV. But…

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Vestiges of Empire – Tracking Lenin statues through Russia and Ukraine

July 12, 2013
Lenin statues in Russia and Ukraine - outside Finland station in St. Petersburg

I grew up in a country that is pathologically allergic to patriotism. I don’t think I need to tell you about the country I was born in and patriotism. Which, among other things, translated into a lot of statues and monuments. Broken Lenins and Stalins are part of our stock downfall-of-an-empire imagery, so I didn’t expect…

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Friday Links: The Stalin ruins Women’s Day edition

March 8, 2013
Translated Soviet Women's Day Poster from 1932

Once upon a time, I used to post Monday links. I’m bringing them back, but on Friday. Because I actually have time to think of smart posts on the weekend. Not so much on Fridays. It is a weird week when the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death rolls around and it’s also (almost) International Women’s Day.…

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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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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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