Friday, October 30, 2009

Rostov Tile Art

In Rostov, there is extensive tile art that can be seen in its underground passageway. This artwork, made in the 60's, depicts the history of Russia. Events include anything from various wars, the space race, Russian farmers, Russians enjoying leisure activities, famous landmarks, several representations of traditional Russian occupations, to traditional Russian toys. This art spans the entire length of the underground passage way, making for a phenomenal display. More pictures can be found here:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This gameshow called Ovechkin reminds me of the Japanese gameshows with obstacle courses that have been dubbed over to with ridiculous scripts, you all know the type.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Какой чудесный день!

So, apparently every Russian knows this song. Just one of those things from their childhood, I suppose....

Good luck ever getting this song out of your head.

There's a much longer version of this song that is pulled from a cartoon. It's another great Soviet era мультфильм from Союзмультфильм, this one from 1967.

The Russian Guitar

Apparently, there is a distinctly Russian version of the guitar, as opposed to the six-stringed Spanish guitar with which we all familiar. This Russian instrument, however, has 7 strings and a very different tuning (while a Spanish guitar is usually tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E, a Russian guitar is tuned to a major G chord: D-G-B-D-G-B-D). This tuning allows for a much tighter voicing in chord structure.

Here's a lovely example of a Russian Guitar!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Russian Circus bear kills trainer... on ice.

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A bear on ice skates attacked two people during rehearsals at a circus in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, killing one of them, Kyrgyz officials said Friday.

In the incident, which happened Thursday, the 5-year-old animal killed the circus administrator, Dmitry Potapov, and mauled an animal trainer, who was attempting to rescue him.

"The incident occurred during a rehearsal by the Russian state circus company troupe which was performing in Bishkek with the program, Bears on Ice," Ministry of Culture and Information director Kurmangazy Isanayev told reporters.

It is unclear what caused the bear to attack Potapov, 25, nearly severing one of his legs while dragging him across the ice by his neck. Medical personnel were unable to save Potapov, who died at the scene.

The 29-year-old circus trainer Yevgeny Popov, who attempted to rescue Potapov, was also severely injured, according to doctors.

"The victim has sustained serious injuries - deep scalp lacerations, bruising of the brain, lacerations on his body. His condition is considered critical," Dr. Gulnara Tashibekova told reporters on Russian state television.

After the incident, the circus was cordoned off by police and emergency service workers. Experts have been brought in to examine the bear, which was shot and died at the scene.

Russia has a long-standing tradition of training bears to perform tricks such as riding motorcycles, ice skating, and playing hockey. Fatal attacks are unusual.

Apparently these circuses still travel around the ex-Soviet world because of its proliferation during the 20th century, not enough so to warrant a major news outlet's attention though until a bear mauling is involved.

This is really good

Why Women Lost Their Rights

This is an actual Russian folktale found in the book An Anthology of Russian Folktales, translated and edited by Jack Haney. The tale was recorded in 1969 in the village of Варфоломевка. The teller of this version was Ukrainian.

When Jesus Christ and Peter were walking the earth, women were in charge. Once they dropped into a village to a certain man's house and asked him to let them in to spend the night. "I would let you in, but I'm afraid of my wife."

They persuaded him and the man was weak: he was persuaded. "Lie down over there beneath that bench, he said. (There used to be benches but now we have chairs and couches, but then there were just benches.)

So they lay down to sleep. Jesus Christ was beneath the bench and Peter was on the edge. The mistress came home. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"Those are some passersby who asked to spend the night, and I let them in."

"Who gave you permission? Why did you let them in?"

And then she started in. The mistress beat them and beat them, then beat them some more, as much as she could. She was exhausted and sat down to rest. She took Peter and started to let Peter have it. She beat him and beat him, as she wished. She again sat down to rest. Peter thought, "Wait, she won't get me underneath the bench. I'll hide beneath a bench and push Jesus Christ out and He can get his share."

When she was well rested, she started to give the second one his. She knew she had beaten the one on the edge, and the other one was underneath the bench, so she got him out and started beating Peter again. But Jesus Christ was asleep and heard nothing at all.

In the morning they left, Jesus Christ was walking with Peter, and Peter turned to Jesus Christ: "Oh Lord, take away women's rights," and only in these years of the Revolution has the woman won her rights, neither above nor below her husband, but as his equal.

I'm going to go ahead and blame the atrocious grammar on translation. But isn't this a great story? Women lost their rights because they very nearly beat up Jesus. Oh, those Russians.

Russian Cutaway Gag

For those of you who watched the episode of Family Guy about a week ago, you might be wondering what this was about:

According to many of the users on youtube, this is the translation: "What idiot thought up a sandwich with porcupine? He's a hooligan! He's a bum!" This clip is actually referencing the 1975 film "Hedgehog in the Fog" by award winning Russian film maker Yuri Norstein. I haven't been able to stop watching it. You all should also take the time to look up other children's stories and "poem films" by this director; they are really beautiful.

Russian Folk Art

Alright, so after my last post Dr. Denner asked me what kind of box I've been living in for the past five years. First off, it was a rather comfortable box (and it wasn't that bad in their either!), and second, boxes gave me the idea for my blog. I searched Russian boxes and ended up at this site with a bunch of Russian folk art and one stood out in particular, something called Gzhel. It's basically Russian ceramic art that originated in this small village called Gzhel about 50 km SE from Moscow. It's known for it's traditionally cobalt blue and white flower designs.

