Sunday, December 21, 2008

Armpit of some kind of bear...

Modern Drunkard Magazine: Richard Owen said the relationship between a Russian and bottle of vodka is almost mystical.

Gary Shteyngart: Richard Owen?

MDM: He was an English zoologist who spent some time in Russia during the mid-1870s.

GS: Zoologist? Did he think Russians were zoo primates?

MDM: Maybe.

Read on... Pretty funny, and mostly accurate...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Russian Ballet

Russian ballet is a form of ballet characteristic of or originating from Russia The original purpose of the ballet in Russia was to entertain the royal court. In the early 19th century, the theaters were opened up to anyone who could afford a ticket. There was a seating section called a rayok, or 'paradise gallery', that was comprised of simple wooden benches. This allowed non-wealthy people access to the ballet, because tickets in this section were inexpensive. The first ballet company was the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg in the 1740s. Today, the Kirov Ballet company (now known as the Mariinskey Ballet) and the Bol'shoy company are two world-renowned Russian ballet companies that tour the world. There are several methods of ballet in Russian ballet. The most widely used in the Vaganova method.

Unit 5 - Irving Berlin


IRVING BERLIN - I bet you thought he was German, didn’t you?

I just wanted to share some info on my favorite Russian composer and it seemed like the right time of year since he won an Academy Award in 1942 for “White Christmas”.

Irvin Berlin also composed “God Bless America” and here is the rest of the story...Nationality: Russian.

Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.

Entry Updated : 02/25/2002

The most prolific of all American composers, Irving Berlin created over one thousand songs, nineteen stage scores, and eighteen film scores.

Called "the last of the troubadours" because of his simple melodies and warmhearted lyrics, Berlin forged his long and successful composing career from a musical style that was largely patriotic and sentimental.

"If some of [my] songs are corny," the artist once explained to Abel Green of Variety, "then it's because they're simple, and all I know is that some of the corniest and simplest songs have lasted."

Berlin began his musical career at age eight when his father died and the lad took to the streets to help support his family.

One of his first jobs was that of guide to Blind Sol, a singing beggar in New York City's Bowery.

From there, Berlin began to sing at popular cafes in the neighborhood, waiting on tables and learning to pick out tunes on the piano.

In 1907 the composer published his first song, "Marie From Sunny Italy," with Nick Nicholson, a pianist at the cafe.

Berlin also altered his name at that time.

In 1909 Berlin's attempts as lyricist captured the attention of music publisher Ted Snyder, who hired the young composer for twenty-five dollars a week.

While in Snyder's employ, Berlin continued to write his own songs, and in 1911 "Alexander's Ragtime Band" was published and made him an international celebrity.

By popularizing ragtime and its accompanying dance style, Berlin was one of the first American artists to showcase jazz and make it acceptable.

Within the next few years, the composer created a number of other "rags" and came to be identified in the public mind with all things ragtime.

Berlin was also a successful performer in vaudeville before World War I, first appearing on Broadway in "Up and Down Broadway" in 1910.

The artist introduced many of his own compositions on the stage, but Berlin was generally more interested in writing music than in performing it.

He contributed songs to many Broadway musicals, including the unofficial theme for all the Ziegfeld spectacles, "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody."

In 1914 he wrote his first complete musical score, Watch Your Step.

With the onset of World War I, Berlin was drafted into the army, where he used his musical abilities to raise money for a service center at Camp Upton.

The composer's "Yip Yip Yaphank," an all-soldier show, raised over $150,000 from its Broadway run in 1918.

After the war, Berlin returned to New York City and formed the Irving Berlin Music Company, a music publishing firm.

Shortly thereafter, the composer erected the Music Box Theatre in 1921 in New York City and used it for several years to showcase his musical creations.

Yet by 1934, the West Coast and its movie industry had begun to attract the Broadway veteran, who wrote the film score for Top Hat,starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Berlin also contributed individual songs to numerous movies, including Puttin' on the Ritz and Sayonara.

At the beginning of World War II, Berlin's sense of patriotism prompted him to create another all-soldier show, "This Is the Army," which raised $10 million for the Army Emergency Relief fund.

Before that, in 1939, Berlin's patriotic and philanthropic inclinations had moved him to allocate all royalties from his popular "God Bless America" to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

In addition, Berlin composed songs for the Army Ordnance Department ("Arms for the Love of America") and the Treasury Department ("Any Bonds Today?"), with profits going to each bureau.

In 1954 Berlin attempted to retire, but returned to Broadway in 1962 with a final stage score, "Mr. President."

After the show's long run, the composer re-retired to his home in upstate New York, where he golfed, fished, painted, and, as he told Newsweek, "tinker[ed] at the piano" until his death in 1989.

Among his career honors are an Academy Award, a Tony, and a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

Family: Birth-given name, Israel Baline;

born May 11, 1888, in Temum, Russia;
came to the United States, 1893, naturalized citizen;
died September 22, 1989, in New York, NY;

son of Moses (a cantor and shochet [meat/poultry certifier]) and Leah (Lipkin) Baline;

married Dorothy Goetz, February, 1913 (died July 17, 1913);

married Ellin Mackay, January 4, 1926;

children: Mary Ellin (Mrs. Marvin Barrett), Linda (Mrs. Edouard Emmet), Elizabeth (Mrs. Alton Peters).

Education: Attended New York City public schools.

Military/Wartime Service: U.S. Army, Infantry, 1917-18; became sergeant.

Memberships: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (charter member; director, 1914-18), Masons (Shriners), Elk, Lambs, Friars, City Athletic Club.

AWARDSAcademy Award for best song from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1942, for "White Christmas;" Medal of Merit, 1945, for "This Is the Army"; Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, February 11, 1955, "in recognition of his services in composing many patriotic songs including `God Bless America'"; Antoinette Perry Award from League of New York Theatres and Producers, April, 1963, for "distinguished contribution to the musical theatre for many years." Awarded D.Mus. from Bucknell University, 1939, Legion of Honor (France), 1947, D.Mus. from Temple University, 1954, D.H. from Fordham University, 1969, and Medal of Freedom, 1977.
Posted by Lillyan at 11:19 AM 0 comments
Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Did I Just Eat?

