Happy 23 February!

The 23 February holidays are going to be rather busy.  Tomorrow—a mini-lecture on how to search and download foreign research papers in the Internet, at the Veskon-2017, an annual Moscow festival for Tolkien studies and role playing games.  On Friday—one more report, at the same festival, together with my university friend, about the geography of the South and the East of the Middle-earth (an expanded version of our last year’s talk, now with an additional analysis of two dozens of different maps of the Middle-earth made earlier by different authors).  And finally on Sunday—one more lecture on searching the research papers in the Internet, this time at the Nikolai Fedorov Museum and Library.  Time to share the working experience with other people 😉

Penguins in Space: Running Orbiter in GNU/Linux

There are quite a lot of space flight simulators, but most of them are purely science fiction games and don’t always respect physical law.  Orbiter, on the contrary, was invented as a scientifically and technically correct simulator.  There are no space wars or interstellar flights there, but the real behaviour of a spaceship on orbit is shown authentically.  The distribution includes digital models of the Earth, the Moon, all the other planets of the solar system and some of the satellites.  As to spaceships, Space Shuttle Atlantis is available, as well as the International Space Station and the Russian Mir station (in the virtual universe of Orbiter it’s still on orbit, one of the training missions is to undock from the ISS and to fly to Mir).  In training missions, a futuristic Delta-glider rocket plane is used, with atomic engines, that is more easy-to-learn than Atlantis.  The same spacecraft is used for interplanetary flights.  Technically the program allows the users to develop their own spaceships and even their own planetary systems.  Collections of addons are available in the Internet, with those addons one can ‘drive’ virtually everything that has ever flown.

The game therefore is written more for education than for entertainment, so it’s free of charge, but the source code isn’t available and the developers have no plans to support operating systems other than Windows.  Nevertheless, the program runs quite correctly in GNU/Linux via WINE.  It means by the way that it should work also on a Mac, but I didn’t try.  The current version was published in summer 2016, after a seven-year delay.  As it turned out, the developers have been going on to work hard all this time.

You can download the game from its official website.  Two options are available: a MSI installer for Windows and a ZIP archive.  It’s the latter one that should be used in GNU/Linux, but it’s more convenient in Windows as well because it doesn’t need any installation.  It’s enough just to unpack it into any directory you prefer (better not into c:\Program Files) and to run the orbiter.exe file.  The only useful feature of MSI installer in comparison with the ZIP archive is that a desktop shortcut will be generated automatically.

On my own computer, Debian GNU/Linux 8 and WINE 1.6.2 are installed.  The CPU is Intel Core i5-3570K with integrated graphics.  I used an installation guide from here, in short it’s very simple:

  1. Install GNU/Linux and WINE.
  2. Download a ZIP archive with Orbiter and unpack it, for example, into ~/.wine/dosdevices/drive_c/orbiter.
  3. Download from here the file D3D9ClientR7.zip and unpack it into the same directory where you have unpacked Orbiter.
  4. Run the command:
    winetricks d3dx10 d3dx9_36 vcrun2005 corefonts
  5. Run the Orbiter_ng.exe file (unlike orbiter.exe it uses an external graphics engine).
  6. Click Modules, and click Expand all twice.  Enable the D3D9Client checkbox.
  7. Check the other parameters and enjoy the game.

My own experiments, however, had different results.  The Orbiter_ng.exe file runs correctly, but any time I try to launch a scenario the game immediately crashes with a message about a fatal error in D3D9Client.  The orbiter.exe file, on the contrary, runs without any errors and doesn’t need any D3D9Client.  There are several issues, but within reasonable.  Both window mode and full-screen mode are available, you can play Orbiter on one virtual desktop (even in full-screen mode) and work on another one, no discrete graphics is required (I play with a maximum resolution for my monitor, 1280×1024).  Hope you will enjoy it, too 🙂

Orbiter 2016 Delta-glider

Learning to fly…

Orbiter 2016 Delta-glider

Flying over South America.

One More Annotation

I added one more annotation into my collection of annotations of new books on Soviet history: A. I. Shirokov, Dal’stroi v sotsial’no-ekonomicheskom razvitii Severo-Vostoka SSSR (1930–1950‑e gg.) [Dal’stroi in Socio-Economical Development of the North-East of the Soviet Union (1930s1950s)] (Moscow: Politicheskaia Entsiklopediia, 2014).

