Charles King, “The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus” (Oxford UP, 2008)
There’s a concept I find myself coming back to again and again–“speciation.” It’s drawn from the vocabulary of evolutionary biology and means, roughly, the process by which new species arise. Speciation occurs when a species must adapt to new circumstances;… Read More
Rebecca Manley, “To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War” (Cornell UP, 2009)
By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Bolshevik Party had already amassed a considerable amount of expertise in moving masses of people around. Large population transfers (to put it mildly) were part and… Read More
Kees Boterbloem, “The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys: A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2008)
When we speak of the “Age of Discovery,” we usually mean the later fifteenth and sixteenth century. You know, Columbus, Magellan and all that. But the “Age of Discovery” continued well into the seventeenth century as Europeans continued to travel… Read More
Simon Morrison, “The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” (Oxford UP, 2009)
In the Soviet Union, artists lived lives that were at once charmed and cursed. Though relatively poor, the USSR poured resources into the arts. The Party created a large, well-funded cultural elite of which only two things were expected. First,… Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917” (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers’ weep. Fathers’ sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It’s a good story, and… Read More
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