After four bountiful courses of food at Dr. Steeves Christmas party, I had to ask myself, “What did I just eat?” The first course consisted of lots of beets and mayonnaise parading as different dishes. There was also meat filled bread, пирожок, salmon cream cheese stuffed tomatoes, and hearty russian хлебь. The second course was a traditional meat and beet borscht. At first I was alarmed by the lack of mayonnaise in this dish, but never fear, the soup was topped off with sour cream.  I thought it tasted a lot like my mom's vegetable beef stew. The third course was lamb with what seemed like greek tzatziki sauce. There was also a side dish that anders described as “some sort of russian lasagna” and finally, the ever russian chicken and rice. To follow up this feast, a full table of desserts was served. The rainbow sprinkle brownies had to take the cake as most authentic dish of the evening. As the woman next to me said, “They're certainly Russian! I was rushin' around all day to finish them!” 

This whole Russian food escapade made me want to explore their cuisine a little more. I'm pretty confident I'll be able to eat well in Russia when I study abroad there, but still, I'd like to know what I'm getting into. So, I googled the phrase “weird russian food” hoping maybe to figure out what my mayonnaise to vegetable ratio might be. However, to find that I might have been better served to look up “normal russian food.” Anyway, what I did find was reference to a Russian malt beverage called “Kvass” which is basically a beer made from bread. However, the alcohol content is so low, basically nonexistent, that it's considered safe for kids to drink. No wonder Russians always beat us in drinking contests! They've been training their whole lives.

To get the real good stuff, Kvass connosuiers have to go to Zhenigorod, which is about an hour from Moscow, as the sparrow flies. This Kvass is the real deal, still made by the monks who drink it. In the 19th century it was not unusual for peasants and monks to drink more kvass than they did water. I guess I finally know what it is the drunk monks were in such a hurry to drink when they added those extra letters to the alphabet. Well, there are definitely weirder things to base alcohol on than bread. I guess if that's the weirdest Russia has to offer, I have nothing to worry about. 

UNIT 4 & 5 Entries

Unit 4:

New York Times Article:

December 9, 2008
Falling Sales in Russia Force Ford to Idle Its Plant
MOSCOW — Hopes that Russia and other emerging markets could help support the automotive industry despite a slumping performance in the United States and Europe dimmed on Monday as the Ford Motor Company followed Volkswagen and Renault in suspending production at its Russian assembly line.
While Ford’s fortunes were less than glittering elsewhere, the automaker had deftly anticipated a surge in demand for cars in Russia over the last decade. As sales fell in the United States, Russia remained an engine of growth for both imports and the domestically assembled sedans.
In fact, the Focus was the best-selling brand in Russia, easily outpacing its Japanese and European competition and proving Ford could do what it had struggled to achieve in the United States — efficiently build a popular, compact family car.
Ford opened its largest dealership in Europe outside Moscow; demand exploded so quickly that the company at one point had a six-month backlog of orders for Focus cars built at an assembly plant near St. Petersburg.
The company said Monday that it would idle that plant from Dec. 24 until Jan. 21 for an extended New Year’s holiday, citing poor sales; Focus sales were down 30 percent in October from a year earlier, the Interfax news agency reported.
When it opened in 2002, the Ford plant became the first fully owned foreign automobile assembly line in Russia. Nissan, Toyota and parts makers followed, and the district around St. Petersburg now has so many plants it has become known as Russia’s Detroit.
But that Russian car boom seems over now. Volkswagen and Renault have also idled Russian plants for an extended winter holiday to offset swooning demand.
“The company decided to cut Ford production volumes in Russia because of the situation on the market and lower sales forecasts for the automobile industry in general,” Ford said in a statement. The company will pay two-thirds of the wages of assembly line workers idled by the shutdown.
The loss will be partly offset by Ford’s plans to use the suspension to retool the factory for the introduction of local production of its Mondeo, a sedan aimed at more affluent buyers, the statement said.
“It’s not as awful as in Europe or the United States, but it’s moving in that direction,” Elena Sakhnova, a transportation analyst at VTB bank in Moscow, said in a telephone interview. “We will see a significant drop in sales.”
Russia had been the fastest-growing automotive market in Europe. In 2007, car sales grew 36 percent on a surge of trickle-down oil money. The forecast for 2008 is 20 percent, according to Ms. Sakhnova; in 2009 she predicts a contraction of 15 percent.
Ford’s succeeded in Russia partly because it never sold many pickup trucks there; that sector is now hobbled in the United States market. Instead, Ford concentrated in Europe on compact family cars, particularly the Focus, which became the centerpiece of its strategy of selling to newly well-off, but hardly rich, clientele.
In the United States, Ford is asking for $9 billion in standby financing from Congress to retool its American assembly lines to more fuel-efficient and electric cars, ensure financing for dealers and for other revamping costs. Ford’s worldwide sales are forecast to decline 13.9 percent next year, according to a note published by Deutsche Bank.

Unit 5:

New York Times Article:

