Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones
Makes Russian Communists See Red

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Communist Party members condemned the new "Indiana Jones" film on Friday as crude, anti-Soviet propaganda that distorts history and called for it to be banned from Russian screens.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" stars Harrison Ford as an archeologist in 1957 competing with an evil KGB agent, played by Cate Blanchett, to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.

"What galls is how together with America we defeated Hitler, and how we sympathized when Bin Laden hit them. But they go ahead and scare kids with Communists. These people have no shame," said Viktor Perov, a Communist Party member in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg.

The comments were made at a local Communist party meeting and posted on its Internet site

The film, the fourth in the hugely successful Indiana Jones series, went on release in Russian cinemas on Thursday. Russian media said it was being shown on 808 screens, the widest ever release for a Hollywood movie.

In past episodes Indiana Jones has escaped from Nazi soldiers, an Egyptian snake pit, a Bedouin swordsman and a child-enslaving Indian demigod.

"Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett (are) second-rate actors, serving as the running dogs of the CIA. We need to deprive these people of the right of entering the country," said another party member, Andrei Gindos.

Though the ranks of the once all-powerful Communist Party have dwindled since Soviet times, its members see themselves as the defenders of the achievements of the old Soviet Union.

Other communists said the generation born after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union were being fed revisionist, Hollywood history. They advocated banning the Indiana Jones outright to prevent "ideological sabotage."

"Our movie-goers are teenagers who are completely unaware of what happened in 1957," St Peterburg Communist Party chief Sergei Malinkovich told Reuters.

"They will go to the cinema and will be sure that in 1957 we made trouble for the United States and almost started a nuclear war."

"It's rubbish ... In 1957 the communists did not run with crystal skulls throughout the U.S. Why should we agree to that sort of lie and let the West trick our youth?"

Vladimir Mukhin, another member of the local Communist Party, said in comments posted on the Internet site that he would ask Russia's Culture Ministry to ban the film for its "anti-Soviet propaganda."

The "Indiana Jones" film is not the first Hollywood production to offend Russian sensibilities.

In 1998 the Russian parliament demanded the government explain why the Hollywood film "Armageddon" - which depicted a dilapidated Russian space station that blows apart because of a leaky pipe -- was allowed onto Russian cinema screens.

A government official at the time said the film, starring Bruce Willis as the leader of a team of astronauts sent to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, "mocked the achievements of Soviet and Russian technology."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In Siberia, Shopping Malls Are Sprouting All Over - New York Times

Is there any wonder that Russia's inflation rate is now running at around 15% per year? Consumer binging like this, paralleled by governmental binging (a 45% annualized increase in budgetary spending during the first quarter of 2008), are fun until the piper comes knocking, as he surely will. (Among other ills, inflation encourages speculation at the expense of production, lowers saving rates, and distorts wage negotiations... Over time, all these factors undermine real economic growth.)
In Siberia, Shopping Malls Are Sprouting All Over - New York Times: "May 17, 2008
In Siberia, Shopping Malls Are Sprouting All Over

NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia — In this region of Siberia, long synonymous with gulags and hardship, shoppers mobbed an Ikea store last winter with the vigor of a miners’ riot. They loaded their outsize yellow shopping carts with clothes, housewares, appliances and small furniture.

The store and the surrounding Mega mall, opened last year on a bluff beside the Ob River, are expecting 12 million visitors in 2008 — bursting with pent-up consumerism and oil rubles, unbothered by the economic uncertainty roiling much of the rest of the world.

Siberia, where Russians waited in long lines to buy food with ration cards not long ago, is the improbable epicenter of a huge mall boom. As retail businesses shrink in the United States, provincial Russian towns like this one have become targets of retailers and shopping center developers from around the world. Malls in this area are even poaching managers from as far away as California.

Across the great expanse of Russia — on plots cleared of birch groves and decrepit factories, on the territory of old airports and collective farms — big-box stores are rising at a rate of several a month. Russia is projected to open"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Continuing with the lolcat theme...

I know the "party" pun has been overused in many different jokes and shows... but so what?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Russian Speakers in Florida

Russian speakers in Florida counties, percent per population. From the MLA Language Map. Flagler County leaps out at you as a hotbed of Russian, but if you poke around in the data, you'll find that only 275 people reported Russian as their main language.

I'm sure the number is far higher, in the thousands, but that most Russians are eager to assimilate and reluctant to self-report their home language, choosing instead to self-identify as English speakers. Still, the relative numbers of self-reporting Russian speakers in Flagler is strikingly higher than in other Florida counties.


