Photographer Arseniy Kotov has a thing for “modernist” Soviet architecture and has made a career of documenting it via (this being now a decidedly post-Soviet world) Instagram, entries to which were gathered into a book Soviet Cities which has been followed by Soviet Seasons, a collection of photos divided into four quarters, nominally by time of year, but more specifically, perhaps, by region: winter in Siberia, the Caucasus in summer, Central Russia in the Spring and Ukraine in the Autumn.
The title of novelist Dara Horn’s new collection of essays, People Love Dead Jews: Reports From A Haunted Present, says it all and hints at Horn’s thesis that stories about Jews which receive the most traction are ones in which we are dead.
Russia’s position between Europe and Asia has led to differing conceptions of “what Russia is” to its leaders. Russia’s vast holdings east of the Urals have often inspired those who led Russia to look eastward for national glory, whether through trade, soft power, or outright force. Yet these Russian “pivots to Asia” often ended soon after they began, with outcomes far more limited than what those who launched them hoped to achieve.
Aigerim Tazhi is a Kazakh poet whose writings will impress you and move you, a new and exciting voice which, thanks to the work of James Kates, a distinguished translator of Russian, can now finally be heard in English. It goes without saying that the literature of Central Asia and the newly-independent countries of the former Soviet Union needs to be better-known, and this slim volume is a fine contribution to it.
Most of our understanding of the Mongol Empire begins and ends with Chinggis Khan and his sweep across Asia. His name is now included among conquerors whose efforts burn bright and burn out quick: Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and so on.
The papers are currently full of articles and commentary on the ever-closer relationship between China and Russia, of their compatible economies, state visits, joint projects, shared geopolitical interests and camaraderie between their leaders.
The cover of Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present, with its photo of the massive walls of the Ark Fortress in Bukhara, is something of a bait and switch. The book flies through that period implied by picture: the “imperial conquests” of the subtitle are not those of Genghis Khan or Timur, but rather the later ones by China and Russia: conquests of Central Asia, not by.