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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02 December 2015

Crimean War

Working on some notes on the Crimean War for my history of Russia course.  Estimates of casualties in the war are from precise and vary quite a bit.
Statisticsof Wars, Oppressions and Atrocities of the Nineteenth Century(the1800s) is an excellent site that summarizes the different statistical sources:
As an approximation, dead from both military and and non-battlefield causes might be:

  • UK a bit over 20,000
  • France close to 100,000
  • Turkey maybe 45,000
  • Russia, 100,000+

 Also, some authors have put the total death toll in the conflict at over one million.

18 November 2015

Russia Prepares to Open the Tomb of Tsar Aleksandr III

Sarah Pruitt, Russia Prepares to Exhume Czar Alexander III in Romanov Investigation (5 November 2015). This has also been reported by TASS. The exhumation is connected with DNA testing requested by the Russian Orthodox Church to verify the remains the Tsar Nikolai II's family, executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918

11 November 2015

Peter the Great Naval Ship Located

Divers have reportedly located the remnants of one of Peter the Great's favorite naval ships, which sank in 1715, off the coast of Sweden. See the TASS report.

04 November 2015

Catherine the Great and the Origins of Roller Coasters

See this interesting post on how giant ice-coated slides that were popular in the reign of Catherine the Great set the stage for the development of the roller coaster in France.

28 October 2015

Russia's Syrian Gambit, some history

Russia’s latest Syria adventure brings history full circle

Russian designs on involvement in the Near East go back centuries, and most unfortunately led to war in the mid-nineteenth century.  The Crimean War was not a glorious page in the Russian history textbook.

The Russians re-entered the Near East with their support for Egypt in the 1950s and were a principle support of the Arab countries against Egypt through the early 1970s.

The Reuters article linked above highlights Moscow's somewhat-secret involvement in Syria in the 1980s, again in support of regimes against Israel.

18 October 2015

"If Russians Hate the U.S. So Much, Why Do They Want to Move There?"

Carol Matlack, article posted by Bloomburg on 16 October. An overwhelming majority of Russian respond to polls saying that that they have a negative view of the U.S., yet "the number of Russians trying to emigrate to the U.S. has never been higher."

07 October 2015

ASEEES Annual Convention Coming Soon

The Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), which used to be AAASS, will be holding the forty-seventh annual convention in Philadelphia this November. Information is available online. Myself, I haven't been to one of these conferences in probably thirty years or so.

30 September 2015

Does Putin Have a Philosopher, or Does He Really Need One?

Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn, Putin's Philosopher: Ivan Ilyin and the Ideology of Moscow's Rule (Foreign Affairs, 20 September 2015)

The mysterious name of the semi-literate, semi-rational, semi-intellectual, mysterious, Russia emigre, Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954)keeps circulating these days in connection with Putin's ideas and behaviors, and scholars are looking for the direct, ideological connections between the two with the hope that perhaps Ilyin's writings provide a rational explanation for Putin's ideas.

Reminds me a lot of the effort to figure out a rational definition of fascism from the readings of so-called fascist thinkers, but it's an effort in futility.

23 September 2015

Remembering the Stalinist Terror

Russian Project Honors Stalin’s Victims and Stirs Talk on Brutal Past (New York Times, 20 September 2015).  Some Russians are endeavoring to remember those who perished in the Great Terror by placing small plagues on the last know residences of those who disappeared.  It's a very small act, but some feel that something is needed instead of sweeping the past under the carpet.

09 September 2015

Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Masha Gessen, The Dearly Departed Return to Russia, 21 August 2015

For some unknown reason, the Putin administration is working to dig up famous Russians buried abroad so that they can be "repatriated" back to Russia.  It is especially hard to believe that Anton Denikin, a fierce opponent of the Bolshevik regime during the Russian civil war, has now been reburied in Russia. The Kremlin has also been launching a public relations campaign that Sergei Rachmaninov should be returned to Moscow, claiming that his remains are not being properly taken care of in the United States.

