Totalitarian brotherhood in action…

17/09/2017

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September 17, 1939: Every word in Vyacheslav Molotov’s infamous speech on that day was a shameless, blatant, egregious lie: “Events arising out of the Polish-German War have revealed the internal insolvency and obvious impotence of the Polish state. Polish ruling circles have suffered bankruptcy… Warsaw as the capital of the Polish state no longer exists. No one knows the whereabouts of the Polish Government. The population of Poland have been abandoned by their ill-starred leaders to their fate. The Polish State and its Government have virtually ceased to exist. In view of this state of affairs, treaties concluded between the Soviet Union and Poland have ceased to operate. A situation has arisen in Poland which demands of the Soviet Government special concern for the security of its State. Poland has become a fertile field for any accidental and unexpected contingency that may create a menace for the Soviet Union…Nor can it be demanded of the Soviet Government that it remain indifferent to the fate of its Blood Brothers, the Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland, who even formerly were nations without rights and who now have been utterly abandoned to their fate. The Soviet Government deems it its sacred duty to extend the hand of assistance to its brother Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland.” Extracts from Molotov’s broadcast speech on the Soviet invasion of Poland (17 September 1939) Mirovoe Khoziaistvo, 1939, 9, p. 13. In Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy. Volume I: 1917-1941. Jane Tabrisky Degras (ed.) 1953, Oxford University Press. Pages 374-5

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Meanings of the twentieth century…

08/09/2017

Understanding the twentieth century is mandatory for grasping the meanings of the twenty-first: Special thanks to Krisztina Kós and Central European University Press. It’s been a wonderful collaboration and I look very much forward into the next projects. These volumes owe a lot to the conferences organized in Washington, DC by the Romanian Cultural Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with support from the University of Maryland, Georgetown University and the Embassy of Romania (2007-2012).

 

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Secolul lui Lenin…

05/09/2017

The twentieth century was dominated by Lenin’s institutionalized inventions: vanguard party, agitation and propaganda (Agitprop), secret police (Cheka), censorship (Glavlit), central state planning (Gosplan), state controlled unions (Profsoyuz), Communist Youth Union (Komsomol), Communist International (Comintern), Political Bureau (Politburo), collective farms (kolkhoz), concentration camps (Gulag) etc The precondition for all these to operate was the moral blindness and the absolute commitment of the party cadres to the sacralized cause. Lenin’s officers were professional revolutionaries, they dedicated their lives to the Party 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…

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Darkness at Noon, August 21…

21/08/2017

Re-reading “Darkness at Noon” on August 21: “An inscription came into his mind which he had read on the gateway at the cemetery at Errancis where Saint-Just, Robespierre and their sixteen beheaded comrades lay buried. It consisted of one word: Dormir–to sleep.”

 

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Stalin’s Willing Executioner

20/08/2017

: On August 21, 1940, one year after the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the Catalan communist agent Ramón Mercader assassinated Leon (Lev) Davidovich Trotsky, Stalin’s nemesis. To carry out Stalin’s order, Mercader hit Trotky in the skull with an icepick. The Old Bolshevik fought back with desperate energy. He passed away one day later in a Mexico City hospital. Mercader was arrrested and sentenced to 25 years in jail. He secrelty received the Lenin Order and the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for services to the revolutionary cause. Mercader died, age 65, in Havana in October 1978. Altogether, a lurid story of crimes, deceptions, betrayals, manipulations, misplaced ardor, plundered illusions, espionage, hopelessness, and moral decay…

Image: The definitive Mercader biography that I bought in Barcelona in June 2015

 

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Soviet Grand Guignol

11/08/2017

They were all burnt by the unsparingly cruel sun of the Revolution, the Piatnitskys, the Radeks, the Bukharins, the Yakirs, the Redenses and Svanidzes (Stalin’s in-laws), the Litvinovs, the Tukhachevskys, the Rakovskys, and countless others. Fully deserved congratulations to Berkeley historian Yury Slezkine for this formidable accomplishment! An apocryphal story claims that, during the Great Terror, the genialissimo generalissimo used to watch from his office in the Kremlin how the lights turned on and off in the House on the Embankment–the title of a semi-autobiographical novella by Yuri Trifonov. In a recent conversation, Stalin’s biographer Stephen Kotkin told me that this would have been physically impossible. But the vozhd definitely knew what was going on there, who was arrested, whatever happened to the families of those purged. In fact, not only was Koba in the know, but he was in full control, the utimate mastermind of the social cataclysm…

Many residents and their families were detained during Stalin’s terror in the late 1930s, such that the building was dryly referred to as “The House of Preliminary Detention.” (A play on the Russian initialism Допр, from the building’s original name: Дом прави́тельства.) Fully one third of residents disappeared during the terror. The building was in fact an immense mousetrap serving the vindictive appetite of the Black Cat…

Sheila Fitzpatrick in the London Review of Books: “Yuri Slezkine, a master stylist as well as a first-class historian, is the least predictable of scholars. Still, it comes as a surprise to find that the book he has now produced, after long gestation, is a Soviet War and Peace.”

Bulat Okudzhava: Song of the Black Cat (Песенка про чёрного кота)

He doesn’t demand, doesn’t ask,
only his yellow stare glows.
Every cat brings him his catches,
and thanks him besides.

He doesn’t utter a word,
he just eats and drinks.
His claws paw the dirty ground
like they would scratch your throat.

One does wonder why
it’s so gloomy in our block.
We should hang a lamp in the courtyard,
but no way to collect the money.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb7EZK6Ec14


Un erou al luptei pentru drepturile omului: In memoriam Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017)

13/07/2017

A terribly sad day for all the friends of an open society…

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.” (Liu Xiaobo, “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” Nobel Lecture in Absentia, December 10, 2010, Statement of December 23, 2009, read by Liv Ullmann)

 

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