Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Royals rock on youtube

If you're bored already with the holidays, you should check out Queen Elizabeth's new video website on Youtube, appropriately titled "The Royal Channel." She was one of the first world leaders to take advantage of television in the l950s and has gone on to embrace the internet, email and podcasting as she enters her eighth decade. Now, she has her own official spot in the video universe, which you can access here. You can watch yesterday's annual Christmas broadcast, as well as footage from the early years of the century--the Queen Mother's l923 wedding, for example--and a day in the life of Prince Charles.

Inspecting the Queen's new offering will kill at least an hour or so, and you might learn something.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

NOVINKA(in the vernacular, a NEW THING)!!

There's a new blogger in town...he/she is a member of the Tri-Cities history mafia who's unhappy with the century in which he/she is living(the identity clumsily disguised here...i guess I'll never be a spy). When I meet individuals like this, I always quote Art Buchwald's address to my undergraduate graduation...he told everyone that if he wasn't happy with the present, "go out there and pretend today is yesterday, and have yourself a hell of a good time." In that spirit, please go and get acquainted with the new addition. Don't forget to leave a comment or two, a little cyberpat on the back.

Merry Christmas!


I can't let the day go by without wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. I don't think the holiday is under siege or anything, I'm just sending best wishes on Christmas day. I offer as a special present a recent photo of the l7th-century church of St. Simeon Stolpnik on Novyi Arbat street in Moscow. The Khrushchev knuckledraggers, er, chuckleheads were going to tear it down, until a brave architect named Antropov occupied a city bulldozer and refused to be dislodged...his obstinacy saved the church, which incidentally was the site of Fedor Chaliapin's funeral in l9l2. It stubbornly refuses to be swallowed up by all the ugliness around it, keeping a truce with changing times.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Attention Russian History students!

If anyone is still conscious after finals and reading this, are you the author of a take-home exam paper that reads, "Big Ole Russian History Paper?" It's a good paper, but I can't determine whose it is because you forgot to put your name on it. If someone would like to claim authorship, please email me so that i can avoid giving you an "X" grade and the paperwork that comes along with changing it later.

That is all. Over and out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Godspeed, Fr. Dmitrii

The remarkable life of Fr. Dmitrii Dmitrievich Grigoriev has come to an end. Fr. Dmitrii was my Russian literature prof at Georgetown in the late l970s, and everyone thought he was an exceptional teacher and an outstanding human being. He particularly loved Dostoevskii and would use his works to make relevant points about l9th century Russian history. Of course, he was also a priest, too, serving at St. Nicholas Orthodox cathedral in northwest Washington at the same time as he maintained a full load of classes...he was something. He was the quintessential absent-minded professor. We always knew, every fall and spring when the time change came, to correct for Fr. Dmitrii's failure to note the change. If the clocks went back, we showed up an hour later than usual. If the clocks went forward, an hour earlier. He never took any notice of prosaic things like Eastern Daylight Time...that's part of what made him special.

He never said much about his background, but you somehow knew that he had been around. Today, when I read his obit, I found out just how MUCH he had been around. His life story reads like the Russian exile's 20th century. I can't reproduce it as well as the Washington Post can, so here it is in its entirety:

WASHINGTON - Archpriest Dmitry Grigorieff, dean emeritus of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and a retired professor of Russian language and literature at Georgetown University, died Dec. 8 of cardiac arrest at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He lived in Bethesda, Md.

His father, Dmitry Dmitrievich Grigorieff, was the Russian governor of Sakhalin and served on the Central Board of the Russian Red Cross. In 1918, during the Russian Revolution, the elder Grigorieff fled Russia with his family, first to Riga, Latvia, and later to England. The elder Grigorieff's son Dmitry was born in London in 1919.

The Grigorieff family moved to Japan in the early 1920s, and the young Dmitry was baptized at St. Nicholas Church in Tokyo. After the Russian Civil War, the Grigorieff family returned to Riga, where Father Grigorieff studied in Russian schools and enrolled in the Orthodox Theological Institute.

As a British citizen, Father Grigorieff was evacuated to Australia during World War II. He served in 1943-44 in the British Merchant Marine in the Pacific. In 1945, he moved to New York, where he served in the Office of War Information.

He received a master's degree in linguistics and comparative literature from Yale University in 1948 and a doctorate in Slavic studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. He also received a diploma in theology from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York.

A Dostoevsky scholar, he taught Russian language and literature at Georgetown University from 1959 until 1989. He also taught Russian at the Army Language School in Monterey, Calif., and at Columbia University.

Father Grigorieff had always been active in the church, and in 1969, at age 50, he was ordained a priest at St. Nicholas Cathedral, where he was designated second priest. During the 1970s, he introduced regular English-language services to the cathedral, and he was made dean of the cathedral in 1986. He was given the title dean emeritus in 1998.

Over the decades, Father Grigorieff maintained ties with the church in his homeland, even when suppression was the official policy of the Soviet Union.

Father Constantine White, dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral, recalled assisting Father Grigorieff in conducting a service in the days before glasnost. Father Grigorieff offhandedly said, "Who knows, one day people from the embassy might be coming to church here."

His wife, Galina Grigorieff, died in 1998.

He notably was never bitter or angry about Russia, and in that next-to-last paragraph there, you see something of his fundamental optimism: when the Gorbachev changes were barely underway, he could see the day when Russian embassy staff would be attending services at his church.

A prince of a guy. Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Moscow doesn't believe in tears...

and it really doesn't...it expects you to bear up and triumph over all obstacles, whether it's the German army that laid siege to Moscow yesterday in l941, or the people on the street who are hell-bent on running right into you, or the policeman who closes the through street you were counting on because there are some Very Important People nearby. Moscow must be overcome...as a friend says, the battle of Moscow didn't happen in l941. It happens every time you step out onto the street!
We've been busy visiting archives, talking to people and discovering new sources in connection with the church project. En route, there have been small pleasures, like the newly-restored l7th-century church whose bells suddenly rang out the notes to "O Lord Save Us From Jeopardy," the beginning of the l8l2 overture. It's the feast day of St. Nicholas today, and he is a protector of Russia, in fact an all-purpose protector of everyone, so it somehow was fitting. But then there is the over-the-top display of wealth for wealth's sake, the Bentley dealership right beside the Maserati and Lamborghini dealerships, the Burberry megastore with socks that cost $300, the wine boutiques where ordinary beaujolais costs about three times what it does at home. People love to throw around money here just to throw around money, and it shows. The general perception is that the wrong people have money here--these are not people who are inclined towards philanthropy or supporting culture, but rather want to spoil themselves and outdo the neighbors 24/7. Of course, we've seen this show before...
We've been keeping Russian hours--no one goes to bed here before 1 am or gets up before 10. It's going to be an awful shock to go back to type-A American hours, e.g. 5am-10 pm, but somehow I think I can handle it.
Three days left in this stint...time to gear up for the last sprint.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Moscow nights(and days)...

Day three in Moscow...for those of you following at home, here are the following:

a) The emergency forced diversion of flight 46, bound from Atlanta to Moscow to JFK on November 30 in connection with a problem with pressurization. We were met by NYPD, FDNY and other emergency services...it was nice to know things were all under control. It was easier to transfer all of us to another plane en masse than to fix the problem, so they DID move all of us to another aircraft and we flew off. Finally arrived in Sheremetevo airport at 3 pm Saturday, rather than 11.

b) First visit to Red Square and the glimpse of an outsized billboard proclaiming, "MOSCOW IS VOTING FOR PUTIN" on election day, and then declaring WHICH LIST Moscow would be voting for(#10). An inspiring show of democratic spirit, especially since there wasn't any mention of other parties there. These folks know whom and what they want. They have ALREADY decided. Now just imagine seeing "SEATTLE IS VOTING FOR BUSH!!" in Pioneer Place, and you'll have a feel for the atmosphere here!

c) Close encounter with a Putin supporter near the election victory stand at St. Basil's cathedral yesterday. The victory stand and concert stage were in place well before the votes were counted, which I found rather interesting...anyway, I couldn't read the slogan alongside "OUR VICTORY," and I leaned over a barricade to squint at the left hand side. Bad mistake. One of the Putin youth took me for a wrecker or assassin or something and corrected me by waving a truncheon in my face. I took the hint and moved on, but there was something about those legions of bright-eyed youth in white sheets(?) with Putin's portrait on them. Verrry interesting...

d) The attempt to move through Red Square tonight after visiting one of the archives. All access to the Square was shut off, and police checkpoints established, because the Putin youth were enjoying yet another victory rock concert that surely shook Lenin in his mausoleum inside out. My friend and I ended up walking about two miles out of our way because of said police checkpoints...reminded me of the Paul McCartney concert in '04, when we appeared to be blocked out of our hotel for the night. What a country!

e) I forgot point E. Time to end this Russian day and night.

And so how's dead week going? Bet there are none of you dealing with police checkpoints on campus...and a cheery "do svidaniia" to all!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reminders about next week and the finals

For History 466 and 462, here's another reminder about What is Going On this week and next, while I am in the Twilight Zone:

On Thursday, November 29, there WILL be class in Cold War. You'll be discussing the Berlin Wall, the worst public relations disaster in the history of the Communist empire and a huge blunder on Khrushchev's part.

There will be NO class in Russian history because we have gone as far as we can go there.

There will be NO classes during Dead Week, i.e. December 3-7. You can get in touch, though, either through the comments section below, or at my tricity or yahoo addresses. They've got plenty of internet access there, and that is providing a lot of jobs for professional email snoops in the security services, who are tasked with looking for subversive messages coming from the Evil Empire, er, the US of A.

