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  • Secret Weapons September 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Secret Weapons

    Ideas for books very often begin with nagging questions that compulsively irritate authors and that they then work through – think of it as therapy – by writing tens or even hundreds of thousands of words. Beach suspects that the nagging question that saw Brian Ford pen Secret Weapons: Technology, Science and the Race to […]

    The Sausage War August 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

      Beachcombing has been paying perhaps too much attention to Finland in the last two months: the result of a long infatuation with Mannerheim, the aristocratic military commander who twice saved his young country from the Soviets. He kicked off with the tale of Mannerheim’s cigar. He moved  onto a WIBT moment in the court […]

    Stalin, Molotov and the Finns August 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stalin, Molotov and the Finns

    A brief post to celebrate a WIBT (wish I’d been there) moment from the margins of the Second World War. November 1939 and western Europe has plunged into internecine conflict. However, the non-combatant Soviet Union is enjoying itself. Indeed, it has decided to use this precious period to put the record straight with some of […]

    András Toma: The Forgotten Prisoner July 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    András Toma: The Forgotten Prisoner

    The Second World War was a time of almost universal suffering. But, at least, when Hitler popped a bullet into his head and the Japanese Emperor retired his divinity it all ended? Well, for most of humanity yes. But there were those unlucky souls who ended up far from home with no hope of a […]

    Fidel Castro is a Jesuit Spy! [sic] July 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fidel Castro is a Jesuit Spy! [sic]

    Beachcombing often speaks of his rusty filing cabinets in which the treasures of a couple of decades of bizarre research have been placed. However, there are also regrets. Sometimes  Beach realizes that he has missed out on two decades harvesting through lack of foresight. An example of this that causes him particular pain is what […]

    The Commissar Vanishes April 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Commissar Vanishes

    After yesterday’s post on cinema gimmicks, Beachcombing found himself wondering about why cinema alone of the great arts seems to prosper under totalitarianism. From there he got all excited about Soviet kitsch and spent an hour in his armchair where he got reacquainted with one of his favourite books of the last couple of years: […]

    The Death Dealer of Kovno March 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Death Dealer of Kovno

    Call it the month of the massacres: Beachcombing in the past four weeks has gone knee deep in blood ‘that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er’. Even he gets a little queasy thinking about it. There was Queen Victoria drinking blood; then killer ice-cream; followed up by a horrific […]

    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker March 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker

      Crisis in the Beachcombing household tonight. Yesterday it was discovered that every member of the family save Beachcombing himself had been stricken with head lice. And so Beachcombing has spent most of the last six hours combing what look like wood ants from his darling wife’s and elder daughter’s fair locks. By way of […]

    Image: Murder Inc March 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Murder Inc

    This picture is taken from David King’s brilliant The Commissar Vanishes (another post, another day) and shows the 228 men and women (this online version is cropped) who ran the prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Soviet. Their task was to break the ideological enemies of the regime, understood not, of course, as enemies of communism, but […]

    Nationalising Women on the Volga March 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nationalising Women on the Volga

      Beachcombing has been remiss in picking on the Soviet Union recently, his last efforts came in October of last year. However, yesterday’s post on Women Service sparked a memory within a memory and sent Beachcombing running to his book shelves. The work in question was Frederick Bailey’s brilliant Mission to Tashkent. Bailey – a British spy […]

    Image: Dancing to Save the World October 18, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Dancing to Save the World

    Mirella over at History and Women has the happy phrase, ‘Wordless Wednesday’, for her regular posts with images. And this ‘wordless’ approach is certainly the sensible one. But Beachcombing gets worryingly loquacious when powerful pictures come up and today is going to be no exception. The photograph above was one of a series of the […]

    Image: Comrade Lenin in Antarctica October 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Comrade Lenin in Antarctica

    It was a dull weekend and so Beachcombing is going to give himself a pick-me-up this Monday morning with one of his favourite sports – making fun of the Soviet Union. And what better way to do it than with this fabulous photograph of the southern pole of inaccessibility, the point in Antarctica furthest from […]

    Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor September 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor

    Of all the intellectual perversions of modern times perhaps none was as bizarre and perhaps none had more serious consequences than the fawning attitude of some western democrats towards the Soviet Union and its satellites from the 1930s to the 1970s. The paeans of nonsense that there were written about Lenin and Stalin now beggar […]

    Women Drivers in Stalingrad August 22, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Women Drivers in Stalingrad

                                Beachcombing has already offered readers a series of his WIBT (‘wish I’d been there’) moments and couldn’t resist the following vignette that though unimportant in intention and outcome catches something of the Soviet Union in its worst years. Stalingrad in late […]

    German Crusaders lost in Central Asia? June 29, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    German Crusaders lost in Central Asia?

    Beachcombing often stretches himself pretty thin in covering the centuries and sometimes he just doesn’t have the languages to check up properly on a story. With these caveats he offers his readers the following tale that reads like a late Victorian or Edwardian boy’s own adventure. The text comes from Richard Halliburton’s Seven League Boots, […]

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