Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Medvedev has a what?

This is brought to you by The Moscow Times:

President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday opened a discussion forum on the popular LiveJournal blogging site, where numerous prominent politicians and businessmen maintain online journals.

Medvedev, who often plays up his Internet savvy, told reporters in Finland that the project would boost his interaction with the online community.

"Thanks to LiveJournal, I will be able to make closer contact with Internet users," Medvedev said, according to a transcript on the Kremlin's web site.

As of Tuesday, the discussion board, located at Community.livejournal.com/blog_medvedev, contained videos and press materials from the Kremlin web site, where Medvedev last year opened a blog carrying video addresses to Internet users.

Medvedev will post a video on the blog Wednesday in which he "will talk about the development of the Internet and what the government should do to develop it," his spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, told Interfax.

With virtually no criticism of the government on state-controlled television, the Russian blogosphere, and in particular LiveJournal, has become perhaps the country's most vibrant forum for political debate.

Many well-known politicians maintain LiveJournal blogs, including Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, wealthy businessman Alexander Lebedev, Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

Medvedev said he had not yet decided on a nickname for the blog, and LiveJournal users were already making suggestions on Medvedev's page on Tuesday afternoon.

One user suggested he use "preved_medved," or "hi, bear," a phrase from a racy cartoon that made the rounds of the Russian blogosphere in the run-up to Medvedev's election last year.

All comments posted on the blog will require approval from a moderator, according to the site. Comments containing swear words or offensive statements will not be posted, it said.

More than 30 comments had been posted on the blog as of Tuesday afternoon, some of which were critical of the president.

"How can you call for people (dissenters) to do something when you don't give anything in return (freedom)?" asked one user named "iceaxe."

Medvedev on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day visit to Finland by laying a wreath at the grave of Field Marshal C.G. Mannerheim, who led Finnish forces against the Red Army during World War II, and a trip to the town of Porvoo, where Tsar Alexander I declared Finland part of Russia.

The LiveJournal is in Russian :-D

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tetris (Unit 9/10)

One of the few games that gained ultimate popularity all over the world turns out to be a Russian invention. The ever so popular game of Tetris was created by Alexey Pazhitnov assited by Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov, Russian computer engineers in 1985. However, at the time the game was created intellectual property rights were not allowed for private individuals and the game was not patented.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Wild Cossack Rides Into a Cultural Battle - NYTimes.com

We talk all the time in class about the confused/complex sense of identity Russians have, and its connection with a Ukrainian heritage (linguistically and culturally).

Gogol's own ethnicity is oversimplified here--he basically became famous by playing up his "authentic" Ukrainian identity, though in many respects, the creation of a distinct Ukrainian identity was itself a product of... Gogol's literature.

A Wild Cossack Rides Into a Cultural Battle - NYTimes.com: MOSCOW — Russia’s latest action hero galloped onto movie screens here this month, slicing up Polish noblemen like so many cabbages.

Taras Bulba, the 15th-century Cossack immortalized in Nikolai Gogol’s novel by that name, disdains peace talks as “womanish” and awes his men with speeches about the Russian soul. When Polish soldiers finally burn him at the stake, he roars out his faith in the Russian czar even as flames lick at his mustache.

A lush $20 million film adaptation of the book was rolled out at a jam-packed premiere in Moscow on April 1, complete with rows of faux Cossacks on horseback. Vladimir V. Bortko’s movie, financed in part by the Russian Ministry of Culture, is a work of sword-rattling patriotism that moved some viewers in Moscow to tears.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Scottish-Russian collaboration to provide education for Petroleum Engineering

Award Winning Scottish/Russian Collaboration Extends to Kazakhstan

A ground breaking degree course, which linked Heriot-Watt University with Tomsk Polytechnic University, in Siberia, has been so successful that it is now being taken up for use in Kazakhstan.

The MSc in Petroleum Engineering programme, launched in 2001, brought together Heriot-Watt University's Institute of Petroleum Engineering and Tomsk in a collaboration providing Masters courses and research for YUKOS in Siberia. 31 students who participated in the second year of course delivery in Tomsk will graduate at a special ceremony at the British Embassy in Moscow on 29 January '04, twenty eight with an MSc and three with a diploma. Another cohort of 45 students is already part way through the course's third year.

The success of the scheme was also recognized in London recently, when it was awarded a Highly Commended at the Energy Institute's prestigious International Platinum Award ceremony.

Now the course has been taken up by the Kazakh British Technical University's International Programme, based at the old Kazakh parliament building in Almati, and will be taught by academics from both Heriot-Watt and Tomsk Universities. The programme's start-up has been underwritten by Shell and BG.

The MSc in Petroleum Engineering course at Heriot-Watt University evolved out of the Petroleum Industry's preference for a 12 month conversion programme for graduate engineers and scientists.
The Heriot-Watt University Masters in Petroleum Engineering course is an intensive experience lasting for 12 months, and prepares high-calibre graduates in possession of a suitable first degree in engineering, science or mathematics, for employment in the oil and gas industry.
The course quickly became recognised as the preferred route into Petroleum Engineering and annually attracts more than 400 student applications, from which a class of about 30 students is selected.
The course is multidisciplinary in nature, and covers aspects of geoscience, reservoir drilling and production engineering, and economics, stressing the inter-relation of these topics. Heriot-Watt University has been running the course on its Edinburgh campus for 27 years, with sponsorship from the British Government, and many national and multi-national oil Companies.
Students on the course in Tomsk and Edinburgh sit the same examinations. Staff from Tomsk Polytechnic University spent time at Heriot-Watt University to assimilate course material and teaching methods. Although the teaching in Tomsk is currently shared with visiting Heriot-Watt staff, the intention is to have the course taught exclusively by Tomsk Polytechnic University staff in the future.
The Heriot-Watt University Masters in Petroleum Engineering course at Tomsk Polytechnic University is funded by Yukos and is currently exclusive to Yukos staff. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a Masters course has been transferred in this way into Russia.

Unit 8 Blog

Shocker! Russian and Chinese cyberspies have hacked into the U.S. electrical grid
Wednesday, April 8th 2009, 1:54 PM
The fear is that cyberspies will use their access to take down the system.
Related News
Hacker's April Fools? Conficker worm infects millions
Russian and Chinese spies have infiltrated our electrical sockets.
Cyberspies from these and other countries have hacked into the
U.S. electrical grid and planted bugs that could be switched on to disrupt the system, according to a published report.
"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," a senior intelligence official told the
Wall Street Journal. "So have the Russians."
While neither country has attempted to short circuit the system, the fear is that in time of war their hackers could hijack computer systems which run power plants and other key installations - and cause widespread chaos.
"There are intrusions, and they are growing," a former
Department of Homeland Security official told Wednesday's paper. "There were a lot last year."
The Obama Administration is already taking steps to improve cybersecurity and government experts are developing ways to quickly trace attacks to their source.Home grown hackers, ranging from bored teenagers to kooks with their own twisted motivations, have already done hundreds of millions in damage to government systems, officials said.
"It often takes weeks and sometimes months of subsequent investigation,"
National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Senate subcommittee last month. "And even at the end of very long investigations you're not quite sure" who launched them.
Blair also warned that terrorists "are interested in using cyberweapons, just the way they're interested in using most any weapon they can use against us."
The chances of that happening, however, are remote, he said.
"It is a concern, but right now I'd say their capability is low," Blair said. "I think the more spectacular attacks that kill a lot of people on very publicly is what they are looking for."
While the Russians and Chinese deny cyberspying on the U.S., a top security expert said America has been waging a virtual cloak-and-dagger war against them for years.
"They're doing it to us, we're doing it to them,"
Bruce Schneier, a security expert and chief security technology officer at British Telecom, told The Daily News.
Schneier agreed that "our infrastructure needs better cyber security." But he said "our power system is much more vulnerable to mistakes than anything."
The best known cyber attack was in 2000 when a disgruntled worker sabotaged the computerized control system at an Australian water treatment plant so that it spilled more than 200,000 gallons of sewage.
"And it that case, he was an insider who knew how the system worked," said Schneier.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beaches of Russia (Unit 8)

One popular location for Russian vacationers is Zelenogradsk. Located on the Sambian coastline on the coast of the Baltic Sea in the Kaliningrad area, Zelenogradsk has wide beaches with clean white sand and hidden beaches protected by the wind. It formally belonged to East Prussia and was named Cranz and was annexed to Russia during World War II. Along with its beautiful beaches it has a strong fishing industry. So the next time you're in Russia make it a point to head over to the beaches of Zelenogradsk and kick back, relax, and enjoy some smoked flounder, a regional delicacy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Maksimovich Peshkov (March 28 [O.S. March 16] 1868 – June 18, 1936), better known as Maxim Gorky was a Russian/Soviet author, a founder of the socialist realism literary method and a political activist. From 1906 to 1913 and from 1921 to 1929 he lived abroad, mostly in Capri, Italy; after his return to the Soviet Union he accepted the cultural policies of the time, although he was not permitted to leave the country.

