The soviet union

The Soviets were imperialists. Stalin’s architecture proves it

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has rendered what might otherwise have seemed a fairly niche study of a Soviet-era architect rather more resonant. Boris Iofan was born to a Russian-speaking Jewish family in Odessa in 1891. After initial studies in his home city and a brief period working with his older brother Dimitri in St Petersburg, he fled the war engulfing Tsarist Russia for Italy, where he trained at the Istituto Superiore di Belle Arti in Rome. During his ten years abroad he married a half-Russian, half-Italian aristocratic divorcée, became a communist, palled up with the future Soviet premier Aleksei Rykov (who was to act as his political

Glasnost merely confirmed Russia’s deep-seated suspicion of democracy

Thirty years ago the Soviet Union was guttering to its close. Those of us who were there remember the exhilarating hope, the apprehension, the illusion. For everyone else it is a distant echo. Russia was always likely to lose the Cold War competition with America. It was unmanageably large, too poor and too reliant on too few products. Stalin’s bloody grip had enabled the Soviet Union to defeat the Germans at a terrible cost to his people. When he died in 1953 his system entered a protracted agony. Over the next decade Nikita Khrushchev tinkered with half-baked solutions. They misfired, and he was overthrown by the hard men in the

Betrayal was a routine business for George Blake

Kim Philby once remarked to the journalist Murray Sayle that ‘to betray, you must first belong. I never belonged’. Kim, as usual, was lying. Westminster and Cambridge, the Foreign Office and SIS: for all his attempts to pose as an outsider, Philby was a thorough-paced member of the British Establishment. George Blake — who is quoted using exactly the same phrase about himself in Simon Kuper’s wise, engaging biography The Happy Traitor — was telling the truth. Blake never belonged to a country, and communism was probably the closest thing he ever found to a spiritual home — even if he was deeply disillusioned by the reality of the workers’