Friday, September 26, 2008

A caption contest waiting to happen...

Things like this give the neo-cons particularly vivid nightmares...

Russia Loans Venezuela $1 Billion for Military

Ah, remember those days when we thought we'd won the Cold War?

Russia Loans Venezuela $1 Billion for Military: "Between 2005 and 2007 Venezuela has signed 12 contracts for weapons purchases from Russia for a total of more than $4.4 billion, the Kremlin statement said.

The move is the latest gesture of military friendship between Russia and Venezuela, two counties that have increasingly positioned themselves as mavericks vis-à-vis the West. The Kremlin says its economic and political stability have allowed it to broaden the scope of its military and economic cooperation beyond what it calls its traditional sphere of influence."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Russia in Hawaii



So my parents went to Hawaii this summer and found this Russian Fort... Can you imagine Russians in Hawaii! The Formal name is Russian Fort Elizabeth. Anyway, it was occupied back in the 19th century due to an alliance between Chief Kamuali and the Russian American Company. The Fort was home to a Russian Orthodox Church and was Hawaii's first Orthodox church. Georg Scheffer was the representative of the Russian American Company and was looking to trade with the islands, and save cargo that was left behind in Waimea. However, Czar Alexander did not grant permission of this fort and the Company had to vacate. 

When my parents were there they asked locales about the fort and they were told that the Russians left because the native Hawaiians to the land scared the Russians off.. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finland tromps the Soviets



One of my friends at Northwestern University sent me a link for a wikipedia picture depicting the statistics for a war between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1940. As I glanced over the list, I was sure that it was a hoax because the results were so ridiculous. It turns out, however, that the Finnish army was a force to be reckoned with.

The Soviet Union had been looking to occupy Finland in a joint agreement with Germany, which would have split Eastern Europe between the two powers. The Soviets demanded that the Finns give up large portions of their country in exchange for a small portion of worthless Soviet lands. The Finns refused, and the Soviets launched an offensive.

Several factors led to the Finns rousing success. Primarly, the Soviets leadership had recently undergone vast purges by Stalin. This resulted in approximately 50% of all officers being killed. When the Soviets attacked, they did so with very inexperienced officer corps and unmotivated soldiers. Secondly, the Finns had local knowledge of the area and worked with the surrondings. i.e. white camoflauge, ski brigades, etc. They also devised a highly effective, petrol-based anti-tank bomb.

Never underestimate the enemy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just in case you find yourself in Russia...


If you click the picture and go to the website, there are more pages. It may come in handy sometime. :]

FABERGE EGGS

Faberge Eggs
Standing on average three to six inches tall, these miniature treasures crafted by hand out of precious metals and jewels came to symbolize the last czars of Russia, Alexander III and Nicholas II and tell a story of the royal family. In Post - Soviet Russia the Faberge Eggs became a window into the story of the fall of the three hundred year royal dynasty. Until Peter Carl Faberge's miniature treasures attracted the eye of Czarina Maria Fedorovna, wife of the second - to - last czar, Alexander III, Russian jewelery was judged on carat size (bigger was always better). Faberge's pieces went against the trend, employing detailed handwork and (comparatively) subtle decoration. The Czarina loved his work so much that the Czar commissioned an egg from Faberge for the couple's twentieth anniversary. Hidden inside the egg was a gold chicken, crown, and a ruby egg, now lost. Maria Fedorovna was delighted with her present and until Alexander's death in October of 1894 at age forty - nine, Faberge made an egg for the royal family every Easter, which fell on the most important holiday in the Russian Orthodox church. When the inexperienced heir Nicholas II was crowned czar, the tradition changed - his widowed mother and his wife, Alexandra both received eggs. Each egg was unique and hand made, created to reflect the life of the royal family. Many eggs featured family portraits, sometimes of a particular person such as heir Alexei. All eggs had a hidden surprise such as a miniature replica of the royal family's private train or images of Czarina Alexandra's homeland in Germany. Faberge's attention to detail is still mind boggling - photos of the royal family's carriage made for an egg were used for reference when the original carriage was restored and the miniature train from another egg still runs today. While even the most expensive eggs cost under $10,000 the extravagance they symbolized upset the starving populace and came to represent the corruption and antiquated czarist rule. Nicholas II and Alexandra along side their four daughters and son preferred to live private lives, alienating them even more from their people which would prove all too disastrous. World War I was the straw that broke the camel's back - Nicholas II replaced a beloved general with himself even though he had no military genius and Alexandra became an object of ridicule among her own subjects when she and her daughters under went training to become nurses. Add that to the fact she was sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who were Russia's enemies and the royal family's days were numbered.The last eggs made by Faberge were spartan - made of iron since gold and silver were scarce and lacking the intricate details of his normal work since most of his employees were on the battle field - their main attraction being the fold out picture of Alexandra and in descending age - Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia - in their nurse uniforms. March 1918 marked the end of many traditions - the Romanovs were forced to abdicate, czar autocracy died, and the end of the Faberge eggs. Fifty eggs had been made - each different, all valuable, beyond their jewels.Dowager Czarina Maria Fedorovna escaped with a single egg to England. Many were lost, but the remaining eggs were sold by the Bolsheviks under $1,000 a piece. The Great Depression made selling the eggs more difficult and they made no where the value Faberge's son had appraised them to be. Faberge himself died in 1920 under exile in Sweden, supposedly from a broken heart as he saw the forthcoming destruction of his greatest works. It was lucky he never lived to see the fate of his masterpieces; sold for pennies, several eggs missing their surprises, or damaged. To the Bolsheviks the eggs represented all that was rotten with the Romanov dynasty. The sooner the eggs left Russia, the better. What could not be sold Lenin had boxed up, treated as garbage, not to be seen for years. Yet, this was not the end of the egg's bizarre history.Post - Soviet Russia now boosts the largest collection of Faberge Eggs in one place - 10; now seen as the artistic wonders they were, the eggs now sell for millions of dollars. Remaining eggs are scattered across the globe - Elizabeth II, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and several self made American families (Post, Forbes, and so on) own eggs. Eight eggs, five of which are pre-1900, have disappeared from sight. The search for these missing wonders continues and maybe one day we can have all fifty eggs together, lined up and follow the story of the last two czars and their families. Faberge never recovered from the end of his celebrity for his lovingly crafted masterpieces. Now, he would be astonished to see his workmanship is what gives the Faberge Eggs their true value -
"The intrinsic value of the egg is comparatively quite low," says Von Habsburg. "The Winter Egg consists of two blocks of rock crystal – a couple of thousand dollars – a bit of platinum and some three thousand minute rose cut diamonds – another couple of thousand dollars. So all in all, if you break this egg up, what is it worth? Four or five thousand dollars. What are you paying for? The vision and genius of Fabergé!"
For more information please visit http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/faberge_nav/main_fabfrm.html

