Monday, November 30, 2009


When looking for something to blog about on Bear in a Hat, my first instincts always lead me to google "funny Russian news". It hasn't worked for me all year, but I still thought it is worth the try. Today's search proved fruitful.

On a little website known as, I came across this article on "climategate", a supposed scandal uncovering the truth about global warming: its all a lie.

"The Internet has been abuzz throughout the past week with the news of what everyone is calling 'Climategate' - a major scandal involving leaked emails and data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Located in the town of Norwich in the United Kingdom, the Climatic Research Unit is a primary center for the 'science' that supports the theory of Global Warming".

This led to several questions. Wasn't Правда the Communist-Party Newspaper in the U.S.S.R.? Isn't the Communist Party out of power? Isn't the U.S.S.R. dissoved? Is everything I know a lie? I decided to investigate...

The first Правда was founded by Trotsky in Vienna(to avoid censorship) in 1908, and was smuggled into Russia, but closed down in 1912. It turns out, the Правда we know and loved existed as an organ for the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991. It started as a weekly in St. Petersburg called Звезда, and made its way to Moscow by 1918. It was known during the Cold War for making the announcements for the Soviet Communist Party. In 1991, President Boris Yeltsin closed down Правда. Today, many former reporters for the newspaper created a new paper by the same name. The new Правда is the most popular tabloid in Russia. is unaffiliated with either new or old Правда.

Thus Правда, which started out as a revolutionary paper, has transitioned from Communist propaganda to tabloid. The news published in Pravda today is probably not much different than the news of fifty years ago, although Stalin probably doesn't publish anything in there anymore. Wait, its a tabloid... maybe he does. After all, a popular Russian saying during the Soviet era was "v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy". Referring to Pravda (Truth), the Communist Party paper, and Izvestia (News), the main Soviet paper, this translates to "In the Truth there is no news, and in the News there is no truth".

The city where the mills created the paper for Правда, amongst other newspapers, is now called Pravdinsk.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Koliadki Cookies

Koliadki are Christmas cookies that are made to treat all the people who come to sing carols. These cookies can have the most different fillings.

400 g flour.
150 g water.
300 g tvorog (cottage cheese).
7 ea eggs.
sugar to taste.

Combine flour with water and knead the dough. Roll out the dough finely and cut out squares. Fold the edges and pinch them to have small boxes. Fill the boxes with tvorog combined with eggs and sugar and bake in a preheated oven on average heat until light brown.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brad Pitt prevents road accidents in Siberian city

Police in the Russian city of Omsk are using cut-out pictures of Brad Pitt in police uniform to slow drivers down through some of the most dangerous intersections in Omsk. Police officer Dmitry Ziryanov is quoted saying, "he is kind of like a colleague for us."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The pictures to the left are not from a liquor store. They're from a museum. The Vodka Museum in Moscow features 2707 different types of vodka of varying levels of rarity. Groups go on tours to look at the interesting bottles, to observe the distillation process and, of course, to sample. The museums restaurant offers samples of all of the varieties shown in the museum but it's a good idea to have a designated buyer willing to keep a clear head, some of the varieties are very expensive.
Vodka is something of an art form in Russia and it isn't all about the drink itself, although it's definitely important. The wild, creative bottles the drink comes in are half the fun. There is vodka for sale at the museums gift shop but many of the same brands can be picked up at smaller local shops for a way lower price. Additional pictures can be found at

Russian Lolcats?!

Heck YES! Russians now have Lolcats! This is just one more thing the Russians have stolen from the West (ex. Facebooke/VKontakte.)
*Warning* Since it IS lolkoti, things ARE spelt wrong. That's the point. Lolkoti are not lessons on Russian spelling and/or grammar.

