Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Russian warships arrived in Venezuela Tuesday, for the first time in regional waters since the Cold War, ahead of a two-day visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
It was a major symbolic show of military and diplomatic force as Russia moves to underscore its international heft amid intense frustration with Washington over a European-based missile shield and over the war in Georgia. Oil-rich Venezuela is among the staunchest US critics worldwide.
The Venezuelan navy welcomed the warships, including the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great and destroyer Admiral Chabankenko, at the northern port of La Guaira, near Caracas, for a week of joint maneuvers.
Medvedev was due to arrive Wednesday for a two-day visit, before heading to communist Cuba, to promote ties and oversee the start of the exercises, as Moscow seeks to rebuild influence in the Americas that eroded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and even expand it.
The exercises, dubbed VenRus 2008, would take first take place in dock and then at sea on December 1, vice admiral Luis Morales Marquez, a Venezuelan operations commander, told journalists here.
The aim was to "strengthen links of friendship and solidarity with the Russian fleet and the Bolivarian national armed forces," Marquez said.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said the maneuvers were not a provocation, but an exchange between "two free, sovereign countries that are getting closer," at a news conference late Monday.
"We carried out maneuvers with Brazil recently, with France, with the Netherlands and now with Russia," Chavez said.
But analysts see the Russian leader as boldly bringing a defiant message to Washington's doorstep, in the wake of Russian outrage at US plans to install a strategic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and support for the brief Georgia war in August.
"If the Venezuelans and the Russians want to have, you know, a military exercise, that's fine, but we'll obviously be watching it very closely," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday in Washington.
"I don't think there's any question about who ... the region looks to in terms of political, economic, diplomatic and as well as military power," McCormack added.
The US has expressed concern, however, about Russian arms supplies to the oil-rich OPEC country.
The two countries have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikovs.
Medvedev was expected to expand arms deals during his visit, as well as economic and energy ties, including plans for a joint civilian nuclear reactor.
Some 1,600 Russian forces traveling on four Russian ships joined 700 Venezuelans for the exercises.
Venezuela was due to mobilize three frigates, an amphibious warfare ship and eight patrol boats, as well as Sukhoi planes recently purchased from Russia.
Marquez suggested more exercises could take place in Russian waters at a later date.
A Russian naval spokesman said in Moscow that the exercises would include operation planning, helping ships in distress and supplying ships on the move.
"Until a few years ago, we did a lot of maneuvers with the United States. Now we don't do maneuvers with the United States, of course. We got out of that defense system and we're creating our own system of defense," Chavez said.
In September, two Tu-160 Russian strategic bombers carried out training for several days in Venezuela.
"Nations frequently exercise with each other. Russia is free to exercise peacefully with anyone that they want to exercise with," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.
"But also people note through these exercises the company that nations keep."
Medvedev's four-nation Latin America tour began in Peru where he signed a series of economic and political accords before traveling to regional economic powerhouse Brazil.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Дома до звезд, а небо ниже,
Земля в чаду ему близка.
В большом и радостном Париже
Все та же тайная тоска.
Шумны вечерние бульвары,
Последний луч зари угас.
Везде, везде всё пары, пары,
Дрожанье губ и дерзость глаз.
Я здесь одна. К стволу каштана
Прильнуть так сладко голове!
И в сердце плачет стих Ростана
Как там, в покинутой Москве.
Париж в ночи мне чужд и жалок,
Дороже сердцу прежний бред!
Иду домой, там грусть фиалок
И чей-то ласковый портрет.
Там чей-то взор печально-братский.
Там нежный профиль на стене.
Rostand и мученик Рейхштадтский
И Сара — все придут во сне!
В большом и радостном Париже
Мне снятся травы, облака,
И дальше смех, и тени ближе,
И боль как прежде глубока.
I make it my mission to be able to understand this all in Russian one day, but for now, the english translation, (just to appreciate the rich imagery and beauty)
Skyscrapers, and the sky below,
The earth is closer in the grayness.
The same old enigmatic woe
Remains in vast and happy Paris.
The evening boulevards are loud,
Sunset’s final glimmer dies.
And there are couples all around,
With trembling lips and daring eyes.
I’m here alone. It’s nice to rest
One’s head against a chestnut tree!
Just as in Moscow, here, the chest
Cries out with Rostand’s poetry.
Dear are the long gone days of folly,
These nights in Paris are a torture,
I’m walking home to grieving violets
And someone’s kind and tender portrait.
That profile glance, as of a brother,
Is intimate and sad. It seems,
Tonight I’ll see the Reichstadt martyr,
Rostand and Sarah, - in my dreams!
In vast and happy Paris, here,
I dream of grass and cloudy nights,
And laughter’s far and shadows near,
Again, the same deep pain abides.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
very very famous Russian comic that became big in the 70's. He's probably most famous for the "Russian reversal joke"
eg: In America you can always find a party.
In Soviet Russia, Party finds you!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
According to Karen Cavanagh, CEO of Saber Technical, the New York-based designer and manufacturer of the electrical generating playground systems, the equipment is fitted with alternators and gears which, when activated, are able to generate an electrical charge.
If the children are spinning a merry-go-round that’s intended to pump well water, the spinning motion of the machine will send power into an alternator which then transfers an electric current directly to a sump pump. From there the sump pump pushes the water through underground pipes into a holding tank, which is mounted on top of a tower. The clean water can then be used for drinking, for sanitation purposes or for irrigating arid land…
One project that’s slated for a school in Tanzania will literally change the lives of the 600-plus children who attend it. Presently the students of the Sinai School in Babati are forced to walk two miles everyday to access clean drinking water. They also conduct their studies in powerless classrooms that double as storerooms. After their new playground system is constructed, the children will not only enjoy pumped in clean drinking water, they’ll have enough stored electricity to power up their classrooms.
Energy generation causes lights on the equipment to flash; these lights are not only visually stimulating to children, but simultaneously reinforce their play and empower them to be more energy conscientious. And hey, if Tanzania can do it, Russia can too!:
But what’s good about kid-powered playgrounds is that they not only provide access to human basics like water and electric light, they are able to bridge the world’s cultural gap.
I always thought if we focused on youth the world would become better. Kids: bringing running water, electricity, and world peace to a playground near you. :-)
Anastasia was born on June 18, 1901 to Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra. She was the younger sister of Olga, Tatiana, and Maria and had a younger brother Alexei. With the murder of the Romanov family in 1918 rumors of her survival circulated. It was said to be believed that she escaped and was still alive. There were a few women to come forward and claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anna Anderson was one of the more popular posers. After Anna Anderson's death in 1984 a DNA sample was taken and in 1994 it was tested and shown that there was no relation to her and the Grand Duchess. The grave where Anastasia's parents were buried in Ekaterinburg only had the bodies of her mother, father and her three sisters. In 2008 however the charred remains of a young boy and girl were found near Ekaterinburg. DNA testing showed that the young boy is Alexei and the young girl was one of the four Romanov girls.
The Telegraph is a bit dishy, but they call this one correctly... One wonders how much of Russia's currency reserves are tied up in supposedly secure assets that have been rendered worthless by [insert any financial crisis here].
"According to opinion polls, 57 per cent reckon [the Russian economy] is flourishing, up from 53 per cent in July.
The survey's findings are a triumph for the state, proving that the Kremlin has not lost its touch when it comes to manipulating fact. Obeying orders from the top, Russian television has banned the use of words such as "crisis", "decline" and "devaluation". Coverage of the mayhem in the country's stock market, where shares have fallen by 75 per cent since August, is scant.[...]Last week, the price of Russian oil fell below $50 a barrel. At that price it would become impossible to balance next year's budget, which is predicated on oil prices of $95. Russian officials claim they can tap into a rainy-day fund and currency reserves that are still the third largest in the world. But Russia cannot do that indefinitely, and frittering reserves could frighten away foreign investors – who have already pulled out more than $150 billion.
There is compelling evidence that the crisis has started affecting ordinary people. The middle class has shrunk from 25 per cent of the population to 18 per cent in the past few months alone. Many companies are laying off jobs, and doing so in a manner likely to cause resentment."
Monday, November 17, 2008
Nowadays, it's not easy to surprise a listener by contemporary world or jazz music. Nevertheless, Oleg Kireyev succeeds in it. Western press calls Oleg Kireyev "revolutionary reedman from the Urals" for the new air he brings into well known styles. He easily combines jazz standards with exotic folklore, showing high-class improvisation technique. Been fascinated by Bashkir folklore Oleg Kireyev was the first one in Russia, who started to practice ethno-approach in jazz. After a long term collaboration with folk musicians he mastered guttural singing technique and introduced into his band such folk instruments as "kurai" (Bashkir wind instrument) and "kubyz" (Jew's-harp). In 1985 jazz band "Orlan", formed by Oleg Kireyev became bright phenomenon on a Russian jazz stage. In 1989, record label "Melodia" (single label in Russia for that period) released "Bashkir legends". World music was gaining popularity around the globe and "Orlan" been always enthusiastically welcomed everywhere. "Orlan" had been touring a lot around big Russia and abroad. In 1994, Oleg Kireyev won the scholarship and went to the USA to study jazz in the famous school of saxophonist Bud Shank. This was after Bud Shank listened to Oleg's solo album "Romantic"(1994). In Bud Shank's school Oleg Kireyev was a soloist of "All stars students" band, which consisted of the school's best students. Together with Bud Shank's band, Oleg Kireyev played as a soloist with well established on jazz stage musicians.
In 1996 Oleg Kireyev quartet was invited to perform at Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), where he was awarded a diploma for "outstanding performance at the 30th anniversary Festival". Then comes the international recognition for Oleg Kireyev.In 1997 Oleg Kireyev performed at "Birmingham Jazz Festival" (UK). Same year, he took part in "Earling jazz festival" (London). Since then Oleg Kireyev has been touring England once or twice a year.In 2000 Oleg Kireyev released album with pop-jazz program "Love Letters". Audience liked those touching emotional, romantic tunes and CD had good sells in England.
After numerous experiments in the area of world music Oleg Kireyev created project that absorbed folklore from all over the world. That is "Feng shui jazz theatre" that later turned to release of new album "Mandala" (2004) "The Feng Shui Jazz Theater" project celebrates the rich diversity of musical styles and instrumentation brought to the stage by Kireyev and his band members. "Often our music on stage comes from folk songs or a sudden mood we get after reading a French sonnet," says Kireyev. "Sometimes we will combine an opera singer and vanguard jazz on the same stage for an interesting Italian opera affect." The live performance thoroughly engages the audience in its energy and creativity.
Today Oleg often plays on different venues in the different countries. He plays his original music in a mainstream style, ethnic jazz and world music. He is working as artistic director in a famous and bright Jazz club in Moscow, located 300meters away from the Red Square, "Union of Composers" (Souz Kompozitorov), where international and Russian musisians play jazz music for the Muscovites as well as for guests of Moscow city.
The members of this group include: Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin. Interestingly, these men all had jobs within the military or government, and composing wasn't their primary form of occupation. However, they completely transformed Russian music. Their primary goal was to create a totally "Russian" sound, instead of mimicking other European styles and nuances. Their music was part of a nation-wide Romantic-nationalism revolution that was echoed in other facets of the arts as well.
Their music would help to put Russia on the map of the world of classical music, making new and exciting uses of existing techniques to create a very unique sound. They would also serve to influence the neoclassical and radical musical movements of later composers like Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
America has problem with getting involved in disputes that are really outside our area of interest. What kind of balance needs to be struck between tending our own garden and playing arbiter to international crises? We have sworn to be isolationists before. We didn't get involved with WWII until Pearl Harbor. So, why don't we continue to adhere to strict isolationism these days? I don't know, maybe because we didn't get involved in WWII until Pearl Harbor. That's quite a dilemma. Now we are supporting the right of countries like Georgia to join NATO and become little demagogues of democracy, all the while annoying the heck out of Russia. Why do we bother? Shouldn't we be more concerned with promoting stability? Shouldn't we just mind our own business? Well, yes and no. In a world that is becoming increasingly global in its scope, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to shady practices by our neighbors. And Russia is Alaska's neighbor, after all.
So, there's a separatist movement in Georgia. The georgian government brings the smack down, killing some Russian soldiers along the way. Russia brings the tanks and its all over. Russia wins. Georgia pouts. America is flustered. We have been rooting for Georgia all along. Now what? Well, there are a lot of common sense things we could do. For example, we need to have specific criteria for judging the severity of incidents, such as the Russian invasion of Georgia, to guide whether or not we need to get involved. Is our presence really necessary, and for what reasons? What exactly do we hope to accomplish by accosting Russia anyway? And that's basically what we decided to do. “No, Russia, that was a bad thing that you did.” You know what, I don't think Russia cares.
