Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I found this great website I thought you'll might like:
It has information from a lot of countries ranging from interesting facts, recipes, history, politics, and basically anything else you want. There are three sections: one that focuses on the 50 US states, a kids sections (my favorite, easy on the brain and very colorful), and a world edition. Here are some interesting things from the Kid's Section on Russia.

Did you know?
  • Russian men were forced to shave off their beards or pay a beard tax when Peter the Great ruled the country during the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Because of a Russian tradition, if someone steps on your toes accidentally, you have to step on theirs as well, or you’ll get in a fight.
  • Valentina Tereshkova, from Russia, was the first woman to travel in space.
  • It’s unlucky in Russia to shake hands through a doorway.
  • St. Petersburg was built on top of a marsh, so more than three hundred bridges had to be made.
  • Nerpas, which live in Lake Baikal, are the only freshwater seals in the world.
  • Russia is important to the world’s energy supply because it has the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves
And the same section from the World Edition:
  • New Year's Day is the most popular holiday in Russia.
  • When entertaining, Russians put more food on the table than they can eat to indicate abundance.
  • Urban apartments are small and it is common for a family of three or more to live in a one- or two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a bathroom.
  • Victory Day (9 May) commemorates the end of World War II and is deeply important to most Russians.

  • Go check it out yourself. It really does have everything you want to know (and, of course, some things you don't) about Russia.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Russian Economy on FIRE Economy:
    "Inflation remains a rather serious issue for Russia,'' Medvedev said on his Web site today. ``This is a price that we are essentially paying for our presence in the club of world economic powers,'' Medvedev said in the transcript of an interview he gave to the Financial Times. Consumer-price growth in Russia, whose economy is expanding for a 10th year, has overshot the government's target in every one of President Vladimir Putin's eight years in power except 2003... Under Putin, who plans to remain in government as prime minister, average incomes have risen sixfold while foreign currency reserves have swelled to more than $500 billion. The surge in oil revenue and disposable income has fueled a consumer boom that has made it difficult to contain inflation, which accelerated 11.9 percent last year. "Naturally there are other factors contributing to our inflation; in particular we don't yet have a full-scale internal market for food products,'' Medvedev said. ``We are forced to buy many food products from overseas, and given the way prices are going up on world food markets, this is also having an impact.

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Spiritual Perestroika

    Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, admits he is a Christian!

    Check out the article here.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Ok, so HOW did I NOT know that there was a RUSSIAN YouTube?!!!!

    How did this escape me?  Why did none of you tell me?

    Here's a fun clip to help you learn Russian....

    Yay for familiar TV shows in other languages!

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Russian Flag


    I just bought a Russian Flag for my roommate and I as decoration. She was born in Novasibirsk and it helps her and I (now that I am learning so much russian) feel more at home. I was curious how the flag design and colors were chosen. It turns The design of the Russian flag is based on the flag of the Netherlands. The colors are often referred to as the pan-Slavic colors because the russian flag has inspired the flags of many others in Europe. They have come to depict Slavic independence and unity. There is no documented meaning of the colors but to many russians the colors have their own messages. The white symbolizes generosity and frankness; blue stands for loyalty, honesty and wisdom; red means courage, magnanimity and love. Many people also believe red represents Russian people, blue represents the Ukrainians, and white represents the Belo Russians. Russia is compiled of mostly russians but also small groups of other descendents that pride themselves on the flag just as strongly.

    Unit 7

    Scientist claim the a machine used to understand the orgin of the universe could very well be a time machine. HOW INTERESTING!

    We all need a little pop to brighten our day....

    As a child of the 90's, it is my duty to incorporate a little pop into my blogs. In my quest to find information about Russian pop music, I found this little nugget of knowledge.

    Did you know that modulation (moving from one key to another in a song) was a Russian invention? Seems that this 13-century technique remains characteristic of Russian pop music today.

    I found this breakdown of the songs that modulate:

    47% - Up a half-step
    45% - Up a whole-step
    7% - Up a minor-third
    1% - Any downward modulation (known as a McTerry 7th modulation)
    Other modulations do occur, however the percentages are so low as to be irrelevant.

    74% of Russian pop songs modulate to a new key between the final bridge and final chorus.

    Enjoy some good ol' Russian boy band modulation!

    There's also a Russian version of the Pussycat Dolls.... It doesn't modulate, but it's pretty entertaining.

    Here's a Russian female singer named Polina Gagarina. She doesn't modulate, but I enjoyed her videos. Thought I'd share. She's cute and catchy. What more can you ask for?

    Russian point of view towards America

    I found an article on the website for the Russian newspaper, "Правда," which caught my eyes because of the blatant bias in the title, "USA exercises double standards again."

    The article covers the US response to the recent independence of Kosovo, and how the country is supposedly displaying a "double standard" in their treatment of other cases of independence, specifically South Ossetia.

