Author Archives: Andrew Jenks

Letters to Max

This intriguing 2014 documentary takes place in an obscure part of the former Soviet Union called Abkhazia – a tiny sub-tropical mountainous region on the coast of the Black Sea (“Letters to Max,” This country of 242,000 residents, most of … Continue reading

Posted in Nationalism and National Identity, Nostalgia and Memory, Post-Soviet Russia, The Collapse of the Soviet Union | Leave a comment

On Hungary, Gorbachev, Fence Demolitions, Wet Kisses, and Collapsing Empires

Historians often say that at least twenty years must pass before people can begin to grasp the true significance of an event. The passage of time dampens the passions, permits a more objective view, reveals new documents, and provides some … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

1979, the End of the Cold War, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Nineteen seventy nine was a pivotal year in twentieth-century history – as momentous, perhaps, as 1945 and the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan; Iranian revolutionaries seized American hostages in Tehran and overthrew … Continue reading

Posted in Soviet Afghanistan War, Soviet Era 1917-1991, Terrorism, Transnational History | 3 Comments

Russian Space History — Philatelists

This is in response to an interesting comment on my earlier post regarding the stamp image I used, which commemorated Aleksei Leonov’s 1965 space walk ( The comment noted differences between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not only … Continue reading

Posted in Russian and Soviet Art, Russian Space History, Soviet and Russian Space Flight | 6 Comments

Russian Space History — Transnational Culture and Cosmism

In balmy Culver City near Los Angeles, not far from the campus where I teach, there is a wonderful little museum called the Museum of Jurassic Technology ( The museum contains a Russian tea room and aviary on the roof. … Continue reading

Posted in Russian Space History, Soviet and Russian Space Flight, Soviet Era 1917-1991, Transnational History | 3 Comments

“Brezhnev’s hospitality was effusive, if unpredictable…”

The words in the title of this post come from a description by Donald M. Kendall, CEO of PepsiCo from 1971 to 1986. Kendall met Brezhnev in August 1973 in the Soviet Union and reported back on his meeting to … Continue reading

Posted in Archives, Cold War, Detente, Soviet Era 1917-1991 | Leave a comment

Call for a Wider Perspective

Many thanks to Alexander Geppert, a leading figure in the history of space flight and European culture, for this review of two recent volumes on Russian space flight and culture (in which I and fellow blogger Asif Siddiqi have essays). … Continue reading

Posted in Cold War, Historiography, Soviet and Russian Space Flight, Soviet Era 1917-1991, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Miss Gulag

Our university is holding a Russian documentary film series. We showed one of the films that I reviewed here earlier ( Our next film is called Miss Gulag, produced in 2007 and directed by Maria Yatskova (for an interview with … Continue reading

Posted in Films, Gender and Sexuality, Nostalgia and Memory, Post-Soviet Russia | 4 Comments

900 Days

The Nazi siege of Leningrad began on September 8, 1941. It ended 874 days later, one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history. The Soviets won at the cost of more than 1 million soldiers killed, captured, or … Continue reading

Posted in Archives, Films, Nostalgia and Memory, oral history, Russian History in Popular Culture, Soviet Era 1917-1991, Teaching Russian History, World War II | 6 Comments

The Nuclear Age: A New Documentary

People often say we live in the “nuclear age,” but what that means is never entirely clear. A new documentary produced by a former ABC newsman captures the spirit, or rather spirits, of that era – from its beginnings in … Continue reading

Posted in Chernobyl, Cold War, Films, Post-Soviet Russia, Russia in World History, Russian Orthodoxy | 2 Comments

Reaching out beyond the ivory tower

Here is a first review of my new book on Yuri Gagarin. The publication is read by space enthusiasts and engineers and managers in the space business. I like the fact– which was partly my hope in publishing this … Continue reading

Posted in Digital Russian History, Soviet and Russian Space Flight | Leave a comment

Death and Redemption – A Blog Conversation

Welcome to the third of our blog conversations. I encourage readers to join the conversation by commenting our our authors’ posts. The book we are discussing is by fellow blogger Steven A. Barnes (Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the … Continue reading

Posted in Blog Conversations, Death and Redemption | 2 Comments

Marina Goldovskaya: Chronicler of the Post-Brezhnev Era

My post is about a film festival that was held on my campus on March 18. We screened three documentary films by documentary filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya. I emerged from the event, and also after reading her autobiography, convinced of the … Continue reading

Posted in Films, Perestroika, Post-Soviet Russia | 1 Comment

Three Songs About Motherland

My university (California State University, Long Beach) is screening a number of documentary films about Russia this semester, including three films from the esteemed documentary film maker Marina Goldovskaya: A Taste of Freedom (1991, 46 min.), A Bitter Taste of Freedom … Continue reading

Posted in Cold War, Films, Nostalgia and Memory, Post-Soviet Russia, Soviet Era 1917-1991, Teaching Russian History | 1 Comment

Russian Airborne veterans against Vladimir Putin

Here is a great item related to the Russian protests making the you tube rounds (I picked this up via facebook from Peter Holquist). Below is a very rough translation provided on the youtube site. For a better translation, see … Continue reading

Posted in Post-Soviet Russia, YouTube in Russian History Classes | Leave a comment

Hot-Tub Diplomacy and Star Wars

I’ve been reviewing documents from the Hoover Archives in connection with my latest project ( The ones I’ve posted here, with brief commentary and historical context, concern an organization of astronauts and cosmonauts called the Association of Space Explorers, which … Continue reading

Posted in Cold War, Detente, Soviet and Russian Space Flight, Soviet Era 1917-1991 | 3 Comments

Desert of Forbidden Art

This 2010 documentary, which has deservedly gotten a lot of press, is well worth showing to students ( It follows a treasure trove of Russian art stashed in a remote desert region of Uzbekistan known as Karakalpakstan, where the art … Continue reading

Posted in Films, Russian and Soviet Art, Soviet Era 1917-1991 | 1 Comment

Gagarin Coin

My man Yuri Gagarin gets another Russian coin from the Russian Central Bank in honor of the flight’s 50th anniversary last April. He remains one of the few official Soviet heroes to merit being put on a post-Soviet piece of … Continue reading

Posted in Nostalgia and Memory, Post-Soviet Russia, Soviet and Russian Space Flight | 2 Comments

Stalin’s Daughter

The death of Svetlana Alliluyeva in a nursing home in Wisconsin brings to a close a fascinating and tragic life. The documentary film maker Lana Parshina in 2007 had the good luck of landing one of the few extensive interviews … Continue reading

Posted in Cold War, Films, Stalinism, Teaching Russian History | 7 Comments

The Summer of Terror

I just showed a documentary for a group of students here at Long Beach State by Julia Ivanova entitled “Moscow Freestyle.” Completed in 2006, it provides an interesting perspective on the terrifying summer of 2004 in Moscow — and one … Continue reading

Posted in Post-Soviet Russia, Teaching Russian History, Terrorism | 4 Comments