The Library of Congress has an interesting online exhibit of photographs taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944). Prokudin-Gorskii’s photos record Russian everyday life around the on the eve of World War I. His subjects include peasants, monestaries, Russia’s many nationalities, agriculture and factory work as well as other subjects that give us an visual impression of Russia before its implosion in 1917. What is more, the Library of Congress took Prokudin-Gorskii’s negatives and turned them into color prints. The colorful portrait on the right of Alim Khan (1880-1944), the Emir of Bukhara, and the serene photo of the Church of the Resurrection in Kostroma are just two examples of an extraordinary collection. Another online exhibit of his work featured at the ?echtl and Vose?ek Museum of Photography in the Czech Republic can be found here.
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By Sean — 7 years ago
I’ve long argued that if Westerners are looking for liberals in Russia, all they need to do is turn to Vladimir Putin and the rest of the cabal that runs the country. True, caveats are in order. They are not the “liberal communist” variety that Slavoj Zizek speaks of. For the most part, the liberals in the Kremlin do not preach the sanctity of the free market while at the same time championing the “liberal values” that have become the market’s ideological correlative: democracy, tolerance, freedom etc., etc. Putin is far more of an old school liberal, though rhetorically he and his people speak the language of their American and European counterparts. Nor are Putin et al. classical laissez-faire liberals who eschew an economic role for the state. In their social-economic cosmology the state plays a fundamental role as initiator, facilitator, and stabilizer of economic development. They are situated on the conservative end of a particularly Russian liberal tradition that accepts capitalism as a fundamental truth, but only as far as it can bolster the Russian state’s transformation into the ever elusive Rechtstaat, or legal state. The Putinists do not pray to Locke or Smith but to the Russian pantheon of great reformers Speransky, Witte, and, I think most importantly, Stolypin.
Nothing confirms Putin being in the tradition of the latter more than his recent chairmanship of the committee tasked with erecting a monument to Stolypin in time for his 150th birthday in 2012. The monument will stand in front of the White House.
Here’s a snippet of Putin’s opening remarks on the Tsarist Prime Minister:
Pyotr Stolypin served his country for a long time and was its prime minister at a very difficult, truly dramatic period in Russia’s history, a time of political and social turmoil. The consequences of the Russian-Japanese war, revolutionary upheavals and economic decline presented a real danger to Russia’s territorial integrity and even sovereignty. Society was searching for answers to questions of fundamental importance to Russia’s development, including the perennial question of land ownership. The prime minister needed not only a will of iron but also personal courage and readiness to assume responsibility for the country at that time. Pyotr Stolypin had all of these qualities in full measure.
A true patriot and a wise politician, he saw that both all kinds of radical sentiment and procrastination, a refusal to launch the necessary reform were dangerous to the country, and that only a strong and effective government relying on business and the civil initiative of millions could ensure progressive development and guarantee tranquillity and stability in a large multinational country and the inviolability of its borders.
Furthermore, he thought that the state and society should not be divided from each other, that the state in the form of government and society in the form of public institutes should be united by a common responsibility for the country. When it served the interests of the state, he always assumed an uncompromising and tough stance and was never afraid of making decisions that were considered unpopular.
Pyotr Stolypin formulated the ideology of reform and also launched large-scale change in nearly all spheres of life in Russia. He believed that the main goal was to remove all obstacles and limitations to the development of productive forces. He thought it was necessary to release the nation’s creative energy and direct it towards creation. He achieved many of the goals he had formulated. He created foundations for social policy in Russia, reformed state institutions and government agencies and ensured the impressive growth of industries and an industrial breakthrough. I’d like to remind you that, at the time, Russia’s economy was growing at the highest pace in the world. It also implemented large development projects in Siberia and the Far East. The last, but not the least of his achievements was agrarian reform, which had a staggering potential. He said, yes, it was Stolypin who said it: “Give Russia 20 years of internal and external peace and quiet and it will change beyond recognition.” These words point to his deep belief in Russia and its people.
Putin could have been talking about himself.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Olga Kryshtanovskaya told Nezavisimaya gazeta: “Of course it’s no accident that Putin sufficiently and consistently connects his stance to Stolypin.”
But it seems that the committee’s opening meeting was a big ceremony wedding the two Prime Ministers. Andrei Kolesnikov argues in Kommersant that committee’s members in and of itself point to Putin’s desire to drape himself in Stolypin’s legacy. In attendance were Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin, government ministers and representatives, provosts, archimandrites, Duma deputies, and also none other than the head of the Filmmakers Union, Nikita Mikhalkov. Was this a meeting for a monument or a shrine? According to Kolesnikov, Putin’s effort to directly connect himself to Stolypin isn’t just plainly evident from the who’s who at the meeting. It’s all too clear if you merely substitute “Vladimir Vladmirovich” for “Petr Arkadevich” in the Prime Minister’s speech, particularly where he talks about Solypin’s will, patriotism, and commitment to preserving the state’s interests while recognizing the need for reform. In an effort to put his money (or I should say other people’s money) where his mouth is, Putin even demanded that committee members give up a month of their salary to fund the Stolypin monument. “Members of the cabinet, and not only members of the cabinet, will have to direct at least a month’s salary to the Stolypin monument,” Putin said. They should think of it more as a personal tribute to Putin himself.
