Baku, the center of the Russian and then Soviet oil industry, represented the raw economic potential of early Soviet industry. At the head of the industry was Alexandr Serebrovskiĭ, head of Azneft, the largest Soviet oil trust, and a pivotal figure in reviving Soviet oil production across the 1920s. His trip to the United States in 1924 and his subsequent plan to restore Baku’s productive capacity via American technology and methodology would not only improve the industry’s output but allow Azneft to directly compete with American oil companies on the international stage, thus demonstrating the latent potential of the Soviet Union for exportation. However, while this project seemed initially successful, it created a difficult fiscal legacy as Azneft became increasingly financially insolvent across the 1920s.
This article discusses the question of why a Western-style democracy has not been formed in Russia. The prerequisite for the formation of a democracy as a political regime is the domination of small and medium-sized private property and a middle class. Since the middle class has been small in Russia throughout most of its history for a number of objective reasons, the country has hardly known full-fledged democracy, and the current political system only imitates it. Russia’s attempts to enter the trajectory of democratic development—both in the early twentieth century, and since the early 1990s–have failed, and the trend of abandoning the basic principles of democracy has prevailed over the past two decades. The blame for this lies not only on the current Russian leadership but to no lesser extent on the political leadership of the West, which for the sake of short-term self-serving interests or political ambitions has contributed much to the formation of the current Russian regime.
The article examines the population exchange between Poland and the Soviet Union in 1944–1947, its role in the shaping of modern Ukraine, and its place in the evolution of the Soviet nationality policy. It investigates the factors involved in the decision-making of individuals and state officials and then assesses how people on the ground made sense of the Soviet population politics. While the earlier scholarship saw the transfer as punitive national deportation, the article argues that it was neither punitive nor purely national nor was it a deportation. The article shows that the party-state was ambivalent about the Polish minority and was not committed to total national homogenization of Western Ukraine. Instead, the people themselves were often eager to leave the USSR because of the poor living conditions, fear of Sovietization, and ethnic conflict. Paradoxically, one of the largest Soviet nation-building projects was not the product of coherent nationality policy.
Unintelligible sequences of letters or words in today’s Russian culture are omnipresent: in slogans, such as “Hair is the best remedy,” “Stop grandma’s merciless feeding!”; on social media, for example #ifnotputinthencat and “LSDUZ and IFIAU9”; in satirical songs and poems; in films by Zvyagintsev, novels by Sorokin, Tolstaya, and Pelevin, etc. The appeal of gibberish and its repression by the Soviet and post-Soviet officialdom is rooted in the belief that art and word have the power to influence people and events. Avant-garde artists who pioneered this belief in the transformative power of art cheered the Bolshevik’s promise to create a new society, but were soon crushed by the Soviet state as dangerous saboteurs. Today, gibberish is again a strategy of aesthetic defiance. Erudite and inventive, gibberish eludes the grasp of state censorship. It builds communities of resistance, and spoils the authoritative discourse like a fly in the soup.