Moldovan Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Since school began this fall, we have seen a rise in coronavirus cases around the world where classes are held in person. Moldova is no exception, with cases slowly but steadily climbing since the beginning of the pandemic. As former educators in Moldova, we were interested to see how the pandemic has been affecting our former colleagues and students.

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Illustrated Children’s Literature and Reading Under Lenin and Stalin



Yesterday and today. Broadly speaking, this is the theme at the heart of my recently published book, “Picturing the Page: Illustrated Children’s Literature and Reading Under Lenin and Stalin” (University of Toronto Press, 2020). In Russian cultural history, “yesterday and today” continues to resonate as a theme, since the Putin state is just as invested in controlling the narrative of the Soviet past as the Soviets were in harnessing the past of Imperial Russia.

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Peremen! I Want Change!



Last August was marked by ongoing mass protests in Belarus targeting the “last European dictator,” Alexander Lukashenko. This article discusses the song that became the soundtrack of these events: “Peremen!” (“I Want Change!”) by the legendary band KINO. First released in 1987, the song instantly became the anthem of perestroika, and has symbolized the desire for change in Russia and other post-Soviet republics ever since.

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Noviye Cheremushki: A History Forgotten



Today, we often look with disdain at Khrushchyovkas, the low cost, concrete-panel or brick, 5- or 8-story apartment buildings of the Khruschev era. Yet they represented the hope of a better future for 1950s architects, urban planners and many other people. Wanting to find out more about their significance in the Russian history, I visited the first Soviet microdistrict, the 9th Microdistrict of Noviye Cheremushki (New Cheremushki), and spoke with some of the original residents.

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“From Another Shore”: Zoom in Russian Literary Studies



Online technologies are, of course, a wonderful tool, but they do not solve the fundamental problems still discernible in our ways of conducting research on literature and culture in Russia today. In this note I’ll touch upon two important problems related to the institutional context and traditions of Russian literary criticism.

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Lessons Learned: Girls’ Empowerment Projects in Uzbekistan



Western methods for encouraging girls’ empowerment and gender equality in Central Asia often lack a willingness to not only acknowledge, but also to work within historical, cultural, and political contexts. This shortcoming often renders short-term gains unsustainable and results in high turnover, meaning that empowerment efforts are typically led by a lineup of constantly-changing Western faces. Yet the success of these projects requires leadership alongside or exclusively by local experts capable of providing institutional memory, credibility, and an understanding of cultural contexts.

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On Translating the chinari



While their participation in OBERIU offered a crucial period of incubation for their thought and art, it is as chinari that Kharms, Vvedensky, Lipavsky, and Druskin assumed their most influential creative form. After all, these authors attained their “spiritual ranks” sometime around 1925, before OBERIU had even been conceived. The enunciations of the OBERIU manifesto establish crucial features of the chinari method: creating art that is “real” — art that is first and foremost an object with noumenal status, a body interacting with other bodies. But the full application of this theory occurred only after 1930, after OBERIU’s dissolution, in the twilight of vandalized bedrooms in the apartment of Leonid and Tamara Lipavsky, with their Conversations being perhaps the most crucial text for understanding the group as a whole.

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The Last Will and Testament of Sergei Esenin: Cultural History of a Mystification, Part III



In the end, he was released as partially insane, for it was noted that he considered himself an incarnation of the Buddha and believed that he desperately needed money to propagate his teachings and found an Estonian colony in Latin America. Narodny also told the American public that his wife and two sons were killed by Cossacks. In an interview that took place two days later, he related how his wife had lost her mind, while he had secretly gone to Russia to save his sister, who was being molested by imperial forces. (Interestingly, the woman in the photograph of the “sister” he saved looks exactly like his new wife, who accompanied him from Finland in place of Sibul’s previous wife, whom he left behind.)

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The Last Will and Testament of Sergei Esenin: Cultural History of a Mystification, Part II



On October 9th, 1927, already after the tragic death of Duncan herself, and again in the Sunday supplement to Hearst’s newspapers, there appeared yet another article, undoubtedly from the same author, entitled “Isadora Duncan Haunted by Her Crazy Husband’s Dying Command. How Death Beckoned to the Noted Dancer Ever Since the Inscription, ‘Isadora, I Wait for Thee!’ Was Set Upon the Urn That Holds Poet Essenin’s Ashes in Russia.”

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The Last Will and Testament of Sergei Esenin: Cultural History of a Mystification, Part I



In this article, I’d like to turn away from heated debates over Esenin’s alleged “killers,” or unprofessional falsifiers of literary history, toward an apparently calmer place. I will focus on one of the most extravagant (if not the most extravagant and absurd) versions of the poet’s death, and the posthumous fate of his deathbed poem.

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Identity Politics and the Reality of Pandemic-Era Russia: A Clash in the Making



From the beginning of the pandemic, the Russian government instituted very tight control over all information related to the spread of the coronavirus in Russia. It highlighted Russia’s lower mortality rate and focused on advances in developing and registering the first COVID-19 vaccine. The label of “Sputnik-V” hearkened back to the Cold War-era space race and Soviet achievements in this sphere. Meanwhile, the truth about the spread of the virus in Russia was kept secret. Medical authorities, responding to executive pressure, controlled reporting about the infection, diagnosing many cases of the virus as pneumonia and attributing the causes of death to other, more proximate reasons like cardiovascular or renal failure — even when these causes were spurred by the virus. At the same time, alternative means of getting to the truth about coronavirus spread in Russia demonstrate that, contrary to official reports, the death toll from the pandemic is still rising as localized pockets of infection affect different regions, cities, and localities across the country. As hundreds of thousands of Russians sicken, they inevitably come into contact with the failing healthcare system and must come to terms with the fact that the Russian state does not have social safety mechanisms capable of alleviating the new economic problems the pandemic is causing. The public response to news about the Russian vaccine offers a snapshot of these new trends.

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What Does a Putin Garden Gnome Tell Us About Contemporary Politics?



I first noticed the 7” hand-cast polymer Putin statue on Etsy.com in November 2017. The listing was delightfully playful in nature but also showed a solid engagement with contemporary politics. It read, “He’s coming to invade your neighbors’ gardens and he might even decide to turn up to the G8 summit in his armored car…yes, by popular request, and with no fear of poisoned umbrellas, I present….Vladimir Putin, the garden gnome.”

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Russia and Marxism in Polish Political Thought, Part II



The views on Marxism of philosopher and legal theoretician Leszek Nowak were shared by a number of other important political thinkers of the Polish interwar period, including Roman Dmowski, Józef Piłsudski, Jan Kucharzewski, and Adam Ciołkosz. Most of these men had first-hand knowledge of Russia and were not — other than Ciołkosz — sympathetic to Marxism.

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