Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 13:31:19
20 September 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Fire and Ice

Author: Paul E. Richardson

July/Aug 2014
Page 4   ( 1 pages)

Summary: On the serendipitous mixture of fire and ice in this summer's issue.


Readers may be puzzled by the painting (Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, by Ilya Repin) on this issue’s cover. Does it have a hidden meaning? Is someone underwater? All wet?

Not really. The explanation is rather simple, actually. This summer is the 170th anniversary of Repin’s birth, and two of the stories in this issue had to do with “taking the waters,” so it seemed a nice, almost intentional thematic choice. It also was a refreshing image for summertime.

In fact, the inclusion of these two stories (Liquid Assets, page 35, and Holy Spring of Iskitim, page 54) in one issue was not based on a long-planned intent. Things just worked out that way as the issue came together in recent months –  a nice bit of serendipity.

Nor did we expect all this watery content to be balanced by fire. We asked Anna Mazanik, a new contributor, to write a story for us about what Russians were thinking, writing and talking about as the guns of August began rolling into place across Europe – on the eve of WWI. Little did we know that fire figured so heavily in Russians’ lives that summer (Last Months of Peace, page 29).

More intentional was our selection of the pair of stories about street art and Ukraine (pages 44 and 45). While there has been no shortage of news and information about Crimea, Kiev, and Eastern Ukraine since last fall, we have been a bit at a loss about what we could offer about those important events.

Our publishing timeline really does not allow us to cover breaking news, so we have to take a longer view. These two stories of how two very different artists, in two very different parts of Ukraine, are grappling with changes in their country in two very different ways, was a natural fit. To the extent their stories and experiences are different from our own, we can learn from them.

The very gifted songwriter and singer Rosanne Cash spoke at a college baccalaureate ceremony I attended this spring. She said many profound things, but the one that has stuck with me most is this: “God gave each of us a different story, hoping that we would talk to each other.”

It was a very poetic way to say that there is inestimable value in reading and listening to as many stories as we can in this life. Others’ stories broaden our picture of events, of people, of our world. It is kind of like Atticus Finch’s advice to Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

So, climb inside this issue, walk around a bit and see what you think. If it’s not enough reading for you, I can also suggest a fine biography of Ivan the Terrible that a certain publisher released this summer. You can read about it on page 1.

Enjoy the issue.

To read more, follow the "Purchase Back Issue" link from the full story listing for this issue.