Irina Meier is a lecturer in Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of New Mexico. Her research focuses on the development of Russian terrorism from the second half of the 19th through the 21st centuries and the birth of the modern terrorist in the Russian revolutionary period. In her work, she explores the philosophical contexts in which terrorism exists today, traces the development of terrorists’ self-representation, and examines Russian terrorism from the angle of cultural studies. Her dissertation is titled “Evil men have no songs: The terrorist and littératuer Boris Savinkov, 1879-1925.”
Rage Against the Machine, “Calm like a Bomb,” The Battle of Los Angeles, 2003.
You Might also like
By Sean — 8 years ago
Yesterday, December 1, was 75 years since the assassination of Sergei Kirov, the first secretary of the Leningrad Party Organization, and Stalin ally. It was on the night of December 1, 1934 that a certain Leonid Nikolaev, a disgruntled party worker, shot Kirov in the secretary’s third floor office. Nikolaev was immediately caught and interrogated under Stalin’s personal supervision. He was executed shortly thereafter.
Rumors have been circling for years as to what Nikolaev’s motives were. Some have suggest that Kirov was having an affair with Nikolaev’s wife. Others have suggested that he had a personal or work beef with Kirov. These questions remain mostly unanswered. Partly it is because they are unanswerable. But also because the majority of historians believe that Nikolaev did not act alone. For them, Stalin was the main culprit and wanted to get rid of Kirov because of his popularity. Since Kirov has been held up as a “moderate” and even “opponent” to Stalin. Nikolaev, therefore, was merely a patsy in a more sinister plot on the part of the vozhd to justify the use of terror against his enemies, real or imagined.
The idea that Stalin had ordered Kirov’s murder was not solely concocted by historians. According to NKVD reports, it was also one of the most widespread rumors at the time. But it wasn’t the only one circulating around. As Matthew Lenoe noted in an article on the historiography of the murder in the Journal of Modern History, rumors ranged from Leningrad NKVD chief F. D. Medved or his number two Mikhail Chudov personally committing or ordering Kirov’s assassination, to German, Finnish, Polish, or Turkish secret agents carrying out the plot, to speculation that a worker angered by the recent cuts in bread rations did Kirov in. Others thought that the killing was part of a larger plot of murder Maxim Gorky, Lazar Kaganovich, and the German Communist leader Ernst Thaelmann. But the idea that Stalin was behind it all swirled and swirled from mouth to ear, into exiled socialist commentary, on to the pages of defectors’ and so-called confidants’ tell-all memoirs, until it reached scholarly dictum through its reproduction ad nauseum by historians.
A minority of historians, most interestingly Oleg Khlevniuk and Alla Kirilina, who are no Stalin apologists and based their research on new archival evidence, have argued that the Stalin as culprit is “almost entirely myth,” according to Lenoe. The debate continues to rage, however, and will probably go on forever. But as Lenoe notes, ” In the end it does not matter for our overall understanding of Soviet history whether [Stalin] plotted Kirov’s assassination or not. There are far more important questions that need answering in the field.”
Indeed. Whether Stalin actually ordered the hit on Kirov doesn’t erase the fact that regime’s response to the assassination was a blind fit of violence that led to the arrests and execution of hundreds, if not thousands, in the weeks following, culminating in the eventual arrest, trial, and execution of Grigorii Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, the so-called “Moscow Center.” The lives of hundreds of thousands of others followed. There is also no doubt that Stalin used the Kirov’s assassination to his political advantage to eliminate his political opponents. We don’t need to pin the Kirov murder on him to recognize that.
Perhaps, the biggest lesson of the Kirov murder was not its use by Stalin from 1936-38 to justify terror. The lesson is in the quick adoption of “On Amending the Present Union-Republic Codes of Criminal Procedure” or the so-called Kirov Law on December 1, 1934, that gave terror legal justification. The law was as follows:
To amend the present Union Republic codes of criminal procedure with regard to investigation and trial of cases of terrorist organizations and terrorist acts against the functionaries of Soviet power:
- Investigation in these cases shall be concluded in not more than ten days.
- The indictment shall be handed to the accused 24 hours before the trial.
- The cases shall be tried without the parties present.
- There shall be no cassational review of the judgments or acceptance of petitions for clemency.
- The sentence of the supreme punishment shall be executed immediately upon rendering judgment.
This law is ominous in its brevity. It is this law that was the first legal step to wage terror. What the law giveth, the law taketh away. So in the end it is not Kirov’s assassination that should be remembered but how such events can provide the justification for extraordinary measures to be legally enacted. It is a reminder that the “state of exception” is always enacted by the sovereign in an attempt to preserve the “public good.”Post Views: 1,100
By Sean — 2 years ago
Many people have asked me about the theme song to the SRB Podcast. So instead of answering the question over and over by individual request, I’ve finally decided to post it on the blog for all to enjoy.
The song is Moya Marusechka (Моя Марусечка) by Petr Leshchenko, 1898-1954 (his Russian Wikipedia page has a more extensive biography). Leshchenko is considered the “King of Russian Tango.” He was born in the Odessa region but ended up in Romania after he was wounded in WWI. He only returned to Odessa during the war, where he performed as the Romanians occupied the city in 1941. After the war, he was arrested by the Romanian secret services in 1951, interrogated and imprisoned, until his death in 1954 in a prison hospital.
His music wasn’t officially available in the Soviet Union because tango and the foxtrot were considered counterrevolutionary and generally corrupting of good Soviet youth. It also didn’t help that the Soviet’s considered him a White. I have no doubt the fact he played a few concerts in occupied Odessa didn’t help either.
Leshchenko’s musical style was a blend of popular jazz and cabaret of the interwar years with a large helping of Roma influence.
Moya Marusechka was written and composed by Gerd Wilnow and released by Bellaccord-Electro Records in Latvia in 1937. Recordings of Leshchenko performing the song weren’t officially available in Russia (though I’m sure it was available nonetheless as was a lot of banned music) until Melodiia released a recording in 1988. Leshchenko’s music experienced a resurgence in those late Soviet days. Though the song was featured in the 1969 Soviet war film “The Path to Berlin” and Leshchenko’s music was played on Soviet radio and television. It just wasn’t available as a purchasable recording.
The song itself is a typical pop tune of boy walks into a party, sees girl dancing her heart out, boy falls in love. The lyrics are hardly a masterpiece but they’re saved by the music and Leshchenko’s singing. Here’s the last verse:
And so I want to live with you,
I can’t take it, I beg you-
You’re my babydoll,
You’re my darling.
And so I want to live with you,
I can’t take it, I beg you-
Hardly a work of literary genius. But hey, most good pop songs aren’t.
As part of a general fascination with Russian and Soviet emigres, let alone a general rehabilitation of the “Whites” under Putin, an eight part miniseries about Leshchenko’s life was broadcast on Russian television in 2009. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy with English subtitles for all you non-Russian speakers. Here’s the first episode (the rest can be watched on YouTube).
There’s no rhyme or reason why I picked Moya Marusechka as the podcast’s theme song. I have a CD collection of old Russian tunes from the interwar period and I just thought the song sounded cool. Apparently many podcast listeners do too.Post Views: 1,320
By Sean — 2 years ago
Natalia Antonova is a pundit, playwright and sometime journalist living in Russia. You can read her blog where she comments a wide variety of topics, including sex, at nataliaantonova.com. Her most recent article is “Russia’s Porn Stars Aren’t Just Hot, They’re Also Ostracised And Exploited” on Open Democracy.
Prince and the Revolution, “Darling Nikki,” Purple Rain, 1984.Post Views: 4,721