Then, on December 11, 7:15 pm, 462 will gather for that non-standard final that you can't study for(you just can't), and afterward some goodies and maybe some pictures from the Motherland. ALL THE AUDITORS are required to attend, too, because this isn't your garden-variety final. It has something wonderful for everybody(really!). I'll collect your second midterm papers at that time.

On December l3, we will have the 466 final, also followed by pictures and goodies for anyone who still has the strength to enjoy them. Unfortunately, this is a strictly unimaginative final. Everyone who did not give me a project yesterday should plan on handing them in at that time.

If you find yourself without a copy of the questions, they are on this blog for both classes. Just scroll down to "older posts" and look for them.

See you soon. Remember, it isn't Christmas until finals are over!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

McCarthyism and one very ordinary American

I was just reading the Boston Globe and came across the obituary for Milo Radulovich, whom many of you will remember as the fellow in the Edward R. Murrow compilation who was in danger of being mustered out of the Air Force because his father and sister read what were alleged to be Communist newspapers. Here is the text of the obit:

DETROIT - Milo Radulovich, the Air Force Reserve lieutenant championed by Edward R. Murrow when the military threatened to decommission him during the anticommunist crackdown of the 1950s, has died. He was 81.

Mr. Radulovich died Monday in Vallejo, Calif., after complications of a stroke, family members said. He was 81.

He served as a consultant on the 2005 film "Good Night, and Good Luck," which dramatized Murrow's journalistic challenge to Senator Joseph McCarthy. The movie included the Radulovich case and the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings that led to the senator's downfall.

Mr. Radulovich was born in Detroit, joined the Air Force Reserves, worked as a meteorologist in Greenland, and then enrolled at the University of Michigan on the GI Bill.

In 1953, the Air Force threatened to decommission him on grounds that he maintained a "close and continuing relationship" with his father and sister. The military said they were suspect because of the father's subscription to a Serbian newspaper and his sister's political activities.

Mr. Radulovich refused the military's demand that he denounce his relatives and appealed his discharge.

"I couldn't believe it," Mr. Radulovich told The Detroit News in 2005. "No way was I going to repudiate my family. I knew if my case went unresolved, the government could do this to anyone, anywhere. I could see a chain reaction."

Murrow's "See It Now" on CBS aired a segment, "The Case Against Lt. Milo Radulovich," in October 1953. The next month, the Air Force reversed its declaration that Mr. Radulovich was a security risk.

He went on to a career as a meteorologist.

"He was well aware of his historical importance," said his brother-in-law, Al Fishman. "He put his finger in the dike when the flood of McCarthyism inundated the country."


There's a perfect example of how McCarthyism affected an ordinary American. Your relatives read ethnic newspapers--and all members of east European ethnic groups were automatically suspected to be Communists--and your career is ended, or nearly ended because of what they read and believe. That is profoundly un-American and an outrage.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A little help with 466 CW domestic...

Here are some ramblings on the domestic Cold War Here(the land of the Free)and There(Gulagville):

You've seen some of the fallout associated with the beginning of the Cold War, as the drama played out between the USSR in the dueling speeches, the Czech coup and the Berlin airlift. Now, we’re going to look at the impact of this escalating conflict on the home front. Foreign affairs always come home, after all.

In the United States, just after the war, there was a general euphoria—life was good and getting better.

The war had finally brought the country out of the Great Depression; unemployment was down, prosperity was up, and the United States was the lone economic superpower. Everyone was excited about a new era, and the foundation was being laid for the country’s future prosperity. Mrs. Roosevelt gave a little hint of it in one of her columns from l944: “there is a great fear in the heart of any servicemen, and it is not that he will be killed or maimed, but that when he is finally allowed to go home and piece together what he can of his life, he will be made to feel he has been a sucker for the sacrifice he has made.’”

Both President and Mrs. Roosevelt had thought for a long time about how to guarantee a strong economy in the postwar years, and how to acknowledge the service of the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, wacs, everyone who had fought for his or her country. What they came up with was the GI bill of rights –a legislative project that passed unanimously in both houses of congress, something that promised to “provide the returning veteran with a chance to command the status, education and training he could have enjoyed if he had not served in the military.

So veterans would enjoy a variety of privileges when they returned: the GI bill guaranteed loans for housing; It authorized those unable to find a job right away with a weekly stipend for an entire year. Most importantly from the standpoint of people like my dad, it provided $500/year for college tuition, plus $75/month for living expenses.

In l940, when the average worker who had a job earned just l,000 per year, and when tuition, room and board averaged $453 at state colleges to $979 at private colleges, college education was the “preserve of the privileged few.” The GI bill guaranteed that virtually anyone who qualified for admission could get his college education, and in so doing lifted the educational horizons and achievement of an entire genereation of Americans.

And this postwar group did great things: a Fortune survey of the nationwide class of l949, of which 75 percent were veterans, concluded that it was “the best, most mature, the most responsible, the most self-disciplined group of college students in history.”

So people in the country were proud of having prevailed in the war, having prevailed over depression and privations, and they were happy and engaged with new opportunities.


But inevitably, beneath the hoo-rahing and new life-making and transitioning and prosperity, there was a vague uneasiness. By the late l940s, it had dawned on people that their great victory in the World War was complete, that they had vanquished Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, only to find themselves at odds with their former ally, the Soviet Union. Nazi Germany had repressed and enslaved and murdered people, and we had taught them a lesson, beaten them. Now….our former ally was doing the same thing…what had happened?

Americans had gotten used to thinking about the Soviet Union in benevolent ways:

--our gallant Russian allies who had a revolution just like we did.
--our brothers in arms who have created a new type of society where the “radio has no commercials.”
n a nation way over there somewhere that was led by a man we called “uncle Joe” stalin who was known to bounce children on his knee.

Now they learned, or at least those who read the paper learned, that this same nation was doing underhanded, sneaky, sometimes openly outrageous things—it had returned to an earlier incarnation, the crusading, hostile, revolutionary entity of the l920s, maybe.

--harassing non-Communists in the e. European states
--making mischief in Greece and Turkey, to the point that President Truman had to proclaim the Truman doctrine to combat them
--imprisoning religious leaders, such as Cardinal Mindzenty in Hungary.

People were confused, at the very least, and a little angry: they were asking two questions:

a) how did this happen?
b) are we in any danger from these developments here?

This anxiety expressed itself in several tangible ways:

--efforts on the part of some civil and business leaders to circle the wagons a little bit, promote what they called “unity,” “americanism,” “American strengths,” Everyone should be united in faith and patriotism and condemn Communism.

--Two advertising agencies, namely the Joint Committee on Economic Education for the Nation and the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge(EF Hutton and D.D. Eisenhower), launched a crusade to publicize the virtues of the American economy(free enterprise)and created an awards scheme to reward those who “revere and promote democracy.”

First winner: Housewife for her “freedom chocolate chip cookies” and her “recipe for freedom.”

In September l948…KC Missouri held “Democracy beats Communism” week—a week-long, city-wide comparison of the American and Soviet systems.

Goal: to convince Missourians that “one of the major threats to the democratic institutions of this country is the failure of many of its citizens to understand the basic principles of the “antagonistic philosophies that have come to threaten them
They had city council members and selected citizens study the fundamentals of the Soviet and American governments for six months, then those who had studied up fanned out to spread the word in high schools, unions, service clubs and on the radio. Their message? “Americans won’t buy Communism if they know what they are getting.”

Of course, any anxiety in the body politic will always be picked up and acted upon by politicians, especially young, ambitious ones. Take the case of one Richard Milhous Nixon:

The Republican Party in l946 was massively frustrated. It had been out of power since l932. It was hard-pressed to find an issue to run on; St. Franklin Roosevelt had cured the nation’s ills, led it through the war, and Harry S. had picked up where St. Franklin had left off…

What to do?? You have to have an issue to run on.

There were several options, the most attractive of which was to latch on to the Communist threat, all the trouble the Soviet Union was causing in Europe.
The other party hadn’t caused this, but the worsening of relations and the breakup of the allies had occurred on the Democrats’ watch…so the questions came from candidates: Whose fault is divided Europe? Who in the country is sympathetic to the Communists, maybe is helping them out, in the government, in the media, in the schools, wherever?!

This was the general direction of the thoughts southern California Republicans as they searched for a good candidate to run against the democratic incumbent, Jerry Voorhis.
They found one in a young graduate of Duke Law School, a Whittier, California boy and Whittier College alumni, named Richard Milhous Nixon, who was destined to be front and center through most of the great cold war struggles from the Congress, as a private citizen, and eventually as President of the US.

Nixon had just been discharged from the service, and his lifelong ambition was to get into politics. Nixon was tough, hard-working, smart and determined, as you will see. He’s also a good California boy in that he recognized a wave, the issue of Communism and its dangers to America, and rode it with skill, all the way through his campaign for Congress, to victory.

Just as the Communist issue had caught the attention of Nixon and other politicians, veteran and otherwise, so it began to show up on the Congressional Agenda.
Nixon’s first committee assignment was to something called the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC.

This was actually established in l938 by Democrats to uncover “malign, foreign influences in the United States;” after l946, it passed into the hands of Republican members.
Their agenda seemed to be to prove that Democrats had allowed “Communist subversion” to reach alarming levels.

The Movie Industry—Hollywood—was the first target. The charge was that Communists had so infiltrated Hollywood that American films were being tainted with Soviet propaganda, deliberate attempts to soften the brains of Ams and make them susceptible to Communist propaganda. Committee members began to investigate the issue of Communism in Hollywood labor unions, and they were given the names of ten screenwriters who were members of the Communist Party. They never hid it. The committee summoned them to Washington to submit to questioning; these ten screenwriters, who later became known as the “Hollywood Ten,” refused to testify and openly ridiculed and condemned the process. They pointed out that it was not illegal to be a Communist, and that there was no proof that they had done anything subversive. Congress held them in contempt; all of them went to prison for 6 months in l950.

