rewoberlin

Secrets of the Kremlin

A building bearing testimony to the power of eternal Russia; a timeless symbol of the Russian state; a monument to Russian sovereignty. To the modern eye, the Kremlin fortress seems as if it had always been there, as if it had never changed and never will. All of which is utter nonsense, as Catherine Merridale’s …

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The Blog of War

I. “The ideal Gawker item,” Nick Denton, the owner of Gawker Media, wrote in an instant message, “is something triggered by a quote at a party, or an incident, or a story somewhere else and serves to expose hypocrisy, or turn conventional wisdom on its head. “And it’s 100 words long. “200 max.

A Truly Russian Icon

For far too long, the history of 20th century Russia has been understood almost exclusively through the prism of politics, as if it were about nothing more than Marxism and Leninism, revolution and totalitarianism, war and famine.

Album from Hell

Yellowed, dusty, covered in thick cardboard, and held together with string, the Gulag photo albums stored in the Russian State Archive look, at first glance, like nothing more than old family albums kept too long in the attic. But even when opened, their true function isn’t immediately clear.

Out in the Cold

Certain historical events become so covered in myth and significance, so overlaid with patriotism and emotion, that over time many people forget what really happened and why. Napoleon’s fatal 1812 march on Moscow is one such event.

Poets Under Surveillance

Without a doubt, Moscow Memoirs is an extraordinary book, one of those literary memoirs that comes along once a decade. Emma Gerstein, in her nineties when she published it, has shed completely new light on some of the most important poets and writers of the 20th century, providing previously unknown biographical details, some of which …

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The Best of Companions

There are countries where it is easy to be a tourist, and countries where enjoying oneself takes a bit of extra effort. Despite my long association with Poland, I must concede that it falls into the latter camp, although not for wholly obvious reasons. It isn’t simply that the communist-era hotels are not up to …

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The battle for the Holocaust legacy

In the travelling over the past fifteen years or so, I reckon I have visited several dozen memorials to Hitler’s destruction of the Jews. I have been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem; to the Polish museums and memorials commemorating Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the Warsaw ghetto; to uncounted monuments and plaques, wrecked synagogues …

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I Was Booked on Flight 103

I cannot remember a time when I did not fly on airplanes, and for years and years, I flew without anxiety. Later, after the Lockerbie crash, when I developed serious fear of flying not the odd tremor during turbulence, but the real thing – this previous experience with airplanes helped me to keep it concealed.

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