The Corner

Impromptus

Stalin at the Ballet

A man carries a portrait of Josef Stalin in Minsk, 2014 (Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I spend some time on abortion — particularly the word “baby.” Is there a more incendiary word in the whole debate? I also take up a number of other subjects, including patriotism and North Korea.

One item is kind of funny — whether “ha ha” or “strange,” I don’t know. Maybe some combination.

The Venezuelan dictatorship and the democratic opposition are conducting talks in Oslo. … You know the first name of a leading member of the democratic side? Stalin. His name is Stalin González.

And you know what the Ecuadoran president’s name is? Lenín. Lenín Moreno.

Ay, caramba.

Here in the Corner, I wanted to take note of an obituary — a fascinating obituary — published in the New York Times. The subject is Andrei Kramarevsky, a leading ballet teacher in New York. He did not start out in New York, of course.

When Kramarevsky was a dancer at the Bolshoi,

Stalin would sometimes come to the Moscow theater, shielded in a special box.

“The public never knew that he was there,” Mr. Kramarevsky recalled. “He came, watched for a while and disappeared.”

He recounted a time when a colleague was summoned by the authorities after a performance of the 1932 ballet “Flames of Paris,” about the French Revolution, that included a scene of revolutionary cannon fire.

“He asked: ‘Why? What did I do? What am I guilty of?’” Mr. Kramarevsky said. “They said, ‘You aimed the cannon at Comrade Stalin.’ He got five years.”

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