Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'Soviet Union'

Small Victories

November 27th, 2013 · No Comments

While recently pondering the precise definition of the word “deadpan,” I felt compelled to look up a quote that stuck with me as a kid. It comes from Boris Loginov, the coach of the Soviet Union’s motoball team, on the eve of the 1986 Goodwill Games. He was evidently asked to defend his sport, which […]

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Bound for Moscow

April 12th, 2013 · No Comments

The low-grade 1972 thriller Skyjacked plays a brief but important role in my upcoming book. Here’s a brief excerpt of the chapter in which I describe why this lesser Charlton Heston flick made a splash at the box office: The film was controversial due to its subject matter, and numerous TV stations refused to run […]

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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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Rubber Suit Blues

November 28th, 2012 · No Comments

Wobbling beneath the weight of two major projects at the moment—my next Wired opus and the copy edit for The Skies Belong to Us. In my brief absence, please marvel the awesomely sophisticated space monsters from 1962’s Planeta Bur, a masterpiece of Soviet sci-fi schlock.

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One of a Kind

November 21st, 2012 · 1 Comment

I send you off into the Thanksgiving break with a special treat: an entire site dedicated to the 1981 spaceflight of Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa, the only Mongolian to have soared into the heavens (albeit with Soviet help). The mission made Gürragchaa a national hero, a status that he later parlayed into a political career. What is […]

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The Turkmen Neil Peart

September 24th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Here at Microkhan, we spend an awful lot of time highlighting all that is wretched about Turkmenistan’s political culture. Heartless autocracy can never fully squelch creativity, however, as the raucous drumming of Rishad Shafi so ably demonstrates. His prog-fusion band Gunesh started out as a mainstay of state-run Turkmen television, but later involved into something […]

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Tougher Than His Rep

September 7th, 2012 · 4 Comments

The common narrative about the end of the Cold War is that the Soviet Union’s decline began to inevitably steepen on the day that Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency. His peanut-farming predecessor, the conventional wisdom goes, was too soft to strike fear into the heart of the Kremlin, as evidenced by the Soviets willingness to […]

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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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The Birdman of Puschino-on-Oka

June 29th, 2012 · 1 Comment

A quick backgrounder on a man whose intense dedication to an arcane pursuit I truly admire, though I can by no means claim to understand it: A cryogenics and nerve cells specialist, Russian biophysicist Boris Nikolayevich Veprintsev (1928-1990) started recording Soviet birds on homemade equipment in 1957 while studying at Moscow University, undertaking annual birding […]

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Live Spot in Soho

February 7th, 2012 · No Comments

If you have access to the New York City subway system, please consider coming down to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe this evening to check out Microkhan in the flesh. I’ll be performing as part of the revamped Adult Education lecture series, waxing poetic about a certain Soviet hammer thrower who has gotten much attention ’round […]

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The Teetotaler of Ulaanbaatar

January 11th, 2012 · 1 Comment

It’s a little hard for Americans to wrap their heads around alcoholism’s social toll in places like Mongolia, where the perpetually inebriated constitute a significant percentage of the potential workforce (and also commit the majority of crimes). So it will be interesting to see whether the government’s lead-by-example campaign makes any sort of impact on […]

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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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Legend of the Eggs

December 9th, 2011 · No Comments

I am regrettably a few days late in noting the untimely passing of Vasily Alexeev, the famed Soviet athlete who dominated the sport of weightlifting for most of the 1970s. Alexeev was an object of great fascination in the West, for he seemed to embody our deepest fears about the world behind the Iron Curtain: […]

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Komrad Ivan

August 22nd, 2011 · No Comments

Greetings from a rather random corner of Southern California, where I find myself pursuing the heart-and-soul of my next book. While I’m busy interviewing an eyewitness to historic events that the bulk of Americans have long forgotten, please take a moment to delve into the University of Nebraska’s rich trove of government-issued comics. Given Microkhan’s […]

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How They Saw Us

June 24th, 2011 · 2 Comments

All the time I spent delving into the Soviet sports machine for my hammer-throw saga got me thinking a lot more about the “Evil Empire” my youth. One of the first truly adult books I read was Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, because I as so curious about what daily life was like in the nation […]

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The Most Invincible Record in Sports

June 21st, 2011 · 8 Comments

For those loyal Microkhan readers who’ve been wondering why I’ve been posting so much about the hammer throw, consider the mystery solved: my long-gestating ESPN the Magazine piece about Yuriy Sedykh’s 1986 world record is finally out. I’m particularly excited about the story because it grew out of a Microkhan post—back in this ongoing project’s […]