21 May 2015

Khodarkovsky Op Ed

Michael Khodarkovsky, Putin’s Disunited Nation 19 May 2015, The New York Times

Putin and the World War II Victory Celebrations.

Masha Gessen, Putin’s Victory Day, Not My Grandmother’s, has some interesting reflections on the evolution of Russia's World War II holiday.  Plus, this is a great line: Putin, a this year's event, "was surrounded instead by friends from North Korea, Venezuela, China, Zimbabwe, and a handful of other countries."

29 April 2015

08 April 2015

Russian nuclear submarines

Recent news about a fire in a Russian nuclear submarine in Arkhangelsk brought back memories of the Kursk disaster. Wiki has a link of sunken nuclear submarines. There was no nuclear danger in this case.

01 April 2015

The Russian History Scholarly Journals Are Here!

Just arrived in the mail in the last couple of weeks are
The Russian Review, volume 74 (since 1941)!  The issue is devoted to the topic of "Asia and the East in Contemporary Russian Culture."
The Slavic Review, also volume 74 (also since 1941)! This issue has the topic of "Redefining Community in the Late Soviet Union."  I've got really no interest in either of those topical discussions.

04 March 2015

Boris Nemtsov

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find any positive news these days from Russia, and the murder of Boris Nemtsov (1959-2015) does not make it any easier.

18 February 2015

Ukraine v. Russia

Since I usually check out the yahoo homepage a couple of times a day, it has been interesting to note recently how many news items there have been about the conflict in the eastern region of Ukraine. Daily, there are links to stories from all sorts of different news sites, some more reliable, than others, and what I find especially paradoxical about this is that while there is all this coverage, there is very little interest in the conflict from the American public, and there has been no real effort on the part of the US government, NATO or the European Union to get physically involved with support for the Ukraine government.

11 February 2015

Cohen v ASEEES

Read the New York Times account of the controversy between S. Cohen and the Slavic society over funding an award. S. Cohen's rogue views in support of Russian aggression vis-a-vis Crimea and Ukraine have made him almost persona non grata in the academic community.
ps.  I continue to think of the ASEEES by its old initials AAASS

04 February 2015

Newest Edition of The Russian Review

Yes, I know, everyone has been anxiously awaiting volume 74, no. 1 (January 2015) of The Russian Review.  This scholarly journal has been around a long time now, and this issue has a set of four articles on the theme of "Foreign-Language Use in Russia during the Long Eighteenth Century." I found nothing of interest there, except for the fact that most of the articles have more space devoted to footnotes than to narrative text.  The other three articles in the issue are not much better.  I'll check out the book reviews in a later post.

28 January 2015

What's Up in Belarus these days

Recent article by Forbes, Belarus's quandary: No longer Putin's dependable ally? outlines some aspects of Belarus' geopolitical situation.  Bottom line is that, in my view, it is unclear just exactly how well-developed a Belarus identity has developed in the last century.  There was little, if any, before the Bolshevik revolution, and the creation of a SSR by the Bolsheviks, for the first time kind of set up a defined territorial unit. But there is still a pretty sizable portion of the population that identify themselves as Russia.

21 January 2015

Using Twitter

I have a box of large-format slides that I purchased a couple of years ago on Ebay, and I am trying to identify them.  I know that they are from Moscow and St. Petersburg, and so to give my students a challenge, I am sending out one slide a week for 5-10 points of extra credit, and to make it even more challenging, I'm sending them out via twitter at #nvccEVANSec.
You can also check

14 January 2015

PBS Frontline: Putin's Way

Just saw about the last half of this program, which aired on 13 January 2015.  It is just another in a rather long series of Frontline shows devoted to Putin, as interested viewers in the US and Western Europe still grapple with understanding the Putin regime. The part that I saw really did not break much new ground.  Russia's economy is not doing well.  There is an enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of Putin and a close circle of men.  The regime has very firm control of media in the country.