Banya Experience

When I went to Russia over the summer I got to experience a Banya for the first time. This is something very much like a suana. But, instead of relaxing or simply laying in the suana like we do in America, in Russia they whip you with branches of leaves! There is a reason for this though. You are supposed to go into the Banya when you are sick, after swimming in a river, or anytime you need cleansed. They say that by whipping you with the leaves cleanses your body from toxins or whatever comes out of your body with the sweat. You are supposed to go in the Banya without clothes but I decided against that idea. In the winter the men like to use a Banya after hunting. They go in nude ofcourse but everyone once in awhile run out and roll around in the snow to cool down. This sounds a little crazy to me though.
Although it seems wierd that being whipped by leaves while trying to relax in a sauna is odd, I really enjoyed it and it really is a relaxing and cleansing method. Whoever gets a chance to go to Russia, definately find a Banya!

Russia Anticipates 2010 World Cup

For any fan of soccer, the world cup is one of the most anticipates events that only comes around every 4 years. The next time will be in 2010 and will take place in South Africa. Even though 2010 far away the Russian Team is already hoping for a sucessful showing in South Africa. The Article is from www. Russiatoday.com/sports/news

Russia's 2010 World Cup campaign begins with win

Russia have won their opening game on the road to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The hosts suffered a minor scare before overcoming Wales 2-1 in Moscow.
Expectations were high as Russian fans took their first chance to see the team in competitive action since the Euro 2008 Finals.Russia were expected to collect the three points easily, with John Toshack’s Welsh side being hit by a number of injuries.The hosts started well with Roman Pavluchenko having the opportunity to put the home side in front on 13 minutes, but an excellent save from keeper Wayne Hennessy denied the Tottenham striker.Russia dominated the opening encounters, but out of nowhere Wales had a chance to put themselves into the lead.Gareth Bale was tripped in the area by Russian captain Sergey Semak. He picked himself up to take the penalty, but an excellent save to his right by Igor Akinfeev denied the Welshman.Midway through the first half Russia were also awarded a penalty, after Zryanov was fouled. This time Pavluchenko was able to find the back of the net to put his side into a deserved lead.Wales improved after the half time break, as Russia began to give the ball away more frequently. However, Andrey Arshavin should have scored on 64 minutes.Just minutes later, Wales got the equalizer they deserved. An excellent run from Gareth Bale eluded the Russian defence, and his cross left Jo Ledley with the easiest of tasks to restore parity.Russia then pushed for a winner and Hiddink sent on UEFA Super Cup’s hero Pavel Pogrebnyak in search of a second goal. The decision proved right, and with 10 minutes to play Pogrebnyak put the home side back in front.Arshavin made a splendid cross, Hennessy did very well to deny Zryanov’s header, but Pogrebnyak was on hand to score his sixth goal for his country.Although Russia ran out 2-1 winners, Manager Guus Hiddink was not pleased with how his side played in the second half.“I think in the second half we forgot what we can do and that’s playing football. We didn’t move, we played static”.But in the end the Russian coach praised his team for its strong character in managing to win the game, and he stressed Russia deserved the victory. Wales coach John Toshack was disappointed in the result, particularly after coming back into the game in the second half: "We suffered in the first half. The Russians played very well. But, I think, we were the better side in the second half. And to lose the way we did is bitterly disappointing".

Yummy Treats!

Khvorost

Description:

Thin, crispy khvorost (fried cookies) will be very tender and palatable. It melts in the mouth so quickly that you would love this pleasure to last forever.

Method:

Mix flour, sugar and salt and blend with the milk, sour cream, vodka and beaten eggs. Stir until the mixture is smooth then roll out very thinly and cut into strips about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Slit the center of each strip and push one end of the pastry through it, or make rings with a pastry cutter and twist them into various shapes. Fry in deep, boiling fat until golden brown, then drain on greaseproof paper and sprinkle with sugar powder.


Ingredients:

about 3 c flour.
1/2 cup milk.
oil for frying.
2 eggs.
1 tb sugar.
1 c sour cream.
1 wineglass vodka.
pinch of salt.

Conflict in Russia - Natalie Sante


At what point does conflict become genocide? Genocide is a form of extreme ethnic cleansing that takes place for economic, political, and ethnic reasons. While the conflict between Russia and Georgia could not by any stretch of the imagination be termed genocide, many of the same factors that allow genocide to take place are also present in this situation. The most important similar factor is economics. This is the level at which the most powerful change can take place. The purpose of this blog is to discuss those similarities as well as possible courses of action. My aim in writing this article is to deepen and share my understanding. 

