Episode 71: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists

Host: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mike Loader, Doctoral Candidate, King’s College, London

Eduard Berklavs

For a period in the 1950s known as the Khruschev Thaw, the Soviet Republics enjoyed a brief moment of relative autonomy from the heavy handed leadership of Moscow. Latvia, a small republic on the Baltic Sea, took prime advantage of this period of liberalization under the leadership of a group called the Latvian National Communists. They saw a way forward that diverged considerably from Moscow, and took concrete steps to resist Russification of Latvia’s politics and culture. The Thaw was short lived, however, and the Latvian National Communists were eventually thwarted and the republic brought back into the Soviet fold.

Guest Mike Loader gives an enthusiastic look at this high drama at the peak of the cold war, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Soviet Union from a different perspective.

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Episode 69: The Amateur Photography Movement in the Soviet Union

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Jessica Werneke, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

How to repair a how to repair Zorkii camera for amateurs. M. Iakovlev, Untitled, black-and-white photographs. Sovetskoe foto no. 1 (January 1959)

In its early days, photography occupied an awkward middle ground between documentation and an art form, a debate which dragged on in the west for decades. The debate took place in the Soviet Union as well, where it was encouraged, discouraged, and then encouraged again in a roller-coaster of official policies between the eras of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. This interplay reveals a surprising amount about the lives of the artistically inclined Soviet middle class.

Guest Jessica Werneke has just completed her doctorate that looks at this oft-overlooked aspect of Soviet society, and discusses the turbulent world of amateur photography in the Soviet Union.

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