Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘soviet union’

The Master and Margarita is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union during Stalin‘s regime. A censored version was published in Moscow magazine in 1966–1967, after the writer’s death.

John has worked with optical engineers in Ukraine for decades now. Some years ago, when one of the engineers was in the US to talk to clients, we got to share a meal and a chat. I remember it was a sweltering hot day. We had no air conditioning in our dining room, and we were all sweating.

At the time, I must have been reading Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a fantastical satire on the USSR, written in the time of Stalin. We began to talk about it, and John’s colleague described what one had to do to read the book’s loose unpublished pages before Ukraine gained its freedom. Under the table in the library with a flashlight.

That memory came to mind in the last few days as I watched the Soviet Union try to return from the dead in Ukraine. My train of thought took me to current headlines about banned books in the US and an article in the New York Times that gave students a chance to opine on that trend.

The Times staff explains, “In the article ‘Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.,’ Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter write about the growing trend of parents, political activists, school board officials and lawmakers arguing that some books do not belong in school libraries.

“As we regularly do when The Times reports on an issue that touches the lives of teenagers, we used our daily Student Opinion forum to ask teenagers to share their perspectives. The overwhelming majority of students were opposed to book bans in any form, although their reasons and opinions were varied and nuanced. They argued that young people have the right to read unsanitized versions of history, that diverse books expose them to a variety of experiences and perspectives, that controversial literature helps them to think critically about the world, and that, in the age of the internet, book bans just aren’t that effective. … Thank you to all those from around the world who joined the conversation this week, including teenagers from Japan; Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia; and Patino High School in Fresno, Calif.

” ‘I think the idea of people trying to censor speech is absolutely abhorrent. Right to freedom of speech, religion, peaceful assembly, petition, and press is our 1st amendment and one that we take for granted …

” ‘As a teenager I am still trying to find my way in this world; I want to know as many other viewpoints as possible so that I know my thoughts are my own and not just a product of a limited amount of information. Even if these books are not required reading they should be allowed in libraries. Families can decide what books are allowed in their homes but trying to force a community to get rid of a book is a way of forcing one’s beliefs on an entire community. Removing books about issues faced by marginalized groups is a way to ignore them, a way to minimize the issues faced by those groups and allow the banners to not have their opinions challenged. This is a democracy that should be open to discussion and if it is then people will find others who agree and disagree with them.’ [Jason, Maine] …

” ‘Maybe a student has past trauma that they may struggle to deal with, a book that has a topic based on their past may comfort them and bring them closure. These books also inform students on what really happens within the mind and life of someone else. Banning books is an overall loss for a school or library, it only limits human growth.’ [Alex, Michigan]

” ‘Reading the article and these comments just makes me think, ”Jeez, the fact these books are being challenged shows how much some people need education on the subjects of them.” These books may have hard topics but they essentially are a needed part of education. They might be brutal and hard to swallow, but they are the best examples of real-world problems and history. They provide a good sense of realism and give kids somewhat of an idea of what goes on and has gone on in the world.

” ‘Challenging these books is like trying to protect someone from the world. Then instead shoving them in front of something that makes them think, “Everything will always work out,” And, “These things will never happen again.” It makes them think the world has no struggle or insanely big problems. When in reality it definitely does and they will be directly affected by these problems.’ [Jordan, Massachusetts]

“While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the material your children are reading, as some material might not be age appropriate, there is almost never — honestly, never at all — justification for banning a book. …

“Books are the primary way to tell stories, to learn right from the mouths of people who have witnessed things we need to learn and grow from. Our society depends on the idea of future generations learning and progressing, and with the banning of books all we are doing is going backwards, not forwards.” [Meghan, Illinois]

Read more at the Times, here.

Read Full Post »

My husband heard that the Kiev subway is a popular place for older Russians and Ukrainians to go dancing. So I Googled around a bit and found stories at Odd Stuff Magazine, here, and the Daily Mail, here. And a video at YouTube. In today’s world, you can’t keep a good story down.

At the Daily Mail (which seems to favor bullet points) Helen Lawson writes, “Saturday night fever: The subway where Kiev’s pensioners dance and find love.

  •     The dancers cannot afford to pay for a venue so they use a metro subway
  •     The group meets every Saturday at 7 pm to socialise and dance
  •     About 20 couples are known to have met thanks to the meet-ups
  •     Reuters photographer Gleb Garanich documented the weekly gatherings

At Odd Stuff, photographer Garanichev Hleb (is that the same Reuters guy?) asks the subjects of his photos about the dance scene. “Milevsky Nicholas was born in 1938 and Natalia Stolyarchuk born in 1955 met at these dances and has since moved in together. This is one of the 20 couples who met at these clubs. ..

“Despite his age, both retired and still work together earn about 4,000 hryvnia per month. …

“These people do not communicate in social networks, but still remember all the holidays of childhood and youth, when put on the table, to visit friends and neighbors come, everywhere sounded cheerful sounds of accordion.” More.

Read Full Post »

You might be interested in this article about how Dayton, Ohio, is welcoming immigrants as part of its effort to spur economic growth.

Dylan Scott at Governing magazine writes, “In contrast to some states’ anti-immigration policies, a few cities are actively trying to attract immigrants to boost their own economies. …

“City officials estimate that 10 percent of the Ahiska Turks in the United States have established themselves here in Dayton. But they aren’t alone. There are also immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, Samoa and elsewhere.

“Watching some of these residents’ difficulty in adjusting to their new surroundings — some encountering language barriers and others struggling to secure housing — convinced city officials they needed to do more to help.

“Dayton’s Human Relations Council, a city department that investigates discrimination complaints, started in 2010 by initiating a study into allegations from Hispanic residents regarding housing discrimination. Around the same time, City Manager Tim Riordan and City Commissioner Matt Joseph resolved to make public services more accessible for those who spoke English as a second language.

“It didn’t take long for Dayton’s leaders to figure out that incremental steps wouldn’t do, that the immigration issue needed a comprehensive solution and the involvement of the entire community.

” ‘It requires a huge partnership. There are only so many things we can do as the city,’ Joseph says. ‘And the big thing is an attitude change. We have to make sure we’re encouraging people to be more welcoming and that the incentives are running the right way. That’s our role.’ …

“Dayton officials seized on a growing academic consensus that embracing immigrants is beneficial to the country as a whole and specifically the economy. A June 2011 Brookings Institution report concluded: ‘U.S. global competitiveness rests on the ability of immigrants and their children to thrive economically and to contribute to the nation’s productivity.’ The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote last year that research shows ‘immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy.’ ” Read more.

Photograph: Tim Witmer
Sarvar Ispahi, his son Uzeir and their family moved to the United States from Russia in 2005 after Ahiska Turks were granted refugee status by the federal government. They chose Dayton because a refugee community was already forming there.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: