Monday, March 13, 2017

How Much Czar Alexander II Assassination affected Future of Russia?

Russia – a huge country somewhere far away, a country with almost no history of real democracy, a country, which is currently responsible, directly or indirectly, for many negative political processes in the modern World, a country, which decided to revise the established borders and order by capturing territories of the neighboring countries – Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

But why the country with huge territory and enormous natural resources has not turned to the prosperous establishment, but merely managed to supply oil, gas, gold, and educated human resources to the World, remaining almost permanently on the list of the “outlaws”, together with N. Korea, Venezuela, and Iran.

But maybe, just maybe, the reason, at least partially, the reason of the unfortunate past can be attributed to this day in the history, the event that happened exactly 136 years ago.

This day, March 13, 1881 (March 1 – Old Style), Czar Alexander II, the ruler of Russia since 1855, was killed in the streets of St. Petersburg by a bomb, thrown by a member of the revolutionary “People’s Will” group. The People’s Will, organized in 1879, employed terrorism and assassination in their attempt to overthrow Russia’s czarist autocracy. They murdered officials and made several attempts on the czar’s life before finally assassinating him.

As czar, Alexander did much to liberalize and modernize Russia, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861. However, when his authority was challenged, he turned more repressive, and he vehemently opposed movements for political reform. Ironically, on the very day he was killed, he signed a proclamation–the so-called Loris-Melikov constitution–that would have created two legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected representatives, offering the substantial step towards democratic constitution.



Alexander II Reforms

Alexander II’s ‘great reforms’ stand out as among the most significant events in nineteenth century Russian history. Alexander became known as the ‘Csar Liberator’ because he abolished serfdom in 1861. Yet 20 years later he was assassinated by terrorists.

Why did Alexander decide to introduce a program of reforms, and why did these reforms fail to satisfy the Russian people?

The reforms were a direct response to Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War and were intended to liberate Russian society from some of its most archaic practices, improve the economic and military efficiency of the war and preserve the existing socio-political structure by a process of modification. The essentially conservative nature of Alexander’s reforms is betrayed by the continuity in policy from the reign of his predecessor Nicholas I (1825-1855). Yet this conservatism, far from guaranteeing the safety of the aristocracy, jeopardised the stability of Russia because it left a 50-year legacy of social and political dissatisfaction to Alexander’s successors.

Emancipation: The Fundamental Reform

The need for reform was evident well before the reign of Alexander II. The Decembrist Revolt of 1825 occurred just as Nicholas I acceded to the throne. Although it was unsuccessful, the uprising demonstrated that the autocracy could not continue to ignore demands for reform indefinitely. The condition of the peasantry was perhaps the most prominent weakness in Russian society. The Pugachev Revolt (1773-75) had served as a reminder of the threat that a dissatisfied peasantry could represent.

Nicholas I introduced a series of minor reforms which improved the conditions of state and crown peasants and which were intended to serve as a model to the dvoriane (nobility) as to how they should treat their private serfs. Most landowners, however, took little notice of these measures and continue to extract feudal dues and labour services from their serfs without regard for their welfare. It is clear that Nicholas I abhorred serfdom: in 1842 he declared to the Council of State: ‘There can be no doubt that serfdom in its present situation in our country is an evil… [It] cannot last forever … The only answer is thus to prepare the way for a gradual transition to a different order…’ However, the conservatism of the autocracy was such that it would not compel the dvoriane by abolishing serfdom unilaterally. It took the shock of Russia’s disastrous performance in the Crimean War, the concomitant death of Nicholas I and the accession of Alexander II to alter the situation.

Alexander II had served on the committees of inquiry into serfdom and he was acutely aware of the weakness of the Russian state. Defeat by Britain and France now demonstrated that Russia was lagging behind her European counterparts. In the autumn of 1856 Yuriy Samarin, a prominent Slavophile, articulated the concerns of political society when he wrote that 'We were defeated not by the external forces of the Western alliance but by our own internal weakness.' Criticisms of serfdom were echoing from many quarters. General Dimitry Milutin, later Minister for War (1861-1881), advised the new Tsar that reform of the Russian army was impossible while serfdom continued to exist. Only by reforming the very foundations of Russian society could effective military capacity be restored and great power status recovered Serfdom was also condemned as economically inefficient. K. D. Kavelin, a liberal university professor, wrote a critique of serfdom in 1856 in which he observed that 'In the economic sphere, serfdom brings the whole state into an abnormal situation and gives rise to artificial phenomena in the national economy which have an unhealthy influence on the whole state 'organism of the state’. It was argued that serfdom impeded the emergence of a modern capitalist economy because the existence of an inelastic labour force and the absence of a money economy retarded industrial development It was further argued that serfdom was an inefficient and unproductive form of agriculture because, essentially, it was forced labour, and so the serfs had no incentive to do any more than subsist.

Despite these powerful arguments in favor of abolishing serfdom, it was still difficult for Alexander II to overcome the inertia of the dvoriane on the issue The Csar had to conjure up the specter of widespread peasant revolt in order to persuade his reticent nobles that there was no alternative to Emancipation. In a speech to the Tver nobility, he declared that 'It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it begins to abolish itself from below.'



Other Reforms

In response to the overwhelming defeat (1856) suffered by Russia in the Crimean War and to attempt to keep pace with military advances in other European countries, Alexander II appointed Dmitry Milyutin to carry out significant reforms in the Russian armed forces. The changes included universal military conscription, introduced for all social classes on 1 January 1874. Prior to this new regulation, as of 1861, conscription was compulsorily enforced only for the peasantry. Conscription had, prior to this reform, been 25 years for serfs that were drafted by their landowners, which was widely considered to be a life sentence. Other military reforms included extending the reserve forces and the military district system, which split the Russian states into 15 military districts, a system still in use over a hundred years later.

The building of strategic railways and an emphasis on the military education of the officer corps comprised further reforms. Corporal punishment in the military and branding of soldiers as punishment were banned. The bulk of important military reforms were enacted because of the poor showing in the Crimean War.

A new judicial administration (1864), based on the French model, introduced security of tenure. A new penal code and a greatly simplified system of civil and criminal procedure also came into operation. Reorganization of the judiciary, to include trial in open court, with judges appointed for life, a jury system and the creation of justices of the peace to deal with minor offences at local level.

Alexander's bureaucracy instituted an elaborate scheme of local self-government (zemstvo) for the rural districts (1864) and the large towns (1870), with elective assemblies possessing a restricted right of taxation, and a new rural and municipal police under the direction of the Minister of the Interior.

The Impact of Alexander II's Reforms

Significant though the reforms of Alexander II were, they failed to create popular support for the Tsarist regime. In 1862, Alexander granted Poland limited autonomy, but the Poles were traditionally hostile to the Russian Empire and in 1863 they rebelled. The Polish Revolt was countered with repression, the orthodox policy of Tsarist autocracy. In 1866, Karakazov, a former student of the University of Kazan, fired a pistol shot at the Tsar. This unsuccessful attempt on Alexander's life resulted in the replacement of Golovnin, the Minister of Education, by the conservative Dimitry Tolstoy, who acted to restrict access to university education.

Russian intellectuals interpreted Alexander's reforms as an attempt to perpetuate the existing political system. Historical opinion has for the most part agreed with this assessment. Florinsky, for example, has suggested that the reforms were nothing more than ‘halfhearted concessions on the part of those who (with some exceptions) hated to see the disappearance of the old order and tried to save as much of it as circumstances would allow’. The response of the Russian intelligentsia was the Populist 'going to the people' in 1874. When this failed, propaganda gave way to terrorism, which culminated in the assassination of Alexander II in 1881. Although it did not achieve its objective of igniting a revolution in Russia, Populism was nevertheless significant. It made a start in developing the political consciousness of the people and its terrorist actions inspired later insurrectionists. The Social Revolutionaries, descendants of Populism, were the most important insurgent group at the turn of the century.



No Constitution for Russia

Alexander II's death caused a great setback for the reform movement. One of his last acts was the approval of Mikhail Loris-Melikov's constitutional reforms. Though the reforms were conservative in practice, their significance lay in the value Alexander II attributed to them: "I have given my approval, but I do not hide from myself the fact that it is the first step towards a constitution." In a matter of 48 hours, Alexander II planned to release these plans to the Russian people. Instead, following his succession Alexander III under the advice of Konstantin Pobedonostsev chose to abandon these reforms and went on to pursue a policy of greater autocratic power.

The assassination triggered major suppression of civil liberties in Russia, and police brutality burst back in full force after experiencing some restraint under the reign of Alexander II, whose death was witnessed first-hand by his son, Alexander III, and his grandson, Nicholas II, both future emperors who vowed not to have the same fate befall them. Both used the Okhrana to arrest protestors and uproot suspected rebel groups, creating further suppression of personal freedom for the Russian people. A series of anti-Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic legislation, the May Laws, were yet another result.

