Category Archives: History

The Unexpected Comeback of the Soviet Spirit due to Pandemics

I was going to tell about this, but tonight’s snowfall makes an ideal backdrop for my story.

I witnessed the final 11 years of the USSR. I was a child, so my memories don’t contain any grim episodes. Instead, I remember the Soviet period as a very quiet time, synonymous with such words as security, safety and peace.

And it was also the time when families were very close-knit and generally kind-hearted. Money was rarely an issue, for everyone was generally pleased with what they had.

Following the demise of the USSR, families began to fall apart. For the second time in the 20th century, after the Civil War of 1918-1922, fathers and sons opposed each other. The civil war didn’t break out this time, but money and the opportunities it provided became the bone of contention. I can’t help pointing out that this expression is a perfect, if sad, metaphor for the conflict that engulfed generations of Russian people.

There was one more important change, apart from money. Younger people began to drift away from their families and homes. Some headed abroad, others to nightclubs. Shops began to work till late, and very soon there appeared those that never closed their doors.

And this was one of the biggest departures from the Soviet times. In Soviet Russia shops used to close any time between 6 and 9pm. I cannot remember a shop that would remain open till 10pm or later. Obviously, there were a few “duty shops”, like the chemists, that would stay open but there’d be only a handful of them for the whole of Moscow.

We often consider any restriction as an encroachment on our freedom. On second thoughts, restrictions help to structure one’s life; without limitations and boundaries people are quite incapable of implementing even the simplest regime.

In Soviet times, when most people finished work at 6pm sharp, they had some three hours to do their shopping. It is true that there were queues at the cashiers, but it’s now clear, why: lots of people had to do their shopping before 9pm. They also had time to meet their friends, visit the theatres and cinemas, walk or attend evening classes and clubs before coming home and spending the evening with their family.

Then, when many shops began to work 24/7, it suddenly became possible to do any shopping at any time. Time with the family became not so important, or it was difficult to make time for them. When you work for yourself, as capitalism often demands, you make your own success and fortune. But, as we have plainly seen, very few people are capable of managing their time well. And, as much as those 24/7 shops were convenient, they also helped to devalue the time. Indeed, if you can do your shopping any time, it doesn’t matter when you actually get to do it.

“Thanks to” the pandemics, shops in Moscow currently work from 8 till 11pm. In the spring 2020, some of them even closed at 9pm or 10pm. Naturally, we had to plan a shopping trip, or we and our pets would be left without food. This added some pressure, but I suddenly realized that I enjoy the quietude of the streets after 11pm.

Before, the traffic never stopped whatever the weather. Tonight there are only few cars, mostly taxis, that snail through the snowfall. People are at home. I don’t think they all sleep, but most of them do.

We hear about different conspiracy theories, but, if my observations are anything to go by, the traitors of mankind may not quiet achieve their goals. By getting back to the normal regime, sleeping when one is expected to sleep, and shopping in the day people are likely to improve their life and perhaps even make it more harmonious.

In historical terms and in the Russian context, this may indeed be a U-turn to the Soviet past and the best it had to offer.

The End of Democracy in the USA

Elephant and Donkey: the mascots of American two political parties (from ruswi.com)

You’d likely want to know what we think here, in Russia, about the situation with the elections and Trump-Biden confrontation. Well, quite simply, we think this is the end of democracy in the USA.

Politics, Weapons and Enemies

The state of affairs between our countries is such that most Russians like the American people, nature, the best of American culture and values – but we are deeply aware that political elites hold Russia as one of America’s biggest enemies. The model of Realpolitik these elites have adhered to for decades dictates to always remember there is an enemy whose attack is imminent. You might say that Russia exists in the same paradigm. Not quite: in our case, this is the sad historical reality. Following the creation of the ancient Russian state in the 10th century and its “free” existence until the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, the only time Russia was not invaded by the belligerent enemy forces was in the 18th cc. I don’t need to tell you that things are different with the USA that has been waging wars here and there in various corners of the East since 1960s. And while Russia has to produce the arms to defend itself, the U.S. produce arms to “bring the democratic values” to uncivilised barbarians elsewhere in the world.

