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Soviet Union

Photography by Mathias Depardon

Boomtown on the Caspian

The nation of Azerbaijan, wedged into the Caucasus Mountains between Russia and Iran, is small, geopolitically vulnerable, and relatively new to the contrivance of nationhood. Most of its history has been spent on the fringes of someone else’s empire; millennia of successive imperial occupations ended with the crumbling of the Soviet Union, and, over the twenty-five years since, Azerbaijanis have been experimenting with novel forms of national pride. 

Victoria Semykina

My Midwestern Soviet Childhood

It may sound incomprehensible—senseless, Constance Garnett would have put it, as she did in her translation of The Brothers Karamazov—but while the rest of the world may dread the return of the prolonged hostile stare-down known in the last half of the last century as the Cold War, in some ways, I welcome the refreeze.

Tanya, in her summer dress, plays with one of her  favorite stray dogs, June 2012.

The Colors of Tiksi

When it thrived—​if such can be said about a village in the Arctic Circle—​Tiksi was home to 12,000 people, many of whom worked at the seaport, the handful of scientific-​research stations, and military bases nearby.

The End of Enver Pasha

The relations between revolutionary Russia and revolutionary Turkey were conditioned by a personal rivalry between two of the Turkish leaders. The Bolsheviks adopted an extremely helpful and cordial attitude toward Kemal Pasha, and Kemal Pasha displa [...]

9 Sencu Iela

On the night of August 3, 1944—in the hot crickety darkness of Riga, Latvia—my grandparents did two remarkable things. After midnight, while his children were sleeping, my grandfather—Harijs Mindenbergs—sat down at the kitchen table and wrote three letters: One to Benita, his wife. One to Juris, his son. And one to Ruta, his daughter and my mother. Soviet troops were advancing toward the city. In five hours, most of the family would flee to Germany.