When Did You Open Your Third Eye?

For this final blogpost we were given a wide range of topics to choose from, all of which tied into the changes and societal shifts brought about after Stalin’s death in 1953. I found the cultural artifact/expression from Boris I. Sharagin to be the most captivating, and quite frankly one of the few choices we had this week that I felt I could relate to as well as connect on a deeper level with.

Some background about Boris Shragin, He taught at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, as well as being a fellow of the Institute of of the History of the Arts in the USSR. He started his life as a Marxist and member of the Communist Party, until he was stripped of his membership and title in1968. Important to note, the 1960s were a time of great unrest and dissent within the Soviet Union, to the point that western analysts were taken aback at the rise of anti-establishment in the country.

Shragin is famous for his involvement with protests and dissent in solidarity with those political prisoners kept in psychiatric hospitals. As a mental health advocate, my first impression was thiswas some sort of early protest against the conditions within psychiatric hospitals. However, upon more research I discovered a much more sinister reality that I was clueless of until now. The Soviet Union would label dissenters as mentally ill in order to place them and restrict them within these hospitals. Shragin’s crusade against this is extremely noble in my opinion.

The work of Shragin’s I was able to connect with on a deep level was “When Did You Open Your Eyes?”(2000) with its powerful and transformational messages concerning political ideologies. The work was a retelling of an event that happened during the All-World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957, describing an encounter he had with foreign art students. I am not quite sure, but I believe they were checking out examples of works of socialist realism. Maybe these works had not been taken care of properly, I couldn’t quite inference if that is what Shragin meant on page561 of the “Russia Reader”. But the message later on in the story became clear. He called a piece “merde” or “s**t” in English. “I was not fulfilling the role for which I had been recruited. By all patriotic standards, I was betraying the Motherland.” (562) Like an angry Hokie Ambassador telling perspective students the realties of campus life, he felt he had a higher purpose with these visiting students.

The question he never forgot was what the Japanese man asked him “Whendid you open your eyes?” This simple question frames the whole body of work, but it was such a perspective changer for this man. He had not thought the evolution of hisbeliefs, merely acted on them. In the context of a larger motif, Shragin’s work represents the beliefthat everyone can change their ways of thinking. I was drawn to his work because it reminded me of myself and my views on political ideologies, and the fact that upon reflection I can’t quite say when my views changed. I was exposed in my early life to my liberal Mother, but my conservative Father and Uncle helped instill their values/beliefs on me. In High School I was exposed to many viewpoints and cultures from friends all over the world, and then in college the classes I have taken have been so eye opening it is absurd. Entering college as a right leaning libertarian, and now essentially being a leftist, anarchsist, who is distrustful of all forms of governance and the unvierstiy apparatus at Virginia Tech, I was able to relate with Boris Shraginvery heavily.

Works Citied:

Shragin, Boris I. “When Did You Open Your Eyes? (2000).” The Russia Reader, 2009, pp. 559–566., doi:10.1215/9780822392583-096.

“BrainWorld Magazine.” BrainWorld Magazine, 5 May 2018, brainworldmagazine.com/perceiving-your-minds-eye-the-pineal-gland/.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Body of Stalin Removed from Lenin’s Tomb.” ThoughtCo, 12 Apr. 2018, www.thoughtco.com/body-of-stalin-lenins-tomb-1779977.

More Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800147/

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n09/benjamin-nathans/when-did-your-eyes-open

 

 

The Enemy of My Enemy…

 

I originally was thinking about writing on Xenophobia for this week’s blogpost, but upon seeing the topic of Ukraine after the war I knew this would be the topic I wrote on. I have always been very interested in the Ukrainian conflict that took place in the early to middle part of this current decade. On a larger scale the aspects of Ukrainian politics and culture have always been intriguing. In some ways because they share great similarities with their Russian neighbors, but still have many differences that have resulted in tension through the course of history.

On the note of nationalism, the Soviets and Ukrainians were as alike as were the differences, in the context of rallying citizens across all aspects of life for the war effort. Also, in the sense they felt they were fighting out of necessity to defend their homelands. But while the Soviet army pushed into Germany and foreign territory, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (UON) were fighting with guerrilla tactics and disrupting the Soviets primarily in western Ukraine.

The many posters showcased within the Seventeen Moments in History section for this topic help to visualize the strange and complex relationship between the UON and Nazi Germany. These posters are excellent pieces of propaganda in their ability to help sway Ukrainians against the Soviets. Some seem to be better crafted and believable than others. For example, one has an almost iconoclastic depiction of Hitler which I doubt would appeal to many Ukrainians, on the basis that a foreign leader in Germany would have little to no influence on Ukrainians thoughts on the war. A better image is the one with a Ukrainian and German solider, claiming “they are heading for peace together”. This particular poster represents the mentality of the alliance between these two groups, as literal of a representation of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” as it gets.

 

I found this topic to be so interesting because I actually had no idea this fighting / conflict even occurred. I had read about the Catholics being persecuted in Ukraine during the second world war, but nothing of this magnitude. The essay claimed at one point the UON had around 90,000 members.

In the spirit of the “Big Deal”, this fight against the closely cultural connected Ukrainians helped to propagate trust between the citizens of Russia and the leadership of the Soviet Union. For more information on this topic, “The Forgotten and Bloody History of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army” provides valuable insight into the topic.

Citations:

“The Forgotten (and Bloody) History of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.” MilitaryHistoryNow.com, 18 Apr. 2015, militaryhistorynow.com/2014/03/03/stuck-in-the-middle-the-forgotten-and-bloody-history-of-the-ukrainian-insurgent-army/.

“Ukrainian Insurgent Army.” Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine , www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?linkpath=pages%5CU%5CK%5CUkrainianInsurgentArmy.htm.