Pavel Pozhogailo, the head of the Regional Social Fund, got the message, and adjusted history accordingly: “[Stolypin] was a key figure who could lead Russia away from catastrope. His principal quality was that he could unite the divided. And he dealt with the task of bringing peace to society! You see, the moment he entered power he took ahold of the bacchanalia of terrorism! This courageous man could rally the healthy forces of society around himself and showed that the government was not a powerless! He returned moral authority to the government!” For him, Putin’s speech was nothing less than “magnificent.”
The only problem is that it’s hard to figure out who Pozhogailo is talking about here: Stolypin or Putin, or some mutant hybrid of the two.
But I think Mikhailkov summed it up the best with “Stolypin lives!”
Yes, in Putin’s Russia, Stolypin lived, Stolypin lives, Stolypin will always live.Post Views: 1,186
By Sean — 5 years ago
Guest post by William Risch
Last week January 1 marked more than the start of a new year in Ukraine. It marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of Stepan Bandera, onetime leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). About 15,000 people in Kyiv took part in a torch-lit demonstration led by the far right-wing Freedom (Svoboda) Party. Similar demonstrations happened in provincial cities.
Bandera (1909-59) is a polarizing figure in Ukraine. For Ukrainians from central, eastern, and southern Ukraine, he represents collaboration with the Nazis during World War II and the mass murder of Soviet civilians. Bandera’s OUN fraction had collaborated with Nazi Germany before World War II, and on June 30, 1941, it tried to set up an independent Ukrainian state under Nazi protection in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Bandera’s subsequent arrest and imprisonment in the Saxenhausen concentration camp did little to dispel this image of Bandera and the “Banderites.” The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), organized by Bandera’s followers, was responsible for killing 40,000 – 60,000 Poles in the Volhynia Region in 1943. Early UPA recruits included former members of police battalions involved in the mass killing of the region’s Jews.
However, for Ukrainians from the western regions annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II – Western Ukraine – the OUN and the UPA were the only organized political resistance to Soviet rule after the Soviets decapitated their prewar Ukrainian political elite. The UPA carried out guerrilla warfare that lasted until as late as 1950. Yet even here, local Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with the Soviets wound up being the main victims of “Banderite” violence.
As noted by political scientist Andreas Umland, the Svoboda Party, whose origins are in Lviv, has come to play a major role in the Euromaidan protest events, despite being politically marginal (enjoying only 3-5 percent support nationwide). OUN slogans, such as “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Glory to the heroes!,” have become standard chants at Kyiv Euromaidan events. Will the ghost of Svoboda’s hero, Bandera, fragment opposition to the Yanukovych regime? Labeling opponents “Banderites” had been an effective means of isolating national dissent in Soviet Ukraine and dividing opponents of the regime in independent Ukraine.
So far, Euromaidan participants themselves are speaking out. One Kyivan, Andrey Plakhonin, an early participant in Euromaidan protests, on January 2 posted news on Facebook that he and at least four other people went out to protest Svoboda’s torch-lit procession. “Don’t burn Ukraine instead of Mezhyhir’ia!” read Plakhonin’s poster, referring to Yanukovych’s illegally acquired estate. A friend of mine on Facebook on the eve of the torch-lit procession passed on a joke that all of these demonstrators should be lured into “Banderite” hideouts on the Maidan and locked up there until the Revolution is over. Even one of the most adamant defenders of Bandera, historian Volodymyr Viatrovych, expressed reservations about Svoboda’s commemoration plans. Bandera’s ghost may wind up enlivening, rather than paralyzing, the Euromaidan protest movement.Post Views: 2,074
By Sean — 10 years ago
Josh Kucera was kind enough to email me about my post yesterday about the aid bill to Georgia. According to Josh, the bill that passed was not HR 6911 or the STAND for Georgia Act. What passed was HR 2638, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. HR 2638 is an interesting piece of legislation indeed. A quick glance at the bill’s Table of Contents you will find appropriations for the FDA, FBI, the Department of Labor, US embassies, Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs. But tucked away under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, there is this paragraph:
For an additional amount for ‘Economic Support Fund’, $465,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010, of which up to $5,000,000 may be made available for administrative expenses of the United States Agency for International Development, in addition to amounts otherwise made available for such purposes: Provided, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $365,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for Georgia and the region for humanitarian and economic relief, reconstruction, energy-related programs and democracy activities, and may be transferred to, and merged with, funds appropriated under the headings ‘Assistance for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union’ and ‘International Disaster Assistance’, of which up to $8,000,000 may be transferred to, and merged with, funds made available for ‘International Broadcasting Operations’ for broadcasting activities to Georgia, Russia and the region.
up to$8,000,000 may be transferred
As Kucera originally reported, the bill passed the House (268 to 150), the Senate (89 to 4), and signed by President Bush. Now the majority of congressmen can pat themselves on the back for paying off Saakashvili, er protecting democracy, for his little war.
So I was wrong on another point. The US Congress is perverse enough to give the Georgians $365 million as the American economy tanks. Nice. Real nice.
My sincerest apologies to Josh for the misunderstanding. I thank him for clearing it up.Post Views: 360