Friday, August 31, 2007

Diana's memorial

For all fans of the British Royal Family, closeted and uncloseted--I'm out of the closet, I'm a fan and always read everything about them--the BBC account of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial service in London is here. You can read the tributes, the prayers and access a PDF version of the order of service. There was some great music there today, including selections from Elgar, Mozart and Rachmaninov.

I hasten to add, in gratitude, that there was no Elton John performance today.

Israel-Palestine and the northern Irish peace process

As an American with Irish background, I've always followed developments in northern Ireland with great interest. I was elated this year when the Good Friday agreement finally was realized in a power-sharing agreement. Those two old adversaries, Protestant Ian Paisley and IRA operative Martin McGuinness, now preside over a joint administration in Belfast.

Because this is a "pigs are flying" moment, a most unlikely development, I always thought there would be lessons for Israel and Palestine in the northern Irish peace process. Alas, the new Israeli ambassador to Ireland thinks not, for some pretty convincing reasons--starting with the reality that while the IRA was hoping fundamentally to unite northern Ireland with the Irish republic, Hamas adamantly claims all of Israeli territory for Palestinians. As you might expect, religion looms much larger in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than it did in northern Ireland. A Muslim-Jewish divide is a lot wider than Protestant-Catholic disgreement.

So it's back to the drawing board for peacemakers in Israel and Palestine...it remains one of the most intractable of the world's difficulties, right up there with Kashmir and Sri Lanka.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tier III! Tier III! Tier III

Here is the much-anticipated options sheet for the 466 tier three requirement. Please try to contain your enthusiasm!

History 466
Options for Tier III requirement

As stated in the syllabus, a Tier III course requires you to complete a substantial research and writing assignment. You have three options from which to choose, as follows:


The original plan, in which you do 2-3 articles per week from current newspapers and journals on Russian-American relations, with the objective being to determine whether or not the US and Russia are in a renewed Cold War. You will read your 2-3 articles per week, write brief summaries of each and then write up your findings in a 3-5 page paper. You will submit the article summaries as well as the paper on the due date.


You can locate someone in the Tri-Cities area who spent a part of his or her life in the Cold War—for example, an individual who worked at Hanford in the early days—and do some oral history. You will agree upon a set of questions, conduct an interview, then transcribe it and write an essay summarizing the role this person played in the Cold War, whether globally or locally. I will want to see the questions, the transcript of the interview and your essay. Anyone pursuing this option might want to get some help and/or advice from Dr. Bauman, who does a lot of oral/public history.


You can design a museum exhibit showcasing some important individual or event in the
Cold War.

In this case, you should decide upon something that interests you and that you would like to show, or explain to the world at large. The second step is to compile a bibliography of both online and offline sources, 8-10 books minimum, and read them. Then you will write an introduction to your exhibit, setting forth the basic details(remember, the public doesn’t know much history!) as well as explaining where this person/place or thing fits into the general history of the Cold War(3-5 pages). The final step for this option is to submit a description(for the artistically challenged), a design or a mock-up of the exhibit. At the end, you will submit your biography, your exhibit “introduction,” and your description and/or design.


The due date is TBA on these, most likely the week before dead week, in late November/early December.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Some discordant notes from the German capital

It is one of the world's greatest cultural institutions, and it has just been branded "Hitler's obedient servant" by a Canandian researcher in his new book. This isn't exactly a surprise, in view of the comprehensive cooperation Hitler enjoyed from most of German society, but it does leave fans feeling a little bit dispirited. Go read about it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Required Film

For all the Cold War students out there who wonder what the big deal was about the Soviet Union and system, you need to get a film called "The Lives of Others". It's about the secret police and its obsessive hunt for free thinking and non-conformism among the citizenry--the Soviet Union pioneered it, then exported it to all its satellites, so that you had not only the KGB(USSR), but the AVH(Hungary), Securitate(Romania), and Stasi in the GDR, the German Democratic Republic. It gives you a concrete idea of what a nightmare the "revolution" became in the post-l945 years, particularly in the GDR, the state where the "workers' paradise" failed so disastrously that authorities had to build a wall to keep people IN, then TEAR DOWN the wall, STILL to keep them from leaving. Neither solution worked in the end, but a lot of people lived miserable lives in the meantime.

It will also make your skin crawl, as you imagine yourself the target of a comprehensive bugging of your house and the victim of round-the-clock listening to/monitoring of all your comings and goings, all your conversations, all your visitors, everything. That's what life was like for lots of people there, in fact throughout the Soviet sphere of influence.