For more hilarity, go to

Everything is Illuminated

So I watched that movie Everything is Illuminated. My dad had told me it was pretty good so I decided that I would check it out. Overall, I praise the movie for skillfully balancing comedy and drama. The movie follows Jonathan Foer played by Elijah Woods as he journeys to Ukraine to find the history of his grandfather, a Jew murdered in the Holocaust. His Ukrainian guides are the comedic Alex, his cranky grandfather, and their seeing-eye dog. Hilarity ensues as cultures clash. Jonathan is unable to explain how he is a vegetarian. They eventually discover the truth of Jonathan's grandfather and his hometown of Trachimbrod also discovering that Alex's grandfather has a role to play in that past. Touching ending.

Elijah Woods does a great job playing the introverted, yet determined protagonist. Also, Alex is played by Gogol Bordello, Gypsy punk band, lead singer, Eugine Hütz. He also acts well and humorously.

The movie is based on the book, Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer. It was written and directed by Liev Schreiber (the guy who was sabertooth in the X Men Origins: Wolverine). Go see it! It's not a waste of time! You can easily pick out Russian words, so it's a great learning experience!
Unit 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Russian folk dance, direct translation of landlady, used to address a woman of higher class. "The dancing was without special choreography and consisted mainly of fancy stomping and traditional Russian squatwork – knee bending ". Many times, "the dancers get so wound up they often break the heels from their boots".

Monday, November 16, 2009

Traditional Russian folk song (and the people that sing it!)

This is a traditional Russian folk song "Kalinka". Written in 1860 by the Russian folklorist and composer Ivan Larionov. Here is a video of the Red Russian Army Chior singing it (along with some crazy dancing and silly hair) and a translation of the lyrics into English.

And the translation:

Little snowberry, snowberry of mine!Little raspberry in the garden, my little! (word by word: in garden raspberry little, little mine!)
Ah, under the pine, the green one,Lay me down to sleep,Ah, rock-a-baby,Lay me down to sleep.
Little snowberry, snowberry of mine!Little raspberry in the garden, my little! (word by word: in garden raspberry little, little mine!)
Ah, little pine, little green one,Don't rustle above me,Ah, rock-a-baby,Don't rustle above me.
Little snowberry, snowberry of mine!Little raspberry in the garden, my little! (word by word: in garden raspberry little, little mine!)
Ah, you beauty, pretty maiden,Fall in love with me,Ah, rock-a-baby,Fall in love with me.
Little snowberry, snowberry of mine!Little raspberry in the garden, my little! (word by word: in garden raspberry little, little mine!)

Russia orders recall of Modern Warfare 2

The Russian government has ordered a recall of all Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 copies in the country after the unveiling of the controversial "No Russian" mission which includes the player taking part in a terrorist attack on an airport in Moscow, killing innocent civilians. Other causes cited include other parts of the game's plot, such as the Russian reaction sparking an invasion of the East Coast, and decimating Washington D.C.

Original link

English Source

Every copy of the console version of Modern Warfare 2 has been recalled from stores in Russia due to the content of the “No Russian” mission, better known as the controversial airport massacre level. Likewise, Infinity Ward has released an official patch for the PC and Steam versions of Modern Warfare 2, entirely removing the mission from the game.

Pending validation from the Russian government, the censored console versions of the game are expected to be released within less than a month, with the mission removed.

The game’s content has raised the ire of the Russian gaming public as well as a number of politicians who object to its portrayal of Russia’s armed forces as terrorists who invade the United States and subsequently erect statues of dead terrorists in Washington D.C.

Russian gaming website GotPS3 voiced their anger over the game’s storyline, which they criticized as catering to a primarily American audience with total disregard towards other cultures, especially the Russians, whom the game depicts as terrorists.

As it is, Russian gamers who wish to play the game will have to choose from purchasing the gutted Steam version, ordering the US/EU version of Modern Warfare 2 from eBay, or waiting for an indefinite period of time for the censored version to be released, pending validation.



