Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ukrainian Genocide

The Internernational Herald Tribune reports on Ukraine commemoriating the Great Famine (1932-33) as a result of Stalin's collectivization and terror. In the last few weeks, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko has been terming these actions "crimes against humanity" (I had read the word 'genocide' elsewhere). The article presents some background as well as how this tragic past fits into national identity.

On the flip side, I really have very little patience for Stalinophilia.

The Adventuress writes on the type of protests occuring in Kiev, Politics and Religion talks about the Terror in practical terms

Update: then-New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, infamous for his deceptive reporting on the famine, still retains his 1932 Pulitzer Prize:
On Friday, the Pulitzer Prize Board said it would not revoke a prize awarded in 1932 to Walter Duranty, a reporter for The New York Times who was accused of ignoring the famine in Ukraine to preserve his access to Stalin. The board said there was not clear evidence of deliberate deception (here).

Why am I not surprised.
An old post from Catallarchy or Duranty (for background/specifics).

Reenacting Napoleon's triumph over Russia

Having fun in Europe:
Thousands of men in 19th century uniforms, on horseback and on foot, battled on a snow-covered field in the Czech Republic on Saturday, re-enacting the Emperor Napoleon's triumph over Russia and Austria 200 years ago.

Although some history buffs may be getting a little
too carried away.

At least they're not reenacting
Moscow's burning

New book about Alexander II

From the Moscow Times: a new book about Alexander II by Edvard Radzinsky

What Russia has wrought - in Photographic Art

A really excellent website, though perhaps painting Russian a bit more bleaker than it is.

Though much of Russia seems frozen in time (the '30s? the '50s?), its not uniformly that way. I found the pastel buildings & strolling along the Volga in
Yaroslavl quite charming- a very decent city to live in, if you don't mind living in an apartment. -a great tonic to living in an overhyped, attention-seeking society: A visual vacation for the mind.

The hotels are favorably quaint- and I had no complaints at all about them (outside of some touristy Moscow hotels that is).

About the
Moscow megastructures: when I arrived, I was totally overwhelmed at row upon row of white, high-rise apartment buildings in Moscow (of which 80% of Russians live in). Apparently, no one had much thought what to do if they starting needing repairs all at once (which seems to be the case from looking at them). However, the commercial district is finally helping offset concrete drab with more color- with all the lights and advertisements- a big surprise.

Russian people: well, hardly
no one smiles except in private (& where they're very generous as well). I was surprised that almost no one is overweight and most are very well-dressed (albeit in black, dark colors). Women especially take exceptional pride in their appearance.

Dachas (
here and here)- which a majority of Russians own.

I really didn't like the
heavy hotel food in Moscow, though The Baltic (restaurant) in Yaroslavl was quite good.

Other pages.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow

I was in high school (or rather on my summer break) when the 1980 Olympics took place in Moscow. Unfortunately, Brezhnev had invaded Afghanistan several months earlier and President Carter (along with 61 other nations) wanted painful consequences - a boycott- to follow. In return, the Soviets boycotted the LA Olympics in 1984 (though it perhaps backfired, with many more American athletes winning olympic medals).

Feature: The Moscow Olympics are featured in this
photo gallery found at the IOC website (scroll down to bottom)

athletic competition pics. Finally, really cool old postcards relating to the 1980 Olympics says alot about how the Soviet Union viewed itself. Also, 1980 Olympic gold coins (depicting the Lenin Stadium) and Olympic posters (Misha, the 1980 Olympic mascot pictured, is still a very popular teddy bear).

British athletes went anyway, Canada's CBC News broadcast that the CBC would abandon plans for televising the Moscow Olympics. I was unaware that President Carter was trying to move the 1980 summer Olympics to the Ivory Coast.

Today, others would like to
boycott the 2008 Olympics taking place in Beijing, China

Amazon Recommendation:
The Political Olympics : Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Armand Hammer: More than baking soda

CEO of Occidental Petroleum
goto US businessman for the Soviets
Famous Quote: Regrets and recriminations only hurt your soul

In the '70s and '80s, I remember Armand Hammer as an enigmatic figure who always seemed to surface when things got tough for the Soviets. When I saw the movie Gorky Park, I right away associated Lee Marvin's 'American businessman' character with Armand Hammer- a man who could easily rationalize his actions.

Many anti-communists in the US did not trust him, considering him an open spy. And quite understandably- Arnold Hammer helped launder money for the Soviets and his name was often employed for propaganda purposes.

Of course, most people simply want to know if he had any connection to Arm & Hammer baking soda-
well, sort of. Others are suspicious of his dealings with Al Gore Sr (In 1961, J. Edgar Hoover noted that Hammer was 'protected' by the late senator).

