"Europe's last dictator" finally finds the limits to power: taxing the unemployed during a recession

Belurusian leader Alexander Lukashenko calls himself "Europe's last dictator": he's a thug who steals elections and sends opposition politicians to forced labor camps, the kind of guy who can get away with arresting a one-armed man for clapping -- but when he imposed a "social parasite tax" on unemployed people in the recession-devastated country, it proved too much. Read the rest

Make: Soviet themed launch-code box complete with missile switch covered toggles

Love puzzles, crypto, making, control panels and nuclear extinction? John Edgar Park has a maker project for you! Read the rest

Cyber/steampunk watch built around an ex-Soviet IVL2-7/5 VFD display tube

J. M. De Cristofaro used an ex-Soviet IVL2-7/5 VFD tube as the core for his Cyberpunk Wristwatch, which adds steampunk notes in the form of a brass "roll cage" around the tube. Read the rest

Left-wing activists across the former USSR launch "September," to rally opposition to far-right movements

September is a new website launched by left-wing groups in Ukraine, Belarus, and other former Soviet states, devoted to finding common cause among activists across the region (the name is a bit of an inside joke about the October, 1917 revolution, embodied in the site's strapline, "It’s not October yet, but it’s close"). Read the rest

Hungary's Cold War cartoons were weird and awesome

The Cold War was a boon to animators, who were able to express the subversive views that the mainstream wouldn't dare whisper -- see, e.g., Jay Ward's "Boris and Natasha" -- but the toons from the other side of the Iron Curtain are all but unknown in the "Free World." Read the rest

Stasi radio monitoring department, hard at work, 1980s

Here's a small gallery of the East German secret police's 26th Division, hard at work during the 1980s. Read the rest

Judenstaat: an alternate history in which a Jewish state is created in east Germany in 1948

Theodor Herzl's seminal 1896 essay Der Judenstaat called for the creation of Jewish state as an answer to the ancient evil of antisemitism; its legacy, Zionism, underpinned the creation of Israel; in Judenstaat, Simone Zelitch's beautifully told, thoughtful and disturbing alternate history, the Jewish state is created in Saxony, not Palestine, and takes the place of East Germany. Read the rest

Russia bans Polish "Communist Monopoly" board-game

Kolejka ("Queue") is a popular satirical Polish board game that lampoons life under Stalinist rule; the Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor has banned publisher IPN, the Polish "Institute of National Remembrance," from distributing its Russian version of the game unless they remove "anti-Russian" elements that are "excessively critical" of the USSR. Read the rest

Kickstarting more gorgeous Soviet deadstock Nixie Tube clocks

Kyle Miller (previously) writes, "I've recently launched my newest Kickstarter, featuring the third model in my crowdfunded series of Steampunk style Soviet-era nixie tube clocks. Each is handmade in black walnut or purpleheart, brass, and steel and has a ton of features. Super easy to use and no soldering or assembly required." Read the rest

Record street-marches in Moldova against corrupt oligarchs

The impoverished, corrupt former Soviet state has erupted over a banking fraud that saw $1B disappear from the system, presumably into the offshore accounts of President Nicolae Timofti and his elite cronies. Read the rest

The FBI kept files on author Ray Bradbury: "Definitely slanted against the United States"

Michael from Muckrock writes, "The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare." Read the rest

Ad-hoc museums of a failing utopia

Photographer David Hlynsky took more than 8,000 street photos in the Eastern Bloc, documenting the last days of ideological anti-consumer shopping before the end of the USSR

Expat activists and journalists leave USA for Berlin's safety

From Laura Poitras to Jacob Appelbaum to Sarah Harrison, Berlin has become a haven for American journalists, activists and whistleblowers who fear America's unlimited appetite for surveillance and put their trust in Germany's memory of the terror of the Stasi. Read the rest

Kickstarting Night Witches, an RPG about WWII Soviet airwomen

Night Witches is the latest game from Jason Morningstar, creator of the excellent caper/heist game Fiasco. Read the rest

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

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