Jon Waterlow received his PhD in History at Oxford and went on to be a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow there. He is the author of It’s Only A Joke, Comrade! Humor, Trust, And Everyday Life Under Stalin, 1929-1941. He’s the co-editor of the forthcoming War Crimes Trials & Investigations: A Multi-Disciplinary Introduction to be published by Palgrave in a couple of months. Jon is also host of the podcast Voices in the Dark which features conversations and interviews about real life psychology, philosophy, psychedelics, spirituality, social dynamics and much more.
Man . . . or Astro-man?, “Philip K. Dick in the Pet Section of a Wal-Mart,” Project Infinity, 1995.
You Might also like
By Sean — 10 years ago
Russia tries to keep up the momentum as it looks to face Spain on Thursday. Ger Clancy, our ever loving Irishman, breaks down Russia’s run and their chances for the cup.
After more than 16 years in the doldrums, Russian football is finally going places. Not since Euro ’88 have Russian footballers seen the second round of any international major tournament. Now their inspired victory over a highly-rated Dutch team, who had swept away all before them, has landed them a Euro 2008 semi-final spot against Spain. Sure, the Russians have not been without some good fortune in their quest. Nevertheless they are certainly deserving of a semi-final place and their attacking football in the last two games has won them over on the side of many neutrals. The Russians are a win away from a finals appearance, and two from a championship win. This was a possibility unthinkable a mere two weeks ago. But it was an outcome easily divined once coach Guus Hiddink’s brought in Andrei Arshavin (even though he was suspended for the first two games). Hiddick’s move has defined Russia’s tournament.
If you would have suggested that Russia would be a semi-final contender two weeks ago would have been greeted with doubt if not raucous laughter. After all, Russia couldn’t have begun the tournament any worse than they did in their opening game with Spain in Salzburg. In spite of a decent start, in which they held the ball well but lacked urgency, Russia conceded a very cheap goal when Fernando Torres skinned Denis Kolodin to set up David Villa. Everything went to pieces after that. The Spaniards eventually won 4-1, with Villa netting a hat-trick, a rare thing in international football and harsh lesson for the Russians. The Slavs performance was atrocious. Poor passing, no running off the ball, no pace to their game, and suicidal defending greased Spain’s victory. The Russians, however, would learn from the defeat.
Russia’s next match against Greece was a do-or-die game for both teams. Both had lost their opening games. The Greeks went down 2-0 to Sweden in an insipid performance. Although Russia improved immensely from the first match, their play was extremely nervous and uncertain. Their fate hinged on a goalkeeping disaster at 33 minutes when Nikopolodis charged rashly from his line to deal with a hopeless through ball from Bilyatidinov. Sergei Semak beat Nikopolodis and crossed the ball for Konstantin Zyrianov to push it into an empty net. It gave Russia 1-0 lead and the precious lifeline they desperately needed. The second half petered out into possibly the worst game of the tournament. The expected Greek lacked effort and their comeback never materialized. Three precious points for the Russians now meant a win against Sweden would take them through to the last eight.
Arshavin came back just in time to duel with the Swedes. Russia looked immensely improved to battle their medieval rivals. After a shaky start, the Russians took control of the ball and hardly lost it for almost an hour. By half, they had an unassailable 2-0 lead against a Swedish team which simply forgot to show up. Arshavin skinned Mellburg and Nillsonn time and again on the Swedish right, immediately validating Hiddick’s move to bring him onboard. After a number of misses Russia finally took the lead on 24 minutes when Anyukov crossed to an unmarked Pavluchenko who slotted home. Russia kept Sweden on the ropes until their second goal when Zhrikov crossed for Arshavin to calmly slot home.
Russia lost a lot of control in the game from that point on, easily and often surrendering possession, but there was no need to worry. Sweden’s strikers couldn’t hit the side of a barn. Russia could have gobbled up more goals on the break, but 2-0 satisfied their hunger. And so, for the first time ever, a Russian national football team reached the second round of a major tournament. Finally some joy for their long-suffering fans.
