Wednesday, September 30, 2009
No one could have predicted…
A nine-month European Union investigation into the 2008 war in the Caucasus has concluded that Georgia triggered the conflict, but that Russia prepared the ground for war to break out and broke international law by invading Georgia as a whole.[…]The report notes that the United States, Ukraine and Israel supplied large scale economic and military aid to Georgia that allowed the country to double its military in the space of a few years. "Military support must stay within the boundaries set by common sense and due diligence, keeping in mind both the intended and the unintended use of the arms and equipment supplied," the report's observations say.
That second bit, tho, about
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A White Russian is usually made from equal parts vodka, Kahlua (a coffee flavored liqueur), and cream. Simple enough. But where did this drink gets its start and, more pertinent, its name? I will assume the White Russians didn't drink White Russians as they marched on Omsk... white russians are usually served iced. And, once again, it is cold in Russia. Especially late in the year.
Not shockingly, the drink did not originate in Russia. According to various internet sources, the first record of the drink was in a California newspaper, the Oakland Tribune in 1965. It is so named because, nu, it is white in color and, during the Cold War, Americans associated vodka with Russia (just watch Dr. Strangelove...).
The White Russian was mostly popular in the 1970's, and then its popularity waned until 1998, when "The Dude" (aka Jeff Lebowski in The Big Lebowski) was seen drinking them. Since then, fans of both White Russians and Lebowski abound. (Note: Leboswki now has both a festival and religion in his honor)
Dangerous environmental conditions came to the attention of the public in the Soviet Union under the glasnost policy of the regime of Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in office 1985-91), which liberated the exchange of information in the late 1980s. The three situations that gripped public attention were the April 1986 nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl' Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine, the long-term and ongoing desiccation of the Aral Sea between Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, and the irradiation of northern Kazakstan by the Semipalatinsk (present-day Semey) nuclear testing site. The overall cost of rectifying these three disasters is staggering, dwarfing the cost of cleanups elsewhere, such as the superfund campaign to eliminate toxic waste sites in the United States. By the time the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, such conditions had become symbols of that system's disregard for the quality of the environment.
Since 1990 Russian experts have added to the list the following less spectacular but equally threatening environmental crises: the Dnepropetrovsk-Donets and Kuznets coal-mining and metallurgical centers, which have severely polluted air and water and vast areas of decimated landscape; the Urals industrial region, a strip of manufacturing cities that follows the southern Urals from Perm' in the north to Magnitogorsk near the Kazak border (an area with severe air and water pollution as well as radioactive contamination near the city of Kyshtym); the Kola Peninsula in the far northwest, where nonferrous mining and metallurgical operations, centered on the region's nickel reserves, have created air pollution that drifts westward across northern Scandinavia; the Republic of Kalmykia, where faulty agricultural practices have produced soil erosion, desertification, and chemical contamination; and the Moscow area, which suffers from high levels of industrial and vehicular air pollution and improper disposal of low-level radioactive waste. The experts also named five areas of severe water pollution: the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov north of the Black Sea, the Volga River, and Lake Baikal.
Each of Russia's natural zones has suffered degradation of specific kinds. In the tundra, the greatest damage stems from extraction and transportation of mineral resources by crude techniques. In delicate tundra habitats, oil spills, leaks in natural gas pipelines, and the flaring of natural gas destroy northern marshland ecosystems, which take many years to purify naturally. Also endangered are reindeer grazing lands, upon which indigenous peoples traditionally have depended for their livelihood. In the permafrost zones that constitute about 40 percent of Russia's territory, lower air, water, and ground temperatures slow natural self-cleansing processes that mitigate contamination in warmer regions, magnifying the impact of every spill and leak.
In the taiga, or forest, zone, the overcutting of trees poses the greatest threat, particularly in northern European Russia, the Urals, and the Angara Basin in south-central Siberia. Uncontrolled mining operations constitute the second major source of damage in the taiga. In the broad-leafed forest zone, irrational land use has caused soil erosion on a huge scale. Urbanization and air and water pollution also are problems.
