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The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal is a compilation of essays written by various scholars on the various underground and occult aspects of Russian culture and later of the culture of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks who created the Soviet Union did much to portray Russian culture under the Tsars as backward and the Russian peasant as illiterate and prone to superstition; however, as one sees by reading this book many individuals within the Soviet Union themselves had elaborate occult and esoteric beliefs.”

The Russian Ark  “condenses three centuries of Russian history into a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take. A visually hypnotizing cinematic feat, the film is Alexsandr Sokurov’s spellbinding ode to St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum. Shot in one fluid take using High Definition video cameras, the photography floats and careens through the lavish corridors of the museum, examining its architectural details while following a dreamlike plot. A cast of 867 actors supply the action of the film, whether dancing the mazurka in a lively ballroom, performing a military salute, or watching a theater performance. The Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), an aged but limber European dressed in solid black, is the film’s charismatic guide, leading the narrator–who is the unidentified voice behind the camera–through each doorway and into each gallery in a sweeping tour of the Hermitage. While the Marquis interacts with some of the guests, debating about Italian art with a couple of Russian scholars, delighting over rich paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck with an angelic blind woman, taking a lively brunette for a spin on the dance floor, others do not see him. Even the narrator suspects that the Marquis is a ghost, long dead and wandering the Hermitage in a quest to better understand history. Time periods, indicated by style of dress, fluctuate between the 1700s and the present. Famous Russian figures, such as Peter the Great, Nicholas I, and Catherine the Great appear and then disappear, with no explanation of their roles. Between the Marquis and the narrator, confusion reigns. They are spectators and trespassers in this mysterious space, trying to find their way.”

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