This introduction serves to explain that most people here in Russia are not “for” or “against” Trump, Clinton, Obama, Biden, or any other Democrat or Republican. We are for the politician that is least belligerent and more grounded. Such was Trump. His was the mindset of a good businessman: if it’s good for business, let’s do it. If not, forget it.

Democracy, Hypocrisy and Human Rights

I’ll explain now what problems I personally have with the liberal democratic agenda. Under the aegis of “human rights” liberals bring havoc and plague on all the houses in the neighbourhood. Before we knew it, every deviation under the sun has been considered normal, so that if you don’t discover any legally acknowledged deviation in yourself, you’re a freak. Any discussion becomes a minefield where you are bound to breach these or those rights. This makes any forward movement completely impossible. Instead of getting to the core of the problem and finding a solution, we’re beating around the bush fearing to offend somebody.

And secondly, I really despise these boss-servant relations when a boss comes across as your best friend. This is never the case. Liberalism is all about supporting the weak, it seems. In truth, it’s about weakening the weak, to make them powerless, dependant and therefore more docile and compliant. More often than not the boss takes the servant for a drink not to talk about life, but to learn the weaknesses of the employee. And then he disposes of the servant if necessary, and the latter cannot even understand why the boss had to be so ruthless. They always had a good chat and a pint on Friday afternoon…

The End of Democracy in the USA

First, there has indeed been proof of Democrats’ forging the elections. Interestingly, they used the same method of which they’ve been accusing Russia since 2011: they threw in fake bulletins. And now we see Twitter “forever banning” Trump. The meaning thereof is VERY simple. The Fourth and Fifth Estate in America is the real power; their owners and investors own the country. What the recent American election has shown, is that people no longer have any power or right. You may vote because the Constitution says you can, but you don’t decide who becomes the president. The owners of the media and social networks do. Officially, the last popular president, i.e. elected by the people, was Donald Trump.

This is certainly the end of democracy in the USA. This is also a revival of oligarchy in its worst form yet. Its power is entirely virtual, including the money, but extremely strong and omnipresent.

What’s Next for America?

I don’t for a second support those (rare) voices who claim they will enjoy watching the USA plunging into the civil war. For all the bad things the American politicians have done since the 20th c., the American people don’t deserve to experience the horror of an inner military conflict. Yet I can well imagine it happening. Just as there is a shadow state, there is a shadow national spirit that exists besides the social networks and television. It is supported by the values that we call traditional and that have been mocked or distorted in the recent years. But they still exist: family, children, faith, national independence, national culture, a healthy business competition. Republicans and those who share their values have a lot to fight for.

Links to other articles on Politics and History on LCJ

Ten Years Ago, on September 11, 2001

Historical Comebacks (about the West-East rivalry)

Jacques Le Goff on History (one of the leading medievalists on the Evil, the West and the East)

Thoughts on Russian presidential elections (+mentality+curious media parallels with the recent US elections)

Wrong on Russia (about history, democracy, Russia and the West)

The 75th Anniversary of the Leningrad Blockade, 1944-2019

The Professional Fallacy of Historians (a brief piece on mid-Tudor studies)

Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin To Become a Trademark

Roscosmos has initiated the registration of several historic and seminal signs as trademarks “to protect the state corporation from unfair competition”. Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin is to become a trademark – the world-famous word he said on his first flight to space, which means “let’s go”.

poekhali-by-yuri-gagarin-to-become-a-trademark
Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin is known all over the world as the first words of a man in space. It is set to become a trademark if registered by Pospatent. Image credit: fortuna-2014.livejournal.com

As we’re waiting to hear about further details, here’s a song about Yuri Gagarin, Do You Know What Man He Was, sung by Yuri Gulyaev. The video is a collage of Gagarin’s photos.