November 21, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
From Russia With Loathing
SHORTLY before the presidential election, at a discussion about Russian-American relations I attended in Cambridge, Mass., speakers from both countries voiced the hope that the election of Barack Obama would signal the renewal of a beautiful friendship. These hopes were chilled the day after Mr. Obama won. In an address to the Russian Parliament, President Dmitri Medvedev welcomed President-elect Obama with a threat to deploy Russian missiles on the Polish border if the United States put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe. While some conciliatory signals followed, it seems clear that the Kremlin intends to keep the “new cold war” going.
Just three days before Mr. Medvedev’s speech, the state-subsidized youth movement Nashi staged a Halloween-themed rally in front of the American Embassy in Moscow. Nearly 20,000 young people held pumpkins marked with the names of “America’s victims,” among them the casualties in South Ossetia. In an amateur film shown at the rally, an actor portraying a drunken George W. Bush bragged that the United States had engineered both world wars and the rise of Hitler to expand its power.
Leonid Radzikhovsky, a Russian journalist, has said that “the existential void of our politics has been filled entirely by anti-Americanism,” and that to renounce this rhetoric “would be tantamount to destroying the foundations of the state ideology.” There is a notion, popular in Russia and among some Western analysts, that this anti-Americanism is a response to perceived threats to Russia’s security — above all, NATO expansion and missile defense in Eastern Europe. Yet top military experts like Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, a former high-level official in the Russian Defense Ministry, are convinced that neither the missile shield nor NATO expansion pose any military threat to Russia.
Russia’s post-cold war humiliation is real. But as the human rights activist Elena Bonner, widow of the great scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, told me recently: “Nobody humiliated Russia. Russia humiliated itself.”
In the post-Soviet era, many Russians are angry because their country has neither the stature nor the living standards that they believe it deserves. Polls shows that most Russians actually favor a Western way of life. Nearly two-thirds would rather live in a well-off country than in one that is poorer but more powerful and feared by others. Unfortunately, most also believe their country will not reach Western levels of well-being any time soon, if ever. As frustrations mount, it is often easier to blame an external force than the country’s own failings. It doesn’t help that the 1990s, when pro-Western attitudes were at their peak, are remembered as a time of poverty and insecurity.
The result is an inferiority complex toward the West and, in particular, the United States, as the pre-eminent Western power and cold war rival. This widespread sentiment combines admiration, envy, grievance, resentment, and craving for respect and acceptance as an equal. Most Russians viewed the recent conflict in Georgia as a victory over the Americans — a matter less of strategic self-interest than of psychological self-assertion.
In his Nov. 5 speech, President Medvedev asserted that “we have no inherent anti-Americanism.” True enough, but in recent years, anti-Americanism has been carefully cultivated by official and semi-official propaganda, especially on government-controlled television, which manipulates popular insecurities and easily slides into outright paranoia.
In 2005, Sergey Lisovsky, then the deputy chairman of the Committee on Agricultural and Food Policy of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, said that the avian flu was a myth created by the Americans to destroy Russia’s poultry farming industry. This year, Russian television commemorated the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, with a prime-time program promoting the conspiracy theory that the attacks were engineered by American imperialists in order to unleash war. A staggering 43 percent of Russians agreed in a poll last year that “one of the goals of the foreign policy of the United States is the total destruction of Russia.”
Today, the government may be especially anxious to ratchet up anti-Americanism in response to the election of Mr. Obama, who is likely to make it more difficult for Russia to exploit animosity toward the United States in Europe and even the Third World.
Mr. Obama and his administration need to respond with both firmness and flexibility. He should indicate that we will help the democracies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to resist Russian bullying while also making it clear that we do not seek confrontation with Russia for confrontation’s sake.
One of Mr. Obama’s top Russia advisers, Michael McFaul, has suggested offering Russia a path toward membership in NATO. The current Russian leadership would, of course, reject any such offer, because it would entail democratic reforms that Russia is not willing to undertake. But the offer would give Russian reformers a tangible goal, and make it harder to convince ordinary Russians that America will always treat Russia as the enemy.
Mr. Obama should make the offer in person, during a trip to Russia. Ronald Reagan’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1988 went a long way toward dispelling anti-American stereotypes in the minds of many Russians during the twilight of the cold war. Mr. Obama, the object of a great deal of curiosity and fascination, is one American politician who could repeat that feat.
Cathy Young, a contributing editor for Reason magazine, is the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.”

Feodor Chaliapin

Few singers have impacted music in the way that Feodor Chaliapin did in the early 1900's. A largely self-taught basso, he was the most famous Russian singer of the first part of the 20th century, and made a significant career out of the bass and bass-baritone rep. His most stunning and well-known role was that of Boris Godunov. He had stiff competition from two other Russian basses, but his unique timbre (quality) of voice and striking stage presence and personality gained him worldwide fame. Even though he was personally affected by the Russian Revolution in 1917, he had a significant career, with hundreds of performances, dozens of recordings, and a legacy that has been passed down through the ages to modern bass singers.

Architecture in Russia

For most of its history, Russian architecture has been predominantly religious. Churches were for centuries the only buildings to be constructed of stone, and today they are almost the only buildings that remain from its ancient past. The basic elements of Russian church design emerged fairly early, around the eleventh century. The plan is generally that of a Greek cross (all four arms are equal), and the walls are high and relatively free of openings. Sharply-sloped roofs (tent roofs) and a multitude of domes cover the structure. The characteristic onion dome first appeared in Novgorod on the Cathedral of Sancta Sophia, in the eleventh century. On the interior, the primary feature is the iconostasis, an altar screen on which the church's icons are mounted in a hierarchical fashion.

The centers of medieval church architecture followed the shifting dominance of old Russia's cities--from Kiev to Novgorod and Pskov, and, from the end of the 15th century, Moscow. With the establishment of a unified Russian state under Ivan III, foreign architecture began to appear in Russia. The first instance of such foreign work is Moscow's great Assumption Cathedral, completed in 1479 by the Bolognese architect Aritotle Fioravanti. The cathedral is actually a remarkable synthesis of traditional Russian architectural styles, though its classical proportions mark it as a work of the Italian Renaissance. The Russian tradition experienced a brief period of renewed influence under Ivan IV (the Terrible), under whose reign the legendary Cathedral of St. Basil's was built. In general, however, the Tsars began to align themselves increasingly with European architectural styles. The great example of this shift was Peter the Great, who designed St. Petersburg in accordance with prevailing European design. His successors continued the pattern, hiring the Italian architect Rastrelli to produce the rococo Winter Palace and Smolny Cathedral. Under Catherine the Great, the rococo was set aside for neoclassicism, completing St. Petersburg's thoroughly European topography.

During the nineteenth century a fresh interest in traditional Russian forms arose. Like the associated movement in the visual arts, this revival of older styles participated in the creation of an avant-garde movement in the early twentieth century. For a brief period following the 1917 Revolution, the avant-garde Constructivist movement gained sufficient influence to design major buildings. Lenin's Mausoleum, designed in 1924 by Alexey Shchusev, is the most notable of the few remaining Constructivist buildings. By the late 1920s, the avant-garde found itself repudiated by Stalin's increasingly conservative state. Moving away from modernism, Stalinist-era architecture is best exemplified by the seven nearly indistinguishable "wedding-cake" skyscrapers that dominate the city's skyline.

In more recent years, the dissolution of the Soviet state and a renewed interest in traditional Russian culture have produced a new appreciation of more modest folk architecture. The few remaining examples of traditional wooden architecture, such as those on display in the outdoor architectural museum in Kostroma, are now among Russia's most treasured architectural monuments.

Unit 5 blog

Russian Military back.

Unit 5 blog

Russian Military back.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Russian Christmas

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It's a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration

After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it's once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.

Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather to share a special meal. The various foods and customs surrounding this meal differed in Holy Russia from village to village and from family to family, but certain aspects remained the same.