An interesting statistic from the National Virtual Translation
"Education in Russian is still a popular choice for many of the first and second language speakers of Russian in the former Soviet republics. For instance, 75% of the public school students in Belarus, 40% in Kazakhstan, and over 20% in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova receive their education entirely or primarily in Russian."

Tanks Roll Through Red Square - New York Times

Ah, memories...

Tanks Roll Through Red Square - New York Times

MOSCOW (AP) -- Missiles, tanks and other heavy weaponry rolled through Moscow's Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade Friday, reviving a tradition of the Soviet era and demonstrating Russia's growing military confidence.

Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany, is Russia's most important secular holiday, both honoring the enormous sacrifices of World War II, in which nearly 9 million Red Army soldiers are estimated to have died, and asserting the country's military strength.

Russia has nearly quadrupled its defense spending in recent years, aiming to resuscitate the military forces that deteriorated in the post-Soviet period."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

President Medvedev...Sort of...

"Russian Moves Leave Georgie Braced for War": Oh Joy

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Russia's Defense Ministry said Thursday that it could further increase its peacekeeping forces in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, where the threat of renewed fighting increased international alarm.

Protesters demonstrated outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 7.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, meanwhile, said the threat of war with Russia remained high, and the possibility of open conflict was very real just a few days ago.

Western-leaning Georgia and breakaway Abkhazia are at the center of struggle between Moscow and the West for influence in the strategically located South Caucasus.

And as Georgia pushes aggressively for NATO membership and tries to draw closer to the United States, tensions have grown dramatically in recent months.

Russian peacekeepers, which have served in Abkhazia since the region broke away from Georgian control in the 1990s, are an irritant in relations between Moscow and Georgia. A recent increase in Russian forces has drawn criticism from the United States and European Union.

The Defense Ministry said the recent increase brought the number of peacekeepers in Abkhazia to 2,542 -- up from 1,997.

The ministry also accused Georgia of dispatching forces to the area, and said that further steps in that direction could prompt Russia to increase its forces to the maximum 3,000 peacekeepers allowed under a 1994 agreement.

"All of this is for one purpose -- to keep peace and avoid bloodshed," the ministry said in a statement.

Abkhazian and Russian authorities have claimed Georgia is preparing for an offensive to take control of the region by force.

Georgian Defense Minister David Kezerashvili rejected those claims, but he said that Georgia would respond if attacked.

"We are not going to wage a war in Abkhazia and solve this conflict by military means," he said in remarks broadcast by Georgian TV.

Kezerashvili also said Russia had already exceeded the numerical limit on peacekeepers and said additional troops would be viewed as aggressors.

Saakashvili was quoted by the Interfax and RIA-Novosti news agencies as saying Russia and Georgia had been on the verge of war.

"I believe that we were very close (to war) a few days ago, I think, and this threat persists," Saakashvili was quoted as saying.

However, "Georgia is not planning and cannot fight against Russia. We do not even have enough combat capable units," he was quoted as saying.

The United Nations, which has a small observer mission in Abkhazia, disputed Russia's assertion that the U.N. had approved of the peacekeepers' increase.

The mission said in a statement that it was seeking more information from the peacekeeping force "on their perception of the current threats to the cease-fire regime and how the strengthening of the (peacekeepers) both in personnel and weapons meets those threats."

Abkhazia, which has had de-facto independence breaking away in the 1990s, has long been supported by Russia, and Moscow has stepped up support in recent weeks, lifting trade sanctions, establishing legal ties and increasing the peacekeeping force.

Georgian officials claim that Russia is bringing the region to the verge of war and accused Russia of shooting down a pilot-less Georgian spy plane over Abkhazia last month -- a claim Moscow denied.

Abkhazia claimed last weekend that it downed two more spy planes and said another Georgian spy plane had been shot down on Thursday.

Russia also supports another separatist region, South Ossetia, which, like Abkhazia, has sought either independence or absorption into Russia.

Georgia's push for NATO membership has worried Moscow. The alliance last month declined to begin membership preparations for Georgia, but assured its U.S.-allied leadership that the country would eventually join.

The United States sharply criticized Russia on Tuesday for what it called a series of "provocative actions" surrounding Abkhazia and said Moscow must "de-escalate and reverse its measures," and reiterate its commitment to Georgia's "territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Biggest Baby in Town

On September 27, Tatiana Khalina, 42, delivered a healthy baby going by C-section at a maternity clinic in Aleisk, a town of 30,000 in the Altai region in southern Siberia. The delivery went perfectly normal and both mother and daughter were excited to be meeting for the first time. The only difference was her baby was a whopping 17 pounds. The heaviest baby recorded was 23.12 in the U.S. but it died soon after it's birth. The baby and her mother are fortunately being supported and well taken care of. We'll just have to see how well the baby is doing in the future.