Gzhel, not far from the city of Moscow, has long been famous for its rich deposits of clays suitable for the making of pottery, and, hence, for the ceramic industries that grew up around them. In fact, practically the entire population of some thirty villages in this neighborhood have long engaged in the manufacture of pottery, the more so, as considering the dense sprawling forests around, there has never been any shortage of firewood. One could say that it was symbolical for Gzhel to be understood already in the 19th century as synonyous, to a great degree, with Russian folk ceramics. True, it was somewhat earlier, in the previous, 18th century, that Gzhel rose to fame as a large ceramics center that produced not only earthenware for purely utilitarian purposes, but also artistic and decorative objects.
This development coincided with the emergence of majolica. At the time majolica wares were called in Russia tsenina. The origin of the word is not known exactly. Majolica wares were termed in Europe faience. The product was usually made of tinted clays, had a massive porous shell, and was decorated with enamel colours in polychromatic, typically peasant-style designs. True, tsenina was first manufactured in Moscow at the establishment of the merchant Afanasy Grebenshchikov, who employed a number of potters from Gzhel. Returning home and having learned the secrets of majolica manufacture, they started their own potteries. Though we have no idea who they were-their names have been lost - they made so fine a start that within the space of but several years, Gzhel majolica was already successfully competing with Grebenshchikov's produce.
Whereas the celebrated Italian Renaissance majolica borrowed subject material from contemporary painting and served an exclusively decorative purpose (produced mostly were large vases, giant dishes and bas-reliefs), Gzhel ware was, on the contrary, of utilitarian shape and form and was decorated with the two-dimensional designs that are typically of folk origin; the large local pools of bright color displayed a marked affinity with the lubok, the Russian folk picture or broadside.
The range of Gzhel majolica included virtually the entire assortment of domestic utensils, such as breakfast and soup plates, dinner-services, mugs, tankards, and pitchers. More often that was only white-glazed earthenware devoid of decoration; however it was prized precisely because of its hygienic whiteness. Yet, there has always been - and will always be - a popular demand for attractive, colourful, artistic objects. Every potter worthy of the name sought to create something individual, having some curious or amusing detail and a colourful design appealing to the customer.
The subject material does not possess much in the way of thematic diversity, it was not borrowed from contemporary painting or literature, but was the invention of the potter himself, who though often illiterate, displayed artistic intuition, enabling him to integrate in his decorative designs his observations of nature and of rustic and urban life with impressions derived from buildings and icons seen, and to touch up the result with his own imagination. The design is a hand-painted drawi
ng, outlined by some dark pigment on the light-toned glazed surface and then ornamented with green, yellow, brown and blue pigments.
There is nothing p
articularly outstanding about Gzhel's scenic surroundings. Except, of course, the stretching fields, the blue fringe of forest in the distance, and the limpid bluish haze enveloping the small villages in its neighborhood. Perhaps it is this shimmering blue that has been transferred to the snow-white field of Gzhel's porcelain? Perhaps it is responsible for all the attractive designs we find on some slender vase, pot-bellied pitcher, or stalwart tankard generating that delightful feeling of surprise and joy upon spotting the first few clumps of spring flowers in the patches left by thawing snow? Truth to tell, skillful modeling and masterly brushwork have transformed what would appear to be plain ordinary household utensils into genuine works of art. Gzhel porcelain enjoys extensive popularity both in this country and abroad, recognizable at once by its characteristic blue-and-white color scheme, peculiar designs, and shapes. The clue to this amazing success derives from the strikingly expressive uniqueness of Gzhel china, which provokes a stirring emotion of communion with Mother Nature. No wonder, as these hand-painted pictures most pleasingly harmonize with the shape.
In fact, the range of items made is so diverse that one would be hard put to list everything. The more typical items-top favorites with Gzhel potters-are teapots, jugs, mugs, butter-dishes, sugar-bowls, honey-pots, and sweetmeat stands. What astounds are the many different shapes imparted to one and the same type of item. Thus, if we take the teapot, we find it shaped as disk, barrel, sphere, or oblong. Gzhel's designers strive to create models for the quantity production of relatively inexpensive wares and unique pieces intended for exhibitions and museums. But before going any further, one must emphasize that what is produced in Gzhel today is unlike the wares that were turned out in the previous centuries. This is a new art, which at the same time has imbibed the artistic and technological experience accumulated by more than one generation of potters. There has been no royal road to this achievement, as the traditions that had been handed down from father to son had petered out by the close of the past, 19th century yet, and by the outbreak of the First World War had been consigned to total oblivion. The chaos that followed the Civil War after the October 1917 Revolution only aggravated what seemed as if the pottery of Gzhel would never be resurrected.
But the new Soviet government did not overlook the folk arts and craftss. While new economic and social foundations were laid to promote the folk arts and crafts, every care was taken at the same time to preserve their traditional principles. By the 1920s some of Gzhel's potteries were back on their feet again. Cooperatives were organized, first among which was the Period, Keramika (Forward, Ceramics) started in 1929. After the growing pains of organization, the Gzhel industry acquired a firm economic footing, and was about to tackle the problem of producing highly artistic pieces when the Great Patriotic War intervened. Though work was suspended for a couple of years, by 1943 the potters were at work once more, now turning out, as Tatyana Yeryomina recalls, "One plain, common mug. Though it was hard and though we had to cut the firewood ourselves, keep the kilns burning, and produce quantity ware, nevertheless we tried to ornament the mugs as best we could."
Attempts to revive the old traditions were initiated to wards the close of the war, with art historians, artists, and production engineers from the Arts and Crafts Research Institute, as well as local potters, joining in the effort. The large Gzhel collection at Moscow's State Museum o History, which earlier only a few specialists had know about, was brought to the notice of Gzhel's potters a designers.
Info courtesy of

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here is good information on Russia's climate

Go to this website for those who are interested in Russia's climate.