Finally, the csar's assassination also inspired anarchists to advocate "'propaganda by deed'—the use of a spectacular act of violence to incite revolution."

The downfall of the Romanovs came in 1917 under Nicholas II, largely due to the incompetence of the tsar, a reactionary but weak leader, who not only alienated the lower classes, but also the nobility, who were critical of the influence of the Tsarina and Grigori Rasputin on government affairs. There is no doubt that Nicholas faced a number of great difficulties when he came to the throne, but his lack of leadership and political authority exacerbated these differences, and despite measures which may have temporarily appeased radicals (such as the October Manifesto of 1905), Nicholas II’s mishandling of domestic politics largely contributed to the downfall of the Romanov monarchy.

The legacy of Alexander II is mixed - despite emancipating the serfs, he laid upon them a great burden in the form of redemption dues. Alexander II’s death did result in a reactionary government under Alexander III, but this reactionism, and the problems it later caused for Nicholas II, may not be sufficient enough to explain the reasons for the downfall of the Romanovs in 1917.




Sources and Additional Information:



Monday, December 19, 2016

Whitman, Emerson Artistic Reading and… Female Orgasm: Hysterical Literature

The project, we will present in this post, is quite controversial. While it is quite innocent from the official guidelines – there is no nudity or an adult language, it still reveals the most intimate moment in the women’s life – her orgasm.

The standard plot of each video episode is this: Women enter into a room, sit down at a table, and read an excerpt from a book of their choosing. As time progresses, the pace of their reading begins to change, as does their breathing and body positioning. Under the table, outside of the subject's control, an unseen assistant distracts them with a vibrator. The subjects stop reading when they're too distracted or fatigued to continue, at which point they restate their name, and what they've just read. The pieces vary in length based on the response time of the subjects.

The viewers have the opportunity to see the women faces, postures, gestures, and voice expressions in progression from the initial stimulation to the catharsis and to the post-orgasmic relaxation. And that is amazing transformation, you can see in the human body. That is a great secret every woman keeps – of how much she can be radiant, shining, and beautiful after the orgasm.



In the videos below, a series of women sit at a desk and read a book of their choosing aloud. As their reading session continues, you may notice a quickness of breath, some fumbling over easily legible words, light panting, shivering, giggling and moaning.

Clayton Cubitt, has titled his video artistic presentation as “Hysterical Literature”.

“I sat the readers at a table,” Cubitt admitted, “and I showed what society wants to see on top of the table, and I hid the sex under the table. I wanted to see what people would react to more: what they could see, or what they imagined.”

“Bibliothecaphilia” addresses the quiet, mystical allure of the library — a space of escape, of solitude, of transcendence. With the rise of eBooks and library apps, these strange sacred spaces sometimes teeter on becoming obsolete. The group show features artists who unpack our appetites for libraries in all their physical and mythical glory.

While Cubitt’s video series certainly touches on the love of libraries, it simultaneously explores themes of feminism, sexuality, hysteria and authenticity. The moving portraits, shot in stark black-and-white, are part fine art, part viral click-bait, part literary ode, part pornography.

“I’m quite fascinated with the concepts of control and release when it comes to portraiture, especially in this modern of era of social networking profile self-portraits and Instagram, when everyone has a well-practiced notion of personal branding,“ Cubitt explained. “What’s left for the portraitist to capture? One can shock the sitter out of that plastic smile. I’m attempting to lead them back to something real.”



Despite the obvious erotic appeal of Cubitt’s project, the importance extends beyond just sex. For many of the female participants, the session presented an opportunity for women to proudly express their sexualities and retain their power — a man is never pictured on screen. “This is my revolutionary act of selfishness,” wrote one participant of her experience, “my virtual picket sign... my one-woman rally... my rebel yell... my sedentary march... a call for dialogue and understanding.”

Other participants commented on the biased and frustrating response to the piece, which unapologetically displayed the taboo image of female pleasure. “But despite being a project I’m deeply proud of, it has been challenging to deal with the intense scrutiny by the art world for my participation in this work, while my male counterpart rarely dealt with any,” said photographer and artist Marne Lucas, who appears in session nine.

Videos (all 12 episodes)


Where did the idea for Hysterical Literature come from?