The forest-steppe and steppe regions are subjected to soil exhaustion, loss of humus, soil compacting, and erosion, creating an extremely serious ecological situation. The soil fertility of Russia's celebrated black-earth (chernozem--see Glossary) region has deteriorated significantly in the postwar period. Overgrazing is the main problem in the pasturage regions of the Russian steppe and has severely affected the Republic of Kalmykia in southwestern Russia and the region east of Lake Baikal. In Russia's limited semiarid and arid territories, poorly designed irrigation and drainage systems have caused salinization, pollution, and contamination of surface and underground water, but not to the degree that these problems exist in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakstan.
Monday, September 28, 2009
My latest blog installment features my personal favorite composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (Дмитрий Дмитриевич Шостакович) or as many of my fellow musicians affectionately call him, “Shosty”.
Born September of 1906 in Saint Petersburg, Shostakovich was the son of two Siberia natives (Dmitri Boleslavovich Shostakovich and Sofiya Vasilievna Kokoulina). He began piano lessons with his mother at age eight and was soon recognized as a child prodigy in both piano and composition. In 1919 he began studying at the Petrograd Conservatory with the famous composer Alexander Glazunov and in 1926 he premiered his Symphony No.1 at the ripe age of 19. Although he was gifted in performance, many critics argued that he was too mechanical thus Shostakovich turned to composition as his primary focus.
Although the composer began his career as highly respected by the Soviet Union, things went infamously down hill when he wrote is opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” (1936), later titled “Katerina Izmailova”. Riddled with dissonance (imagine vulgar, ear straining sounds) as well as themes of murder and adultery, the Stalinist bureaucracy did not take kindly to the smashing of traditions that had been so popular in the 1920's. In fact Stalin historically stormed out of the hall of the opening performance! Contrary to the musical revolution that had begun in Russia during the early 20th century, Stalin insisted that art be conformist and closely monitored (allegedly to put an end to imperialistic capitalist formalism). Instead of praise, Shostakovich's experimentation with the latest in musical concepts earned his work the label of “muddle instead of music”. Furthermore, such blatant criticism during the days of Stalin could mean grave consequences for the composer including eviction from his home, loss of patronage (and commission for new works), jail time, and/or death! Driven by fear, Shostakovich resigned himself too a safer style starting with his Symphony No. 5 completed in 1937. Although there are musicologists who argue over a series of “hidden messages” within the symphony, it is blatantly obvious too many who have studied this work that there is a very real sense of tense restraint.
Perhaps one of the most tragic of events in music history include that of the Central Committee Meeting of the Communist Party during Feudatory 1948. After composing the “Resolution” or list of grievances with many of the famous composers of the time, the composers were one by one forced to rise and apologize for their formalist crimes to society. Among these composers was, of course, Shostakovich who was obligated to profess that he was “deeply grateful for the criticism contained in the resolution”and that he “would be more determined to work on the musical depiction of the images of the heroic soviet people.” So great was his humiliation that he was later involved in a letter to Stalin himself, thanking the dictator for the harsh judgment. It was not until 1958 when the new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, encouraged a party decree that dismissed the charges against the accused composers and once again Shostakovich was free too be a hero of Soviet music (too bad he fell back into discord again when Khrushchev decided his Symphony 13 was of distasteful subject matter in 1962).
A bitter and defeated man, Shostakovich died in Moscow on August 9th, 1975. Sadly, he did not live long enough to see his works reborn in the west. Today many of his repertoire including but not limited to his symphonies and fifteen string quartets are commonly played in concert halls all over the world. Below I have included a link to a performance of the third movement from his String Quartet No. 8 (a beloved composition that many of my colleagues as well as myself prize as as one of Shosty's bests).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OtqABpuV-s
Sunday, September 27, 2009
An interesting article in the Times today about teaching children self-control. The Soviet (not Russian as the Times says) psychologist Lev Vysgotsky has exerted quite a lot of control over Soviet/Russian educational practices. he's also strangely influential in Russian-based cultural studies, especially his writings on inner speech and its connection to oral language...
