Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I came across this site full of old Russian posters. They've got everything from movie posters to propaganda. Take a look:


Friday, April 25, 2008

Чуковский, Телефон

For your final oral exam...
Here's the link to a very good, clear reading of the poem. (You're reciting the first half of the poem.)

Or you can watch the delightful cartoons, though the sound quality is poor:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

О́сип Эми́льевич Мандельшта́м and his Midnight Birds

"Midnight Birds" isn't the title of the poem, but I like the image they conjure up so that's the title of my post.  Deal with it.

This poem is by Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), a brilliant Russian poet who, like all the other truly brilliant Russian poets, had a fairly miserable sounding life.  Rule of thumb seems to be that if they've at least attempted suicide at some point, their poetry is good stuff (must be part of the whole dark, brooding/romantic, human-existence-is-some-kind-of-beautiful-suffering, soulful thing).

Anyway, to give you an abbreviated life story, he was born a wealthy Jew, had some fabulous literary-based education, and then in 1933 wrote "a sixteen line death sentence" (aka, The Stalin Epigram) which was very anti-establishment and led to his arrest (what a surprise...the Soviet Union was so widely renowned for it's freedom of speech).  Amazingly enough he was not killed outright, but was spared in order to wind up writing a bunch of life-saving works that glorified Stalin, including the aptly named Ode to Stalin.  However, this reprieve didn't last too long, as he was eventually charged with "anti-Soviet views" and "counter -revolutionary activities", sentenced to hard labor and died of an unspecified illness.

Osip was from the Acmeist school of poetry (look it up, very interesting...puts me in mind of a poetry-based Illuminati or something).  Basically, this just means he was pretty bloody brilliant.  Dr Denner went over this particular poem of his with us in class yesterday, and I liked it a lot, so I thought I'd post it here with a photo I found online (thank you Flickr!)

This image doesn't really accurately illustrate the poem, (if that's even possible given that poetry, especially this style, is so open to interpretation)...for one thing, there's only one bird, which is not exactly a choir of them)...but for me it captures at least some of the feeling of it.

***Ok, so what was going to be a fabulous post is ruined by the fact that I for some reason cannot copy and paste the poem into it....Why does blogspot hate me?  Urgh.

To read the poem, go to this link.  Then admire this picture.  :-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

One billion dollars is chump change...

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One billion dollars is no longer enough to gain entry to Russia's rich list.

Ten billionaires failed to make Forbes magazine's annual list of the 100 richest Russians that is led by those who built their fortunes on the country's metals resources.

Oleg Deripaska, who controls aluminum producer United Company RUSAL among a host of infrastructure, energy and financial assets, tops the latest Forbes list with a fortune of $28.6 billion -- $11.8 billion more than he was worth last year.

Deripaska replaces Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich, who drops to third. The two are split by Alexei Mordashov, majority owner of Severstal , Russia's largest steel maker.

"After the bankruptcy of YUKOS and the strengthening of the state's position in the energy sector, you can count on one hand the number of oil and gas billionaires," Maxim Kashulinsky, editor of Forbes' Russian edition, said in a statement to accompany the launch of the May edition.

"The main fortunes are concentrated now in metallurgy, finance and property."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who Is Dmirty Medvedev?

And now the video to answer the question...

Interesting fact pulled from video: He loves the rock band Deep Purple and got to take this dorky photo with them:
Rock On Medvedev

Putin: Prime Minister and Leader of United Russia

MOSCOW (AFP) — President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday agreed to head Russia's ruling party in a significant shift of the political landscape three weeks before he hands power to successor Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin, who leaves the Kremlin after two terms on May 7, also confirmed he would become prime minister under Medvedev.

"With gratitude I accept the proposal of the party members and their leadership.... I am ready to take on the additional responsibility and head United Russia," he told a party congress in Moscow after being urged to take the post.

The 55-year-old ex-KGB officer's announcement, carried live on state-run television, signalled a reordering of Russia's political mix on the eve of Medvedev's presidential debut.

During his eight years in the Kremlin, Putin has steadily centralised power, with United Russia his tool for ensuring loyalty of an increasingly emasculated parliament.

Becoming head of the party, which won a constitutional majority with 63 percent of the vote in controversial December elections, will now hugely strengthen Putin's status as prime minister.

But the development added to questions raised in Moscow and foreign capitals over who will really be in charge from next month -- the untested Medvedev or powerful ex-president, turned prime minister and parliament leader Putin.

