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Soviet Saturday

09/07/2011

This week I was directed to three wonderful sites relating to the Soviet Union. All three relate to the culture of the USSR, the first two in particular however. The appeal of these has much to do with a certain Western appeal that exists for Soviet kitsch, which I suffer from myself from time to time.

The first is a link to galleries of old Soviet posters, taken from Cedar Lounge.

The second is equally interesting in my opinion, and is about the huge collection of old Soviet books one person has collected. Take a look.

The third is a site about Varlam Shalamov, a Left Oppositionist against Stalin’s bureaucratic rule, who was incarcerated in a gulag, and wrote short stories of his experience. This site aims to gather these and any other information on Shalamov and make it accessible to a wider public. The tag line for the site is a quote from him:

My writing is no more about camps that St-Exupéry’s is about the sky or Melville’s, about the sea. My stories are basically advice to an individual on how to act in a crowd… [To be] not just further to the left than the left, but also more real than reality itself. For blood to be true and nameless.

Varlam Shalamov

I had never heard of him before, but the site and his work looks very interesting and I think I will return again and again. Check it out here.

Finally, not a blog or site, but rather a review. This week Bertrand Patenaude, author of Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky, caused quite a storm in academia by his scathing review of Robert Service’s Trotsky: A Biography. Now this book has been attacked numerous times by those on the left, with, as far as I can see, justifiable criticisms that Service has distorted the ideas of Trotsky and the facts of his life. This is the first time however, that an academic has done so in an otherwise rich field of glowing reviews of Service’s work. The review was published in the American Historical Review, and unfortunately, one cannot read it all online, but can get a hint of it here. For a response to the review read this interesting article here, which includes a response by Service.

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