KGB

Maria Butina greeted her guests with a gun in her holster and her hands on her hips. A pair of professional shooting earmuffs hung from her neck; a pair of yellow goggles pushed up her dyed-red hair like casually forgotten sunglasses.“Welcome!” she said and explained to the gathered what they were about to do: shoot stuff. “I hope tonight will be an unforgettable night, and that you’ll come away with a feeling that you held something so powerful, so incredible, in your hands. So enjoy!” She added, “Oh! And there will be adrenaline.”

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Today, the Russian parliament voted 291 to 150 to strip one Gennady Gudkov of his seat. Gudkov, a former KGB man and businessman, has served in the Duma, the Russian parliament, for eleven years, most of them in the leftist Just Russia party.

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On the morning of February 21, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich walked up the steps leading to the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, shed their winter clothing, pulled colorful winter hats down over their faces, and jumped around punching and kicking for about thirty seconds. By evening, the three young women had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” which mocked the patriarch and Putin.

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Why Marx Was Right By Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press, 258 pp., $25) How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism By Eric Hobsbawm (Yale University Press, 470 pp., $35) An intellectual revival of Marxism is one of the predictable consequences of the financial crisis. In the twenty years before the storm broke, the Marxisant intelligentsia was more marginal in politics and culture than it had ever been.

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The Road By Vasily Grossman Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova (New York Review of Books Classics, 372 pp., $15.95)  What should we call the literary age of Vasily Grossman, who wrote Life and Fate, the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century? There was the “Golden Age,” from Turgenev and Goncharov to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. The “Silver Age,” interrupted by the Revolution of 1917, had Blok, Gumilev, the young Mandelstam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Khodasevich, Mayakovsky, Bely, and the future Nobelist Bunin.

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Silicon Implant

When Dmitri Medvedev became Russia’s president in 2008, he projected a very different image from that of his predecessor. Vladimir Putin is a buff former KGB agent who is fond of rugged pursuits, such as hunting and fishing, and is frequently photographed engaged in them without his shirt on. Medvedev is an elfin St. Petersburg-trained lawyer who enjoys chess and photography, practices yoga daily, and is the proud owner of the complete recordings of Deep Purple on vinyl.

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Rosenbergs Redux

In March of 1951, a young Jewish couple from New York City, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, both secret members of the American Communist Party, were tried in Federal Court for “conspiracy to commit espionage.” The Rosenbergs were accused of having passed secrets pertaining to the atomic bomb from Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who worked in a lab at Los Alamos, to the Soviets. In June of 1953, all legal appeals having been exhausted, the Rosenbergs were executed, becoming the only American civilians executed for espionage by the United States government.

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The Revisionaries

It seemed unthinkable that Vaughn Ward wouldn’t, someday, be a U.S. congressman. The decorated Iraq war vet had been handpicked by national Republicans to run against endangered Democrat Walt Minnick for Idaho’s first congressional district. Although he was somewhat gaffe-prone (he had an unfortunate tendency to plagiarize campaign speeches from sources like Barack Obama, for instance), Ward had the boyish good looks, the résumé, and—best of all, for one of the reddest states in the country—Sarah Palin’s blessing.

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Operation Sabotage

Eli Lake on our secret war against Iran.

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The Party Line

Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.

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