Much has been written about Russia’s victory over Holland. And frankly, much of it is rubbish. There is no doubt Russia outplayed them, even embarrassed them. But much of the analysis fails to take a number of important factors into account. First, Holland went up in smoke. This is not unusual and football fans are well aware of the Dutch tendency to implode when the world is at their feet. Secondly, the management on the Dutch bench was as incompetent as it was lazy. No attempt was made to change things significantly, especially on the tactical front. It was clear from the start that Sneijder, Van Der Vaart and De Jong were being cleaned out by Ignashevich and Kolodin. Although Robbin Van Persie did come on at half time, Anyukov simply disappeared. The Dutch were also clearly exhausted and the Russians obviously much fitter.
None of this is to take away from Russia’s excellent performance. It was probably the single best performance ever by a Russian national team. From early on they took the game to Holland and eventually were rewarded early in the second half when Semak crossed for Pavlyuchenko to score. From this point on, a Dutch comeback was expected but it never happened. Laboured, tired and listless, the Dutch were consistently beaten to 50/50 balls and were reduced to sporadic shots that went hopelessly wide or over. The Russians motored on and kept the Dutch at arms length in total comfort, until disaster struck right at the end when Van Nistelrooy headed an inswinger past Akinfeev from close in. That was hard blow to the Russians, but in extra time they took up where they left off and almost completely dominated in midfield. Early in the second period of extra-time, the Dutch finally collapsed when, for the umpteenth time Arshavin skinned Andre Oijer and crossed for Torbinskii to finish sweetly. A short time later Arshavin himself killed off the Dutch with a cool finish at the far post. With that, Moscow exploded.
So, can Russia really win it all? The Russians are now at the centre of much speculation and indeed betting, and they certainly can win the tournament. They are without a doubt the darlings of the championship and loved by neutrals for their attacking football. Beating the Dutch would have won them a lot of fans around Europe too. But is all this enough? A lot of comparisons have been made, especially with Greece in 2004, but I’m sure Hiddink would prefer another role model. Greece was the most unpopular winners ever, owing to their atrocious style of play. Russia in ‘08 is more like Denmark in 1992: swashbuckling, all-attack and hugely entertaining. There is no doubt the Russians can beat Spain, and may well do so.
Still, Russia is not without its problems. Kolodin and Torbinskii are suspended and the former is likely to be replaced by Vasilli Berezutskii, an off-form player who hasn’t kicked a ball in the tournament yet. He’s facing a long night marking Fernando Torres. Spain will be battled hardened and wily after their bruising encounter with Italy, and the Russian habit of standing off forwards and allowing them to run at Ignashevich and Berezutskii will be punished, just as Denis Kolodin was against the Greeks. Russia’s weakest link by far is their goalkeeper Akinfeev, who is surely the poorest left in the tournament. Also the game with Holland may have taken a lot out of the Russians both physically and mentally. Performances as big as that are very difficult to follow up. Hiddink however, has, as usual, come up trumps so far, so too have the players and it may not be beyond the Russians to bring the cup home….
Russia v Spain, Euro 2008 Semi-Final, Thursday June 26th 22.45 MSK, 19.45 GMT, 14.45 EST 11.45 PSTPost Views: 870
By Sean — 8 years ago
Contrary to what most people think, I see few signs of the neo-Sovietization of Russia. What I have observed, however, is a return to Russian traditionalism, even a kind of re-embrace of Tsarist symbolism. I’ve noticed this in several areas of Russian daily life: Christmas cards with the recently canonized last Romanov family, icons of the last Tsar sold in kiosks, large portraits of Petr Stolypin and Sergei Witte at the entrance of the International University, and book after book reevaluating the late Tsarist period, newly published volumes of Stolypin’s collected works, and the memoirs of not only Witte, but the diaries and biographies of princes and princesses in bookstores.