Anyone here ever seen Fantasia? I haven't, but I do know about the big black demon on the mountain summoning souls as chilling orchestral music plays. Almost everyone knows about that scene from the movie, Night on Bald Mountain. Well, apparently the original music for the segment was written by a Russian composer by the name of Modest Mussorgsky. The piece as we know it today is an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski based off Mussorgsky's original tone poem St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain. It is apparently about a witches' sabbath. The piece was never played in Mussorgsky's lifetme, and was criticized for it's composition and subsequently rearranged several times, but it became a popular concert tune in 1886 with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's arrangement of the piece, the arrangement that Stokowski would later use to arrange the Disney version.

Chornobog, the demon, comes out as the music starts soft. He reaches out and his shadow extends over the town below as the music becomes more audible. The music winds about with the spirits as they fly to the mountain. The music explodes as Chornobog summons fire from within the mountain. The music develops, twists and turns as the imps and ghosts dance and Chornobog plays with them. Finally the music dies down and bells ring, announcing the coming morning, the demons shrink at the sound of coming light and then flee as sweet music flows from the strings. As they strings die down, Chornobog fades back into the mountain.

Anyway, enjoy the show!


Ever wonder what Russians do to preserve all that beautiful land? Similar to American state parks and preserved lands, the Russians have Zapovedniks that stretch across the entire country. However, these areas greatly outnumber other nature conservation attempts and are the top category of scientific nature conservation in the world. The first one began in 1916 on the shore of Lake Baikal (eastern Russia) and is called Barguzinsky. Today, there are over 100 Zapovedniks across Russia and they cover more than 33.5 million hectares (82.7 million acres). They not only cover a majority of the country but work to protect biomes from the tundra to the prairies and from one shore to the next. These Zapodevniks are essential in keeping diverse groups of animals controlled and protected as well as combating pollution by preserving these lands.

The Kostomukshsky Zapovednik in the Kora-Karelia Region of Russia (Northwest area):
It protects moose, reindeer, wolves, brown bears, rodents, lynx, and mountain hares. Brown bears are becoming increasingly popular due to the abolition of poaching. It covers the watershed region of Russia's NW. Here's a few pictures:
The area is also known for the abundance of lakes and streams that flow through it from the Baltic Sea as well as its boreal forests.

These Zapovedniks are very important for the preservation of Russia's wildlife. After all, we know Russia as the Wild East and understand Siberia as an uninhabited wasteland. However, Russia's beauty far surpasses any of what we have seen in the United States. Nothing is quite as wild as Russia =].
Pictures and information courtesy of:


Baked Lemon and Semolina Cheesecake


400g homemade tvorog, (ricotta cheese or quark can be used as a substitution, or in combination, but must be well drained and dry).
125g soft butter.
100g sugar.
1/2 tsp vanilla essence.
1/2 tsp salt.
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp semolina.
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon.

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Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Beat the softened butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla essence, salt and beaten eggs. Mix well. Add the soft cheese and mix to combine. Finally stir in the semolina, lemon juice and cinnamon.

Pour the mixture into a well greased baking dish, which you can also coat with biscuit crumbs if you wish. Put a thin layer of water on the top of the mixture to help prevent the cheesecake from cracking and burning as it cooks.

Bake for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on it to ensure the top and sides don't burn. If the cake starts to go brown on the top too early in the cooking process, reduce the oven temperature slightly.

Set the cheesecake aside to cool before serving.

Delicious warm or cold, on its own.

"Putin wins respect at hip-hop party"...

Everything about that sentence is baffling.

So I was trawling the netarwebs, looking for my next blog post, when I found an article from Reuters about...well, Putin winning respect at a hip-hop party. Unfortunately, the Russian Prime Minister was not there to perform. The Battle for Respect is some kind of hip-hop awards show hosted by the Russian equivalent of MTV, called Muz TV, and Vladimir Putin was there to present awards to winners. According to the article, Putin also had a "stern message" about healthy living for attendees: "'I do not think that 'top-rock' or 'down-rock' breakdance technique is compatible with alcohol or drugs,' Putin told cheering hip-hoppers who responded with chants of 'Respect, Vladimir Vladimirovich.'" The article speculates that the purpose of the appearance was to boost the PM's flagging ratings, but his spokesman denied that this was the case.

