it all ends in kitsch


Soviet historic sites, meanwhile, are being remade into tourist attractions. Some, like the Karosta military prison in Liepaja, Latvia, offer visitors “live action” tours — recreations of what it was like to be incarcerated in the institution’s dank cells. Visitors are yelled at, ordered around, interrogated, and made to suffer physical punishments for their misbehaviours. For participants, it’s a lot of fun, and perhaps a masochistic form of catharsis. In this way, the physical and psychological remnants of the Soviet system have been transformed into a resource. At Pravda, Mr. Lenin served as the North American spin on this process — an ironic, distant nod at a once-evil empire, relegated to encouraging the consumption of premium vodka and Russian fusion food. Mounted in his place of honour, he looked good, I thought — right at home in red and gold and glitz, more comfortable than he will ever be in his crystal sarcophagus in Red Square. As for us patrons, well, if any Cold War fears still lurked in our cultural subconscious, they could be washed away with a shot of vodka and a side of black bread and pickles. I tossed back my glass and offered a silent na zdorovye to Lenin, revolutionary hero, patron saint of vodka bars.

more from Medeine Tribinevicius at The Walrus here.