Concentration camps, mass murders, wars, starvation: The history of the Soviet Union is not short of large-scale tragedies and crimes. But in cataloguing these events or counting up the dead, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Bolshevik Revolution left more than physical damage in its wake: Continue reading “Planting Ideology”
“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. Continue reading “The Blog of War”
Way back when George W. Bush was still a candidate and “Condi” was not yet an internationally recognized nickname, someone who had observed the present secretary of state in a previous incarnation told me to watch her carefully. “Everyone underestimates her, because they think she’s a token. Condi’s not a token. Condi plays the game better than anyone else.” Continue reading “The Mystery of Condi Rice: Where did she learn how to play the game?”
It’s a dangerous business, oral history, at least when you try it in Russia. Without oral history a complete history of the Soviet Union is almost impossible to write. Archival documents are dry, containing only the official point of view; memoirs, often written years later, are unreliable and frequently slide over important details. Continue reading “Memory speaks volumes”
A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, by Anna Politkovskaya, University of Chicago Press, 224pp.
Some years ago, I went to visit the offices of a small Moscow newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. Novaya Gazeta has always led a precarious existence — it is one of the few publications that has consistently opposed the Kremlin — and that day the editor was particularly distracted. Continue reading “Extraordinary champion of ordinary people”
If I were a leading venture capitalist, the CEO of a large company, or in any case a person in search of ways to win friends and influence people, then I would be in a much better position to judge the utility of How Life Imitates Chess, Garry Kasparov’s bid to convince business executives that there is much to be learned from studying the game of chess. Continue reading “How Life Imitates Chess”
Of all the great events of the Cold War, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is probably the one most in need of serious historical attention. In part this is because new archives have at last explained a number of mysteries: did Imre Nagy, the reforming communist and later national hero, really request Soviet ‘assistance’ in putting down the rebellion? Continue reading “What really destroyed the Hungarians in 1956?”
So powerful was the image of Russia created by the extraordinary group of writers, artists and philosophers who dominated their country’s intellectual life at the beginning of the 20th century that it persists even today. Continue reading “Short-listing doomed intellectuals”
To a British reader who knows the subject, 1776 may seem pretty thin. To one who doesn’t, it may be confusing. It is an account of the military history of a single year of the American revolution, so the ambitions of the author are oddly limited. Continue reading “The day of the underdog”
At the beginning of Russia’s Empires, Philip Longworth announces that his intention is to “examine the phoenix-like nature of Russian imperialism and to expand our understanding of it”. He points out that over the centuries, no less than four empires have risen and subsequently fallen on Russian soil, beginning with Kievan Rus in the Middle Ages, continuing on through the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the long era of the Romanov dynasty, and followed by the relatively short Soviet regime. Continue reading “The bigger the worse”