I was really hoping for a video or at least an audio clip of Putin breakdancing and/or totally thrashing some kid in a rap battle, and now you are, too.

Chapter 4 blog

An all female metal band started in 2006. This band consists of 5 members, a vocalist Ksenia, 2 guitarist Julie and Natalie, a basses Marina, and a drummer Svetlana. All of the members are experienced musicians from other less familiar bands in Russia. Oddly enough you can hear the influences of very familiar metal bands in their music, bands such as Metallica, Pantera, Judas Priest, and even Black Label Society.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Graffitti Movement in Moscow

After receiving complaints about the dreariness in Moscow, a Moscow real-estate agency arranged a graffiti campaign in the district near Babushkinskaya subway station. Many Dutch, American, Brazillian and Russian painters have come to color the walls with their art.

More popular than Harry Potter

This children's book sold over 2,400,000 copies after its publication in 1984 Soviet Russia. Inside, the book divulges all the glorious things about living in Soviet Russia as told by many famous Russian poets at the time.

The Russian Boy Band of the 19th Century (The Five)

In keeping with my tradition of blog posts that talk of Russia's relatively short yet explosive music history, I choose this unit to multitask in my pattern of praising all the great composers in the last two centuries.
Тhe Russian 5 (known only in the west as The Five) or the “Mighty Handful” (Могучая кучка ) refers to a circle of five composers in the mid to late nineteenth century who met in St. Petersburg and shared their ideas with the aim of producing specifically Russian nationalist music that did not merely imitate older European music. The circle was led by Mily Balakirev who rallied a team of amateur composers including the famous names of Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin. All five of the members were young men who had grown up with a relatively simple upbringing, thus they considered themselves to be authentically Russian and closer to their native soil than the westernized academy. Although they had been preceded by Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky who had both been stark Russian Nationalist composers (each writing their share of successful operas about Russian themes), The Five were the first concentrated effort in this artistic movement.
The Five primarily composed music on two elements specific to Russian music. Most of their material was taken from Cossack and Caucasian dances, churches, and the long/lyrical peasant songs they were accustomed to in their native villages. These melodies were known for their elusive tonal centers, parallel fifths, and raw sonorities that create a very foreign contrast to the polished and structured sounds of western Europe. They also “invented” (well not exactly but they did make great strides in implementing these new scales) their “purely Russian” scales that included octatonic and pentatonic scales with the result of an entirely new palette of colors practically unheard of in their western counterparts. Additionally their music employed a substantial amount of oriental musical devices that recognize the significant eastern Mongol influence on Russia's culture.
Although The Five began to part by the 1870's (most likely the result of Balakirev's withdraw from musical life early in the decade for a period of time), all but the composer Cui were vital teachers to the composers that followed them including but not limited to Alexander Glazunov, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, and Dimitry Shostakovich. Today all of The Five are buried in the Tikhvin Cemetary located in St. Petersburg.
(This post has been brought to you by Courtney Van Cleef's Unit 4 Portfolio!)

