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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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A joke to die for: Old communists telling Soviet jokes

July 2, 2012 /
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Soviet jokes in Hammer & Tickle by Ben Lewis

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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Apparatchiks with typewriters, or, in the Soviet archives

February 28, 2012 / Comments Off on Apparatchiks with typewriters, or, in the Soviet archives
Russian Cyrillic typewriter of the type found in Soviet archives

I recently got my hands on a research collection from the Soviet archives of government documents on Jewish immigration, dating from 1957 to 1989. The book was published in 1998, just as the post-collapse euphoria came to a close and Russian archives began to fold back in on themselves, so these documents are no longer…

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Not my perestroika: Shades of might have beens

December 15, 2011 / Comments Off on Not my perestroika: Shades of might have beens
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My Perestroika documentary screenshot

Every year, on September 1, Russian children start their first day of school. All of them, en masse. And before them, it was Soviet children. My mother went to school in pinafored uniform, braids and bows in her hair, flowers in her arms. Twenty years later, a carbon copy photo of my cousin doing and…

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