Laika, Belka and Strelka are household names around the world, even today. As the first dogs to reach orbit, they are among the martyrs and the saints of communism. Their fate was the embodiment of a utopian consciousness, the ideal of a society that tried to turn a futuristic fairytale into reality. They endured inhumane tests, either giving their lives and becoming posthumous heroes, or surviving to find themselves the darlings of the nation. The lucky ones lived out their days in the laboratory, where those who had lost their teeth would be fed bits of pre-chewed sausage by their devoted attendants. Some were taken home by the scientists as pets in reward for their loyalty and endurance.

The dogs were simultaneously real and fantastical beings. One day they were strays on the street; the next they were in newspapers and on television, and given heroic names. They also became characters in children’s books. Here, they weren’t presented as sly tricksters, like their folkloric predecessors, but neither were they easily fooled simpletons. They gave a new perspective on the allegory of loyalty. The space dog was not just a trusty companion for a lone hero, but crucially, one for all humanity.

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Secret 'KGB Room' Discovered in Latvian Concert Hall

Renovations at Latvia’s Academy of Sciences have uncovered a secret “KGB room,” where agents of the Soviet secret police could surreptitiously monitor visitors at a concert hall during conferences and performances, Latvian media reported.

The Stalin-era building in the capital, Riga, was being renovated after decades of disuse that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse, Latvia’s Diena newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Renovating the hall, we found a very interesting object: a KGB room from which they [agents] could observe the entire auditorium," producer Juris Miller, who is in charge of the renovations, was quoted as saying.

Restorers plan to preserve the room and turn it into a museum, similar to DDR Museum in Berlin, to ”expose” features of life under the Soviet regime, Miller told Diena.

Forty years ago today the Soviet authorities sent hired thugs, water cannons and a bulldozer to break up an illicit underground art show in Moscow. The result was an international outcry that resulted in a historic change in how art was perceived in the Soviet Union. Joseph Backstein, the doyen of Moscow’s contemporary art scene, shares his memories of the Bulldozer Exhibition and contemplates its lasting significance.

Very interesting.

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Members of the Estonian Secondary School Working Brigade on the first day of the working summer, 1968.
(Source.)

Members of the Estonian Secondary School Working Brigade on the first day of the working summer, 1968.

(Source.)

Gomel, Belarus, toward the end of the Soviet period. The top photo was taken in 1985, the bottom two in 1990

(Source.)

Photographs by Lithuanian artist Romualdas Požerskis.  

(Source. <—- BTW, this is one of my favorite blogs. Check it out.)

The Struggle Against Religion is the Struggle For Socialism

This poster dates from just prior to the Soviet period, during the Russian Civil War. (~1920) I took a couple screenshots of the details - we can see the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus falling into some kind of industrial container, and the horrified figures are Jehovah (see the tallis and tefillin?), a rosy-faced God, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a squawking bird.

Below them, we can see illuminated letters telling us that they are in Tsarist Heaven. The banner flying out of the smokestacks wish “for the long life of continuous…” 

To be honest, I’m not sure what the final word should be. Anyone know what word beginning with “нед” should go on continuously?

(Source: library.duke.edu)

ohmystarsy:

HISTORY MEME | 2/10 moments: Baltic Way

The Baltic Way was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet Union.

The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities. It also illustrated solidarity among the three nations. It has been described as an effective publicity campaign, and an emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene. The event presented an opportunity for the Baltic activists to publicise the illegal Soviet occupation and position the question of Baltic independence not as a political matter, but as a moral issue. The Soviet authorities in Moscow responded to the event with intense rhetoric, but failed to take any constructive actions that could bridge the widening gap between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union. Within seven months of the protest, Lithuania became the first of the Republics of the Soviet Union to declare independence.

( x ) ( x )

The day itself, I remember clearly, was a beautiful summer day. The sun was shining. The sky was very blue. It was a perfect late summer day. And, I remember walking to Parliament that day, for the special session. I lived very close to Parliament so I could walk there. And lots of people were heading up towards Parliament. It was unusual for the streets to be filled and it was just this movement of people, very calmly, very slowly in the direction of Parliament. That added to the feeling of anticipation. Something important is going to happen on this day. And that is the feeling I remember at the beginning of the day, this anticipation…

The counting of the vote, the announcing of the vote. When it became apparent, clear that it had been passed by a huge, huge majority, that feeling was something extraordinary again. It was this huge chamber full of members of Parliament, the diplomatic corps, the press, guests. Everyone just rose up on their feet for this huge standing ovation that went on and on. Gosh, I’m getting tearful just remembering it. Then somebody started singing the Ukrainian national anthem. And that was the first time it was sung in Parliament. Everybody just joined in. It was somebody from the democrats from the floor of the house, as everybody was standing clapping suddenly … Gosh, this is five years later, six years later and I can still remember that feeling that this is a moment in history.

These spaces — the city’s hidden topography of gay life — have recently been brought to light in the work of New York-based Russian photographer Yevgeniy Fiks. A self-proclaimed “post-Soviet artist”, Fiks sees it as his duty to react against the collective amnesia surrounding the Cold War period; previously he commemorated the overlooked history of communism in New York. At first glance, Fiks’s plainly titled new book, Moscow, could be just an ordinary photo album of public places in the Russian capital: we see parks, squares, boulevards, riverside embankments and public toilets. We admire the splendid architecture of the capital, its greenery and its striking constructivist-classicist constructions and we are impressed by the care taken by the Soviet authorities to make even toilets look beautiful. The pictures emanate a sense of peace and silence. But the way in which we see the locations depicted in these photographs is transformed when we learn that each and every one of them was a Soviet cruising ground.

Oh wow.

(So much more at the source. Go read it.)