Download the collection of annotations (PDF, 112 Kb).

A New Annotation

I added one more annotation into my collection of annotations of new books on Soviet history: N. Lebina, Sovetskaia povsednevnost’: normy i anomalii. Ot voennogo kommunizma k bol’shomu stiliu [Soviet everyday life: norms and anomalies. From the War Communism to Stalin’s years] (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015).

Download the collection of annotations (PDF, 103 Kb).

A New Annotation

I added a new annotation into my collection of annotations of new books on Soviet history: B. N. Kovalev, Dobrovol’tsy na chuzhoi voine: Ocherki istorii Goluboi divizii [Volunteers in the War of Someone Else: Essays in History of the Blue Division] (Veliky Novgorod: Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University, 2014).

Download the collection of annotations (PDF, 98 Kb).

Once More about a New Building for INION

An extended version of my post about the architectural competition for the best design of a new building for my Institute has been published in Troitskii variant newspaper that specializes in news about science in Russia.

The text of the article can be found here (in Russian).

The website of the newspaper is http://trv-science.ru/.

A Collection of Annotations on Russian History

This year, our Department of History began to publish, along with detailed abstracts of new publications, which used to be our main ‘product’, also shorter annotations. We are still working at their format, but it is already clear that they will only contain the most important information about an article or a monograph, without any detailed retelling of its contents. We hope it will allow us to reflect in our abstract journal much more new publications than we were able to do previously. Such an opportunity seems to be quite significant, as in the Soviet time there were some thirty employees at our department, and twelve issues of the abstract journal were printed a year, whereas now we have only fifteen researchers and are only able to publish four issues of the journal a year, so the selection of sources for abstracts is actually rather far from following any regular criteria. Writing annotations along with detailed abstracts is still an experimental work, its perspectives are rather unclear, but the annotations which I have already written are worth to publish them in the Internet.

As the annotations are rather short, I will post all of them in a single PDF file with a set of bookmarks instead of a table of contents. As soon as new annotations appear, I will update the file and announce this in the blog.

My own main field of research interest is the history of the Soviet Union, especially before and in the time of the Second World War; so here I am going to post mostly annotations of books on the Soviet history or on history of post-Soviet Russia. I also decided to limit myself to annotations of books published in Russian. There are quite a lot of reference resources in the English part of the Internet, and they are much more informative than my personal Web site. On the other hand, the most part of Russian academic literature still remains almost unknown for the international research community because only a small part of papers is translated into English. I hope my collection of annotations will become one more bridge, although a bit narrow, between Russian historians and their colleagues in other countries.

Download the collection of annotations (PDF, 79 Kb).

Presentation of the Projects of a New Building for INION

Last Friday, a presentation of architectural projects of a new building for my Institute took place at the Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow.  The event was a bit funny, but to the same extent senseless, as the Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations (FANO) still tries to make all the decisions about our future building without our participation.  For instance, we only found out in mid-July that a public contract for designing of the building had been already signed (‘we’ means the whole Institute, including the administration).  The tendering process took place in late June.  It was the Giprokon company that ‘won’ the competition; the same company did this in spring when the previous tendering process was declared void due to infringements of the procedure.  The preliminary specifications were also written at the FANO, and the result was quite predictable.  They suggest to make the book storage almost three times as small as it was before the fire—it’s an old idea of the FANO that books are no more necessary in the computer age.  Of course it’s completely unacceptable for us as there were already not enough space in the book storage before the fire; if a new storage will be smaller than the problem will soon arise again.  We tried to explain all of this to representatives of FANO in May, they promised to take our criticism into account, and now we can see that they really did it, but in an unusual way: they organised a new tendering process in secrecy and simply ignored all our proposals in a new edition of the preliminary specifications that were included into the final text of the public contract.  The current competition for the best architectural design was organised by Giprokon according to that contract.

On Friday we could see the results of such an approach.  Fourteen projects were presented altogether, including seven ones developed at Giprokon; they said that according to the law they had to make as many projects as the independent architects did.  One could see, however, that five of their projects were made quite formally; only two projects seem to be a real working design.  One can also suppose which project they will most probably try to defend, as in their presentation they used an image which we first saw as early as in January.  It means, by the way, that Giprokon was already working at a project of a new building for us in winter, although no tendering process had been announced and no preliminary specifications had been published yet.