Gorky was born in Nizhny Novgorod and became an orphan at the age of ten. Two years later at the age of 12 in 1880 he ran away from home and was trying to find his grandmother. Gorky was brought up by his grandmother, an excellent storyteller. Her death deeply affected him, and after an attempt at suicide in December 1887, he travelled on foot across the Russian Empire for five years, changing jobs and accumulating impressions used later in his writing.

As a journalist working in provincial newspapers, he wrote under the pseudonym Jehudiel Khlamida— suggestive of "cloak-and-dagger" by the similarity to the Greek chlamys, "cloak". He began using the pseudonym Gorky (literally "bitter") in 1892, while working in Tiflis newspaper The Caucasus. The name reflected his simmering anger about life in Russia and a determination to speak the bitter truth.

Gorky's first book Essays and Stories in 1898 enjoyed a sensational success and his career as a writer began. Gorky wrote incessantly, viewing literature less as an aesthetic practice (though he worked hard on style and form) than as a moral and political act that could change the world. He described the lives of people in the lowest strata and on the margins of society, revealing their hardships, humiliations, and brutalization, but also their inward spark of humanity.
Gorky’s reputation as a unique literary voice from the bottom strata of society and as a fervent advocate of Russia's social, political, and cultural transformation (by 1899, he was openly associating with the emerging Marxist social-democratic movement) helped make him a celebrity among both the intelligentsia and the growing numbers of "conscious" workers.

At the heart of all his work was a belief in the inherent worth and potential of the human person. He counter posed vital individuals, aware of their natural dignity, and inspired by energy and will, to people who succumb to the degrading conditions of life around them. Still, both his writings and his letters reveal a "restless man" (a frequent self-description) struggling to resolve contradictory feelings of faith and skepticism, love of life and disgust at the vulgarity and pettiness of the human world.

He publicly opposed the Tsarist regime and was arrested many times. Gorky befriended many revolutionaries and became Lenin's personal friend after they met in 1902. He exposed governmental control of the press. In 1902, Gorky was elected an honorary Academician of Literature, but Nicholas II ordered this annulled. In protest, Anton Chekhov and Vladimir Korolenko left the Academy.

The years 1900 to 1905 saw a growing optimism in Gorky’s writings. He became more involved in the opposition movement, for which he was again briefly imprisoned in 1901. Now a financially successful author, editor, and playwright, he gave financial support to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), though he also supported liberal appeals to the government for civil rights and social reform. The brutal shooting of workers marching to the Tsar with a petition for reform on January 9, 1905 (known as the "Bloody Sunday"), which set in motion the Revolution of 1905, seems to have pushed Gorky more decisively toward radical solutions. He now became closely associated with Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik wing of the party—though it is not clear whether he ever formally joined and his relations with Lenin and the Bolsheviks would always be rocky.

His most influential writings in these years were a series of political plays, most famously The Lower Depths (1902). In 1906, the Bolsheviks sent him on a fund-raising trip to the United States, where in the Adirondack Mountains Gorky wrote his famous novel of revolutionary conversion and struggle, Мать (Mat’, The Mother). His experiences there—which included a scandal over his traveling with his lover rather than his wife—deepened his contempt for the "bourgeois soul" but also his admiration for the boldness of the American spirit. While briefly imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress during the abortive 1905 Russian Revolution, Gorky wrote the play Children of the Sun, nominally set during an 1862 cholera epidemic, but universally understood to relate to present-day events.

From 1906 to 1913, Gorky lived on the island of Capri, partly for health reasons and partly to escape the increasingly repressive atmosphere in Russia. He continued to support the work of Russian social-democracy, especially the Bolsheviks, and to write fiction and cultural essays. Most controversially, he articulated, along with a few other maverick Bolsheviks, a philosophy he called "God-Building", which sought to recapture the power of myth for the revolution and to create a religious atheism that placed collective humanity where God had been and was imbued with passion, wonderment, moral certainty, and the promise of deliverance from evil, suffering, and even death. Though 'God-Building' was suppressed by Lenin, Gorky retained his belief that "culture"—the moral and spiritual awareness of the value and potential of the human self—would be more critical to the revolution’s success than political or economic arrangements.