The screenwriters’ guild, in its wisdom, declared that none of them would ever work in Hollywood until and unless they were acquitted of contempt charges and declared they were not Communists.

So essentially, these guys’ careers were over because they allegedly belonged to the Communist Party, which was never illegal. The original ten never really recovered from this ordeal; there were others blacklisted for being affiliated with the ten, like Barbara Bel Geddes, did recover, but it took awhile for them to find work.

The Hollywood Ten investigation was pretty much a disgrace to everyone involved. The next big investigation was a lot more controversial, and it involved newly-minted Congressman Nixon. HUAC also was investigating possible subversion in government, whether people sympathetic to the Soviet Union at any time in their lives were in positions of power in influence. In so doing, members charged a high-ranking State Department official, Alger Hiss, with disloyalty. Alger Hiss had been an aide to Franklin Roosevelt, a close aide, and had been with him at the Yalta Conference. In other words, the committee members alleged that there was a mole at the highest echelons of the American government.

The source for this allegation was Whittaker Chambers, a self-described “former communist” who told the Committee that Hiss had passed him classified documents—the famous “pumpkin papers,” so called because they were hidden under a pumpkin in a patch.

Nixon really latched onto this case, went after it with tenaciousness, as you wil see here. He was convinced that hiss was lying. Some would say it was an honest passion, some would call it “witch hunt…
Hiss was never convicted of espionage; he WAS convicted of perjury, because it was demonstrated that he HAD known Whittaker chambers.

But the case was and is controversial—

Soviet archivists, people who went through the foreign ministry archives, repeatedly have maintained that there was nothing about Alger Hiss anywhere in those collections. HOWEVER, a couple of ex-Soviet agents said they had had contacts with Alger Hiss. There is no proof, but they maintain that they knew Hiss. It was subsequently proven that Alger Hiss’s typewriter actually produced the documents that whittaker chambers found in the pumpkin patch. BUT those documents never turned up anything that couldn’t be found in the public records, and later an fbi man who said that a typewriter could not be used in a forgery was found to be lying under oath.


The general feeling of these first years of the domestic cold war is that the Communist world appears to be on the march, where we are treading water, that they have dynamism and the ability to control events, where we don’t seem to; that they appear to be speaking with one voice, where we have a lot of loud people here demanding explanations and answers.

It was only going to get worse, for a number of reasons: First, the SOVIET UNION GOT THE ATOMB BOMB.

Previous to that, having the bomb gave the US a degree of security, a degree of certainty that the Soviet Union would be constrained by the knowledge that the US could use the bomb against them if it so desired. For example, when the Soviet Union sought to control Berlin in l948, the Soviets felt secure in shutting off the city, but shrank from aggressive actions, like shooting down an American plane. That all changed, of course, in August l949, when the Soviet Union, after years of frenzied work and experimentation, exploded its own bomb.

Almost immediately, the Soviet Union felt secure in giving its blessing to Kim Il-Sung in his quest to invade south Korea and forcibly unite it with the Communist north.

When Stalin and the Soviet Union got that bomb, and immediately sanctioned an aggressive war in Korea, it certainly sent a message to people here that the United States could become a target.

Stalin could target an American city and use his a-bomb. Some people called that unlikely, because that was the end of a big swatch of civilization, and quite possibly the end of the Soviet Union, too, but no one had great confidence in his prudence or good judgment.

So the country was introduced to the concept of learning to live with the threat of the bomb. Some manifestations?

The armed forces, in the first years after the Soviet Union got the bomb, began working on a war plan that envisioned WINNING a nuclear war. In other words, launching our own bomb and sending in the infantry either to accompany or FOLLOW the bomb drop(!)

Other institutions, like the public schools in New York state, wondered about preparedness in the event that Americans got hit suddenly—forget offensive operations, how can we play defense, keep from being killed in the event of a sudden attack?

The Public Schools of New York City and Astoria, New York, in connection with the US Civil Defense Agency, pooled the conventional wisdom on the subject in l951 and put together a preparedness video for children and adults. You might have seen it—it’s called “Duck and Cover.”

When Americans were not actively thinking about preparing for nuclear war or a nuclear bomb, they were seeing a lot about it on TV and at the movies, and listening to it on the radio.

As before, “The Twilight Zone,” which debuted in the late 50s, devoted a lot of time to the Cold War, and nuclear war in particular—see episodes entitled “Time enough at last,” “the Shelter,” and “Two.”
In popular music, there were at least four popular songs about the bomb: The Hydrogen Bomb, Atom Bomb Baby, When they Drop the Atom Bomb, followed presently by the Kingston Trio, “The Merry Minuet.” And then, of course, film…the most famous, of course, is Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Love the Bomb, about a nuclear-trigger-happy American general and his Soviet counterpart. ALSO: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD…ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVES—remember, the corpses were resurrected and sent walking mindlessly towards the people in that farmhouse by an underground nuclear test gone awry.

So concern over the nuclear issue, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the idea of using the bomb against someone, having a President who would, maybe, and/or having the bomb dropped on us, is a major preoccupation of the domestic Cold War in America.

Another really big theme on the domestic front in the early cold war years is the threat of Communist invasion and/or takeover of the United States. On the face of it, this seems extremely unlikely, because of geography and the sheer size of the US—it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to invade and hold this place. Nonetheless, Communism seemed to be on the march, and people here clearly entertained the possibility.

Early in the Cold War, in the l940s, you saw the beginnings of patriotic pageantry, in the Freedom Day celebrations, in efforts to promote awareness of the differences between American democracy and Soviet Communism. After the Korean War, there’s going to be a lot more such pageantry, pageantry not just celebrating American democracy but warning against the possibility of Communist invasion or takeover of the country.

The most famous of these took place in Mosinee, Wisconsin. Citizens there, members of the American Legion and the Mayor, decided to give themselves, their whole town, an important lesson about Communism by staging their own mock Communist takeover. The chairman of the committee charged with planning this takeover, a local lawyer named John Decker, thought it would be a great idea to “dramatize the American liberties that would be forfeit in the event of a real Communist invasion of America.” You can access a great site dedicated to this and other manifestations of the Cold War here.

Inevitably, you always get around to politics, because whatever is on the minds of the body politic is going to be on the minds of their elected officials, who after all want to stay elected. Richard Nixon is probably the most prominent anti-Communist in American politics as of l950—the issues are with him, he seems to be on a roll, a national superstar, already a potential vice Presidential or Presidential candidate on the Republican side. But he’s about to be overshadowed, or at least joined at the forefront of American politics, by a man who gave the world one of the most well-used political phrases EVER:

You had Communism, you had Socialism, you had Bolshevism, you had Fascism, you had Nazism, you had Stalinism, Maoism, and a whole bunch more isms. Joseph McCarthy’s late political career and works gave the world “McCarthyism .” a phenomenon that occupied most of the nation’s attention, at least in terms of domestic politics, between l950 and l954.

Joe McCarthy was a good old Irish pol, Irish-American Catholic, from Wisconsin. He was a graduate of Marquette, the Catholic University of Wisconsin, and then its law school by l921. He always wanted to be in politics…he made a couple of unsuccessful runs for state representative as a Democrat, then switched to the Republican party and was elected to a judgeship in l940, after which he ended up in World War II, just like everyone else of fighting age. Once he got home, he began plotting a run for national office, and set his sights on the seat held by Robert Lafollette, one of Wisconsin’s famous political families. He seemed to have no chance, because Lafollette was well-liked and respected, an FDR democrat, but this was l946, a good year for Republicans, and Lafollette took the seat for granted. Ultimately, McCarthy won the race and headed for the Senate.

In the Senate, he was like a lot of freshmen senators—he was an established anti-Communist, like a lot of Irish Catholics because of the treatment of religion and religious people in the Soviet Union, and because he represented people whose relatives now lived in the Soviet bloc states. But he had trouble getting identified with a big issue—almost everyone was concerned with Communism and developments in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. By l950, he was already worried about the l952 election—he had to have an issue to carve out on his own.

In January 1950, he had dinner with some influential Washingtonians, among which was the first dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Edmund A. Walsh. Walsh was an Irish Catholic just like McCarthy, and very well thought of—he was an expert on the Soviet Union. McCarthy asked them what he should do, what they thought he should emphasize, and Fr. Walsh said, “Communists in government.” Look at this, you’ve had the Alger Hiss case, you’ve seen President Truman impose loyalty oaths, and Communism continues to march on. There’s something to that, the idea that there are Communists in government, some people on the inside, in the establishment, selling us out:

Run with it!!

So McCarthy DID run with it. About a month later, he went before a Republican Women’s meeting in Wheeling, West Virginia, and made a sensational charge: “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as Communists and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”

205 people. That was a lot of people, that was a serious charge, and it sounded real—why would you say 205 people if you didn’t have pretty good info?

The State Department promptly challenged McCarthy, after which he changed his tally a bit. In a speech in Denver, he said that he knew of 205 “security risks.”

In Salt Lake City a few weeks later, he revised the tally downwards, to 57, but added “card-carrying Communists” to the 57.

These charges brought forth a lot of reaction…some people were skeptical and angry about them, because the Senator never produced the names, or the documentation for his charges, The New York Times, for example, said, “Senator McCarthy has been giving a good imitation of a hit-and-run driver in his attacks on the state department.” The major paper from his home state of Wisconsin declared, “We suspect that this oratorical spree is cut of demagogic cloth. It is up to the Senate to prove it is NOT.