My Conversation with a Random Russian

I went down to Key Largo last weekend to work (yes, I know it is five hours away... the money is good). Much to my surprise and excitement, a new waitress was hired the day before I arrived... a Russian! I explained to her how excited I was to work with her, as I was learning how to speak Russian. Her response: "Good Lord, why?" I learned that she had to learn how to smile constantly in America (being a waitress, it's kind of a requirement), as "nobody ever smiles in Russia". That evening, I drove her home, and had a chance to speak to her about what she did in Russia, and why she came to America. Laura comes from a well-to-do family somewhere in Siberia. She went to school at the only university in her home town, which offered classes in economics, science (pretty much: fuels), and foreign languages. Because she hated math, and to study fuels (the primary industry of her region) would mean she would be stuck in Siberia forever, she studied English and German. Every summer, she would come to America to work. This, Laura said, was very rare: in Russia, if you are a student, that is your primary occupation. Over there, waitressing is a "temporary/permanent occupation", in that waitresses are girls who couldn't get into the university and are stuck waitressing the rest of their lives. Laura completed the five years of university study neccessary, because her parents wanted her to, and then was on a plane to America a week later. She waitresses because, even if her diploma would transfer to the С.Ш.А., she would be stuck being a teacher or translator, neither of which she is interested in.
One last piece of advice I recieved from Laura as far as Russia goes: if planning to travel to Russia for an extended period of time, stock up on clothes in America. Apparently, you can't even find jeans over there for under $200.

Hot and Cold... Polka Style!!!!

(In case the imbed doesn't work...

This is one of the funniest little clips of all time... Pretty much, a Ukrainian polka band plays Katy Perry's "Hot and Cold", in English, complete with accordian, on some Ukrainian TV show. Katy Perry becomes "Катерина Перровна". The band we see is a band known as "Los Colorados", from the Spanish meaning "Colorado Potato Beetles." While they perform their own songs, they are most famous for their covers of English pop songs, specifically this one. This clip was first brought to the attention of Americans via "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and then became a YouTube sensation. What is perhaps the most interesting, the lead singer knows no English...

The Ukraine has many ties with Russia, including a common religion, similar culture and language, and a linked history.

Tchaikovsky violin...err.. accordion concerto?

A while back I was emailed a video of an accordion player attempting and rather succeding and performing perhaps one of the hardest movements in all the world of violin literature. The 3rd movement from Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major.

I wonder if he does birthdya parties? Now a video with perhaps the greatest violinist of all time David Oistrakh my teachers former teacher so my grand teacher!! WHOO!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


So I was cruisin' the Internetz and I saw an anime picture of a girl holding what appeared to be a large camera mounted on a rifle stock, like she was "shooting" with it. I thought it was a cool picture, especially because of the writing "ФОТОСНАЙПЕР FS-122" next to the girl. I was intrigued, so I Googled "Фотоснайпер," and then "Photosniper." I never found the origin or reason for the picture, but apparently, the фотоснайпер is a real camera. According to :

"This long range telephoto camera was used by the KGB to take photos of people going in and out of American Embassies in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. It was called the Photosniper because of the stock on the camera which could be pointed like a rifle. After the collapse of the USSR, these units were imported to the USA for a time. They are now hard to find."

For more info and pictures, check out that link, or try:


Medvedev Stresses Modernization in Address

What would Dostoevsky say (WWDS?)

MOSCOW, Nov 12 (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev called on Russia on Thursday to refocus its economy away from Soviet-era energy and heavy industry towards information technology, telecommunications and space.

"Instead of a primitive economy based on raw materials, we shall create a smart economy, producing unique knowledge, new goods and technologies, goods and technologies useful for people," Medvedev said.

"Instead of an archaic society, in which leaders think and decide for everybody, we shall become a society of intelligent, free and responsible people," he added.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unit 4 - Obituary for Mildred Cohn, Ph. D

Mildred Cohn, Biochemist, Is Dead at 96

Published: November 11, 2009

Mildred Cohn, a biochemist who overcame religious and sex discrimination to advance the study of metabolic processes, research that contributed to the development of medical technologies like M.R.I.’s, died on Oct. 12 in Philadelphia. She was 96.

The University of Pennsylvania announced her death.

Dr. Cohn, whose honors included the National Medal of Science, helped develop sophisticated techniques and instruments to measure how enzymes and other proteins behave in the body.

She used magnetic forces, for example, to examine the atomic nucleus in order to study the shapes of molecules and identify compounds. Variations on the approach led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging, which is used to create images of internal tissues.