The film comes highly recommended--it won the Academy Award for best foreign language film--so drop everything and go get it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Closure?

Most people have probably heard by now that Russian authorities in Yekaterinburg(that's in western Siberia)have found what they believe to be the remains of the two children missing from the martyred Russian royal family. They were all murdered the night of July l7-l8 in the basement of the Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, which was until recently known as Sverdlovsk, named for the man who authorized their murder(!).

For years, there were rumors about the fate of the two missing children, Anastasia and Aleksei, the heir to the throne. One woman in America went to her grave proclaiming that she was Anastasia. In fact, though, they could not have escaped--all the murderers described in grisly detail what they did to the bodies. The only question was the whereabouts of the two that investigators did not find with the others.

This discovery should bring closure to one of my candidates for THE crime of the last century. It was a little preview of what was to come for the Soviet Union at large.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Global mistake

A class member has drawn my attention to the fact that the URL for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper listed on the 462 syllabus actually takes you to St. Petersburg, Florida. That's not where we want to go...we want THIS address: http://www.sptimes.ru

That, uh, makes a bit of a difference. My bad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Velo adventurers, attention!

If you're already indulging in escape-from-school fantasies, as I am, you'll need to go check the offerings at Bike Tours Direct. They've got adventures in every European country, and while I would strongly advise against biking in Ireland or Russia--you've got bad roads and homocidal motorists, a very unadvantageous combination--there is something on their site to contemplate, and perhaps sustain you through the hard academic slog this year. Click here and let the daydreaming begin.

OMG! Russian Beefcake!!

Girls, girls, girls! Vladimir Putin stripped off his shirt on vacation this week and had himself photographed, BARE-CHESTED and STRIDING PURPOSEFULLY AHEAD in COMBAT FATIGUES! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!...go get yourself some eye candy, er, beefcake, here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Looking beyond the classroom

We all---or at least, many of us--are returning to campus this week. Certainly, the traditional classroom has its advantages, like familiarity. It's kind of like an old shoe. One thing's for sure, though--there are a lot of non-traditional learning opportunities out there, some of which will take you far beyond the US. You can check out one of them here. The catch is that if you are on the youngish side, you will need to convince an older friend of yours to agree to go. The minimum age for at least one of the participants is 55, but the 55-year-old can invite you along, and both of you will have a great time. The range of programs is virtually limitless, from walking in France to art in New Mexico to the new Europe, the states of the former Soviet empire. The quality of the programs and participants is very high...I recommend it highly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Syllabi Part II: Us and Them, or the Rise and Fall of the Iron Curtain


And now, Cold War:

History 466
Cold War
Fall ’07/WSUTC


VISUAL INTRO TO THE COLD WAR:


Page and diagram from pamphlet, USSR-USA in Statistics(Moscow, l961), a booklet handed to me by a Soviet citizen in l988. The diagram and caption boast that Soviet workers, industrial production and growth have taken flight in a supersonic aircraft, leaving the hapless United States and its workers earthbound. Nikita Khrushchev was fond of telling Americans that “their grandchildren will live under Communism(!).” Alas, now his son, Sergei, is now an American citizen with a whole portfolio of Rotten Capitalist Investments…if his father could see him now!



Essential info: Office 207 J West Building 332-7257. Reality-based, up-close and personal office hours: 3:30-5:30pm Tuesday and Thursday; virtual office hours 24/7 by email at brigitf2001@yahoo.com. I always will try to get back to you as soon as possible—email is my favorite means of communication. For emergencies, my ancestral estate in Pendleton, Oregon may be reached at 541-276-6962.
N.B. I have a blog entitled “Blogside Inn,” after the Bogside Inn in Londonderry, N.I., where I first learned about Irish history and culture, especially as they relate to the Protestant-Catholic “troubles.” I generally post articles and comments about history and culture broadly defined, basically anything I find interesting, and I also will post syllabi and exams there, so that you will always have access to essential class materials. I will be posting announcements and heads-ups there as well, so try to visit every other day or so. Address: blogsideinn.blogspot.com. If you want, register(you can be yourself or someone else, whatever) and make your own comments. The more the merrier.

Attention Students with Disabilities: Accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. See Cherish Tijerna, Disability Resources Coordinator as soon as possible to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. To make an appointment, please call 372-7352. Translation from Officialspeak: If you have a learning disability, people and resources are available to help you.

