Stalin Prize


Revolutions have a tendency to spur all sorts of creative activities, not least among those the revolution benefits most – the common workers and farmers. One activity that intrigues me is children’s names. Russian parents were not the only ones to call their offspring Marks, Engelina, Stalina, and Ninel (or indeed Barikada, Ateist, Traktorina, and Elektrifikatsiy). It happened and still happens in India, in circles where the tradition runs strong.

Aware of this situation, the Russian Cultural Centre, in Thiruvananthapuram, organised a day where all those so named were gathered. As reported, Lenin opened the evening, while Stalin was master of ceremonies. Participants were greeted by Khrushchev, while Brezhnev and even Yuri Gagarin made speeches. The oldest person present was Stalin (at 58) and the youngest was a child named Pravda.

I’ve got to ask: where’s the creativity in naming kids in Australia?

(ht ll)

It’s always intriguing to look at the plans for the Stalin Prize that were not realised. Many were and you can travel across Eastern Europe and the former USSR to see many of them still in use, such as glorious constructions of Stalin Baroque. But when you look at the projects that were dreamed, planned, and even approved, but never built for whatever reason, you realise how massive the imagination really was between the 1930s and 1950s. A couple of my favourites, but you will find more here.

This one was for the Palace of Technology:

SP Architecture 04

This one for the Aeroflot headquarters:

SP Architecture 08

And here is a stunning residential building in Uprising Square:

SP Architecture 11

(ht sk)

2013 February Marshall Roland

 

I can say that I am not responsible for this one, but it does feel rather comfortable. I guess it goes with the glowing description of a speech I gave in China last year: ‘a velvet-gloved iron fist’ (David Jasper)

With significant reluctance, one of the greatest pleasures for a man or indeed woman comes to an end – my tiling. Over the last few weeks, in those regular breaks from writing, I have been cleaning carefully around each tile, removing traces of stray tiling cement:

As you may appreciate, this is a task only for the patient. But then the grouting began, filling in those trenches around 450 tiles or so.

A messy job at times, but satisfying (Mick Jagger obviously never tiled …):

I can certainly get some …

… satisfaction from this:

And this:

I … can … get … some …

… sa-tis-fac-tion …

Well, maybe not quite … I have already identified the next task or three: the kitchen floor, the walls, the exterior of our apartment block. You name it, I’ll tile it.

At last, the full version of the Lenin letter template, using only phrases and sentences from the man’s own letters:

Dear …,

I am writing under the fresh impression of your letter, which I have just read. Although you have resented my previous missives, I shall try to be mild and kind.

I know of no task more fatiguing, more thankless and more disgusting than to have to wade through this filth. Yet your senseless twaddle is so exasperating that I am unable to suppress the desire to state my opinion frankly.

You propose that we should [fill in proposal here, such as:] collaborate with magniloquent liberal windbags, that we should philander with reaction. Strictly speaking, this proposal is too ludicrous to merit serious consideration, the product of either a charlatan or an absolute blockhead. The only answer can be a bitter laugh. You may couch it in pompous, high-blown phrases, but it is really befouled and spattered with shit. All your talk about freedom and democracy is sheer claptrap, parrot phrases, the product of mean-spirited boors, and your education, culture, and enlightenment are only a species of thoroughgoing prostitution. It is a ridiculous and puerile attempt to be clever.

You either cannot think logically, or you are a liberal hypocrite, wriggling like the devil at mass. May I make one suggestion, as difficult as it may seem: scrape off all this green mould of intellectualist opportunism.

Yours,

P.S. I cannot share your regret at not having met. After your tricks and your conniving attitude, I do not wish to have anything to do with you except in a purely official way, and only in writing.

When I have no option but to get on a plane, I prefer to travel with Air China, doing my bit for the cause. But one of the few pleasures is to wake up from a groggy, drug-induced sleep, and find a decent film to see me over the final dopey hours. What exactly is a decent film? One that would be worthy of the Stalin Prize, of course. And only on Air China can you find such a film. Celebrating 90 years since the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party is The Beginning of the Great Revival. It has Mao and Lenin and Zhou Enlai and Li Dazhao, the man who studied and introduced Marxism to China in the 1910s and whose statue I have seen on the campus of Peking University (see below). Needless to say, I loved every minute of it, so it becomes a nomination for the revived Stalin Prize.

And Li Dazhao