    It gives some background on the region:

    "South Ossetia was an autonomous oblast of Georgia in Soviet times. The majority of the territory including the capital of Tskhinvali is administered by the government of the de facto independent South Ossetian Republic, which declared independence from Georgia. South Ossetia's declaration of independence is not recognised by any country. However, parts of eastern and southern South Ossetia are controlled by the Georgian government. Georgia does not recognize South Ossetia as a distinct or independent entity. However in April of 2007, the Georgian government created a temporary administrative unit (Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia) headed by ethnic Ossetians (former members of separatist government) which would enable Tbilisi to administer the region through local leaders, negotiate with Ossetian authorities regarding its final status and conflict resolution."

    The part where the US comes in concerns a quote from Condoleeza Rice:
    "While on her way to Brussels, Belgium, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked by a journalist if she thought that South Ossetia's independence was inevitable.

    'It’s not going to happen,' snapped Condoleezza Rice, cutting short the dreams and hopes of freedom which are shared by the South Ossetians."

    Maybe it's just the unfamiliarity that I have with criticism of the US as a country (sure, media here may criticize the government, but they don't display the government's viewpoints as the country's), but I don't think that you would see this kind of blatant use of a point of view in journalism. It seemed quite unprofessional to report on someone's words as "cutting short the dreams and hopes of freedom" and an entire country "displaying double standards again."


    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Video: From Russia With Hate

    This video is long, about twenty minutes, but is worth watching in its entirety. It is pretty amazing to see how close this journalist can get to this radical Russian group, however, he is indeed a white male. I am saddened to realize that immigrants and ethnic minorities in Russia have to fear for their safety whilst trying to live ordinary lives. This crazy new "nationalism" is an epidemic and is spreading rapidly as such. A infectious "us and them" mentality is being disseminated by predominately white males who are affecting millions of lives negatively. I have learned that twenty to thirty people a year die of such attacks and these numbers are rising at an annual rate of thirty-percent! Russia is becoming "fertile ground" for Neo-Nazis and it seems this problem is only growing. Hate is the vehicle being forced on immigrants at all cost in order to drive them out of the country. The question is, will this violent plan work?

    The past couple of times I've been in Russia, all I keep hearing about is this famous sing Maksim. They are obssessed with her! Here is one of her songs I found on youtube:

    Rejoice Comrades!

    For we have finally beaten capitalist pigs at own game. Our comrades at Форбз magazine have report that claim the glorious city of Moscow is home to more billionaires than crapville, I mean New York. Да comrades, our moment of triumph is one step closer to us. Moscow now claim семдесять четыре billionaire, to crapville's семдесять один, what a bunch of loser. We may trail in total count, 469 to 87, but that not important.

    THE IMPORTANT PART IS THAT WE ARE FINALLY WINNING CHILLY (not quite so cold anymore, no need heavy coat, only windbreaker sometimes) WAR!!!!!

    Enjoy your victory while it lasts, Rocky!!!!!


    Enjoy your Soviet propaganda film. I'm going to bed.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008

    The Most Hilarious Play Ever Written!

    The laughs are never ending in this latest play by Anton Chekhov.  The Cherry Orchard will have you rolling in the aisles.  Everything needed to create a piece of comedic genius is there -dead sons, betrayal, death, debt, loss of a beloved family home, and weeping.
    Oh god, the weeping. 

    I'm sorry, I don't mean to be sarcastic, and I don't mean to sound uneducated.  I know that Anton Chekhov is kind of a big deal, that he's responsible for some major classics, and that he made changes which contributed to the evolution of the modern short story.  He's a genius. Blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong,  I love reading.  I like "the classics".
    But my god, reading The Cherry Orchard made me want to stab someone in the face.
    I'll give you a quick outline:
     It's the turn of the 20th century, and there's a family (because Russian names work differently I'll just refer to them as the Andreievs), who live on this big BIG piece of land, that has a Cherry Orchard on it (hey! That's the title of the play!).  They're rich, or at least they used to be.  But see, about 40 years ago the serfs (not to be confused with smurfs) were all emancipated (aka all the almost-slaves who worked for the rich were set free).  As a result, the rich (as all good Soviet Russians know) are completely helpless, and without the cheap labor they can't manage their giant estates, and therefore begin to become impoverished.
    Anyway, the family is really attached to this orchard. But unless they can come up with a whole bunch of money the entire property will be auctioned off in a few months (mortgage payments etc).   A close family friend suggests a plan to save the estate -that part of the huge (and mostly useless) cherry orchard be developed into summer houses for tourists.   This plan is brilliant -it would save the house, and eventually turn a profit.
    But of course the stupid, useless rich people refuse.
    Very long story short, 4 Acts and a lot of weeping later, the close family friend (who, by the way, is the son of a serf who used to work for the Andreievs) has purchased the estate, and is chopping down the orchard.  Everyone leaves the estate for ever, unhappy or bitter, except for an old servant named Firs whose death ends the play.
    Sounds hilarious, doesn't it?!  No.  It's not.  But the thing that baffles me is that Anton Chekhov intended for it to be a comedy.  Maybe it's just that classic Russian sense of humor, or maybe Chekhov hated rich people (a lot of the events within the play reflect events that happened to Chekhov)...Or maybe he predicted the rise of the Soviet Union, and wanted to write a play that he knew would be approved by the government in years to come, and would be performed often to ensure that audiences would appreciate that any way of life except communism results in nothing but sadness and death.
     Thankfully the director (Constantin Stanislavsky -I'll post on him later, he's kind of a huge deal when it comes to acting) realised it was a tragedy, and directed it as such.  Boy, did Chekhov hate that. He claimed that Stanislavsky had  "ruined" his play.