An amnesty granted for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty allowed Gorky to return to Russia in 1913, where he continued his social criticism, mentored other writers from the common people, and wrote a series of important cultural memoirs, including the first part of his autobiography. On returning to Russia, he wrote that his main impression was that "everyone is so crushed and devoid of God's image." The only solution, he repeatedly declared, was "culture".

During World War I, his apartment in Petrograd was turned into a Bolshevik staff room, but his relations with the Communists turned sour. Two weeks after the October Revolution of 1917 he wrote: "Lenin and Trotsky don't have any idea about freedom or human rights. They are already corrupted by the dirty poison of power, this is visible by their shameful disrespect of freedom of speech and all other civil liberties for which the democracy was fighting". After his newspaper Novaya Zhizn ("New Life") fell prey to Bolshevik censorship, Gorky published a collection of essays critical of the Bolsheviks called Untimely Thoughts in 1918. (It would not be published in Russia again until the end of the Soviet Union.) The essays call Lenin a tyrant for his senseless arrests and repression of free discourse, and an anarchist for his conspiratorial tactics.

In August 1921, Nikolai Gumilyov, his friend, fellow writer and Anna Akhmatova's husband, was arrested by the Petrograd Cheka for his monarchist views. Gorky hurried to Moscow, obtained an order to release Gumilyov from Lenin personally, but upon his return to Petrograd he found out that Gumilyov had already been shot. In October, Gorky returned to Italy on health grounds: he had tuberculosis.

According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gorky's return to the Soviet Union was motivated by material needs. In Sorrento, Gorky found himself without money and without fame. He visited the USSR several times after 1929, and in 1932 Joseph Stalin personally invited him to return for good, an offer he accepted. In June 1929, Gorky visited Solovki (cleaned up for this occasion) and wrote a positive article about that Gulag camp, which had already gained ill fame in the West. Later he stated that everything he had written was under the control of censors. What he actually saw and thought when visiting the camp has been a highly discussed topic.

Gorky's return from fascist Italy was a major propaganda victory for the Soviets. He was decorated with the Order of Lenin and given a mansion (formerly belonging to the millionaire Ryabushinsky, now the Gorky Museum) in Moscow and a dacha in the suburbs. One of the central Moscow streets, Tverskaya, was renamed in his honor, as was the city of his birth. The largest fixed-wing aircraft in the world in the mid-1930s, the Tupolev ANT-20 was also named Maxim Gorky. It was used for propaganda purposes and often demonstratively flew over the Soviet capital.

The sudden death of his son Maxim Peshkov in May 1935 was followed by the death of Maxim Gorky himself in June 1936. Speculation has long surrounded the circumstances of his death. Stalin and Molotov were among those who carried Gorky's coffin during the funeral.

During the Bukharin show trials in 1938, one of the charges was that Gorky was killed by Yagoda's NKVD agents.

In Soviet times, before and after his death, the complexities in Gorky's life and outlook were reduced to an iconic image (echoed in heroic pictures and statues dotting the countryside): Gorky as a great Russian writer who emerged from the common people, a loyal friend of the Bolsheviks, and the founder of the increasingly canonical "socialist realism." In turn, dissident intellectuals dismissed Gorky as a tendentious ideological writer, though some Western writers noted Gorky's doubts and criticisms.

Today, greater balance is to be found in works on Gorky, where we see a growing appreciation of the complex moral perspective on modern Russian life expressed in his writings. Some historians have begun to view Gorky as one of the most insightful observers of both the promises and moral dangers of revolution in Russia.

London Bridge is falling down ... good because St. Petersburg's bridges are the best!

Fun fact: St. Petersburg, Russia has approximately three hundred bridges throughout the city! Why, one may ask, do they have such an exorbitantly high amount of мосты? A crash course in the geography of the city quickly shows the need for the bridges. Saint Petersburg is situated on the middle taiga lowlands along the shores of the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland. It is also split up among islands of the Neva river delta. There are many canals and rivers, including the famous and important Neva river that intersect the city over and over. The Russians have built a formidable collection of bridges to conquer the mighty river and peaceful canals flowing through the vibrant city. The bridges are not only aesthetically pleasing (Anichkov Bridge and The Bank Bridge are two of my favorite) they create interesting cultural adaptions as well. During the evening, the bridges are raised to allow boats and ships to pass through. If you are on the wrong side of the bridge late at night, you better be prepared for an extensive wait to cross. Below is a link to a nice summary and pictures of many of St. Petersburg's most interesting and beautiful bridges.


Мой любимое блюдо ... блины!!!!

I am in love with blini. They may possibly be the best thing about Russia. Below is a recipe, that I plan on using soon (unless anyone has a better recipe!)


* 2 eggs
* 1 tablespoon white sugar
* 1/3 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 1/2 cups milk
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon butter


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt. Sift the flour into the bowl, and stir in along with the milk. Mix until smooth and well blended. The batter should be thin.
2. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Lightly oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the batter, or as much as desired, into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter out evenly. When the edges are crisp looking and the center appears dry, slide a spatula carefully under the blin. Flip, and cook for about 1 minute on the other side, or until lightly browned.
3. Remove blini to a plate. Put a little butter on top, and continue to stack the blini on top of each other. To serve, spread with desired filling, then fold in half, and in half again to form a triangle. Mmm Mmm!

Mmm Mmm is right. Russia's greatest cultural achievement requires only three steps and a handful of ingredients. Russian ingenuity at its finest.

bomb the blogosphere

I am very behind with blogging - dissapointingly so. I am praying that the better late than never mantra holds true for Russian 202 blogs.

номер один

I read yesterday in the New York Times, that President Obama met with President Medvedev have begun talks to rejuvenate relations between the United States and Russia. Article link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/world/europe/02arms.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=obama%20russia&st=cse. I like to think that I keep up on current affairs, but I was unaware that Obama had plans to meet with Russia. More exciting than a cordial and seemingly benevolent meeting between the two, was the announcement that both countries will work toward reducing their nuclear stockpiles by up to a third. Obviously, this puts a seemingly inconsequential dent in the aftermath of a dangerous arms race, but the agreement is a step in the right direction. As the G-20 summit convenes, one can (with little optimism) hope that nuclear disarmament will not be ignored amid the inevitable economic discussions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Alcohol In a Can?


Only in Russia can one purchase gin and tonic in a can.

Русская Рулетка

Russian roullete is a game played with a revolver. A single round is placed in the six shot revolver which means the player has a 1 in 6 chance of the revolver releasing the shot. The revolver's cylinder is often spun around to start the game conditions over. It also ups the risk of being killed. Most stories about the beginning of russian rouletter are legends. In one story, 19th century prisoners were forced to play while the guards watched and bet on the results. In another story, they say that desperate soldiers in the Russian army would play. Either way Russian Roulette is a daring game that shouldn't be taken lightly.

Gotta Catch Them All

There is nothing better in life than to hear one of your favorite theme songs in Russian. Here, for everyone's entertainment, is the Pokemon theme song in Russian. It is perfect! The best part is when they say Pokemon! ENJOY


Didn't get to bed last night...

The beginning of one of the best Beatles songs ever (and thus by definition, one of the best songs overall) - Back in the U.S.S.R.

The song mentions Ukraine girls and their Beatle-K.O. capabilities (...really knock me out") as well as how inspiring girls from Moscow are ("make me sing and shout"), but there's also a fantastic play on Ray Charles's famous "Georgia On My Mind" - "That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my mind."

In an interview with Playboy (one of several notable interviews with the publication - go figure), McCartney discussed the song, saying:

"I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody. And 'Back in the USA' was a Chuck Berry song, so it kinda took off from there. I just liked the idea of Georgia girls and talking about places like the Ukraine as if they were California, you know? It was also hands across the water, which I'm still conscious of. 'Cuz they like us out there, even though the bosses in the Kremlin may not. The kids do. And that to me is very important for the future of the race."

You couldn't have been more right about the kids, Paul.

He says SOMETHING in Ukrainian at the beginning. All I can make out is "history" at the end.


Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn't get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man i had a dreadful flight
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.

Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee it's good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my mind.

I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my mind.

Show me round your snow peaked mountains way down south
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your balalaika's ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm.
I'm back in the U.S.S.R. hey
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.