Indeed, her work in developing powerful research instruments was one of her major contributions, the Chemical Heritage Foundation said in a biography of her. “When the right instruments weren’t available, she built her own,” the foundation said.

Moreover, by shedding light on how chemicals produced by the body are processed, her research helped lead to better diagnoses of illnesses, said Nick Zagorski, a senior writer for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Cohn achieved success only after repeatedly encountering prejudice, from the college professor who told her that being a chemist would not be “ladylike,” to chemical company recruiters who explicitly refused to interview women or Jews, to university departments that would not allow a woman on the track to be a tenured professor. She had to wait 21 years after receiving her Ph.D. to receive her first tenure-track appointment.

Dr. Cohn eventually became the first woman appointed to the editorial board of The Journal of Biological Chemistry and the first woman to become president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

A biography prepared by Washington University in St. Louis, one of the institutions where Dr. Cohn taught and researched, said she had worked in laboratories or written papers with six Nobel laureates. She wrote 160 published papers in all.

Mildred Cohn was born on July 12, 1913, in New York City to Jewish immigrants from Russia. Her father was a tailor who invented a machine for cutting cloth more accurately.

She graduated from high school at 14 and moved on to Hunter College, then an all-women’s school, where she majored in chemistry, minored in physics and graduated at 17. The teacher who advised her against being a research chemist urged her to become a chemistry teacher instead.

Afterward, she enrolled in Columbia University’s doctoral program, only to find that she would not be accepted as a teaching assistant because the position was reserved for men. She earned a master’s degree.

She then took a research job at a NASA forerunner, where she was the only woman who worked on a project with 70 men to develop fuel-injection airplane engines. Though she was able to publish two papers there, one as senior author, she left when told that she would not be promoted.

She then returned to Columbia, where she worked on the team of Harold C. Urey, a Nobel laureate, and earned her Ph.D. She studied ways of using the different weights of carbon and other atoms to trace the atoms’ movement in cells.

Dr. Urey helped her join the research team of Vincent du Vigneaud, a biochemistry professor at George Washington University Medical School. There she helped develop methods of tracing isotopes as they move through bodily processes. The tracing methods opened the way for much broader medical research at the molecular level.

In 1946, her husband, Dr. Henry Primakoff, a physicist, joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Cohn accepted a research position there with the husband-and-wife team of Carl and Gerty Cori, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1947.

Dr. Cohn went to Penn in 1960 and became a full professor the next year. In 1964, the American Heart Association chose her to be a career investigator, making her the first woman to hold the position. She did so for 14 years.

Dr. Cohn was also the Benjamin Rush professor of physiological chemistry at Penn and a senior scientist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She retired in 1985, but continued working in her lab at Penn.

At Washington and at Penn, her research contributed to the understanding of the structure of ATP, a molecule that stores energy for cellular functions. The growing body of knowledge about ATP has had an impact on fields including neuroscience and biotechnology.

Dr. Primakoff, her husband, died in 1983. Dr. Cohn is survived by her daughters, Nina Rossomando and Laura Primakoff; her son, Paul; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

The Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., inducted Dr. Cohn the day after she died. She had learned beforehand that she would receive the honor.

“When I saw that Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey were also members,” she said in an interview with ASBMB, the magazine of the biochemistry society, “I decided this could be a good place for me.”

Unit 3 - Russia and Diamonds

Russia Stockpiles Diamonds, Awaiting the Return of Demand

Published: May 11, 2009
MOSCOW — The global recession sapped demand for all kinds of commodities — like steel and grain — yet small burlap bags are still arriving by the planeload at Russia’s state-owned diamond company.

Each day, the contents of the bags spill into the stainless steel hoppers of the receiving room. The diamonds are washed and sorted by size, clarity, shape and quality; then, rather than being sent to be sold around the world, they are wrapped in paper and whisked away to a vault — about three million carats worth of gems every month.

“Each one of them is so unusual,” said Irina V. Tkachuk, one of the few hundred people, mostly women, employed to sort the diamonds, who sees thousands of them every day.

