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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Conversations with Dostoevsky

The first time I visited St Petersburg, nearly thirty years ago, I stayed not far from the area in which Dostoevsky set the action of Crime and Punishment. The tenement blocks were, for the most part, those that Dostoevsky himself would have seen—indeed, one friend lived at Grazhdanskaya 19, a possible location for the coffin-like garret inhabited by Raskolnikov, the novel’s homicidal anti-hero.

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The origins of the war in Ukraine [timeline]

The fall of the Soviet Union meant independence for Ukraine, and radically altered the shape and power structures of Eastern Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was the culmination of a number of growing fissures and collisions in the region—between Russia and Ukraine, but also between Europe and Russia, and Russia and the United States. Michael Kimmage, a historian and former diplomat who served on the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State where he handled the Russia/Ukraine portfolio, looks at the origins of this conflict dating back to 24 August 1991.

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Awkward? We’d better own it

We live in a golden age of awkwardness. Or so we’re told, by everyone from The Washington Post to Modern Dog Magazine. But we always have. A 1929 Life Magazine contributor writes, “These are awkward times, and I sympathize with the teashop waitress who approached a customer from behind and said brightly, ‘Anything more sir, I mean madam; I beg your pardon sir.’” What’s new isn’t awkwardness itself, but our upbeat attitude towards it; headlines tell us that post-Covid, “We’re all socially awkward now,” and public health campaigns urge us to “embrace the awkward” and talk openly about issues like mental health.

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Who do you think you are? Genetics and identity

Ethnicity and ethnic identity have been recently brought to the fore in the Western world. One important reason is that immigration and globalization have resulted in a variety of clashes among different groups in very different contexts. However, there is another reason: DNA ancestry testing.

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Alice Mustian’s scandalous backyard performance

The year 1614 was an eventful one for the London theatre world. Shakespeare’s Globe playhouse, rebuilt after having burned to the ground during an ill-fated performance of Henry VIII, was reopening its doors.

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Explore the history of Asia in ten stops [interactive map]

Embark on a captivating journey through pieces of the rich tapestry of Asian history with this interactive map of reading suggestions. Within these ten works, readers will encounter a rigorous examination of the historical trajectories, socio-cultural dynamics, and geopolitical intricacies that have characterized much of Asia’s evolution across epochs.

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Beyond God and atheism

One of the most remarkable findings of recent science is that the fundamental constants of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the existence of life. Some think the fine-tuning of physics points to a God, who set the numbers to ensure life comes about. Others think it points to a multiverse: if there are enough universes with enough variety in their laws of nature, then it becomes statistically likely that at least one with be right for life. I think there are big problems with both these options, and we may need more radical solutions.

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Chewing the cud and ruminating on word origins

The history of cud may be more exciting than it seems at first sight. Initially (long ago!), I was intrigued when I read the statement by Henry Cecil Wyld, an outstanding language historian, that the origin of cud is unknown.

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How well do you know fantasy literature?

Are you an avid fantasy fiction reader, or are you new to the world of dragons, mythic quests and magical worlds? Either way, test your knowledge of this most varied of genres with our quick fantasy literature quiz!

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