But McCarthy had a lot of supporters, too. Fellow Irish Catholics certainly supported him, because they hated Communism and cheered on one of their own, ethnic Poles and Czechs and Slovaks certainly supported him, because they felt he was speaking up for their oppressed family members in Soviet bloc Europe, and quite a few people rooted for McCarthy because he was like them—came from a working class family and wasn’t afraid to take on the “establishment,” which consisted of “bright young men born rich, with silver spoons in their mouths.” All of that was important to the people who believed McCarthy. Plus, don’t forget, no one had been able to explain cogently why all these terrible things were happening—the Soviets got the bomb, the Chinese went Communist, Communism on the march in Korea.

So McCarthy’s supporters communicated their feelings to their elected representatives, and the Senate was moved to launch an investigation of the State Department and alleged Communist influence within it.
The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Subversive Influences was the group formed to investigate these charges, and Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland was the chairman. The committee called witnesses, conducted research, did all the things Congressional committees usually do, and after four months, both the majority and minority reports concluded that there was nothing substantial to McCarthy’s charges—there was no evidence of widespread Communist influence in the state department.

But that didn’t stop McCarthy…in fact, it made him MORE popular, because it made him look as if he was a big truthteller, the man who wanted the congress and the nation to know some unpleasant truths, but who got only interference and stonewalling. And even though a lot of newspapers condemned him as a blowhard and a proponent of the Big Lie, the sweeping accusation that you never quite got around to substantiating, quite a few others supported him consistently—like the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Times Herlad, and a number of columnists, like Walter Winchell. They told the world, all the time, that McCarthy was cleansing the Reds out of government.

So McCarthy soldiered on with Communists in government.

Later that year, even though there WAS no evidence, no concrete evidence, of Communism in the State Department, McCarthy attacked the Asia division and its staff, particularly John Service and John Carter Vincent. Those guys had served in China, spoke Chinese, in some cases been advisers to Chaing Kai-Shek, the nationalist leader who was competing for the leadershp of China with Mao. Service and Vincent told everyone who would listen that the US had better be prepared for a Communist victory, that it was going to happen no matter WHAT the US did. Get ready to deal with a Communist China and Mao Tse-tung as leader. This was honest advice based on what they heard, read, saw, personally witnessed. And the Communist takeover came, just as these guys said it would.
In l950, McCarthy charged that those statements PROVED that these diplomats were WORKING FOR THE COMMUNISTS. Why else would they have said something so awful? He raised such a fuss that those two guys, and some of the younger people who worked with them, were dismissed. With them went about l00 years of experience of China-watching and observing. When it came time to decide what to do about Indochina, in other words, Vietnam, there was no one experienced in the store, no one who could give a good assessment of what the chances were of preventing Ho Chi Minh from coming the power. AND McCarthy went on to slander General Marshall, the author of the containment policy and collaborator on the Marshall Plan. He claimed that MARSHALL was an agent of Communist China because of a failed mission to China to try to assess the situation there. He went to China because he’d spent quite a bit of there as an army officer, and had a good idea of what was going on there. He had gone to assess the situation, and came back pessimistic. For that, McCarthy accused him of being an agent of a conspiracy “so immense, and an infamy so black, as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man. “

Again, even though there was no proof of these allegations, they at least for some people provided SOME explanation of why certain things had been happening. You didn’t ask for proof, for tangible evidence; you listened to the charges, you looked at McCarthy—who didn’t look like he aspired to higher office, who didn’t look like a suave senator, who looked like a bulldog, and some people said, “he’s onto something, and he’s roughing up those prissy intellectuals.”

He was so convinced of the rightness of his course that he threw himself into campaigning against Senator Tydings, the guy who had led the first investigation into McCarthy’s charges of Communism in government. Tydings was a Democrat, with a relatively safe seat, popular, well-thought-of…but McCarthy was out in Maryland a lot, explicitly campaigning against Tydings, and using a highly questionable tactic: a doctored photograph, in which Tydings was seemingly talking amicably with Earl Browder, the head of the American Communist Party. The photo was a fake, and in fact Browder had gone out of his way to denounce Tydings as a “reactionary,” but never mind: the allegation was there, Tydings is friendly with Communists.

And Tydings lost, in fact, to his Republican opponent—and McCarthy was judged to have been a factor in his defeat.

From then on, politicians of all stripes paid attention to Joe McCarthy. Some politicians, like Richard Nixon, who was going to be the vice-Presidential nominee with General Eisenhower in l952, used McCarthy-like invective: he called McCarthy’s opponent, whose name was Adlai Stevenson, “a graduate of the Cowardly Communist College of Containment,” for his support of President Truman’s firing of General McArthur. Others just tried to stay out of McCarthy’s way, as General Eisenhower did when he exed out a passage in a campaign speech praising General Marshall. McCarthy had attacked General Marshall, attacked him without foundation, but General Eisenhower was wary of McCarthy’s popular support…

So McCarthy was a kingmaker just a couple of years after his first charges regarding Communists in government. He was a kingmaker, and he had gotten mostly good publicity. But the allegations about internal subversion stretched far beyond McCarthy and Washington—an awful lot of ordinary people had suffered for things that just seemed wildly un-American—like having relatives who read Communist newspapers, or even had “controversial” beliefs, or, like my grad adviser, had a “Russian” or “Slavic” names…

In the SOVIET UNION, there was one big divergence from the postwar experience in the United States, and then more similarities than you might think.

The big difference was in the condition of the country. In the US, things could not have been much more favorable; war had not been fought on our territory; everything was intact. The depression had finally given way to the work-on-all-cylinders in the war.
The GI Bill was giving a whole generation of servicepeople and their families advantages they could never have hoped for before: low-cost loans, assistance with finding a job, and college expenses—tuition, books and board. The worst thing that had happened, aside from the people who had died or were wounded in the war, was the internment of Japanese-Americans. And they were rebuilding their lives right along with the rest of the country, even as political tensions increased and sharpened with developments in the Cold War.

In the Soviet Union, things could not have been more catastrophic.

Some of the worst fighting in Europe had occurred in the western Soviet Union—in Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Stalingrad, but also throughout the borderlands, especially Ukraine, where millions of Jews had lived—and died at the hands of Nazi SS execution squads. Most of European Russia was literally in rubble and ruins. Between 20 and 40 million people had been killed in the war—to this day, we have no exact figure. It could’ve been higher. The material losses were equally staggering. Besides Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Stalingrad, which were either partially or totally destroyed, 70,000—that’s 70,000 villages and 2,000 towns were completely destroyed, along with 32,000 factories and some 40,000 miles of rail track.

As you can imagine, an awful lot of housing was destroyed outside the major cities; consequently, many, many people lived in holes in the ground, in shacks, in improvised shacks, in the Russian winter. Because the damage was so extensive, and the reconstruction needs so great, quite a few of these people lived this way for years.

And there were two crop failures, in l946 and l947, that resulted in a massive famine in the southwestern part of the country, especially Ukraine. Thousands of people died of starvation, and even in the regions not affected, there was severe bread rationing—basically a quarter of a loaf per person per day, maybe less if you weren’t working full-time.

Interview: Martha Mautner, U.S. Embassy, Moscow
"I took a trip down through the Ukraine and it was the time of the '47 famine that was going on down there about which nothing was heard in the outside world. The Soviets were talking about great grain harvests and everything else. We got down there. On the train stops you would see children with distended bellies begging for bread, er, at the Odessa itself, people lying out on the streets outside the hospitals where they couldn't take them in, starving to death. There was malnutrition everywhere."


So there was no return to normal in the Soviet Union. In fact, there would be nothing “normal” in most people’s lives for a decade or more, if ever, unless you were one of the privileged few people high up in the Communist Party.

But there WAS a disturbing similarity in one sense: both governments took advantage of the growing Cold War, the death of wartime unity, for their own purposes.

In America, it was the legislative branch, the Congress, seizing upon the indignation over the Soviet Union and divided Europe, began looking for Soviet sympathizers, Soviet spies or agents, Communist Party members in the government and Hollywood. The House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings in which Communist Party members were summoned and questioned about their activities and belief.

The implication was that somehow, belonging to the Communist party in the past, or the present, or advocating policies that were in any way associated with Communism, were somehow responsible for divided Europe and a nuclear soviet Union.

For their beliefs, or things they had believed in or done in the past and could not change, people went to prison or had their lives seriously altered.

All of this was maybe understandable since the underlying factor was fear, but it was mostly unforgivable because this IS the United States of America, home of the first amendment, AND because it was largely driven by politicians trying to gain and stay in power. That happens in a two-party system, but it doesn’t mean you have to like it or admire it.

Well, the same kind of dynamic was at work in the Soviet Union, except that it was all the work of the be-all and end-all, the man who was the executive, legislative and judicial branch, all rolled into one: Stalin. Here, in the US, the charge was always: Commsymp, Communist, stooge. Anything related to the Soviet Union, its government or politics was immediately suspect, in some cases openly reviled. There, in the Soviet Union, the bogeyman was…the countries west of Berlin, in first place the US of A. These nations were definitely public enemy number one, with US leading the parade of scoundrels.

The Soviet equivalent of the House Un-American Activities Committee—basically the Communist Party apparatus and its many toadyist minions--got started just as soon as the war in Europe ended.

First, a great many people who found themselves—for whatever reason—in the west, especially Berlin, at the end of the war were arrested soon after returning from the war. These could be, and were, soldiers, people who had fought all the way from Moscow and Leningrad all the way to Berlin, people who had seen years of action. They could be people taken against their will to Germany, for forced labor. Lots of people in Ukraine were forced into cattle cars and taken to work in factories, as slaves. Lots of children ended up there, too, taken to be subjected to medical experiments, since Slavic people were not considered fully human.

