Concordia librarians to help Muslim students cull ‘inappropriate’ books

Montréal ‘ s Concordia University is often a weird place. And not in a good, heart-warming way.

The Talk on Ukraine

Yesterday, I had an Instagram evening. I didn’t open an Instagram account and didn’t go on Instagram. But – in an extremely rare development – I lost my speaking capacity. All that remained from me was a pretty picture but no words.

The reason this happened was that I had overextended myself speaking throughout the day. First, there was my talk on Ukraine that went longer than I thought because there were so many questions. Then I had to retell the whole thing to people who couldn’t attend. Then I had to retell it on the phone. And so by the time N got home, I could barely mumble a few words. And no, he wasn’t happy because he likes it when I talk. Which is normally all the time.

But I’m happy about how the talk went. I almost cried 3 times and one of these instances it was hard to conceal it. The questions were smart. The Chair said that I give people a charge of energy when I speak. So I probably have a career in motivational speaking.

If there are any questions on Ukraine on the blog, I welcome them.

Russia Celebrates the GULAG

I know people hate long quotes but this is really important:

Russia’s only Gulag memorial is redesigned to celebrate the Gulag

Perm-36, Russia’s only Gulag memorial, has announced its first exhibit since the state seized it from a local nonprofit. What was a museum of Soviet political repression will now showcase the technical means used to keep prisoners detained, focusing more on the guards than the inmates.

Viktor Shmyrov, the director of the nonprofit that until recently managed Perm-36, told the BBC that the museum is being maintained, but its public presentation is getting a complete overhaul. “Now it’s a museum about the camp system, but not about political prisoners. There’s nothing said about the repressions or about Stalin,” Shmyrov said.

The white-washing of Stalinism has been going on in Russia for years. School textbooks were modified back in 2005-6 to refer to Stalin as “an effective manager” who industrialized the country and defeated Nazism. Stalin’s purges were presented as unfortunate but necessary for the great task of building a strong and powerful country.

Back in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, there had been a short spike of interest in Russia towards history and towards bringing to light the crimes of Stalin’s regime. But that interest soon fizzled out. For Russia, discussing Stalin is dangerous because it leads to the unwelcome issue of ethnic and racial genocide that lies at the basis of Stalin’s empire. Much of Russia’s nationalistic discourse today comes straight from Stalin’s era. It is not surprising that Putin insists so often that the early years of the Cold War were the best time in the history of humanity. 

The GULAG (which cannot possibly be used in the plural, like many people inexplicably keep doing) was an uncomfortable and inconvenient thorn in the side of Putin’s extremely nationalistic regime. Doing research on the subject, commemorating it or discussing it in public in any way was not welcome. 

As we all know, the past that we refuse to acknowledge and process always comes back. 

This is what the museum looked like before being taken over by the government.