"Analysts and those in the media are still trying to figure out whose portrait will end up hanging in government offices across the country," commentator Konstantin Sonin wrote in Tuesday's Moscow Times daily.

Andrei Ryabov, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told AFP that Putin's position had been bolstered for now, but that Medvedev might not always tolerate the competition.

"As a result of fights between interest groups, pressures and conflicts, the system could again become based on one person. Who will that be? The chances are equal. You'd have to be an astrologer to say," Ryabov commented.

Recruiting Putin was the logical next step for United Russia, a party that has always been seen as a Kremlin creation tasked with turning the once combative parliament of the 1990s into a rubber stamp.

Late Monday the party voted changes to its charter that would allow Putin to become chairman without actually holding membership. Delegates also decided to split the leadership, with Putin taking the chairmanship and Gryzlov the more technical ruling council.

Gryzlov, whose pleading that Putin take his job is only the latest expression of loyalty, explained Monday just how close the outgoing president and dominant party were to each other.

"The eight presidential annual addresses delivered by Vladimir Putin are what define the 'Putin course' -- the course toward becoming a great power, a great Russia. And this is the programme of our party," he said.

The head of the central elections commission, Vladimir Churov, told Interfax news agency that Putin's embracing of United Russia was "another step on the development of democracy, a wholly natural step for many states where party leaders become heads of government."

But Mark Urnov, an analyst at the Expertise think tank, told AFP that the manoeuvre was "the victory of part of the political elite that did not want, or feared to see the departure of Putin."

"All of Putin's entourage will remain in the key posts.... There will be no separation of the state from the economy, no real fight against corruption," he said. "Stagnation lies ahead."

Natalia Leschenko at the London-based Global Insight group said United Russia now bore comparison with the Soviet Communist Party in that it pretended to defend "democratic interests" but in fact was "a vehicle of party leadership and elite instead."

Saturday, April 12, 2008


This is really creepy albeit probably fake. They don't pull the camera back far enough that you can see whether the rest of the dog is there or not. Either way it's messed up.


Friday, April 11, 2008


The race isn't over yet. Check out the stuff fueling Russians in space. Also look at this awesome article on space food... apparently its this or beef jerky.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Russian Billboards :)

Ok so I found this guys blog and he has some interesting Russian billboards check this one out. 


It reads.. " equality of the sexs" go figure... looks pretty equal to me what do you think?


And how is this for an alcoholic society... "booze" and " Gin" in a soda can! so convenient :) 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Orthodox Church!

One of my favorite things to do in Russia is visit the Orthdox Churches. They are beyond beautiful. I have not been to this Church (and I would have to say this is not one of the prettiest that I've seen but it was the best i could find on google). This is a typical setting with the Icons in the front and alter areas. This picture does not give Orthodox Churches any justice. It is something you have to see in order to really capture the beauty. The services consist of a choir useally singing and the pastor carrying around an object that lets off incense. The sound, sights, and smell make it an amazing spiritual experience.
I dont really know what goes on during the service but the people useaully walk around and kiss icons, say prayers, and light candles. They are very strict about the way you carry yourself, for example women must wear coverings over their heads, men cannot wear hats, and nobody is allowed to have their hands in their pockets. If you break one of these rules watch out for the babushki! But overall the Russian Orthodox Church is a definite must see if you ever have the chance to go to Russia.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ресторан в Москве

If your looking for tasty and inexpensive Russian food, Moscow has a list of quality places to try out.

Mu-Mu Cafe

This is a very popular self serve cafe that offers a wide selection of entrees. A total of six locations allows you to find one near by whenever the mood strikes. A standard meal costs about $5, whereas a more extravagant one runs you closer to $10.

Pushkin Cafe

This is a more high end restaurant but the reviews include "best meal ever" and "my favorite restaurant in town". Meals run $50 per person, but the food, service, atmosphere and environment cause it to be well worth it.

Drova Restaurant

This is very similar to Mu-Mu but a little bit more expensive. With over 55 meals to choose from, there is always somthing new to try. In Moscow there are four locations to pick from.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Amazing Beaches of St. Petersburg

... I guess you just have to make do with what you've got.

Russian Composers...

Well, kind of. While not necessarily *Russian*, they were composers prominent and popular during the Soviet era, and as a result were primarily associated with Russia; their works have thus become recognized as 'Russian', or at least eastern/different. They are pretty sweet IMO.

