Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rediscovering Pushkin

A few days ago my wife came home from the library with Martha Fienne's adaptation of Pushkin's Onegin. I so enjoyed watching it last night that I will be reading some of Pushkin's short stories as well. Watching the DVD was helpful- allowing me to listen to some interesting story commentary.

The story may also serve as a social commentary about bored/spoiled aristocratic Russia- showing why the roots of the 1917 Revolution were likely sown at least a century earlier.

The movie takes place in 1830's St.Petersburg (shortly before Pushkin was killed in a duel- not unlike in the story). And I remember that the Decembrist Revolt (pictured above), instigated by restless imperial soldiers wanting political reform, occurred in St. Petersburg perhaps less than a decade earlier. Not incidentally, imperial soldier from St. Petersburg play an important periphery part in Eugene Onegin. Indeed, suspicion fell on Aleksandr Pushkin for being on friendly terms with several Decembrist leaders.

Friday, November 25, 2005

What was happening in 1620-21

What was happening within the Russian empire in 1621 (when the Pilgrims and local Indian tribes were celebrating the first Thanksgiving)?

- Sweden captured Riga in Latvia (though the Russians take possession in 1710). The Swedes entrance was marked by Riga's "Swedish Gate", constructed in 1698

-Russia's Time of Troubles had ended only a few years ao, Tsar Mikhail Romanoff was consolidating power. In 1620, he was constructing earthen ramparts around Moscow to protect the city from the Polish wars (later replaced by the sadovaya- grand Garden Avenues).

-a helmet was being made for the Tsar, later to be used by Alexander Nevsky. The helmet had three inscriptions: Help from God, An imminent victory, And grant this to true believers

-in the western Ukraine, the Polish army repelled the Turks from advancing further westward at the Battle of the Khotyn (Khotyn's castle -above- was saved from obscurity by the Soviet film industry's version of 'The Three Musketeers')

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Blogging for Hits

Note: I'm still trying to get my other blog off the ground- so if anyone is interested in Classical Music, please feel free to explore.

What about Kosygin

Alexey Kosygin (premier 1964-1980) always appears to be the man behind the scenes- negotiating on behalf of the Soviet leadership but not really a household name as Brezhnev. So I wanted to learn more.

Archontology reports that he

"introduced reforms targeted at modernizing the Soviet economy...(and) placed emphasis on the production of consumer goods, but the reforms were not accomplished (because) Brezhnev did not favor expanding light industry at the expense of heavy industry, which served for the arms race in 1970s. (However), Kosygin helped preserve efficiency and discipline in the Soviet economy (at the time).

He is perhaps better remembered for his involvement in foriegn policy, helping establish Ostpoltik (a nonaggression declaration) with Germany's Willy Brandt. The policy divided Germany's leadership and helped Kosygin achieve certain foreign policy objectives several months down the line...

Kosygin appealed to the West European nations to seek independence
the United States.” The Soviets had achieved their initial goal and were following through. On the chessboard of Europe, they had played masterfully and received recognition of Soviet control over East Europe and legitimacy for the East German regime. A secondary goal of “full recognition of the GDR” was well on its way to fruition, for by late 1972 several Scandinavian states and India were planning initial diplomatic relations with the G.D.R. Additionally, membership in the United Nations for both the G.D.R. and the Bonn government was being actively discussed. (Not to mention new trade markets for West Germany).

In addition, he was also involved in mediating a 1966 Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan and trying to restrain Israel's actions during the 1967 6-day war.
Some insight into his approach to foreign policy problems can be found in this 1979 transcript between him and then-Afghan President Taraki (nine months before the Soviets invaded)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More on the Mariinsky Opera House

An earlier post spoke about the Catherine the Great's decree about opera and subsequent opening of the Mariinsky Opera House, shortly after the Bolshoi began. A Russia Profile article details their competitive rivalry and new developments for both.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Soviet Aviation Losses in Afghanistan

Like the Vietnam War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan revealed the extent guerilla warfare (with the help of Stinger missles) can take down expensive aircraft and alter the balance of power (without high-tech countermeasures in place). Simply put, without air support, Soviet land troops became highly vulnerable. The above link's timeline of downed aircraft clearly reveals war's course.

Also, a 1985 comprehensive essay on lessons learned from the Soviet experience (to date) from a US military site, including this excerpt:

Evidence from Afghanistan indicates that the Soviet military has become increasingly reliant on its helicopter force. Most likely, this dependency will remain a part of the Soviet military system after the Afghan issue is resolved.

In the end, 333 armed Soviet helicopters would be downed before the Soviets fully retreated in 1989. For a pictorial view of the Afghan War, visit this Veteran's site in English & Russian.

Missing Socialist Realism

Soviet worker posters (or socialist realism - portraying/encouraging man's struggle toward socialist progress for a better life) depict the Soviet government's public attitude toward society as just about anything else. The International Poster Gallery summarizes how such posters were deployed during the early Soviet era (displaying a visual progression as well). More can be found here.
An essay on what Socialist Realism was to achieve.

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