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  • Big Brother Urban Legends November 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Big Brother Urban Legends

    The three great totalitarian states that dominated Europe in the 1930s were the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Did these have their own urban legends? Of course. But what were they? Beach wants only to open one obvious form of totalitarian urban legend: what he will provisionally call ‘the big brother story’. Now, […]

    Review: Grossman, Life and Fate November 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Grossman, Life and Fate

    Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate [1960] This blogger has been very reluctant to write posts on historical fiction for the simple fact that he cannot stand most representatives of the genre. But Life and Fate was started reluctantly during the recent flu wars, and has been great bedtime and pre-siesta reading ever since. Written in […]

    Joys of Supermarket Shopping in the Soviet Union August 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Joys of Supermarket Shopping in the Soviet Union

    The Soviet Union ran a centrally-planned economic system. This meant that bureaucrats, using five-year plans, had to anticipate the changing wants and needs of Soviet citizens looking into their cracked crystal balls. It is not that these planners did so badly, they did so with verve and cunning and best intentions: it is just that […]

    Myths of Twentieth-Century History August 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Myths of Twentieth-Century History

    Seven twentieth century myths follow. Any other contributions or angry rebuttals, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Great War: A Disaster Waiting to Happen, 1914 The Great War was going to happen sooner or later because two countries, Germany and France, wanted it. However, the consensus that the Great War would have inevitably led to the ‘breaking […]

    Time, Blood and Money in World War Two September 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Time, Blood and Money in World War Two

    It is perhaps the best quotation about the Second World War. ‘The British gave time, the Americans gave money, the Soviets gave blood’. In other terms the defeat of the Axis was made possible by the UK hanging on in the summer of 1940; by the Americans ability to outproduce the enemy; and by twenty […]

    WW2 Myths: Forgetting General Winter April 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    WW2 Myths: Forgetting General Winter

    Today a bit of WW2 cobblers: the myth that the German High Command in 1941 forgot that there was a winter in the Soviet Union; thousands of German soldiers on the road to Moscow would be immobilized by ‘General Winter’ and have to face -20 or -30 degrees with nothing but lederhosen. Now as it […]

    Poetic Justice and Four British Traitors February 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Poetic Justice and Four British Traitors

    The second in our Poetic Justice series (covered Molotov in Mongolia a year ago) is dedicated to George Blake, Donald MacClean, Kim Philby and Guy Burgess. Beach has treated these sorry four briefly on another occasion: Dealing with Double Agents. But for the uninitiated all were British spies whose night job was to work for […]

    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder? October 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder?

    Between 1917 when Lenin declared the revolution to 1956 and the invasion of Hungary Soviet massacres of innocents or opponents were frequent, massive and only seriously contested in the West by the small national Communist parties. Yet one of the extraordinary things about these bloody outbursts is that they have been forgotten by all but […]

    Review: The New Civilisation? October 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The New Civilisation?

    Paul Flewers, The New Civilisation? Understanding Stalin’s Soviet Union, 1929-1941 (2008) There is a strip in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1930), where the intrepid boy reporter spies out some British leftists who are visiting ‘the new civilization’: the Soviet Union about five years after Stalin had ascended the blood steps to the iron throne. […]

    Mannerheim and the Medium June 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mannerheim and the Medium

    Beach hates fortune tellers and he loathes séances and he really can’t be doing with mediums (if spirits exist just leave them in peace). But he was struck by this account from the great Mannerheim, Finland’s hero Marshal, who saved the country in three wars against Soviet Communism; even though he lost two of them. This particular […]

    403 Cossack Adolescents: Soviet Genocide? April 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    403 Cossack Adolescents: Soviet Genocide?

    Beach lives in a part of Europe (Italy) where the memory of the Soviet Union is revered not only by daft revolutionaries creeping out at night to graffiti their way to world revolution; a good part of the general population also makes this mistake. Of course, they will not defend Stalin and they shed some […]

    Lenin Meets the Bandits April 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Lenin Meets the Bandits

    19 January 1919, a wonderful moment where Lenin almost got offed by the forces he had created. On this day, Lenin, Chabanov, his bodyguard, and Maria, Lenin’s sister were driving with bourgeos ostentation on the outskirts of Moscow. At a railway bridge they were stopped, however, by three armed men, that Lenin and Chabanov assumed were […]

    The Eyes Have It: Lenin’s Screwing Orbs March 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Eyes Have It: Lenin's Screwing Orbs

    Eyes! Novelists are forever going on about them, even philosophers occasionally get excited about them: blue eyes are beautiful, brown eyes are sublime, Kant insists.  Beach personally has never understood all the fuss: of the twenty members of his family he probably has noticed the eyes of three and knows the colour of six or […]

    He Was My Emperor! March 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    He Was My Emperor!

    Field Marshal Gustav Mannerheim was the man who created (once) and then saved Finland (twice). First, he commanded the White insurrection against the Reds in Helsinki in 1918 leading the country to independence from Russia (which was becoming the USSR). Second, he commanded the Finnish army in the Winter War, and third, he commanded the same army in […]

    Good Swastikas? The Hakaristi February 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Good Swastikas? The Hakaristi

    When is a swastika a good sign? The answer is, crudely, when it predates the Nazi party’s adoption of the crooked cross in 1920, for the swastika is one of the most ancient and one of the most widespread of human symbols. In many countries it remained an essentially religious symbol, locked into a pre-modern memory […]

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