Which is why Abigail, Henry and Jocelyn are potentially so important. They and their classmates are enrolled in Tools of the Mind, a relatively new program dedicated to improving the self-regulation abilities of young children, starting as early as age 3. Tools of the Mind is based on the teachings of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist who died of tuberculosis in 1934, at age 38, and whose educational theories and methods were, until recently, little known in the United States. Over the past 15 years, Deborah Leong and Elena Bodrova, scholars of child development based in Denver, have turned Vygotsky's philosophy into a full-time curriculum for prekindergarten and kindergarten students, complete with training manuals and coaches and professional-development classes for teachers. Tools of the Mind has grown steadily — though its expansion has sped up in the past few years — and it now is being used to teach 18,000 prekindergarten and kindergarten students in 12 states around the country.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
OK. Nothing at all to do with Russian. But, really, students... get some sleep!
In a recent study for The Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists followed 153 men and women for two weeks, keeping track of their quality and duration of sleep. Then, during a five-day period, they quarantined the subjects and exposed them to cold viruses. Those who slept an average of fewer than seven hours a night, it turned out, were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged at least eight hours.
from the Times:
A Russian tycoon with a longstanding passion for basketball agreed to a $200 million deal on Wednesday that would make him the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets and a key investor in the team's proposed new home in Brooklyn.
Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who is 44 years old, stands as tall as a basketball forward and is widely considered the richest man in Russia, would become the first overseas owner of a National Basketball Association team.
I guess the other oligarchs had bought all the soccer teams in Britain, so Misha needed a new hobby.
The article traces Prokhorov's fortune back to the 1980s illicit "jean trade" days, though his wealth is due mostly to ownership of Norilsk, the world's largest nickel mining company, which also happens to be the world's largest palladium and one of the largest platinum producers.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I became curious about the music scene in Soviet Russia during the 60's and 70's, and did a quick google search coming across this article about the history of rock in Russia. During the 60's American bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were hugely popular among youth, underground of course. Any Russian rock bands had to stay underground, not being approved of by Soviet government, but they certainly existed.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
As a Voice major, I find it befitting to take my stance in this blog about all things Russian to introduce important Russian opera singers.
For this unit, I've chosen Anna Netrebko. Having a world-class voice and now recognized as a renowned opera star, she was discovered while cleaning the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg as a means to pay for her schooling! As talented aesthetically as she is vocally, Anna Netrebko is responsible for the widespread growth of opera, inspiring new listeners who were otherwise not interested in opera. She is now a pop culture icon featured in articles in magazines such as Playboy. Enjoy a sample of her singing this aria from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata entitled "Sempre Libera." This is a modern, minimalist production from the Salzburg Festival in 2006:
Also, check out her website:
A pretty good article... Of particular interest is the map that accompanies it.
The Retreat of the Tongue of the Czars
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
In the Soviet era, 300 million people spoke Russian. Now, Moscow feels its power ebb each time Pushkin is read in Ukrainian.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
These snakes like most others eat mice from birth. They lay between 8 and 30 eggs depending on the size and age of the female. Males reach breeding age as early as 6 months old while girls tend to be at least 2 years of age. In captivity they live to be around 20 years of age, though constantly breeding snakes tend to live a bit short of a life. Rat snakes have a fairly diverse set of colors they can show up in. In Russia the yellow, black, and red are the ones that occur naturally though the pet trade as allowed for many more morphs to come out including albinos, axnthic, and even leucistics. In the pet trade they range in prices from $10 to $200. There are still new morphs being discovered through breeding and seemingly endless possiblities.