Nine years ago, when the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first manned Earth orbit, Anton Agarkov paid a visit to the Star City and shared lots of photos that I also featured on my blog. Read the article. To commemorate the same event, Attic Room Productions have made The First Orbit movie that you can watch below. It reconstructs Gagarin’s historic flight and helps to relive his experience – now almost 60 years on.

More posts on Space.

The Day of National Unity in Russia: Faith and Mockery

We celebrate the Day of National Unity in Russia today. It falls on the same day as the celebration of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady by the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, November 4th has been celebrated since the 17th c., after the Polish-Lithuanian intervention had been driven out of Russia by the Second Volunteer Army of Minin and Pozharsky. The occasion was first commemorated by Mikhail Romanov, the first ruler of the new dynasty on the Russian throne.

“The Russian Orthodox people have for centuries prayed to Our Lady who always defends and helps when the human powers are running low”.

In recent years the civil holiday was widely celebrated by the parades and street performances, but naturally, this year such events were out of the question. On the contrary, the faithful flocked to churches this morning. Many Russian Orthodox churches traditionally serve two liturgies on big holidays like this one, to accommodate as many believers as possible. I, too, went to the church today, although I couldn’t stay for the service.

I’m drafting a big article on satyre, the mockery of religious beliefs and the impact it has on the world today. One thing I certainly find disturbing is that we are not serious enough about the really important things. We take politics very seriously; we take economy and money-making even more seriously; and expendables, like buckwheat and toilet paper, seem the end of it all. But our world is growing exponentially void of sympathy and respect. For is there really an explanation to the fact that, while the Act of Equal Opportunities demands employment to all despite their (dis)abilities, religious beliefs, sexuality and gender, the artists and journalists demand the right to mock faith and its most important aspects? Logically, this means 1) that a person outside the titular spectrum is given a competitive advantage based on their “difference” but at the time 2) in return for the titular population tolerating their “difference” they are made to tolerate the mockery of some very important aspects of their culture, namely, faith.

Christianity has undergone this hysteria during the Reformation, when zealous Protestants whitewashed the opulent Catholic frescoes and broke the statues of saints and prophets. There has long been a taciturn consensus between the different denominations within the Christian Church, whereby the Russian Orthodox Church remains faithful to the old Byzantine order, preserving the spirit of Christianity, while Catholic and Protestant Churches have moved on pastures new, admitting in women and gay priests. The thing is very different with Islam, as according to traditional Christian thought, Muhammad is a fake prophet, hence Islam is a sect, not a religion in its proper sense of the word. It has been accepted by the civil society, by the lay order, but in terms of religious culture, there has been no acceptance. The Western culture remains largely Christian, and if if chooses to drift anywhere, it is to yoga and Buddhism, not Islam. The Muslim culture doesn’t fit anywhere, so it literally has to fight for itself. Despite this, for nearly a decade European journalists have seen to aggravating the Muslim population by producing caricatures on Muhammad and, most recently, on President Erdogan, who seemingly aspires to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. Add to this the problem of the West “making up” the palatable East and not even attempting to understand the East on the latter’s own terms, and it becomes obvious just how really tragic these caricatures are, and how oblivious is President Macron or other leaders to the real state of things.

Admittedly, Russia today is also performing a balancing act today, following the demise of the USSR and the influx of the cheap labour force from the former Soviet republics. I wrote previously about the Day of National Unity in Russia and the attempt to relegate the revolutionary past into the void of History. However, it is legally prohibited to mock or satirize anyone’s religious beliefs, and I fully support this limitations. I know some call these satirical acts the manifestation of freedom. I strongly believe that freedom is not about how far we can go, but when we choose to stop.

The Mystery of William Turner’s Dinefwr Castle

As I’m reading through Art History books of my English-language library, I’ve immersed myself into a book on Turner’s trails in North and South Wales. I bought it on my visit to Valle Crucis Abbey in Denbighshire in 2009.

