Vera Tolz, “Russia’s Own Orient: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods” (Oxford UP, 2011)
Everyone knows that the late nineteenth-century Russian Empire was the largest land based empire around, and that it was growing yet- at fifty-five square miles a day, no less. But how did Moscow and St. Petersberg go about making the bewildering array of peoples and ethnicities into subjects subject of... Read More
Steven Barnes, “Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society” (Princeton UP, 2011)
Most Westerners know about the Gulag (aka “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies”) thanks to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s eloquent, heart-wrenching Gulag Archipelago. Since the publication of that book in 1973 (and largely thanks to it), the Gulag has come to symbolize the horrors of Stalinism. Made up of a... Read More
Rodric Braithwaite, “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89” (Oxford UP, 2011)
I was still in high school the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, 1979. I remember reading about it in Time magazine and watching President Carter denounce it on TV. The Soviets, everyone said, were bent on ruling the world. Detente had been a ploy to lull us to sleep.... Read More
Jonathan Weiler, “Human Rights in Russia: A Darker Side of Reform” (Lynne Rienner, 2004)
A new documentary by Robin Hessman “My Presteroika” portrays the lives of five individuals who, as children, were raised in the Soviet Union but who now live in post-Soviet society. The documentary describes the challenges they faced as they tried to survive in the new post-Soviet world. In many ways,... Read More
Charles King, “Odessa: Genius and Death in the City of Dreams” (W.W. Norton, 2011)
“Look up the street or down the street, this way or that way, we only saw America,” wrote Mark Twain to capture his visit to Odessa in 1867. In a way, it’s not too farfetched that Twain saw his homeland in the Black Sea port city. Odessa was very much... Read More
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