The signs of genocide are economic, political, and ethnic. These are the levels in their order of importance. Genocide is allowed to exist primarily because of economic reasons. Stopping genocide at the economic level is equivalent to pulling out a weed by the roots. Russia cannot be stopped at the economic level because it has an absolute advantage in oil supply. Russia is the major supplier of oil for all of Europe. And even though the United States does not rely on Russia specifically for oil, a trade embargo would have adverse affects on our already weak economy. Russia is aware of these factors and therefor is not concerned about the repercussions of their recent actions concerning Georgia.

Genocide is often fueled by the government for economic reasons. In Darfur, for example, the Chinese government sells weapons to the Darfur government to turn a profit. The Darfur government then supplies these weapons to insurgent groups that further their own political agendas. Ethnicity also plays an important role in genocide. When one hostile ethnic group gets support from the government, the result is often ethnic cleansing. The group with the backing preys upon other groups. which is what the government planned.

The structure of this conflict is a pyramid. The government supplying weapons is at its base, making a profit and staying out of the fray. The government buying the weapons and supplying them to a group is furthering their own plans. The group getting the weapons has leverage over other groups in the area. Someone always loses in the pyramid scenario, and in this case the loser is the ethnic group that gets attacked for economic, political, and ethnic reasons.

The primary mover is economics. The base of the pyramid – supply – would not exist if there was no economic incentive. It would logically follow that in order to stop genocide action must be taken to cut off its economic incentive. However, the situation in Russia is unique because they supply gas to all of Europe. They have what is called an absolute advantage over the rest of Europe. The economic incentive of genocide cannot be stopped without hurting the rest of Europe. The reason action has not been taken against Russia is because of the repercussions those actions would have on Europe. In order to stop genocide in Russia without cutting of oil to Europe, action must be taken on the political and ethnic platforms. 

Because America does not rely on Russia for oil, a trade embargo would be possible. However this course of action would be disastrous for several reasons. In reaction to a trade embargo, oil prices would go up. After all, where else are we going to buy it from? Even if we were to start developing alternative sources and drilling on our own reserves, we would still be dependent on outside suppliers for many years. The affect a trade embargo would have on our already weak economy would be detrimental. Russia knows these things; it is no coincidence that they have chosen this time to act.

Are these the early signs of genocide? What can we do in the face of worldwide injustice when our country is struggling within its own borders? Do we even have a world wide responsibility? We tried to remain isolationists in WWII. But our economies, and thus our fates, do not recognize borders. I’m not a single issue voter or a single issue person. I do not know the answer to the questions I have presented. I feel like raising awareness is a cheap cop out. What can I really do? I believe that someone who truly understands economics has the power to change the world. So, I’m working on developing my understanding and sharing it. Maybe someone else can take it from there. 


Is Georgia the new Hungarian Revolution?

To further expound upon what Chris said, it is very interesting to see the similarities between the invasion of Georgia and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In 1956 a revolt against Soviet control of Hungary enused, led by Imre Nagy, in an attempt to give more freedoms to the people and remove "the shackles of tyranny". In response to this revolt diplomatic talks were left to a minimum between Nagy and the Soviet government. Instead the revolt ended with the red army sending in a complete tank division and marching through the city killing all opposition. With Russia's recent moves of moving tank divisions closer to the Georgian border and still having troops stationed in South Ossettia, the possibility still exists for a similar conclusion to this event. While at the moment is does not seem to be escalating to that degree, who knows what will occur in the near future. Russia is wary about letting in aid and several officials have made rash statements about not giving up South Ossettia. One thing for sure though is Russia is becoming bolder in today's society, and diplomatic tensions with Russia are becoming more strained. At this rate who knows what will occur in the future.

Russian Architecture



The popular "onion dome" first appeared on the Cathedral of Sancta Sophia in Novgorod. For a long time churches were the only buildings that were allowed to be made of stone.
Under the rule of Ivan III foriegn architecture began to appear in Russia. The first instance of this new type of aarchitecture was with the construction of Moscow's Assumption Cathedral in 1479. Foriegn architecture was also used in the construction of St. Petersburg under Peter the Great's rule. It is influenced by European design. Today Russian architecture has a more modest approach to it.

Invades

Christopher King

Kaitlin Mondello

EH-121-08

September 15, 2008

The Russian Invasion of Georgia

 

Are we about to enter another cold war?  On August eighth two thousand eight the Russian army invaded the Georgian rebel province of South Ossetia. The event was a well-orchestrated maneuver on a former Soviet satellite state whose good standings with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, the United States in particular could be perceived as a threat. Soviet forces consisted of around one hundred and fifty tanks with supporting infantry and air strikes. While American newscasters have played up the conflict between Russia and Georgia as the malevolence of a post communist country, it was in truth the strategic move of a world power to secure its borders.    

In 2003 the former soviet satellite state experienced a nonviolent coup, the “Rose

Revolution” (Sywenkyj) which resulted in the empowerment of the current president and strong pro-west ties. The resulting ally with the west being right at Russia’s back door lead to uneasy tensions between the two countries. As history has shown us the Russian’s, as have all superpowers, are concerned with the political alignment of their neighbors. 