My visit to Dinefwr

I visited Dinefwr Castle two years earlier, in the summer of 2007. I was accompanying my husband to Carmarthen, and on a free day we decided to travel to see one of the castles. Dinefwr in Llandeilo turned out to be the closest, we didn’t have to change buses, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote about the trip in my Carmarthen Cameos and even received a long comment from a once citizen of Llandeilo, in whom my post awakened lovely childhood memories.

William Turner, Llandeilo Bridge and Dinevor Castle (1796, National Museum of Wales)

Turner’s Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle, in its turn, inspired Turner: he visited it in 1795, and in 1796 he exhibited the watercolour painting, Llandeilo Bridge and Dinevor Castle. It can now be seen at the National Museum of Wales. Just like in his other paintings, he juxtaposes different viewpoints, making both castle and hill more magnificent and closer to the viewer than they really are. The bridge, as we can see, used to be insecure: in the watercolour Turner depicts it being supported by an uprooted tree. Following his intention to combine the past with the present, Turner concentrates entirely on the foreground, which is ridden in misery, whilst the silhouette of the glorious past glows in the light of the setting sun. The eye of the viewer may travel from top to bottom or the other way round, but in any case, one is moved to consider the fate of Wales and its people.

And this is the extract from the aforementioned Cadw book that sheds light on the variety of techniques an artist could use to enhance the desired effect:

Whilst this picture was undergoing conservation in 1993 an unexpected discovery was made that shed new light on Turner’s experimentation with watercolour technique at this time. Bonded onto the back of the paper was another sheet painted with the same scene, though in a different technique and seemingly unfinished. At first this was thought to be a preparatory sketch that Turner had abandoned, but further investigation revealed that it was almost certainly a deliberate attempt to imitate in watercolour an effect that he had found possible with oil by superimposing layers of pigment. Here he seems to have tried to exploit the translucency of the watercolour paper and enrich the level of reflected light from the surface of the finished picture by placing additional painted work underneath the paper (from: On the Trail of Turner in North and South Wales, p. 30. Cardiff, 2008 (3rd ed.)

More secrets?

To summarise, Turner made another painting of the similar scene on the back on the final picture in order to enhance the light and expressivity of the watercolour. Given his secrecy about his working methods, I’m very intrigued to find out what other methods and techniques he deployed to obtain a previously unknown artistic effect.

How We’re Going Through the Pandemics

I’ve been working from home this week. It’s slightly challenging for going through, delightfully novel and surprisingly wholesome. I start work in the morning and finish any time between 4.30pm and 8pm. And I still have time for other things.

I’m a bit concerned about the attitude of some new “divines” to coronavirus. They preach this is a great, albeit scary, way to “clear the planet”. Look, they say, dolphins are coming back to Venice, isn’t this amazing?! Sure, some people die, and still more will if they are too resistant to change. Be flexible, be liquid, learn to work online, and chances are, you’ll get through alright.

The reason these preachings perplex me slightly is because there is strong evidence of a new kind of biological weapon being tested. And as much as I’m glad for both Venice and dolphins, I feel anxious as to what the future holds.

However, I agree with the sages: we need to be flexible. In the time of great changes it’s futile to try and maintain status quo, ancien régime, the way we were, you name it. I’ve just had a thought that this pandemic may hammer the nail in the EU’s coffin, perhaps penultimate yet. One of my students is going through his personal upheaval, and he’s managing it poorly, so I reason with him thus: everything that is yours will remain yours. Sadly, at time like this it is only us that remain ours; the rest may go.

I’ve been through these crises a few times already, and I’m grateful for the skills that will undoubtedly see me through. I’m grateful for my faith, my work, my talent. These are the things that will always remain mine.

I’ve just been through the posts I wrote in 2008 and 2009, and it’s wonderful to see how the above mentioned skills helped me then. Feel free to read my blog and find all the inspiration and support you need. And I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in Russia (particularly Moscow) and how things are going for me this time.

Take care and #staysafeathomeinrussia

Megxit, or Coat-hangers and Coat-bearers

Being a trained specialist in English history, I cannot avoid commenting on the recent scandal in the British Royal Family, poignantly called Megxit by the media. Harry and Meghan walked out on the British royal family. I didn’t want to engage in the hysteria of Harry’s exiting the family when the news had just broken out. I now feel I can share my view of the situation.

