Olympic Fanfare and Drama

***Please open this while reading: The World’s Favorite Song.

Stagflation no more?…Much to the West’s discontent, the 1980 Summer Olympics was selected for Moscow, in 1974; in the middle of the strategic parity with the US. Russia, emerging as a superpower getting global attention, infringing on US supremacy in news, image, and knowledge. And now, America has to counter free publicity and advertisement of the evil communist foe.Now, there could be a chance of the Soviet rise OVER the US, something unimaginable to our egos and power positioning.

This announcement also bolstered the Soviet communist state, for both internal modernization, improvement of infrastructure, and overall a moral boost to the country which was unknowingly slowly crumbling. It was cited in a poll that “92% of the respondents offered the opinion that the 1980 Olympics will to one extent or another help turn Moscow into a model communist city.” This news was disgruntling for the US.

“A frenzy of construction, typical of host cities, resulted in not only new stadiums, training facilities, and hotels, but a new airport at Sheremet’evo. The city itself was spruced up. Roads were newly paved, trees were planted, debris was cleared, and wall murals and flags, many displaying “Misha,” the cuddly bear who was the mascot of these Olympics, festooned the boulevards. Jobs for translators, guides, and guards were highly sought after, and already in October 1978, the Soviet media was authorized to crank out publicity about the games to counteract negative propaganda from the West.”

So how did the US respond to all of the wonderful progress in the USSR? They clapped back with a boycott. Here is an excerpt from the January 20, 1980 letter by President Jimmy Carter to the president of the United States Olympic committee Robert Kane:

“I regard the Soviet invasion and the attempted suppression of Afghanistan as a serious violation of international law and an extremely serious threat to world peace. This invasion also endangers neighboring independent countries and access to a major part of the world’s oil supplies. It therefore threatens our own national security, as well as the security of the region and the entire world.

We must make clear to the Soviet Union that it cannot trample upon an independent nation and at the same time do business as usual with the rest of the world. We must make clear that they will pay a heavy economic and political cost for such aggressions. That is why I have taken the severe economic measures announced on January 4,2 and why other free nations are supporting these measures. That is why the United Nations General Assembly,3 by an overwhelming vote of 103 to 18, condemned the invasion and urged the prompt withdrawal of Soviet troops.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 6.23.40 PM.png

This image shows: “A female character labeled “Cold War” accepts a flaming relay torch with burning letters reading “Boycott Olympics” passed by a figure representing the United States. Underneath is the caption, ‘the boycott has one goal: to kindle the Cold War,’ a quote from the famous Soviet author Sergey Mikhalkov.”

All of this literature points to two central themes: distrust and increasing animosity, that further pushed tensions to a breaking point between the US and USSR. They can be seen as two countries, both with power, and technological advances playing ring around the rosy. After events such as the Bay of Pigs, nuclear détente was used, however, how long could two “world leaders” continue to spat at each other until the tension is too much. This is not a unique theme, is can be seen today with our increasing tensions (for all the wrong reasons) with North Korea. History and politics have a funny way of repeating themselves, and we do a wonderful job to never fully learn our lessons. Hey, but it helps to be the huge winner, right?

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 2.01.26 PM

This post was selected for “Comrades Corner” by  the Editorial Team!

“Savage Minorities” and Paranoia

A Russian victory in World War II was necessary for the reassertion of their legitimacy. 70+ years have passed since the Russian defeat over Nazi Germany, resulting in economic, political, and social upheaval once again; aimed at those who were “different” than the political elites. Stalin also felt compounding stress from:

“[t]he Soviet Union, at least 27 million people had been killed (out of a total of 55 million fatalities in WWII), while many cities, towns and villages lay in ruins.”

Insecurity was rampant in society, from Stalin’s paranoia over consolidating power to suspicion of minorities, the war brought a new nationalism , but needed a scapegoat to back up his claims. As a result, Stalin issued Decree No. 5859SS which stated:

“Iosif Stalin, On the Crimean Tatars. May 11, 1944

Top Secret

State Defense Committee
State Defense Committee Decree No. 5859ss
May 11, 1944 Moscow, the Kremlin
On the Crimean Tatars

During the Great Patriotic War, many Crimean Tatars betrayed the Motherland, deserting Red Army units that defended the Crimea and siding with the enemy, joining volunteer army units formed by the Germans to fight against the Red Army; as members of German punitive detachments, during the occupation of the Crimea by German fascist troops, the Crimean Tatars particularly were noted for their savage reprisals against Soviet partisans, and also helped the German invaders to organize the violent roundup of Soviet citizens for German enslavement and the mass extermination of the Soviet people.”