An old Russian tradition, whose roots are in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast, typically, lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although, meat is not permitted. Kutya (kutia), a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin. Although all of the food served is strictly Lenten, it is served in an unusually festive and anticipatory manner and style. The Russians call this meal: "The Holy Supper." The family gathers around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white table-cloth, symbolic of Christ's swaddling clothes, covers the Table. Hay is brought forth as a reminder of the poverty of the Cave where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is place in the center of the Table, symbolic of Christ "the Light of the World." A large round loaf of Lenten bread, "pagach," symbolic of Christ the Bread of Life, is placed next to the Candle.

The meal begins with the Lord's Prayer, led by the father of the family. A prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of the past year is said and then prayers for the good things in the coming year are offered. The head of the family greets those present with the traditional Christmas greeting: "Christ is Born!" The family members respond: "Glorify Him!" The Mother of the family blesses each person present with honey in the form of a cross on each forehead, saying: "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year." Following this, everyone partakes of the bread, dipping it first in honey and then in chopped garlic. Honey is symbolic of the sweetness of life, and garlic of the bitterness. The "Holy Supper" is then eaten. After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. Then the family goes to Church, coming home between 2 and 3 am. On the Feast of the Nativity, neighbors and family members visit each other, going from house to house , eating, drinking and singing Christmas Carols all the day long.

Changes During the Reign of Peter the Great

When Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, became the ruler of Russia he knew that neither his armed forces nor his country as a whole compared favorably with other European powers. He had assumed the throne of a country that had missed the Renaissance and the Reformation, placing Russia a century behind the rest of most of Europe in cultural and scientific developments. Peter wanted to know how and why Russia lagged behind its neighbors.

In 1697 and 1698 Peter traveled throughout Europe under a false name as a common person. He studied things such as shipbuilding in Holland and gunnery practices in Prussia. He visited military and civilian schools, factories, museums and military arsenals. When he returned to Russia he brought with him western educators, businessmen and military personnel to serve as his advisers.

Peter the Great instituted many changes throughout Russia, which have been called the modernization or Europeanization of Russia. Some of the changes he made were:
  • demanding that education, trade and industry incorporate western ideas and methods
  • simplifying the Russian alphabet
  • introducing Arabic numerals
  • providing for the publication of the first newspaper in Russia
  • demanding that men shave their beards
  • demanding that the court wear western clothing
  • encouraging western habits of smoking tobacco and drinking coffee

Book of Veles

So I decided to look up Russian Mythology and I came across this book called the Book of Veles. Apparently it was a text of ancient Slavic Mythology and History that began in the 7th century B.C. and has stories as late as 9th century A.D written on wooden planks. It has been widely criticized for being inauthentic and many think it was a forgery made in the 1800s. (Above is the original Book of Veles)
It first emerged in a Russian newspaper and it believed this paper forged the details of the book to gain publicity. Scholars analyzing the book say that modern words are used where ancient words should be, the phonetics do not match up with ancient Slavic roots, and features inconsistent grammar forms. These details make it apparent that the book was artificially aged. Proponents of the book say that these discrepancies are due to the varied nature of the Slavic tribes during the time. Still scholars rebuke this claim.
Unfortunately, the books are lost today and there will probably never be a consensus on their authenticity. They were discovered in 1919 by General Lizenbeck of the Russian White Army who refused to let others outside of Russia see them. He gave them to the editor of a Russian newspaper who was the only one to read and transcribe them. Afterwards, they were either stolen by the Nazi's or the KGB or burned and lost. The book outlines the Slavs migration from possibly Kazakhstan to the Carpathian Mountain where they are eventually defeated by the Normans (Vikings).
Veles, also known as Volos, was the Slavic god of the underworld, earth, and water and was in constant opposition with the thunder god Perun. Their battle is the Slavs etymological myth for the seasons for when Veles was killed rain would come and the next season would take over. The death of Veles was a cyclical occurrence.

This is Thor. He is much cooler than Veles. Also, I couldn't find any pictures of Veles, but there is a definite link between the Slavic thunder god Perun and Thor. Thor is also much cooler than Perun.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Borsch is a traditional vegetable soup that is made with beetroot which gives the soups is red color. There are two different types of borsch; hot and cold. Here is a recipe for hot borsch:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup shredded cabbage
3/4 pound roasted onions, peeled and chopped, reserving liquid
3 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup pot roast gravy (leftover)
1 pound roasted beets, peeled and julienned, reserving liquid
2 cups diced pot roast
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Garnish: sour cream and dill sprigs

In a large heavy sauce pan over moderate heat, melt butter, add cabbage and cook until wilted. Stir in onions and reserved liquid, the broth, the gravy, the beets and reserved liquid, the pot roast, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped dill. Ladle into warm bowls, spoon a dollop of sour cream onto each serving and garnish the soup with the dill sprigs.( )

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Get Smart

While I was studying for exams, I watched the movie Get Smart with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, and I realized that there was a bunch of spoken Russian in the movie. Another plus, I understood some of it! So, while you're studying for exams, take a break, test your Russian comprehension and watch a hilarious movie!!

Here are some of the great quotes from the movie:
Siegfried: How do I know you're not from CONTROL?
Maxwell Smart: If I were from CONTROL, you'd already be dead.
If you were from CONTROL, YOU'D already be dead.
Maxwell Smart: 
Neither of us is dead, so I'm obviously not from CONTROL.
[long pause]
That actually makes sense. 

The Chief: Around the world our people are under attack. CHAOS has learned the identities of all of our field agents. They hit us and they hit us hard. Fortunately we have a new agent?
Maxwell Smart: 
Who's that sir?
Maxwell Smart: [after he gets recruited as a new agent] 
I request a cone of silence.
Maxwell Smart: [he doesn't press the button hard enough so everyone can hear him] 
Oh, I'm so happy! I'm so happy! This is the best day of my life!
You didn't press the button hard enough...
Maxwell Smart: 

Agent 23: We don't follow the rules then what are we?
The Chief: 
We're not people who jam staples into other peoples heads. That's CIA crap. 

Larabee: "I'll do it sir, I have no problem exposing myself."
Agent 99: "Do you ever think before you open your mouth?"
Larabee: "No, I just tend to whip it out there"

Maxwell Smart: "I think it's only fair to warn you, this facility is surrounded by a highly trained team of 130 black op snipers."
Siegfried: "I don't believe you."
Maxwell Smart: "Would you believe 2 dozen Delta Force commandos?"
Siegfried: "No."
Maxwell Smart: "How about Chuck Norris with a BB gun?"

and my favorite...