This may seem really grade schoolish or maybe even Oprah-like, but it really seems like our basic problem with Russia is a lack of understanding of its character. Its a crumbling empire whose vestiges of power are size and intimidation. Historically, it has remained distant from the influence of Europe. Russia has a distinct character, and takes pride in this distinction. In giving such visible support to former territories of the soviet union, we are threatening Russia's power, challenging their way of life, and essentially alienating them from global policy making. I have to say, Russia has done a pretty good job of gaining respect and attention – unfortunately by using the same tactics of control by sheer force of size in the business world, specifically in the oil market, that they formerly used on battlefield.
So what should we do? Step lightly? Assuage their ego? Let democracy die!? Nothing quite so dramatic. Perhaps a reassessment on our nuclear arms policy, which is due to expire during Obama's term anyway. That should be interesting. Russia is worried that other countries are taking advantage of its relatively peaceful state to wage an arms race, and is certain that America is gunning for absolute dominion. Really, a hands off approach may be best. “If both sides can agree that their military forces do not really threaten each other, they will not have to sweat every detail over limiting them.” (“What Has Moscow Done?” Foreign Affairs, November 2008)
Maybe it seems awfully naïve of me, but can't we at least pretend to trust Russia? Just a little bit? Don't we have enough bombs to blow up the world a few times anyway? Aren't we kind of going overboard? I always end up becoming things I previously made fun of – catholic high school student, philosophy major, ...what's next? It does seem awfully idealistic to advocate respect and trust (or at least the facade of trust) as possible ways to improve our relationship with Russia, but doesn't it also seem like common sense? I mean, what's the harm? Could this new approach possibly do worse than the ham handed attempts by both sides to control the other? We need to face that Russia and America essentially have a values conflict. We each have strong national character and vastly different ways of approaching the same problems. I'm not saying we're going to get along. But it seems like the issues I'm discussing are so, soft, I guess, that no serious analyst (that I've heard of anyway) has bothered to talk about them. But maybe if we put forth the first effort in just annoying Russia a little less, this whole personality conflict may be taken a little more seriously. It's worth a try.
The quake, measuring 6,3 on the Richter scale according to Strasbourg observatory estimates, was felt in five regions of the Russian north Caucasus and neighbouring Georgia and Armenia.
The dead were found in Chechnya's east, four of them killed in the Kurchaloy district and the other in Gudermes, said Itar-Tass news agency, citing Chechen emergency situations vice-ministerAkhmed Dzheirkhanov.
One was a soldier who died when a wall collapsed, while at least 24 people were injured, said Russian news agencies, which added there were no reports of major damage.
About 52 000 people from three Chechen districts were left without electricity, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, cited by Interfax.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said he had ordered the creation of a special commission to assess the needs of people following the earthquake.
"We have received information on damage from various districts ... each and every [victim] will receive the necessary help and support," said Kadyrov, quoted by Interfax.
The American Geological Institute, which put the strength of the quake at 5,3 on the Richter scale, said its epicentre was 40km east of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and 10km underground.In the Chechen city of Gudermes, residents who live in high apartment buildings left their homes briefly due to fear of aftershocks, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The wedding shares some similarities to an American Wedding but not many. The wedding is held in what looks like a ceremonial room with a few guests, a small orchestra and a minister. There isn't any chairs or maid of honor or best man. There is a small ceremony pressumably exchanging vows and then they move on to another room where they sign the official papers. The bride still wears a rather extravagant gown and the groom wears a nice tuxedo. Family members and friends shap pictures of the new couple and they head off in a limo decorated in bridal flowers.
I was looking through a list of the countries apart of the USSR and I thought I would look more into Azerbaijan.
About the size of Maine, Azerbaijan is located underneath Russia, between Armenia and Georgia and the Caspian sea. It borders Iran in the south. Originally the area was known as Caucasian Albania, but it was eventually conquered by the Turks and became known as Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani language is based on Turkish and is intelligible by Turks. During the period when Azerbaijan was controlled by the Turks, Turkish displaced the endemic Persian, Arabic, and Caucasian languages. When Azerbaijan join the USSR, the temporarily switched to the Cyrillic alphabet, but switched back to the Latin once they established their independence. Both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are in use today as well as the old Perso-Arabic script.
The name "Azerbaijan" is derived from the Persian satrap, Atropates. Atropates is a Greek transliteration meaning "protected by the holy fire." Alexander the Great allowed Atropates to reign over the area of Azerbaijan during his rule.
