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Roman Genn arrived in America in 1991, fresh after departing his native Soviet Union, where his caricatures resulted in what he refers to as, “many unpleasant encounters with police officials.” He sat down with our own Dave Carter for a freewheeling exchange about life in the US, where his immense talent and sense of mischief have flourished on the cover of National Review and many other publications. The conversation crosses continents and covers everything from the reaction of various public personalities and US presidents to Roman’s art, to his deployments with US Marines to the middle east, and much more. Dave reports that the only thing that caught him off guard was Roman’s irrepressible sense of humor, which caused face cramps on the part of our host from all the laughing.
Ricochet Member Lois Lane was kind enough to drop by and talk about her recent post, “Eating Out in a Restaurant in the Age of COVID-19,” and share her experience as college professor, teaching history and English. It’s a captivating discussion that you’re sure to enjoy.
The coronavirus crisis has led to much discussion of modeling. One of the largest modeling projects in human history was the Soviet Union’s attempt to manage its entire economy on a top-down basis, including the use of sophisticated and then-state-of-the-art mathematical tools. Red Plenty…part novel, part nonfiction…is about the Soviet Union’s economic planning efforts as […]
Can this be forty years ago? It’s hard to explain to younger people what an earth-shaking, tear-jerking win the 1980 gold medal in hockey was for us. This was no simple rivalry. This was David vs. Goliath. This was Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. This was Hobbits vs. Mordor. And the good guys won.
To provide some necessary background for the younger readers: Western countries such as the United States and Canada were constrained by the Olympic rules, which had long mandated that athletes must be amateurs. Our teams were composed of college players who had not yet begun their professional careers. The Soviets, as usual, simply cheated. They took their very top adult players, world-class, full-time athletes with years of international experience, and gave them phony job-assignments with the military or government so that they could be called amateurs. It was like putting the all-stars of the NFL against a college squad. It was a joke. Of course, they always won the gold medal, and they always would win the gold medal; it was a fact of life that would never change, kind of like the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Nothing to be done, we were just supposed to suck it up. Then this team of scrappy college kids did the unthinkable. They brought down Goliath. And less than ten years later, the citizens of both sides of Berlin brought down that “fact-of-life” wall with simple tools and bare, bloody hands and tear-stained faces. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Lord of the Rings: “Where tears are the very wine of blessedness.” This hockey game, this “miracle on ice” was the prelude to that miracle in Berlin.
This month marks the 57th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war. Several years ago, I read Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here. Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.
At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.
October 4, the 62nd anniversary of the Sputnik satellite launch, is a good day for a review of Boris Chertok’s great memoir, Rockets and People. Chertok’s career in the Soviet aerospace industry spanned many decades, encompassing both space exploration and military missile programs. His four-volume memoir is an unusual document–partly, it reads like a high […]
I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. Read More View Post
Thirty-four years ago today, the revolving door that had become the entry point to leadership of the Soviet Union stopped when Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party. On that day, he became the fourth Soviet leader in under three years (Brezhnev died in November 1982, Andropov in February of 1984, Chernenko on March 10, 1985). There hadn’t been such drama on the world leadership front since, well, the dramatic and unexpected selection of KarolJózef Wojtyła as Pope in 1978, after the 33-day tenure of Albino Luciani.
A little over six-and-a-half years later, on Christmas Day 1991, and severely compromised as the result of a coup a few months earlier, Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, resigned and handed over what was left of his power to new Russian President Boris Yeltsin. On December 26, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved and its Republics were handed their self-governance.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.
“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.
Arrested three months before the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, his first reaction was like that of the millions he would later write about: “Me? What for?” A decorated captain of an artillery battery that had fought its way deep into East Prussia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was at the time a committed Marxist-Leninist. He even fantasized he was being whisked to a meeting with Stalin. In fact, military censors had read his letter exchanges with a boyhood friend, also in the army, in which they criticized Stalin (“the mustachioed one”) for having deviated from the path laid down by Lenin.
It was more than enough to earn Solzhenitsyn a sentence of eight years imprisonment in the labor camps, to be followed by “perpetual exile.” He served all eight years in various camps, plus three years exiled to distant Kazakhstan, where he worked as a teacher of high school mathematics before his sentence was annulled in 1956 in the wake of Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization.”
