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“I never did understand the difference between a cannon and a culverin,” the Empress Catherine II once said to one of her generals. “There is a big difference,” he replied, “which I will now explain to Your Majesty. The cannon, you see, is one thing, while the culverin is quite another.” “Ah,” said Catherine the [...]

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It was an unlaughing German who said, more than a century ago, that when history repeats itself, it returns the first time as tragedy; the second time as farce. The Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov recently released his state-financed film about the Russian army between the defeat by the British and French in the Crimean [...]