Books & Movies

Poster for watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew

Why I can’t stop watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew

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

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Operatsiya Y Soviet movie - Operation Y with Shurik

Operatsiya Y: A Soviet movie flashback. With kompot!

Park yourself at a dinner table of Russians, and inevitably, as the eating part winds down and the drinks are doing their thing, someone says “And the kompot?” And everyone else laughs uproariously and the kompot rarely, rarely ever appears. It’s a line from an old Soviet movie. And, since it’s a line from every …

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A joke to die for: Old communists telling Soviet jokes

Every time you tell a joke, a dictator gets a little weaker. If you grew up in any household of former eastern European emigres, then you’re probably familiar with the very particular form of Soviet black humour. There is no North American equivalent to the anekdot – aside from the jokes that periodically make the rounds …

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Graffiti in Chernobyl to illustrate oral history of Chernobyl disaster

Exploring a haunting oral history of the Chernobyl disaster

[Update: In 2015, Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature] I’m going through my Instapaper links, catching up on reading about many things, including Chernobyl. These two quotes below so perfectly describe the tensions underlying Soviet society: the complete and utter indignity of daily existence, with its arbitrary cruelties and humiliations. But then there’s …

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