Inspired by Marx's aphorism that "Religion is the opium of the people," the USSR commissioned a wealth of anti-religious artwork, much of it very clever and striking. A new book called Godless Utopia: Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda, edited by Roland Elliott Brown, Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell collects the most striking examples of the form. The Guardian has a tremendous gallery of excerpts from the book.
Read the rest
Zupagrafika's new book Eastern Blocks (subtitle: "Concrete Landscapes of the Former Eastern Bloc") collects more than 100 beautiful photos of the brutalist towers of ex-Soviet nations, "‘Sleeping districts’ of Moscow, Plattenbauten of East Berlin, modernist estates of Warsaw, Kyiv`s Brezhnevki."
Read the rest
Karl Marx was born in the German city of Trier 200 years ago and lived there until he was 17; to celebrate his bicentennial, the city has installed a Marx-themed pedestrian signal light designed by Johannes Kolz, with another to come.
Read the rest
China Mieville is an unabashedly political science fiction writer, an avowed Marxist whose fiction is shot through with politics in the very best way; however, Mieville's politics are generally kept below the surface, influence rather than central fact -- that is, until the publication of October: The Story of the Russian Revolution
, a masterful, novelistic nonfiction history of the year preceding the Russian revolution one century ago.
In 1984, the Stasi -- East Germany's notorious secret police -- searched the flat of an auditor to determine if he'd leaked files that put the country in a bad light to Stern, a West German magazine, published in Hamburg. They recorded the clandestine search for posterity, and used it as the basis for a training video explaining to other secret police operatives how to search a dissident's home without alerting them that they were under suspicion. (via Grugq) Read the rest
Fundamentalist cartoonist Jack Chick wrote to J. Edgar Hoover in 1971 seeking the FBI's help with his bizarre religious comics. Today we publish that correspondence in its entirety for the first time, after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
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
Love puzzles, crypto, making, control panels and nuclear extinction? John Edgar Park has a maker project for you! Read the rest
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
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
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
Here's a small gallery of the East German secret police's 26th Division, hard at work during the 1980s. Read the rest
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
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
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
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
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