The quality of all the seven Giprokon’s projects is the same poor.  One can see that they correspond to the specifications from FANO and that the authors can hardly imagine how an academic institution works, especially an institution for social sciences and humanities.  As a result, all that they could produce was a purely speculative decision that didn’t correspond to our needs at all and looked more like an entertainment centre or a shopping plaza, but not like an academic library.  This can be said about all their seven projects.

Three of the other seven projects looked like diploma works; unfortunately, they were no better than those developed at Giprokon.  There were also three more or less interesting projects.  The author of one of them proposed to reconstruct our building exactly as it looked like before the fire (it was an interesting piece of the Soviet architecture of 1960s and 1970s), but using modern technology.  He didn’t change the size of book storage and suggested to construct an additional section of book storage on an underground level and several more underground levels under the yard, also mostly for book storage.  The project as a whole is interesting although requires some improvement; the problem is that it’s a project of conservation of what had existed previously, not designed for the future development of the Institute.

The authors of one more project proposed to make the new building twice as big as the old one; the project therefore doesn’t correspond to the official specification, as well as the previous one.  The authors also suggested to increase the size of the book storage and, that was the most interesting, proposed to assign their copyright for the project to our Institute.  The project, however, looks to be incomplete, it raises doubts from the aesthetic point of view, and it’s rather difficult to understand how we will use such a big building (and whom else FANO will ‘settle’ there together with us).

One more project is interesting aesthetically and includes two stages of construction, that can be seen as a base for the future development.  But the plan of indoor premises is not developed in detail, as I can understand, so this variant can be acceptable only if it’s possible to make the book storage large enough without compromising the other rooms.

The results of competition are to be announced on 16 August.  An exhibition of the entries will be organised at the same Museum of Architecture; they also promise to post them on the official website of the competition, http://www.konkurs-inion.com/.

200.000 Roubles as a Fine for a Bad Knowledge of History

A month ago, the regional court of Perm Krai convicted Vladimir Luzgin, for the first time in provincial practice, according to Article 354.1 ‘Rehabilitation of Nazism’ of the Criminal Code, Part One—‘public denial of facts identified by the sentence of the International Military Tribunal for judgement and punishment of the main military criminals of the European states of the Axis, public condoning of the crimes identified by above-noted sentence, as well as dissemination of knowingly false fabrications about the activity of the Soviet Union in the years of World War II’,  that was enacted in a hurry two years ago.  The ‘criminal’ was sentenced to a fine of 200 thousand roubles, that is not too bad, as the maximum punishment in that part is three years of imprisonment.  A criminal case was opened after Luzgin shared in VKontakte social network a link to a propagandistic article of an unknown author, ‘Fifteen Facts about Banderites, or What Kremlin Keeps Silent about’.  As the investigation showed, a huge number of people could read that article by Luzgin’s link—as much as… twenty persons.

What can I say about it?  The text of the article can easily be found in the Internet, and it’s certainly nothing but rubbish.  The author tries to varnish reputation of Stepan Bandera, the infamous leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during the Second World War, but without any success, as Bandera’s hands are coated with too much innocent blood.  The author also doesn’t know history well, otherwise he wouldn’t have written that ‘communists and Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and thus set off the Second World War’.  As I can understand, it was this phrase that our prosecutors were so angry about.  I can also imagine that a person who shares a link to such a material in a social network is not well-educated either.

What I can’t understand at all, however, is what does this have to do with the Criminal Code.  Especially as the Soviet Union did invade Poland, although not on 1 September, but ‘only’ on 17 September 1939, and did it in accordance to the secret protocol to the German–Soviet non-aggression pact of 23 August.  This fact, of course, was not under consideration at the Nuremberg trials, and we know why.

Of course the case of Luzgin is a purely political process, one could expect something worse in the ‘post-Crimean’ period.  Of course it wasn’t an attempt to establish any kind of censorship.  Nevertheless, this story means that full-aged citizens of this country, if they don’t know history well enough, have now a good chance to get not just a bad mark, but a criminal sentence.  Especially if the issue is the Second World War.  Learn your lessons properly, guys…