The Great Chernobyl Acceleration



One researcher in search of definitive answers to long-term health effects from Chernobyl has a radical idea about how to accelerate cleanup of the accident’s contamination: Buy the radioactive berries local residents pick, and dispose of them as nuclear waste.

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Boris Groys – “The Cold War Between the Medium and the Message: Western Abstract Art vs. Socialist Realism.”



The powers of the post-WWII period began to politicize the struggle between realism and avant-garde modernism. The West, Groys argued, believed that socialist realism was just another version of fascist propaganda art, while the Soviet state saw the West’s continuation of modern avant-garde art as a form of its own fascism, in its rejection of the European humanist tradition.

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Post-Soviet, Post-Industrial, Post-Future: Rethinking Space After the End of Communism



Images of decay across the territory of the former USSR – starkly physical symbols of the broken promises of communism – are  one result of this economic collapse. While in the center of Moscow former factories such as Vinzavod, Artplay, and Red October have been turned into hip gallery spaces, helping to transform run-down neighborhoods into cosmopolitan hotspots, throughout the rest of Russia many factories remain derelict spaces–as is dramatically evident in the Hammer and Sickle metallurgical plant.

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Medicine and Mortality in the Gulag



A prevailing argument in Gulag academia posits that the cruelty and inhumanity in Stalinist camps was never deliberate or “centrally coordinated”, but rather a product of incompetence, shortages, depletion of resources, and other “external factors” such as the harsh Siberian climates. But in her book Illness and Inhumanity in Stalin’s Gulag, Dr. Golfo Alexopoulos argues, contrary to popular Gulag literature, that Stalinist camps were actually more akin to death camps: a “highly coordinated system of violent human exploitation” to a “degree not previously documented.”

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Monumental Politics: The Power of Public Memory in Putin’s Russia



The contemporary revival and politicization of Russia’s history begins with references to the glories of Kievan Rus, and progresses onwards through Soviet history. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Johnson argued, Russia was left with an identity crisis caused by the vacancy of Soviet ideology. The Russian state therefore looked towards public space, as “control of symbolic public spaces was always very important.”

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School of Europeanness: Tolerance and Other Lessons in Political Liberalism in Latvia



As Latvia has moved towards Europeanization in the post-Soviet period, the country has faced a set of somewhat contradictory demands from European institutions: it has been expected to “draw a variety of boundaries around liberal democratic states and policies, while at the same time emphasizing the virtues of inclusion openness and tolerance.”

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“Socialist Orientalism: Aleksandr Rodchenko’s and Varvara Stepanova’s Ten Years of Uzbekistan”, a talk with Nariman Skakov



Rodchenko and Stepanova’s album “Ten Years of Uzbekistan” was commissioned and produced in 1933, with the intent of producing a luxurious folio to commemorate the tenth-year anniversary of the Uzbek Socialist Soviet Republic. At the time, the Central Asian republic was considered “an exemplary space” for manifesting the Socialist goal.

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Khlebnikov, Tatlin, and the Utopian Geopoetics of the Russian Avant-garde (Event Recap)



Professor Harsha Ram’s paper primarily focuses on the poetics, the literary theory, and the politics surrounding the Russian Revolution, and how the particular “convergence of literature and politics can help rethink the problem of world literature.” Focal to Ram’s research are poet Velimir Khlebnikov and artist Vladimir Tatlin, whose unconventional work presented a utopia imbued with a new vision of geopolitics.

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