            Robert Magginis is a retired army lieutenant and senior strategist with the United States army.  In addition he is a foreign affairs analyst for radio and television.  The following excerpts are from an article he posted on Humanevents.com:

In 1920, South Ossetia attempted to declare its independence from Georgia. At the time, the Red Army invaded Georgia to declare the region autonomous… In the late 1980s, the South Ossetian Popular Front was created in response to growing nationalist sentiments in Georgia. The popular front demanded autonomy from Georgia. This precipitated six months of armed conflict that ended with the signing of the Sochi Agreement. That document established a cease-fire and a security corridor policed by “peacekeeping” forces under Russian command.” (Magginis)

The “Rose Revolution” (Sywenkyj) that followed this long list of events was a threat to the status quo that had for so long ensured the Russian borders were safe from invasion. With Georgia’s newfound disdain for Russia they were left with no choice but to take action.  Their invasion of South Ossetia, who wished for independence from Georgia, anyway allowed them to make a statement to the world.  We will not permit NATO to gain a foothold at our back door and we will protect Russians around the world (like those in South Ossetia). “Keeping Georgia in a constant state of conflict is intended to show Washington and Brussels that the small republic is too unstable for membership and to force Tbilisi back under the Kremlin’s heel. Unless NATO acts to defend Georgia, no more former satellites will ask to join.” (Magginis)

While America shuns the actions, which have taken place here, they themselves are guilty of such aggressions in the past. It’s because of such aggressions, currently involving Iraq and Afghanistan, that the president is reluctant to involve itself in the conflict. “On Friday, President Saakashvili called on the US to live up to its principles and defend Georgia’s democracy. So far, the US has only sent a diplomat to Tiblisi,” (Magginis)

The Russian invasion of Georgia was a power play that was justified by the disruption of the status quo by Georgia’s political realignment after the Rose Revolution. America condemns such actions but can’t assist their supposed ally due to being bogged down in similar actions. There are certain points throughout history when a display of force is needed to prevent larger conflicts. Examples of this can be seen in America’s containment policy after world war two, Russian satellite states from the same period, and now arguably in America’s war on terrorism and Russia’s conflicts in Georgia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Magginis, Robert. "Russian Invasion of Georgia is an East-West Tipping Point." 8 August 2008. Human Events. 14 September 2008 .

 

Sywenkyj, Joseph. "New York Times." 8 August 2008. Ny Times. 14 September 2008 

 

 

 

 

Russia Invades Georgia

file:///Users/Chris/Desktop/argument%20paper%20.docx

God of Music

This is Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. He is without a doubt the most popular Russian opera singer alive today. His voice and his artistry are second to none. This is a clip of a young Dmitri singing in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. I bet you can tell why he won.

My first blog post!


I finally figured it out!

Anyway, I know the Olympics was a while ago, but there was one Russian guy in synchronized diving who really caught my attention that I'd like to share with you.
This smiling guy is the Men's Synchronised 3m Springboard silver medalist, Dmitry Sautin, and he owns at diving. He is the most decorated diver in history, with eight olympic medals and five Olympic Games under his belt.
What caught my attention was how out of place he seemed amongst the other divers. Sixteen years the senior of his synchronize diving partner, he looked markedly more crusty than the rest. And for good reason. Apparently he's had some pretty rough times: being nearly stabbed to death in a random act of violence in the early nineties, chronic back pain and broken bones, and a surgery mishap which involved a piece of bandage left in his back, fabric that accompanied him through the Sydney games and four olympic medals.
So here is this bent-looking Russian guy who looks like he just came from a bar and threw on a speedo, who then proceeds to do ridiculous things in the air before hitting the water, all at the same time as the guy next to him. It was refreshing to see someone who didn't look like he grew up on organic Wheaties and steroids do something amazing. It's a shame this was his last Olympics, but with injuries like his, who could blame him? I thought he was interesting, at least.

Cry me a what?

This is the most awsomeness thing EVER. This is a link to a Russian singer singing Cry Me A River (The Justin Timberlake song) in Russian...YES RUSSIAN.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3t2VyluTTQ

Monday, September 15, 2008

Russian Ballet

(Imperial School of Ballet)


Ballet in Russia began as a way to entertain the royal court. Then, in the 19th century, it was available to anyone who could afford a ticket. The first ballet company was the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg in the 1740s. Russian composers began writing special pieces to accompany the delicate art form. One of the first advocates was Sergei Diaghilev, who arranged the very first Paris tour of the Russian ballet. As it gained popularity, composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Fokin got involved to produce a famed program. As the years went on, ballet grew as an impressive art form that spread across Russia. Now the Moscow Ballet is a well known show that attracts visitors from around the world.














Love and marriage, Love and marriage...

Is there anymore more American than the sitcom? Frasier, Seinfeld, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Married with Children...the list goes on and on and on and on and on. When one thinks of Russian television, one tends to think about the strictly supervised news programs of the Soviet era, and even today political satire is suppressed and news programs present only the Kremlin's point of view. However, in recent years, adaptations of American sitcoms have become among the most popular shows in Russia, the most prominent being Счастливы вместе - an adaptation of Married with Children. However, the significance of this story is not that America makes by far the best TV shows, no, the fact that sitcoms, which are almost universally about middle class people and poke fun at the lives of the well off, are now popular in Mother Russia, which means that more and more people in Russia are able to relate to the people in these shows. When sitcoms were first introduced in Russia during the 1990s, they had very poor ratings because people were simply not interested in watching comedy which they could not relate to.

Here are clips from both the American and Russian versions of Married with Children. There definately seem to be similarities...Oh! They both have a dog!


THE ARTICLE

THE SHOW


THE ORIGINAL

Converse should have made history

History of Russian Costume, traditional dress
(And the part that converse shoes could have played)



"Homemade canvas and wool clothes decorated with embroidery or woven pattern have been used most often for traditional peasant costumes." So canvas shoes would have fit right in.

"The variety of colors for traditional costume displays love for beauty and ethnic diversity. These costumes are not only beautiful, there are also convenient in wearing because they were created for work as well." Likewise, converse shoes are used for both work and play. Not to mention the thousands of styles they come in.
"Festive clothes and everyday clothes, married woman's and young girl's clothes differed only for details, decoration, and color gamut. Until the 17th century it was only outside trimmings that differed from nobles' costumes to the peasants' ones; general cut and style were all the same." Not only do kids these days wear converse for slumming around and for style, but even our modern-day nobles sport the canvas shoes.