The Russian mob and their tattoos

If anyone has not seen the movie "Eastern Promises" one of the major themes throught the movie is the tattoos the characters wear. Aside from adding depth and a more menacing air to the characters the tattoos were carefully researched and have actual meaning. A fair bit of warning though, if anybody who is not really a member of the mob is caught by the Russian mafia wearing similar tattoos the penalty is death or something else involving extreme pain.

First a bit of history and background. The Russian criminal underworld dates back to the rule of the czars where bands of peasants sought ways to undermine the czars oppressive rule and support themselves. This continued into the Soviet era where the mob established a seperate and distinct counter culture to the Communist government. Today, it is still thriving with strong ties to many important Russian industries and bussnisses.

The Russian mob is highly organized and run much like the Italian mob we have come to know and love. Rank and status are very important and can be seen in the tattoos a person wears. Every detail is important from the detail of the tattoo to the location on the person's body. This is important especially in Russia's notoriously overcrowded prison system. The tattoos a person has in prison makes him (the mob is not keen on letting women in) instanly recognizable and will either mark him for death or save his life. Here is a list of random facts that are known about Russian mob tattoos.

During the Soviet era mobsters would tattoo themselves with pictures of Lenin, Engel, and Stalin. This would prevent guards from beating them because these images were considered sacred. Today they use relgious iconography.

A newly initiated member will have a tattoo incorporating a rose design

Church steeples signify time spent in prison for Christian prisoners and stars for others, one spire or star point means one year.

A crucifex over the heart (pictured above) marks you as the "king of thieves" a highly respectable tattoo.

armed robbery, a violation of Article 167 of the Russian criminal code, is represented by a pirate

Pictures of the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus means you have started a life of crime at an early age.

A bull means you are a pimp

A tiger marks you as an enforcer

Barbed wire on the forehead means life imprisonment

There are also tattoos that are forcibly applied. For example, a swastika on the forehead will mark you for death, and eyes on the back will mark you for forced sex. Even if they are applied against the will of the prisoner he will still have to pay the artist.

And finally stars on the sholders are one of the highest honors bestowed upon a member. It means they live by a set code of conduct with honor and dignity. Stars on the knees mean he is a captain and will never kneel before anyone. Anybody who is caught wearing stars and has not earned them will have the body part where the stars are forcibly removed.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

Graffiti art is a big problem in Russia, not only in the cities but in the suburbs as well.
Artists scrawl all over public buildings with no regard for what the citizens of the area feel at all and one group of grandparents is sick of it.
They are the members of the SSAE, the Samaritan Street Art Elders. In an attempt to make the streets more child friendly this group has been going around and making their own graffiti, covering up the paintings they consider inappropriate with brighter, more cheerful art of their own devising. They want their children and grandchildren to be able to develop "good taste" from an early age, and in the interest of fostering this goal they not only paint pictures but they also write poems to go along with them. They are proud to say that their strategy has worked. Since the inception of their project all unrelated graffiti art has all but ceased.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Moscow Mayor Controls Weather!

MOSCOW (AFP) - The fabled beauty of the Kremlin's golden onion domes dusted with winter snow may be a thing of the past under a scheme by the Moscow mayor, reported by newspapers Thursday, to banish snow from the capital.

"Why don't we keep this snow outside the Moscow city limits?" the Izvestia and Gazeta dailies quoted Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has a well-established track record of micro-managing Moscow's weather, as saying this week.

"For the countryside, this means more moisture and bigger harvests. And for us -- less snow," Luzhkov said, recalling that Moscow already relies on special cloud-seeding techniques to guarantee clear skies on key holidays.

Under Luzhkov's proposal, the skies would be cleared whenever snow-laden clouds -- a regular and natural feature of the Moscow winter cityscape -- approached the sprawling Russian metropolis.

The mayor said preventing snowfall in Moscow would offer advantages to city residents, including significant cost savings since operations to clear snow from streets cost three times more than stopping snowfall altogether.

Cloud-sweeping operations over Moscow however often produce heavy precipitation in outlying areas, and experts said the plan was fraught with unpredictable consequences.

Izvestia said the Luzhkov winter weather initiative had sparked "panic" in some areas outside the Russian capital.

"On those holidays when they clear the clouds over Moscow the surplus precipitation becomes a problems for us," Gazeta quoted Vladimir Litvishkov, a suburban land management official, as saying of the Luzhkov plan


I heard the voice. It promised solace

I heard the voice. It promised solace.
“Come here,” it seemed so softly call.
“Leave Russia, sinning, lost and graceless,
Leave your land, pray, for good and all.
I'll cleanse your hands from blood that stains you,
And from your heart draw back black shame,
The hurts of failure, wrongs that pain you
I'll veil with yet another name.”
With even calm deliberation
I raised my hands to stop my ears,
Lest that ignoble invitation
Defile a spirit lost in tears

And in Russian.....

Мне голос был. Он звал утешно.
Он говорил: "Иди сюда,
Оставь свой край глухой и грешный.
Оставь Россию навсегда.
Я кровь от рук твоих отмою,
Из сердца выну черный стыд,
Я новым именем покрою
Боль порожений и обид".
Но равнодушно и спокойно
Руками я замкнула слух,
Чтоб этой речью недостойной
Не осквернился скорбный слух.

