January 01, 2015

Send in the Clones



For Christmas, my daughter joked about getting me an “authentic” 1960s FED – a Soviet ripoff of a Leica film camera. While I was intrigued by the retro-chic styling and thought it might be fun to shoot a few rolls of film again, I could not get past the fact that (a) the particular Leica models she showed me all sported horrendous badges extolling Lenin or the Communist Party, and (b) the FED gets its acronymic name from Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, the notorious first head of the Cheka.

Call me bullheaded, but I could not see myself getting any enjoyment from using a camera so closely associated with mass murderers. Even retro has its limits.

Similarly, having lived and worked in the Soviet Union near the terminus of its tenure, I find the current nostalgia for that regime (see article, page 52) to be baffling. It’s like the awful joke: “Yes, they murdered the kulaks, yes they drove everyone into collective farms, yes they eliminated freedom of speech, the press, religion, free markets, etc. etc. But damn, they sure knew how to put on a parade!”


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