Personally, I don’t sympathise with either Harry or Meghan. Even Kate Middleton didn’t instantly become the nation’s favourite, and she’d been in the public eye for much longer before her marriage than Meghan. Never mind the latter’s cinema career, I suppose few people had heard of her before she got engaged to Prince Harry. So, I cannot see why the public wouldn’t judge Meghan where it had previously judged Kate. The British mouth can blurt out some scathing criticism. This had to be foreseen, obviously, and not just by the PR services but by Harry and Meghan themselves.

So, I feel for Meghan for any misery she endured at the royal court but it was in the cards anyway. The monarchy has to maintain its public image, and it costs a lot – financially, as emotionally. If she thought that the BRF is no Hollywood and she could be herself here, it was a very silly thought indeed. I’ve never been to either place but it seems no Hollywood may be as restricting and false (to someone’s liking anyway), as a royal family of any country.

Coat-hangers and coat-bearers of the British monarchy (Image courtery: Telegraph.co.uk)

To portray Harry as a poor guy torn between the beloved Granny, the native country and the wife-and-child is also to do him no justice. He’s not a teen nor even a young adult. He’s the sixth in line to the throne, and even if he was unlikely to get there ever in his life it doesn’t change the main thing: he represents the British monarchy. I cannot imagine what it was that eventually prompted him to break the news on Instagram of all places, but it is clear that this was a thoughtful decision, not a fly of fancy. Of course, he’s got a historical precedent in the face of Edward VIII. However, there isn’t as much pressure on Prince Harry, for he simply decided to get rid of royal responsibilities that demanded the presence of his wife. It is in no way critical as King Edward’s abdication in the wake of the Second World war.

Following the Megxit has led me to this observation. When it comes to joining a high-profile family, women apparently fall into 2 categories: coat-hangers and coat-bearers. Coat-hangers dream of nice clothes, family jewellery, publicity and other perks of an aristocratic dolce vita. So duties and not-always-nice-comments come as a surprise. Coat-bearers are more grounded. Being women, they certainly dream of the above, but they realise that to be a wife to a president, a king, a prince etc. means to carry the coat-of-arms of his country and his family.

Speaking of royal couples, the Spanish Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia have long been my favourite Royal family, for they both had successful public careers before getting married and ascending the throne. Princess Letizia reported from war zones and was an established professional in her own right. The image of a “normal” family that Prince William and his wife have adopted has made them popular but I cannot see them projecting the country to any new heights. They were so “normal” that they left practically no mark on this world prior to their marriage. Perhaps, the forward movement is no longer important after Brexit.

Having said that, Kate Middleton is certainly a coat-bearer. And there’s a good reason why she also is. She’s British. Whether she’s always dreamt of joining the Royal family or it happened by chance, she’s aware that she represents the country – hers, as her husband’s. You may remind me of members of other European royalty and aristocracy whose wives or husbands are foreigners (the Netherlands and Monaco come to my mind). What we still see is that a spouse becomes a full member of the royal household, complete with all duties this entails.

In case with Meghan Markle, she comes from the country that abandoned monarchy from the very beginning of its political life. America has been the country of the people – at least, nominally. When you elect and re-elect presidents, it’s hard to force yourself to be a part of the family where you will have to work like a queen but never get the chance to sit on the throne. British Royal family is very undemocratic and has evidently made some impossible demands on the good, young American.

So, Meghan is a coat-bearer, too – but of her own country and interests. It’s hard to say whether her attempt at bearing the arms of Britain and the Windsor family was good enough or it was doomed from the start. Yet even  her appearances as a coat-hanger didn’t always impress the media. Her being a brunette meant constant comparisons to Kate. Since William is more likely to get the throne than Harry, it’s more important for the media to keep Kate in the spotlight, than to let Meghan have her share thereof.