"Embroidery came in different ornaments (rhombuses, crosses, herring-bones, stylized patterns of people and animals) performed in naturally painted threads. Red, blue, green, white, yellow - the color gamut was rich and various." Not only do chucks come in so many different prints - you can specialize your own pair even - but they even still embroider them, too.




So after all that, just imagine these people:

in our shoes:

And you'll realize that it probably makes a lot more sense than whatever they wore on their feet.

etymology

Etymology - the study of the history of words, including their origins and how their use has evolved alongside the languages that use them. A subject I've always been fascinated in, especially concerning the English language; as a global language used in numerous contexts by millions of people, English has evolved to include thousands of words from multiple languages. While the Russian influence on English is relatively small as compared to the Romance languages, there are some interesting things linking the two.

The word 'Russia' itself is derived from the old word Rus (from Arabic Rus, Greek Rhos); allegedly it originally referred to Scandinavian/viking traders who settled in the area around Kiev, and whose descendants supposedly controlled the region; the Finnish terms for Sweden and Russia are intricately connected, derived from the root of 'rowing' (as in a boat). The Finnish apparently thought the Swedes and Russians rowed a lot.

The word 'mammoth' is derived from a Russo-Finnish term meaning earth; mammoths were believed by excavators to have been burrowing creatures who rooted under the earth. The term then came to English from Russian.

The obvious connection between the months in most indo-european languages is interesting; in fact, like the English days of the week, the Indo-European months are derived from several sources, including numbers (october/октябрь, derived from 'octo' or 'eight'; the old Roman calendar had 10 months, October being the eighth), and a shared Indo-European mythology (or mythical references borrowed from Latin; I'm not sure where the Russian month names come from, but its possibly from Latin.) March and January come from Roman gods (Mars and Janus, respectably).

While historic language and the evolution of the Proto-Indo-European culture into the numerous cultures and languages it is today is incredibly fascinating, one could (and many have) fill entire books with interesting connections and observations.

Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave

This piece was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). As a prominent Russian and world composer, Tchaikovsky has given us some of the greatest works we know today, including: The Nutcracker Suite, 1812 Overture, and the Swan Lake ballet. Unlike these pieces though, Marche Slave is a far more ominous sounding orchestration, which is understandable considering it's history. Tchaikovsky wrote it for his friend, Nikolai Rubinstein who asked him to write a piece for the wounded Russian volunteers who were aiding the Serbians in the Serbo-Turkish war.

Russia Stock Market Fall Is Said to Imperil Oil Boom

Russia Stock Market Fall Is Said to Imperil Oil Boom.

One fallout of Russia's decision to respond disproportionately to Georgia's provocations in the Caucasus is the collapse of its stock market, in large part a response on the part of investors who now perceive a greater risk (higher risk premium), combined with the fact that the economy there is driven predominantly by commodity export (read: they export lots of fossil fuels), and commodity prices of been cliff-diving: Today crude dropped to $95... Earlier this summer, oil was close to $150 per barrel.


Russia Stock Market Fall Is Said to Imperil Oil Boom

MOSCOW — Rattled by falling oil prices and the war in Georgia, Russia’s stock market has slumped so severely that it now threatens the country’s oil-fueled boom of recent years, economists say.
The benchmark RTS index has lost 46 percent of its value since its peak in May, representing a paper loss of about $700 billion for Russian companies. Much of that decline has come since the war in Georgia and the subsequent war of words with the United States and Europe that unsettled foreign investors, who began withdrawing capital.

The question, of course, is which is more important in the Russian market's slide? Is it politics driving the price of stocks down, or the decline in oil prices? The Times correspondent does a little research and finds...
In one indication that Russian politics lubricated the market slide here, however, investors have pulled nearly $5 billion this year from emerging market funds with a heavy Russia weighting, according to EPFR Global, a company that tracks fund flows. By comparison, investments in Middle East and African funds, which are also seen as dependent on commodity prices, have risen this year.
If that's the case, why the misleading headline? Shouldn't it read: "...Is Said to Imperil Free-Market Boom"?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tatu and Rammstein

So, here is a video of one of my favorite Russian bands Tatu, doing a song with one of my favorite German bands Rammstein.


Tatu and Rammstein: Moscow (The two languages sound awesome together, trust me)




Eurovision Song Contest

Some info about this apparently very popular competition from the ever reliable Wikipedia:

"The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la Chanson)[1] is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. Each country participates via one of their national EBU-member television stations, whose task it is to select a singer and a song to represent their country in the international competition.

The Contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world,[2] with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally"



Past winners include ABBA for Sweden in 1974 with "Waterloo" and Celine Dion for Switzerland in 1988 with "No Partez Pas Sans Moi".


Here's a video of the the contestant representing Russia in the semi finals!

Russian Opera: Not for the Faint of Heart



It's very fascinating to study the history of Russian classical music, seeing as it's only been a real factor in the culture for the last two hundred years or so. Because of its slow progression and development, as well as its geographical isolation, Russia didn't have access to the musical revolutions occurring in western Europe. When Mikhail Glinka began to compose and contribute, the Italy-Germany-France triumvirate had already seen the Baroque and Classical movements, and Beethoven, Schubert, and Berlioz were making large strides in music. Opera as well had evolved from the "da capo" (repeated verses) style of Handel to the flourishing French Grand Opera of Weber and Bizet.

Opera made its debut in the form of A Life for the Tsar, written by Glinka. It described the life of the peasant hero Ivan Susanin who saved the life of the Tsar by leading a group of assassins astray. The orchestration (the way the instruments are used in the orchestra) and the overall sounds of the music would prove to be influences for later Russian composers such as Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev.