This is another pic from my Stock its an Albino Black rat snake
SO, the only literature have read is Crime and Punishment, and I specifically remember samovars as one of those things I had to research because I had no idea what it was. Anyway, drinking tea isn't limited to stereotypical British people, the Russians do it too... a lot, and they use samovars to boil the water and heat the tea concentrate. My english teacher went to Moscow and everywhere she went there were samovars. Apparently restaurants show off their samovar collections and stuff. Well, I hope the image loaded onto the page if not I'll post a url for some images at the end.
Its origin is connected with tea. Tea was delivered to Russia from the territory of West Mongolia in the 17-th century and was used as medicine among the nobility.
Tea was a competitor of sbiten, the most favourite drink in Russia. Its components are: hot water, medicinal herbs and honey.
In the 18-th century in the Urals and Tula samovar-kitchens were invented, they were divided into three parts — in two of them the meals was cooked, in the third — tea. Sbitennik and samovar-kitchen were samovar prototypes.
There are different versions of the first samovars manufacture, they were produced in the Urals, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Tula, later in Vladimirskaja,
Jaroslavskaja and Vjatskaja provinces. The first samovar factory was founded in Tula by Nasar Usitsin in 1778.
The town of gunsmiths became familiar to all the world as the center of samovar manufacture due to rich ore deposits, highly qualified masters who worked metals and location of Tula in the vicinity of Moscow.
Samovar manufacture appeared to be very profitable. Handicraftsmen quickly became manufacturers, workshops — samovar manufactures. In 1826 there were eight samovar factories, in 1896 — seventy.
Samovars were made from cupronic-kel, red and green copper, brass, in some cases — from silver. Sometimes they were plated with gold, silver, but basic metal was always — brass. In the course of centuries samovar shapes changed. By the end of the 19-th century their quantity reached 165. It was almost impossible to mechanize samovars manufacture completely. Tools were also unchanged. By hand assembly five-six samovars per day were produced.
The highest peak of samovar manufacture in Tula is related to the 80s of the 19-th century.
Samovar was not only the feature of home comfort, the symbol of Russian hospitality, but also the sign of good circumstances.
Among monuments of folk domestic art samovars occupy specific place.
They may be considered not only as domestic utensils, some of them are real works of applied arts. Each true master wanted to astonish the customers be their creative fantasy.
Strict design, durability in combination with decorative qualities caused interest to samovars on the part of the people all over the world.
Tula samovars were presented at the exhibitions in Russia and abroad.
The manufacturers taking part at the exhibitions were constantly awarded with medals, the reprints of them were presented on the samovar walls.
Tula samovars were spread all over Russia. At the fairs there were sold samovars of different shapes: vase-shaped, pear-shaped, wine-glass-shaped and others.
Prices reduction in the process of manufacture caused standardization of samovar shapes. The so-called cylindrical samovars were widely spread.
In Tula coal samovars were produced, the water in them was heated by charcoal, kerosene samovars and combined variants, the water in which was heated by any type of fuel.
Prices were fixed in dependence of a shape, material and dimension. Simple samovars were sold by poods. Articles of complicated shapes (presents, made to order) were sold by the piece.
During all the 19-th century portable samovars were produced in Tula, as a rule, they were many-sided, cubic, right-angled.
Production technology was greatly improved for two hundred years. There are used presses, conveyor lines, casting under pressure. At "Shtamp" plant nickel-plating automatic line was introduced. Some samovars are decorated with art rolling. The plant produces samovars of different types: coal — of six versions, from 1956 — electrical, volume 2-3 litres, for buffets, combined and painted.
Folk traditions exist, develop. Beautiful samovars made as presents are produced at this plant. Tula samovars were often awarded with medals at native and international exhibitions.
