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Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style

February 25, 2014

  A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks whether I have any national pride for Russia during these Olympics. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before about cheering on another country. It’s never even occurred to…

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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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Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet

June 13, 2013
Soviet Holocaust films - Olga Gershenson's Phantom Holocaust Review

I’m very excited about my latest article for Tablet on a new book about Soviet Holocaust films. The book is called The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe, by Olga Gershenson. (Yes, that’s the book I was reading while waiting to pick up my visa application.) I’m not sure I did justice to the…

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Appropriate Reading for Russian Vacations

June 11, 2013
Russian Reading List for trip

It began with the first line, where, waiting to drop off my own visa application, I spent the 3 hours reading Maxim Shrayer’s Waiting for America about his summer as a refugee in Italy. My own Italian paperwork – proof of a citizenship removed – was tucked safely away in my bag. Then it was Olga…

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Oh hello, Russian visa

June 5, 2013
Russian visa

Why yes, that there is a Visa-to-Russia, circa 2013. It’s like a vysov in reverse. So this is where I’ll be for the last half of June, in St. Petersburg, where I was born and my mother grew up, and in Lviv, where my father grew up. I will try to post some photos and…

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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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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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The Potemkin effect: Colour photos from Russia in the black-and-white days

February 12, 2012
Old colour photos from Russia - peasants harvesting in a field

There is a fantastic collection of old colour photos from Russia – Tsarist Russia, to be exact – taken between 1902 and 1912 on the Boston Globe site. Strictly speaking, they’re not colour photos – the photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) – shot each image three times, using a red, green and then blue filter. He…

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