Modest Mussorgsky had the genius and musical inclination of Mozart. What I mean by this is that when he composed, he would basically write down what was in his head, and upon doing so, it was almost without flaw. Not only did he compose fantastic piano and orchestral pieces, but his opera was revolutionary. His most famous opera, Boris Godunov, has been a staple of the high-level opera houses around the world. It also provides the most extensive and difficult role for the Bass-baritone voice type. The opera is immensely moving, as it chronicles the rise and fall of Tsar Boris, who reigned in the late 1500's to early 1600's.

A composer who breaks the traditional Russian classical mold is Tchaikovsky. He is a bit of an anomaly, as his music was much more similar in style and sound to Italian and German music of the time. While many scholars argue that his music doesn't truly have the "Russian sound" and spirit, he provided a solid foundation for the recognition and exposure of Russian classical compositions to the rest of the world. His opera Eugene Onegin is a masterpiece of a work, which contains complex orchestration, deep characters, and some of the most challenging solo voice pieces in the operatic repertoire.

The following two videos are excellent examples of Russian opera. The first is from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, and the second is from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.

The first clip is of the great Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov singing Boris' Death Scene, and the second is a young Russian bass Dimitry Ivaschenko singing a concert version of Gremin's Aria from Eugene Onegin. An interesting side note: Listen to the tone quality of their voices...besides being basses, there is a "steely", heavy quality to their voices which seems to be a characteristic of Russian singers.




Преступление и наказание: Crime and Punishment


Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is an excellent novel that presents a view of the 1860's socioeconomic difficulties in Russia. Set in St. Petersburg, the story follows Raskolnikov, an impoverished, former student, and his murder of a pawnbroker whom he describes as a "parasite." There is an in-depth look into the mind of Raskolnikov and his motivation for committing his crime. Raskolnikov theorizes that there are two kinds of people in the world: normal people and those who are allowed to transgress the law for the improvement of mankind, referred to as "Napoleons." He kills the pawnbroker to determine whether he is such a "Napoleon," with the ability to change the world. However, in the process he is confronted with the flaw in his theory and inescapable guilt. At times the main character is overly terse and his personality verges on the edge of insanity. He often subverts his feelings and falls ill under emotional duress. Dealing with the extreme introversion of Raskolnikov, one can less effectively sympathize and connect with him; however by the end, he overcomes this and there is an overwhelming catharsis.

The character development of Raskolnikov is a key feature as well as the process of guilt and justification he goes through. The novel also comments on the poverty of lower-class Russians in the 1860's through the drunken character of Marmeladov. Overall, it is a commentary on the state of Russian society and in Nikolay Strakhov's words (to which Dostoevsky agreed), "This is not mockery of the younger generation, neither a reproach nor an accusation—it is a lament over it."

On a completely unrelated note, I found this video i thought some of you might enjoy. I think we can all imagine Dr. Denner in a pirate hat singing along.

The Exile Banned in Russia


The sarcastic and sometimes obscene publication, The Exile, was banned in Russia after eleven years of entertaining the good-humored and English-speaking community of Moscow.

References to hookers and extremely crass mockery of Russian politicians were a constant feature until an unexpected inspection was conducted by Russia’s Federal Service for Mass Media. The investigation was to determine if the biweekly was in compliance with Russian media laws.

The government media watchdog has yet to issue the results of its inspection and Yevgeny Strelchik, a spokesman for the watchdog, has declined to give any details. The newspaper could be reprimanded for, among other things, publishing pornography or extremist statements, or for promoting drug use.

"While it would not be difficult to find The Exile guilty on all three counts," The American Founder of Exile said" the inspectors’ conclusions are now largely irrelevant." In what he described as a type of soft censorship that permeates Russia’s current mass media climate, the attention paid by authorities to the newspaper was enough to prompt its funders to flee.“The government does not need to jail or shoot people,” Mr. Ames said. “All they have to do to keep people under control is say ‘Boo!’

From its inception, The Exile has rubbed officials the wrong way, “but 10 years ago people were not so scared about challenging the state," Mr. Ames said. “Now, if you take on the government, not only is there a 100 per cent chance of losing, you could have your assets stripped or go to jail,” he said.

It's not likely that The Exile will ever publish another issue, “unless some angel or miracle comes along”, Mr. Ames lamented. “But I don’t think that anyone wants to touch me. It’s like I have polonium on me.”In the meantime, the publication is calling for donations on its website in the hopes of generating enough revenue to keep the site alive.

“This has always been more of an artistic and writers’ project,” Mr. Ames explained. “The business part of it has been a colossal failure.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Medvedev on Drug Users and Being Like George Bush

"George Bush would do the same"
MedvedevPresident Medvedev revealed in a frank and close to public discussion with the members of the Valdai Discussion club how news of war in South Ossetia came to him, why Russia will not deal with drug-addicted Georgian president Saakashvili, what George W. Bush said in his latest phone call, and why he won’t see Russia turn into a state behind an iron curtain.
'I'll never forget that night'
“I was on vacation. They say, Russia was preparing for war – that’s a lie! The Defence Minister called me at 1 a.m. and said, the Georgians have told the Ossetians that they were starting a war. And while all those troops were moving towards South Ossetia, I took no decision and hoped those dimwits would have enough brains to stop. They didn’t! We held ourselves until they started firing rockets, shelling residential blocks, and shooting at peacekeepers. Even then we didn’t respond.”
“I’ll never forget that night. It was very hard to order the use of force, while knowing the consequences. We did everything right. And I’m proud of it. Our response was symmetrical and proportional.”
"There were many illusions in early 1990s, and as the country developed many of them just got blown away. Unfortunately the latest events mean those illusions are no more. Illusions that the world is just, that a security system based on current political resource distribution is optimal and keeps the world in balance."
“For me, as well as for a big part of Russian society, it was the loss of the last illusion - that the current world security system is reliable. We must create a different security system.”
"The world has changed almost in an instant after those events. It came to my mind that for Russia, August 8 is almost like 9/11 for America.”
“The war took the whole last month of my life, and there were more productive ways to spend it. We didn’t want it, didn’t want it at all! For 17 years we’ve being mending what had broken apart a long time ago. And they didn’t thank us for that – rather they started shooting at us.”
“Russia was not expected to react like that. Georgia got the idea: do whatever you want, Russians won’t meddle. That’s a diplomatic mistake that belongs to textbooks for diplomats. It’s a mistake – and for Georgia it’s also a crime.”

