The more political actors engage with their audience online, the more important it becomes not whether but how they do so. This includes authoritarian regimes with restricted media spheres, where social media is often the only mass channel through which opposition actors can address the population.
Yesterday’s post addressed the new cold war in the skies, which has divided the West from Russia as a consequence of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia’s aviation sector and the country’s retaliatory measures have unmade many of Russia’s global air routes, which the Soviet Union began building in the mid-1950s. Yet this sector, I hazard to predict, will likely weather sanctions by recreating the illiberal regime of air travel that characterized Aeroflot in the Soviet era.
This blog post reflects on the historical significance of the sudden rupture in global aviation that took place after Russia invaded Ukraine, focusing on Russia and the US in particular. I also consider what the original Cold War and the Soviet Union’s approach to civil aviation can tell us about what happens next.
At the other end of the spectrum from Oxxxymiron and FACE is one of the few high-profile artists speaking in defense of Russia’s invasion: the rapper and MMA enthusiast Timati, who has released several statements explaining the invasion as a “forced measure” enabled by Western funding and agitation. The infamously pro-Kremlin rapper (see his now-deleted video with Guf entitled “Moscow,” one of the most disliked videos in Russian YouTube history) vehemently defended Russia and his own patriotic stance, while still claiming to be against the loss of “innocent” life.
In March 1862, the first part of a novel titled Zhenskaia dolia [A Woman’s Lot] appeared in the leading Russian literary journal Sovremennik [The Contemporary]. The publication was signed “N. Stanitskii.” Loyal readers would have recognized a name that had appeared in nearly every issue of the journal for the last fifteen years. Like the rest of “Stanitskii’s” fiction, Zhenskaia dolia offered a contribution to the debate on women’s rights.
In some cases, where formal diplomacy has initially failed, other diplomatic tracks have fared better. In essence, the end goal of relationship-building is the same, but the means to this end uses a different strategy and is carried out by different players.
“Russia My History” and other, similar history parks are a remarkable testament to the state of historical memory in Russia today. These expensive and intricately crafted productions make clear the importance of the imperial narrative to the “soft power” component of Russia’s statecraft. The Romanovs exhibit in particular accords with the stilted view of the past that Russia’s political center has been crafting for decades. As the war in Ukraine demonstrates, these types of geopolitical narratives are anything but harmless.
Old habits die hard. One especially pernicious “habit” that has resurfaced during the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the claim that Adolf Hitler, the man who led the attempted annihilation of European Jewry, was himself part Jewish. At a May 1 press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Ukraine could still harbor Nazi elements even though its president, Voldymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
Whereas Stalin’s show trials featured confessions and executions, the aim of the show debate was to persuade the institute’s council of party members at the institute, the party-group to drop their support for Behrens and Benary and publicly announce both the dogmatic and revisionist character of the ideas. The debate took place between January and April 1957 at the bimonthly meetings of the party-group.
On December 6th, 2021, the Jordan Center hosted Sasha de Vogel for her talk “No Final Victories: How Reneging Affects Concessions to Low-Capacity Protest Campaigns in Moscow, Russia” as part of the Jordan Center’s joint research workshop with the Higher School of Economics.
On 30 May 1989, a black pictogram of a camera framed in red with a diagonal red slash appeared on two major landmarks in East Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz. The message was unmistakable: no photography allowed. Some ran home to grab cameras and returned to defy the order. Another man quickly hid his camera, and a West German tourist exclaimed “typical East,” assuming the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) was behind the regulation. But this was no act of state. In fact, “Photography Forbidden” was an art action from East German artist and conceptual photographer Kurt Buchwald. During the action, Buchwald captured responses to the signs with photographs of his own. This caught the attention of a nearby police officer, who pointed to the signs and informed Buchwald he must stop. Buchwald ignored the warning, and the officer arrested him. The arresting officer soon learned the signs were connected to a city-approved experimental art festival. Buchwald was free to go.
The unprecedented sanctions and the exodus of many international technology companies from Russia is understandable, but their absence risks ceding the information space to the Kremlin. Cutting off Russian users from international platforms makes it easier for the Kremlin to isolate the Russian public from all but its carefully-crafted narratives.
There is no doubt that the recent focus on diversity and race in our field has had a positive impact, providing much needed–but hitherto absent–institutional support for mentoring and recruiting Black students who can bring fresh perspectives to the study of the region. Yet because of contingency, these up-and-coming experts risk falling into the same kind of precarious employment that education promised to bring them out of. Instead of helping these young scholars, the recruitment of them risks reproducing the racial-class hierarchies of the broader economy in our own field, luring Black and other underrepresented students into a profession with a declining number of opportunities for stable employment.
This is not the time to give in to techno-pessimism, nor over-rely on techno-optimism—though closing the sky is long overdue and those fighter jets are sorely needed! Also needed is the development of and financial incentivization for more sustainable green energies. When Russia’s war on Ukraine is over, Ukrainians and the world will have to confront that other “secret war.” The environmental nightmare facing Polissia and the nonhuman across Ukraine is, after all, another Soviet legacy that sovereign, independent Ukraine is more than capable of taking on.
Anticommunist discourse has long since ceased to advance the democratization of society by means of depoliticization and “decommunization.” Instead, it has become a discourse that protects the privileges of the winners of the transition from socialism to capitalism. The disparaging of socialist-era film by anticommunist cultural elites must be read in this key primarily—as an instrument of maintaining cultural hegemony—and not as an effort to provide better “context” for understanding the past.
While Ukraine is winning the hearts and minds of Europe and North America, it is losing the propaganda war in the rest of the world. The role of the United States in global affairs in recent decades is so dominant that much of the public in China, India, Vietnam and elsewhere seem to have bought the Russian narrative that this is a war to stop Western expansion and domination.
The Russian military has announced a new war strategy, focusing “on the main goal, the liberation of the Donbas.” But do ordinary people living in the Donbas actually want what “liberation” probably means: violent conquest, followed by independence or annexation to Russia?
What we are doing in the virtual cloud depends on what happens there, on a battleground. There is a list of cities and towns currently under attack, and it is getting longer. The archivists first go to high-risk collections, trying hard to get ahead of time to create copies. Each hour, under shelling, the flickering lights of Ukrainian culture risk disappearing into the darkness of oblivion.
I recently attended a workshop where each participant presented their observations about the state of national identity in the Baltic States. One of my arguments in the workshop was that emotions of (national) pride and shame are relational facets of national identity, and that in the post-Soviet space this emotional dynamic has been affected by Western expertise. Diplomats and others introduced neoliberal reforms and ideas to the Latvian “transformation elite,” a term I use to denote the Latvian political leadership that guided and governed the country’s post-Soviet transformation.