As the Royal Academy unveils its huge new show of work produced in Russia between 1917 and 1932, Anne McElvoy and her guests - the film maker and actor, Dolya Gavanski, novelist Charlotte Hobson and thehistorians Stephen Smith and Victor Sebestyen - assess the role played by artists in the revolution and the relevance of their paintings, sculptures, films, books and music today.
Orlando Figes’ bestselling A People’s Tragedy, first published nearly 20 years ago, is one of the most compelling of all accounts of the Russian Revolution. Figes ended his story in 1924 with the death of Lenin, which, he reckoned, seemed like a good idea at the time, as did many other historians of the subject.
If one is to believe the newspaper headlines and TV talking heads, we are in the midst of “a new Cold War” as a result of Russia’s decision to seize Crimea. Perhaps for many people on both sides of the Atlantic the comparison is comforting: After all, the real Cold War was the last war that America and the West “won,” or seemed to have won. But it is seriously misleading.
One of the best-known contacts for many Western reporters covering Poland and the Solidarity protests of the 1980s was Konstanty ‘Kostek’ Gebert. A fine journalist who usually wrote under the name Dawid Warszawski, he seemed to know everyone in Warsaw, liked to talk late into the night about ideas and gossip, wore his vast learning lightly and had an invaluable gift for putting complex issues into broad perspective.
Andrew Marr discusses Central Europe from the Soviet occupation to membership of the EU. Anne Applebaum looks back at what happened when the Iron Curtain came down after WWII. Victor Sebestyen and Helen Szamuely disagree over the benefits of European integration after 1989. And Mark Mazower explores the chequered history of international government, and the vision of harmony at the heart of the European project.
A band of long-haired psychedelic rockers locked up in the 1970s proved a catalyst in the fall of Soviet communism. “The band’s lyrics have nothing to do with music or art and seriously threaten the moral values of society,” the chief prosecutor declared portentously in a crowded court room. “They display extreme vulgarity and their words expose anarchy, decadence ... and cause a negative influence on the lifestyle of our young generation.”