Nine out of eleven climate zones can be found in Azerbaijan from its unique location. The Greater Caucasus mountains block the northern arctic air masses creating a subtropical climate in some areas. They feature rare Jeyran gazelles and Caucasus goats as well as sturgeon and salmon. Azerbaijan is also known for its Golden Eagles, which can be found on a variety of Azerbaijani stamps.
The largest city is Baku with approximately 2 million people. Between 93 and 96% of the population is Muslims, the rest being Russian or Armenian Orthodox and various other minorities. Below is five finger mountain in Absheron, Azerbaijan. Also below is a Golden Eagle.
Above is Khinalaug in Quba Rayon, Azerbaijan, an ancient village of Caucasian Albania.
Below are the mountains near Tingalty in Quba.
Here's a 10+ story mural of a motley assortment of creatures and characters living in the branches of a tree.
Here's an impressive depiction of underwater robots and machines.
But as nice as these paintings are, they pale in comparison to the next two images, which are displayed across from each other.
One side portrays various American characters, such as Bart Simpson, Robocop, and the Terminator (Who is saying, "Bend Down" - which either is supposed to mean "Bow Down" or the Russians have horribly misconstrued the sexual nature of The Terminator movie). The characters are menacing and the words above the mural say "Duel of the Century."
This is nice and all...but it's their opponent that is the main attraction, and it's someone who we're all familiar with...
That's right. Alexander Pushkin, the poet, is single-handedly taking on the most dangerous of American cinema characters armed with nothing more than a revolver. Why haven't we covered this aspect of Pushkin's legacy yet?
Images from englishrussia.com.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
According to the announcement, the Russian army general staff is considering the purchase because of the Israeli drone's high capabilities. If the deal is carried out, it will be a rare occurrence, as Russia seldom buys weapons and military technology from Israel.
There have been deals between the two countries in the past, but on a much smaller scale, and including lesser technology such as bulletproof vests or counter-terror equipment. However, Israel has purchased from Russia four Ilyushin planes, which will be fitted with locally manufactured intelligence equipment, for the Phalcon system to be supplied to India in the future.
A Russian defense ministry spokesman said Saturday following the announcement that "Russia cannot forget that it must support local production," and therefore, if the deal goes forward, Russia will "purchase several drones and the rest will be manufactured under license in Russia."
Russian MP Mikhail Musatov quoted the Russian chief of staff over the weekend as saying that "the General Staff has decided that while we don't have such drones, over the next two to three years, we will buy them from Israel."
The announcement comes after Moscow had an opportunity to evaluate the aircraft's capabilities during the recent conflict between the Russian army and Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Osettia. In the clash, the Israeli-made drones, the Hermes model manufactured by Elbit, were used by the Georgian army.
The Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Heron model is also vying for the tender.
The Israeli drones are made entirely of locally manufactured parts, and therefore do not require U.S. authorization prior to being sold to foreign countries. However, it is not yet clear how Washington will react to the deal, though U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has voiced his interest in strengthening ties with Moscow.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Music Review - Kirov Orchestra of the Maryinsky Theater - Prokofiev’s Ballet Score Is St. Petersburg Musicians’ Native Tongue - NYTimes.com
Ruble Devaluation Looms on Oil; Troika Sees 30% Drop (Update1)
By Emma O'Brien and Ye Xie
Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Russia's currency reserves, the third-biggest in the world, are no match for tumbling oil prices and an exodus of capital that may force the central bank to accept a devalued ruble.
Just 10 years ago, Russia let the ruble fall as much as 71 percent as the government defaulted on $40 billion of debt and world stock and bond markets collapsed. Now, the combination of a 61 percent drop in oil prices from their peak in July, slowing economic growth and increasing investor concern about emerging markets are draining Russia's foreign reserves, which fell 19 percent to $484.6 billion in the 12 weeks through Oct. 31.
Russia, which uses reserves to curb swings in the ruble that hurt the competitiveness of exports, may find the resistance futile after the currency fell 13 percent against the dollar since Aug. 1. The central bank sold a record $40 billion in October, according to Moscow-based Trust Investment Bank. Troika Dialog, the country's oldest investment bank, said the currency may slump as much as 30 percent in the event of a devaluation.
Friday, November 7, 2008
"Vodka" is a diminutive of the Slavic word woda/voda standing for water.