“I’m not a robot. I sometimes think to myself ‘wow, what a pretty diamond. I would like that one.’ They are all so beautiful.”

It could be years before another woman admires that stone. Russia quietly passed a milestone this year: surpassing De Beers as the world’s largest diamond producer. But the global market for diamonds is so dismal that the Alrosa diamond company, 90 percent owned by the Russian government, has not sold a rough stone on the open market since December, and has stockpiled them instead.

As a result, Russia has become the arbiter of global diamond prices. Its decisions on production and sales will determine the value of diamonds on rings and in jewelry stores for years to come, in one of the most surprising consequences of this recession.

Largely because of the jewelry bear market, De Beers’s fortunes have sunk. Short of cash, the company had to raise $800 million from stockholders in just the last six months.

The recession also coincided with a settlement with European Union antitrust authorities that ended a longtime De Beers policy of stockpiling diamonds, in cooperation with Alrosa, to keep prices up.

Though it is a major commodity producer, Russia has traditionally not embraced policies that artificially keep prices up. In oil, for example, Russia benefits from the oil cartel’s cuts in production, but does not participate in them.

Diamonds are an exception. “If you don’t support the price,” Andrei V. Polyakov, a spokesman for Alrosa, said, “a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.”

In an attempt to carefully calibrate its re-entry on the global market, without forcing prices still lower, Russia is relying on two things: the Soviet-era precious gem depository — created to hold jewelry confiscated from the aristocracy after the 1917 revolution — and capitalist investors, whom Alrosa hopes will buy diamonds as an investment, like gold.

Russia is taking a leadership role in other ways, too.

Sergei Vybornov, Alrosa’s chief executive, said that he had helped persuade the central bank of Angola — which, like Russia, is still relatively flush with oil money — to buy 30 percent of the production of Angola’s diamond mines, keeping these stones off the market.

And last fall, Alrosa began what it called the St. Petersburg Initiative, along with De Beers and other large producers, to invest collectively in generic diamond advertising, akin to De Beers’s promotion of the slogan “Diamonds are forever.” Russia assumed the task as De Beers has principally shifted to promoting its own branded gems.

Still, it is a precarious time for the Russian diamond company to assume leadership of the industry.

Until last year, De Beers produced about 40 percent of the global rough stone supply, and Alrosa 25 percent. But De Beers, which is prohibited under its European Union antitrust agreement from stockpiling, closed mines in response to the glut in rough stones. Russia is loath to do that, as authorities in Moscow, gravely concerned about potential unrest by disgruntled unemployed workers, try to keep workers on the payroll.

In the first quarter, De Beers reduced output by 91 percent compared with the previous year. The diversified mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton also curbed production.

Meanwhile, the market for wholesale polished diamonds, worth about $21.5 billion, is expected to fall to about $12 billion in 2009, according to Polished Prices, an analytical service for the industry.

Rough diamond prices have fallen even more, as much as 75 percent since their peak last July at some auctions.

The two markets are distinct. Typically, about 60 percent of a rough diamond is lost as dust or shavings in the cutting process.

Mr. Vybornov blames diamond traders who pledged diamond stocks as loan collateral for part of the world glut. When credit dried up last fall, banks and other creditors seized those gems and sold them, he says, flooding the market. By December, his company decided to withdraw entirely from the market rather than further erode prices.

Russia historically remained mostly a behind-the-scenes player, perhaps because Soviet authorities would have had to perform some ideological gymnastics to promote a product consumed principally by the rich of the capitalist world.

Instead, twisting politics, the Soviets concluded a semisecret agreement with apartheid-era De Beers to sell Siberian diamonds in a way that would not undercut the market.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian diamond industry created a formal alliance with De Beers, selling the South African company half of each year’s production at a discount intended to subsidize De Beers’s generic diamond advertising undertaken in the 1990s, mostly in the United States.