George Bush would do the same
“I have spent so much time speaking to world leaders on the phone over the last month, my ear wouldn’t work. You know – after an hour’s conversation…”
“When I talked to Bush on the phone last time I told him: you’d have done the same in a situation like this, just in a more harsh way. He didn’t argue.”
"Bush asked me: ‘Why do you need it? You’re a young president with liberal background!’ I don’t need it at all. But there are situations where image is nothing and real actions are everything."
I don’t want to live behind an iron curtain
“We discussed the rearmament of the Russian armed forces yesterday. We’ll have to change some priorities, but all the rest remains the same. We don’t need a closed, militarised country behind an iron curtain. I don’t want to live in a country like that. I used to. It was boring and dull.”
"They should have invited Russia into NATO a long time ago. Were they afraid? Now we’d certainly have fewer problems. That was a serious mistake. And the second mistake is that any country prepared to get rude with Russia gets the right to be in NATO."
"If Georgia had a NATO membership action plan by August 8, I would have done the same without a second thought. And what would the consequences have been? They would have been way more complicated."
"The situation was humiliating for Russia some time ago, and we can’t take it any more. It’s a difficult choice for us, but we can’t take it."
"I don’t think the confrontation phase would last long. We don’t want to create new alliances to tease Europe and America. Foreign policy should be pragmatic. The concept that the U.S. State Department embraced is pure ideology. We all need to take effort and drive ideology away from foreign policy. The current U.S. administration’s problem is that they have too many sovietologists and to few experts on Russia."
"I’m not an advocate of creating alliances to spite anyone. There’s no sense in creating new alliances. If you think that Russia has decided to change its vector of development, that’s not true. At least as long as I’m the head of state. There’s no cold war now."
Saakashvili is a drug abuser
“When I first met Saakashvili as a president I told him our policy regarding the territorial integrity of Georgia remained the same. He was fussing around like a pooch, saying: let’s meet and discuss. I said: OK, let’s do it. We decided he would come to Moscow and we’ll sign an agreement on non-use of force.
“Then our close partner Condoleezza Rice arrived, and the boy became like a changeling. He stopped calling. Well – that’s your choice.“Our position developed. And I, understand, take the responsibility for it, I, alone, as the head of state. The decision was taken after Georgia started military action. We understood: once he tasted blood he won’t stop."
“The Georgian head of state is not just a man we won’t do business with. He’s an unpredictable pathological and mentally unstable drug abuser. Western journalists know it! A two-hour-long interview on the high – that’s over the edge for a head of state. Does NATO need such a leader?”
Asian ties bring stability to West
“We will do everything we can to diversify our energy routes to Asia, but with no harm done to our European partners. On the contrary, it will ensure greater stability. This is about oil deliveries, gas deliveries, and the development of nuclear energy.
“I laugh when I read from time to time that Russia doesn’t have enough gas to provide even European needs. We know it’s not true. Russia is a big gas nation. If we see that there’s a market in the East, we’ll develop new fields. Be sure about that. Naturally, it must be balanced, must not cause economic disasters.”
Russiatoday.com

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Russia does well at Beijing Olympics

   

In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Russia performed quite well in the games, ending up third in the overall medal count. The team concluded the games with a total of 72 medals- 23 gold, 21 silver, and 28 bronze. Ahead of Russia was the United States with a total of 110 medals and the host nation, China, with 100 medals. 

Russia earned gold medals in the following events: Wrestling, Tennis, Athletics, Canoeing, Synchronized Swimming, Gymnastics, and Boxing. Notable athletes included Evgenie Kaneaeva (All-Around Rhythmic Gymnastics), Elena Dementieva (Women's Singles Tennis), Rakhim Chakhkiev (91kg Boxing), and Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova (Women's Duet Synchronized Swimming).
Photos: Russian gymnast Olga Kapranova topped the final squad    
          Evegenie Kaneaeva
Photos: Chakhkiev of Russia wins Men's 91kg Boxing gold
Rakhim Chakhkiev 

Silver medals were earned in the numerous sports like Wrestling, Synchronized Diving, Shooting, Swimming, Weightlifting, Tennis, Wrestling, Canoeing, Handball, and Athletics. Women's tennis star Dinara Safina was among the many athletes that brought silver medals home to Russia. Safina recently made a great showing at the US Open as the 6th seated player, she lost to Serena Williams in the Semifinal round. 

Photos: Russian Dementieva wins Women's Singles Tennis gold
Russians Sweep Women's Tennis Singles
(From left to right) Safina, Dementieva, Zvonareva

Bronze medal events included Diving, Shooting, Swimming, Archery, Canoeing, Weightlifting, Athletics, Tennis, Gymnastics, Cycling, Boxing, Volleyball and Basketball. 