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Beneath the Elevated

June 15th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Little time for Microkhan-ing between now and the weekend, as the Golden Horde is in the midst of packing up its yurts for points not-too-far-afield. After seven years in the blessed Paradise known as Atlah, we’re moving across the East River to a land with a slightly Brave New World-ish name. Always bittersweet to move, […]

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Sportverbot

May 19th, 2011 · No Comments

Writing about the hammer throw has got me thinking a lot about Soviet Bloc athletics, and in turn one of the phenomena that fascinated me during my youth: East-to-West defectors. I was always drawn to tales of sportsmen from the other side of the Iron Curtain who decided to chuck it all and start anew […]

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Mushrooms for Strength

April 27th, 2011 · 7 Comments

I’m currently up to my eyeballs in research on a piece about Soviet athletic excellence, which was a more enigmatic phenomenon than most folks realize. There really isn’t one definitive explanation for the nation’s sporting success throughout its last three decades of existence, though there are certainly plenty of theories. As I’ve become immersed in […]

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The Only Way to Fly

November 24th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I’ve long refused to travel during the holidays, a stance that makes even more sense in this era of rampant junk touching. I might change my mind, however, if modern air travel bore any faint resemblance to what’s on offer in the Khrushchev-era Aeroflot commercial above. Dancing flight attendants in futuristic pink mini-skirts and white […]

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The Throw-In

July 9th, 2010 · No Comments

Today’s expedited spy swap in Vienna brought to mind an even more dramatic trade: the 1962 exchange that brought downed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers back home, and sent “Rudolf Abel” back to Moscow to live out his days as a KGB trainer. Yet there was a third person involved in that sensational Berlin swap: […]

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A Company Town’s Sudden Death

June 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment

While researching the economic feasibility of a Bering Strait tunnel, we came across this recent dispatch from the Edmonton Journal. In addition to alerting us to the manner in which the residents of Little Diomede were used as Cold War pawns, the article made us aware of the callow manner in which the Russian coal […]

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Leotards for the Proletariat

May 13th, 2010 · 8 Comments

One of the first “heavy” books we ever read was Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, which came out at the height of the whole “Evil Empire” period. Before cracking open Smith’s honest investigation of daily life in the U.S.S.R., we imagined that Moscow resembled a vast outdoor version of the Death Star, absolutely devoid of color […]

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Sofia Rock City

May 10th, 2010 · 6 Comments

Okay, quick word association game: When we say “Bulgaria,” what’s the first thing that pops to mind? For us it’s french fries slathered in partially melted sirene, but heavy metal is a close second. And so you can only imagine the great times we’ve been having sifting through the archives of this stupendous site, inarguably […]

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The Inevitable Crackdown

March 29th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Today’s bombing of the Moscow Metro has elicited a predictable reaction from Ivan (and Ivana) Sixpack, who suddenly yearns for the KGB’s iron fist: “It’s the Chechens,” said Nina Ivanovna, a 57-year-old pensioner. “They will never let us live in peace. Solzhenitsyn correctly said that we should build a Great Wall of China to keep […]

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Using the Red Menace Against the Reds

February 24th, 2010 · 3 Comments

One of the most interesting things about Ug99, the fungus that is currently threatening the world’s wheat supply, is how it managed to sneak up on us. For nearly four decades, the disease that the Puccinis graminis pathogen causes, known as stem rust, was little seen in the wild, and certainly no great peril to […]

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“There’s a Female Up There Circling Mother Earth”

January 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

Not much time for Bad Movie Friday this week, as we’re scrambling on the Secret Major Project™. So this vintage anti-Soviet propaganda film about the travails of Laika will have to suffice. It gets really amazing around the 42-second mark, when one of Laika’s American peers dons granny glasses in order to peep the space-race […]

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Against Ivan Barleycorn

January 21st, 2010 · No Comments

More than we might care to admit, cultures are defined by their attitudes toward alcohol consumption. And so it makes sense that amateur anthropologists can learn a lot by paying attention not only to consumption habits, but to the psychological tactics that societies use to scare folks away from Demon Rum. Those tactics are on […]

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The Soviet Road Not Taken

January 4th, 2010 · 1 Comment

For anyone with even a passing interest in cult psychology, San Diego State University’s Jonestown Archive is well worth a thorough gander. Our favorite section, of course, is a compendium of primary sources that date back to Jim Jones’s earliest days in Indiana. Among the choice morsels contained therein is a petition that all members […]

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Livin’ It Up in Kiev

November 9th, 2009 · No Comments

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of interest in this plain-Jane rundown of Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko’s income and assets. The man who rose to the top of Ukraine’s political structure after surviving a bizarre assassination attempt is certainly well-off by his nation’s standards, but it’s not like he’s pulling a pulling […]

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