Thursday, December 17, 2009
Russia(n) is Back
At the College of the Holy Cross this year, language instructors had to scramble to set up a second section of introductory Russian - for the first time since the Cold War.
Not only are more students enrolling, but different kinds of students...
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
For those who do not know this great opera by Shostakovitch, I thought I would share this clip that I stumbled upon from Katerina Ismailova. Katerina is the epitome of the traditional Russian trophy wife. Ignorant and bored out of her mind, she feels trapped and desperate for real affection in her loveless marriage to Zinovy. That's where Sergei comes in. He's the farm hand who got fired for sleeping with his last boss's wife (you can assume what kind of character this playa playa is).
In this particular scene Sergei is paying a late night visit to Katerina under the nose of her father-in-law Boris and while her husband is away on a business trip. He asks for a book but obviously his real intentions are less innocent...
Consequently Katerina kills Boris by serving him poisoned mushrooms and later she and Sergei kill her husband when he catches them in the act... yeah that's about the place in the opera where Stalin apparently stormed out of the auditorium in disgust (off to the frozen tundra with Shosty over that one). Then the couple gets caught and sent to Siberia. Sergei dumps Katerina for another labor slave, Katerina loses it, she grabs Sergei's new girlfriend and pulls the both of them to their death by raging/freezing river.
Well, nobody said Russian married life in the old days was easy...
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Russian Black Terrier
The Dog of The Red Star Army
A breed obtained by crossing Giant Schnauzers with Rottweilers and several other breeds in order to produce a perfected military service dog suited for the protection of any army installation and for police work.
The Black Russian Terrier stems from an intentional cross between Giant Schnauzers, Airedaile Terriers, Rottweilers, and several local types of dogs among which the Moscow Retriever. The breed was purposely developed as a guard dog for military and industrial sites in Russia.
The breeding program was initiated after World War II at the Soviet Union's Red Star Army Kennels. The first stud to be involved in this military breeding program was a Giant Schnauzer called Roi (born in 1947). He was mated with several Airedale Terrier bitches, Rottweiler bitches and several other bitches known as Moscow Retrievers, themselves crosses from Newfoundlands, Caucasian Sheepdogs and Eastern European sheepdogs. The other breeds used include the Great Dane, the Borzoi and the Laika.
The Black Russian Terrier was formally recognized by the FCI in 1984, a Black Russian Terrier Club was founded in the United States in the 1990's. Its breed standard was revised in 1993.
The Black Russian Terrier resembles a Giant Schnauzer, but without its more elegant structure, with a height of 25-28 inches (64-72cm) at the whithers. The tail is usually docked short. The coat should be tick, wiry and 1 1/2 to 4 inches (4 to 10cm) long. Black and grayish black are the only accepted colors.
Two varieties exist: a long-haired and a short-haired Black Russian terrier. In the short-haired variety the legs are covered with moderate feathering.
Eyes are similar to those of the Giant Schnauzer.
The Black Russian Terrier is an imposing, highly resistant, fearless, aggressive but very trainable dog. The breed is unpretentious, obedient and easily manageable. It is very healthy, hardy and able to adapt to extreme climatic conditions. It is distrustful of strangers, but faithful and friendly with his human family. This explains why it is equally appreciated as a body guard, property guard and as a companion dog. Breeders like to say that: "Any property guarded by a Russian Black Terrier is safe". Another plus point of this breed is that Russian Black Terriers can adapt equally well to apartment living as country living.
This perfected dog has no real equivalent, but Schnauzers and Airedale Terriers are possible alternatives.
Russian Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said it rejected the group's appeal of September's ruling by a regional court in Rostov-on-Don. That ruling outlawed the group's activities in the region, seized its assets there and labeled 34 of its publications as extremist.
The group said the list of books includes a children's book of Bible stories, and its signature magazine, The Watchtower.
"We are deeply disappointed with that decision," Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Yaroslav Sivulskiy told The Associated Press. "We are concerned that it may affect all our activities, including imports of our publications which are printed in Germany."
Sivulskiy said that the Supreme Court specifically ruled that the 34 publications should be added to the federal list of publications considered extremist. He said that would effectively ban the publications throughout Russia.
"We consider it to be a rollback to the past," Sivulskiy said in a reference to the Soviet past when many members of Jehovah's Witnesses, including his father, were put in prisons. "The Supreme Court makes it illegal for us to profess our views."
He said that the group will appeal the Supreme Court's verdict to the European Court for Human Rights, arguing that the Russian courts misinterpreted the law. The law on combating extremism that served as a basis for the verdict has been widely criticized by many rights groups, which said its loose phrasing allowed authorities to stifle dissent.
A 2004 ruling by the Moscow City Court prohibited Jehovah's Witnesses branch in the Russian capital from engaging in religious activity in the Russian capital.
Sivulskiy said there are at least 160,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.
However, the Russian parties hosted by the few Russian Professors here in the Russian department reassure me that I made the right decision. Last Friday's Russian extravaganza was no exception. From the excellent borscht to the Shostakovitch musical interlude, the Russian studies department certainly outdid themselves this year.
