An Unnatural Return to Roots

Governing policies in the Soviet Union consistently blended new ideas with standing tradition. As such, the conflict between the role of the modern ‘nation’ and the primordial ethnicities  is very similar to other conflicts: the role of the government and the church, emphasis on peasantry and the quest to modernize, and Western culture and Soviet traditions.

While the idea of a ‘nation’ was a modern construct, the Soviets hoped to supersede that with the identity of class.… Read the rest here

Orwell Readings

In George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and chapter four of The Road to Wigan Pier he writes about groups of destitute people in Britain who live on the fringes of society under hideous circumstances. Down and Out in Paris and London focusses on the homeless epidemic that has afflicted the country. Orwell depicts how these so called “tramps” live a mundane existence that does not contribute in any way to the good of society.… Read the rest here

Orwell’s Description of Poverty in Britain

In the excerpts from The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell describes the daily struggle of living in poverty in England—particularly for men.  In Down and Out in Paris and London, he strives to depict “tramps,” or vagabonds in a more positive way, and offer the reader an opportunity to overlook former prejudices. He describes tramps as Englishmen with broken spirits; they are not dangerous or manic. … Read the rest here

Narod and Narodnost: A Transformation of Russia

The piece for class on Monday is on the subject of modernity, nationality, and ethnicity. The etymology of words such as narod and narodnost are used as a basis for discussion throughout the piece. The piece explores the transformation of Russian society and nationalism throughout centuries through the use of narod and narodnost to illustrate this societal transformation.

The piece begins by an explanation of the word narod in different contexts. The piece states that narod was a term to denote ethnicity.… Read the rest here

Orwell on Britain

In both Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London the writer Orwell focuses on a portion of society that has been unfairly treated by both the government and the upper classes. In the excerpt we read from Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell paints a rather bleak picture of the culture and society of the English industrial towns at the time. These cities over crowded and unsanitary are prime examples of the squalid living conditions members of the working classes were required to live in.… Read the rest here

Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier

Chapter IV of George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier made many interesting points about poverty and housing conditions in Interwar England. Orwell developed a very in depth study of the living conditions and how this may have affected the psyche of the inhabitants.

The Interwar Period was very concerned with behavior and order, especially in the wake of the Great War’s chaos. Psychology was one way in which many scholars began to try to understand the actions of both society and the individual.… Read the rest here

Annotated Bibliography

This my initial annotated bibliography for a blog on the tuberculosis epidemic in Russian prisons.

Connor, Walter D.,  ed., Anthony Jones, and David E. Powell. Soviet Social     Problems. Colorado: Westview Press, 1991.

This book is a compilation of articles focused on the denial of social problems in the USSR. Esteemed professors of Russian history and politics wrote all the articles.

Filtzer, Donald. The Hazards of Urban Life in Late Stalinist Russia: Health, Hygiene,        and Living Standards, 1943-1953. Read the rest here

The USSR as a Communal Apartment

Author Yuri Slezkine poses an interesting view of the USSR in the late 1920’s and early 30’s in his chapter “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism” in the book Stalinism: New Directions. The chapter details the “Great Transformation” of 1928-1932, during which ethnic diversity was highlighted and celebrated; it then explains the “Great Retreat” during the 1930’s, when nationalism as a whole was discouraged except those select nationalities that reinforced socialist ideas and contributed to the overall success of the USSR.… Read the rest here

Russia and Religion

Today in class, we had a very interesting discussion about Russia and religion.  Basically, throughout its entire history, Russia’s relationship to religion has been extreme, almost bipolar.  In tsarist Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church was the only acceptable religion, due to its strong link with the tsar. During this time, Jewish people were heavily persecuted in the pogroms.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Communist Party made atheism the official belief system of the Soviet Union.  … Read the rest here

Surrealism and the movie Un Chein Andalou

Written in 1925 by André Breton, the first Surrealist manifesto consists of 9 points which tells us that the purpose of surrealism is to repudiate all existing norms of thinking and of perceiving the world; to “make a Revolution”. And clearly the purpose of the whole movement is to promote the idea that the subconscious mind is more important than the rational, conscious mind.

Created by the Spanish director Luis Bunuel and the artist Salvador Dali, the movie Un Chein Andalou embodies the ideas of the Surrealist movement, and clearly is something revolutionary.… Read the rest here