Deportation of Minorities Image

This Video demonstrates the power and pride of nationalism in Russia post World War II. Stalin harps on “exceptional nationality policies” that can be described as ethnic cleansing, not a well though out policy. His ability to homogenize the population validated the strength of Stalin, and is ability to act paradoxically to “unite the state” while simultaneously pulling the ethnic fabrics of the region apart.

This policy however, did not last indefinitely, but demonstrated the severe issues of social harmony and acceptance of those considered “other”. The reification of the minority groups continued to be repressed under a “party” that ORIGINALLY supported self-determination.

“In 1957 the government revoked the accusation of Nazi collusion and permitted all but the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks, whose homes and lands had been occupied by Russian, Ukrainian, and Georgian settlers, to return.”

This horrific episode in post World War II Russia continues to demonstrate the need for a cohesive social landscape in order to be successful political and militarily.

I Got 99 Problems and Census is 1

Russia history was filled with famine due to the destitute of food and resources, however, there was reported “increases” in population… which doesn’t follow sound logic; shortages does NOT equal increases in populace. In 1937, the Soviet Thirties were coming to a close, with a surprising twist: the death of Adamovich Kraval, the chief of the Central Statistics Department (CSD), followed by his comrades, for reasons cited as “crude violations of the principles of statistical science.”

Calculations of natural population growth had projected a population of 186.4 million, an increase of 37.6 million since the 1926 census; the actual increase turned out to be only 7.2 million. The population gap spoke so graphically of unnatural death, and so belied the image of a healthy happy society, that the census was squelched.”

After the debacle of the 1937 Census, the 1939 Census proved to be more statistically sound, but still lacked validity. Also, the countryside peasants were noted as hostile towards the census takers, due to the peasants low socio-economic level within society and their lack of accurate representation. They felt as though their depraved life was ignored and conflated for propaganda, and that their injustices were not accounted for.

censusSoviet Census Example

This video depicts the many interactions between the All-Union Census counters through documenting passengers in a train; and visiting multiple peoples demonstrating how they would account for the population. This was released from the Russian State Film and Archive, denoting definite bias in the “sound” practices of the counters.

A return to the isolationism from self-determination and an emphasis on exclusivity returned as “National self-determination was fundamental to Soviet being, yet by 1939 state ethnographers and anthropologists had compiled lists that categorized groups as major nationalities, ethnic groups or national minorities.” As a result, many minorities were consolidating into larger groups such as the “Uzbeks” and the “Tatars”, losing their individual political and social voices and their right to self determination that was promised under the Soviet regime.

Who Runs the World? Not Girls.

United States women’s suffrage was fought for and achieved in 1920 under the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. This was a time of revolution and change in the United States, beginning the long and continuous journey of equal rights under the law, which is still continuing to be fought for today. In the 1920’s in Russia, however, the gender question remained unaddressed and suppressed, through the ideological framework of “Revolutionary Manliness”.

The political configuration, the Komsomol(All-Union Leninist Young Communist League), formed in 1918, was an organization of the Communists in order to political socialize the youth. According to The Komsomol “It was composed of youth 14-28 years old…[and] as an organization, it had little to no influence on Soviet policies, but was an important propaganda tool for the regime.” The Komsomol allowed both sexes membership, however “male members outnumbered females eight to one throughout the 1920s. This was due to the social principle of “Revolutionary Manliness” struck through Russia in 1924, providing an environment that was hostile to women.

The organization created an “ethos of a young communist was coded masculinity, which created societal implications that women were “violations of nature itself”  when they attempted to “fit in.” This reinforces a gender taboo that is cross cultural, making women’s identification in society prone to criticism, whether it is too abrasively masculine or too daintily feminine.

“On the one hand outward displays of femininity were considered ideologically taboo and threatened to distract sexually charged boys from Komsomol business. On the other, girls’ efforts to erase their femininity were met with scorn.”


Other legislative reforms were developed in the late 1920’s in order to impose more strict “socialist consciousness” (Freeze, 333) on Russian individualism, with the goal from 1921-1929 to “build socialism” within society. (Freeze, 329). Freeze also suggests that “In any event, both the party and the Komsomol began to take a more direct interest in the personal lives of members” in order to influence their futures and the construct of individualistic rights in Russian society.

