Apartment building of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner

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Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin


This is the conning tower of the submarine that sank the Gustloff. I can’t tell you how bizarre it is to see this here with a plaque celebrating Marinesko sinking the ship with 7,000 soldiers and fascist Germany officers.


We really do all inhabit different worlds.

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Ulyanovsk Museum of Civil Aviation

Soviet SST. I remember the Tu-144, the SST, and the Concorde. When I was a kid space travel and supersonic transportation was the future. I rode a hovercraft across the English Channel once.

Fastest propeller-driven plane in the world since 1960.

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Ulyanovsk

Lenin’s birthplace

Rockin’ English language dance music is playing from the PA.

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Samara

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Kazakhstan

It’s very nice!

At first I thought the road had disappeared, but then I realized only the pavement part was gone.

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Saratov

Saratov is rightly proud of the city’s role in the space race. This is inside the entrance to the very nice park where I’m having dinner.

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Smelovka

This was the spot where Yuri Gagarin landed. I was pretty excited to be here! The space race was a big part of my childhood.

What looks like a shelf in the hatch opening is where after reentry Gagarin’s seat slid out on rails. He descended to earth on his own parachute.

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The Motherland Calls

Saying this is the largest statue of a woman in the world doesn’t communicate its majesty. It really is impressive.

The Motherland is approached via a series of memorials. I find them all moving. People are taking each other’s photos at each stage. I always find this strange: “Here I am at the memorial to the event where tens of thousands of people died.”

I really like the bas-reliefs on either side. The figures all seem to inhabit ruins. The impression of people fighting in the ruins of a city is quite effective. Loudspeakers broadcast martial music, a historic radio address, the sounds of diving airplanes, explosions, battle.

Entrance to the site is made via a tunnel, with what seems to be rubble on either side. Again, I think this is all really well-designed and executed.

Elegiac choral music plays.

Four of the six statues on the right have men and a woman helping wounded comrades. One has a soldier striding forward with weapons in his hands past a stricken fellow. Only the last of the six has two men who are whole, triumphant. They have slewn the massive serpent one holds wrapped about his arm.

I see this heroine rallying her compatriots to defend their land and a series of images go through my mind: obese Californians wearing pink knit pussy caps waddling through the streets of San Francisco; Poles of the Home Army finding out the Soviets would keep their Molotov-Ribbentrop gains after the war; street fighters in Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, and Kiev all apparently facing a shortage of pink knit pussy caps and so hurling Molotov cocktails at the various armies they faced; Lithuania building a fence on its borders. A fence. Friggin’ Lithuanians.

Red October factory (behind the white buildings) as seen from The Motherland Calls.

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“Treasonous Traitor”

I just read this┬ápiece on Counterpunch and thought it was really funny, then I realized that Hopkins actually had a link to his mention of a New York Times piece with the title Trump, Treasonous Traitor, and I clicked on it. This is not the Onion – this stuff exists. It’s rather jarring to realize how detached I’ve become from the mindless jargon-laden hysteria which seems to consume Americans who suckle on mass media pablum. Reason is just out the window, but then, I find myself wondering when it was last in the window? I think Alexander Cockburn said something about Americans permanently losing touch with reality with Reagan’s election.

I’m enjoying Plokhy’s book on Yalta. Thinking of Ukrainians I know and remember a couple years ago my Ukrainian coworker recognizing the photo on the Zhukov book I was reading. I was happy to have someone to talk with about it, and looking around the office realized first, that only the other Russian speakers would know who this was, and second, that I was the only person on the floor reading a non-fiction book that wasn’t a Malcolm Gladwell Silicon Valley type of schlock bestseller. I wonder how many Americans talking about Trump’s treasonous traitorous tyranny can locate Finland and Crimea on a map.

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