Now, the Russians are in the driver’s seat.

Charles Wyndham, a former De Beers evaluator and co-founder of Polished Prices, said Russia had thus far managed the transition well: withholding gems to make more money in the long run rather than further depressing the market.

“Whatever one wants to say about the Russians, they certainly aren’t stupid,” Mr. Wyndham said.

Alrosa is seeking to jump-start demand by selling gems under long-term contracts to wholesale buyers in Belgium, Israel, India and elsewhere. Under these contracts, six of which have been signed, prices are set at a midpoint between the peak last August and this winter, and fixed for a period of several years.

“A diamond ring should not cost $100,” Mr. Vybornov said. “We don’t want that type of client.”

Alrosa is also working with a Moscow investment bank, Leader, a subsidiary of the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, to market diamonds to investors. Under the plan, investors would buy diamonds but the gems would not be released to jewelers for several years.

It is a program, essentially, of outsourcing the stockpiling function to investors in exchange for the chance to profit from a possible recovery in the market.

At one of Alrosa’s cutting shops in one of Moscow’s outer districts, Aleksandr A. Malinin, an adviser to the president of Alrosa, showed a typical collection that might become the basis for such an investment vehicle.

The gems fit in a felt box about the size of a laptop computer.

The larger stones, a circular-cut 10 carat flawless white and a princess-cut yellow, were estimated at about $400,000. The smaller ones ranged from $16,000 to $100,000. But the value of the box, while surely several million dollars, is something of a mystery just now given the depressed market.

How the buy-in price for the stones will be set, and how the company will determine when the price goes up and down, is unclear, Mr. Malinin said.

“We have to tell people that diamonds are valuable,” he said. “We are trying to maintain the price, just as De Beers did, as all diamond producing countries do. But what we are doing is selling an illusion,” meaning a product with no utility and a price that depends on the continued sense of scarcity where there is none.

At the Alrosa unit that receives diamonds, called the United Selling Organization, where about 90 percent of the output of the Siberian mines arrives for processing, Elena V. Kapustkina pours about 45,000 carats of diamonds though a stainless steel sieve every day to sort them by size.

“It’s just a job,” she said.

When asked whether diamonds had lost their romance for her, Ms. Kapustkina paused, looked down at the pile of gems on her table and blushed.

In fact, she said, her husband, a truck driver, gave her a half-carat ring 22 years ago. “Of course I love it,” she said. “It’s from my husband.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Soviet Nukes Power Your Fridge...

From today's Times...

Power for U.S. From Russia's Old Nuclear Weapons

But at times, recycled Soviet bomb cores have made up the majority of the American market for low-enriched uranium fuel. Today, former bomb material from Russia accounts for 45 percent of the fuel in American nuclear reactors, while another 5 percent comes from American bombs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade association in Washington.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Russian Commercials

A few weeks/months/at some point in time I mentioned this commercial in class. Since it's from the 80's and none of us are old enough to really remember the 80's, if we were even alive at the time, (except for Dr. Denner because he's old), I found it on YouTube. I think it's a pretty funny commericial.

And while we're doing commercials, here' s an actual Russian commercial fro Skittles.

And interesting look at a Russian pop culture depiction of their country-folk. We also get to learn the word for bear!

All this capitlist advertisement got me wondering... did they have commercials in Soviet Russia? I mean, what did they have to advertise? There wasn't like you had 4 different options for delivery pizza. What would the commercial say? "Choose us because it's better than starving!"

So I did a bit of googling, and didn't find much aside from the following uncited statement on the ever reliable Wikipedia

"Until the late 1980s, Soviet TV programming did not include commercials of any kind.[citation needed] The first Western commercial was aired for the first time in May 1988; it was a Pepsi commercial featuring Michael Jackson.[citation needed]"

I can't find anything anywhere to corroborate this, but it's a cute commercial and it was when he still had a nose, so I'll put it up anyway.