Education was a strong foundational tool of Lenin for the new generation, in order to educate the masses and encourage a proletariat lifestyle, which reinforced the ideology of its leaders. Gender roles are enduring, and can be seen today through the current and continued existence of the Leninist Young Communist League of the Russian Federation Website. This highlights the implication of use of social organizations on social constructs of societal interactions in the time of the “Great Turn”. Below is an image of the website. It is up to date (4/20/17) commenting on current events. The modern and propagandist tone to the writing is interesting, and give insight into politics from a different perspective.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.52.20 PM





Peace, (Love?) Bread, Land, and Worker’s Control

Peace and bread (America’s favorite carb) are not words commonly associated with Russia prior to the 1917 Revolutions. At the time: “In Russia, military setbacks, food shortages, popular unrest, and a crisis of political leadership brought about the abdication of the tsar and the demise of the Romanov dynasty in February, 1917.” At a time of political, economic, and social turmoil, Vladimir Lenin emerged via the “sealed train.” to reaffirm the radical changes taking place in the Bolshevik party, to promote a transfer of “all power to the soviets” (Freeze, 281) and to “feed the hunger” of the proletariat class.


Lenin’s role is defined as “decisive: his powerful drive, and obsessive belief in revolution overcame the internal party fissures and gave the Bolsheviks a decisive edge over modern socialists”(Freeze, 281). The promise of “peace, bread, land, and worker’s control” appealed to the masses of disenfranchised protesters and appeased grievances dating prior to the Great Reforms.

Lenin, served as the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party, who renounced the bourgeois Provisional Government and demanded an end to “revolutionary defensism” through the April Theses, by establishing a revolutionary soviet government. The turn around on the implementation of the act was dramatic, just in the fashion of the revolution. The following timeline exhibits the swift return of Lenin and is intense intrusion into society.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-11-21-46-am(Virginia Tech European History Timeline).

The timing and language used to introduce the discourse of the April Theses demonstrates a strong demand from the proletariat to gain autonomy and equality, which, thereby, transformed the expression and socio-political crusade of the socialist movement.

“The language of socialism and class conflict became the idiom of public discourse for the press, rally, public meeting, and all manner of political propaganda…The plan called on “technocratic change, of reshaping consciousness and of making the proletariat a true universal class- for itself and, if need be, in spite of itself” (Freeze, 281).

The April Theses uses discourse and vivid language to imply  a dire need to change the status quo of Russian attitudes, norms, and insecurities. The main tenets of the April Theses call on Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution , calling for a “a republic of Soviets of Workers’ through the disbandment of the parliamentary republic as seen through the Provisional government, as well as: addressing the agrarian program shifted to the Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies, a confiscation and nationalization of all lands in the country, the union of a national bank, and other “party tasks”, calling on a name change to be addressed as the Communist Party. More information can be seen through the video.


This work overall united a torn movement into a strong foundational work to force the October Revolution, and to corner the Provisional Government into allowing the influence of the Bolsheviks into the Petrograd.

The Provisional Government thereupon invited the Petrograd Soviet to help form a coalition government consisting of both socialist and non-socialist leaders, an invitation that the Soviet Executive Committee accepted with reservations.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 2.01.50 PMThis post received a “Red Star” from the Editorial Team.


Sources: (Mostly hyperlinked)


Freeze, Gregory. “Russia A History” 3rd Edition.

The Silver (Age) Linings Playbook

No, this is not a blog about Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s chemistry in an incredible RomCom. (I wish)…. however, we can use media and the arts as a powerful way to address issues within society. Similarly to the impact of popular culture American society has seen through social media and the messaging of Hollywood, Russia challenged the hegemony of the nationalistic ideals on religion, metaphysical ideas, and philosophical findings in Russia in 1905 to spark a revolution.

A powerful (and often overlooked) element of the Revolution of 1905 existed from within the cultural movement of the people of Russia, through the use of media and popular culture, known as the “Silver Age” (Freeze, 265). According to Freeze, poetry, fiction, theater, music, and plastic arts all challenged a new age of modernism in a society struggling to stay together. These ideals were all used in order to beckon a new age of thinking, embracing the movement away from conservatism.


I discovered a fascinating piece highlighting Maxim Gorky, playwright based in Moscow; discussing his opinion on the future of Russian “peace” and the governments handling of power in relation to the peasant class. Gorky emphasizes the importance of introspection as a necessary tool for the government to heal Russia, rather than turn to expansionism.

“But inside from the effects of the peace’s upon the chances of liberty being won by the Russian people, the colonial venture should have been finished once for all.”