The result is that Prince Harry chose to altogether abandon the Royal family instead of withdrawing from the public eye for some time and helping Meghan to come to terms with her duties and a new lifestyle. Perhaps, Meghan decided that being married to a Prince is quite enough for her. And Prince Harry whose past behaviour occasionally outraged the public apparently thought that he could finally live his life on his own terms. Whatever the reports say, he’s always been the younger brother: always second, always in the shadow. Now he’s got the spotlight, and it remains to be seen what use Harry and Meghan will make of it.

Julia Shuvalova

Image is courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Belated Snowfall

A late January snowfall in Moscow

There’s a chance that Moscow people will enjoy some proper winter weather soon. The first sign is the snow which is well overdue but is nonetheless welcome. I may try to be funny and say that Britain with the Brexit has waved goodbye to Europe and various European organisations, like PAEC, by sending a heatwave that saw the warmest December and January in all Russian history. But no, things are getting back to normal here, while we’re yet to see what lies ahead for Great Britain.

The 75th Anniversary of the End of Leningrad’s Blockade (1944-2019)

January 27th, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of Leningrad’s Blockade (1944-2019).
It’s been a few years now that some folk in Russia are wondering as to why this date is still being marked. They have gone as far as to state that the Blockade was instigated by Stalin to kill as many civilians as possible, while in fact the Fascist troops were never going to destroy the city or its people. Never mind that there are German sources that prove the opposite intentions of Hitler and Co. As if the mere instance of such view was not enough, what I personally find disgustingly amazing is that this view is often expressed by the Jewish people. The very co-nationals of those who would be completely annihilated, had Herr Hitler had his way. 

Last year millions of Russian people, myself included, were outraged when one Russian teenager gave a speech at Berlin’s Reichstag. The speech was claimed to have been his own research into the hardships of a young German soldier who fought on the Fascist side and died of wounds during the Stalingrad Battle. The boy’s speech sounded apologetic of the soldier’s sad fate; he expressed compassion and a hope that such war would never happen again. Of course, for the sake of poor invaders who’d have to face the brutal Russians once more. 

This year some Germans have voiced their surprise: how much longer will they have to apologise to the Russians for the massacres of the Second World War? More precisely, what’s that thing about the heroes of Leningrad’s Blockade? They are not heroes, no way.

Indeed, given that most European countries gave in to Fascist regimes in weeks, if not days, after the invasion of each of them, it must be really hard to get a European head around the fact that it was possible to stay in a city for nearly four years, enduring hunger, cold and air raids, watching your friends and relatives die, and never wishing to leave it or to surrender. The more I follow these morone blurts of contemporary Europeans, the more I am inclined to believe that in 1939-45 in Continental Europe one could either collaborate, if he was a European, or die, if he was a Jew. A small proportion who weren’t prepared to do either joined various Resistance movements. They could still die, but at least their conscience was clear.

Ever since Hitler’s watercolours surfaced in early 2000s and art historians have taken a keen interest in them, I felt it wasn’t long before we’d hear that this great dictator who is duly loathed by every sane person was a really nice chap. A good fella who had the misfortune to lead Germany in that terrible war against the USSR under that tyrant, Stalin. 

And surprise! We only had to wait until the Ukrainian Maidan to hear it all: that Fascist demonstrations should be allowed in a progressive democratic society; that it was the USSR that invaded Germany and Ukraine (they don’t mention that Ukraine was the Soviet Republic at that time); and that the Russians should stop being so touchy about their casualties. Shortly before 2014 we had heard that Leningrad should have been given up instead of enduring the Blockade. For at least a decade there have been torrents of criticism of the annual Victory parades and, more recently, of the Immortal Regiment movement. And finally, last year “the voice of the progressive Russian youth”, Nikolay from Novy Urengoy, sympathized for the young German invader whose life so sadly ended somewhere in Stalingrad.

Add the fact that a European school curriculum is either ambiguous or altogether taciturn about the role of Russia (formerly the USSR) in the Second World War, and it is clear that the anti-Soviet propaganda has been working to mask, downplay and perverse the Soviet effort and victory practically since May 9th, 1945. And now it has come to Germany asking, how much longer it has to remember its atrocities against the Russian people in that war.