A enlightening
timeline of his life

FBI files (658 pages!- from 1919 onward) , anecdotes about his bad manners, and a letter he sent to the Soviets.

His art collection is housed at the
UCLA Hammer Museum (impressionist and post-impressionist work)

Recommended Reading:
Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Kornilov Revolt: Straw that Broke the....

...Camel's Back?

In1917, then Russian Prime Minister
Alexander Kerensky, head of Russia's Provisional Government, put General Lavr Kornilov in charge of the Red Army (then engaged in the Eastern Front). As riots and disorder became commonplace in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Kornilov demanded that Kerensky step down. When Kerensky dismissed Kornilov from his duties, Kornilov attempted to carry out a coup by marching on Petrograd and restoring order. However, Kerensky called on opposition Bolshevik organizations (the Red Guards & Soviet councils) to help defend the city. In the face of 25,000 armed Bolshevik recruits, Kornilov's 7000 troops eventually backed down.

Question: Could Lenin have succeeded otherwise? Sometimes coups have a magnificent way of backfiring (witness 1991 coup against Gorbachev) and this maybe the case here (or is it just counterevolutionary coups?).

“Kornilov had all chances of seizing power in the country,” historian Pyotr Deinichenko insists. “The officers and a major part of the Cossacks, entrepreneurs and intellectual elite were on his side. Kornilov could also rely on the support of the allies in Antanta, who nurtured hopes he wouldn’t allow Russia to step out of the war. (
Voice of Russia..)

However, I'm inclined to believe that the ever-increasing famine (as a result of a food glut brought on by a wartime blockade, resulting in destructive price controls) left Russian peasants thinking they had nothing to lose.

Nonetheless, Kornilov's failure as a counterevolutionary meant that,
The Bolsheviks derived maximum benefit from their participation in the anti-Kornilov movement. Jailed Bolsheviks were released from custody. They cashed in not only on the failure of the Kornilov coup but also on the vacillation and indecision of revolutionary democracy that had brought the country and the Revolution to the point of "Kornilovism"
The Moscow News...)

“Radical leftist sentiments... started to spread among the workers and soldiers. On September 1st, the day when General Kornilov was arrested, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies adopted a bolshevist resolution calling for a transfer of power to the revolutionary proletariat and peasants, and the proclamation of a democratic republic. The resolution also contained a call to confiscate the lands from the landowners and for nationalization of leading branches of industry.
Voice of Russia..)

“After the Kornilov uprising the officers had lost all authority,” historian Pyotr Deinichenko writes. “The soldiers refused to obey orders and left the front, homeward bound. Only the massive advance of the allies on the Western front saved Russia from a military catastrophe.
(Voice of Russia..).

Kornilov certainly affected the course of events. Was he courageous or stupid? (his chief of staff once called him "a man with a lion's heart and the brain of a sheep")

---Incidentally, "The fall of communism has elevated remembrance of White commanders. In the Cossack town of Krasnodar, a statue of General Lavr Kornilov was erected in 1994." (
Anti-Bolshevik photos (soldiers of the White Movement)
--- a research paper:
An Analysis of Alexander Kerensky's Handling of General Lavr Kornilov (in pdf) published in the Concord Review (interesting).
---if you have a full-text periodical database, you maybe able to find a Sept. 3, 1932 Saturday Evening Post article, "Kerensky and Kornilov" by Leon Trotsky that is highly detailed.
---Amazon offers a book,
The prelude to bolshevism,: The Kornilov rebellion (not reviewed)

American troops in Russia

Perhaps few Americans realize that an American Expeditionary Force (AEF) landed in northern Russia and Siberia from 1918-1919.

Brief background on the conflict can be found here or here. Pictured at right: AEF soldiers standing over dead Bolsheviks.

Why were they in northern Russia? (Murmansk & Archangel)
A) to help the White armies fight the Reds in Russia's Civil War
B) to intercept war munitions (>$1 billion) shipped to pre-Bolshevik Russia from falling into German hands
C) Eventually both- with over 400 Americans dying from various causes
Answer is C

Why were they in Siberia?
A) to deter German POWs inside Russia from stirring up trouble on the eastern front
B) to help a Czechoslovak Legion of 35,000 troops cut off from the eastern front escape Siberia (Czechoslovakia had just been 'created' with President Wilson's help).
C) to deter the Japanese from extending their influence into Russia's far east
D) to lend support to White Admiral Kolchack against the Bolsheviks
E) All of the above (initially B, though culminating in D)
The Answer is E

However, more interesting sites include
----this photo album of the US Army in Archangel
----how northern Russian residents viewed the Allied invasion
----A site with photos of the Siberian expedition
----A University of Michigan site with maps showing how the intervention proceeded

Recommended Reading:
The Decision to Intervene: Soviet-American Relations 1917-1920, Vol. 2

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mitrokhin II: Other revelations

The History News Network interviews Christopher Andrew (co-author of The Mitrokhin Archives - see below).