These people were arrested after they came back and charged under article 58.1a, anti-Soviet agitation. Ten years at hard labor. Or they could be former prisoners of war, also taken against their will. Their problem was, they were given orders very early in the war, when Stalin’s back was against the wall, NOT to be taken alive. They were to die fighting, by Stalin’s order number 270. Those who violated this order, and were taken prisoner, were arrested after they got home and charged under article 58.1b, anti-Soviet agitation. They got 10 years at hard labor, too.

Interview: Martha Mautner, U.S. Embassy, Moscow
"We had a maid whose husband was a prisoner of war. When he finally was repatriated and came back, it was a great reunion, and life was wonderful again, the family was reunited. Six months later he was arrested because he had been a German prisoner of war."

The rationale here was “contamination by virtue of being in a capitalist country,” even a destroyed one. You were tainted by exposure to the enemy, so you would have to do some hard time before you were re-admitted to the greatest place ever known to man.
Unofficially, Soviet leaders were afraid that these people had figured out that even in its destroyed state, Europe had better living conditions and a higher standard of living than Soviet people did, even though those Soviet people were living in the so-called “workers’ paradise.” And people with these impressions have to be removed for awhile.

As relations with the west, and especially with the United States, got worse, the focus of Stalin’s scapegoating, the people he held responsible for the worsening of the postwar situation, got more specific.

One of the most prominent organizations in the Soviet Union during World War II was the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Everyone knew that Nazi Germany was waging a war largely based on racism and concepts about the innate superiority of some peoples over others. The Jews were the lowest of the low, in Hitler’s opinion.
Stalin understood this, and so he organized some prominent Soviet Jews, like Solomon Mikhoels, to go to the west to represent the Soviet Union and raise funds for the gallant Soviet people, who were doing so much to fight Nazi racists in Europe. Representatives were in the United States and Britain through most of the war, doing interviews, giving benefit concerts and readings and making all kinds of public appearances. They were very popular and very successful in raising money.
Well, after the war, the United States and Great Britain became very unpopular in the Soviet Union, because they dropped the atom bomb, tried to deny the Soviet Union its due, were hostile. So members of this committee, and by extension many Jews in the country, would have to accept part of the blame for how things had gone bad.

The first victim was Mikhoels himself; he was lured to a meeting in Minsk to discuss the publication of a play he had written. Stalin had ordered the secret police to do away with Mikhoels, and they did—when he arrived, the secret police took him away in a car, strangled him and then arranged for a truck to run over the body. After which, the secret police, on Stalin’s orders, announced in the newspapers that Mikhoels had been exposed as an American spy and had been hit by a car as he tried to escape Soviet police!

After this announcement, the hunt was on for Mikhoels’ accomplices, the people who had helped him spy for America.

Everyone who had worked with Mikhoels on the Anti-Fascist Committee was arrested and shot; Jewish newspapers and literatures were confiscated and burned; Jews were thrown out of high schools and universities and arrested. This was all leading to some stunning conclusion, but we won’t see that until just before Stalin finally dies.

So—why is the world disrespecting the Soviet Union now? Why are America and Britain so unjustly opposing the Soviet Union in its peaceful projects everywhere? Why, it’s because of these JEWS—that was the thinking in the Kremlin.

Then there were the Soviet citizens who committed the sin of socializing with people from the Soviet Union’s allies during the war. As we all know, there were westerners in the Soviet Union during and just after the war. The US had pilots flying in supplies to Siberia, unloading lend-lease cargo way up north and various and sundry other people in other places, all on official assignments, of course. French and British people were there, too. Inevitably, because these were soviet allies, they came into contact with Soviet people. It was typically a western guy and a Russian woman, because there weren’t any Women’s Army Corps types in the Soviet Union. Anyway, after the war, and relations with the west worsened, Stalin added another category to the criminal code: Foreigners’ girl friends, who were subject to arrest and imprisonment under a new article of the Soviet criminal code: SDE, Socially Dangerous Element.

It should’ve been obvious to everyone that relationships between western men and Soviet women was directly responsible for the atom bomb, the Marshall plan and the determination of the west to contain Communism wherever it had spread. That’s the way it was in Stalin’s universe. SOMEONE was to blame, and it certainly wasn’t him.

After l948 and the Berlin airlift, in which the United States successfully defeated Stalin’s attempt to take Berlin all for himself, still more punitive measures were cooked up for Soviet citizens who had committed offenses against their country.

This time, it was anyone who was heard to say a good word for America, maybe soldiers sitting around reminiscing about meeting up with Americans somewhere, somehow, and someone saying the Americans were good guys, or maybe someone who said Lend-Lease Aid saved their children or their family. Those individuals were charged with PAD—Praise of American Democracy.

Then, let’s say you had worked somewhere unloading American supplies from lend-lease, maybe trucks or machine parts. You made some remark to a co-worker to the effect that, hey, I remember those American trucks and they were really great.
If you were overheard by someone who was listening deliberately, and chances are you would be, you might be arrested for PAT—Praise of American Technology.

Or, if they couldn’t get you on either of those counts, maybe just thought that you were too much the non-conformist, too independent, not enough of a cheerleader for Stalin, there was always the catch-all: TW, Toadyism towards the West.

Now, before the war, there had been arrests like these…in the early years of Hitler, they used to arrest people studying German, because they should’ve been able to see the future and know that this was the language of the enemy, or later Japanese. But in the prewar, the unfortunates convicted only got TEN years. After l948, Stalin got serious about this, and people convicted of PAD, PAT and TW got…TWENTY-FIVE years(!!)…

But, as someone said once with a straight face, "Yes, we had Stalinism. But YOU had McCarthyism(!)..."

466 midterm #2

Here it comes again, look out...466 Midterm 2:

History 466/Cold War/2nd midterm for December 13, 2007

Directions Part I: While I am painting the Square Red(er, anyway) in the former enemy capital—Moscow-- here is something to keep you off the streets and out of trouble prior to December l3. As usual, prepare all the questions—unless you’re lucky and/or clairvoyant--using material from reading, lectures, videos, and any outside reading you have done. You will write on ONE at the exam, plus part II, the little diversion on CW geography.

1There is a famous episode of the old series “Twilight Zone” entitled, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” A synopsis would go as follows: the residents of Maple Street are suddenly plagued with scary, inexplicable phenomena: electricity going on and off, cars starting spontaneously, strange lights flashing. Residents become increasingly panicked and focus their worry and anger on “strange” people in the neighborhood with offbeat habits, knowledge or beliefs. The upshot is that a teenage boy is killed by an overwrought adult brandishing a gun. The scene then cuts to a spaceship and a couple of aliens looking satisfied. One says, “We didn’t need to invade them: all we had to do is flash a few lights, make’em a little scared, and they destroy themselves.”

It is said that Rod Serling wrote this episode in the mid-50s with recent events in the Cold War fresh in his mind. What events might have served as an inspiration for this story?

2)We all have a tendency to associate the Cold War with barbed wire, occupation troops and shows of military hardware in faraway places, like Red Square in Moscow. Yet the Cold War came home in a big way, here to the United States as well to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Write an essay in which you discuss some of the ways in whice the Cold War affected the lives of ordinary people in the United States and the Soviet Union/Eastern Europe. Take care with this, be selective, because you’re dealing with a very broad question.

3) In his memoir of the Kennedy White House, Thirteen Days, Robert F. Kennedy spoke of the importance of knowing your adversary’s interests(national and personal) in trying to resolve a crisis. First, explain in general terms what Khrushchev’s and Kennedy’s interests were, heading into their confrontations. Then take TWO from among of the following—the Bay of Pigs, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missle Crisis—and evaluate how each advanced/or defended, or failed to advance/defend, those interests.

Directions Part II, short answer(10%), Cold War Geography: Spin the globe and find the 38th and l7th parallels. What do they mark, and why are they important in the big scheme of things?

Pithy Quote to Give the Exam a Ringing Ending: "Good night, and Good luck!"...E.R. Murrow

Friday, November 16, 2007

Resources for the "Giant Samovar"

Here's a terrific site dedicated to the Church of Christ the Savior, the outsized, horizon-dominating tribute to the Russian victory over Napoleon that was born on the Christmas after l8l2, finished in l883, blown up in l931, and resurrected between roughly l987 and l997. It has had quite an eventful life, I think you will agree. But what else would you expect from a Russian church?

I had forgotten about this one until just now, when it popped up on my bookmarks just above the previous site. You should absolutely go there, too, because the authors give you the entire history of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, lavishly illustrated, plus a lot of contemporary material, including an icon/portrait of the martyred Nicholas II and family, who are now among the "new martyrs"--victims of Communist tyranny--of the Russian Orthodox church.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

462 midterm #2

Here's the 2nd midterm for Russian History, on which you are free to use all the resources at your disposal. You will hand it in at the final, because you can't study for the final. If that makes any sense, which I'm sure it does not at the moment...the final is a state secret.


History 462
Imperial Russia
2nd Midterm—to be handed in December ll, 2007, at the final because


YOU CAN’T STUDY FOR THE FINAL. YOU JUST CAN’T.

Choose ONE of the following and write a brilliant, literate essay, incorporating material from readings, lecture, websites, video personal explorations, etc.


1)We have seen, and you have written on, the wrenching makeover of parts of Russia into a western-oriented state in the l8th century. The transfer of the capital to St. Petersburg, the making of “new people” and the Catherinian mad purchase of western art for the Hermitage all testify to this fact. In the l9th century, however, we have seen the pendulum swing back towards celebrating specifically Russian language, Russian countryside, Russian culture. Discuss the factors behind this change, and explain how this change was manifested, using evidence that you personally find most interesting(this is, again, a VERY broad topic).


