Russia past and present, from a historian in Cambridge

1917: the revolution of multitudes

‘Make arrangements for the children,’ said Molotov to his closest friend, Alexander Arosev, shortly before Arosev’s arrest in July 1937. You can read this and have a pure connection with the … Continue reading

October 8, 2015 · Leave a comment

The Philadelphia ghetto, the CIA, and the Soviet city

It’s not a very constructive argument. The neighbours scream that your new fence encroaches on their garden; you shout that their extension bears a doubtful relationship to the building regulations. … Continue reading

December 14, 2014 · Leave a comment

Being a man in the Soviet Union

Choose your favourite stereotype: leather-coated commissar; overweight bureaucrat; heroic warrior against the Nazis; indolent drunk; well-paid miner with no interest in housework. The Soviet Union, like all societies, generated various … Continue reading

December 2, 2014 · Leave a comment

Gulag outpost, welfare city

Terror and welfare collided in the Soviet Union, and you can read it in the landscape. Before 1953, and especially before 1941, welfare and terror coexisted, shaping each other. Later, after … Continue reading

November 28, 2014 · Leave a comment

Did human rights exist in the USSR?

If you’d spent half your life in a labour camp — perhaps you’d never left your Siberian village, until the NKVD arrested you on the charge of being an American … Continue reading

November 21, 2014 · Leave a comment

September 1937: Stalin’s welfare-terror state

The core fact of Soviet history is the Great Terror, the semi-judicial murder of almost seven hundred thousand people between 1936 and 1938. It was the high point of Bolshevik … Continue reading

November 10, 2014 · Leave a comment

Spend, spend, spend — Communist-style

Historians who possess souls want to see, touch, and hear the past. They share an instinct with most of their fellow-citizens to imagine what came before: how their families lived, … Continue reading

November 4, 2014 · Leave a comment