Non-essential info: I actually “fought” in the Cold War,--a 14-month rearguard campaign as a United States Information Agency Exhibit Guide in l987-88. We were there ostensibly to give an accurate picture of what life was like in America, since Soviet citizens had been taught that we were imperialist/racist/warmongering/babykilling monsters. Our vehicle was American computer technology—I used to show how you could use Apple computers in education. But mostly, we ended up talking to people about our lives and trying to refute popular perceptions about America. I personally answered the following questions hundreds of times: “Why do you want war?” “Why do you allow people to own guns?” “Why do you kill your Presidents?” “Why don’t Americans know anything about Russians?” and…”How many volts do you give them in the electric chair(answer: “Enough”)?” I was happy if I could leave people with the idea that Americans weren’t good, weren’t evil, just a combination of both, like all the other humans on the planet. But sometimes, I felt as if I’d been in the trenches…and I was actually arrested for espionage briefly. I’ll tell that story sometime.
Other than that, this is my l2th year at WSUTC. I was born just over the mountain, in Pendleton, Oregon, and graduated from high school there before going off to attend Georgetown University(B.S. French language and Russian area studies l979)and Indiana University(M.A. Slavic Languages l984, Ph.D East European and Russian history, l991). I taught at Baylor University for a few years, escaped, then was lucky enough to find my way back to the Pacific Northwest, actually back to Pendleton, and a job here in Tri-Cities. If you have to work for a living, there’s no better place to be than this campus.

The Lowdown: Welcome to Cold War, a study of the 50-year “cold” conflict between the Soviet Union and its allies and the United States and its allies that began in the closing days of World War II and ended with the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe, which was followed by the implosion of Communism in the USSR in August l991. I should amend that to read, “mostly cold.” There was quite a lot of “hot” action, as the thousands of casualties in the Korean, Vietnamese and Afghan conflicts would tell you, even if these were officially “proxy wars.” I don’t think you are any less dead for being killed in a “proxy” rather than a direct conflict between the superpowers.
We will be trying this term to determine what caused this conflict, beginning way before l945. We want to trace the course of the “hostilities,” exploring how the war shaped domestic events and culture in the two superpower “belligerents,” that is, US here in America and THEM in the USSR. We won’t get too much farther than l962, because it takes that long to cover the early part of the Cold War, and people tend to have a lot of comments. However, we will do what we can to cover what happened later.
In between, we will try to get acquainted with some of the most interesting people and events from this odd war. Some of you will find them more familiar than others, especially if you are old enough to remember “ducking and covering” to protect against nuclear annihilation
Readings: Our basic text is McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction. This will help you follow the basic narrative of events, which can get complicated at times. Then David McCullough, Truman. Harry S. Truman inherited the postwar world from FDR and found himself fighting a “cold war” with the Russians from the first minute of his term. He had none of the usual qualities you would associate with a President—good looks, charisma, higher education—yet he proved to be an exceptionally prescient and competent leader, even if Americans didn’t think so when he left office. One of Truman’s most persistent critics was Joseph McCarthy, “Tail-Gunner Joe,” senator from Wisconsin. His aggressive investigations of alleged Communists gave the US political dictionary a new term: McCarthyism. Richard Rovere has written a brief but very good biography, Senator Joe McCarthy. Our lone memoir this term—I am partial to these—comes from Robert Kennedy, who was on his brother’s Ex Comm, the group of advisers charged with finding a way out of the Cuban Missle Crisis without destroying western civilization. RFK is very matter-of-fact and understated about the course of events, but he manages to convey the enormity and terror of that assignment very well. He and the others literally held all of our fates in their hands for a time.
Class Procedures and Evaluation: 466 is one of those great Tier III courses, which are designed to bring together knowledge and perspectives from several disciplines and which require a thoughtful writing assignment. You will fulfill this requirement by leaping ahead of where we are in class and attempting to answer the question, “Are the US and Russia in another Cold War?” To do this, you need to read and summarize 2-3 articles per week, culled from online sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, BBC, London Times. I will post any interesting articles I come across on the blog, and you are welcome to use these. You will show evidence of your readings by writing a brief summary of each article you read and keeping it in a binder or folder. About Thanksgiving, you will stop reading and make an assessment of your findings. Then you will write a 5-7 page answer to the original question, based on your reading. You will turn in both the paper and your written summaries on the due date. This assignment will be worth 60% of your final grade.
Also, we(actually YOU, since I’ve already taken tests on this material!)will write two essay exams, one after the end of part II and the other during finals week. Each of these will be worth 20%. In both cases, you will have the questions well ahead of time(at least two weeks), and then either I or you will choose the question you will write on the day of the exam.
Caveats: Come to class and listen—you know what Woody Allen says, 90% of life is just showing up—start the Big Assignment right away and keep up on the not-too-labor-intensive readings. If you do all these things, you’ll have a good time in the course and maybe even learn a thing or two as well.