INFO FROM http://www.shopsamovar.com.ru/hystory.html
DJ Trexx is the pseudonym for Swedish actor Michael Lindgren, who now claims to be from Moscow. The European Union commissioned the song to encourage young people to vote in the Parliament elections back in June of 2009.
There's a new picture trend sweeping the Russian social networking sites that's unique to young women. It's called a "Vilena-style" photo after the first woman to take her picture like this. Almost instantly after posting her picture like this the woman in question became very popular. Like many other trends no one's quite sure how or why people do it. Just like no one's quite sure why they thought their hair looked good like that in the eighties.
Ivan Maximov, born November 19th, 1958 is a Russian artist and animator. He worked as an engineer in a space research institute from 1982-86, but says he has always enjoyed drawing and expressing his creativity. He released his first film "From Left to Right" in 1989 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbar3nsf0_U&feature=related). The embedded video is much more recent, "Rain Down From Above."
His creative and unique style is somewhat surreal, but in a brief interview (found at http://www.printmag.com/Article/European_Illustrators_2008_Ivan_Maximov) he says that his work is not Russian specifically, but cosmopolitan. Even so, I think that some of his animations do depict certain aspects of Russian life. Due to the whimsical and surreal nature of his animations, he has been accused of using various drugs, but he strongly denies this, stating that most people are so close-minded to their own creative unconscious that they assume someone must resort to drugs in order to tap into it.
I recommend searching his name on YouTube and watching a few more of his animations, if you get the chance. They are actually quite entertaining, and make very interesting discussion topics.
Cheburashka is an old cartoon character from Soviet times:
According to the story, Cheburashka is a funny little monkey, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. Cheburashka is not a personal name; it is a species name invented by the puzzled director of the shop where he is found. The salesman takes the animal out and sits him on the table, but his paws are numb after the long time spent in the crate, and he tumbles down ("cheburakhnulsya" (чебурахнулся), a Russian colloquialism, "tumbled" in English) from the table onto the chair and then from the chair, where he could not sit, for the same reason, onto the floor. The director of the shop, who witnesses the scene, called him Cheburashka. Words with this root were archaic in Russian; Uspensky gave them a new lease on life. (The 19th-century Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian language of Vladimir Dal gives the meaning of "cheburashka" as another name for the vanka-vstanka tumbling toy.)
And this is my favorite song ever! Sung by his crocodile friend, Gena....
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
2 lbs. pecans
1 lb. raisins
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix flour, soda and spices together and add to the sugar and butter. Add the pecans and raisins. Form small balls about the size of walnuts. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 340 to 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Makes about 10 dozen. Keep in tightly closed container.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Okay, so, the other week at Poetry at an Uncouth Hour (9:15 at Nitelights above the bookstore, funtimes), this girl read the story of the Baba Yaga and Vassilisa the Brave, which is essentially a Russian Cinderella story. You can read an annotated version here.
The Baba Yaga is a witch of sorts who helps those pure of heart and eats those that are not. Her vehicle of choice is a mortar and pestle, a picture of which is at the top of this post. (The question of why, and how, this is the case is left as an exercise to the reader.) The story of Baba Yaga and Vassilisa the Brave was first recorded by Александр Афанасев.
Well since I've done a post earlier on Watchmen and I'm reading Sandman now (Neil Gaiman), I thought I would check and see if Russia had any graphic novels worth reading. Upon searching, I found one titled "Siberia" by Nikolai Maslov. The novel is an autobiography of Maslov, who lived in Siberia and had joined the military. It starts in 2000 when he asks a book salesman to pay for the publishing of his book. The salesman was impressed by Maslov's use of simple pencil drawings and insightful dialogue and agreed.
Maslov makes ample references to Russia's vodka-drinking culture and to harshness of the soviet regime. The novel is described as both revealing Russia's cynical outlook while providing hope for a better future. A quote from the novel about Maslov's father: "Up to the end,” the trial transcripts attest, “he said the same thing—‘I’m not at all against the revolution, but before it, we had bread, and now we no longer have any. So, where’s our bread?’ He was executed by gunshot that evening." Sounds pretty cutting. Those Russians sure have a way with literature don't they? Well anyway, I'd be interested in reading this novel.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Taken from the Cat Fanciers offical website.