The men's Volleyball and women's Basketball teams earned their country respective gold medals. The women's Basketball team defeated the host nation for the medal and the Volleyball team defeated Italy, 3-0.
Photos: Russia beats China for bronze Photos: Russia wins Men's Volleyball bronze

Russia has also performed well in previous Olympic Games. Since the 1900 Paris games, Russia has earned a total of 323 medals. Even in the Winter Games, Russia has earned an impressive total of 76 medals, 33 of which are gold. Its worth noting that Russia has only participated in 4 Winter Olympic games, starting in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Despite the impressive performance in Beijing, Russia earned more medals in both the 2004 Athens games, 92 total medals, and the 2000 Sydney games, 88 total medals.         
                
So, what can we expect for the 2012 London games? One can't be entirely certain, but I'm sure it'll be nothing short of incredible. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Red Square

Russia's Red Square is the most famous city square in Russia, and one of the most famous in the world.

There are common misconceptions about where the name "Red Square" comes from. Some say it is from the association of the Communist Party with the color red, others believe it has to do with the colors of the brick surrounding it. In actuality, the name came about because the Russian word красный can mean either "red" or "beautiful" ("beautiful" being an archaic meaning).

Major streets of Moscow radiate from here in all directions, being promoted to major highways outside the city, which is one of the reasons the Red Square is often considered to be the center of Moscow and all of Russia.

The square was originally covered with wooden buildings, but it was cleared by Ivan III's edict in 1493, as the buildings were dangerously prone to fires. The newly-opened area gradually came the serve as Moscow's main marketplace. The square has been gradually built up since that point and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established. Later, it was also used for various public ceremonies and proclamations.

In 1990, the Kremlin and Red Square were among the very first sites in the USSR added to UNESCO's World Heritage Site list.



St. Basil's Cathedral
The building most often associated with Russia. This cathedral was commissioned by Ivan IV. It consists of nine chapels built on a single foundation and its architecture is often considered to be representative of Russia's position between Europe and Asia.
(A litte Russians-are-crazy trivia: Ivan IV had the architect of St. Basil's blinded when he finished the project so that he could not create a more magnificent building for anyone else.)


Place of Skulls
Despite the ominous name, Lobnoye Mesto was not a place for public executions. This site has regularly been used as a platform for the issuance of decrees by Russian leaders.


GUM
Russia's premier department store is marked by its stone arches and glass roofs and was built in 1893. The building was an achievement for Russia's pre-revolutionary architecture and runs the entire length of the square.


Stalin's Grave
The grave of Joseph Stalin--one of the most influential and infamous leaders of Russia--is marked simply by a granite bust. Even today, thousands of communists visit the grave and leave flowers.


Kazan Cathedral
This Russian Orthodox church is over 300 years old, however, it was destroyed in 1936 by Stalin to allow large military vehicles to parade through the square. It was rebuilt in 1993 with the help of memories, old black and white photgraphs and blueprints. It is viewed by some as a symbol of a dark time followed by a joyous resurrection.


Zero Point
The bronze compass is a symbolic zero point from which all roads in Russia are measured.


One Red Square
At this restaraunt, located on the first floor of the State Historical Museum, visitors can experience
a classic russian tea party. There are also monthly black-tie "history banquets", which include ballroom dancing. It has become a scene of Russia's cultural reawakening.


The Tsar Bell
The Tsar bell, being the largest in the world, measuring ina t 202 tons of bronze, was made to be a symbol of Russia's size and might. However, the bell cracked before it could ever be rung. (Ironic?)


Alexander Gardens
This public park, created in 1821, is full of lush lawns, peaceful fountains, and plenty of walking paths. Although the gardens are right next to the Red Square visitors can feel very relaxed and unofficial.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

English spelling | You write potato, I write ghoughpteighbteau | Economist.com

A pretty good article on English orthography and historical lexicology, with some interesting factoids... I wonder what they mean that the printing press was "initially staffed by non-English speakers"?

Makes you appreciate the rational and transparent rules for Russian:

English spelling: You write potato, I write ghoughpteighbteau

GHOTI and tchoghs may not immediately strike readers as staples of the British diet; and even those most enamoured of written English’s idiosyncrasies may wince at this tendentious rendering of “fish and chips”. Yet the spelling, easily derived from other words*, highlights the shortcomings of English orthography. This has long bamboozled foreigners and natives alike, and may underlie the national test results released on August 12th which revealed that almost a third of English 14-year-olds cannot read pr
Publish Post
operly.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Just what we need!

Don't get me wrong, I love the United States (now you know this is going to be bad), but we really need to get our act together when it comes to money.

Today, our Treasure Secretary, Henry Paulson, says he is going to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. On top of that we (that's right "we" - whose money do you think they are spending?) are giving $1 Billion, with a capital "B", dollars to Georgia. No, not the state, the country formerly part of the Soviet Union.

"We" are giving this money as "aid" (A.K.A. be-our-friend money) to assist Georgia in rebuilding after their war with Russia. Seriously? One, we don't want to get in a war with Russia. Two, we can't help Georgia in any meaningful way, so why waste the money? And lastly, we don't have the money to spend! As noted above, we are performing yet another government bailout, social security is broke and you won't get any, and we currently spend more on the interest of our national debt than what we spend on the Department of Homeland Security, Education, and four years of war in Iraq AND Afghanistan! (the wars just caught up in 2008)

Other than the aid money, you might be asking yourself what this has to do with Russia? Well, currently they control and produce a good portion of the gas that both Europe and Asia use. As these countries, especially Europe, move away from coal, Russia will be bringing in even more money. The U.S. spends almost as much money on national debt interest for one month as what Russia has in total national debt.

Again, I love my country, but we might need to pay some more tax dollars to get our politicians a good, ol' fashioned, Soviet brainwashing, err, "financial reeducation".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Talk about a stud of a leader


Forget Catherine the Great, or whatever her name was...




Now THAT is a cool title to go down in history with.