Soviet Union

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.

Glory
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.

The Old New Thing
October 20, 2010

The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History By Samuel Moyn (Belknap Press, 337 pp., $27.95) In 1807, in Yorkshire, activists hit the campaign trail for William Wilberforce, whose eloquent parliamentary fight against Britain’s slave trade had won surprising success. “O we’ve heard of his Cants in Humanity’s Cause/While the Senate was hush’d, and the land wept applause,” they sang.

Abused by Hope
October 19, 2010

Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid By Peter Gill (Oxford University Press, 280 pp., $27.95) In the fall of 1994, James P. Grant, the executive director of UNICEF, sent a message in the name of his agency to the upcoming Cairo conference on population and development, in which he declared that the world had within its grasp the means to solve “the problems of poverty, population, and environmental degradation that feed off of one another in a downward spiral [bringing] instability and strife in its wake.” Grant was a great man, a giant of the development world.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Worlds of Difference
October 16, 2010

Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today Schulberg Productions Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould Lorber Films Kings of Pastry First Run Features The American government made a documentary about the Nuremberg trial in 1945 - 1946 that was shown in Germany in 1948. It is only lately being shown in the United States. Reasons for the delay are obscure: one surmise is that relations with the Soviet Union quickly cooled and our government didn’t want to push a film that had the Soviets sitting alongside us in a tribunal.

Is Ballet Over?
October 13, 2010

An excerpt from 'Apollo's Angels.'

The Velvet Surrender
September 17, 2010

Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.

Dechronification
September 02, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story By Gary Shteyngart (Random House, 334 pp., $26) There was once a city in the heart of America where all life seemed to be, if not entirely in harmony with its surroundings, then at least functioning in its own kind of equilibrium. Day after day, workers repaired to skyscrapers stacked with single-person cubicles, where they sat for eight, nine, ten hours gazing into glowing screens that were at once portals to the outside world and magical mirrors reflecting their own desires.

Bishkek Blunder
August 28, 2010

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan—Smiling in a conference room of her aging Soviet-era office suite, Roza Otunbayeva appeared confident—possibly for the first time in her short presidency. It was only two weeks after June 10, when ethnic violence had begun engulfing the south of her country, but Kyrgyzstan's diminutive leader, a bespectacled former diplomat with a bob cut and the good-natured manner of a high-school principal, announced that the bloodshed had failed to discourage people from participating in a nationwide referendum.

Does China Have Any Friends Left in the Obama Administration?
August 26, 2010

Over the last few months, China has had several fairly nasty public rows with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Robert M.

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