Why Did FIFA Choose Russia?
December 08, 2010
It seems eccentric, to say the least, that the FIFA selection committee chose Russia as the World Cup’s home in 2018, and all the more so as it meant overlooking perfectly serviceable countries such as Britain. (They also chose Qatar over the U.S. for 2022, but that's another counterintuitive story altogether.) Why not Russia, you might ask. After all, the country is home to numerous top-drawer soccer teams and has a solid pedigree for hosting international club games at their stadiums.
December 06, 2010
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.
The Coming Age of Slaughter
December 06, 2010
Environmental panic led to mass killing in the 1940s, and it may do so again.
Can Silvio Berlusconi Sink Any Lower?
December 03, 2010
[Guest Post by Isaac Chotiner] Julia Ioffe has a report on the Putin-Berlusconi friendship that includes this charming anecdote: Their favorite activity, however, seems to be holding joint press conferences. At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked Putin about his apparent marital trouble and rumored romance with the young and indecently plastic gymnast-cum-parliamentarian Alina Kabaeva. When asked about the liaison, Putin’s face hardened. “There is not a word of truth in this story,” he said.
December 03, 2010
A verdict in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky—formerly Russia’s richest man and the founder of what was once the country’s largest private company, Yukos—is due to be read on December 15. Yet long before November 2, when Judge Viktor Danilkin of the Moscow Khamovnichesky District Court heard the final statements of prosecution and defense, adjourned the trial, and withdrew to his chambers to deliberate, the Moscow rumor mill had churned out a spate of likely sentences. They range from acquittal to the 14 years that the prosecutors asked for.
The Charnel Continent
December 02, 2010
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin By Timothy Snyder (Basic Books, 524 pp., $29.95) ‘Now we will live!’... the hungry little boy liked to say ... but the food that he saw was only in his imagination.” So the little boy died, together with three million fellow Ukrainians, in the mass starvation that Stalin created in 1933. “I will meet her ... under the ground,” a young Soviet man said about his wife. Both were shot in the course of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937 and 1938, which claimed 700,000 victims.
The Art and Romance of the Diplomatic Cable
November 30, 2010
With Wikileaks's most recent release of official U.S. documents, I experienced again one of the best things about having left government service: I don’t have to read State Department “telegrams” anymore. This is not to say that such cables are of no value. Foggy Bottom traffic has its virtues.
November 25, 2010
When They Come for Us We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry By Gal Beckerman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 598 pp., $30) By the standards of the 1960s, the founding demonstration of the Soviet Jewry movement was hardly notable. On May 1, 1964, a thousand students gathered across from the Soviet mission to the United Nations in Manhattan to protest a Soviet ban on baking matzo and other anti-Jewish measures. Compared to demonstrators for the far better known causes of the time, they were a tame lot. No one blocked traffic or scuffled with police.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Day in Court
November 09, 2010
Last Tuesday, in a Moscow courtroom, Mikhail Khodorkovsky—former oil magnate and the once the wealthiest man in Russia—delivered a remarkable speech. Khodorkovsky has been in prison since 2003 and he now faces additional charges that could force him to stay in jail for many more years. In his speech, Khodorkovsky offers a narrative of how any semblance of liberal government was snuffed out in Russia during recent years—and explains how his own fate has become part of this depressing story.