Tag Archives: USSR

Philistinism Redux

Review – The New Philistines: How Identity Politics Disfigure the Arts by Sohrab Ahmari

Identity politics, that very modern ideological constellation, with its fixation on race, class and gender, has migrated from academia into the arts. Queer theory, feminist readings, post-colonial studies – all these have carved out significant positions at the heart of the art world. Many artists and ‘creatives’ aspire to these doctrines; they increasingly govern the propagation of culture as well as new criticism of canonical art. Such things matter more than could be expected. Continue reading

Enemies of the People, Past and Present

‘The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.’ So declared Maximilien Robespierre in a speech delivered to the French National Convention on Christmas Day, 1793. Continue reading

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