- Anna Akhmatova 1917

What I have learned is that Akhmatova's poems are amazing. Her life story is full of interesting detials. Including the fact that Anna Akhmatova was her pen name her real name being Anna Andreëvna Gorenko. Anna's father did not want her printed verses ruining his respectable name.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dmitri Shostakovich's Леди Макбет Мценсково уезда

No, I am not kidding. There exists a Russian opera, first performed in 1934, called "Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District".
Under Stalin, art in the USSR flourished... as long as it sang the praises of the Communist Party. Writers and artists had to adhere to "socialist realism". And so came about "Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District".
This charming little opera is about a woman who falls in love with one of her husband's employees and kills her husband. It was initially very popular (although a New York Sun critic called in "pornophony"), but was eventually discredited in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, in an anonymous article sometimes attributed to Stalin. The following is a direct quote from my Communism textbook: "Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District, Dmitri Shostakovich's opera, offended Stalin by its display of feminine sexuality and - just as bad- its failure to supply the public with tunes they could whistle." As we all know, Stalin is not someone you want to piss off, and a whistling Stalin is a happy Stalin. Shostakovich promised to do better in the future. Because the opera was subsequently banned in Russia for the next 30 years, most people only know it onlybecause of its censorship. The composer revised the opera and re-named it "Катерина Измайлова".

Tasty Treats: Blini

The Russian Blini is a national treat that holds many traditional values. The Blini is fried bread in a flat-pancake like form that is usually topped with some sort of jam, nutella, cream, or caviar and served. It is directly paired with the holiday Maslenitsa which is a week-long celebration marking the beginning of spring. They are eaten as symbols of the sun and represent thanksgiving as well as an abstention of meat, which has been regarded as a source of lust and aggression in the Russian culture. In the past, the week has included a day for sharing blini with a sweetheart, one to give a blini to the poor, and a day when mother-in-laws cooked blini for their son’s wives. In these times, people usually wore clothing of the opposite sex, sported masks, and role-played while consuming mass amounts of alcohol (sounds like a party! or Mardi Gras...). Today, Russians do not abstain from meat and celebrate this holiday the week before Lent.

The snack of blini is made as a pancake, fried bread, with an additional topping. Many people add sour cream, honey, jams/jellies, nutella, caviar, salmon, or cream cheese. For best results: spread topping over blini, fold in half then fold into a triangle. This is the traditional way to serve blini. Originally, Russian blini is said to be made best by a Russian grandmother who has had plenty of practice. Today, blini is served all over Russia, especially in fast-food carts in the cities. I am no Russian grandmother but I will be making blini for the class on November 5th (paired with yet another project on Russian culture).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Great Mstislav Rostropovich

Since the cultural revolution that blossomed in the early part of the 20th century Russia has been famous for it's abundance of talent in the music performance world, consistently turning out out some of the best players of all time. Instead of writing my usual entry about one of the great Russian composers I dedicate this unit to one of my personal heroes, the extraordinary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (Мстисла́в Леопо́льдович Ростропо́вич or “Slava” for short).
Born in Baku on March 27th, 1927, Rostropovich grew up in a household of two accomplished performers (his mother, Sofiya Nikolaevna Fedotova, and his father, Leopold Vitoldovich Rostropovich). At the ripe age of four years old he began piano lessons with his mother, and at age 10 he began the cello with his father (who was a former student of famous cellist Pablo Casals). At sixteen her entered the Moscow Conservatory as a student of cello, piano, conducting, AND composition. It was during this time that a lifetime relationship with his mentor, Dimitry Shostakovitch, began (on October 4th, 1959 Slava premiered Shosty's 1st Cello Concerto having memorized it in four short days). In 1950 he was awarded the Stalin Prize (the highest distinction in the Soviet Union) and was actively pursuing his performance career as well as his teaching career at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1955 he married Galina Vishnevskaya who was a Soprano in the Bolshoi theater.
Slava had always been an unabashed speaker for the cause of free speech and democracy and as a result it was not long before he fell out of favor with the Soviet party. Following the 1948 Decree against the majority of the era's composers and the subsequent dismissal of Shostakovitch from his teaching post, he dropped out of the Moscow Conservatory in protest. By 1970 he and his wife were restricted from foreign touring and Slava was forced to go on a recital tour of Siberia. Eventually, his family moved to the States in 1974 and his citizenship was formally revoked in the form of exile (he did not return the Russia until 1990). During his time in America, Rostropovich broadened his musical career as conductor of the National Symphony in Washington D.C. along side his frequent performances.
Tragically, Rostropovich's health began a fast decline in 2006 with what began as an aggravated ulcer. Not long after his meeting with Vladmir Putin to discuss the Kremlin's celebration of his 80th birthday, he died on intestinal cancer on April 27, 2007. He was buried in the Novodevichy cemetery where his friend, Boris Yeltsin, had been buried four days earlier.
During his lifetime Slava served as an inspiration to so many of the worlds greatest cellists. The young Jacquline Du pre studied with him when he declared her to be the only cellist of the younger generation with the talent to surpass his own accomplishments. Julian Lloyd Webber professes in his memoirs that it was none other than Rostropovich's performance at the British Proms that prompted him to begin his own successful career as a solo cellist. From Yo yo Ma to the youngest players in the youth orchestra he is revered for his unforgettable performances of the most difficult in cello repertoire. There is no question of his immeasurable impact on the world of music (RIP Rostropovich).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Graffiti Grannies!


“How long should we tolerate those tasteless paintings they call ‘graffitis’? After asking this question myself twice I said - we shouldn’t any more!”, says Anastasia, the leader of SSAE - Samarian Street Art Elders. “We decided to tell how the real graffiti should look like so that our children could adapt good tastes from the early age”.

And so be it - this small town near Samara city, Russia began to change with the help of this SSAE team. They decided to give street art a “granny” twist. “We also put nice poetry on walls, it helps!”.

