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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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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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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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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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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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