(Above image shows baby Nadezhda compared with another new born).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Here is a link to a video of one of the most famous Russian folk dances called Barynya.
Facts about Barynya:
The word BARYNYA (Russian: Барыня, landlady) was used by simple folk as a form of addressing to a woman of higher class
The Barynya chastuskas used to have the refrain, kind of "Барыня, барыня, сударыня-барыня", "Barynya, barynya, sudarynya-barynya", or "Барыня ты моя, сударыня ты моя". The content was often humoristic, even lewd.
The dancing was without special choreography and consisted mainly of fancy stomping and traditional Russian squatwork – knee bending ("вприсядку", vprisyadku).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Putin - Coolest, suavest dictator in history? You decide.

As a denizen of numerous politics-influenced message boards I've come across more than a few odd or interesting pictures of Vladimir Putin hanging out, looking ominously at people or basically just being fierce and suave. There's no doubt this goes back to his years as a secret agent; Putin is basically the real-life Russian James Bond, if James Bond was handed the leadership of a powerhouse of a nation.

Here Putin seems fascinated by the Batsignal displayed prominently on the floor. It's actually a symbol of the Russian Special Forces, which is pretty funny. (Was Batman a Soviet Sympathizer? HMM?!)

I don't know the context for this one, but apparently Putin is a vampire, or is indicating that someone else is a vampire? Are there lots of vampires in Russia?

A cheesy little political cartoon I found. There were several following the 'Putin-matryoshka doll-(psst he's still the president)' theme. I also found a few pictures of matyroshkas modeled after the soviet and post-soviet rulers of Russia - perhaps suggesting some things never change?

Awww, somebody loves Putin! He seems a bit confused. ('ЧТО ЭТО... LOVE?')

I really would like to know what the context for these pictures was. Does Putin have a secret sweetheart?

Putin = Nosferatu? For serious, I'm really starting to get the whole vampire vibe from these pictures.

Putin giving Bush the business, telling him how it's gonna be. (also, ridiculous outfits, lolz.)

Apparently, Russians love Putin. (Also, it appears that TV Putin and Flag Putin are checkin' each other out.)

Putin is too classy for candy in the middle of such a prestigious ceremony. (His successor, Medvedev, though, apparently, is not.)

Crazy Americans

This Bloomberg piece is intriguing for its careful avoidance of any real journalism.

McCain Would Evict Medvedev From G-8, Push Russia on Democracy

McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, favors expelling Russia from the Group of Eight club of industrial powers. He calls for forging a ``League of Democracies'' to confront Putin and hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev, who takes over tomorrow, on Russian threats against former Soviet republics and rollbacks of domestic freedoms.


Challenging Russia

McFarlane said a McCain administration will be dominated at first by ``neocon redux'' advisers who favor challenging Russia at every turn. He predicts such a policy will founder on the reefs of Russia's rising economic power.

``For the first year you're going to see, very likely, disagreement, public sniping'' between McCain and Russian leaders, McFarlane said at an April 28 forum at Simes's center. ``If there's good news, it is that in the second year all those youngsters will get fired and maybe we'll settle down to a more really realistic presidency.''

The candidate's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said McCain means what he said -- and that he is the true realist. Challenging Russian leaders' misconduct is the only practical way to change their behavior, Scheunemann said in an interview.

``The Russians have made a very cold calculation of what their interests are,'' said Scheunemann. ``They will pursue those interests until they understand that there will be some cost to them.''

A relevant question here might be... what, exactly, are their interests? What, exactly, are McCain's grounds for claiming that Russia is not a democracy?

No one in his right mind would claim that the Russian Federation is a democracy in the very narrow, late-twentieth-century idea of a democracy -- there aren't really viable opposition parties in Russia (though the Communists pulled 18% of the presidential vote), the dominant power party controls completely the television networks, and Putin in all but a strictly legal sense appointed his successor.

However, there is a real and vibrant press in Russia, and easy access to foreign news sources. People turned out to vote; it's just that they voted overwhelmingly (70%) for Medvedev. This scenario isn't so different, though, from, say, Mexico during much of the post-WWII period. We clearly have a functioning democracy and fairly elected legislative and executive powers.