Now the walls of houses, the dirty lobbies, the playgrounds - all is covered with this strange art by grannies. Looks like the other teams don’t risk to mess with them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Facts about Beets in Russia and Beet Recipes

Third blogs the charm right?

My first two failed, the first because all the YouTube links are no longer active since the videos broke copyright laws and the second I had trouble assimilating all the information

Hopefully THIS post will go through.


Pickled Beets may be a staple of Southern Cuisine, but Russia makes more (and better) beet dishes.

Now, here is what wikipedia says about sugar beets (minus foot notes):

Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), a member of the Chenopodiaceae family, is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown commercially for sugar production.

The sugar beet is directly related to the beetroot, chard and fodder beet, all descended by cultivation from the sea beet.

The European Union, the United States, and Russia are the world's three largest sugar beet producers,although only the European Union and Ukraine are significant exporters of sugar from beets. The U.S. harvested 1,004,600 acres of sugarbeets in 2008 alone. Beet sugar accounts for 30% of the world's sugar production.

In the United States, genetically modified sugar beets resistant to glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto Company as Roundup), a herbicide, were planted for the first time in the spring of 2008. Sugar from the biotechnology-enhanced sugarbeet has been approved for human and animal consumption in the European Union. This action by the EU executive body allows unrestricted imports of food and feed products made from (H7-1) glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) sugarbeets. On September 21, 2009, a federal court ruled that the USDA had violated federal law in deregulating Roundup Ready sugar beets without adequately evaluating the environmental and socio-economic impacts of allowing commercial production, and will be considering an appropriate injunction.


A large root vegetable in 4000-year-old Egyptian temple artwork may be a beet. Although beets have been grown as vegetables and for fodder since antiquity, their use as a sugar crop is relatively recent. As early as in 1590, the French botanist Olivier de Serres extracted a sweet syrup from beetroot, but the practice was not widely used. The Prussian chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf used alcohol to extract sugar from beets (and carrots) in 1747, but the methods did not lend themselves to industrial scale production.

His former pupil and successor Franz Karl Achard began selectively breeding sugar beet from the White Silesian fodder beet in 1784. By the beginning of the 19th century, his beet was approximately 5–6 percent sucrose by weight, compared to around 20 percent in modern varieties. Under the patronage of Frederick William III of Prussia, he opened the world's first beet sugar factory in 1801, at Cunern in Silesia.

The beet sugar industry in Europe rapidly developed after the Napoleonic Wars. In 1807, the British began a blockade of France, which prevented the import of sugarcane from the Caribbean. Partly in response, in 1812 Frenchman Benjamin Delessert devised a process of sugar extraction suitable for industrial application. In 1813, Napoleon instituted a retaliatory embargo. By the end of the wars, over 300 sugar beet mills operated in France and central Europe.

The first sugar beet mill in the U.S. opened in 1838, and the first commercially successful mill was established by E. H. Dyer in 1879.

In 2005 Russia the the fourth largest producer of sugar beets in the world, right behind France, Germany, and America.

Map showing concentrations of sugar beet production in 2005; notice that most of Russia's sugar beets are grown in European Russia.

Now, for some recipes - a drink, an appetizer, and a salad.

I looked for dishes without red meat and dishes a little off the beaten track:

Kvas from beets and plums recipe -

Cuisine: Russian


1 kg red beets (35.2733686 ounces or 2.2026432 lbs.)

1 kg plums (35.2733686 ounces or 2.2026432 lbs.)

5 ltrs water (20 cups)

500 g sugar (17.6366843 ounces or 1.1013216 lbs.)


Rinse the red beets, peel and cut them into large pieces.

Rinse the plums, cut each into halves and remove the stones.

Place the red beets and plums in a glass jar, pour in some cooled boiled water, add some sugar and put on a lid not very tightly so that the air might get through.

Leave the kvass to ferment at room temperature.

Note that I used their metric converter and added in the US measurements in parentheses.

Now, here is an appetizer:


2 ea thick salted herrings.

5 ea potatoes.

4 ea carrots.

3 ea beets.

4 ea eggs.

400 gr mayonnaise.


The Russian name is "Selyodka pod Shouboy", that means "Herring under fur coat".

It is a traditional national dish for any events.

You can call it, for example, Dressed Herring.

Dressed Herring is loved and considered one of the most delicious salads by Russians everywhere.

Try and enjoy!


Boil vegetables until they are ready (you can boil vegetables in 1 pan).

Boil eggs hard. Peel skin from herrings, cut them along the spine.

Take all bones away. Cut herring meat into very little pieces and always check for bones.

Take a large dish.

Put herring meat evenly on the bottom.

If you like onion, you can put little pieces of onion on the herring.

Then spread mayonnaise evenly (thin layer).Grind potatoes and make the next layer of it.

Spread mayonnaise.

Use a fork to plane the layers.

Then goes carrot (grind, put, spread).

Then you do the same with 4 eggs and beets.

Spread mayonnaise on the beets and grind 1 egg on it to make the dish beautiful.

This salad must look like a cake.

Put the dish in the fridge for an hour.

"Selyodka pod Shouboy" is served as an appetizer.

Now for the salad:

Entered for safe-keeping for ZWT.


A food processor will save time.

I have added 3 ways to precook the beets, depending on your preference.

I recommend wearing plastic gloves when handling the beets, as they will stain otherwise.

SERVES 4 (change servings and units)


2 1/4 lbs red beets, grated (1 kg)

3 1/2 ounces walnuts, chopped (100 g)

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons mayonnaise



2 Wash the beets and trim the ends off before cooking.

3 To ROAST: Place trimmed beets in a roasting pan and add a little water for steam.

Roast the beets at 425 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes (cover the pan with foil) or
until the beets are easily pierced with a knife.

