Храм-на-Крови́во имя Всех святых, в земле Российской просиявших (Church on Blood in Honor of All Saints...); Photo courtesy Laura Mayol
The church pictured to the left was built between 2000 and 2003 on the exact site where the Bolsheviks executed Tsar Nicholas II and his family in July 1918 during the Russian Civil War (Ekaterinburg). The unwieldy name commemorates the sainthood of the Romanovs (their having died for the Russian Orthodox faith). There is no better illustration of just how much has changed in Russia since the fall of the communist regime and the dissolution of the Soviet Union than the erection of this memorial church.
While many people have heard of Chechnya and the unrest that has been present there since 1990, the tales of what has happened in the other areas of the former Soviet Union as they have fragmented off from the "mother country" are not all tales of great success stories. Ethnic discord, violence, corruption seem to have cropped up everywhere. There was nothing tidy about the break-up of the Soviet Union, and while some of the "revolutions" have been designated with colorful names such as the rose revolution, the orange revolution, etc., the real color in most of these cases has been red. If you are interested in the specific details of the break-up of the Soviet Empire, see the nicely-done wiki entry on the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, which covers what happened from from 1985 to 2002 under Gorbachev. (Actually, that can be summed up in one word; chaos.)
But the chaos is not confined only to the separatist regions. As described in the Sheets book, there is Chernobyl, which is kind of an alien land unto itself, and there is life in the Russian cities with problems of public infrastructure, alcohol, and drugs--not much different than life in the U.S. See, for example, Jeff Tayler's article in The Atlantic, Russian Hangover: A Moscow apartment block's tenants turn over, one vodka binge at a time.
As a scholar of Russian history, but not necessarily a commentator on current events in Russia, it has been difficult for me to keep track of all that has gone on in Russian and all the regions of the former Soviet Union, I am well aware of the violence that has continued to plague some of the regions, and I remain aware of the political uncertainties in these areas. While the Baltic countries are free and happy, Belarus is controlled by an oppressive dictatorship; Ukraine has struggled because of its dependence on natural gas from Russia; Azerbaijan possessed oil reserves, while Georgia does not; there are problems everywhere. This Sheets book gives you an eyewitness account of many of those problems.
Lawrence Sheets, the author of Pieces of 8, answered a few questions for me about recent Russian history.
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