Can you imagine Germany asking how much longer it will have to hold various Holocaust Memorial Days? Can you imagine anyone asking when the Holocaust as a theme will stop being a sure guarantee for either an Oscar or a Nobel Prize in Literature? Just a reminder of that Austrian professor who’s had the misfortune to deny the Holocaust and was persecuted for it, and it’s clear what the answer to the above questions is. Never. Never will the Holocaust cease to be the scare and an opportunity for fame in either Europe or America. I’m looking at it from the point of various propagandist efforts, I’m not denying anyone’s personal sentiments.

Just for the record: according to what we know from existing documents, Hitler didn’t really distinguish between Russians and Jews. For him and his financiers both peoples were to be disposed of. Apart from the affluent few, Russians and Jews were too populous, too poor, and too grounded – historically. One could tell tales about the superior Aryan race to the fellow Europeans, but not Russians or Jews. Besides, despite the differences, both nations would never subscribe to the Protestant ethics, as professed by the Fascists. And therefore they both had to be driven to extinction. 
Nowadays Europe wants to remember only about the Jewish genocide. Perhaps, it’s easier (in various sense) to contemplate the murder of some 6 mln people. Even if we include non-Jews and the figure rises to 17 mln, it is still easier to stomach, given that in both cases the number is spread across much of Europe. It’s different when you are left to swallow the unbelievable 28 mln dying in Russia alone. It’s different when, instead of an orderly sequence of “arrest-detention-transportation to a camp-death in a gas chamber”, you are faced with war-time footage of the Nazis shooting Russian toddlers, hanging the women soldiers, and destroying the entire villages and cities. The uncivilized Russians defended their country and caused the Fascists to kill 28 million of people (the search for the unknown victims of war continues, and the figure is now approaching 30 mln).

So, yes, it’s easier to remember the Holocaust; it’s “only” 6 mln, and it was so “civilized”.

I’ve been monitoring these morons both in Europe and Russia for years, and whenever it was appropriate I have never shun from expressing my opinion. So, while I don’t deny the Holocaust (which has been marked separately in the last few years in Russia), my sense of patriotism and historical fairness proposes the following suggestion on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of Leningrad’s Blockade:

— Europe and America stop apologizing for and otherwise remembering the Holocaust, and we stop reminding the world about 30 million dead Soviet citizens (Jews included) and of who really won the Second World War.

In the unlikely event of the Holocaust Memorial Days being erased from European and American calendars in the upcoming years, our Victory Day on May 9th will, too, become just another day when we remember the heroes of our history, rich in defensive wars. Cue in Borodino Battle, the Battle in Kulikovo Field, or the Battle on the Ice. 
You should realise, of course, that the above suggestion is proposed with a great deal of bitter irony. The way history is going, however, the Victory Day we celebrate now may be changed by another of its kind one day too soon. As much as most of us don’t want it, it can only happen in the event when that unbelievable quid pro quo comes to life. For, the moment we stop being sorry about either 6 mln, or 30 mln, the new catastrophe will explode.

The Revolutionary Smolny Telephone

In Russia, when you cannot get through a certain number, you say that the number is engaged ‘like at the Smolny’. The Smolny Palace was built by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1806-08 to house the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, Russia’s first institution for women’s education. However, in 1917 the Smolny Institute was moved out of Petersburg, and between October 1917 and March 1918 the building served as the headquarters for the Bolshevik Government. Vladimir Lenin resided here, and several revolutionary decrees got passed here in November 1917, including the Decree on Peace and Decree on Land. Naturally, the phone line must have been engaged most of the time, due to a high activity of the Bolshevik government, and so the abovementioned expression originated.

The Museum of Contemporary History in Moscow’s Tverskaya St. has tweeted a picture of the phone that was used by the Military Revolutionary Committee in Vassilevsky Island to keep in touch with the Bolshevik headquarters at the Smolny.