While natively Armenian, Aram Khachaturian was born in Imperial Russia, and lived most of his life a supporter of the idea of communism, a proud Soviet citizen and a distinguished composer. He combined traditional Armenian folk music with the classical senses of past European and Russian composers, creating several pieces notable to Russians and abroad during the soviet era. Khachaturian had an on-off relationship with communism, which he supported all his life, despite some conflicts with the party and with national officials.

A well known piece of Khachaturian's is his 'Sabre Dance'. From the ballet 'Gayane', the sabre dance has become a popular piece in much of the western world. You may recognize it as the music used in every movie trailer and TV show, ever, to indicate zaniness/tension or to introduce a crazy character (tied alongside Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" for most overused classical composition ever) -

Sergei Prokofiev, while born in Ukraine, was raised and lived as a Russian (Soviet) citizen, and became a well-known composer, especially of virtuoso piano pieces. Unrestrained by most musical conventions, Prokofiev's compositions made use of strange tonalities, harmonic unrest and dissonance to create an unusual, sometimes unsettling musical atmosphere. Some of his more interesting works were his operas; Love for Three Oranges is quite famous, and also of interest is his operatic adaptation of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The March from Love for Three Oranges was a popular period piece, gaining recognition in the west; it was used in a number of radio broadcasts around the time, and I recall seeing it accompanying some of those old-timey documentary type films. It's an interesting piece.

From what I've read tonight, I've decided I'd rather deal with I-4.

So, apparently driving in Russia is, well, interesting..... To get a license, one must memorize the answers to a whopping 800 questions, but once you get on the road, all of that goes out the window.

The internet tells me that rarely does one encounter that yellow line down the middle of the road. Some drivers take that as license to ignore the concept of lanes in some cases.

It's all about budget. Paint costs money, so why use it to draw lines on a road? The people in this video ignore them anyway.

Russian road rules violation

Plus, it costs money to have traffic cops. (Quite frankly, I think we should ship some of the ones in Polk County over there. They're very concerned about meeting their monthly ticket quota.)

Here's a passage from the article I read:

One GAI officer explained it this way: "Russian law requires us to find witnesses in order to issue a citation. With illegal passing, the only witnesses are the motorists themselves, all of whom are long gone moments after the violation has occurred." Others offer the rationale that it's too dangerous to chase every offending motorist through narrow city streets. "Better to let them get away with minor infractions than to needlessly endanger others," one source contended. "The GAI chase the serious offenders, and that's enough."

On February 5th, 1792, Empress Elisaveta Petrovna declared that Russians would drive on the right side of the road. Of course, that doesn't make LHD cars less expensive than imported RHD vehicles. Although Russians drive on the right side of the road, many drive cars suited for the left side of the road. Wikipedia claims that in the far eastern regions, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 90% of the total. This includes not only private cars, but also police cars, ambulances, and many other municipal and governmental vehicles. When talks of banning RHD vehicles from the road bubbled up in 2005, car owners blocked the streets of major cities in protest.

Here's a video of crashes in Russia. Some of them are pretty crazy.

Russian Traffic Chaos

In my quest to find the perfect traffic video, I also found this little doodle. I found it amusing....

Russian Street Curling

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Birth of Рок-Н-Рол

The following details the integral role that the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky played in the birth of rock and also roll

In the beginning...

Back in 1955...

Man didn't know 'bout a rock n' roll show...and all that jive

The white man had the schmaltz...

The black man had the blues...

And no one knew what they was gonna do...

But Tchaikovsky had the news...

(Tchaikovsky pre-news acquisition)

He said:

Let there be sound

...there was sound

Let there be light

...there was light

Let there be drums

...there was DRUMS

Let there be guitar
...there was guitar

Video Testimony To Tchaikovsky's Actions

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Smirnoff History

I thought it was appropriate to tell about Smirnoff's history because we found out recently it was made in Russia. Well it all started with Piotr Arsenieyevich Smirnov in 1860s Moscow. When he died in 1910 it was succeeded by Vladimir Smirnov in which the company flourished. However, Vladimir had to flee Moscow during the October Revolution when it distillery was confiscated. Vladimir and his family moved to Istanbul and 4 years later moved again to what is now Lviv, Ukraine. The Company turned again into a success and by 1930 was selling the drink to most European countries. In the 1930s Vladimir met Rudolph Kunet, a Russian who moved to North America. Vladimir gave Rudolph the rights to start producing Smirnoff in North America. Smirnoff did not become famous like Rudolph hoped, and most of you would believe. He sold his rights to a man by the name of John Martin who was president of Heublein. Through John's advertising efforts Smirnoff became famous. YEY!