Let us also not forget the growing assertiveness of the Orthodox Church in cultural and political life, or the fact that Dmitri Medvedev’s inauguration looked like a Tsarist coronation more than anything. They might as well had placed the Russian Constitution on his head rather than having him swear to it. To me, “Sovereign democracy” is more reminiscent of Nicholas I’s “Official Nationality” with its cornerstones Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality. Indeed, even the portraits of Putin and Medvedev hanging on chinovniki’s walls are more Tsarist in origin. As is the “cult of personality” Putin recently denied he had. This is not to say that Russia hasn’t changed. It’s only to suggest that it takes from its Tsarist as much as its Soviet pasts as it negotiates the present contours of its national character.
By Sean — 11 years ago
By Ger Clancy , the Irishman
On the road from Sheremetyevo-2 to Moscow, a strange-looking monument sits awkwardly among the advertising hoardings and petrol stations. A huge lump of concrete with enormous spikes protruding, the anti-tank ‘Yozh’ (hedgehog) marks the closest the Germans got to Moscow in December 1941. It’s a symbol of not only how near the Wehrmacht got to the capital, it’s also a reminder that plenty of foreigners have come here with lofty plans of domination and got brutally sent back to where they came from, tail between legs.
Last night the England football team became the latest member of that grouping. And for one of the few times since its birth, the Russian Sbornaya was dishing out the punishment to a major football power.
The omens were bad for England right from the outset. Before kick off at least five of their supporters had been injured in scuffles. Around 4,000 England fans had traveled to Moscow for the match, amid warnings by their embassy not to wear face-paint and avoid displays of their allegiance on the streets prior to the game.
Throughout the week the English press talked endlessly about the synthetic surface being used at Luzhniki but to his credit, the England coach Steve McClaren wrote it off as an excuse. He may have wished he’d said nothing. For the first time in years an international match at Luzhniki had a sell-out crowd, guaranteeing a hostile reception for the English. Russian coach Hiddink made a number of changes from the team that was thumped at Wembley a month ago, most notably dropping goalkeeper Malafeev for Gabulov. Malafeev had a nightmare against England and Hiddink is not a man renowned for hesitation in difficult team selections.
However, on the field, England couldn’t have started better. They controlled the play in midfield and took the lead deservedly after 29 minutes. A high ball was allowed to bounce in the Russian box by Vasilii Berezutski and Rooney latched on to the dropping ball to lash a rasping shot high into the top corner beyond a helpless Gabulov. It was no more than England deserved and the Russians were now looking in deep trouble.
The game turned on a number of incidents in the first 25 minutes of the second half. Not long after the restart Steven Gerrard missed a gilt-edged chance, blasting wide with only Zurabov to beat. Then Micah Richards forced a good save from Gabulov when he really should have scored, shooting tamely from only 8 yards out. The moment of the game came on the 69th minute. Rooney rashly pulled down Zyrianov just outside the England box, but the forward fell down into the box. The referee incorrectly gave a penalty and Russia a lifeline, which substitute Pavluchenko gratefully accepted, blasting into Robinson’s right-hand corner. Now level, Russia pressed forward and when four minutes later Robinson could only parry Arshavin’s shot, Pavluchenko pushed home the rebound past a despairing Richards on the goal-line. Russia held on to the lead in modest comfort and greeted the final whistle with jubilation and smiles, something not previously associated with the Sbornaya, and rapturous celebrations in the stands.
The postmortem is already underway in England, focusing mainly on McClaren’s persistence with blundering goalkeeper Robinson, as well as throwing away a relatively comfortable lead. For Russia, however, all is bright. If Russia wins their next two games, against Israel and Andorra, they will qualify for Euro 2008, sensationally dumping England out in the process. Although the trip to Tel-Aviv will not be easy, the Russians are in control of their own destiny and will wallop Andorra. Hiddink’s magic appears to be rubbing off at last, and although the Sbornaya are by no means cured of all their ills, they are finally off the life-support. For England a miserable trip home beckons, and like the Werhmacht and Le Grande Armee before them, they leave Moscow defeated and mortally wounded.Post Views: 7,020