Breed Profile: Siberian Cat
Recorded history shows that the Siberian breed has been around for at least one thousand years.
They were first mentioned in Harrison Wier's book Our Cats and all About Them, which included information about one of the earliest cat shows held in England in 1871.
However, finding written information in Russia is fairly difficult.
Despite the fact that the Siberian is a natural breed and is the national cat of Russia, its very ubiquity makes it taken for granted rather than worthy of note in Russian literature.
Add to this the vast expanse of Russia which encompasses 13 time zones as well as a multitude of ethnic and cultural diversity and you have a cat that seems as difficult to standardize as the country which gave rise to it.
The Siberian was first imported in 1990.
Despite it's popularity the Siberian is extremely rare in the United States.
Most breeders have waiting lists for their kittens.
The Siberian, considered a semi longhair, has a rich full coat in the winterwhile the summer allows for a somewhat shorter less dense coat.
The Siberian can come in just about every color of the rainbow but because of the rarity of the breed those colors may not be available in your neighborhood.
The Siberian was accepted for registration by CFA February 2000 and advanced to championship status in February 2006.
The Siberian tends to be both a great problem solver and also, rather like dogs, are loyal to their adopted families which is why they are so well suited to the households in which one spouse, usually a husband or significant other, professes to be a "dog person" not a "cat person."
Often it is that same "dog person" who is greeted at the door by their Siberian and after being dutifully followed around the house by their Siberian, then decides that one Siberian is simply not enough!
Siberians are extremely agile and can leap great distances and heights to "fly through the air with the greatest of ease!"
However, their agility also means they usually navigate potentially breakable brick-a-brac without leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Prudence dictates that one would still want to think twice about placing a Ming Dynasty vase on the mantle.
A delightful combination of the flying Walenda's and the sleuth "the Pink Panther," the Siberian is a zany mixture of both.
Expect the unexpected when sharing your home with a Siberian.
Pricing on Siberians usually depends on type, applicable markings and bloodlines distinguished by Grand Champion (GC), National, National Breed and/or Regional winning parentage (NW, BW, RW) or of Distinguished Merit parentage (DM).
The DM title is achieved by the dam (mother) having produced five CFA grand champion/premier (alter) or DM offspring, or sire (father) having produced fifteen CFA grand champion/premier or DM offspring.
Usually breeders make kittens available between twelve and sixteen weeks of age.
After twelve weeks, kittens have had their basic inoculations and developed the physical and social stability needed for a new environment, showing, or being transported by air.
Keeping such a rare treasure indoors, neutering or spaying and providing acceptable surfaces (e.g. scratching posts) for the natural behavior of scratching (CFA disapproves of declawing or tendonectomy surgery) are essential elements for maintaining a healthy, long and joyful life.
Today, population decline is still a major issue in Russia. Factors include very high abortion rates and low birth rates, since there is little incentive to have children while one's income is low, which can in many cases push families under the poverty level.
Other causes include very high levels of suicide (which have declined since the end of the major recessions of the late 90s), alcohol poisioning, and recurring illnesses and lifestyle diseases related to alcohol consumption. Other, more often cited factors relate to the fall of the Soviet Union, especially its health care and pension systems directly relating to the decline in Russia's standard of living.
To counter these issues, Vladimir Putin started many programs to curb population decline. Benefits to mothers that have children, crackdowns on alcohol sales, and rising economic conditions seem to be slowly reversing the trend, even though population growth is still negative.