Schedule

Part I: Beginnings

America and Russia, l9l7

The first skirmish

Two visions of the ideal world, l9l9

America: the view from the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union: the view from America

Dictators’ rendezvous: the Nazi-Soviet pact, l939

The big doublecross and the new team, l941: USA, USSR, Great Britain

The marriage of convenience

Wartime conferences

Endgame: the race to Berlin

Readings: Text, relevant sections; start McCullough.
Recommended readings: Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution. This will tell you all about the revolution and establishment of Russian Communism,. Also, Louis Auchincloss, Woodrow Wilson. That’s the best short bio of Woodrow Wilson, our own drum major for democracy

Part II: Cold War follows hot, l945-53

Outlines of a divided Europe

The United States and the Bomb

Outlines of a Cold War

Dueling speeches

Containment and Marshall Plan

The “Iron Curtain” in eastern Europe. Plus: the state that escaped

The Berlin Crisis, round I: the Virtual Wall

Stalin gets the bomb

Cold War turns hot and goes global: the “police action” in Korea and revolution in China

The Cold War and the home front: US and USSR

Readings: Text, relevant sections; finish McCullough, Rovere(all)
Recommended readings: Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin. This is a great insiders’ view of what Stalin was REALLY like, behind the all-knowing, all-wise Uncle Joe fa├žade. It wasn’t pretty.

Exam #1 following this section

Part III: Hope, Confusion and (Near)Apocalypse: The Khrushchev years, l953-64

The death of “Uncle Joe” and the rise of Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev

Korean armistice

Khrushchev’s bombshell

Revolution in Poland and Hungary

Khrushchev agonistes

The ascent of John F. Kennedy: “bearing any burden”

Bad beginning: Castro’s revolution and the Bay of Pigs

K2: Kennedy and Khrushchev .

The Berlin Crisis, round II: The Real Wall

Missles in October

Looking down the abyss: confronting nukes off the American mainland

“The other fellow blinked:” the end of the crisis

Nuclear non-proliferation

The end of an era: the end of Kennedy and Khrushchev and the course of the Cold War

Readings: Text, relevant sections; Kennedy, all. Finish up whatever you didn’t get to.
Recommended readings: William Taubman, Khrushchev: A biography. This is chapter and verse on Nikita Khrushchev, a great book, also a demanding one. If you can get Roy Medvedev, Khrushchev, that one is shorter and written from a Russian perspective. On Kennedy, the classic study is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. A Thousand Days. Schlesinger was the “court historian” of the JFK administration. A more recent(and controversial)bio is Robert Dallek, JFK: An Unfinished Life.


Exam no. 2(non-cumulative)at the regular time during finals.

Syllabi, pt. I: Peter and Catherine and pals in the Gulf(of Finland, that is)


As the drums roll, here comes the fall 2007 edition of History 462, Imperial Russia
History 462
Imperial Russia
Fall ‘07/WSUTC





Photo of prewar Winter Palace...from a old Petersburg postcard collection.

Essential info: Office 207 J West Building 332-7257. Reality-based, up-close and personal office hours: 3:30-5:30pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; virtual office hours 24/7 by email at brigitf2001@yahoo.com. I always will try to get back to you as soon as possible—email is my favorite means of communication. For emergencies, my ancestral estate in Pendleton, Oregon may be reached at 541-276-6962.

Students with Disabilities: Accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. See Cherish Tijerna, Disability Resources Coordinator, as soon as possible to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. To make an appointment, please call 372-7352. Translation from Officialspeak: If you have a learning disability, people and resources are available to help you.