2)Russians are acutely conscious of their history—for good reason—and therefore take great care with remembrances. Write an essay in which you discuss two or three major historical events between 1703 and l9l4 and how Russians chose to commemorate them on the country’s physical and/or cultural landscape.

3) One of the problems with monarchy is that sometimes you get a Peter or Catherine the Great, and other times you get a Paul I or Nicholas II. As Forrest Gump says of his box of chocolates, “you just never know what you’re going to get.” What accounts for Nicholas’s reign being so difficult and problematic from his coronation in l896 to the outbreak of war in l9l4? Use the Radzinsky book on Nicholas in the composition of your answer—he has great insight into this man, who was—tellingly—born on the feast day of Job(!).

Alexander II's monument

There's a great website dedicated to the Church of the Resurrection on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, which is Alexander II's principal monument in the former Russian capital. It has quite an interesting architectural and cultural history, and you can read all about it and go through dozens of historic and contemporary photographs here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sobering stat

Before we leave Armistice Day for another year, anyone know how many British children were left fatherless in World War I? The answer is truly staggering.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Armistice Day Sites of Memory

One of the great things you can do when you go to Europe is visit some of the "silent cities," the innumerable military cemeteries serving as the final resting place for millions of British, French, American, German and colonial troops who fell in the Great War. Here's one of the biggest: Tyne Cot cemetery near Ypres(Ieper), Belgium.

You can visit this one from the comfort of your armchair...btw, the "silent cities" is a phrase from none other than Rudyard Kipling, who lost his only son in the war.

Remembrance Day offering

The most famous English Great War poem, or perhaps the one most often recited now, is Lawrence Binyon's "For the Fallen." It is as much a part of British war commemorations as the cross of sacrifice, or the oft-repeated words on the stones of remembrance, "Their name liveth forevermore." This poem will no doubt be recited tomorrow, at the Cenotaph near Whitehall in London, the site of the yearly Remembrance Day celebrations. The most famous lines, those known by every citizen of the UK, begin, "They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old...," but it is terribly moving in its totality. The United Kingdom lost over a million young men in World War I, most of whom lie in the earth of northeastern France and northwestern Belgium.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Yes, we will remember them.

Don't forget those "shot at dawn" tomorrow

We're in the runup to Veterans' Day here, or if you are in the UK, Remembrance Sunday. Tomorrow is the day to honor the dead of all the conflicts of the bloody century just past--World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the gulf wars--and the one which we've just launched, i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan. There's quite a category of war dead that have been unjustly neglected over the years, namely those unfortunates of World War I who cracked under the strain of constant bombardment, living with corpses in the trenches and pointless and murderous assaults on the enemy across No Man's Land. Some of these soldiers fled the trenches, physically unable to carry on their war service--they were no doubt suffering from what we know today as PTSD. There was no counseling for them, though, no respite in a veterans' hospital--they got a firing squad, often made up of their own comrades.

The families of these soldiers have gone to great lengths to point up the injustice of these executions and clear the names of their loved ones. You can read about their campaign, recently crowned with success in an official exoneration from the British government, here.

Not your garden-variety Veterans' Day experience...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Way beyond the spiritual pale...

I wonder if you can guess which nation sanctioned a religious service at a prominent cathedral in its capital to celebrate 60 years of its...nuclear weapons program(!). Take a guess, then click here to discover the answer. All you can say is, "sick, sick, sick," or maybe, "who would Jesus nuke?"

Sheesh.

Mir isskustva(World of Art...RUSSIAN ART)...

We had an exceedingly nice time in Russian History last night reviewing the beginnings of Russian art in the second part of the l9th century. It began with a revolt by some of Moscow's most promising student painters...they were appalled to be assigned "the entrance of Wotan into Valhalla" as their senior assignment, instead of a uniquely Russian theme in accordance with the liberation of the serfs, the discovery of the countryside, Russian language, etc. These students walked out on their scandalized profs and founded their own school of painting, calling themselves the "Wanderers." They did what their name implied: they wandered the countryside, looking for Russian landscape, Russian people, Russian history. You might say they started a movement there...

Anyway, I promised links to the online galleries, and here they are. The first, and probably the biggest, is simply the Russian Art Gallery. I don't know who founded this site, but it is a wonderful sampling of the best painters from about l860, with special sections on photography and icons. This fellow is particularly fond of the work of the great landscape painter, Isaak Levitan.

You can proceed from there to Olga's gallery, an even bigger exhibit space featuring well-known western artists as well as Russians. All the classics are here, but what you really want is her exhibit on Il'ia Repin, probably the best-known of the Wanderers. The Volga barge haulers, Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan, the portrait of Modest Mussorgsky, all the portraits of his beautiful daughters as well as the rich and famous, are there. Afterward, surf on over to the nifty Repin bio page thoughtfully provided by Rollins College. It offers a great summary and yet another look at some of Russia's most famous painting.

Once you finish with Russian art, take a minute to stop by the Tate Modern online. That's Britain's top gallery and it has a superior virtual presence, complete with art history courses you can take online.

Can official culture vulture status be far behind for you?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Lives of Others

With mid-terms behind me, I was able to watch The Lives of Others this weekend. Scary stuff. The fact that the Stasi could bug an entire apartment in 20 minutes is mind boggling. It's cool that the staunch Stasi guy developed a conscious in the end and that's all I'll say. Well done and so worth the Academy Award.

Now, if you want to see a prime example of French colonialism, check out The Battle of Algiers (yet another movie rec. for another class).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just because...

I know there are so many of you out there who would like the words to the Russian National Anthem of the l9th century, "God Save the Tsar," here it is for you in Library of Congress-certified transliteration:

"Bo' zhe, tsaria' khrani',
sil'nyi, derzhav'nyi,
tsar' stvui na sla'vu, na sla'vu
nam

Repeat the first verse, then

Tsar'stvui na stra'kh vragam',
Tsar' Prav' oslavnyi,
Bo'zhe tsaria', tsaria, khrani!

In the vernacular, that would be...

God, save the Tsar!
(keep him)strong and wise,
Let him rule for the glory of us all!

Rule to frighten our enemies,
O Orthodox Tsar!
God Save the Tsar.


If you want to hear the anthem with the words, go to Google and look for Russian National Anthems page, where you can also find the words and music to several versions of the old Soviet anthem.

Russian History exam...

As if on cue, the Russian History exam unveiled for your inspection: PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE!!!

History 462
Imperial Russia
Midterm exam—for Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Directions Part I(70%): Prepare scathingly brilliant answers to the following questions, using material gleaned from readings, lectures, videos and any outside reading /personal exploration you have done. You will do ONE of them on test day, but you don’t know WHICH one, so…. be prepared, as the Russians say.

Lindsey Hughes talks a lot in her biography of Peter the Great about “Peter’s People.” Write an essay in which you compile a composite sketch of a typical “Peter’s person.” How would you describe his or her world view, political views and personal characteristics? How did he or she differ from his/her predecessors before Peter’s reign?

It was not exactly a secret that Catherine II wished to be remembered as Peter the Great’s true successor. In what ways were the two rulers similar? Where did they differ? Make sure to limit your essay and illustrate it with specific points.

One of the great distinguishing characteristics of both Peter and Catherine was their focus, maybe even their obsession, with Things Western. Where do you see evidence of this in their respective reigns? Again, be careful to limit this to two or three points—people have written voluminous books on this.

Directions Part II(30%): Identify, discuss and GIVE THE SIGNIFICANCE of the following. You will be given a choice among some of these on test day:

Hermitage, “Bronze Horseman,” “I am a student and I seek teachers,” Sophia Alekseevna(Peter’s half sister), lst partition of Poland, “ Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, “ Smol’nyi Institute, Grand Embassy, neoclassicism, patronymic

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Question #1 prep

This question--#1—basically asks you why the US and Great Britain ended up enemies with Stalin's Russia just a year or two after the conclusion of a very successful alliance against Hitler.


To answer this, you have to establish first what happened in l9l7. In that year, Woodrow Wilson took the United States into world affairs with his stated intention of “making the world safe for democracy.” Watching from across the sea, Wilson thought the cause of the dreadful European war was a lack of democracy—people not having a choice in what kind of government they lived in. Wilson thought that if people had input into where they lived and could choose their leaders in elections, there wouldn’t be any more wars.
In that same year, Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Communists took power in Russia and advanced their own utopian vision of the postwar world. They wanted to bring socialist revolution to the peoples of the world. They promised an end to rich and poor, a guaranteed standard of living, justice for those who had had no justice…in exchange for life in a dictatorship, in which a small group of men would make all the decisions for everybody.
These visions were diametrically opposed to one another. The Wilsonian vision required self-determination and elections; the Communist vision aimed to establish a kind of worldwide dictatorship—a dictatorship for the working classes, but a dictatorship nonetheless.
In the l920s and 30s, the conflict between the two nations was less acute, as each nation focused on its domestic priorities. There was even some improvement in the l930s, as the USSR launched a drive for industrialization and appeared to be in much better shape than the US and the capitalist world. Diplomatic relations were established between the two nations in l933. But as World War II approached, Stalin opted for a non-aggression pact with Hitler, which shocked and appalled the US and Britain. It looked like a cynical move designed to advance the Communist revolution, or at least gain a lot of territory.

In the second part, you need to demonstrate what changed. So connect these dots:

USSR invaded by Hitler
The only viable strategy to defeat Hitler: Make him fight on two fronts.
Decision by Great Britain(and later US)to offer the hand of friendship to Stalin

Then consider what had NOT changed in the relationship, connecting these dots, or some of them anyway:

What both nations wanted from the war : Atlantic Charter vs. Stalin’s insistence on control of territories.
The conflict over when to launch the invasion of Europe
Stalin and the USSR coming as liberators, also conquerors.

