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This Thanksgiving, my wife and her sister joined their father in going through some old letters, photographs and postcards that had accumulated over the years. Amongst them was a set of postcards from Russia, including this one that must date from just after the Russian Revolution.

Here are prominent members of the Communist Party – Trotsky (Трóцкий), Lenin (Ленин), Alexandra Kollontai (Коллонта́й), Anatoliy Lunacharskiy (Луначарский), Lev Kamenev (Каменев) and perhaps Nikolai Bukharin. Thanks to Edward, Maria Spiridonova (Спиридонова) and Nikolai Krylenko (Крыленко).

Looking at these youthful faces, most of whom met a violent end thanks to Stalin and all of whom set in motion changes that upended the existing world order, in this placid blue filigree background is a little strange. There's a sort of innocence there that was not to last. I wonder what the designer of the card had in mind; nothing about it strikes one as emblematic of the art of social realism, it's more like the membership photograph of a small group of earnest academics.

There was nothing on the back to give it any family connection, so it was put aside to be discarded. I picked it, and a number of other cards from the same and earlier eras, to keep as I found it had an interesting aura. When you think of the bloody and wrenching changes that befell Russia and Europe afterwards, it feels like a window into a different era.

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