A very interesting approach to promoting more births was taken up by governor Sergei Morozov of Ulyanovsk Oblast (Ульяновская область) a small federal district of 1.5 million, roughly 300 miles east of Moscow. Governor Morozov created a regional program called "Family Contact Day", on June 12, the national holiday of Russia's independence from the USSR. The program gives out prizes such as cars and cash amounts to families that have births on the day, and also promotes staying home for the day and having sex.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Clinical tests on Sea Buckthorn medicinal uses started in Russia during the 1950s. The first Russian factory for Sea Buckthorn product development was located in Bisk. The Sea Buckthorn industry has been thriving since then. The berries are sold throughout the world as juice, oil, crème, tea, sorbet and jelly. Because of their anti-aging properties many Russian and European cosmetic companies are adding the oils to there products. For more information visit
Friday, September 11, 2009
See those babies? I now not only own a pair of them, I know how to play them. While dancing.
The Russian Wooden Spoons are pretty much a staple of traditional Russian folk music. I learned this when I joined the brave Russian choir during my summer at Middlebury College.
How do you play three spoons, you ask?
The convex surfaces of the bowls are struck together in different ways. For example, two spoons are held by their handles in the left hand, and the third, held in the right hand, is used to hit the two spoons in the left hand. The hit, in a sliding motion, produces a typical sound. You can also hold three spoons in the left hand and put a fourth into the bot or the pocket. (I wouldn't try this at home though) A fifth spoon is then held in the right hand and used to hit the other four. Finally, if you're really nervous about it, you can hold the bowl of a single spoon in the left hand and hit it with another spoon. In this style, different sounds can be emitted by holding the bowl more or less tightly.
Look forward to next week's installment of fun with Russian Folk Instruments when we cover the Balalaika!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The historic "Battle on the Ice," also known as the "Battle on Peipus."
To me in the beginning it sounds like a train! The music gives a mood of an impending clash of forces, and once the choir enters the music is almost pure energy. A side note, some of the words in the cantata are written in what is belived to be a "fake latin," some believe this is a personal jab Prokofiev is making at Igor Stravinsky (fellow Russian composer of The Rite of Spring and The Firebird), for leaving Russia and essentially not coming back.
This is perhaps the most touching movement in the entire cantata. To me it was explained as a mother or woman searching for her loved one among the dead. The lyrics are:
I shall go across the show-clad field,
I shall fly above the field of death.
I shall search for valiant warriors,
my betrothed, my stalwart youths.
Here lies one felled by a wild saber;
there lies one impaled by an arrow.
From their wounds blood fell like rain
on our native soil, on our Russian fields.
The choir in this instances is all male and begins with almost a shimmer of sound, before taking on the tone of anguish, which then leads into the alto solo.
Thanks for reading if you did! Stephan A. Fillare
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
These two men are Dimitri Medvedev and Vladamir Putin: the leaders of the Russian Republic and it is clear from the actions of these two men that Russia will never become a Western captalist Republic so many Western leaders hope it will become and the Russian people are fully aware and accept this. Although, Medvedev took over the job of Putin in 2008 in a "fair" election (taking over 70% of the vote) the incumbent hand picked Medvedev and will still be a force to be reckoned with in Russian politics as Russia's prime minister. As president of Russia Putin took every step to squeltch political opposition and any potential outside threats to his power as well. This is evident in the alleged poisoning of the now elected Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchentko, Russian beligerance in Georgia, and the alleged assasinations of several exiled powerful Russian bussinessmen. All of these actions were accepted and even applauded by the Russian people. Although Russia has the trappings of democracy it is not and never will be.
There are two reasons why Russia will never be a democracy. First there is a short term reason: the nature of Russain capitalism. Even a cursory glance at the nature of business dealings in Russia will draw comparisons to the American Wild West. Many people have gone as far to say that Russia is not ruled by government but rather by controlling business intrests. Putin has gone after these so called oligarchs with a vengence, imprisoning some, forcing legislation that caps their intrests, and even going as far as killing some of them off (although he most likely denies this). Putin and his successor act like authoritarian dictators because they have to be. As long as Russian capitalism exists the Russian government will never embrace true democracy according to the Western ideals.