The project is an extension and refinement of earlier Cubitt’s video works that explored the concept of distraction and fatigue in the poses of portrait sitters. Today, everyone has a well-practiced pose for "selfies" and social media, and he was interested in how he might make a portrait that makes it impossible for the sitter to maintain this pose. So he did a video series called "Long Portraits" which filmed subjects just sitting making eye contact with the lens for five minutes or longer.

“But this series, as much as I liked it, and as popular it became, was in many ways too anonymous for me. What did it really say about the sitter? It was interesting, but it was mute. And it was conceptual ground already traveled by Andy Warhol's "Screen Tests." I had also created an earlier video piece called "Hitachi Magic Interview" where I interviewed a woman while she was being distracted by a vibrator. It was also interesting, but it felt too close to an interrogation, and I wanted to remove myself from the process as much as possible. So I asked, what if the women could in some way have a conversation with themselves, through the reading of a passage from their favorite book? This would allow self-expression, without the pressure to pose or sound a certain way in a formal portrait or an interview. It would also remove me from the on-screen experience, make for a fascinating battle between the mind and the body, and create a conceptual contrast by blending two areas that society tends to want to view through different lenses: art, and sex. So I put the art on the table and the sex under the table. That's how Hysterical Literature was born”.



What are you trying to say with Hysterical Literature?

Cubbit: “The series examines the battle between the mind and the body. It also explores the cultural contrast between art and sex, particularly how people react to the mixture of the two, and the battle over female sexuality and society's concepts of shame”.

 Why is it called "Hysterical Literature?"

Cubbit: “The title references the ancient concept of "female hysteria," especially the Victorian-era medical treatments meant to "cure" it. At the time it was a catch-all diagnosis for almost any "disruptive" behavior in women, and a variety of treatments were used to cure it, from isolation, to hydrotherapy, to early electric vibrators. The past's confusion and shame attached to female behavior, especially female pleasure, was something I wanted to explore in a modern context, so referencing it was natural. That the word could also mean "funny" was lagniappe, since the videos are quite funny, and many of the subjects laugh at some point in their reading”.



Sources and Additional Information:


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Top 20 most bizarre Google searches in 2016

We live in an age where if we're unsure of a fact, we can just Google it.

And it appears many people ask the search engine some strange questions and rely on it to provide guidance in the event of an existential crisis, asking 'when will I die?' and 'why are we here?'

Thousands of people ask Google if they are pregnant, whether pigs sweat and where to hide a dead body, every month.



The most popular question on the pictorial chart, created by marketing agency Digitaloft is: 'Am I pregnant?'

A staggering 90,500 women ask the search engine this question every month, presumably hoping it can provide an answer in lieu of a pregnancy test.

The second and third most popular questions on the list are: 'How do I get home?' and 'are aliens real?'
While the first question may seem downright daft, a box pops up allowing users in input their postcode or zipcode, to help them with their journey, but unfortunately the search engine is not able to beat Nasa in its quest to find alien life, which it hopes to do before 2025.



Of course many people use Google as a digital doctor, searching for answers to embarrassing ailments. So it's no surprise users ask it bizarre questions about their body.

According to the chart, 49,500 people a month ask whether passing wind burns calories, but unfortunately the myth this bodily function burns 67 calories is false.

Some 22,200 are curious as to why men have nipples, while a more troubled 4,400 people a month Google 'why does my bellybutton smell?'





Worryingly, 3,600 people a month ask whether men have periods, with another 2,900 querying whether men can become pregnant, displaying a rather poor grasp of biology.

A whopping 49,500 people ask the search engine 'when will I die' every month and it seems users are just as clueless when it comes to animals.

Some 18,100 people ask Google whether penguins have knees every month, 8,100 want to know if pigs sweat and 2,900 are curious whether worms have eyes – they don't.

An insecure 2,900 people every month ask the search engine 'does my dog love me?' every month.

Other popular but worrying questions people ask Google every month, include ' how do I hide the dead body? – with 480 queries and 'what happens if I drink blood?' with 880 queries a month.
Some 800 people a month ask Google 'can I marry my cousin?' according to the infographic, meaning 10,560 people a year might be considering popping the question to a relative.
Others are in search of answers to life's mysteries, with 8,100 people asking Google 'why are we here?' every month and the same number asking if the tooth fairy is real.
A clueless 880 people ask where dinosaurs live every month and a further 5,400 whether the Earth is flat – just a couple of thousand years after Aristotle provided evidence for a spherical Earth in 330BC.