The Humboldt Forum, Germany’s answer to the British Museum and the Louvre of Paris, reopened this month in the rebuilt Berlin Palace after almost two years of controversy and debate.
The Forum combines the collections of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Museum of Asian Art, with many pieces acquired (or stolen) during the colonial era.
The building is a reconstruction of the Hohenzollern residence that was torn down by East German authorities in 1950 to make way for the Palast der Republik, which was itself torn down post-reunification. Both demolitions were controversial — and both, I think, were a mistake. (Although renovating the asbestos-filled Palast might have been more expensive than knocking it down and building something new.)
The Palast was designed by architect Heinz Graffunder and the Building Academy of the German Democratic Republic in the modernist style and opened in 1976. In addition to the unicameral, and toothless, parliament of communist East Germany, it contained two large auditoria, art galleries, a bowling alley, restaurants and a theater.
For a while, the Soviet Union was ahead in the Space Race. It launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in 1961. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space two years later.
These early victories spurred the United States into action. President John F. Kennedy set a goal of putting an American on the Moon before 1970. NASA, created by his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, received massive funding. The Apollo program succeeded while the Soviet space program languished. Following the 1969 Moon landing, both sides returned their attention to Earth.
What if they hadn’t? What if the American program had failed and the Soviet Union had continued its exploration of — and expansion into — space?
Andrei Sokolov was one of the most prolific Russian space artists. He worked closely with cosmonauts, in particular his friend Alexei Leonov, to make sure his depictions were realistic. Some of his works were carried into space aboard the 1971 Soyuz 11 mission and later transferred to the Salyut space station.
In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union was at a disadvantage in the Cold War. Whereas the United States had missiles in Europe and Turkey that could reach Russia within minutes, North America was far away from Soviet bombs.
Moreover, the Soviet Union had only a few dozen long-range missiles against hundreds on the American side. The Soviets felt vulnerable to a first strike.
In May 1959, a group of Soviet military engineers proposed to remedy this imbalance by constructing twenty to 25 artificial islands in waters around the United States for nuclear bases.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many states were proclaimed in the territory of the former Russian Empire. Some were ethnic minorities looking for autonomy. Others were warlords claiming legitimacy through the veneer of a state. Others yet were proto-Soviet republics that were later incorporated into the USSR.
“PisseGuri82” has created a beautiful map of these ephemeral states of the Russian Civil War.
Thought the 1950s couldn’t get any scarier? Think again. Imagine communists ruling all over Europe, the Soviet Union stretching from Finland in the northwest to Port Arthur in the southeast, Britain under the sway of “Big Brother”, America ruled by President-for-Life Douglas MacArthur, and East and West vying for influence in Africa and the Middle East.
This atompunk world is on its way to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and, in Britain, could culminate in the events of Chris Mullin’s A Very British Coup (1982), in which civil servants, spies and business leaders conspire to bring down a left-wing government (our review of the 1988 television adaptation here).
Other inspirations include Alan Moore’s and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (2007) and the Command & Conquer: Red Alert video games.