Important note: I’ve got a blog called Blogside Inn, named for the Bogside Inn, Londonderry, N.I., where I learned my first lessons about Irish history and culture. The various contributors and I comment on history and culture of all kinds, really just interesting stuff that might miss the front page, and I also post class-related stuff from time to time, like syllabi, exams and various announcements. If you think about it, check the blog every day or so. The URL:

blogspot.blogsideinn.com

If you’d like, register(as yourself or someone else)and leave comments. The more the merrier!!

Non-essential information: I’m an old Russia hand—I started studying Russian at Pendleton High School, just over the mountain in Pendleton, Oregon and decided I wanted to take it as far as it would go. After graduating from Georgetown University in l979 with degrees in French and Russian Studies, I spent 6 months in St. Petersburg as an exchange student, a memorable experience. I thought briefly about becoming a Russian-language broadcaster for the Voice of America, but in the end opted for grad school and the chance to get paid for teaching, reading and writing about the things I am most interested in.
In l987, I spent l4 months as a United States Information Agency Exhibit guide, basically talking to Soviet citizens about life in the United States 8 hours per day, 6 days a week in Moscow, Kiev, Rostov-on-Don and also Tbilisi, the capital of now-independent Georgia. Shortly thereafter, I finished grad school in Russian history at Indiana and eventually found my way back home to the Pacific Northwest and the job here at WSUTC.
I’m not very thrilled about events in Russia at the moment, but I keep going back there anyway. At last count, I’ve been there about 30 times and am going again in November. I don’t know whether all these trips qualify as persistence or masochism.

The Lowdown: Welcome to the rise and fall of Imperial Russia, the most brilliant and intriguing period in the grand drama of Russia. The names of the players say it all: Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Grigorii Grigorievich Potemkin-Tavricheskii, Aleksandr I, Aleksandr II, Napoleon, Aleksandr Pushkin, Nicholas and Alexandra, Rasputin, Modest Mussorgskii, Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov, Sergei Rakhmaninov, Lev Tolstoy, Rastrellis, Aleksandr and Volodia Ulianov, Nijinskii, Diagliev/Ballet russe, Vera Zasulich, Princess Elizaveta(Ella) and the new Romanov martyrs, “yellow monkeys,” and many, many more.
In the political narrative, plots and subplots are equally compelling: Tsar grabs subjects by the beards and drags them into a new capital and new century; successor to this Tsar comes to Russia as a German princess, has husband bumped off and assumes the throne; Tsar-Victor over Napoleon quits the throne at the height of his power and disappears; Tsar-Liberator does more to advance Russia than anyone in his century, then gets blown up by revolutionaries for his trouble; Tsar born on Job’s feast day hit with tragedy upon tragedy, ending with the murder of himself and his family before a firing squad in l9l8; small band of revolutionaries seizes power over l/6 of the world’s surface, holds on to promise to create “utopia,” instead bringing to power the world’s most prolific serial killer.
But it’s in the realm of the arts and culture where the Imperial Russians have their most transcendent and long-lasting successes. I spent a week this summer watching and listening to the Kirov(St. Petersburg)opera and its brilliant conductor, Valerii Gergiev, interpret Richard Wagner’s immortal Ring of the Niebelungen at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Their interpretation was distinctly unorthodox, even provocative, which brought forth indignant cries of protest from the traditionalist fans I was with. I was kind of removed from those debates, because this was my first experience with the Ring. What struck me, as I watched the cast take bow upon bow after the finale, “Gotterdammerung,”was that this group, this Kirov opera, was returning to form. In its heyday, l870-l9l4, it was the most exciting thing going, a company that lived to provoke, even shock people. On several occasions, foreign audiences charged the stage after performances, they were so outraged. Under the Soviet cultural bureaucrats, the Kirov played to the lowest common denominator, dumbed down, stripped of its edginess. That’s the way Communists liked their culture—boring and predictable.
Now that the Communist overseers are gone, the Kirov has returned to its imperial Russian/iconoclastic roots, its artists able to give their talents and inspiration free rein, their capacity to agitate, shock and make you think limitless. That was an Imperial Russia flashback for me, and I enjoyed it immensely. So you can look backward AND forward to some brilliant art and culture.

I don’t have a complicated agenda for this course. What we’re after is basic literacy in the imperial period, including acquaintance with Russian arts and letters, which I hope will go with you and inspire you long after you have left the course. By the end of this term, you will have demonstrated your ability to:

Discuss some of the achievements that won Peter I and Catherine II inclusion on the millenium’s top 100 most influential individuals of all time.

