Children circle around an ultraviolet lamp to get a dose of vitamin D in Murmansk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, August 1977.
Photograph by Dean Conger, National Geographic
Close up photo of tied hands of a murdered Polish officer during the investigation of the Katyn Massacre; near Smolensk, Soviet Union - 1943
It literally still is. A professor I had complained about it angrily.
suddenly tipping makes sense in an extremely fucked up way
The Stalin Monument Toppled during the Hungarian Uprising
The Soviets had all the best names for places.
A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.”
Poet Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), another casualty of the Great Purges.
Mandelstam was a brilliant poet whose unconcealed contempt for the totalitarian state attracted the attention of the NKVD. His poem “The Stalin Epigram” (1933), portrayed the Soviet leader, much like Anna Akhmatova, as a “Kremlin highlander,” a satirical allusion to his Caucasian heritage, with a broad “Ossetian torso,” an even more incriminating jibe at his hazy parentage. Mandelstam was arrested for the first time and sentenced to exile (not death or the Gulag), a near “miraculous” event, allegedly because Stalin took personal interest in the poet’s fate.
In 1937, Mandelstam was attacked in print by the literary establishment, in spite of his publicly softened stance on the dictator. In May 1938, Mandelstam was arrested for a second time while attempting to enter Moscow with his wife (they had received a government voucher granting them permission). This time he proved not so lucky. On August 20, 1938, his sentence was handed down—five years in a forced labor camp. He arrived at the Vtoraia Rechka (Second River) transit camp where he died of an unknown illness, though some allege he was murdered.
Mandelstam’s wife Nadezhda Mandelstam survived the purges and wrote two memoirs of her husband’s life, Hope Against Hope (1970) and Hope Abandoned (1974). She is responsible for preserving a major part of his archive. Like Meyerhold, Mandelstam was rehabilitated under Khruschev.
Nikolai Cherkasov - Soviet Actor - 1903-1966
This handsome actor was best known for his leading roles in two Sergei Eisenstein movies about ancient Russian heroes: Aleksandr Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II. He was an important person in the Soviet Propaganda machine, even having an audience with Stalin on at least one occasion.
I fell in love with him for his acting skills, charm, and stunning looks while writing a history essay about Ivan (Иван Грозный) and even made a blog inspired by his performance.
U.S. and Soviet soldiers meet on the Elbe (1945).
This Day in Space: 1927. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov born. He would be the first person to die during a spaceflight.
So there’s a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he’s on the phone with Alexei Kosygin — then a high official of the Soviet Union — who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die.
The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes — though no one knows this — won’t work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”
This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venyamin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version — if it’s true — is beyond shocking.
Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Kamarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space. The two men were close; they socialized, hunted and drank together.
In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn’t back out because he didn’t want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.
The story begins around 1967, when Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, decided to stage a spectacular midspace rendezvous between two Soviet spaceships.
The plan was to launch a capsule, the Soyuz 1, with Komarov inside. The next day, a second vehicle would take off, with two additional cosmonauts; the two vehicles would meet, dock, Komarov would crawl from one vehicle to the other, exchanging places with a colleague, and come home in the second ship. It would be, Brezhnev hoped, a Soviet triumph on the 50th anniversary of the Communist revolution. Brezhnev made it very clear he wanted this to happen.
The problem was Gagarin. Already a Soviet hero, the first man ever in space, he and some senior technicians had inspected the Soyuz 1 and had found 203 structural problems — serious problems that would make this machine dangerous to navigate in space. The mission, Gagarin suggested, should be postponed.
“ He’ll die instead of me. We’ve got to take care of him.”
- Komarov talking about Gagarin
The question was: Who would tell Brezhnev? Gagarin wrote a 10-page memo and gave it to his best friend in the KGB, Venyamin Russayev, but nobody dared send it up the chain of command. Everyone who saw that memo, including Russayev, was demoted, fired or sent to diplomatic Siberia. With less than a month to go before the launch, Komarov realized postponement was not an option. He met with Russayev, the now-demoted KGB agent, and said, “I’m not going to make it back from this flight.”
Russayev asked, Why not refuse? According to the authors, Komarov answered: “If I don’t make this flight, they’ll send the backup pilot instead.” That was Yuri Gagarin. Vladimir Komarov couldn’t do that to his friend. “That’s Yura,” the book quotes him saying, “and he’ll die instead of me. We’ve got to take care of him.” Komarov then burst into tears.