Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Russian History Roundup

Michael Johnson, "A Romp Through History," American Spectator, July 18, 2011

Alexander Motyl was clearly having great fun when he wrote his latest book, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian, a comic novel with half-serious historical underpinnings. It manages to amuse and challenge without losing its headlong momentum into the realm of absurdist literature.>>>

Jennifer Siegel, "A Statesman For the Czar," Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2011

No political figure looms quite as large over late imperial Russia as Sergei Iulevich Witte. Among much else, he was Russia's finance minister from 1892 to 1903; its plenipotentiary representative at the Portsmouth negotiations ending the Russo-Japanese War; the foremost instigator of the manifesto that introduced moderate parliamentary representation and united government into the autocratic empire in the wake of the 1905 Revolution; the country's first prime minister; the political and financial architect of the Trans-Siberian Railway; and the mastermind behind the stabilization of the ruble and the implementation of the gold standard, through the construction of an intricate web of foreign capital investment in the empire.>>>

Tony Halpin, "Gulags reveal awful secrets," The Australian, July 18, 2011

The journey to the heart of Joseph Stalin's reign of terror was long and arduous. Finally, hidden behind a clump of trees, the gulag emerged. This is where victims of Stalin's repressions were imprisoned as slave labourers and worked to death on the Road of Bones, the notorious Kolyma highway that connects Khandyga to the port of Magadan, in Russia's far northeast.>>>

Gary J. Bass, "Why the Crimean War Matters," New York Times, July 8, 2011

The Crimean War was the first major war to be covered by professional foreign correspondents, who reported on the disastrous blundering of commanders and the horrors of medical treatment at the battlefront. Today, we remember fragmentary stories: the charge of the Light Brigade, symbolizing the blundering; Florence Nightingale, for the medical treatment. But the real war has faded away, eclipsed by the two vastly worse world wars that were to come.>>>

Thomas Gladysz, "He Who Gets Slapped," San Francisco Chronicle, July 4, 2011

As its closing film, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will show He Who Gets Slapped (1924). It is, in my mind, the finest "sad clown" movie you'll ever see.

He Who Gets Slapped tells the story of "HE," a disgraced intellectual forced to find work as a circus clown. His popular act consists of being repeatedly slapped by the other clowns whenever he attempts to speak even a simple truth. The crowd, which likes to laugh at the misfortunes of others, loves this bizarre and rather pathetic act.>>>

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