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Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive

November 11, 2013 / Comments Off on Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive
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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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An Instagram worthy of royalty and madmen (with video!)

October 28, 2013 / Comments Off on An Instagram worthy of royalty and madmen (with video!)
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Following up on last week’s post, some related notes on the dictators of the interwebs. Because once you’re done Photoshopping those propaglamour shots, where else do you turn but to Instagram? Slate posted a round-up video of Assad & his cohort are getting up to on Instagram a few months ago. Yes, dictators on Instagram is…

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Can you Photoshop that? Our tone-deaf response to the Kim Jong-Uns of the world

October 24, 2013 / Comments Off on Can you Photoshop that? Our tone-deaf response to the Kim Jong-Uns of the world
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Kim Jong-Un Photoshop contest - Statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il

One of my favourite Soviet-era jokes goes something like this: Three Russians are in the gulag. The first one says, “What are you in for?” The second one replies, “I called Zbarsky a revolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the first one says. “I called Zbarsky a counterrevolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the third one says. “I am Zbarsky.” (I may have…

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What we really mean when we copy Soviet constructivism from Alexander Rodchenko

October 18, 2013 / Comments Off on What we really mean when we copy Soviet constructivism from Alexander Rodchenko
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 / Comments Off on Soviet Propaganda Porcelain: Inside the Imperial Porcelain Factory
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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 / 1 Comment
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 / Comments Off on Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet
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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 / 1 Comment
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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 / 2 Comments
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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Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian

March 20, 2013 / Comments Off on Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian
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Limmud FSU 2013

Years of travelling and moving around the world, and I still managed to pull off a first this weekend, at Limmud FSU, a Russian-Jewish conference in Princeton. My first experience of the organized Russian-Jewish community in North America. Just how fish-out-of-water was this for me? It was a full 48 hours in when a friend turned…

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