|Intl. Notebook||Jan 23 2018|
It was a trick question. Both predictions were equally wrong. The ghost of Stalin has not appeared in Red Square, and the state of Georgia, which has a 30% black population, has never had a black governor. Actually, there are no black governors of any U.S. state at the moment, and there have been only four in U.S. history. Bunch of scans below.
|Intl. Notebook||Nov 3 2009|
On November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a stray dog into space. She had many names, but the international press picked up on Laika and that is how she has been known since. Her purpose was to provide crucial data about whether humans might be able to survive the conditions of launch and weightlessness. In that respect, her mission was a success, but she did not survive the flight, nor was she ever intended to, since the Soviets had not yet developed a way to retrieve orbiting capsules. Popular myth states that Laika starved to death after a few days floating in space, but that isn’t true—she actually died a few hours after launch due to stress (read: terror) and heat. The latter was due to a malfunction in the capsule, but it’s easy to imagine the former might have killed her anyway. But Laika lives on, sort of. In 2008, Russia unveiled a monument in her honor, built near the Moscow research facility that prepared her for spaceflight. It’s a statue of Laika standing on top of a rocket.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 17 2009|
One of the more interesting pulp events of the 1960s occurred when a little-known ballet dancer named Rudolph Nureyev broke away from two Russian guards at Le Bourget airport in Paris and dashed through a security station shouting in English, “I want to be free!” His sprint into Western arms made him internationally known, rocked the dance world, and strained relations between the Soviet Union and France. It was one of the first high-profile defections, and the inside story had all the pulp elements we love best—secret romance, political intrigue, lots of headlines, and a fascinating personality at the heart of it all.
For three weeks prior Nureyev had been performing in Paris with his troupe, the Leningrad Kirov Ballet, and in his off hours enjoying the City of Light with society friends. News of these associations had filtered back to Moscow and, concerned, Soviet authorities decided to summon Nureyev back to the motherland for a chat. For two weeks they had trying to get him sent home, but Kirov directors and the Soviet embassy in Paris had been deliberately unhelpful. Finally, on the day the Kirov was supposed to board a flight to London for the next leg of their tour, two Soviet security guards intercepted Nureyev and told him he was wanted in Moscow. His dash for freedom minutes later set off a chain of events that would end with him receiving asylum in France.
Most assumed Nureyev had been thinking of defection for quite a while, but Soviet records declassified in the late 90s suggest he planned to return home. There were rumors he had fallen in love with a beautiful Chilean heiress named Clara Saint—in fact, this story was reported in much of the Western press—but in reality Nureyev was gay and had been seriously involved with a male dancer from Leningrad named Taja Kremke. It was Kremke who convinced Nureyev his talent would never flourish in the Soviet Union, but still, left to continue his tour with the Kirov, Nureyev likely would have flown home at its completion. Despite his general unhappiness, it seems to be the actual arrival of the security guards that triggered his defection. When the guards appeared he immediately knew he was in deep trouble and feared returning to Moscow meant he would not be allowed to dance anymore.
News of the defection broke huge. The West gleefully used it deride the Soviets, who had been riding high on the triumph of sending the first human into space two months earlier. Soon the Clara Saint story began to be widely reported. But it soon became obvious neither politics nor love had been the primary trigger of the event, but a burning desire to dance and live unhindered. Nureyev got his wish—residing in the West he expanded his dance repertoire and acted in motion pictures. He also tookadvantage of his more permissive surroundings by pursuing relationships with famous men such as Tab Hunter, Eric Bruhn, and Anthony Perkins, and by posing for a very famous set of nude photos exposing his celebrated endowment. But he lost almost as much as he gained—he was completely cut off from his family back in Russia, and didn’t see his mother again until she was dying. Nureyev himself began to die from AIDS around 1990, and finally succumbed January 6, 1993. He was perhaps the greatest ballet dancer of the twentieth century, and the event that forever changed his life happened today in 1961.
|Intl. Notebook | Politique Diabolique||Feb 19 2009|
In Russia, everything seems to have a spy movie twist. Today, the convoluted murder trial of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya ended in acquittals for four defendants. Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of the Kremlin, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on 7 October, 2006. The killer was believed to be Chechen national Rustam Makhmudov, but he escaped Russia using a fake passport, leaving his two brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail to stand trial along with two others on charges that they aided and abetted the killing.
But the prosecution case fell apart after a series of suspicious events, including the disappearance from evidence lockers of SIM cards, computer discs, and a surveillance recording purported to show the killer entering Politkovskaya’s flat. However, the case against the Makhmudovs and other two defendants was generally considered to be weak, with or without the stolen evidence. Prosecution lawyers claim this is because the key players are not the men on trial, but highly-placed political figures Politkovskaya often slammed in her articles.
Many suspect the villain may be Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin ruler of Chechnya, who was a frequent Politkovskaya target. Kadyrov is right out of a Bond movie. Sometimes referred to as the Idi Amin of the Caucasus, he rules Chechnya like a king and has a private army known as Kadyrovites who are documentably responsible for numerous crimes, including beatings, torture sessions, and one decapitation complete with a public display of the severed head. Asked about his possible involvement in Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, Ramzan Kadyrov asserted: “I don't kill women.”