Drink Up! Ten Things To Know About Vodka

Although consumption of vodka is supposedly on the decrease with imbibing of wine and beer on the rise, my forays into recent Russian literature left me astonished at the level of drinking in Russia. According to the World Health Organization, as of a few years ago, one-in-five Russia men died due to alcohol-related causes. The […]

It’s Literature, But Is It History? Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time: The Last Of The Soviets (2013).

Svetlana Alexievich is a  Belarusian journalist.  She’s also a Nobel Laureate, winning the prize for literature in 2015.  I had trouble squaring these two facts until I learned that unlike other awards such as the Pulitzer Prize or the Man Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature isn’t limited to fiction.  Bertrand Russell scored the […]

Russian Vinaigrette Salad: Pickles & Root Veggies

Russian Vinaigrette Salad has two wonderful virtues:  it’s a potato salad without mayo and a vegetable salad that includes potatoes.  Root vegetables and pickled foods are staples in Russian cuisine.  Root veggies can survive the cold climate and pickled foods remain preserved during the long winters.  Russian Vinaigrette Salad combines beets, onions, potatoes, carrots, sauerkraut, and […]

The Indecency of Reason, Stalin’s Great Terror, And Art and the Artist: Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940)

From 1936-1938, Stalin unleashed the Great Terror in the Soviet Union.  This massive purge resulted in about four million executions and the imprisonment of millions more.  It was fueled by “confessions” induced by beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats to loved ones, confessions that in turn implicated additional “accomplices.”  It featured show trials in which Old […]

The Holocaust, World War II, and Gulag Novel You’ve Never Heard About And Must Read: Vasily Grossman’s Life And Fate (1960)

  Life and Fate travels from bloody street fighting in Stalingrad between the armies of Stalin and Hitler to torture chambers in the Lubyanka, headquarters of the Soviet secret police.  It moves from Russian labor camps in Siberia to Nazi prison camps, warehouses for political prisoners, POWs, idle workers and recaptured German emigres, and then onto […]

The History Behind The Book–Part II: Stalin And The Doctors’ Plot

The Doctors’ Plot was a post-war concoction by Stalin that accused nine physicians, the majority with obvious Jewish surnames, of committing deliberate malpractice to assassinate two Kremlin officials and plotting to murder others.  It was part of an anti-Semitic campaign that fingered Jews as British and American agents and that attacked and broke relations with the newborn […]