A Prayer for the Presidents

Contrary to what most people think, I see few signs of the neo-Sovietization of Russia. What I have observed, however, is a return to Russian traditionalism, even a kind of re-embrace of Tsarist symbolism. I’ve noticed this in several areas of Russian daily life: Christmas cards with the recently canonized last Romanov family, icons of the last Tsar sold in kiosks, large portraits of Petr Stolypin and Sergei Witte at the entrance of the International University, and book after book reevaluating the late Tsarist period, newly published volumes of Stolypin’s collected works, and the memoirs of not only Witte, but the diaries and biographies of princes and princesses in bookstores.

Let us also not forget the growing assertiveness of the Orthodox Church in cultural and political life, or the fact that Dmitri Medvedev’s inauguration looked like a Tsarist coronation more than anything. They might as well had placed the Russian Constitution on his head rather than having him swear to it. To me, “Sovereign democracy” is more reminiscent of Nicholas I’s “Official Nationality” with its cornerstones Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality. Indeed, even the portraits of Putin and Medvedev hanging on chinovniki’s walls are more Tsarist in origin. As is the “cult of personality” Putin recently denied he had. This is not to say that Russia hasn’t changed. It’s only to suggest that it takes from its Tsarist as much as its Soviet pasts as it negotiates the present contours of its national character.

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Victory Day for the Future

I know it’s quite out of date at this point. I had planned to share some impressions and photos from Victory Day a few weeks ago but my self-imposed hiatus got in the way.  I had pretty much abandoned the idea, but then a colleague of mine posted her thoughts and I said to myself, why the hell not.  Otherwise, my impressions would have just remained in my head and the pictures exiled to the abyss that is my hard drive.

Basically, my impressions can be summed up as follows:

1.  Security nightmare.

This picture from Chekhovskya station is indicative of the security hell that

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May Day with the Russian Communists

Two things hit me as I emerged from the Oktyabrskaya metro station on Saturday morning to check out the KPRF May Day march.  First was that God himself must have been smiling down on the KPRFers.  After several days of on and off rain, his holiness decided to part the clouds, let the sun shine through, and let Russian commies do their thing without the hindrance of rainfall.  The second thing that hit me was that unlike most, or should I say every political rally I’ve been to, the Communists began marching on time.  Who would have ever guessed Communists to be prompt.  And they say Leninist discipline is dead.  As soon

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Khrushchev’s Cold Summer

Studies of the Soviet gulag encompass a cottage industry of its own in Russian historiography. Since 1991, a torrent of studies have been published examining the gulag’s construction, management, memory, and legacy. Few, however, have delved into how Soviet citizens reacted to the return of over 4 million prisoners from labor camps and colonies to society between 1953 and 1958. It is for this reason that Miriam Dobson‘s Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform After Stalin is a welcomed and refreshing edition to so-called “Gulag Studies.”

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Kebab House of Comedy

Russian politics is a joke.  I’m not being sarcastic.  It really is funny.  Perhaps in an effort to one up the inanity of American politics

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The Year of Stalin

Those communists in Voronezh really, really like Stalin.  Last month, the Voronezh KPRF put up billboards of Stalin to promote the dictator’s great achievements.  The

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