4 To BOIL: Cook the beets for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.

5 To MICROWAVE: Cook the beets with a little water for 8 to 15 minutes on HIGH.

6 Slip off the skins under running water and grate or dice.


8 Mix grated or diced cooked beets, chopped walnuts (if serving immediately; otherwise, reserve until serving), and crushed garlic.

9 Season with salt and pepper.

10 Add mayonnaise and mix well.

No videos this time because the YouTube videos with beet recipes are weird and some were slightly creepy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Russian Folk Instrument of the week: Russian Balalaika

The Russian Balalaika is a triangular guitar with only three strings. When I learned to play the Russian Spoons in the smelly Rooskie whore, er brave Russian choir, this summer many of my friends picked up this simple but beautiful instrument.

The balalaika appeared first in the Ukrainian language in the 18th century in documents from 1717-1732. It is thought that the term was borrowed into Russian where it first appeared a poem by V. Maikov "Elysei" in 1771. The instrument soon became very popular with Russian Jesters (skomorokhi) who ridiculed the tsars, the orthodox church, or other facets of Russian society.

A popular notion is that the three sides and strings of the balalaika are supposed to represent the Holy Trinity. However, this is probably not true as the balalaika was used by the jesters who really rather peeved the church. Also, musical instruments are not allowed in Russian Orthodox liturgy.

A likelier reason for the triangular shape is given by the famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol in his unfinished novel Dead Souls. He states that a balalaika was made by peasants out of a pumpkin. If you quarter a pumpkin, you are left with a balalaika shape.

Another theory implicates Russian boat craftsmen. Before Tsar Peter The Great, instruments were not allowed in Russia. When Peter allowed them, only the boat builders knew how to work with wood. The balalaika looks a little like the front of a boat, if held horizontally.

Another theory comes from a Russian tale: during the Mongol invasion of Russia, a Russian man from Nizhny Novgorod was captured by Mongols, but the Mongol Khan liked him because of his musical talent, released him and gave him a guitar. When the Russian man returned home, he took 3 of the strings out of the guitar, so that he would be able to repair his guitar if he breaks one of the strings, and that way he was left with a 3-string guitar. I find this one to be absolutely ridiculous as Mongols don't like anyone and almost always brutally murdered their captives.

Anyway, there you have it. The Balalaika. Так интересно, нет?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Russian Monument for Us

Stumbling the other day, I discovered the existence of this monument:

It is a monument dedicated to the U.S. to honor those lost at 9/11 and make a statement against terrorism. Designed by Zurab Tesereteii, it was dedicated in 2006. About 100 feet tall the teardrop is made of stainless steel and the structure is steel coated with bronze. It's located in Bayonne, New Jersey. It's official title is "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism."

Somewhat more interestingly, the sculptor, Tesereteii, is a Georgian who is the president of the Russian Academy of Arts.

Unit 2

Russia May Find Itself Involved with Another War

The unlearned lessons of the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 may trigger another armed conflict in the Caucasus. Otto Luchterhandt, a German human right activist, said in an interview with Der Standard that the situation with Nagorny Karabakh, the third most explosive center of tension in the Caucasus, was aggravating very fast. The official believes that the lessons of the previous war in the Caucasus have not been learned.

Ilkham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, stated in the middle of July of this year during his speech in London that he did not exclude another armed conflict in the region. There is still no non-aggression pact between Azerbaijan and Nagorny Karabakh, the Azeri president said.
In addition to other reasons, the war between Russia and Georgia began, because there was no peace agreement signed between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Mr. Luchterhandt said.
Russia ’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that Russia repeatedly offered Georgia to sign a non-aggression treaty, long before the 2008 crisis in the Caucasus. Instead, Georgia set forth about a dozen of preliminary conditions.
“At first the Georgian administration demanded Russian peacemakers be removed and the South Ossetian administration be replaced. It was clear that they were not willing to do it, but we were trying to bring them to reason,” Lavrov said.
The contacts with the Georgian administration stopped after Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Tbilisi on July 10.
The Bush’s administration and several European politicians are partly guilty of Saakashvili’s decision to attack South Ossetia at night of August 7. The US and EU officials were supportive of any initiatives of the Georgian president.
If European officials had insisted on a non-aggression pact, the war would have probably not happened.
Otto Luchterhandt believes that Russia would not have recognized the independence of the two republics if the war had not taken place. Russia was not interested in loosing an opportunity to show influence on Georgia’s home policies. In addition, now Russia has to maintain the two territories.
The German expert believes that the situation in the Caucasus has been getting more and more complicated again. Azerbaijan continues to strengthen the army against the background of silence in the West. The Azeri president may decide to act out as long as the international community is quiet.
Ivan Tulyakov

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Russian Punk Rock?

In my never ending search through Russian rock I came across this page about Russian punk an alternative rock. Looking around I've also seen some discontent with Russian punk scene for having "sold out" once the communism ended and a music industry took hold. And they have emo bands in Russia? Somehow I'm not surprised.

Now here, have a random video.

Health Care?

Last year, I had to watch "Sicko," a Michael Moore documentary on socialist health care. I found it very interesting. I was curious to see if Russian health care was socialist or not, and this is Wikipedia told me...

"Pre 1990s, soviet Russia had a totally socialist model of health care with a centralised, integrated, hierarchically organised with the government providing free health care to all citizens. All health personnel were state employees. Control of communicable diseases had priority over non-communicable ones. There was over provision of hospital beds, which contributed over time to an imbalance in the overall structure of the health care system. On the whole, the Soviet system tended to neglect primary care, and placed too much emphasis on specialist and hospital care......

