Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reckless Russians

Nato reports rise in Russia military flights over Europe

Related Stories

Nato has reported an "unusual" increase in Russian military aircraft conducting manoeuvres over European airspace over the last two days.
A Nato statement said four groups of aircraft, including Tu-95 Bear bombers and MiG-31 fighters, were tracked over seas and the Atlantic Ocean.
Fighter aircraft from Norway, Britain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey were scrambled in response.
Tensions between Russia and Nato states have soared over the Ukraine crisis.
The US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula earlier this year.
Ties have been further strained as the West has accused Russia of supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine - a charge Russia has denied.
The Nato statement on Wednesday made no mention of Ukraine.
It said that the "sizeable" Russian flights were unusual for their scale, although no incidents had been reported.
MiG-31B aircraft at a show in Siberia, October 2014The Russian aircraft flying over Europe are said to include types of MiG-31
The statement said Russian aircraft were detected flying over the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, prompting fighter jets from Nato member states to intercept and follow them.
Overall, Nato said it had intercepted Russian aircraft more than 100 times so far this year - three times more than it did last year.
"Scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches Nato airspace," the statement said.
However, it said, such flights pose a potential risk to civilian aviation because the Russian military often does not file flight plans or use on-board transponders.
"This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic," the statement said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cats for Hire!



I recently discovered that there is a museum in Russia that 'hires' cats as rodent and pest exterminators! When looking more into it, this is what I found!
"The State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg ‘hires’ cats to protect its artworks against rodents. The so-called ‘guard cats’ go unnoticed as they dwell in the attics and basements, away from the tourist eye. The museum administration has been ‘employing’ these highly skillful ‘guards’ ever since the museum was founded in 1764. Even though nowadays rats and mice can easily be exterminated using chemicals, the museum cannot do without cats who have become its living legend and mascot.
The first cats were introduced for ‘public service’ in the 18th century. Tsar Peter I was the first to provide shelter for a big cat he had brought from Holland at the then wooden Winter Palace. Later on, Empress Elizabeth ordered a batch of rat-catching cats from Kazan because she was scared of small rodents.
Cats acquired the status of palace guards during the reign of Catherine II. Under Catherine the Great, they were divided into chamber cats (the Russian Blue breed), and backyard cats who chased rats and mice guarding Her Majesty’s peace of mind.
The State Hermitage Museum started as a private collection of Empress Catherine II, who acquired 220 works by Dutch and Flemish artists through her agents in Berlin. At first, most of the paintings she had acquired were placed in the secluded parts of the Winter Palace which became known as the “hermitage”, or a “retreat”, in French.
Hermitage-employed cats survived the October Revolution and continued their service under the Soviet government. However, they didn’t survive the siege of Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. After starving people ate all the cats, the city was infested by rats. But as soon as the blockade was over, two carriages with cats arrived in Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) from Russia’s central regions making the backbone of a new squadron of rat-eating cats.
Cat numbers rose to an unprecedented high in the second half of the 1960s. As cats invaded basements, museum rooms and corridors, the museum administration was ordered to get rid of them which they did. However, several years later, the ‘tailed guards’ were ordered back as the museum found it too hard to do without them in its struggle for the preservation of cultural values.
Since then, Hermitage cats have been taken good care of. Each so-called “hermit” carries a passport with a photo certifying that he is qualified to pursue the difficult task of protecting the museum basements against rodents. The cats are well looked after, fed properly, attended to if ill and respected for their hard work. Museum employees know all male and female cats by their names, and the name for each cat is picked carefully, to suit his or her character.
The team of tailed guards consists mainly of alley cats, and like in the imperial times, the cat community hinges on strict hierarchy. The cats fall into aristocrats, the middle caste, and the low caste. Each group operates within a certain designated part of the building. The cat staff cannot exceed 50-60 cats, not because they’ll be difficult to look after in terms of cat food. If the number of cats exceeds 60, they start cat fights and neglect their duties. For this reason, from time to time, the museum has to look for people who would adopt extra cats.
The museum’s basements have specially designated areas for storing cat food and attending to ailing cats. The roadway near the museum has road signs warning drivers about cats’ presence and urging them to be careful and slow down. Road accidents are the most frequent cause of deaths among Hermitage cats.
The Hermitage’s budget stipulates no funds for cats’ keeping. The cats live on donations from the public or museum workers. Hermitage Cat Day which is marked annually on March 28th is on the museum’s memorable date calendar. Prepared by the museum’s employees, it features a large number of informative exhibitions and exciting contests."
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/radio_broadcast/2249159/75927890/
Catchy Russian patriotic songs :D

https://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/sounds/

Анастасия "Настя" Люкина - Anastasia "Nastia" Liukin

Nastia Liukin is a retired Russian-born, American gymnast.
She retired from gymnastics in 2012 after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Team.
This is a video of her floor routine at the 2008 Olympics.
This is a video of a fall from the uneven bars at the 2012 Olympic Trials that led to her retirement.


Christmas in Russia
Russia follows the ‘Julian’ calendar for religious dates and therefore celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January. Russians celebrate Advent from the 28th of November until the 6th of January. On Christmas day Russians ‘sochivo’ and ‘kutia’ which is porridge made from wheat served with honey, nuts and fruits. Often it is eaten out of one big bowl, which is supposed to symbolize unity. Other popular dishes are ‘borsch’ or ‘solyanka.’ Sauerkraut is the main dish on Christmas Eve; it is served with cranberries, cumin or carrots. Dessert often includes fruit pies, nuts or gingerbread. ‘Vzvar’ is a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water. Most of the time the drink ends dinner. After dinner the Russians attend church and most likely do not return home before 4 or 5 am. Russia is famous for the story of Babushka. Babushka is an old lady that meets the wise man on their way to honor the newborn Jesus. Throughout the time of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated too much and in general, Russians value New Year’s more than they do Christmas.

Work cited
"Christmas in Russia." -- Christmas Around the World. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/russia.shtml>.

Пётр Ильич Чайковский

One of the "Big Five" Russian composers of the romantic era, Пётр Ильич Чайковский (Tchaikovsky) was considered a very nationalist composer. Much of his music features traditional Russian melodies as themes.

Little known fact for people that aren't into classical music:
Tchaikovsky was gay but he tried to hide or repress who he was, and as a result suffered from depression. His depression stayed with him for much of his life, and he even attempted suicide on some occasions. His depression and internal conflict can be heard in a lot of his compositions. While his official cause of death is listed as cholera, many historians speculate that it was actually suicide to cover up a scandal.



I encourage anyone to attend the Stetson Chamber Orchestra concert this coming Tuesday, November 4th, in Lee Chapel. We will be performing Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, a work in four movements.
Silentium


Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.
How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought once uttered is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.
Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

Translated by V.Nabokov


Молчи, скрывайся и таи
И чувства и мечты свои -
Пускай в душевной глубине
Встают и заходят оне
Безмолвно, как звезды в ночи, -
Любуйся ими - и молчи.
Как сердцу высказать себя?
Другому как понять тебя?
Поймет ли он, чем ты живешь?
Мысль изреченная есть ложь.
Взрывая, возмутишь ключи, -
Питайся ими - и молчи.
Лишь жить в себе самом умей -
Есть целый мир в душе твоей
Таинственно-волшебных дум;
Их оглушит наружный шум,
Дневные разгонят лучи, -
Внимай их пенью и молчи!..

Fyodor Tyutchev is a Russian poet, and he isn't much  different from poets around the globe. His work is showcased above. He lived from 1803-1873, and is widely renowned for his romantic style. Although this is only one translation of Silentium, is keeps the flow and rhyming aspect of the original. Below is a second translation that keeps the same ideas as the first, but does not have the rhyming component.
 
 
Be silent, hide yourself, keep in
Your feelings and your sacred dream – 
And let them, quiet, rise and set, 
Soundlessly – in your heart’s depth,
Like stars do on the nightly rut: 
Admire them, but just be mute.
How could your heart express its view?
Could any other feel like you?
Will he discern your base of life?
The word, pronounced, is a lie;
While stirring springs, you’ll cloud flood:
Drink their water, but be mute.
Within yourself, keep life in hold: 
Your soul is a whole world
Of thoughts of mystery and charm,
They will be sunk in daily hum,
And scattered by the sun’s rays, rude: 
Hark to their song, and just be mute.  

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver




The 5 Biggest Events That Shaped Putin's 2013

By Michael Bohm Jan. 11 2014
Looking back at the main events that shaped Russia over the past 12 months, it is clear that 2013 will go down in history as President Vladimir Putin's "anti-year."

It was in 2013 that the powers that be not only embraced anti-smoking and anti-alcohol policies, but they also showed that they are anti-gay, anti-­children, anti-chocolate and even anti-Halloween.

Perhaps new efforts by Putin to spread anti-American sentiment was predictable, but his ­decision to portray Russia as anti-Big Brother by granting asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker ­Edward Snowden took many by surprise — including ­Putin himself, who told reporters in Finland in late June that ­Russia was "completely surprised" by Snowden's trip to Moscow. How, then, does ­Putin explain reports that Snowden spent several days in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong just before he flew to Moscow?

Furthermore, Putin's credentials in a nationwide anti-corruption drive took a hit last week when he pardoned former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky. His arrest in 2003 and 10-year combined jail terms have been widely interpreted as the Kremlin's punishment for the businessman's political ­ambitions aimed at Putin.

As it turns out, you can be as corrupt as you want if you are a friend of Putin, but if you are his enemy you get the "a-thief-must-sit-in-jail" treatment — at least until Putin needs to ­improve his image before the Sochi Olympics. In any event, Putin's selectively ruthless legal assault on Khodorkovsky brought new meaning to the expression attributed to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco: "My friends get ­everything, while my enemies get the law."

Here's a look at the top five political events of 2013 and how they shaped Russia.

1. The year of the ban.
Russia set a record for the number of bans this year. A ban on smoking in public places, enacted in June, was long-needed. But few ­actually believe that this law will make it any easier for nonsmokers to breathe as they walk down a crowded street or sit on a park bench. After all, smokers make up 40 percent of the population, and finding creative ways to skirt the law is a centuries-old Russian tradition, many would argue - particularly when it involves a highly addictive habit.

Nonetheless, there is still hope that a ban on heavy-duty trucks entering the Moscow Ring Road from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., enacted in April, will help clear the air a bit. And to help clear the streets of ­intoxicated pedestrians and drivers, Russia ­enacted another ban: on alcohol sales in stores and kiosks ­after 11 p.m.

Chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko also had a record year for bans.

First, he banned chocolate imports from the Ukrainian company Roshen in July and Moldovan wine in September. The real reason, of course, had nothing to do with sanitation and everything to do with bullying Kiev and Chisinau into walking away from partnership agreements with the European Union.

Then in early October, he banned Lithuanian dairy products. The measure was to punish Vilnius, the host of the EU summit in late November, for pushing Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and ­Armenia to sign the partnership agreements.

In late October, Onishchenko himself was "banned" when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev did not renew his contract as head of the agency, purportedly because of his excessive banning zeal.

Also this year, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky tried to ban foreign words, while one of the party's deputies, Mikhail ­Degtyaryov, tried to ban the U.S. dollar. But not all was lost in this category of absurd bans: The Omsk region succeeded in banning Halloween celebrations in local public schools.

2. Anti-American campaign against U.S. adoptions.
This ban deserves its own listing. The adoption ban, which the Kremlin said was needed to protect Russian children from "abusive U.S. parents," was imposed shortly ­after U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which punishes Russian officials implicated in human rights violations. But instead of a tit-for-tat — for example, the U.S. imposing sanctions on 18 ­Russian officials with Russia ­responding by targeting 18 U.S. officials — Russia adopted a blatantly asymmetric measure that punished thousands of U.S. parents who had never committed a crime against children. These parents badly wanted to adopt Russian children, who badly wanted to escape the grim, often abusive, life in Russian orphanages.

In reality, less than 0.2 percent of U.S. parents who have adopted Russian children over the past 20 years were charged with child abuse. What's more, contrary to what the Kremlin's propaganda machine has claimed, the overwhelming majority of parents who were found guilty of child abuse received significant jail terms. The other 60,000 or so law-abiding U.S. parents provided loving, caring homes to Russian children, including many with disabilities.

Russia's flat ban on U.S. adoptions deserves the "Most Cynical Political Revenge Award" of the year. The Kremlin had two main political goals in passing the ban. One was to incite anti-Americanism among President Vladimir Putin's core electorate by trying to characterize the majority of U.S. parents as pedophiles, psychopaths and sadistic child abusers.

Second, by presenting the U.S. adoption ban as "protecting the rights of Russian children," the Kremlin tried to deflect attention away from the fact that the only thing it was really protecting was the group of 60 government officials linked to the 2009 prison death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and the related $240 million embezzlement scheme that Magnitsky exposed. Incidentally, not one of those 60 suspects has been tried in court.

Thus, for the sake of a cover-up and scoring cheap political points as part of its broader anti-American campaign, the Kremlin was willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of Russian orphans.

3. Edward Snowden.
The Kremlin thought it scored a major victory by giving Snowden temporary asylum on Aug. 1. It endlessly praised Snowden as a "U.S. dissident" and "hero of ­democracy," while also painting itself as a supporter of privacy rights. But the absurdity and ­hypocrisy of the Kremlin's stance was clear to nearly everyone, ­including ­Putin's most ardent supporters, who know that the Federal Security Service is one of the worst global violators of citizens' privacy rights.

Almost as if to underscore the Kremlin's own hypocrisy, in late October the Communications and Press ­Ministry released a government order that will ­allow the FSB direct access to the content of Russians' telephone calls, ­e-mails, instant messages and other Internet communications without a court ­order. ­Internet providers will be forced to ­install equipment on their servers that will provide a direct link to the FSB.

Snowden, meanwhile, received the Sam Adams Award on Oct. 10 for his "integrity in intelligence" at an undisclosed location near Moscow, and he has ­accepted a website job at an undisclosed Russian company.

In December, he announced his mission as a whistleblower was accomplished, despite conveniently ignoring Russia's surveillance abuses.

Putin put a nice cap on the Snowden affair by saying at his expanded annual news conference on Dec. 19 that he is envious of Barack Obama for being able to spy on anyone he wants and getting away with it. ­Kudos to Putin at least for his honest admission on this count.

Snowden, however, wasn't the only whistleblower to make news in Russia in 2013. The country's own top whistleblower, Alexei Navalny, was found guilty of embezzlement and given a suspended five-year sentence this summer in a politically driven trial. He then got his a revenge of sorts in September, winning an impressive 27 percent of the vote in the Moscow mayoral race. ­Russia's other most prominent ­whistleblower, the late Sergei Magnitsky, was found guilty of tax evasion in July in an outrageous and shameful posthumous trial that made even Josef Stalin's show trials look tame in comparison.

4. The state-sponsored anti-gay campaign.
The Kremlin's propaganda machine went out in full force this year to convince Russians that the greatest threat to Russia — along with the U.S. and NATO — are homosexuals.

Leading the homophobia campaign throughout the year were Dmitry Kiselyov and Arkady ­Mamontov, news and talk show hosts on ­Rossia 1 state television, and a series of pseudo-­documentaries on other state-controlled television stations. They all told viewers that homosexuality in Russia was a Western conspiracy meant to corrupt the country's fundamental moral and spiritual values, exacerbate its demographic crisis and spread HIV among Russians.

The State Duma joined the anti-gay campaign, passing the controversial "gay propaganda law" unanimously in June. The law, which ­essentially codifies Russia's homosexuals and lesbians as ­second-class citizens, states that anyone who ­expresses a "distorted understanding of the ­social equality of traditional and nontraditional sexual ­relations" in the presence of a minor is subject to a fine of 5,000 rubles ($150). At least three Russians have already been fined under the law.

The irony is that if anyone has a "distorted ­understanding" of homosexuality, it is the Duma deputies. The Liberal Democratic Party took this ignorance one step further, introducing a bill that would use state funds to "treat" homosexuals of their ­"illness" with the goal of turning them into heterosexuals.

The other irony is that while the new law is presented as a defense against gay propaganda, the real propagandizers are the government and Russian Orthodox Church, which are trying to impose their "spiritual, traditional and moral values" on those who have "nontraditional" values.

5. Mikhail Khodorkovsky's pardon.
It would seem that Putin wanted the pardon as much as Khodorkovsky as it gave Putin a nice opportunity to ­appear merciful. At the same time, however, many of Putin's critics have rightly asked: Who was behind the politically driven case to put Khodorkovsky in jail in the first place 10 years ago? And why did ­Putin wait until seven months before Khodorkovsky's scheduled release in August 2014 to show mercy?

With the pardon, Putin might hope to share some of the glory as the "kind tsar" in advance of the ­Winter Olympics and the Group of Eight summit, both in Sochi next year. Had Khodorkovsky served his full sentence, he would have been the only hero in this drama. Now, Putin hopes to get some of the global spotlight for his "humanitarian gesture."

Despite Kremlin efforts to spin the pardon as a sign of Putin's strength, Putin is still very concerned about Khodorkovsky's influence and moral authority as a free man. That is why Khodorkovsky was whisked away and placed on a private jet to Germany within hours after he was released from prison - a scene taken right out of a Cold War spy thriller.

That is also why Khodorkovsky must effectively remain abroad in exile forever. If he returns to ­Russia, he will likely be forced to pay a $550 million fine — ­reportedly more than his current net worth — that dates back to his first conviction in 2005, or face ­another criminal trial. In addition, he must refrain from ­engaging in Russian politics and from seeking legal claims to former ­Yukos assets that were essentially nationalized by state-controlled Rosneft in 2004.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, a close Putin ally who is considered the mastermind behind the state takeover of ­Yukos, will never give Khodorkovsky his $40 billion company back, of course. But he did offer him a mid-level job at Rosneft — and "only if his background meets the qualification requirements for the position," as he put it. This malicious sarcasm was matched only by presidential spokesman ­Dmitry Peskov, who, in ­answering a question from an ­Interfax ­reporter, smugly concluded that Khodorkovsky's pardon ­request meant that he finally admitted his guilt, which was a blatant lie.

But these snide remarks just days before New Year's should not ruin the holiday spirit for any of us. Amid all of the anti-news throughout 2013, the fact that Khodorkovsky is now free is certainly the best news we have heard all year.

Source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/the-5-biggest-events-that-shaped-putins-2013/492198.html
 

Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский

Born in 1840, Tchaikovsky is a legend in the world of classical music.  He is incredibly popular among fanatics of the classical, having composed the music in Swan Lake.  He was the first popular composer to be well known outside of Russia, making appearances throughout Europe and even the U.S.  He composed symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, and chamber music.  His music has remained popular throughout the world to this day.

Bering Strait Tunnel

Although several years ago, this supposed project appeared interesting to some and life changing to others. In 2011, there were several rumors circulating concerning Russia's intentions to build a tunnel (specifically anywhere from one to three - the "original intention" was three) from the northeast coast of Russia to the far western part of Alaska. Apparently both the US and Russia show great care to not only the environment present in the small area between those two countries, but the people that live around it as well. There were numerous reasons for attempting to build a tunnel like this one, aside from the obvious such as allowing people to travel between the two nations without the need of a boat or plane. This tunnel would represent a metaphorical bridge between Russian and the United States, and definitely warm the relations between the two. Even though decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the US have never exactly seen eye to eye on all, or even most matters. This supposed tunnel would cause an estimated US $65 billion, no small lump sum/someone's pocket change. As someone how was present for some of the construction of the "Big Dig" in Boston, which lasted over 10 years due to mishaps and miscalculations, the amount of problems a project of this scale could have is massive. However, nothing ever really went past the rumor stage with this project, sadly eliminating much of the possible drama that could have happened.