Maxwell Smart: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
The Chief: "I don't know. Were you thinking 'Holy shit, holy shit! A swordfish almost went through my head?' Because if you are, then we're on the same page."


Friday, December 5, 2008

Ouch ouch ouch

Putin had painful plans for Georgian leader

Thu Dec 4, 11:13 am ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared wryly to confirm on Thursday French media reports that he had said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserved to be hung by his testicles for his role in the August war with Russia.

French media had quoted Putin as saying in a heated conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow on August 12 that Saakashvili should be "hung by his balls" for starting the war which was roundly condemned by the West.

In a distraction from queries about the economic crisis during a lengthy televised question and answer session with the Russian public, Putin was asked: "Is this true you promised to hang Saakashvili by one part?"

Smiling thinly at the question, posed over a crackling phone line by a man in the Russian city of Penza, Putin, who has in the past used coarse language to hammer home a point, waited for the laughter of his studio audience to subside before replying:

"But why only by one part?"

Up until now, Russian officials had described the talks with the French president as a "tough dialogue" but did not deny that Putin had made such a comment.

Putin then frowned and blamed Saakashvili for triggering the brief war and compared his attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia with the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Seriously speaking, both me and you know about tragic events in another region of the world, in Iraq, invaded by American troops due to a concocted pretext of searching for weapons of mass destruction," said Putin.

"They found no weapons, but hanged the head of state, albeit on other charges ... " said Putin, referring to the 2006 execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I believe it is up to Georgia's people to decide what kind of responsibility must be borne by those politicians who led to these harshest and tragic consequences," he said.

Months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted into war in August when Georgia sent troops and tanks to retake the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in 1991-92.

Russia responded with a counter-strike that drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia. Moscow's troops then pushed further into Georgia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks. The West condemned Russia for a "disproportionate response" to Georgia's actions.

Russia said Georgia's attack on civilians and Russian peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia left it with no other option. Georgia accused Moscow of launching a premeditated and unprovoked invasion of its territory.

(Writing by Conor Sweeney; Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov and Conor Sweeney)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Russian DJ: DJ Vadim

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Russian warships cruise into US back yard to make power point

Source link click here.

Russian warships arrived in Venezuela Tuesday, for the first time in regional waters since the Cold War, ahead of a two-day visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

It was a major symbolic show of military and diplomatic force as Russia moves to underscore its international heft amid intense frustration with Washington over a European-based missile shield and over the war in Georgia. Oil-rich Venezuela is among the staunchest US critics worldwide.

The Venezuelan navy welcomed the warships, including the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great and destroyer Admiral Chabankenko, at the northern port of La Guaira, near Caracas, for a week of joint maneuvers.

Medvedev was due to arrive Wednesday for a two-day visit, before heading to communist Cuba, to promote ties and oversee the start of the exercises, as Moscow seeks to rebuild influence in the Americas that eroded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and even expand it.

The exercises, dubbed VenRus 2008, would take first take place in dock and then at sea on December 1, vice admiral Luis Morales Marquez, a Venezuelan operations commander, told journalists here.

The aim was to "strengthen links of friendship and solidarity with the Russian fleet and the Bolivarian national armed forces," Marquez said.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said the maneuvers were not a provocation, but an exchange between "two free, sovereign countries that are getting closer," at a news conference late Monday.

"We carried out maneuvers with Brazil recently, with France, with the Netherlands and now with Russia," Chavez said.

But analysts see the Russian leader as boldly bringing a defiant message to Washington's doorstep, in the wake of Russian outrage at US plans to install a strategic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and support for the brief Georgia war in August.

"If the Venezuelans and the Russians want to have, you know, a military exercise, that's fine, but we'll obviously be watching it very closely," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday in Washington.

"I don't think there's any question about who ... the region looks to in terms of political, economic, diplomatic and as well as military power," McCormack added.

The US has expressed concern, however, about Russian arms supplies to the oil-rich OPEC country.

The two countries have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikovs.

Medvedev was expected to expand arms deals during his visit, as well as economic and energy ties, including plans for a joint civilian nuclear reactor.

Some 1,600 Russian forces traveling on four Russian ships joined 700 Venezuelans for the exercises.

Venezuela was due to mobilize three frigates, an amphibious warfare ship and eight patrol boats, as well as Sukhoi planes recently purchased from Russia.

Marquez suggested more exercises could take place in Russian waters at a later date.

A Russian naval spokesman said in Moscow that the exercises would include operation planning, helping ships in distress and supplying ships on the move.

"Until a few years ago, we did a lot of maneuvers with the United States. Now we don't do maneuvers with the United States, of course. We got out of that defense system and we're creating our own system of defense," Chavez said.

In September, two Tu-160 Russian strategic bombers carried out training for several days in Venezuela.

"Nations frequently exercise with each other. Russia is free to exercise peacefully with anyone that they want to exercise with," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.

"But also people note through these exercises the company that nations keep."

Medvedev's four-nation Latin America tour began in Peru where he signed a series of economic and political accords before traveling to regional economic powerhouse Brazil.

Unit 4 Russian Blog

Facts about the Russian Mafia, Awesome!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Марина Цветаева

One of the most well-known Russian poets, Tsvetaeva is one of my favorites (at least from the translated stuff I've read... too bad I'm not good enough to appreciate the beauty of their native language yet :( ). Like most poets, she was miserable most of her life and committed suicide at age 48.

Дома до звезд, а небо ниже,
Земля в чаду ему близка.
В большом и радостном Париже
Все та же тайная тоска.

Шумны вечерние бульвары,
Последний луч зари угас.
Везде, везде всё пары, пары,
Дрожанье губ и дерзость глаз.

Я здесь одна. К стволу каштана
Прильнуть так сладко голове!
И в сердце плачет стих Ростана
Как там, в покинутой Москве.

Париж в ночи мне чужд и жалок,
Дороже сердцу прежний бред!
Иду домой, там грусть фиалок
И чей-то ласковый портрет.

Там чей-то взор печально-братский.
Там нежный профиль на стене.
Rostand и мученик Рейхштадтский
И Сара — все придут во сне!

В большом и радостном Париже
Мне снятся травы, облака,
И дальше смех, и тени ближе,
И боль как прежде глубока.

I make it my mission to be able to understand this all in Russian one day, but for now, the english translation, (just to appreciate the rich imagery and beauty)

Skyscrapers, and the sky below,
The earth is closer in the grayness.
The same old enigmatic woe
Remains in vast and happy Paris.