The new Russia has switched to a mixed model of health care with private financing and provision running alongside state financing and provision. Article 41 of the 1993 constitution confirmed a citizen's right to healthcare and medical assistance free of charge. This is achieved through compulsory medical insurance (OMS) rather than just tax funding. This and the introduction of new free market providers was intended to promote both efficiency and patient choice. A purchaser-provider split was also expected to help facilitate the restructuring of care, as resources would migrate to where there was greatest demand, reduce the excess capacity in the hospital sector and stimulate the development of primary care. Finally, it was intended that insurance contributions would supplement budget revenues and thus help to maintain adequate levels of healthcare funding.

The OECD reported that unfortunately, none of this has worked out as planned and the reforms have in many respects made the system worse. The population’s health has deteriorated on virtually every measure. Though this is by no means all due to the changes in health care structures, the reforms have proven to be woefully indequate at meeting the needs of the nation. Private health care delivery has not managed to make much inroads and public provision of health care still predominates. The resulting system is overly complex and very inefficient. It has little in common with the model envisaged by the reformers. Although there are more than 300 private insurers and numerous public ones in the market, real competition for patients is rare leaving most patients with little or no effective choice of insurer, and in many places, no choice of health care provider either. The insurance companies have failed to develop as active, informed purchasers of health care services. Most are passive intermediaries, making money by simply channelling funds from regional OMS funds to healthcare providers."

I thought that this was quite interesting. It seems that the socialist system worked better in Russia, but perhaps more time is required to completely adjust...


Oh, wow. Thanks, Stumbleupon.

So, I was scrambling for a post for the portfolio and then I remembered: StumbleUpon routinely sends me to Russian websites! Even as I had that thought, I Stumbled upon this picture. I'm not sure exactly what the context was for this. My first thoughts were "It's going to take days to get her hair back to normal" and "I remember when my hair used to look approximately like that."

The URL has a .ru ending, though, so if nothing else it piqued the Russians' interest.

Alexander Glazunov

When most people think of "The Seasons" in classical music, they think of Vivaldi. Well, that's good and all, but there is another "The Seasons*" out there which deserves attention, this one by composer Alexander Glazunov.

*Warning! The 2nd mvt. of Autumn is so beautiful you may cry!

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born the son of a publisher and bookseller in St. Petersburg in 1865. As a child he showed considerable musical ability and he met Balakirev in 1879, who introduced the young Glazunov to Rimsky-Korsakov. His first nine symphonies were finished by the age of sixteen and these works showed much influence from Balakirev. Sadly, this relationship with Balakirev was not to continue.

The rich timber-merchant Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev formed an informal association of Russian composers with Rimsky-Korsakov, and after attending the performances of Glazunov's symphonies both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, the young composer was invited to be part of Balakirev's circle. Belakirev, the self-appointed mentor of Russian nationalists composers, was upset by this because Glazunov became a regular at Rimsky-Korsakov's gatherings on Friday evenings, instead of attending his Tuesday evening meetings. Belyayev took the young composers to meet Liszt in 1884 and it was at Weimar where Glazunov's First Symphony was performed outside Russia for the first time.

In 1899 Glazunov joined the staff of the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, but by this time his admiration for his teacher seems to have cooled. Rimsky-Korsakov’s wife was later to remark on Glazunov’s admiration for Tchaikovsky and Brahms, suspecting in this the influence of Taneyev and of the critic Laroche, champion of Tchaikovsky and a strong opponent of the nationalists, a man described by Rimsky-Korsakov as the Russian equivalent of Hanslick in Vienna, a comparison that, from him, was not entirely complimentary.

Glazunov, however, remained a colleague and friend of Rimsky-Korsakov, and demonstrated this after the political disturbance of 1905, when the latter was dismissed for supporting the students who had joined liberal protests against official policies. Glazunov was elected director of an institution, soon after and reinstalled Rimsky-Korsakov.

In 1928 Glazunov attended the Schubert celebrations in Vienna, thereafter he remained abroad. He eventually settled near Paris, where he died in 1936.

Wedding Traditions

Engagement and Wedding Preparations:

Russian weddings don't have bridesmaids, a best man, or flower girls. When a man proposes he doesn't give the woman an engagement ring, and the wedding occurs in about 1-3 months according on how long it takes the department of registrations to certify it. They do not even make a big deal about being engaged, they just say that they have "handed in the application". When married the couple wears a wedding band on their right hand rind finger. If they are wearing a wedding band on their left hand it usually means that they are widowed or divorced. The size of the ring depends on the brides age, i.e. if shes 17 then the ring is 17mm in diameter. Girls are taught to sew in school so brides tend to make their own dresses. There is no tradition of handing down wedding dresses to daughters. It is custom that the longer the trail of cars following the bride the prouder the couple is. "The biggest concern at the wedding is to have enough liquor. A Russian wedding is an event where everybody must be drunk."

To read more about the wedding process go to this website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1

The great Shostakovich completed his first cello concerto in 1959. The concerto is dedicated to Mistlav Rostropovich, who many including myself deem the World's Greatest Cellist. The piece is known for demanding great technical feats and a strong sense rhythm. The first movement starts with the cellist playing the famous DSCH motive, then moves toward a very rhythmatic figure started with the winds then passed to the strings as the cello plays a quasi- legato melody full of syncopation. The second movement calls upon the cold Siberian winter where Shostakovich was I believed banished, the ending sends an icy shiver down the spine as the cello plays hollow harmonics. The third movement is tied into the fourth movement with a cadenza by the cello. The last movement is by far the funkiest, which lots of accents on the off rhythms and perhaps the most virtuostic movement of the concerto.