In the third section, you need to show what happened when Hitler was defeated. Again, connect these dots:

Yalta and Potsdam conferences: conflict over what should happen in E. Europe
Stalin’s reaction to the atom bomb
The dueling speeches of l946 and the demonizing of one side by the other, and vice-versa.


Now sum it up: doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that the two sides had only Hitler in common? The disappearance of Hitler meant the end of commonality between the two sides. It was back to business as usual, i.e. serious and sharp conflict in world views.

Essential website

Everyone bogged down with question #1 on the Cold War exam(see below)should go forthwith to the website dedicated to the prehistory of the Cold War, entitled "Comrades." This is based on the CNN series entitled Cold War. You can find the episode script there, interviews with Geo. Kennan and British diplomat Frank Roberts and other interactive features. For that matter, you can find the same materials relating to the beginning of the Cold War...just review the episode guide and click accordingly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Sputnik!


...not to be confused with "spudnik," our local delicacy...I'm happy to pay tribute to Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev and the l957 launch of the Sputnik satellite. It was a huge coup for the Soviet Union, and ultimately a huge plus for their opponents across the ocean. The U.S. was more than chagrined to be one-upped, so it did a lot of soul-searching and began pouring huge amounts of $$$ into science and area studies education. A couple of generations went to college and graduate school on money earmarked for the training of scientists and Russian linguists/historians/area studies people. It was really important, in other words, not to be outdone by the Soviet Union, and to know the Soviet Union. My grad advisers, Mr. and Mrs. Jelavich--the founders of East European studies in the United States--always reminded all their students to get down on their knees and thank the Lord for Lenin, Stalin and Sputnik. Without them, none of us would have a job!

For Soviet people, I think it's safe to say that was the next to last time they would feel hopeful about the future. Give him credit--Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev had the best of intentions towards them. He really wanted to deliver on all those promises of a better life, of the eventual withering away of the state in Communism. It was hard for him to do anything about a lot of the Soviet Union's problems, but he DID make it possible for a lot of people to live in their own apartments, and he DID give them a lot to shout about by pouring $$$ into high-profile, prestige items like space exploration. The entire Soviet Union rejoiced in Sputnik and they went gaga for Iurii Gagarin in l961. After that, i think it's safe to say the nation sank slowly into pessimism and lethargy(and alcoholism). They lost hope that their revolutionary state would ever raise their standard of living...

So I'll raise an imaginary glass to Nikita Sergeevich, his bluster and bragging, and Sputnik! They have made my life so much more interesting.

The illustration is from a booklet published in l961, "USA-USSR in figures." It purports to show the Soviet people taking off in a jet airplane in terms of their industrial output and living standards, while the Americans stand in slack-jawed disbelief. Oh well, I guess it made people feel better at the time.

Actual Good News(!)

There IS good news on the dismal world political landscape...if the Myanmar/Burma crisis tells us anything, it's that being tyrannical and repressive isn't nearly as easy as it used to be. In fact, it is just about impossible in the age of blogs, "pigeons" and the cell phone camera. So if you are planning on becoming a totalitarian ruler, a full-blown tyrant, fuhgeddaboutit, you'll have to find a more promising line of work. Too late for you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Truman's March l947 speech

Harry S. Truman's speech of March l947, in which he asked Congress for $400 million to help defend Greece and Turkey against Communist aggression, is considered to be the foundation of the Truman Doctrine. Truman was at best a journeyman orator, so the delivery wasn't anything special, but the words mean a lot. Click here to read this milestone address.

The(Really)Long Telegram

If you want to read George Kennan's famous "Mr. X/Long Telegram/Sources of Soviet conduct" speech, you can access it here.

Monday, October 1, 2007

466 summary--the European World War II

Happy October! Happy Upcoming Sputnik anniversary!

Here is a summary of developments taking place in Cold War over the last couple of weeks:

We left off with Stalin and the Russians’ having allied with Nazi Germany, so as to be able to stay out of war, and(just incidentally, of course)pick up some key territories they had lost in the various peace settlements that ended World War I: the Baltic nations(Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), west Ukraine/Eastern Poland(depending on your point of view), and a swatch of disputed Romanian territory known as Bessarabia. Plus, the Soviet Union agreed to a series of raw material shipments to Germany, which fueled Hitler’s efforts in the blitzkrieg war against France and the low countries in l939-40.

This was on paper a great deal for both countries: Hitler bought off the Soviet Union for his invasion of Poland, and Stalin not only avoided war, he was able to reclaim lost lands for the Soviet Union. Moreover, when he got back his part of Poland, he was able to use the NKVD to kill off the Polish Home Guard, the most intelligent and accomplished men in Polish society—a big help, he thought, in making Poland a permanent part of the Soviet sphere of influence. But there were storm clouds on the horizon. Hitler’s agreement with Stalin was designed to buy Germany time to secure its rear—conquer all the countries that could cause him trouble if he moved farther east—and bring closer his dream of conquering part of the Soviet Union for the great German people, whom he believed to be crowded and shut into their current borders. When evidence began to emerge that Hitler would soon doublecross Stalin and invade Russia—diplomats leaving Moscow in droves, ships departing St. Petersburg, German infantry massing on the border—Stalin refused to take action. Hitler, he believed, would never do something so dastardly. The result was that the ensuing invasion on June 22, l941, caught the Soviet people completely unawares. Thousands died in the initial bombing raids, and nearly the entire Soviet air force was destroyed.

Needless to say, when the Soviet Union was attacked, Winston Churchill and Great Britain knew they would have to bring Stalin onto their team. If Hitler captured Russia, the entire world would be looking down the barrel of a big German gun, and the way to defeat Germany is to make it fight on two fronts. Therefore Churchill offered Stalin an alliance, and Stalin took it—when he recovered from his mini-meltdown just after the invasion took place. The United States still sat on the sidelines, but did offer Lend-Lease aid to Britain and the USSR: food, vehicles, war materiels, that sort of thing.

We all know the war eventually found the US on December 7, l941, with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Once the US declared war on Japan, a German ally, Hitler declared war on the US, which brought the US into the European as well as the Pacific war. Now the US, Great Britain and the USSR became a sort of grand alliance against Hitler. They were an unlikely threesome, in that their systems had been diametrically opposed to one another since l9l7, but all three faced mortal peril from Hitler. It was clear what the strategy had to be: the US and Britain would invade Europe from the west, chasing Nazi invaders back to Germany, and the Russians would do the same from the east. The two sides would rendezvous in Berlin for the final defeat of the Nazi regime.

Despite the evidence of shared purpose in the alliance, there were hints of trouble ahead. The US and Britain announced their war objectives—nearly identical to Woodrow Wilson’s l4 Points-- in the Atlantic Charter of l941. The focus was as usual: self-determination for all affected peoples, open borders, free trade, the traditional democratic/capitalist values. Stalin made no declarations, but he did hint at what he wanted from the war when he told a British diplomat sent to boost morale that he wanted “at a minimum, the territories won in the Nazi-Soviet pact.” We also know from Milovan Djilas that he intended to bring the Soviet system to all territories he liberated from Nazi rule.

At the very least, it was difficult to see how these two views of the postwar world would be reconciled.

The timing of the launch of the Allied invasion into Europe also caused trouble between the US and Britain and Stalin. Understandably, Stalin wanted a second front opened immediately, in order to take the pressure off the eastern front, where Russian troops faced the full strength of the Wehrmacht. When that did not happen, largely due to the US and Britain’s having been basically disarmed in the l920s and 30s, Stalin read it as the western powers’ desire for Russians to bleed themselves white, so that the Soviet Union could be invaded and toppled after the war. No explanations from the Allies succeeded in altering this view, despite their clear lack of preparedness for war, and it remains a hot issue for Russians even today.

When the Normandy invasion finally did come in June l944, the Russians were well on their way to Berlin. They had come nearly halfway across Poland and the other states bordering the Soviet Union. They came as liberators, in that they were the first to reach the death camps in Poland, but they also came as conquerors, bringing with them the basis for “friendly(that is, COMMUNIST)” governments in the states they liberated. When the three allied nations met at Yalta in February l945, there was disagreement about the status of Poland, and by extension all the other Soviet-liberated territories: Great Britain and France insisted that they be allowed to choose their leaders and their destiny; Stalin insisted on his right to impose “friendly” governments, since Russia had suffered invasion through these states twice in the 20th century. Eventually, the issue was dropped, because both sides realized Stalin would probably have his way there. His army was in full control of those territories, and at least Roosevelt still needed Stalin’s help in ending the war in the Pacific.

Thus, on VE Day—Victory in Europe Day—the allies were still united and euphoric in their triumph over Hitler and most powerful army ever, but the cracks in the united front were showing already. Those cracks would widen to become a chasm, approximating the physical and political differences between Soviet-liberated Europe and American/British-liberated Europe.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Required Reading(part 2,345)...

If you are interested in the current state of affairs in Putin's Russia, you need to take time to read David Remnick's portrait of Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player of all time who now leads the organized opposition to the Putin "tsardom." It is a remarkable article on many counts--it's a life-and-times article, giving you a great idea of what has made Putin so popular there, and it also makes several very good points, e.g. how much mileage Putin has gotten worldwide out of portraying himself as morally superior to George W. Bush and the United States. This demonstrates remarkable chutzpah, coming from a former KGB-torture-central man, but it's harder to refute him now in view of Guantanamo and the "unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country," a.k.a. the Iraq war.