The evening boulevards are loud,
Sunset’s final glimmer dies.
And there are couples all around,
With trembling lips and daring eyes.

I’m here alone. It’s nice to rest
One’s head against a chestnut tree!
Just as in Moscow, here, the chest
Cries out with Rostand’s poetry.

Dear are the long gone days of folly,
These nights in Paris are a torture,
I’m walking home to grieving violets
And someone’s kind and tender portrait.

That profile glance, as of a brother,
Is intimate and sad. It seems,
Tonight I’ll see the Reichstadt martyr,
Rostand and Sarah, - in my dreams!

In vast and happy Paris, here,
I dream of grass and cloudy nights,
And laughter’s far and shadows near,
Again, the same deep pain abides.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

In Soviet Russia, Party finds you!

Have some Yakov Smirnoff.

very very famous Russian comic that became big in the 70's. He's probably most famous for the "Russian reversal joke"
eg: In America you can always find a party.
In Soviet Russia, Party finds you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Scientists harness energy of children to power classrooms

Okay, this doesn't actually have to do with Russia, but it is really cool. I found it on Russia Today, so it still counts, right? These scientists have developed a playground that transforms the energy children expend while playing into power for classrooms, well pumps, and beyond:

According to Karen Cavanagh, CEO of Saber Technical, the New York-based designer and manufacturer of the electrical generating playground systems, the equipment is fitted with alternators and gears which, when activated, are able to generate an electrical charge.

If the children are spinning a merry-go-round that’s intended to pump well water, the spinning motion of the machine will send power into an alternator which then transfers an electric current directly to a sump pump. From there the sump pump pushes the water through underground pipes into a holding tank, which is mounted on top of a tower. The clean water can then be used for drinking, for sanitation purposes or for irrigating arid land…

One project that’s slated for a school in Tanzania will literally change the lives of the 600-plus children who attend it. Presently the students of the Sinai School in Babati are forced to walk two miles everyday to access clean drinking water. They also conduct their studies in powerless classrooms that double as storerooms. After their new playground system is constructed, the children will not only enjoy pumped in clean drinking water, they’ll have enough stored electricity to power up their classrooms.

Energy generation causes lights on the equipment to flash; these lights are not only visually stimulating to children, but simultaneously reinforce their play and empower them to be more energy conscientious. And hey, if Tanzania can do it, Russia can too!:

But what’s good about kid-powered playgrounds is that they not only provide access to human basics like water and electric light, they are able to bridge the world’s cultural gap.

I always thought if we focused on youth the world would become better. Kids: bringing running water, electricity, and world peace to a playground near you. :-)

The Mystery of Anastasia (unit 4)

Anastasia was born on June 18, 1901 to Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra. She was the younger sister of Olga, Tatiana, and Maria and had a younger brother Alexei. With the murder of the Romanov family in 1918 rumors of her survival circulated. It was said to be believed that she escaped and was still alive. There were a few women to come forward and claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anna Anderson was one of the more popular posers. After Anna Anderson's death in 1984 a DNA sample was taken and in 1994 it was tested and shown that there was no relation to her and the Grand Duchess. The grave where Anastasia's parents were buried in Ekaterinburg only had the bodies of her mother, father and her three sisters. In 2008 however the charred remains of a young boy and girl were found near Ekaterinburg. DNA testing showed that the young boy is Alexei and the young girl was one of the four Romanov girls.

Виини Пух!

In honor of Paul's anecdote about Виини Пух and my deep love for Winnie the Pooh in Russia, I present to you the most awesome Виини Пух episode ever.

Я люблю Eeyore!

Russia's crumbling economy provides stiffest test yet for autocratic leader - Telegraph

Russia's crumbling economy provides stiffest test yet for autocratic leader - Telegraph:

The Telegraph is a bit dishy, but they call this one correctly... One wonders how much of Russia's currency reserves are tied up in supposedly secure assets that have been rendered worthless by [insert any financial crisis here].
"According to opinion polls, 57 per cent reckon [the Russian economy] is flourishing, up from 53 per cent in July.

The survey's findings are a triumph for the state, proving that the Kremlin has not lost its touch when it comes to manipulating fact. Obeying orders from the top, Russian television has banned the use of words such as "crisis", "decline" and "devaluation". Coverage of the mayhem in the country's stock market, where shares have fallen by 75 per cent since August, is scant.[...]

Last week, the price of Russian oil fell below $50 a barrel. At that price it would become impossible to balance next year's budget, which is predicated on oil prices of $95. Russian officials claim they can tap into a rainy-day fund and currency reserves that are still the third largest in the world. But Russia cannot do that indefinitely, and frittering reserves could frighten away foreign investors – who have already pulled out more than $150 billion.

There is compelling evidence that the crisis has started affecting ordinary people. The middle class has shrunk from 25 per cent of the population to 18 per cent in the past few months alone. Many companies are laying off jobs, and doing so in a manner likely to cause resentment."

Monday, November 17, 2008


The номенклатуpa was the list of all Communist Party members and all influential positions in the Soviet Union at both the national and local level. With this list, the Politburo was able to appoint Party members in every sphere of influence, simply by liquidating the current position-holder and replacing them with a person whose loyalty was solely to the Communist Party. This allowed the Communist Party to be far more influential, reaching into every area of life. Communists were even appointed as presidents of universities; they were placed in any field that reached large amounts of people.

