Soviet Union

The Outsider

This past March, Natan Sharansky—the onetime Russian dissident and former Israeli politician—appeared at a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the Arab Spring. It was around this time that the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to help embattled Libyan rebels, the first signs of unrest appeared in the southern Syrian city of Dara’a, and Egyptians were preparing to vote on changes to their constitution.

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Back In The USSR

The Bright StreamAmerican Ballet Theatre Anna Karenina; The Little Humpbacked HorseMariinsky Ballet, Metropolitan Opera House Incredibly, the hit of the New York dance season this spring was The Bright Stream, a restaging of a Soviet “tractor-ballet” from 1935, about a Caucasian collective farm complete with hammer, sickle, and happy farmers making merry in a sunlit workers’ paradise. The ballet comes to us directly from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, where it was first restaged in 2003 with new choreography by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

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Echoes

In the autumn, everybody wonders what’s going to happen next in the arts. This is a natural feeling, a good feeling. Optimism is in the air. But if you’ve already spent your fair share of autumns waiting to see what comes next, you probably cannot avoid the echoes of seasons past, a sense, alternately exhilarating and depressing, that we are always returning to places we’ve been before.

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One thing seems certain as the 2011 U.S. Open draws to a close: An American man will not win this year’s championship. Andy Roddick was both the last American to win a men’s grand slam event (the 2003 U.S. Open) and the last to compete for one (losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009). It’s by far the longest stretch of time without an American winner since the Open era began in 1968.

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If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.

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Do Ideas Matter?

I. MY ROLE ON September 11 was to be a reporter for The New Republic. I was in downtown Brooklyn, and from my rooftop I watched the first tower crumble, and then I ran downstairs to the street with pen and notebook and plunged into the crowds fleeing over the bridges. I spoke with one person after another, asking what they had seen. They told me. I compiled my report.

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With Libyan rebels storming the city of Tripoli and the Qaddafi regime almost certain to fall, conversation has turned quickly to the question of what sort of government is likely to spring up in its stead. As our experience watching governments in East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union transition from communism (both to democracy and autocracy) should tell us, the range of possible outcomes for the country is neither uniform nor inevitable. Indeed, the chances that Libya will make a successful democratic transition depend upon a number of discrete variables.

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It was 20 years ago this week that the Soviet Union’s defenders mounted a last-ditch effort to stop the implementation of liberalizing reforms and preserve the USSR. The failure of their “August coup” was a hopeful moment for Russians who had experienced decades of oppression, but in the two decades since, democratization has not proceeded as smoothly as many hoped. A recent article marking the anniversary noted that, today, Russian attitudes towards the coup are decidedly mixed.

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Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself.

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All Over the Map

On June 21, 2007, Mitt Romney delivered a speech at the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute in Beaver Creek, Colorado. To coincide with the address, his campaign released a statement explaining the candidate’s vision for fighting the war on terrorism.

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