Vintage Soviet space program cigarette packages


The Soviet space program inspired some of the great space-themed tchotchkes of the 20th century, including a whole line of cigarette packs from Russia and surrounding nations.

Read the rest

Photos from Stasiland


Stasi -- Secret Rooms is a 10-year project by Daniel and Geo Fuchs, who took beautiful, striking photos of the stark interiors of the spaces used by the Stasi, the terrifying secret police from the former East Germany.

Read the rest

Kickstarting Skyliner; a graphic novel memoir about jazz behind the Iron Curtain


At 81, Polish illustrator Andre Krayewski has adapted his memoir about being a jazz fan in Stalinist Poland into a graphic novel, and his son Ed has translated it to English.

Read the rest

Fluorescent, pissing Lenin statue


A fluorescent statue of a urinating VI Lenin has been erected in Nowa Huta, a town built by the old Stalinist regime. The Soviet-era Lenin that stood in the spot was subjected to multiple unsuccessful attempts by activists to blow it up. The new statue, "Fountain of the Future," is a temporary installation that is meant to spur debate about what statue should be permanently installed in its place.

Read the rest

Star Wars with Chinese characteristics


Jeff writes, "Chinese historian Maggie Greene has recently written about one of the strangest treasures in her collection: a Chinese comic book version of Star Wars from 1980, which she aptly describes (with scans to prove it!) as 'a fascinating document' that includes images she thinks may reveal 'a fanciful imagining' of life in a then dimly understood America or generalized West. She notes, for example, a 'dinner scene where a duck (?) is being stuck into a toaster oven (!) & the table has not only a little hot plate, but a crockpot (or rice cooker) there, too.' Whoever drew the pictures, she also points out, 'makes some amusing flubs -- Chewbacca appears in some scenes in a relatively credible way, in others looking like an outtake from Planet of the Apes. It also often looks like something out of a Cold War-era propaganda poster, at least where the details are concerned. Were the actors really garbed in Soviet looking space suits? Was Darth Vader really pacing before a map bearing the location of the Kennedy Space Center?' [For those who can't get enough of this topic, there are related tweets by both @mcgreenesd Greene herself and Chinese literary translator and now Chinese studies grad student @bokane Brendan O'Kane"

A Long Time Ago in a China Far, Far Away …

North Korean science fiction and the Maoist road to Mars


Jeff sez, "The Journal of Asian Studies has two science fiction-related essays: a full-length study that focuses on North Korean sci-fi stories of the 1950s and 1960s, which were intended for children and influenced by Soviet works of the time; it's paired with a shorter comment that explores parallels between texts Zur analyzes and SF produced in Mao era China."

Read the rest

Our Comrade the Electron: technology as centralizer

Maciej Cegłowski's Webstock 2014 talk is called OUR COMRADE THE ELECTRON, and it's an inspired rant about the relationship of technology to power and coercion. It asserts that the decentralizing of power attended by the growth of technology in the 1990s was a blip, and that the trend of technology will be to further centralization.

I disagree. I think that Cegłowski has conflated "technology" with "technology under neoliberalism" -- that the concentration of technology since the 1990s coincides with the creation of like the WTO and the abolition of things like the Glass–Steagall Act, and the overall concentration of wealth and power into fewer hands. Technology is related to centralized power, but it is not entirely the cause of it -- rather it is in a feedback loop with it, and the two fuel each other.

For me, the interesting question isn't "does technology centralize or doesn't it?" We've seen technology do both. For me, the interesting question is, "How can we make technology into a force for decentralization?"

There's a long-held view of the world that breaks it into "artsies and techies" -- the two cultures. From where I sit, though, the two cultures are "people who believe in finance" and "people who think finance is a corrupt and corrupting force in the world." All the interesting nerds I know make art, and all the interesting artists I know nerd out on technology. But the one thing that seems to separate us into two camps is whether we think the world of finance is a giant con game or a legit enterprise.

Read the rest

Massive collection of Soviet wartime posters


The University of Nottingham's Windows on War is one of the world's premier collections of WWII Soviet posters related to their war with the Nazis on the eastern front. The scholarly notes that accompany the exhibit are a treat, though they are presented in a way that makes it nearly impossible to read them. But the entire collection has been scanned and posted, and is available for viewing at very high resolutions.

Read the rest

Kickstarting art installations in former Soviet prisons

Marina sez, "Our names are Marina Andrijčić-Ojeda and Catarina Ferreira and we are the artists and co-founders of The Penitentiary, a collaborative site-specific art exhibition to take place in abandoned war-era prisons throughout Eastern Europe."

Read the rest

Soviet particle accelerator control panel, 1968


Back in 2009, Dark Roasted Blend rounded up a truly wonderful gallery of ancient, hulking computers, called The Cutting Edge of Retro Tech . Given that retro-tech only gets finer with age, it's fitting to link to it now, especially given this magnificent beast, identified as the 1968 Control Center of the JINR's (Joint Institute of Nuclear Research) synchrophasotron in Dubna, Russia. Hotcha, that is some sweet-ass control panel design

Kazakhstan's decaying Soviet space murals


Esquire Kazakhstan features photos of the country's decaying Soviet space murals, which do not have protected status, and are coming to bits. They're still towering, heroic Soviet Realist paeans to space travel, sorrowful as they may be.

Read the rest

Russia's decaying movie palaces


Read the rest

Soviet plane-spotting head-gear


Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling)

Spy-gadget photos from Berlin's Stasi museum

Egor Egorov visited Berlin's Stasi Museum and extensively photographed its collection of spy-gadgets from the Cold War (like the squeeze-bulb-operated jacket-button camera above). They're great photos, and at an impressively high resolution.

Read the rest

Statue of Stalin to be reinstated in Gori, Georgia


A statue of Josef Stalin in his hometown of Gori, Georgia, pulled down in 2010, will be re-erected, thanks to prime-minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who is friendly to Russia.

Read the rest