How the Soviets in 1960 imagined 2017: Interstellar travel, underground cities, and socialism everywhere

[From The Washington Post]

imrs-phpHumans can fly to the stars and harness the energy of the Earth’s core. Mankind has figured out how to control the weather. The Soviet Union is preparing for the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

And the imperialists? Don’t worry: The remaining few of them have been driven off to a remote Pacific island.

This is the vision of 2017 laid out in a 1960 Soviet filmstrip that surfaced on the Internet at the turn of the new year, plucked from the family collection of St. Petersburg resident Sergei Pozdnyakov. Entitled “In the Year 2017,” the filmstrip recounts a day in the life of Igor, a boy who lives in a futuristic Moscow that reflects the idealistic and ideological mind-set of the authors — who, of course, had no idea their country would cease to exist in 1991.

The 45-pane filmstrip evokes a poignant note about the meaning of 2017 as Russia prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. President Vladimir Putin, who has overtly stated his aversion to revolution, has been trying to come up with a way to celebrate the one that defined modern Russia. It’s a far cry from what Soviet leaders thought this year would be.

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The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes review – Shostakovich in fear

[from The Guardian]

Grim humour abounds in this deftly written fantasia on the life of the composer in Stalin’s Soviet Union

There’s a moment in this fantasia on the life of Dmitri Shostakovich when the composer recalls Stalin’s visit to his 1932 opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Stalin’s box was placed above the percussion and woodwind, and the performers, presumably from nerves, played far more loudly than Shostakovich’s score demanded. The resulting musical imbalance was what drove Pravda to describe the opera as “muddle instead of music”. “A composer first denounced and humiliated, later arrested and shot, all because of the layout of an orchestra,” as the novel, imagining the possibilities running through Shostakovich’s mind, puts it.

This is the book’s mise-en-scène: the composer standing outside the lift of his apartment block, a packed suitcase resting against his calf, waiting for arrest. He waits there so that the NKVD do not disturb his wife and children. The terror of the Stalinist Soviet Union is not something that needs to be dwelt too much on: Barnes’s chief interest is how genius compromises under power, whether it wilts or thrives or finds some cunning means of survival and expression. But the reader, too, can feel a clammy sweat break out early on, when Shostakovich is summoned for questioning at the Big House (we do not need to be told what “the Big House” is) in Leningrad. The composer had been friendly with Marshal Tukhachevsky, a much-decorated military man and keen amateur violinist, now deemed due for purging by Stalin. Shostakovich is asked to supply details of the plot to assassinate Stalin that must have been discussed at the soldier’s home, but he can remember no such plot.

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How Soviets came to celebrate New Year’s like Christmas

[From Heraldnet website]

Father Frost didn’t drop presents off for Russian children Dec. 25. And he won’t on Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7), either. Rather, Ded Moroz and his lovely snow maiden assistant, Snegurochka, are attached to New Year’s Eve, which in Russia is the new year and the secular bits of Christmas like trees and presents all rolled into one.

To understand how this came to be, we can’t just fly to modern-day Moscow. We begin, rather, more than a thousand years ago.

Christmas became a religious holiday with the baptism of old Rus’, when Vladimir the Great accepted Christianity for himself and for his subjects as well. But Christmas has always come second to Easter in Orthodox Christianity, said Valentina Izmirlieva, a scholar of Balkan and Russian religious cultures at Columbia University.

New Year’s, meanwhile, only became a thing in Russia in 1700 when Peter the Great, westernizer that he was, accepted that, per the Gregorian calendar, Jan. 1 marked the new year. But initially, Izmirlieva says, celebrations for the new year were “kind of a modest thing.”

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How was Russian mystic Rasputin murdered?

[From BBC news site]

_93185631_rasputinpdomjan14Grigory Rasputin, a mystic peasant who captivated the Russian imperial court, met his death at the hands of aristocratic enemies 100 years ago.

Artem Krechetnikov of BBC Russian examines the grisly murder of Rasputin and finds that some details are more myth than reality.

Few characters in Russian history are as well-known as the mystic from Tobolsk in Siberia, whose name is forever linked to scandal.

He has been called a “sex machine” and “lover” of the Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna. The first description is probably an exaggeration, and the second is simply false.

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