And, anyway, Russia has never had its president appointed by a special ruling of the Supreme Court, so I don't know that McCain has much ground to stand upon.

I know all this nonsense by Clinton (`He was a KGB agent,'' she said on Jan. 7. ``By definition, he doesn't have a soul') and McCain is just pure pre-election jingoism, but the uncritical report by Bloomberg is disappointing.

Obama apparently hasn't said boo about Russia. Smart, since we need them on our team.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Russian Alaska Still Resonates in Sitka

South Florida’s own, Sunny Isles Beach is known for it’s Russian population and cultural influence. In this city, branded “Little Moscow,” nearly 8% of people claim Russian as their first language. Not long ago, a number of Russians called a much colder, less temperate place home.

Russians were the first non-natives to explore and colonize Alaska.Russian Alaska existed from about 1784 to 1867. Sitka, Alaska has the oldest history of Russian influence out of any city in the United States. Old world businessman and Russian seafarer, Grigory Shelikhov established Alaska’s first colony in 1784. In 1799, he set up the Russian-American Company, a fur trading monopoly, in the area now known as Sitka.

In 1848, Sitka became the home of the first Russian Orthodox Church in the new world, The Cathedral of St. Michael. It still stands today despite the fact that Russian attempts to Christianize Alaska Natives fell into the hands of Protestants when Alaska was purchased by America in 1867.

Cathedral of St. Michael in Sitka

Over hunting and corrupt industry killed one of Russia’s most lucrative ventures in Alaska, the trade of sea otter pelts through the Russian-American Company. As a result, Russia became desperate to pass off Alaska to America. The land was sold for 2 cents an acre, totaling $7,200,000. This amounts to about $95,672,993 in today’s terms (adjusted for inflation in 2006 dollars...thanks to Wikipedia).

Americans forced most Russians out of Sitka right after this transaction, however; Russian culture is still leaving its mark. Eastern Orthodoxy is still practiced by about 10,000 Alaskans and Russian influence can be found in many restaurants and shops throughout Sitka. I traveled there in 2006 and whilst perusing typical tourist Meccas and tacky T-shirt shops I noticed the abundance of Matryoshka dolls and knock-off Faberge eggs. Incidentally, this was the inspiration for my lengthy, boring, blog submission. Lastly, if you ever have the need for a shirt that says Coca-Cola in Cyrillic, go to Sitka.

Pet Hoarding is Universal

This woman has managed to pack over 130 cats in a two room Moscow flat. Insane! She's nursed many of these cats back to health. Apparently they each get personal attention and even their own name. I think it's a pretty sweet deal if you're a stray in Siberia. I love it when she opens the door to feed them and they start their own kitty mosh-pit....

Here's what the translation on YouTube says:

30 cats in a single apartment. Such noisy company is what one resident of Novosibirsk has chosen. In her two room apartment is where she keeps each of these homeless animals. She found them all outside. Some were sick, others were emaciated from not eating, but she made them well again and fed them well.

So that the neighbors don't complain about particular smells emanating from the apartment, she covered the walls and floors with ceramic tiles that she constantly washes. Nina insists that her cats do not quarrel amongst themselves and adore their hostess. Every cat has its own name and their names she remember by rote and she never gets them confused.

"When I ran out of cat names, I started giving them Russian people names. When I ran out of those, I started giving them first names of people whose names I heard on television shows or concerts, like Sherlok, Watson, Eden..."

Or, you can watch the report in English. =)

All I can think about while watching videos on this lady is that Animal Cop show on Animal Planet, which got me thinking.... Does Russia have an SPCA equivalent? After scouring the internet I found that apparently there is one, but it "has been little studied and is not well known, especially outside the community of Russian speakers." (B. Bonhomme) Some sites say it's called the Imperial Russian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, others say it's Russian Society for the Protection of Animals, or the Russian Society for Animal Protection. It was modeled after the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Either way, I'm sure they're familiar with Nina Kostsovo. No one can have THAT many cats and not get a visit from the animal police.....just as a check up. Or maybe they don't really hang out in Sibera? Goodness knows I wouldn't.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Ok, so, although this could hardly be considered intellectually stimulating, I'm going to post it because it made me laugh...

I'm writing a 20-30 page paper for my Honors class (you know, the kind of paper that makes you hate life and seriously consider dropping out of university or killing yourself), and I wanted to give my brain a break.  So I went to Lolcats.  (Don't judge me- you all secretly think it can be funny sometimes...)

Anyway, I saw this:

Come on, it's at least mildly amusing, yeah?

No?  Must just be me.