Arch Getty is a Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA where he seeks to understand how the greatest experiment of the 20th century, led by a movement that grew out of rational, enlightened, egalitarian, and democratic traditions resulted in dictatorship and the deaths of millions of its own people. He’s the author of several books and articles on the Great Terror, political violence, and Stalinism. His most recent book is Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition published by Yale University Press.
Muddy Waters, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” Gold Collection, 1992.
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- By Sean — 13 years ago
Soviet dress is a rather understudied topic. But now we can breathe easier. According to the London Guardian, Professor Olga Gurova from the European University in St. Petersburg is working on a cultural history of underwear in the Soviet period. I have to say, I’ll read it. I find the topic absolutely fascinating. Here is how Gurova explains her work:
In the 1920s, Soviet magazines touted a “regime of cleanliness” for the proletariat. “Underwear,” explains Gurova, “was a compulsory part of that regime.” A goal was established: everyone should have at least two sets, and should change sets at least once every 7-10 days. Mass production was cranked up, underclothing the populace in officially healthy, comfortable, hygienic long johns, boxers, undershirts and bras. Gurova’s research shows that most of these items were “spacious”, and that “there was no big difference in design between male and female underclothes”.
Having pored over masses of documentation, Gurova infers that during the 20s “Soviet underwear was not about sex, it was about sport”. Sports outfits – T-shirts, shorts and sleeveless shirts – became the basic prototypes. Petticoats, seen as old-fashioned, faded from the scene, as did corsets. Underwear design quickly adapted to better serve Soviet women’s physical activities in the factory and the kitchen. In contrast to most European countries, reports Dr Gurova, “the Soviet revolution cancelled corsets and dressed women in bras more quickly”.
This is corroborated by Christina Kiaer’s Imagine No Possessions, which looks at, among other things, the intersection of commodity production, fashion design, and avant-garde art in 1920s Russia. Much of the avant-garde fashion design was geared to sports uniforms and wear. I just hope Gurova’s study will be available in the US, so I don’t have to track it down in Russia.
- By Sean — 13 years ago
So they turned off the hot water in my apartment. “They” are the mysterious maintenance people who run the five buildings of my apartment complex. Though I never seen “them”, “they” seem to have their base of operations in a building across from me. Anyway, every summer the hot water in Russian apartments are shut off for repairs. It can last from a few days to two weeks. It’s really the only time they can do this because of the winter. Hot water is centralized throughout Russian apartments, so unless you’ve installed a hot water heater, you’re pretty much showering cold. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all.
The unpleasantries don’t stop there. The people who live above me must be either, a) drunks, b) crazy, or c) both. Natasha told me that they are drunks. But your run of the mill drunk does not constantly move furniture and bang on the floor. Normal drunks just drink. They may scream. But mostly they just drink. I don’t know what is going on up there, but the apartment must be in perpetual remont. In the several months I’ve been here, they must have rearranged the whole apartment 100 times. Sometimes this continues well into the early morning, like until 2 or 3 am. To make matters worse, they like to throw shit out the window. They other day I heard water splashing on the ground outside my window. Now water isn’t anything to complain about. My fear is that it wasn’t water from a faucet, if ya know what I mean.
Yesterday, I went with a few friends to Novodeviche Cemetery to look at all the old Communist graves. There are some important notables buried there, the most famous being Nikita Khrushchev. It also has the graves of the novelist and essayist Nikolai Gogol, the playwright Anton Chekov, long time Politburo and Stalin confidant Viacheslav Molotov, the famous Socialist Realist writer, Nikolai Ostrovskii, avant-garde poet Vladimir Mayakovskii, Bolshevik-feminist Alexandra Kollontai, Stalin’s wife (who committed suicide) Nadezhda Allilueva-Stalina, among other revolutionary and war heroes, academics and scientists, artists, composers, writers, directors, opera singers, actresses and actors. Even circus performers. That’s right circus performers. Just take a look at the photo of Vladimir Durov, the famous clown. His statue makes him into an image of a revolutionary hero. You wouldn’t even know he was a clown without the monkey on his shoulder and ruffle shirt. The grave stones for these people are truly out of this world. Some are just massive with fully statutes or busts of the dead. Others, like Khrushchev’s are works of abstract art. There is sometime to be said for how the Russians remember the dead, and especially how they remember the heroic. I can’t think of a cemetery in the states that honors intellectuals and academics to the extent that the Soviet Union did. The place is truly amazing. It would take two days to look at all the graves. It is one of my favorite tourist places in Moscow. (See below for pictures).
- By Sean — 10 years ago
It appears that some of Medvedev’s liberal posturing is producing concrete results. Or at least someone is getting the signals. Finally, fi-nal-ly Memorial has gotten its materials back from the St. Petersburg prosecutor. Twelve computer hard disks, or “Winchesters” as one report calls them, about 1000 business cards belonging to A. D. Margolis (the general director of St. Petersburg Rescue Fund and editor of the St. Petersburg Encyclopedia, and heаd of several Memorial projects), and seven CDs and DVDs were returned to the human rights organization on Thursday.
The return of Memorial’s property followed another ruling in its favor by the Dzerzhinsky court that deemed the December raid by the police as unlawful. The case’s lead investigator Mikhail Kalganov decided to not press the issue further. “Yes, this is our victory,” Memorial’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov told Kommersant. “And we think that in this case the Russian legal system managed itself [well]. The court has shown that it is on the right side.” It also didn’t hurt, the advocate said, that Russia’s representative to the OSCE spoke out on Memorial’s behalf. So the question is did the legal system work or did Memorial have an influential patron? Or better yet, is this another, albeit small, sign of a Medvedevian “thaw” in the forecast?
A thorough inspection of the “Winchesters” will be done on May 13 to make sure the authorities didn’t erase anything or damage any of the files.
Thus ends an almost six month ordeal. It’s nice to see a happy ending to an incident that generated cries about the return of Stalinism. As I said in my last post on the Memorial Saga, I expect this victory to get as much press as the initial raid.
Still, despite the positive outcome, Memorial still had to jump through several hoops for a victory that they never should have been forced to fight for in the first place. Which leaves one crucial question unanswered. Why was Memorial raided exactly? I guess we’ll never really know. I don’t expect Chief Investigator Kalganov to shed any light on this any time soon. For the time being, he’s got some wounds to lick.