Russian Jazz Saxophonist and Composerm, Oleg Kireyev

Nowadays, it's not easy to surprise a listener by contemporary world or jazz music. Nevertheless, Oleg Kireyev succeeds in it. Western press calls Oleg Kireyev "revolutionary reedman from the Urals" for the new air he brings into well known styles. He easily combines jazz standards with exotic folklore, showing high-class improvisation technique. Been fascinated by Bashkir folklore Oleg Kireyev was the first one in Russia, who started to practice ethno-approach in jazz. After a long term collaboration with folk musicians he mastered guttural singing technique and introduced into his band such folk instruments as "kurai" (Bashkir wind instrument) and "kubyz" (Jew's-harp). In 1985 jazz band "Orlan", formed by Oleg Kireyev became bright phenomenon on a Russian jazz stage. In 1989, record label "Melodia" (single label in Russia for that period) released "Bashkir legends". World music was gaining popularity around the globe and "Orlan" been always enthusiastically welcomed everywhere. "Orlan" had been touring a lot around big Russia and abroad. In 1994, Oleg Kireyev won the scholarship and went to the USA to study jazz in the famous school of saxophonist Bud Shank. This was after Bud Shank listened to Oleg's solo album "Romantic"(1994). In Bud Shank's school Oleg Kireyev was a soloist of "All stars students" band, which consisted of the school's best students. Together with Bud Shank's band, Oleg Kireyev played as a soloist with well established on jazz stage musicians.
In 1996 Oleg Kireyev quartet was invited to perform at Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), where he was awarded a diploma for "outstanding performance at the 30th anniversary Festival". Then comes the international recognition for Oleg Kireyev.In 1997 Oleg Kireyev performed at "Birmingham Jazz Festival" (UK). Same year, he took part in "Earling jazz festival" (London). Since then Oleg Kireyev has been touring England once or twice a year.In 2000 Oleg Kireyev released album with pop-jazz program "Love Letters". Audience liked those touching emotional, romantic tunes and CD had good sells in England.

After numerous experiments in the area of world music Oleg Kireyev created project that absorbed folklore from all over the world. That is "Feng shui jazz theatre" that later turned to release of new album "Mandala" (2004) "The Feng Shui Jazz Theater" project celebrates the rich diversity of musical styles and instrumentation brought to the stage by Kireyev and his band members. "Often our music on stage comes from folk songs or a sudden mood we get after reading a French sonnet," says Kireyev. "Sometimes we will combine an opera singer and vanguard jazz on the same stage for an interesting Italian opera affect." The live performance thoroughly engages the audience in its energy and creativity.

Today Oleg often plays on different venues in the different countries. He plays his original music in a mainstream style, ethnic jazz and world music. He is working as artistic director in a famous and bright Jazz club in Moscow, located 300meters away from the Red Square, "Union of Composers" (Souz Kompozitorov), where international and Russian musisians play jazz music for the Muscovites as well as for guests of Moscow city.

The Mighty Handful

As I've said before, Russian music took a while to get established in the classical world. However, the progression of classical music from folk tunes to legitimate classical pieces was catalyzed by five figures in Russian musical history, known in many ways, such as "The Russian Five", or Могучая кучка.

The members of this group include: Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin. Interestingly, these men all had jobs within the military or government, and composing wasn't their primary form of occupation. However, they completely transformed Russian music. Their primary goal was to create a totally "Russian" sound, instead of mimicking other European styles and nuances. Their music was part of a nation-wide Romantic-nationalism revolution that was echoed in other facets of the arts as well.

Their music would help to put Russia on the map of the world of classical music, making new and exciting uses of existing techniques to create a very unique sound. They would also serve to influence the neoclassical and radical musical movements of later composers like Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev.

AWWWW tiger cubs

this is a little bit of old news but i thought everyone would enjoy this. So we all know that Putin has what did he get for his 56th birthday....a tiger cub. now that is amazing. if you want to read more here is the link!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Along With Russia

America has problem with getting involved in disputes that are really outside our area of interest. What kind of balance needs to be struck between tending our own garden and playing arbiter to international crises? We have sworn to be isolationists before. We didn't get involved with WWII until Pearl Harbor. So, why don't we continue to adhere to strict isolationism these days? I don't know, maybe because we didn't get involved in WWII until Pearl Harbor. That's quite a dilemma. Now we are supporting the right of countries like Georgia to join NATO and become little demagogues of democracy, all the while annoying the heck out of Russia. Why do we bother? Shouldn't we be more concerned with promoting stability? Shouldn't we just mind our own business? Well, yes and no. In a world that is becoming increasingly global in its scope, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to shady practices by our neighbors. And Russia is Alaska's neighbor, after all. 

So, there's a separatist movement in Georgia. The georgian government brings the smack down, killing some Russian soldiers along the way. Russia brings the tanks and its all over. Russia wins. Georgia pouts. America is flustered. We have been rooting for Georgia all along. Now what? Well, there are a lot of common sense things we could do. For example, we need to have specific criteria for judging the severity of incidents, such as the Russian invasion of Georgia, to guide whether or not we need to get involved. Is our presence really necessary, and for what reasons? What exactly do we hope to accomplish by accosting Russia anyway? And that's basically what we decided to do. “No, Russia, that was a bad thing that you did.” You know what, I don't think Russia cares.

This may seem really grade schoolish or maybe even Oprah-like, but it really seems like our basic problem with Russia is a lack of understanding of its character. Its a crumbling empire whose vestiges of power are size and intimidation. Historically, it has remained distant from the influence of Europe. Russia has a distinct character, and takes pride in this distinction. In giving such visible support to former territories of the soviet union, we are threatening Russia's power, challenging their way of life, and essentially alienating them from global policy making. I have to say, Russia has done a pretty good job of gaining respect and attention – unfortunately by using the same tactics of control by sheer force of size in the business world, specifically in the oil market, that they formerly used on battlefield. 

So what should we do? Step lightly? Assuage their ego? Let democracy die!? Nothing quite so dramatic. Perhaps a reassessment on our nuclear arms policy, which is due to expire during Obama's term anyway. That should be interesting. Russia is worried that other countries are taking advantage of its relatively peaceful state to wage an arms race, and is certain that America is gunning for absolute dominion. Really, a hands off approach may be best. “If both sides can agree that their military forces do not really threaten each other, they will not have to sweat every detail over limiting them.” (“What Has Moscow Done?” Foreign Affairs, November 2008) 

Maybe it seems awfully naïve of me, but can't we at least pretend to trust Russia? Just a little bit? Don't we have enough bombs to blow up the world a few times anyway? Aren't we kind of going overboard? I always end up becoming things I previously made fun of – catholic high school student, philosophy major, ...what's next? It does seem awfully idealistic to advocate respect and trust (or at least the facade of trust) as possible ways to improve our relationship with Russia, but doesn't it also seem like common sense? I mean, what's the harm? Could this new approach possibly do worse than the ham handed attempts by both sides to control the other? We need to face that Russia and America essentially have a values conflict. We each have strong national character and vastly different ways of approaching the same problems. I'm not saying we're going to get along. But it seems like the issues I'm discussing are so, soft, I guess, that no serious analyst (that I've heard of anyway) has bothered to talk about them. But maybe if we put forth the first effort in just annoying Russia a little less, this whole personality conflict may be taken a little more seriously. It's worth a try. 

