Rhyme & Repression

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Poetry and despotism do not mix. Except, it seems, in communist East Germany. There, according to Philip Oltermann’s gripping and highly readable new book, The Stasi Poetry Circle, poetry was seen as a secret weapon. The Stasi (the nickname for the Ministry for State Security) cultivated a creative writing workshop, officially known as the Working […]

Editor-in-Chief of the USSR

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In chapter seven of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, the disillusioned Tatiana inspects the books in Onegin’s abandoned library. She finds ‘marks of his pencil on their margins. Everywhere Onegin’s soul can’t help expressing itself with a short word, a cross, or a question mark.’ Tatiana ends up wondering about the real character of the man she […]

Grey Man of Red Square

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the USSR and Communist Party general secretary, died on 10 November 1982, unlamented outside the curtilage of his family and political retainers. The official cult of his greatness had for years been the object of ridicule among citizens of the Soviet Union, and his mental and physical degradation had been an […]

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RLF - March