The word is found for the first time in the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland dating to 1405 and 1537. At these times the word referred to medicines and cosmetics. A number of Russian pharmaceutical lists contain the terms "vodka of bread wine" (водка хлебного вина vodka khlebnogo vina) and "vodka in half of bread wine" (водка полу хлебного вина vodka polu khlebnogo vina). As alcohol had long been used as a basis for medicines, this implies that the term vodka could be a noun derived from the verb vodit’, razvodit’ (водить, разводить), "to dilute with water".
Bread wine was a spirit distilled from alcohol made from grain (as opposed to grape wine) and hence "vodka of bread wine" would be a water dilution of a distilled grain spirit.
While the word could be found in manuscripts and in lubok (лубок, pictures with text explaining the plot, a Russian predecessor of the comic), it began to appear in Russian dictionaries in the mid-19th century.
Another possible connection for "vodka" with "water" is the name of the medieval alcoholic beverage aqua vitae (Latin, literally, "water of life"), which is reflected in Polish "okowita", Ukrainian оковита, or Belarusian акавіта. (Note that whisky has a similar etymology, from the Irish/Scottish Gaelic uisce beatha/uisge-beatha.)
People in the area of vodka's probable origin have names for vodka with roots meaning "to burn": Samogitian: degtėnė'; Polish: gorzałka; Ukrainian: горілка, horilka; Belarusian: 'гарэлка, harelka; Lithuanian: degtinė (a Slavicism arielka, is also in use, colloquially and in proverbs); Latvian: degvīns; Finnish: paloviina. In Russian during 17th and 18th century горящее вино (goryashchee vino, "burning wine") was widely used. Compare to Danish; brændevin; Dutch: brandewijn; Swedish: brännvin; Norwegian: Brennevin (although the latter terms refer to any strong alcoholic beverage). Tet
Another Slavic/Baltic archaic term for hard liquors was "green wine" (Russian: zeleno vino, Lithuanian: žalias vynas).
The origins of vodka cannot be traced definitively, but it is believed to have originated in the grain-growing region that now embraces Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and western Russia. It also has a long tradition in Scandinavia.
For many centuries beverages contained little alcohol. It is estimated that the maximum amount was about 14% as only this amount is reachable by means of natural fermentation. The still allowing for distillation – “the burning of wine” – was invented in the 8th century.
In Poland, vodka (Polish: wódka), has been produced since the early Middle Ages. In these early days, the spirits were used mostly as medicines. Stefan Falimierz asserted in his 1534 works on herbs that vodka could serve "to increase fertility and awaken lust". Around 1400 it became also a popular drink in Poland. Wódka lub gorzała (1614), by Jerzy Potański, contains valuable information on the production of vodka. Jakub Kazimierz Haur, in his book Skład albo skarbiec znakomitych sekretów ekonomiej ziemiańskiej (A Treasury of Excellent Secrets about Landed Gentry's Economy, Kraków, 1693), gave detailed recipes for making vodka from rye.
Some Polish vodka blends go back centuries. Most notable are Żubrówka, from about the 16th century; Goldwasser, from the early 17th; and aged Starka vodka, from the 16th. In the mid-17th century, the szlachta (nobility) were granted a monopoly on producing and selling vodka in their territories. This privilege was a source of substantial profits. One of the most famous distilleries of the aristocracy was established by Princess Lubomirska and later operated by her grandson, Count Alfred Wojciech Potocki. The Vodka Industry Museum, now housed at the headquarters of Count Potocki's distillery, has an original document attesting that the distillery already existed in 1784. Today it operates as "Polmos Łańcut."
Large-scale vodka production began in Poland at the end of the 16th century, initially at Kraków, whence spirits were exported to Silesia before 1550. Silesian cities also bought vodka from Poznań, a city that in 1580 had 498 working spirits distilleries. Soon, however, Gdańsk outpaced both these cities. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Polish vodka was known in the Netherlands, Denmark, England, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Moldavia, Ukraine and the Black Sea basin.
Early production methods were primitive. The beverage was usually low-proof, and the distillation process had to be repeated several times (a three-stage distillation process was common). The first distillate was called "brantówka," the second — "szumówka," the third — "okowita" (from "aqua vitae"), which generally contained 70–80% alcohol by volume. Then the beverage was watered down, yielding a simple vodka (30–35%), or a stronger one if the watering was done using an alembic. The exact production methods were described in 1768 by Jan Paweł Biretowski and in 1774 by Jan Chryzostom Simon. The beginning of the 19th century inaugurated the production of potato vodka, which immediately revolutionized the market.