The second reason why Russia will never become a Western democracy is due to the multi ethnic nature of Russia. Because it is so huge the Russian Republic has swallowed up large numbers of non Russian people. Even after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 non Russian people make up 20% of Russia's population of 140 million people. True Western democracy reflects the will of the people and in several parts of Russia the will of the people is to seperate from the Russian motherland. This desire to break off from the government in Moscow is best shown in the long drawn out conflict in Chechnya. The Chechins do not want to be part of Russia and want to form their own state. Moscow reacted in a very non-democratic manner and occupied Chechnya. Not only does the Russian government have to contend with problems within its borders but it also must keep the countries it considers to be within its "sphere of influence" (Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia etc.) in line. Although democracy is a good form of government it is uneffective and incapable of swiftly reacting to many of the problems Russia faces today. If Russia were to become more democratic along Western lines it would be a much smaller nation, somthing no ethnic Russian would want to see.
However, I would like to point out that the company in the video is called "Vigvam Insurance", most obviously an English name. I wonder if that is very important; is the service bad because it is an American/English company? Maybe one of the points of the commericial is "Use a decent, welcoming, Russian insurance agency".
Many people know of the famous Romantic era Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский) who lived from May 7th 1840 to November 6th 1893. His most widely known compositions include such famous ballets as “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”. No patriotic American could forget his 1812 Overture, played at every 4th of July extravaganza (its original intended purpose to celebrate Moscow's successful defense against Napoleon's advancing troops at the Battle of Borodino in 1812). His western oriented training at the St. Petersburg Conservatory set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic music written during his time, earning him wide acclaim and success. Many people are unaware, however, of Tchaikovsky's severe personal struggles and the argued circumstances of his death. It is largely believed that the composer was a homosexual (as researched most extensively by author Alexander Poznansky). In fact there are letters available today, previously censored by the Soviets, in which Tchaikovsky himself openly discusses his sexual preferences. Nevertheless, in 1877 he entered into a disastrous marriage with Antonia Miliukova that ended unofficially in 6 weeks (although divorce was never filed and Tchaikovsky died a married man). As he rose to the top of the composing scene between 1877-1890, Tchaikovsky corresponded with another woman, Nadezhda Von Meck, who supported his composition monetarily under the stipulation that they never meet in person. The letters between them deeply affected the composer and he professes in one particular excerpt that her contact seemed to him “the hand of fate itself, watching over me and protecting me”. This relationship too, proved devastating when in 1890 her correspondence abruptly ended, allegedly due to her filing for bankruptcy (a few music historians postulate that the cut was made in her discovery of his homosexuality). The real mystery lies in how the composer died. Despite that a true diagnosis may never be possible due to unreliable accounts at the time of his death and the lack of knowledge of effects of certain lifestyle habits such as drinking, there has been much research as too what may have caused his unexpected (and relatively young) death. Most musicologists attribute his demise to cholera by contaminated water. The question that is debated is whether or not the contamination was purposely executed by Tchaikovsky in suicide. There have been rumors that his former classmates urged him to commit the act to avoid being exposed as the lover of a nephew of a member of the Russian aristocracy. Others claim that the poisoning may have been the result of his bitterness over the loss of his contact with Von Meck. Regardless his passing occurred just nine days after the premier of his now famous and emotionally charged Symphony Pathetique (No. 6). He was interred in the Tikhvin Cemetery next to fellow composers Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korakov, Glinka, and Balakirev (a.k.a. The Five). -Posted by Courtney E. Van Cleef
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Since I love all things profane... the letter Ё is my favorite letter. Find out why...
The newest letter of the Russian alphabet is ё. Although it was first used in print in the 18th century, it didn't become an official letter until the middle of the 20th century.
I love the Russian Word of the Day blog!