Hidden and Triumphant: The Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography, by Irina Yazykova (translated by Paul Grenier), is a short work on how Russian Orthodox iconography, and indeed Christianity itself, survived the Soviets, found renewal in the Russian diaspora, survived the Nazis, spread into the greater Orthodox diaspora abroad, and returned home to its roots. As destructive as the Soviets were in their closure, desecration, and demolition of churches, not only were they unable to ever entirely squelch Christianity, but the very people they exiled were able to maintain the faith and provide outside inspiration and support to their people trapped within their homeland.
That traditional iconography survived the Soviets is remarkable in itself, yet that it survived at all as more than a novelty or as primitive folk art is just as significant. Iconography, introduced during the conversion of Kievan Rus by Byzantium, developed its own Russian voice and style in the centuries after Byzantium’s conquest by the Ottomans, entering into a sort of golden age under such masters as Rublev during the 16th and 17th centuries. Yet first, due to the schism with the Old Believers, and especially under the modernizing reforms of Peter the Great, much of that history was deliberately destroyed or hidden away. From the time of Peter up until the eve of the disaster of World War I, Russian liturgical art was very often little distinguished from that of western European styles, save that its topics remained Orthodox and Russian in character. Older, traditional icons, blackened with age and soot, were removed and relegated to barns or backwater churches far from the artistic centers of the major cities, and nearly the only practitioners of traditional iconography were rural artists or peasants. Yet in that final generation before the Great War, these old masters were being rediscovered as these older panels were unearthed, cleaned, and restored, often for the first time in centuries, and Russian artists set about re-appraising their older traditions.
Fifty years ago today, 200,000 Soviet troops, with reinforcements from East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and the so-called Prague Spring came to an end.
In January of 1968, Alexander Dubček, a Slovak, was elected First Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, succeeding Antonin Novotný. The latter had been experimenting with a new economic model for a couple of years (Czechoslovakia had been continental Europe’s most highly industrialized country until overtaken by Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and was less adapted to the post-war Soviet model), and this attempt at easing the Communist system had spurred writers, such as Milan Kundera, to demand more social flexibility as well.
I thought it would be fun to have a thread for The Americans, which began its final season this week. It is a great show, tightly written with compelling plot development, characterization, and performances. Certainly this will be a place for spoilers, so those who have not seen it – or kept up – but […]
“They say American’s don’t play fair.” -Harry S Truman This coming from the man who dropped the atom bomb. Along those lines though, I don’t see how playing “fair” would have helped us fighting Imperial Japan or in our struggles with the Soviet Union. Read More View Post
Having grown up in the seventies and eighties, I distinctly remember the time when the Soviet Union was A Thing. I remember when nuclear arms were always to the front of our minds, and the policy of assured mutual destruction was supposedly the only thing that kept us from assured mutual destruction. It was such a reality that about a decade ago, when discussing history with a few people younger than me and some professors older than me, I was surprised to see what they understood about Soviet Communism and its place in history.
For many, they have less information on the atrocities of the Soviets and more on the ideals those atrocities were supposedly performed for. I recall discussing the fall of the Soviets with my history of film professor who lamented the fall of Communism when it was the only politico-economic philosophy that supposedly cared about the common man. I was surprised to hear that, as I understood there was some great atrocities against these common men they philosophy supposedly lifted up. Such objections were usually brushed off with claims moral equivalency that today still wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny.
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany, without provocation or warning, violated its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and invaded from the west. The German invasion force was divided into three army groups. Army Group North, commanded by Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb, was charged with advancing through and securing the Baltic states, then proceeding […]
Filmmaker George Lucas sat down with Charlie Rose and discussed his life, his craft, the film industry, and the lack of artistic freedom he experienced as he was “forced” to make commercial motion pictures. Read More View Post
Now we know what George Lucas thinks of a tyrannical totalitarian empire. I wonder what kind of movies Emperor Palpatine allowed? One of the reasons I retired is so I can make movies that aren’t popular. Because in the world we live in, in the system we’ve created for ourselves in terms of — it’s […]
I’ll make this short and sweet. What does Russia have that Poland and The Ukraine doesn’t? A good neighbor. Read More View Post