Okay, so this happened like a month ago, but still....
Strong quake hits Caucasus mountains
A strong earthquake reverberated through the Caucasus mountains on Saturday, killing at least five people and disrupting power supplies in Russia's Chechnya region, reports said.

The quake, measuring 6,3 on the Richter scale according to Strasbourg observatory estimates, was felt in five regions of the Russian north Caucasus and neighbouring Georgia and Armenia.
The dead were found in Chechnya's east, four of them killed in the Kurchaloy district and the other in Gudermes, said Itar-Tass news agency, citing Chechen emergency situations vice-ministerAkhmed Dzheirkhanov.
One was a soldier who died when a wall collapsed, while at least 24 people were injured, said Russian news agencies, which added there were no reports of major damage.
About 52 000 people from three Chechen districts were left without electricity, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, cited by Interfax.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said he had ordered the creation of a special commission to assess the needs of people following the earthquake.
"We have received information on damage from various districts ... each and every [victim] will receive the necessary help and support," said Kadyrov, quoted by Interfax.
The American Geological Institute, which put the strength of the quake at 5,3 on the Richter scale, said its epicentre was 40km east of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and 10km underground.In the Chechen city of Gudermes, residents who live in high apartment buildings left their homes briefly due to fear of aftershocks, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

As noted by the article, the Caucasus Mountains are located in one of the most southern parts of Russia, with neighboring Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the like. 
Here's  a picture of a small village that is built within the mountains:

Fun fact: Apparently the word "caucasian" comes from these mountains. 

"My Big Fat Russian Wedding"

Here is a wedding clip of a typical Russian wedding:

The wedding shares some similarities to an American Wedding but not many. The wedding is held in what looks like a ceremonial room with a few guests, a small orchestra and a minister. There isn't any chairs or maid of honor or best man. There is a small ceremony pressumably exchanging vows and then they move on to another room where they sign the official papers. The bride still wears a rather extravagant gown and the groom wears a nice tuxedo. Family members and friends shap pictures of the new couple and they head off in a limo decorated in bridal flowers.

Russian Anti-Alcohol Ads

An ad about alcohol's affect on births

" It's not too late to stop"


I was looking through a list of the countries apart of the USSR and I thought I would look more into Azerbaijan.

About the size of Maine, Azerbaijan is located underneath Russia, between Armenia and Georgia and the Caspian sea. It borders Iran in the south. Originally the area was known as Caucasian Albania, but it was eventually conquered by the Turks and became known as Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani language is based on Turkish and is intelligible by Turks. During the period when Azerbaijan was controlled by the Turks, Turkish displaced the endemic Persian, Arabic, and Caucasian languages. When Azerbaijan join the USSR, the temporarily switched to the Cyrillic alphabet, but switched back to the Latin once they established their independence. Both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are in use today as well as the old Perso-Arabic script.

The name "Azerbaijan" is derived from the Persian satrap, Atropates. Atropates is a Greek transliteration meaning "protected by the holy fire." Alexander the Great allowed Atropates to reign over the area of Azerbaijan during his rule.

Nine out of eleven climate zones can be found in Azerbaijan from its unique location. The Greater Caucasus mountains block the northern arctic air masses creating a subtropical climate in some areas. They feature rare Jeyran gazelles and Caucasus goats as well as sturgeon and salmon. Azerbaijan is also known for its Golden Eagles, which can be found on a variety of Azerbaijani stamps.

The largest city is Baku with approximately 2 million people. Between 93 and 96% of the population is Muslims, the rest being Russian or Armenian Orthodox and various other minorities. Below is five finger mountain in Absheron, Azerbaijan. Also below is a Golden Eagle.

Above is Khinalaug in Quba Rayon, Azerbaijan, an ancient village of Caucasian Albania.

Below are the mountains near Tingalty in Quba.

The Most Amazing Russian Graffiti You Will Ever See

Russians, like Americans, have those street artists who paint intricate, colorful, awe-inspiring murals on the sides of buildings.

Here's a 10+ story mural of a motley assortment of creatures and characters living in the branches of a tree.

Here's an impressive depiction of underwater robots and machines.

But as nice as these paintings are, they pale in comparison to the next two images, which are displayed across from each other.

One side portrays various American characters, such as Bart Simpson, Robocop, and the Terminator (Who is saying, "Bend Down" - which either is supposed to mean "Bow Down" or the Russians have horribly misconstrued the sexual nature of The Terminator movie). The characters are menacing and the words above the mural say "Duel of the Century."

This is nice and all...but it's their opponent that is the main attraction, and it's someone who we're all familiar with...

That's right. Alexander Pushkin, the poet, is single-handedly taking on the most dangerous of American cinema characters armed with nothing more than a revolver. Why haven't we covered this aspect of Pushkin's legacy yet?

Images from

You know, where ARE the marinated herring and vodka?

Smashing. Gogol Bordello. The Pogues, from Eastern Europe.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Russia seeking to purchase Israeli-made spy planes

Russia is seeking to purchase Israeli-manufactured unmanned planes, a surprising announcement in Moscow revealed on Saturday.

According to the announcement, the Russian army general staff is considering the purchase because of the Israeli drone's high capabilities. If the deal is carried out, it will be a rare occurrence, as Russia seldom buys weapons and military technology from Israel.

There have been deals between the two countries in the past, but on a much smaller scale, and including lesser technology such as bulletproof vests or counter-terror equipment. However, Israel has purchased from Russia four Ilyushin planes, which will be fitted with locally manufactured intelligence equipment, for the Phalcon system to be supplied to India in the future.

A Russian defense ministry spokesman said Saturday following the announcement that "Russia cannot forget that it must support local production," and therefore, if the deal goes forward, Russia will "purchase several drones and the rest will be manufactured under license in Russia."

Russian MP Mikhail Musatov quoted the Russian chief of staff over the weekend as saying that "the General Staff has decided that while we don't have such drones, over the next two to three years, we will buy them from Israel."

The announcement comes after Moscow had an opportunity to evaluate the aircraft's capabilities during the recent conflict between the Russian army and Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Osettia. In the clash, the Israeli-made drones, the Hermes model manufactured by Elbit, were used by the Georgian army.

The Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Heron model is also vying for the tender.

The Israeli drones are made entirely of locally manufactured parts, and therefore do not require U.S. authorization prior to being sold to foreign countries. However, it is not yet clear how Washington will react to the deal, though U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has voiced his interest in strengthening ties with Moscow.