Vespers

tara.dom_1439824628Most people I’ve met claim they were drawn into studying Russian by the country’s prolific literary culture (some, let’s be honest, because of the country’s seemingly endless supply of beautiful women). While I think of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as a masterpiece, the tomes of Tolstoy and piles of works by Fedor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Lermontov, Leonid Andreev, Isaac Babel, and many more that graced my desk were never enough on their own to draw me in. Fascinating studies of a foreign culture certainly, but hardly sufficient to stop me in my tracks.

For me, the real wealth of Russian arts, their truly inimitable cultural contribution to the world, was its classical music. It was the music that drew me in, wanting to better understand the history and culture that had produced such a deep and varied art. Among the modernists, I marveled at Aleksandr Skryabin, influenced by the atonal works of Schoenberg and the tonal language with which Chopin experimented, he composed synesthetic Black and White Masses. Despite his experimentation, he retained the undeniable air of thorough classical education and technique so apparent in certain Russian composers, most detectable in the dark, complex pieces composed for the left hand written after he severely inured his right overpracticing Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan and Balakirev’s Islamey and was told he’d never play again.

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Broken Promises and Liberal Authoritarianism: A Brief History of the Russian Perspective

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major formative event for the modern Russian outlook. At the same time as Russians experienced economic collapse, loss of power and influence, and reduced quality of life, the population also witnessed the international commodification of its natural resources, its consumer market and real estate, and even its brides. Since Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, Russia has demonstrated an intense rise in nationalism at home and aggressive actions on its borders as the population vies to reassert control over its prospects. The source of Russian power lies in its autocratic leadership, cultural resurgence, and resource wealth, which Putin is aggressively reorienting toward new economic and geographic frontiers. While the current Ukrainian conflict is largely political and, thus, more difficult to predict, the real battleground in this era of globalization will be the energy market, and this fight lies to the East.

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