Discuss the meaning of St. Petersburg and outline the differences between Petersburg and Moscow, the “other” and current capital of Russia.

Identify some of the most celebrated and historical buildings and monuments of Imperial Russia and what they commemorate.

Explain the origins of Russians’ love of poetry and identify the best-loved poet, and very probably the best-loved Russian, in Russian history

Identify a few Russian composers and their works. Hopefully, you will like one of them enough to let him(sorry, ladies, they are all men) give you an introduction to the classics.

Identify some l9th Russian painters and their works. Not enough people know about them because it’s terribly complicated and expensive to get them over here--but they are terrific.

Discuss in general terms the issues that divided the Tsar from his subjects between l860 and 19l4 and outline some of the reasons why some people wanted to get rid of him.

Readings: We begin with Robert Massie’s biography of Peter the Great. You have to begin at the beginning, and the beginning is Peter I, founder of St. Petersburg and author of Russia’s long interaction with the west. Isabel de Madariaga’s short biography of Catherine the Great can be a bit dry, but she is the leading scholar of Catherine the Great in the world, and she’s done a good job with this book in covering Catherine’s basics. We will add color in lecture. Then, Edward Radzinsky’s two biographies of the last and next to last Tsars, Alexander II and Nicholas II. Radzinsky isn’t an historian, but he has awfully good sources for his work, especially the one on Nicholas II, and he has a playwright’s way with words.
P.S. If you find you really like St. Petersburg and would like to keep abreast of day-to-day events there, bookmark the St. Petersburg Times website, www.sptimes.com, and visit there often. Registration is not required.

Class Procedures: We will have two essay-type exams this term,(35% each) along with a final exercise(30%), the nature of which is a deep, dark secret, during finals week. On the two essay exams, you will receive a copy of the questions two weeks in advance—the only mystery is which question will be chosen on test day. Sometimes you will get to choose, other times I will choose for you. Sometimes I will choose to let YOU choose. The point is, be prepared for any of the questions, because you can’t bring your notes. For the deep, dark secret exercise, well, just pay good attention all the way along and you won’t be TOO lost(heh, heh, heh…)

Caveats: Come to class, keep up with the readings, do a little extra something each week, enjoy this rendezvous with Imperial Russian splendor, before it all comes crashing down.

Schedule

Part I: The Titans: Peter and Catherine, l672-l796

B.P., Before Peter: the Moscow background

Peter I Alekseevich and the “Grand Embassy”

Sankt-Peterburg or bust! Or else!

New capital, new Russia, new(Peter’s) people

Paradise?! Paradise!!

Peter’s last years

Empress Elizabeth, her favorites and the coming of western culture

Young Catherine, wife of the heir

Catherine II, Empress of Russia

Empress of the Enlightenment: Catherine the Collector/Builder/Educator

Catherine the stateswoman: Let’s carve up the Poles, then go recapture Constantinople!

Pavel I Petrovich the Strange

Readings: Text, TBA, relevant sections; read all of Massie and de Madariaga
Recommended readings: Lindsey Hughes, Peter the Great: A Biography. Professor Hughes, who taught at the University of London, was the first to access all the sources on Peter after the fall of Communism. Tragically, she died a few months ago of cancer, at age 58. She will be greatly missed, because she was such a great scholar and wrote so well.

Exam #1 after this section, a standard two or three essay questions.

Part II: The brilliant l9th century, I

From Pavel I Petrovich to Aleksandr I Pavlovich: controversy and murder

Napoleon, the Grande Armee and the decision to conquer Russia

The burning of Moscow and the end of Napoleon

Aleksandr triumphant

The Decembrist revolt and the debut of Nikolai I Petrovich, Tsar Nicholas I

Nicholas I, gendarme of Europe

The golden age of Russian poetry: Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin and his circle

War, defeat and death

Readings: text, relevant sections; start Radzinsky, The Last Great Tsar.

The brilliant l9th century, II: The “Great Time,” Tsar Aleksandr II Nikolaevich, l856-1881

Picking up the pieces, making big plans

Russia before liberation: serfs and masters

The Abraham Lincoln of Russia

Russia after liberation: a nation in transformation

Going to the(liberated) people: artists and musicians

Going to the(liberated) people: young idealists and revolutionaries

Going after the Tsar

Readings: Continue with text, TBA; finish Radzinsky.
Recommended readings: Priscilla Roosevelt, Life on the Russian Country Estate. The one portrait of nobles and estate life available in English, a treasure of a book. I would also advise you to pick up Ivan Turgenev, A Sportsman’s Sketches, Fedor Dostoevsky’s Devils, and Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina OR War and Peace. That is a really long one, but it’s the Gone with the Wind of Russian history.