In the video Mistlav Rostropovich is playing the 3rd and 4th movements. Also to be noted Oct. 30th David Bjella cello professor here at Stetson will be playing the entire concerto with the Stetson Symphony!

Tsar Bomba

As the Cold War escalated, Soviet and U.S. nuclear strategies changed. The concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) as a deterrent against hostilities was reinforced by fleets of strategic bombers armed with thermonuclear warheads. The largest of which was the Tsar Bomba.

The Tsar Bomba was never put into use though, it was too bulky for transit, and nuclear bombers were soon to be outmoded by ICBMs and MIRV weaponry.

An interesting throwback to this "one-upping" of U.S. military might comes from Russia's latest vacumm bomb, nicknamed the "Father of all Bombs" which bypassed the American MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst) which was later dubbed the Mother of all Bombs.
Russian tortoise, Agrionemys horsfieldii. It is also referred to as the Russian tortoise, Steppe tortoise, Afghanistan tortoise, Four-toed tortoise and as well as the Russian box turtle.

Found in Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, Northern and Eastern Iran, North Western China and the Soviet territory Kazakhstan. Most Russian Tortoises found in the pet trade are from the territory of Uzbekistan.

Its habitats are dry open landscapes. It is most commonly found in sand and clay deserts with sparse grasses and bushes.

In nature it is active only a few months of the year. It comes out of hibernation in march and actively forages and mates until june. If the temperatures rise to high they will aestivate. In Uzbekistan it hibernates from about october through march.

Most active in the early morning and early evening, and hiding in its hole during the hotter parts of the day. Russian tortoises are most active when the temperatures range 20-32°C

Monday, October 5, 2009

Unit 3 Poem for Second Year Russian: Esenin

SO, there's this video on youtube called Powerthirst that makes fun of energy drinks, and at the end of the sequel it mentions Anna Kournikova. I didn't know who this was so I looked her up. It turns out she is or was a famous female Russian tennis player/model. Here's the Wiki article for a general overview and then a longer, more accurate bio from a sports website.

Anna Sergeyevna Kournikova (Russian: Анна Сергеевна Курникова; born 7 June 1981) is a retired Russian professional tennis player and model. Her celebrity status made her one of the best known tennis players worldwide. At the peak of her fame, fans looking for images of Kournikova made her name one of the most common search strings on the Internet search engine Google.

Although also successful in singles, reaching World No. 8 in the world in 2000, Kournikova's specialty has been doubles, where she has at times been the World No. 1 player. With Martina Hingis as her partner, she won Grand Slam titles in Australia in 1999 and 2002. Kournikova's professional tennis career has been curtailed for the past several years, and possibly ended, by serious back and spinal problems. She currently resides in Miami Beach, Florida, and plays in occasional exhibitions and in doubles for the St. Louis Aces of World Team Tennis.

Anna's Bio

And for those interested:

Powerthirst - Redomination

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anna Pavlova

I have always loved ballet. Since the Russians are so well known for it, I thought I would talk about one of the most famous ballet icons of all time, Anna Pavlova (Анна Павловна [Матвеевна] Павлова). Anna was born in 1881 in a suburb of St. Petersburg. Her passion for ballet began when her mother took her to see Marius Petipa’s production of Sleeping Beauty at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater. Her mother took her to audition for the Imperial Ballet School, but Anna was initially rejected due to her “sickly” physique. She was, however, finally accepted in 1891. Her time at the school was difficult. She did not have an aptitude for technique and her body type was much different than what was desired at the time for a ballerina (these aspects would still haunt her throughout her career). Despite all the obstacles, Anna was determined and in 1899, she graduated into the Imperial Ballet as a coryphee, not the typical corps de ballets.

It was not long before Pavlova was a favorite of the public. She worked as a principal dancer not only with the Imperial Ballet but also with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. She also became the most widely touring ballerina of the time, traveling not only to the Americas, but also to Asia and the South Pacific. What she is best known for today is her role of “The Dying Swan” choreographed for her by Michel Fokine.

There are only a handful of film clips of her performances. The one below is my favorite. It is the “solo rondino”.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Game Come to Life

There's a interesting trend amongst the worlds most hardcore video game fans. No longer content with merely playing the games, they've found a way to live them. In most cases this LARPing, or Live Action Role Playing, is pretty harmless. It's like cops and robbers for adults with too much time on their hands. However, some people can take it a few steps to far like the group in Russia who decided that they needed to live out S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a game that takes place in the blast zone of Chernobyl.
The problem with this is that the ground and many of the structures there are still giving off dangerously high doses of radiation especially when absorbed over a long period of time. Scientists say that it will be at least fifty more years before the area is habitable again. Oddly enough these facts don't seem to concern the gamers who have been coming from all over the world to participate in this "real life" video game. For more pictures go here:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vladimir Heavy Draft Horse

The Vladimir Heavy Draft horse was developed in Vladimir region of Russia. The state run Gavrilovo-Posadsk stable had a lot to do with the development of the breed in the late 1800's. The breed was officially recognized in 1946. They are known for having a gentle and willing demeanor. They were used in Russia to pull a тройка, a three horse drawn sleigh

In Soviet Russia car drive YOU!!

These are the URL links to two video clips from a British show called Top Gear showing how crappy Russian and Comunist cars really are (Sorry the video would'nt upload and you'll have to copy and paste them onto youtube). This includes cars from a British company called British Leyland, a front for the British Communist Party. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2: