Thursday, August 25, 2016

Welcome to SPREES | Thursday September 1 5:30 pm in SPREES house | meet the faculty & students

(Kind of) learn to read Russian in 15 minutes!

This cartoon introduces you to the letters in the Russian alphabet, a subset of Cyrillic. It's pretty good... it has a lot of terminological problems, and some outright errors, but as a pragmatic and quick guide to learning the letters, it gets the job done. Enjoy!

It continues here...

Песенка про азбуку!

A great ABC song--almost every letter (not ъ ь ы, but that's because words cannot start with these letters!) corresponding with the first letter in an animal's common name. You should memorize this song!

Some useful resources for learning the Russian alphabet...

Here are some resources for learning the Russian alphabet and the first couple of units of Голоса.  
  • list (in Word (.doc) format) of Russian sight words—these are calques from and homophones of English. (Not all the words are from English—some are words that both Russian and English borrowed from other sources, like Greek, Latin and German.) You received a copy of this list in class. Here's the same list, written out in cursive, if you'd like to practice your cursive!
  • recording (mp3, your browser should just play it) of me, reading the words above. I’ve slowed down the recording a bit so that you’re better able to hear my pronunciation of individual phonemes.
  • Memrise, an excellent learning resource... the smartest flashcards you'll ever find. 
  • creepy version of the Russian alphabet from IKEA (the number one foreign investor in Russia!). In fact, the Russians don’t NEED an alphabet song, and no one sings it and no one teaches it to kids. It’s a phonetic alphabet—there aren’t really standardized names for the letters, as there must be in English. (How else would we explain how to spell our crazy words???)
  • The Golosa site, where you can listen to recordings of many of the exercises from the Алфавит (Alphabet) section.
  • For those of you who want to perfect your Russian cursive (пропись), some “worksheets” that I concocted (in .doc format). Wikipedia has an excellent overview of the uses and idiosyncrasies of Russian handwriting.  
  • A first-year student рекомендует this video to learn your ABCs... I like this one, too... Learn your Russian animals while you learn the алфавит!

An overview of the Russian alphabet

If you're having problems learning the alphabet, or if you're just bored... please watch An Introduction to the Russian Alphabet (total of around 30 minutes). Да, знаю! Yeah, I know... It's really rough and I'm really longwinded, but watch it anyway.

In class, I provide you with a list of "sight words." (Here's a copy.) These are simple Russian words, often cognates with English or another language. The premise: You start with the first word, which is made up of shared letters between Russian and English. Then, word by word, the list introduces and reinforces new letters. By the time you complete the list, you've learned all 3444 letters in the Russian alphabet! You can listen to me reading the list of words here

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Moika Palace

Spb 06-2012 Moika various 03.jpgThe palace was first built around 1770 by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. Over the years numerous well-known architects worked on the palace, producing a variety of architectural styles. A. Mikhailov reconstructed the building during the 1830s when the Yusupovs became owners of the building. This was the period that the palace achieved its present-day appearance. From 1830 to 1917, the palace belonged to the House of Yusupov, an immensely wealthy family of Russian nobles, known for their philanthropy and art collections. Thus in the time of Imperial Russia, the palace became known as the Yusupov Palace. The luxurious interiors of the palace were not inferior to those of contemporary royal palaces. More than 40,000 works of art, including works by Rembrandt, jewelry, and sculptures decorated the palace. Following the Russian Revolution, the Yusupov art collections were nationalized and relocated in the Hermitage and other museums. Ernst Friedrich von Liphart, who was the curator of paintings at the Hermitage, had earlier painted the curtain and ceiling of the palace theatre. The palace is most famous, however, because of the actions of Prince Felix Yusupov, heir to the vast Yusupov family estates including four palaces in St. Petersburg. The palace on the Moika was the prince’s favorite residence in the capital. The exact events surrounding Rasputin's death are still in dispute. What seems clear is that on 30 December [O.S. 17 December] 1916, Felix Yusupov, along with Vladimir Purishkevich and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich invited Grigori Rasputin to the Moika Palace. He took Rasputin to a small but lavishly furnished cellar room of the palace. There he served Rasputin red wine. When Rasputin was affected, Yusupov retrieved a revolver and shot Rasputin from the side. Taking him for dead, Yusupov went upstairs to where the other conspirators waited in a ground floor study/drawing room. Rasputin succeeded in fleeing through a side door into a gated courtyard which opened onto the street outside. Purishkevich then shot Rasputin in the back, on the doorstep. The body was taken inside and a third bullet, fired at close range, entered his forehead. The conspirators wrapped Rasputin in a broadcloth, drove outside the city and threw the body into the Malaya Neva.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Unit 10 Blog Post Chris H

Life Changing Inventions Made in Russia
  1. The Helicopter: Igor Sikorsky, in 1910 created the prototype of a rotor-driven device, which successfully got off the ground. In 1912, he created the first hydroplane in the world and then the first multiple-engine aircraft. After the 1917 Revolution in Russia, he had to emigrate to the US, where he established his own company, Sikorsky Aero Engineering Company, using a contribution from remarkable Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Sikorsky’s first experimental helicopter designed in the United States got off the ground in September 1939. The design of that machine, which has been considered a classic helicopter design for more than fifty years now, has been used for almost 95% helicopters built around the world. In 1942, Sikorsky created a two-seater helicopter. 
  2. Radio: Alexander Popov, a professor of physics, announced the invention of a system for wireless communications at a lecture at St Petersburg University in April 1885 and displayed the world’s first radio set. He was unable to publish his work though because he worked for a military institution. Italian Guglielmo Marconi conducted similar experiments at about the same time – his article was published in 1897. Unlike Popov’s, Marconi’s invention was commercialized fast, so they still argue in the West over who invented radio first.
  3. Video Tape Recorder: Alexander Poniatoff (Poniatov), a student of the founding father of Russian aviation Nikolay Zhukovsky, started the Ampex company in the United States and worked there in the 1950s. The company succeeded in producing the first quality video signal recorder. Ampex kept its lead in the market for professional magnetic recording of video for half a century and global electronics giants had to use Poniatoff’s patents to produce home video equipment.
  4. Solar Cells: It is owing to discoveries by Russian physicist Alexander Stoletov that we enjoy television today. In the late 1880s, he produced a theoretical justification of photoelectric effect through a series of experiments. Photoelectric effect formed the basis for the production of solar cells, which are broadly used in practice now. Stoletov created the first solar cell based upon outer photoelectric effect and discovered the proportionality between the intensity of light and photo induced current.
  5. Synthetic Rubber: The first commercially viable artificial rubber was polybutadiene resin, synthesized by the method developed by Russian chemist Sergei Lebedev. He obtained the first specimens of synthetic rubber in 1910. His book “Research in polymerization of by-ethylene hydrocarbons”, printed in 1913, provided the foundations for commercial artificial rubber synthesis.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky

И́горь Фёдорович Страви́нский
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky

Весна священная
The Rite of Spring

Ballet and orchestral concert work by Stravinsky.
Written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company.
The original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky, with stage designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich.

Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when Diaghilev recruited him to create works for the Ballets Russes. The Rite was the third such project, after the acclaimed Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911). The concept behind The Rite of Spring, developed by Roerich from Stravinsky's outline idea, is suggested by its subtitle, "Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts."

Stravinsky's score contains many novel features for its time, including experiments in tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance. Analysts have noted in the score a significant grounding in Russian folk music, a relationship Stravinsky tended to deny. The music has influenced many of the 20th-century's leading composers, and is one of the most recorded works in the classical repertoire.

The premiere was May 29, 1913


Russian Ballet History

The formal start of Russian ballet began with a letter written by a gymnastics teacher to Empress Anne in 1737 asking to be given twelve students to create ballets and theater dances. The request was granted and the teacher was given two rooms in the Old Winter Palace. This school would  later become the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School. Catherine  The Great also started a ballet school a little later in 1774.


Probably the most well known game of all time, tetris,  also had one of the most recognized themes of every video game. What most people do not know, is that it is actually based upon a russian folk song called Korbeiniki. While around the world it is known as tertis them A, in russia it is  avery popular song. Linked below is a version sung by the red army choir: