Tag Archives: USSR

Of Tyranny and Violence

The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading

The Sieges of Syria and History

Earlier this month in Syria, a siege was broken. Rebels in Aleppo, aided by more religiously extreme elements and passively supported by humanitarians the world over, succeeded in meeting – ceremoniously shaking hands, like the Allies during the Second World War at the river Elbe in 1945 – by breaking the lines of those troops loyal to the Assad regime and its foreign backers. Continue reading

The Monumental Beauty of Soviet Art‏

Soviet architecture and ‘socialist realism’ more generally have a poor reputation. These movements and their products are disdained by many, and deprecated in artistic terms. But each, despite their associations with totalitarianism and mass murder, can instead be seen as testament to the power of beauty, even in its monumental form. And all of this can be true despite the designs and intentions of the less than pleasant people who held political power in the Soviet Union. Continue reading

Stalin the Terrible

The century just gone was, in Robert Conquest’s telling phrase, a ‘ravaged’ one. It bore witness, as did millions of people, to some of the most extreme political conditions, most devastating wars and most evil figures in the history of the world – and I believe that word is justified. But more evil, more extreme and more ravaged by war than any other state and nation was the Soviet Union, a creation of the early 20th century which did not survive its close. If anything stands to symbolise those hundred years – more so than the Nazi regime which lasted for a mere twelve – that particular entity, Ronald Reagan’s ‘evil empire’, should do it. Continue reading

The Holocaust and State Destruction

In Timothy Snyder’s new book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, one of the most essential themes is that of the destruction of states by the Nazi regime, and the perils which can befall innocent groups – minorities and even those comprising majorities – when state destruction takes place. Continue reading

Scientific Revolution and ‘the Two Cultures’

Last week, for a bit of light reading, I found myself taking a look at The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution by C. P. Snow, in which the author – who, as both a writer and a scientist, saw himself as a member of the two great tribes of academic life – criticised the arbitrary and seemingly hostile separation between the sciences and the arts, and the increasing specialisation of individuals who devoted their attention to one, but who seemingly never studied both. Continue reading

In Search of a Terror-Famine

Things are done quite differently today. When populations are starved, held captive against their will, there are certain actions which can be put into place. It is very likely that there will be a camera present, for example, with which to document the atrocities in real time. It is likely that those affected, or those assigned to help them or to protect them, will have access to the sort of technology which allows for the dissemination of images, video footage, and personal testimony of the horrors sadly unfolding. Continue reading