Red Famine by Anne Applebaum — enemies of the peopleRed Famine balances erudite analysis of political processes at the top with fluent storytelling about their impact on ordinary people. But the most interesting section comes towards the end of the book, when Applebaum deals with the question of whether the term “genocide” applies to the famine. She draws a distinction between Lemkin’s original definition — a process aimed at the destruction of national groups — and its subsequent rendition in international law after the second world war, when it became more narrowly defined as the elimination of ethnic groups. At the drafting stage of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Applebaum shows how the USSR lobbied to ensure the definition was associated with the race theories of Nazi-fascism, rather than its own attempts to liquidate national political groups in Ukraine and elsewhere. Applebaum accepts that the Holodomor does not meet the UN criteria for genocide. But she is right to say that it fits perfectly within Lemkin’s original definition. Readers of this compelling book will surely agree with her.
My Friend, Stalin’s Daughter - The New YorkerThe following year, Svetlana, too, fell in love with a thirty-eight-year-old man, a Jewish filmmaker and journalist named Aleksei Kapler. The romance began in the late fall of 1942, during the Nazi invasion of Russia. Kapler and Svetlana met at a film screening; the next time they saw each other, they danced the foxtrot and he asked her why she seemed sad. It was, she said, the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death. Kapler gave Svetlana a banned translation of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and his annotated copy of “Russian Poetry of the Twentieth Century.” They watched the Disney movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” together.
Stalin the poetYet what remains both specific and peculiar was Stalin’s personal preoccupation with the fate of the poets under his thumb. His own youthful poetry and publishing success in Georgia remained a source of pride to him throughout his barbarising progress across the 20th century. Was some unspeakable jealousy at work in his 1934 phone call to Pasternak in which he reproached Pasternak for not pleading Mandelstam’s case directly with him? “If I were a poet and a poet friend of mine were in trouble, I would do anything to help him,” he said. When Pasternak defended himself, Stalin interrupted, “But he’s a genius, he’s a genius, isn’t he?” To which Pasternak replied, “But that’s not the point.” “Then what is?” asked Stalin. Pasternak proposed a meeting to talk. “What about?” asked Stalin. “Life and death,” Pasternak said and Stalin hung up.
Any story a plotAs the mantra of the secret police – “Give us a man and we’ll make a case” – was well known, normal communication between people ceased to be possible. No one knew to whom they spoke or what construction would be placed upon even the most innocuous conversation. Any form of social interaction as previously understood was now impossible.
To edit or to translate in the USSRWhen a printer’s error in an edition of Charles de Coster’s German fable The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak credited Mandelstam as “translator” rather than “editor”, a carefully constructed uproar ensued, in which he was viciously denounced in the press. He vehemently denied the accusation of attempting to grab undue credit but the state-sponsored campaign was well organised and so the doors to any further opportunities for publication were now, conveniently, shut. It was only the direct intervention of the poetry-loving Nikolai Bukharin, Stalin’s ally in the defeat of Trotsky, that brought the matter to a close.
“It gets people killed”: Osip Mandelstam and the perils of writing poetry under StalinNadezhda Mandelstam – the poet’s wife and invaluable support throughout his, and their, many years of persecution and exile – wrote in her powerful memoir of both the poet and the era, Hope Against Hope, about the many instances when, confronted with the desperation of their situation, they had asked each other if this was the moment when they, too, could no longer bear to go forward. The final occasion was to be the last night they spent in their Moscow apartment before being banished, without means of providing for themselves, to a succession of rural towns situated beyond a hundred-kilometre perimeter of all major cities. She awoke to find Mandelstam standing at the open window. “Isn’t it time?” he said. “Let’s do it while we’re still together.” “Not yet,” she replied. Mandelstam didn’t argue but she later reflected, “If we had been able to foresee all the alternatives, we would not have missed that last chance of a ‘normal’ death offered by the open window of our apartment in Furmanov Street.” Opting, in that moment, for a little more life changed nothing and Mandelstam soon found himself being moved inexorably towards Stalin’s endgame in the camps.
The Popularity of Putin and What It Means for America | History | SmithsonianIf you oppose Putin, you might not go to prison as you did in the old days, but the tax police will come, there will be an investigation, you might end up in jail for so-called economic crimes, since most people are dealing in an underground economy, so everybody is vulnerable. Certainly historians I know who have tried to challenge what Putin says—and continue to openly discuss what was good or bad in the past--are not getting government grants. And those are now the only grants you can get since Western grants have been halted by Putin. There are all sorts of ways to repress people and their ability to work and think freely.
Soviet system for predicting nuclear war had lots of complex inputs with an arbitrary thresholdHis worries about a surprise attack were amplified by “one peculiar mode of intelligence analysis,” a KGB computer model to measure perceived changes in the “correlation of forces” between the superpowers, according to the review. The computer went online in 1979 to warn Soviet leaders when “deterioration of Soviet power might tempt a US first strike,” the review says. The computer was at the heart of the VRYAN system, according to the review, and thousands of pieces of security and economic data were fed into the machine. The computer model assigned a fixed value of 100 to the United States, and Soviet leaders felt they would be safe from a nuclear first strike as long as they were at least at 60 percent of the United States, and ideally at 70 percent. Reports were sent to the ruling Politburo once a month.
Inside the Secret World of Russia's Cold War Mapmakers | WIRED
Soviets loved mapsThey had mapped nearly the entire world at three scales. The most detailed of these three sets of maps, at a scale of 1:200,000, consisted of regional maps. A single sheet might cover the New York metropolitan area, for example. […]They mapped all of Europe, nearly all of Asia, as well as large parts of North America and northern Africa at 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 scales, which show even more features and fine-grained topography. Another series of still more zoomed-in maps, at 1:25,000 scale, covers all of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as hundreds or perhaps thousands of foreign cities. At this scale, city streets and individual buildings are visible. […] The Soviets produced hundreds of remarkably detailed 1:10,000 maps of foreign cities, mostly in Europe, and they may have mapped the entire USSR at this scale[…] All in all, Watt estimated that the Soviet military produced more than 1.1 million different maps.
Stalin pausesIn December 1941 Churchill sent his foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, to Moscow. The German advance forces had stopped short of Moscow but gunfire could even be heard beyond the Kremlin wall. Stalin said to Eden: “Hitler’s problem was that he does not know where to stop.” Eden: “Does anyone?” Stalin: “I do.” Those two words were not entirely devoid of truth. In November 1944 Churchill came to see De Gaulle in Paris. De Gaulle berated the Americans for letting Russia take over all of Eastern Europe. Churchill said, yes, Russia is now a hungry wolf. “But after the meal comes the digestion period.”* Russia would not be able to digest most of Eastern Europe. And so it was to be.
Glasnost sneaks into view"We need to expand openness in the work of party, Soviet, government, and civil organizations," Gorbachev told an emergency meeting of the Party's Central Committee. One mandatory Lenin reference later, he continued, "the better informed people are, the more consciously they'll act, and the more actively they'll support the Party, its plans, and goals."
Overall, the MiG-29 was/is not the 10 foot tall monster that was postulated during the Cold War. It's a good airplane, just not much of a fighter when compared to the West's 4th-generation fighters.