For those who don't know Remnick, he also authored the best book about the Gorbachev era and the end of the Soviet Union: "Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire." Both the current article and the book are REQUIRED reading for people who want to be au courant, in the know, sparkling at cocktail parties, etc., so go get both of them. You have the link to the article above. And this is the CORRECT link, rather than the one to which i originally directed you earlier today.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cold War Culture: Sputnik 'n us

This week, we will be observing the 50th anniversary of the sensational launch of Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth. Because the Soviet Union accomplished this feat, and we didn't, it had all kinds of interesting effects...not least of which was its invasion of American popular culture in the l960s. Why, it gave you the priceless family associated with "Their Boy, Elroy," and Doctor Smith and the arm-waving robot of Lost in Space, and a lot more. Read this nifty essay here. "Danger, Doctor Smith! Danger!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

466 midterm...

Here is the midterm for Cold War...the questions aren't hard, I had no trouble with them whatsoever. Some of the material you will use for this is yet to come, so no need to panic.

History 466
Cold War
Midterm exam…for October 11, 2007


Directions Part I(60%): Prepare the following questions, taking care to support your answers with specific names, facts, dates, etc. On test day, you will answer ONE, but you do not know WHICH one, so prepare them all(unless you are clairvoyant)


A)In the Ken Burns documentary “The War,” viewers learn about the titanic struggle between the US, Great Britain and the USSR on the one hand and Germany, Italy and Japan on the other in World War II. Victory was a team effort, requiring a common strategy, coordination and millions of casualties. How did it happen that this “marriage” ended in divorce, with victorious allies becaming bitter enemies, glowering at each other across barbed-wire borders, just a couple of years after that happy meeting in Berlin? In other words, how did we get a nasty, antagonistic Cold War after the successful conclusion of the Hot War?

B)We have looked at both the American and the Soviet point of view about the disagreements attending the end of World War II. In this essay, put yourself in the shoes(well, maybe “position,” Soviet shoes weren’t that comfortable)of a Soviet citizen circa l945 and explain why you believe your leader, Stalin, took absolutely the right course of action in the latter stages of World War II and the immediate postwar.

C) When it became evident that Stalin and the USSR had designs on territories beyond those they had liberated in the war, how did the United States respond? Describe the strategy President Truman and his aides fashioned to counter this threat.


Part II: Identifications(40%). Identify, discuss briefly and give the significance of the following. You will do FOUR of FIVE on test day(I get to pick the five): Atlantic Charter, Nazi-Soviet Pact l939, Stalingrad, “second front,” Potsdam and Yalta conferences, Poland, Berlin, “Iron Curtain,” “Long telegram.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A great companion

If you've been watching the Burns series, you should absolutely go have a look at links the PBS site has listed for the study of World War II. From individual memoirs to heavyweight document collections, there's something for every armchair internet researcher or student of the second war to end all wars...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Postcards from the(Russian)empire

I had forgotten to mention this earlier, but anyone with an interest in St. Petersburg should visit the Russian National Library website and browse their online collection of old postcards and sketches of the second Russian capital. If you like what you see, email them and say so--we could use more exhibits like this one of materials basically unavailable here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mystery!

Read the following and take a guess about the identity of the subject: who IS this controversial individual?

Julie Kavanagh's biography is about a man who danced like a god, but behaved like a violent, voracious beast. ________ was fond of portraying himself as a barbarian invader, a Tatar who relished the savagery of the Polovtsian dances in Borodin's Prince Igor. He disliked Jews, he explained, because he was an ersatz Arab. Further back, he claimed to be descended from wolves. John Huston wanted to cast him as the snake, the 'homo-reptile' that introduces sin to Eden, in his film The Bible; Francois Truffaut called him a 'man-animal', a wild child who resisted socialisation.

But despite his feral tantrums, interspersed with indiscriminate spending sprees and a sex life that was like a gabbling multiplication game, __________ emerges from this affectionate, acutely perceptive book as someone whose nonsense and neuroses had to be tolerated because his conflicts fed his creativity. Long after ________'s leaps, twirls and feats of athletic transcendence have faded in the memories of those who witnessed them, Kavanagh's achievement is to persuade us that he deserves our compassion as well as our applause.

No cheating, now...give it the old college try!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

REAL Must See T.V.

I'd like to urge everyone to set aside time for(or set your vcr/dvd to record)Ken Burns' documentary on World War II, entitled simply "The War." It was such a huge event with such far-reaching consequences, virtually everyone of a certain age knows WHAT war--it was the defining event of the last century. It's set to begin this coming week on your local PBS station...if you're reading this in the great Mid-Columbia, you can check times and see previews here.

It's one of those required viewings...

Monday, September 10, 2007

9/11/2001-9/11/2007

Tuesday is the 6th anniversary of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Six years later, I am still so sad for all the innocents who lost their lives after walking out of their dwellings and going to their jobs. I still can't fathom people who hate people they don't know more than they love themselves and their own lives, even though we see these kinds of people throughout history. I remain stupefied by that degree of animus.

I think, though, that life practically commands us to make something of this catastrophe, to do something to make it somehow less appalling, to repair some of the damage it did to the world. Since I can't change the world, only myself and my immediate milieu, all I can do is try to draw some lessons to apply to my own life. I'm not anywhere near as eloquent as Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, but he came close to expressing what I "made" of the tragedy. These remarks come from the transcript of the PBS documentary "New York: the Center of the World," the last in the epic documentary history of New York done by Ken Burns:

" Teilhard de Chardin, great French Jesuit paleontologist and a philosopher, said that one of the tricks in life is to convert everything into good. He makes the reference of the stone. You're a sculptor and you have a stone, and the stone has a scar in it. And well, all right, so now you have to -- sculpt around that scar and you've got to use that scar to make it part of whatever it is you're going to produce that's beautiful, and work with what you have. Play it as it lies. (You know.) So whatever the circumstance, (you know) use it for good purpose. 9/11, how can you possibly use it for good purpose? You think about it. You'd think, as was suggested before, you'd think about: Look, what this reminds you of is the importance of your own life, and making the most of it, because you can lose it in a flash. And if that's all you learned from 9/11, that's all you remembered, that: My God, you could extinguish life so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and it could happen to me, and therefore I should think harder about the way I spend my life instead of just wasting it. Now, it's not going to teach you what to do with your life, but it will teach you to do with your life, and to do it more and quicker and better. And that can be extremely valuable. I -- It's had that effect on me."

I hope everyone, today and every day, will remember to "carpe diem"...those who died six years ago in the blink of an eye never suspected their lives would end in a matter of minutes.

What lessons have you drawn from 9/11?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

466 summary

For the terminally confused, or those a little bit unsure of the course of events between l9l8-l939, here is summary #1 for Cold War:



In these introductory sessions, we have tried to establish that the Cold War actually began a long time before l945. In l9l7, President Woodrow Wilson took the United States into World War I, declaring his intention not just to bring peace, but to “make the world safe for democracy.” That was a very ambitious plan. The same year, in October, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik(Communist) party seized power in Russia, announcing their own grand scheme: to bring to the world a socialist revolution, in which landowners, factory owners and rich people of all stripes would be deposed in favor of peasants and workers and the dispossessed of the earth. The Bolshevik vision was hostile to Wilson’s, in that the bedrocks of “democracy,” as Wilson understood it—free markets, private property, etc.—precluded a lot of what the Bolsheviks wanted, e.g. deposing all wealthy people and creating a world in which no one had an excess of money or resources.

These two visions came into direct conflict in l9l8-l9l9. First, the Bolsheviks appeared to be realizing their objective of bringing revolution to the world with brief successes in Hungary and Germany. These revolutions were short-lived and ultimately brutally crushed, but they frightened the leaders and citizenry of the two countries. Then, the American and British decided to send an intervention force to north Russia. The official reason was to guard ammunition stores sent by the American and British governments to the previous Tsarist government during the war. Unofficially, it was hoped that the appearance of the troops would strike fear into the hearts of the Bolsheviks, and/or that the troops would be able to engage the Bolsheviks and defeat them militarily. After the Bolshevik demise, in theory, there would emerge an acceptable non-Communist government. The intervention failed to dislodge the Bolsheviks, and the intervention troops returned home. But the Soviet Union and its citizens never forgot about it and viewed it as a hostile act, an attempt to destroy their revolution and their new society. Because of this, a lot of scholars say the Cold War began with the north Russian intervention of l9l8.

After l9l8, the active hostility between the two nations waned. The Soviets had a tremendous challenge in establishing their regime, dealing with the consequences of the civil war that followed the revolution, trying to teach a largely illiterate citizenry to read and attempting to decide who would lead them—Vladimir Lenin, the leader, died in l924 and there was no clear successor. Officially, the leadership still believed in bringing the revolution to the entire world, but most people knew this would be impossible for a long while. In the United States, there was widespread disillusionment with foreign affairs, since the World War had ended so badly and President Wilson’s campaign on behalf of the League of Nations and the Versailles peace treaty had failed. Neither nation engaged much with the other.

In the late l920s and l930s, relations improved somewhat. The United States experienced the stock market crash and quickly became mired in a terrible economic depression. At the same time, the new Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, launched a crash industrialization drive in the Soviet Union, which was draconian, even cruel in its intensity and scope, but which did achieve tangible results, at least at first. Some Americans went to the Soviet Union to work on the industrial campaign and were impressed with the enthusiasm and zeal; others read a lot about the USSR and concluded that it represented the future, since capitalism appeared to be dead. For their part, the Soviets often talked of their industrial plant as being a “second America,” and they modeled several of their industrial enterprises after industrial cities in the U.S., e.g. Gary, Indiana and Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hint: this cordial period was short-lived, ending on August 23, 1939, when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. More to follow...