Blog sampling re: Mitrokhin...
Cuban-American Pundits asserts that American travelers helped KGB agents obtain identity documents in the late 60's (though Castro was not too keen on having gay and lesbian allies).

The Jawa Report wonders if Cubans were responsible for killing Socialist Chilean President Salvadore Allende in 1973. Asserting the same, Swimming Against the Red Tide promotes a new book about to be published in France,"Cuba Nostra - Les Secrets D'Etat de Fidel Castro" by Alain Ammar.

Civil Defense League notes that the KGB considered releasing radioactive material in Tokyo Bay in the late 1960s.

Finally, Sepia Mutiny on how the KGB fully infiltrated Indira Gandhi's government in the 1970s with suitcases of money.

The Mitrokhin Archives

Anyone who does not know about Vasili Mitrokhin's 1992 defection as a KGB archivist is missing an excellent story. In the late '50s, aAfter failing to succeed in KGB field work, Mr. Mitrokhin was relegated to working in the the KGB archives. His growing disillusionment with the Soviet regime led him to privately stash away historical documents during the 70's and early '80's, when KGB archives were in the process of moving from Lubyanka prison to its new HQ.

Shortly after the Soviet Union fell in 1991, he traveled to Latvia and walked into the U.S. embassy to pass along such documents. To the United States lasting regret, embassy personnel failed to taked him seriously, believing such documents were fakes. Fortunately, British embassy staffers were more trusting, allowing them to retrieve more than 25,000 pages of files hidden under house floorboards (some documents going as far back as the 1930s).

Of course, he escaped to Great Britain and wrote The Mitrokhin Archive with Cambridge historian Chrisopher Andrews. Other books written by Mitrokhin and Andrew include The World Was Going Our Wayand the Sword and the Shield.

The archives revealed that
-half of Soviet weapons were based on designs stolen from the United States.
-that the KGB had tapped Henry Kissinger's telephone (and other American officials as well).
-KGB spies were employed in almost all the country's big defence contractors.

Other sites of interest:
--how a little old lady became a very successful Soviet spy in Britain (revealed by the archives)
--The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report by the UK
--How Canada fit into the picture, from the Mackenzie Institute's blog
--A Moscow Times report detailing from the archives how the KGB, rather than the Politburo, heavily influenced Soviet foreign policy
--How the Mitrokhin Archives are currently embarrasing some leftwing PMs from India
(esp here, here and here)
--More Mitrokhin stories from The Guardian

Valentin Serov: Anniversary of his death

Yesterday was the anniversary of famous Russian portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911).

His portraits became known for exhibiting juxtaposition of light and shadow, quickly becoming masterpieces ( details Serov's artistic skill with lighting). ArtRoots notes his "psychological perceptiveness, his ability to see and show the spirit of the person sitting in front of him." Olga's Gallery features several of his paintings.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Question for viewers.

Do blog viewers want to see commentary/links regarding current Russian politics as well (1 of 2 posts a day)? Use Comments feature to let me know.

American relief efforts in the early Soviet Union

Yes, I've started a new, rather thick book entitled The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921 As you might surmise, the book has many interesting anecdotes about how (roughly 200) Americans viewed Soviet authorities and the local peasants.

The book was a co-winner of the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Their take..

...a compelling analysis of American efforts to mitigate the impact of the
devastating famine that killed millions of Soviet citizens in the early 1920s.
Along with vivid portraits of many of the relief workers and graphic descriptions of their activities to combat famine, Patenaude also explores the encounter between rescue workers and communist officials intent on exercising control over the Americans' operations. Yet The Big Show in Bololand is more than a detailed narrative of the famine relief effort. It offers invaluable insights into the first sustained cultural and political encounter between the United States and the fledgling Soviet Union and explores the underpinnings of the rivalry between the capitalist and communist systems. The book is an outstanding example of lively and engaging prose, impressive historical research, and persuasive analysis of the diplomatic underpinnings and consequences of the rescue mission.
(from Amazon reviewer).

One interesting snippet just read is how the Americans were highly impressed with the (highly educated) Tatars rather than the Russians. Apparently, the Tatars have long struggled to keep their cultural focus alive amidst the Russians- an attitude that served them well during early Soviet era.

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