The close relationships we are privileged to make with our academic mentors, as well as peers, is invaluable. The fond memories I have made at these cozy get-togethers will always be reflected on warmly by me years later. I'm sure many of my classmates agree.
Besides, when else does a college student get to eat gourmet foreign food to their hearts content for free?
We haven't talked much on the religions of Russia, so I thought I'd take a quick peek at the Internetz... Here's what I found on http://countrystudies.us/russia/38.htm :
The Russian Orthodox Church has a thousand-year history of strong political as well as spiritual influence over the inhabitants of the Russian state. After enduring the Soviet era as a state-controlled religious facade, the church quickly regained both membership and political influence in the early 1990s.
Beliefs and Ritual
Orthodox belief holds that the Orthodox Church is Christianity's true, holy, and apostolic church, tracing its origin directly to the institution established by Jesus Christ. Orthodox beliefs are based on the Bible and on tradition as defined by seven ecumenical councils held by church authorities between A.D. 325 and 787. Orthodox teachings include the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the inseparable but distinguishable union of the two natures of Jesus Christ--one divine, the other human. Among saints, Mary has a special place as the Mother of God. Russian Orthodox services, noted for their pageantry, involve the congregation directly by using only the vernacular form of the liturgy. The liturgy itself includes multiple elaborate systems of symbols meant to convey the content of the faith to believers. Many liturgical forms remain from the earliest days of Orthodoxy. Icons, sacred images often illuminated by candles, adorn the churches as well as the homes of most Orthodox faithful. The church also places a heavy emphasis on monasticism. Many of the numerous monasteries that dotted the forests and remote regions of tsarist Russia are in the process of restoration. The Russian Orthodox Church, like the other churches that make up Eastern Orthodoxy, is autonomous, or self-governing. The highest church official is the patriarch. Matters relating to faith are decided by ecumenical councils in which all member churches of Eastern Orthodoxy participate. Followers of the church regard the councils' decisions as infallible.
There's more on that page, if you're interested, and there's a Wiki page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Orthodox_Church . I'm not Catholic, but after reading through some of these descriptions, it does sound very similar.
SO, I was wondering where Russian Roulette originated from since I've heard it's possibly not really Russian itself. This is what I found:
Most of the legends that abound regarding the invention of Russian roulette are, predictably, set in the Russian Empire or occur among Russian soldiers.
In one legend, 19th-century Russian prisoners were forced to play the game while the prison guards bet on the outcome. In another version, desperate and suicidal officers in the Russian army played the game to impress each other.
Whether Tsarist officers actually played Russian roulette is unclear. In a text on the Tsarist officer corps, John Bushnell, a Russian history expert at Northwestern University, cited two near-contemporary memoirs by Russian army veterans: The Duel (1905) by Aleksandr Kuprin and From Double Eagle to Red Flag (1921) by Pyotr Krasnov. Both books tell of officers' suicidal and outrageous behaviour, but Russian roulette is not mentioned in either text. The standard sidearm issued to Russian officers from 1895 to 1930 was the Nagant M1895 revolver. A double-action, seven chambered revolver, the Nagant's cylinder spins clockwise until the hammer is cocked. While the cylinder does not swing out as in modern hand-ejector style double action revolvers, it can be spun around to randomize the result. It is possible that Russian officers shot six and kept the seventh cartridge live. Due to the deeply seated rounds unique to the Nagant's cartridge and that the primers are concealed, it would be very difficult to tell from the outside where the live round was and which were spent; this would add to the uncertainty of the results.
Several teen deaths following the release of the film The Deer Hunter caused police and the media to blame the film's depiction of Russian roulette, saying that it inspired the youths.
-----Thank you Wiki!
Here's После программы время by Ландыши (music starts about 40 seconds in):
If you want to learn more about Ландыши, you can read about them here
I think. This website may or may not be in Russian.
Otherwise, sit back and enjoy!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
We all know this guy as the stereotypical Viking. We often associate these guys with plundering, violence, and anarchy and for the most part it is true. These raiders were the scourge of Europe for the better part of 200 years, their fast ships allowed them to raid with impunity. The only way to beat them was to either be incredibly lucky or to buy them off. But wait you might ask, were'nt they from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark? What on earth do these people have to do with Russia? In order to understand we must first look at Russian geography. Russia is known for its rivers, most of which flow north to south. Three of the largest rivers are the Volga, the Dnieper, and the Dvina. The proximity of these rivers allowed for easy transportation of goods from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Around the 9th century A.D a group of Viking traders set up a trading post around the current city of Novgorod. The name of the tribe is the Rus and that is the beginning of the Vikings impact on the foundation of Russia. The Vikings were more than savage raiders out for blood and a good time, they were successful merchants and traders. After establishing a successful base of operations at Novgorod the Vikings branch out and in 882 A.D a Viking chief named Oleg captures the small town of Kiev. In 911 A.D he negotiates a trade agreement with the Byzintine empire. This established a connection that will forever influence Russian culture. Kiev becomes a hub for a three teir trading system between the Byzatine empire, the steppes of the Rus', and the forests of the north. Eventually the Rus assimilate into the culture of the steppes and become what is now known as Russians. A wild adventurer named Vladamir captures Kiev in 980 becoming king of all Russia. Vladamir is a pagan chief but converts to Greek Orthodox Christianity in 988. Although the Russian Vikings are now seperate from their cousins in the North their influence can still be seen today. Names that are quintessentially Russian such as Vladamir and Olga can be traced back to the Viking names of Waldamar and Oleg. It was the Vikings that gave Russia its identity and culture and the Vikings that allowed the outside influence of the Byzantine empire to reach the steppes of Russia and flourish.