The end of the 18th century marked the start of the vodka industry in Poland (eastern part of Poland was part of Russian empire at that time). Vodkas produced by the nobility and clergy became a mass product. The first industrial distillery was opened in 1782 in Lwów by Jan Baczewski. He was soon followed by Jakub Haberfeld, who in 1804 established a factory at Oświęcim, and by Hartwig Kantorowicz (1823) at Poznań. The implementation of new technologies in the second half of the 19th century, which allowed the production of clear vodkas, contributed to their success. The first rectification distillery was established in 1871. In 1925 the production of clear vodkas was made a Polish government monopoly.
After World War II, all vodka distilleries were taken over by Poland's communist government. During the 1980s, the sale of vodka was rationed. After the victory of the Solidarity movement, all distilleries were privatized, leading to an explosion of brands.
The "vodka belt" countries of central and eastern Europe and Nordic countries are the historic home of vodka, and also have the highest vodka consumption in the world
It was not originally called vodka — instead, the term bread wine (хлебное вино; khlebnoye vino) was used. Until mid-18th century, it remained relatively low on alcohol content, not exceeding 40% by volume. It was mostly sold in taverns and was quite expensive. At the same time, the word vodka was already in use, but it described herbal tinctures (similar to absinthe), containing up to 75% by volume alcohol, and made for medicinal purposes.
The first written usage of the word vodka in an official Russian document in its modern meaning is dated by the decree of Empress Elizabeth of June 8, 1751, which regulated the ownership of vodka distilleries. The taxes on vodka became a key element of government finances in Tsarist Russia, providing at times up to 40% of state revenue. By the 1860s, due to the government policy of promoting consumption of state-manufactured vodka, it became the drink of choice for many Russians. In 1863, the government monopoly on vodka production was repealed, causing prices to plummet and making vodka available even to low-income citizens. By 1911, vodka comprised 89% of all alcohol consumed in Russia. This level has fluctuated somewhat during the 20th century, but remained quite high at all times. The most recent estimates put it at 70% (2001). Today, some popular vodka producers/brands are (amongst others) Stolichnaya, Eristoff, Smirnoff and Borissov.
Main article: Horilka
Horilka (Ukrainian: горілка) is the Ukrainian term for "vodka". Horilka may also be used in a generic sense in the Ukrainian language to mean moonshine, whisky or other strong spirits. Among East Slavic peoples, the term horilka is used to stress the Ukrainian origin of a vodka, for example, in Nikolai Gogol's historic novel Taras Bulba: "and bring us a lot of horilka, but not of that fancy kind with raisins, or with any other such things—bring us horilka of the purest kind, give us that demon drink that makes us merry, playful and wild!".
A pertsivka or horilka z pertsem (pepper vodka) is a vodka with whole fruits of capsicum put into the bottle, turning horilka into a sort of bitters. Horilkas are also often made with honey, mint, or even milk, the latter not typical of vodkas of other origins. Some claim that horilka is considered stronger and spicier than typical Russian vodka.ss
Monday, November 3, 2008
It sounds like a joke (Allman Brothers???) but it was in today’s NYT:
November 3, 2008
Russians With Pumpkins Protest Many Plots U.S.
By ELLEN BARRY
MOSCOW — Thousands of Russians from the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi gathered in front of the United States Embassy here on Sunday night carrying jack-o’-lanterns inked with the names of war victims and charging that the war in Georgia was part of an American plot to improve Senator John McCain’s electoral prospects.
As music by Johnny Cash and the Allman Brothers played from loudspeakers, a stream of young people climbed off buses that had carried them to
from far-flung provincial capitals. They held the pumpkins aloft for a moment of silence as a deep bass thumped and carnival-style lights played on the embassy’s facade. Moscow
In a film projected on several large screens, an actor playing President Bush (though with a heavy Russian accent) delivered a speech in which he gloated over the
’ control over world affairs. The film asserted that the United States orchestrated World Wars I and II so that the American economy could overtake Europe’s, carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to broaden government powers and planned to brand every person on the planet with the “mark of the beast,” as referred to in the Bible. United States
Remember when we thought we'd won the Cold War??