the myth of the big, happy Soviet family

As Claire said, I’ve fallen behind on blogging and will be playing some catch-up into the weekend. In today’s lecture on the soviet penal system, I was thinking about how the relationship between the state and the citizenry has an effect on the relationships between citizens. In the case of the penal system, the state instilled fear in its citizens with the constant threat of unexpected (and often, unwarranted) imprisonment and punishment. The resulting lack of trust between the citizens led to a widespread atomization, not the “big happy family” mentality that one would see in works of socialist realist art (or in films such as Circus).… Read the rest here

Stalin’s hero status

This morning, I came across an article form the BBC about the hero status of Stalin in his home country of Georgia. In his hometown of Gorgi, the city council recently allocated funds to re-erect a statue of Stalin that was removed only three years ago. The town is allegedly divided in their reactions: while one 65-year old man says he has “only ever heard good things” about Stalin, another resident believes that Georgia will hurt its global public image if it pays tribute to the Soviet dictator.… Read the rest here

Russia Revamped

Yesterday, I was reading a copy of the New York Times when a “Special Advertising Supplement” fell out from behind the dining section. A disclaimer says that the supplement was written and sponsored by the Rossiyskaya Gazette and did not contain any reporting or editing from the staff of the Times. The supplement took the form of a short newspaper issue, but looking at the collection of articles included in this supplement, I think it is clear that its form was deceptive of its function.… Read the rest here

Anna Karenina film review

I tried to post this soon after seeing the film back in January, but because the wifi on the first floor Adams is useless I didn’t realize until recently that the post hadn’t gone through.

This weekend, I went with my roommate to see the most recent adaptation of Anna Karenina at the Carlisle Theater. I’ll make the disclaimer now that I’ve never read the book – I knew the plot line and general ending already, but I’ve never made good on my perennial pledge to read the novel over my summer break (the same can be said for The Illiad and Infinite Jest.).… Read the rest here

Comparing the Chinese and Russian Revolutions

Learning about the revolutionary history of Russia and its ascension to a modern state, I continue to be struck by the parallels to the rise of modern China and its revolutionary period in the late 19th and early 20th century. Last semester I took a class on the Rise of Modern China with very limited knowledge of Chinese or Russian revolutionary history. Though we did discuss the effects of Marxism-Leninism on the Chinese revolutions, I lacked the knowledge necessary to place this in any sort of historical context.… Read the rest here

“The Cherry Orchard” and changing social order

In his work “The Cherry Orchard”, Anton Chekhov illustrates a population divided by a desire to cling to the Tsar’s final vestiges of power and a desire to see social orders reformed to accommodate the emergence of a new middle class.

The Liberation and the decline of the Tsar’s power in Russia allowed for the reordering of social power and structures. As Lophakin explains, “until a little while ago there had been nothing but gentry and peasants in the village, now villa residents have made their appearance.” These “villa residents” represent the new middle class – peasants who were no longer bound to their masters or who – like Lophakin – have become landowners and secured their own autonomy.… Read the rest here

St. Simon and Smith vie for the job

The year is 2012, and St. Simon and Adam Smith appear in the corporate headquarters of a multi-national corporation known for its sleek computers and cell phones. Both are interviewing for the position of Chief Executive Officer. The two men acknowledge each other and sit in a terse silence while waiting to be called in to their interviews. Smith turns on CNN to lessen the tension.

St. Simon: Ha! Look at that. The employees in our China plant are revolting again.… Read the rest here

Paper Proposal

Since Thomas More first coined the phrase “utopia” in his eponymous book, idealists, realists, and cynics alike have been fascinated with the possibility creating an ideal society. We have exhaustively explored the concept in fictional and critical contexts, with utopias at the focus of numerous works of literature, film, and scholarship. Various subcultural groups, such as the shakers and transcendentalists in the 19th century, attempted to create insular utopian communities. The evident human fascination with utopia raises numerous questions: can a utopian society be actualized?Read the rest here

examining natural rights in the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Men

Written within ten years of each other on the eve of two different revolutions, the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Men remain today as influential revolutionary texts. While both documents examine natural rights, they do so in different contexts, for The Declaration of Independence was the assertion of a fledgling democracy’s right to political autonomy, while the Declaration of the Rights of Men enumerates and demands the protection of the individual natural rights of an oppressed class of citizens.Read the rest here