He also discusses the major social injustice faced by the Russian population at hand. “Besides we have nothing to give others.” This point I found very interesting. It was, in my opinion, a selfless way of acknowledging that expansionist ideals would further divide Russia both internally and damage the reputation of the “Great Power”.

“Political freedom having been obtained, there is bound to be a marvelous unfolding of the spiritual and intellectual faculties of the people. We may experience a veritable Elizabethan age of Russian literature and art. The expansion of the mental horizon to the gold generation of Shakespeare’s day, due to the discoveries of navigators, and the exploits of sailors, cannot be compared with the coming discovery of themselves by the hundred millions of Russia’s benighted workfolk.”

 To add to the cultural ramifications for the “Silver Age”, I critically examined Manifesto of 17 October 1905. Using the powerful jargon: “on the improvement of order in the state”, signifying that it was very powerfully grant change, the first tenet was “Fundamental civil freedoms will be granted to the population, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association”. This tenet can be confirmed through the explosion of the arts in the time period, as a way to exercise the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and consciousness. The freedom of consciousness was so desperately needed, and the media acted as a way of connecting peasants and workers to the causes of the intelligentsia and the Marxist movement.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 2.01.26 PM

This post received the “Comrades Corner” distinction from the Editorial team.

Works Cited:


GORKY’S INTERVIEW.: Complete Text of Russian Author’s Opinion of Peace. New York Times (1857-1922); Oct 2, 1905; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 8

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Kasli: The “Iron” Religious Kingdom?

kasil_russia_libraryofcongress“The Kasli Iron Works plant, founded in 1747 and known for its high quality of cast iron products, had a work force of more than 3,000 people”.

According to the World Digital Library: Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii ventured on several trips around the Ural Mountains, visiting Kasli in 1910.  Kasli is home to one of the precious resources that was capitalized on for economic benefit, iron ore.

The reforms and counter reforms during the tumultuous era of 1855-1890 shaped the way Kasli is viewed and depicted, culturally and economically, through imagery. The photograph, taken in 1910, reveals a post-reform European flair as a result of “the Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) which proliferated the“Crimean Syndrome” (Freeze 209) centered on reform. Through reforms such as zemstvos, educational reorganization, judicial statutes, military reorganization and retraining, the addition of city councils, the removal of censorship, and the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church, were all critical in creating the mood emitted from the image above.

My interpretation of the image of Kasli detects a light embrace of Westernization and the continuation of traditional beliefs holding the importance of church paramount. Due to the vantage point of the quasi-aerial shot of the town, the breath taking scenery has a skyline dominated with the patriarchal influence of the Orthodox Church, signifying the continuity of religion throughout a time period of revolution.

This image, enhanced with color, demonstrates the presence of the Church, and how its influence is felt through all aspects of life. The reforms of the church through the “Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) is not explicitly shown, but implies that there was a deep division over the impact of the church, with three different churches within the scope of the picture. Reforms such as: reconstruction of the clergy hierarchy, the reformation of the civil servants and class structure, the reform of the clergy education system, and administration of clergy courts was all conducted in order to deter corruption (Freeze, 212). Overall, the “Great Reforms” (Freeze, 199) set on the clergy were deemed unsuccessful when analysis was undertook in the 1880’s (Freeze, 220), however, the preservation of tradition is noted.
The importance of the economic implication of this photo cannot be overlooked. A Russian blog, Russia Beyond The Headlines hits on the economic relevance of Kasli: “Initially, the bulk of the orders were for the military, but the Ural plant also produced fine cookware, such as pots, cauldrons and other utensils.”

Notice there is a severe lack of railroads and other transportation routes in the picture, which calls on the senses to experience the human geography and the lack of industrialization and modernization. Freeze states: “Industrialization, which has been so retarded and been discouraged by the pre-reform regime, faced considerable obstacles… [such as] Russia’s low credibility…[and] virtual non-existence of railways meant that key resources (iron ore and coal) and markets could not be linked” (Freeze, 215-216). If there is a lack of connectivity and advancement throughout the country and the international economic framework, there might have been a lack of opportunity to modernize not just economically, but socially as well. Furthermore, signifying that reform and counterculture is not accepted within a traditional society founded in conservatism and no connectivity.



Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Prokudin-Gorskii, Sergei Mikhailovich 1863-1944. “View of Kasli.” WDL RSS. September 28, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2017. https://www.wdl.org/en/item/5247/#q=Prokudin-Gorskii&page=3.