Getting One Thing Straight: “Postmodernists” Are Not the Problem



Discussions of Trump and Putin as “Postmodern politicians” come in many different forms and degrees of sophistication. My own modest contribution is intended only to dispel a bit of confusion that afflicts many in these discussions: “postmodern” politicians are not the “result” of “postmodernist theories” or of a “postmodern movement.” Such an idea fundamentally misconstrues both postmodernism and our current political and cultural situation.

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The Power of the Past



Ten years ago, when I began writing a series of novels set in Russia during the minority of Ivan the Terrible, since published under the pen name C. P. Lesley, the last thing I expected was for the books to have present-day relevance. What I wanted, more than anything, was to produce historical fiction that accurately reflected what scholars have learned about social, political, and cultural life in Muscovy, ideas developed in great detail yet still missing, with rare exceptions, even from college textbooks.

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Speak, Memory: The Case of Yuri Dmitriev, Part I



Dmitriev spent a good part of the 1990s in FSB archives examining case files on purge victims. After finding gaps in the lists, he asked for protocols from NKVD “troikas” – special three-person tribunals created to act as judge and jury in rigged trials. Those documents contained confirmation that death sentences had been carried out. But Dmitriev wasn’t allowed to copy or photograph them. So he would spend all day in the archives, reciting the information into a dictaphone.

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Dispatch from Moscow: Observing the World Cup



Just steps from the Mausoleum, fans could participate in a mock World Cup soccer match, buy refreshments, or try their luck kicking a ball against the “highly skilled” Robokeeper — the venue’s most popular attraction, which offered amateur players the opportunity to “test the accuracy and power of [their] kick.” 

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Russia is building a new Napster — but for academic research

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What will future historians will see as the major Russian contribution to early 21st-century Internet culture? It might not be troll farms and other strategies for poisoning public conversation — but rather, the democratization of access to scientific and scholarly knowledge. Over the last decade, Russian academics and activists have built free, remarkably comprehensive online archives of scholarly works. What Napster was to music, the Russian shadow libraries are to knowledge.

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What Trump and Putin want from their historic summit



As his 1972 summit with Mao Zedong approached, President Nixon prepped by considering three simple questions: What did China want? What did the United States want? What did they both want? With a Trump-Putin summit now scheduled for Monday, we invited experts on U.S.-Russian relations to engage in Nixon’s exercise, hoping to identify some common interests between two geopolitical heavyweights. What follows are their lightly edited answers.

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Will it be ‘happy talk’ — or will Trump and Putin focus on arms control and other critical issues?



With the U.S.-Russia summit approaching, I reached out to former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and current Stanford University political science professor Michael McFaul. McFaul, who recently published “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” a memoir of his time in Moscow, was kind enough to provide his thoughts on the upcoming meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents. What follows is a lightly edited version of our discussion. 

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Summer Reading Series: Mikhail Zoshchenko’s “Sentimental Tales,” Part III



“Why does man exist? Is there a purpose to man’s life—and if there isn’t, then is life itself not, generally speaking, in part senseless?” Of course, some assistant or full professor on the state’s gravy train would reply, with unpleasant ease, that man exists in order to further culture and the happiness of the universe. But that’s vague and unclear, and, for the common man, even disgusting.

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The Opposite of Pragmatism: Nazarbayev’s Astana 20 Years Later



Under Nursultan Nazarbayev’s leadership, Astana celebrates its twentieth year as Kazakhstan’s capital. Festivities for Astana Day on July 6 will attract hundreds of thousands of people to the capital. Elaborate firework displays will glitter in the skies. Pragmatism will be forgotten, and Astana will have become a carefully constructed rallying point of modern Kazakh identity.

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Play Based on Venedikt Erofeev’s “Moskva-Petushki” Debuts at the East Village Playhouse

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Like Erofeev’s Venya, our own contemporaries seem to suffer from strong disillusionment with authority — an unsurprising outcome in the face of the degradation of discourse, institutions, and stable employment. Corrupt, populist politicians and a corporatized intellectual and artistic elite offer us nothing but mediocrity and moral cowardice. Faced with this void, many people turn to dangerous substitutes, as evidenced by the opioid crisis and the re-emergence of right-wing authoritarian movements in the States and abroad.

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Rodion Raskolnikov, Your Tweet Archive is Ready



Two years ago, on May 1, 2016, the Twitter account @RodionTweets sent its first tweet. Since then @RodionTweets has livetweeted the events of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, broken into 140-character-or-less snippets, from its hero Raskolnikov’s perspective. The bulk of the novel’s events take place over the course of three intense weeks in the summer, and the bulk of Rodion Raskolnikov’s tweets similarly appeared in July 2016, but the account has continued to tweet the book’s epilogues, which spread over the course of nearly two years. Finally, on April 24, 2018, Raskolnikov’s new life began and the Twitter account went silent.

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