    I don't know about "ruin"...although maybe if The Cherry Orchard was performed as a pantomime, with a lot of slapstick and the occasional custard pie in the face for good measure, it would be a lot more bearable.

    The play has a lot of different themes...the most obvious being Social Change (Russia has had a lot of that in the last 100-150 years). There's the fall of the aristocracy and their futile attempts to maintain their position, and then there's the rise of the bourgeoisie and their futile attempts to find meaning in newfound materialism.
    The cherry orchard itself has meaning too -although it's different for each character so I'm not going to go into that.  But I will say that although they're all so attached to the dratted thing, it doesn't bring any of them any happiness -only bitter memories, or weird visions of dead people, or drunken rages.

    And Dr. Denner, what's the deal with the sound of the snapping string?  I don't get it.

    So yeah...that's my review of The Cherry Orchard, the fourth of Anton Chekhov's classic plays.  It was first performed in 1904, and he died later that year.

    It's not enjoyable to read. I highly recommend it.

    Sunday, March 2, 2008

    And the Winner Is...

    The votes have been tallied, the results are in, and your next American idol, I mean, the next President of Russia is...Dimitri Medvedev! That's right folks, the little known Dimitri Medvedev, Putin's anointed successor, has won the Presidency of Russia with 69% of the votes. His biggest competition, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, came in at a close second with 18% of the vote. Good show men, good show.

    Putin's Chosen Successor Chosen By Russians

    "Russians across 11 time zones voted today in what looked like an ordinary election. And in many respects it was.

    In central Moscow, a steady flow of people from the local area came into the polling station to vote. It was all very orderly; there were no visible irregularities -- no intimidation or interference from party apparatchiks -- all very above board and normal.

    At least at this level, there was no question that these elections were free; the question is how fair were they ever going to be.

    There was only ever one candidate who was going to win this race. Indeed there was only really one proper candidate -- Dimitri Medvedev.

    Even before the election, there was no doubt in or outside Russia that he would emerge from the election as the new president, all because he was all but annointed by current President Vladimir Putin.

    Late this evening the Central Election Commission said that with ballots from two-thirds of the country's electoral precincts counted, Medvedev had received 69 percent of the vote. His closest rival was Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, who had just 18 percent.

    Analysts and opposition politicians have been scathing in their criticism of the process.

    Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov dismissed the elections as a fraud.

    "It is just an imitation of the important democratic institution with the name 'free and fair democratic elections,'" he said. "That is not the case in Russia right now. It means on top of not having a legitimate parliament, very soon we'll have an illegitimate president."

    And according to Garry Kasparov -- leader of the Other Russia opposition group and former world chess champion -- they "are not paying attention even to the formalities and they eliminated the whole process which is now one big fake".

    The reason for such critique lies in the nature of Medvedev's candidacy. He is a 42-year-old former lawyer who, up until a few years ago, was relatively unknown.

    The key to his success? Being the hand-picked successor of the incredibly popular President Putin.

    "[Medvedev's] main claim to fame in the public opinion today is the fact that he's close to Putin and trusted by him," Masha Lipman, a an analyst with the Carnegie Institute told ABC News. "There is nothing else to him."

    Voters we talked to pretty much agreed, but didn't seem to see his closeness to Putin as a negative.

    "[Medvedev] was promoted by our President Putin so we want... I believe all normal people here want to have the same direction as the direction of this country," a woman named Leanna said. "We want to stick to Putin's course and I believe Medvedev is the best who will continue this development of Russia."

    There is no denying Putin's enormous popularity. Russians credit him with restoring their country's place in the world after the chaos and havoc of the 1990s.

    During his eight years as president, energy prices have soared and the Russian economy has thrived. Seen in this light, the results of today's election do not come as a surprise. The question now is what Medvedev's presidency holds for Russia and the world

    Putin has agreed to serve as Medvedev's prime minister, signaling that he will continue to wield enormous influence after he steps down. Many speculate that Medvedev will be Putin's puppet.

    "Medvedev and Putin are the same. A very close group. Like family... Putin will rule and Medvedev will be his assistant," political analyst and former Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov told ABC News.

    The Bush administration has been cautious about pre-judging Medvedev, however. During Putin's presidency relations with America deteriorated over issues such as a nuclear Iran and America's proposed missile defense plan.

    There is little expectation that this will change in the near future.

    As the exit polls rolled in this evening, Putin and Medvedev strode through Red Square together before taking the stage for the cameras.

    Medvedev wore a leather jacket, projecting a new, tougher image that was a far cry from his normally demure persona. People will now be watching closely to see what the new president is really made of."

    ABC World News