This is a blog for use in both of my HIS 241 and HIS 242 Russian history survey courses at Northern Virginia Community College.

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07 October 2011

Krokodil and Drug use in Russia

Shaun Walker, Krokodil:  The Drug That Eats Junkies
I will have to do some more research on drug use around the world when I get a chance to put this in proper perspective.

25 September 2011

Nicholas Riasanovsky in memoriam

Professor Nicholas Riasanovsky (1923-2011), long time professor of Russian history at the University of California, Berekey, died earlier this year--yes, I agree, that sometimes it takes news a long time to reach me.  He was one of the key figures in the development of Russian history studies in the US, as his graduate students filled positions everywhere in American universities, and everyone used his popular History of Russia, now in its eighth or ninth edition.  Here is the link to the New York Times obituary and one from UC Berkely.  I met him once in the 1980s when he visited the University of Virginia.  I do not recall really speaking with him at all; what I do recall was that he was a passionate sports fan and insisted that he attend a UVa soccer game while he was there.  He later wrote up some notes for me about how he got interested in Russian history as a field of study.

24 September 2011

The Return of Putin

There are headlines everywhere about the decision of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev to flip-flop positions.  That means that Putin would again become president, and then Medvedev would become prime minister when their current terms are up.  See for example,
Putin to Run for Presidency in 2012.  There is also a lot commentary, for example, Analysts' View:  Putin to Return to the Kremlin.  Again, this is not really surprising, since Putin is the real force in Russian politics, and he is going to stay the main force; whatever formal political position he holds.  It is also clear that there is currently no one who has any sort of mandate to challenge him--that person would also have to be especially brave.  This also means that Russia, much like the US, is kind of stuck in a holding pattern--although for different reasons that what is happening in the US--and that critical socio-economic challenges to both societies are not going to be resolved in the upcoming next few years.

02 September 2011

Russia, Exxon and the Arctic

The NPR headline reads
Exxon In Multibillion-Dollar Russian Arctic Deal.  I wonder if Exxon studied the experiences that Shell had in working with the Russians on the huge Sakhalin Island project.

05 August 2011

War and Peace redux

Having just finished up the 1500 pages of Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru Quartet, I decided tha I should continue to read "big books" and that it was time for me to get back to my roots and re-read Tolstoi's War and Peace. This will be at least my third go-round at it, and I am looking forward to the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I still think that this book perfectly captures an era of Russian history--that is not exactly a rocket science deduction--but I am most interested in taking another look at Tolstoi's views on history.

02 May 2011

Chernobyl, 1986-2011

Hard to believe that it is now the 25th anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. There has been a lot of coverage in the news, especially in light of the nuclear problems that are occurring at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after the tsunami. See, for example, A Nuclear Cautionary Tales turns 25. Strange, there are still people poking around the Chernobyl Exclusion zone (much of the area is a modern-day ghost town), and there are even some residents who have returned to live there. There are a lot of answers to common questions on the IAEA site. Please note this: "The initial explosion resulted in the death of two workers. Twenty-eight of the firemen and emergency clean-up workers died in the first three months after the explosion from Acute Radiation Sickness and one of cardiac arrest." From what I recall, those fireman stood above the core as it melted down and frantically directed water onto the core in an effort to reduce the magnitude of the disaster. They had to know that they were going to die from the radiation exposure.

04 January 2011

Interesting Russian Demographics

I had to look up some numbers for a short presentation that gave recently. They were actually a bit shocking. Russia is still a big country in terms of square mileage (6.5 million sq. mi. according to, but the population is now only about 142 million (same source). Then I checked the CIA factbook:
Population growth rate: -0.465%, which was 222/233 in the world
Very surprising numbers.

С Рождеством и Новым Годом

Russian Christmas (old style) will be celebrated this first week of January. Tradition has it that it usually snows on, or around, Russian Christmas.