The Road to Revolution, l881-l9l4

Tsar Aleksandr III Nikolaevich

“Black” reaction: anti-semitism, arrests, executions

The heir, Nikolai Aleksandrovich, “Nicky”

Tsar Nikolai II Aleksandrovich and Tsarevna Aleksandra Fedorovna

The empire he inherited: Russia at the turn of the century

War and revolution, l904-05

Hemophilia and history

The coming of the world war(and revolution: the whole of Russia mutinies in l9l7)

Readings: Text, appropriate sections; Radzinsky, The Last Tsar, all.
Recommended readings: if you like this period, you should read Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Aleksandra. I read that in 9th grade, just before I started Russian language That’s a novel about Nicky and Alicky, with some fictional details, but it’s a pretty good account of that marriage. For my money, the best Russian history book ever written is Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, l890-1924. Everything you ever wanted to know about Nicholas II’s Russia.

Second midterm at the end of this section or the week before deadweek, whichever comes first. Standard essay-type.

Final: The Deep, Dark Secret Exercise will take place on the regularly scheduled day for finals. You can’t really study for it, because it depends on what you have learned all along. Be Scared. Be Very Scared.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brooke Astor

The legendary Brooke Astor has died in New York, her playground. She was one of the most influential philanthopists of the last century, giving millions to cultural institutions and charities alike. I can't possibly do justice to all her activities, so I will let the New York Daily News describe them:

"Although a legendary figure in New York City and feted with a famous gala on her 100th birthday in March 2002, Astor was mostly interested in putting the fortune that husband, Vincent Astor, left to use where it would do the most to alleviate human misery.
'Money is like manure, it should be spread around,' was her oft-quoted motto. There was a lot to spread: Vincent Astor's great-great-grandfather John Jacob Astor made a fortune in fur trading and New York real estate.
Brooke Astor gave millions of dollars to what she called the city's 'crown jewels' _ among them the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the flags were lowered to half-staff after her death.
But she also funded scores of smaller projects: Harlem's Apollo Theater; a new boiler for a youth center; beachside bungalow preservation; a church pipe organ; furniture for homeless families moving in to apartments.
It was a very personal sort of philanthropy.
'People just can't come up here and say, `We're doing something marvelous, send a check,' she said. "We say, 'Oh, yes, we'll come and see it.'"

As the Brahms requiem reminds us, Brooke Astor now rests from her labors, and her deeds do follow her.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pigs flying--on Irish airlines!

There's still more evidence of Real Change in northern Ireland...the last vestiges of the British army are packed up and gone, and now Aer Lingus, from the Irish republic, the dreaded south, is getting started in northern Ireland. In another first, AL will make Belfast a hub and provide three daily flights from Belfast to Heathrow, adding to existing flights from Shannon to Heathrow. Longtime rivals-to-the-death Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley attended the dedication, Paisley looking positively giddy in the background. You can access this latest chapter of Pigs Flying(on Aer LIngus) here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A contentious anniversary

Back from hiatus now, in Hawaii...we on the mainland have long ago forgotten, or at least placed out of our minds the events of August 6, l945, the day the United States dropped the first of two atom bombs on the Japanese homeland. Most people either believe that the United States committed a war crime in dropping those bombs, or that the decision was an extremely regrettable necessity. I tend to take the latter position, because of the dilemma President Truman faced: his military advisers all told him that to continue the war in the Pacific would cost at least a million additional lives and prolong the war perhaps by two years. If he used the bomb, the war would be over basically immediately. If you are the American President, it seems to me, your primary responsibility is to save American lives. President Truman did just that, act to save American lives. It was a terrible thing for the Japanese people, but it's important to remember that they were our enemies at the time, and that they started the fight. That is not to justify--you can't justify it--but to explain.

The Japanese, of course, take a different view, and since there are many, many Japanese living in Hawaii, there is a yearly public ceremony of remembrance on the anniversary of the atom bomb, a minute of silence followed by Buddhist prayers and contemplation. It's a good thing to remember...even if you believe the atom bomb was the correct decision, it's worth pausing to contemplate never taking that course again and/or what you can do personally to prevent a repeat of that terrible day.