The Soviet ‘James Bond’

Standartenfuhrer von Stirlitz is a Soviet spy who was highlighted in the hit series, Seventeen Moments of Spring, which originally aired in 1973. His popularity in Russia is truly comparable to that of James Bond’s in the west. However, his character is starkly different other than the fact that he is a spy and likes to drive fast as “flirting with danger facilitates clear thinking”. Throughout the 12 episode series, he only kills one person as the show is based more on suspense than action. Also unlike Bond, he avoids the opportunity to indulge in laying with women as he once said, “I’d rather have a cup of coffee”(1). Nevertheless, Stirlitz was a figurehead symbol for the Soviet population. He was the reason nearly 80 million television viewers were glued to their screens during each episode, making it the most successful show of the time (2). As this was only two decades after the Great Patriotic War, memories of lives lost were still fresh in the minds of many citizens of the USSR. It was also uncommon for someone to not have lost a relative during the war (3). This created a strong link between ordinary citizens and a fictional character. The show’s popularity has not faded out in present day Russia. In 2009, a colorized version of the series was produced by several international companies (2).

Sources: (image)

The Metro that moved Soviet Russia into Modernity

Several comparisons can be made between America’s roaring twenties and the USSR’s terrible terrific thirties. Economically, one can say that the soviets were thriving at this time, just as America was a decade ago, when studying the development and implementation of the Moscow Metro. With the first line of the subway opening in 1935 (The Moscow Metro), Stalin’s government was able to show off its accomplishment to the rest of the world. To put this in perspective, American cities like Washington D.C. and Baltimore did not open their own metro until 1976 and 1983 respectively.

The Moscow Metro was not only ahead of its time, it was illustrious and built to last. The original line that opened in 1935 has continued to operate to this day. This is unlike the metro system created in another American city of Los Angeles where, despite opening years before the Moscow Metro, all lines were removed by 1963 and later replaced. Seventeen moments in soviet history tells us that, “Stations in central Moscow are like palaces, walls clad in precious stone, decorated by mosaics and grandiose sculptures” (The Moscow Metro). Stalin was sure to prove that his socialist state could effectively mobilize itself and create a wonder that increase efficiency and boost moral within the soviet social, economic, and cultural realms.


The Moscow Metro Images


“The Moscow Metro.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
 “Baltimore Metro Subway.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Los Angeles Metro Rail.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
“Washington Metro.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Collectivization, You Know You Want it

Despite the increased production of grain to be sold in the market, the far greater increase in demand for grain caused the country to fall into a grain crisis. Stalin’s solution for a more long term efficiency of grain extraction, as laid out in his first 5 year plan, was to collect the means of production of poor and middle-peasant households. As some soviets are beginning to partake in more readily available privileges such as divorce or an abortion and even a recent increase in standard of living, they may feel an increased sense of freedom yet they are not to forget they are under communist rule as they are being forced to work communally. Among the religious community, “the coming of the Antichrist – entered the world of peasant rumour when the threat of collectivization grew” (Freeze 337).

Kulaks, or peasants who believed they were better off without collectivization and resisted to enroll in collective farms, were subject to various kinds of punishment. In fear that their food would be confiscated, their family be resettled, deported, or incarcerated in labor camps, and in some cases execution (Siegelbaum), peasants were quick to fall in line and participate in collective farms. Despite Kulak protests, Stalin’s administration ensured the majority of the peasantry was to accept collectivization, through fear mongering or not.


“Smite the Kulak” –


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2009. Print.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Collectivization.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 17 June 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

Humiliation, The Last Straw

As the build up to the Revolution of 1905 could not have been anymore blatant, a humiliating military loss to relatively new Asian powerhouse Japan, may have just thrown the entire motherland into irreversible chaos. Arguably fighting two fronts already, as the Russian Empire struggled to maintain peace at home and simultaneously was expanding its territorial reach into East Asia, the decision to go to war over territory in Korea and Manchuria as a strategic foothold for leverage in the future (Streich), was a costly one. As Gregory L. Freeze put it, in regards to the first several years of the twentieth century, “…perhaps most important, during these years Russia’s Asian policy became increasingly expansionist and aggressive, culminating in a fateful war with Japan in 1904-5” (Freeze).

With the revival of revolutionary terrorism in the early years of the twentieth century (Freeze), Russian administration already had their hands full at home. However, statistical advantages in land and naval power and financial strength (Streich), in relation to Japan, gave Russia false hopes that it could easily defeat such a smaller foe as the Japanese. In the end, it was a surprise naval attack that succumbed Russia to a rather short defeat, leaving much more lasting implications than the death of soldiers and destruction of a navy. In a workers petition prepared for presentation to Tsar Nicholas II, a Russian priest and worker exclaimed, “The bureaucratic administration has reduced the country to complete destitution, drawn it into a shameful war, and brings Russia even further towards ruin” (Workers’ petition). Ultimately, the devastating and humiliating defeat was the last straw for the deteriorating state of Russia. As soon to follow was Bloody Sunday, where over a hundred protesting Russian citizens would be killed by the Russian government (Freeze), the country was full speed ahead towards rebellion.

Image: Russian poster c1905


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Streich, Philip, and Jack S. Levy. “Information, Commitment, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.” Foreign Policy Analysis 12.4 (2014): 489-511. Web.

“Workers’ petition, January 9th, 1905 (bloody Sunday).” Documents in Russian History. 18 Feb. 2009. Web.

From the Back of a Rail Car (Post 1)

This image was taken by Russian photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorski in September of 1909. The photo depicts Simskaia Station, a stop on the national rail system for Sim Valley. The station, which was completed in 1892, provided a connection for the people in Sim Valley to other parts of the country. Prokudin-Gorski took this image while standing on the back of the train platform looking back on the station behind. Several of the towers shown in the image still exist today and the color photography makes the image seem almost present-day. I especially like the way the sunlight dances off of the mountain range in the background.

The establishment of a railroad station in a region is bound to initiate social and economic development after being built.  It is no telling what the establishment of this station did for the people of Sim Valley, although I am sure most results were positive. The establishment of rail stations generates demand from other industries and enables easier transportation of goods, lowering prices. It’s obvious that the benefits in expanding the rail station were endless for Russia.

Furthermore, the image above depicts what seems to be a relatively rural area of the country. Separated by all large cities in Russia, the image is set in the Ural Mountains. When looking at the image, I can’t help but imagine what life was like in 1909 living near that train station. I would think most people would have been involved in agriculture, living simple lives with a relatively large family size. I wonder what change, and how much change, they witnessed with the establishment of the rail station. Potential change they could have seen would be diversification of the labor field and reduced number of offspring per family, in addition to economic growth.


“View from the Rear Platform of the Simskaia Station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway.” World Digital Library. Library of Congress, 28 Sept. 2016. Web.