Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'Communism'

Everybody Loves the Sunshine

March 15th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Having been raised to think that all of the Soviet Bloc resembled the drab realm depicted in this infamous Wendy’s ad, I’m always amused to come across depictions of our Cold War foes basking in the sun. The photo above, of a crowded beach in Odessa, is part of a terrific Ian Berry series from […]

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The Hidden Beauty of the Panelaks

February 1st, 2013 · No Comments

Working-class apartment blocks—particularly those built by authoritarian governments—don’t exactly have stellar aesthetic reputations. When you think of the high-rises erected for the proletariat, adjectives such as “brutish,” “drab”, and “grim” are what immediately pop to mind. Yet it is important to remember that even when budgetary constraints and government ideology factored into the construction equation, […]

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The Flip Side of Red Dawn

August 24th, 2012 · 6 Comments

Our eternal gratitude to whoever posted the full text of What to Do When the Russians Come, one of great artifacts of Cold War literature. The book assumes that the Wolverines did not, in fact, fend off the Soviet invasion, and so us poor subjugated Americans are left to make the best of a dreadful […]

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How They Saw Us, Cont’d

July 5th, 2012 · No Comments

Quite some time ago, I posted about classic Soviet animation that hilariously stereotyped America as a Darwinian nightmare. As someone who grew up thinking that life in Moscow was accurately portrayed by that Wendy’s fashion show commercial, I was strangely pleased to learn that my Soviet peers were similarly duped into thinking that human happiness […]

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Hard Life in the Urals

March 13th, 2012 · 2 Comments

When I first traveled in the post-Soviet world many moons ago, one thing that struck me was how all the restaurant menus listed foods by specific amounts. In Michal Kováč-era Bratislava, one did not order a small or large platter of dumplings; you either got the 200-gram size or the 500-gram size. And I have […]

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Monkey with the Lingo

January 3rd, 2012 · 6 Comments

Among the many bizarre books I’ve been reading for research purposes, few are stranger than Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Fire, the former Black Panther bigwig’s account of becoming a born again Christian in the late 1970s. Cleaver spends much of the book repudiating the Communist allies who once supported him, including the North Korean dictator […]

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Talk About Missing the Point

December 29th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz has long resided high atop my list of all-time athletic badasses, and not just because he mastered the most technically difficult event in all of track-and-field. When the Polish Kozakiewicz took gold in the pole vault at the 1980 Olympics, he did so in front of a hostile Moscow crowd that was pulling […]

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The Other Direction

October 4th, 2011 · 4 Comments

Pesky facts keep getting in the way of my book’s smooth narrative. Take the lovely paragraph I crafted yesterday, in which I argued that no one in the West believed that Cold War refugees could possibly flow toward the Soviet Bloc. An earlier experiment with such migration had ended tragically, after all, and that was […]

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For Research Purposes Only, Of Course

September 27th, 2011 · 2 Comments

When President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, his hosts treated him to a performance of The Red Detachment of Women, a “revolutionary ballet” in which girls with guns dance en pointe to music about the evil of landlords. When Nixon expressed his admiration for the production to Madame Mao, she replied with a ready-made […]

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“Success in Work, Comrade”

July 18th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Searching for motivation to once again get cracking on my book for an eight-hour stretch, I stumbled across this excellent trove of East German labor propaganda. These particular images were produced at the tail end of Communist Era, and they reflect the nation’s struggles to keep pace with the West. There are plenty of mentions […]

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The Revolution Will Not be Besotted

May 11th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Did East Germany contribute to its own demise by launching an official program to combat alcoholism? New research, packaged under the ominous title The Blue Strangler (a nickname for cheap vodka), makes the case: Despite the steep prices, high proof alcohol was popular and the average GDR citizen drank 23 bottles of liquor a year […]

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“He Stayed to Write a Grander Legend”

May 6th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Since I can scarcely imagine life without the biological rocket fuel known as caffeine, I’m counting my lucky stars this morning that I’m not a Cuban. That’s because sky-high coffee prices have forced the government to cut rations, meaning that Cuba’s java addicts must now satisfy their urges with a beverage partly concocted from roasted […]

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Crowns Are People, Too

November 2nd, 2010 · No Comments

Much is made of the way in which the Soviets scored themselves some really nice artworks in the waning days of World War II, scooping up the priceless paintings and statues that the Germans had looted on their doomed march toward Moscow. But our side had some sticky fingers, too, to the great consternation of […]

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Funk Amidst the Food Riots

February 3rd, 2010 · 4 Comments

The mid-1970s were a gloomy time in Polish history, even by that long-accursed nation’s standards. Government-mandated price increases on essential goods led to a series of violent protests, which were quelled in typically brutal fashion. To paraphrase a certain Shogun Assassin quote made famous on GZA’s Liquid Swords, it was a bad time for Warsaw. […]

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Let There Be Hydroelectricity

December 16th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Explicitly Communist architecture gets a unfairly bad rap from critics. Sure, builders behind the Iron Curtain were overly fond of dismal panelaks and other multi-dwelling units that reeked of dingy misery. But when the last true believers in the dictatorship of the proletariat decided to go the triumphalist route, man, did they ever pull it […]

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“New Villages”

November 30th, 2009 · 5 Comments

You might recall how a few years back, Britain’s anti-insurgency tactics in 1950s Malaysia were touted as a model for American forces in Iraq. That turned out to be poppycock, of course, since the British method involved tactics far too unpalatable for the post-colonial world to stomach. Among those tactics, as described in today’s edition […]

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May Day in Tirana

November 16th, 2009 · No Comments

While watching this propaganda film of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha celebrating May Day in 1983, we had one thought, and one thought alone: what percentage of those workers in the parade earned their living digging useless bunkers?

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Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Airlines?

October 12th, 2009 · No Comments

We’re extremely curious to learn the backstory on why Louis Armando Peña Soltren decided to return to the U.S. from Cuba yesterday. He’d been hiding in Fidel Castro’s alleged proletarian paradise for over four decades, and now seems likely to spend the rest of his days in a federal penitentiary for orchestrating a 1968 skyjacking. […]

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First Contact: The Germans

September 18th, 2009 · 9 Comments

For obvious reasons—primarily the abundance of English-language sources—the bulk of our First Contact series has focused on European accounts of “New World” civilizations. Today’s entry breaks that trend, however, by harkening back to a more intramural culture clash: that between the Romans and the Germans, during the waning years of the Roman Republic. The eyewitness […]

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Maoists vs. Communists

June 30th, 2009 · No Comments

Violence continues in rural West Bengal, where the Indian military is campaigning against a scrappy band of rebels referred to as “Maoists.” How do Maoists differ from your garden-variety followers of Marxist tenets? Microkhan broke it down a few years back, when the Nepalese civil war was in full swing. Seems like it’s mostly about […]

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