In Russia, for Christmas there is no Santa Claus, but instead a fictional character named Ded Moroz, which translates directly to Grandfather of Frost. Ded Moroz is thinned than Santa Claus, has a round cap with fur, long extravagantly embroidered robe, valenki (common Russian leather boots), a magical staff, 3 horses to pull his troika, delivers presents on New Years Eve (since Christmas is typically celebrated on January 5th due to the equinox), has an estate in Veliky Ustyug where children can write letters and visit, and has an accomplice- Snegurachka (which translates directly to Snow Maiden). Snegurachka is Ded Moroz's granddaughter and she helps deliver the gifts (which is not done secretively, but in person, unlike Santa Claus) and wears a similar outfit to Ded Moroz only it is silver and blue.
The Tale of the Snow Maiden is:
This Snegurochka is the daughter of Spring and Winter who appears to a childless couple as a winter blessing. Unable or forbidden to love, Snegurochka remains indoors with her human parents until the pull of the outdoors and the urge to be with her peers becomes unbearable. When she falls in love with a human boy, she melts.
The Tale of Father Frost is:
A woman had a stepdaughter and a daughter of her own, and she hated her stepdaughter. One day, she ordered her husband to take her out into the winter fields and leave her there, and he obeyed. Father Frost found her there, and she was polite and kind to him, and he gave her a chest full of beautiful things and fine garments. When her stepmother sent her father to bring back her body to be buried, he went, and the dog said that she was coming back beautiful and happy, and despite the bribe of a pancake, went on saying it.
When the stepmother saw what her stepdaughter had brought back, she ordered her husband to bring her own daughter out to the fields. The girl was rude to Father Frost, and he froze her to death. When her husband went out to bring her back, the dog said that she would be buried, and despite the bribe of a pancake, repeated it. When he brought back the body, the old woman wept.
It was originally commissioned by Ivan Vsevolozhsky for the Imperial Theater, even though Tchaikovsky did not want to write it. Tchaikovsky actually detested this ballet while composing it and even after the premiere. He considered the ballet inferior to his previous one ("Sleeping Beauty"). I’ve always found that somewhat sad since The Nutcracker is considered to be one of his most famous works. While composing the music for the ballet, Tchaikovsky is said to have argued with a friend who wagered that the composer could not write a melody based on the notes of the octave in sequence. Tchaikovsky asked if it mattered whether the notes were in ascending or descending order, and was assured it did not. This resulted in the "Grand pas de deux" of the second act. It is also thought that the melancholy melody of the pas de deux is the result of his sister dying shortly before he began the composition. Other noteworthy aspects of the ballet include its prominent use of celesta, featured in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" of the second act. Below is a photo of Olga Preobrajenska as the Sugarplum Fairy and Nikolai Legat as Prince Coqueluche in the Grand pas de deux of the original production (St. Petersburg, c. 1900).
Priced around $1,500,000 it isn't exactly expected to become a Model T, but there are many other successful manufacturers in Russia today:
3 1/2 c All-purpose flour
3 tb Water warm 105F degrees
1 1/2 pk Yeast dry
3 3/4 c Milk warm 105-F degrees
1 tb Sugar
1/2 c Heavy cream
1 ea Egg white
2 ea Egg yolks
1 ts Salt
4 tb Butter unsalted melted &
- cooled until just warm
Take 1 tablespoon of the flour, the warm water, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the yeast and mix together in a small bowl. Cover and set in a warm place for 15 minutes. Mix in a large bowl the the 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, flour, milk, the yeast mixture and salt. Beat by hand for 4 minutes. Cover and set in a warm place for 1 hour. Mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar and add to the natter along with the butter and beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or by hand for 8 minutes. Whip the egg white separately and whip the cream as well until very stiff. Fold in the cream then the egg white making sure to mix well. Cover again and place in a warm place for 45 minutes. grease the skillet with butter, place 2 tablespoons of batter in the center of the skillet, (at this point you may add any of the flavor garnishes that you wish or none at all) cook for 1 minute, turn the blin over, and cook for 35 seconds, and serve smothered in sweet butter.
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev9 Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев) was born on Wednesday 23-April in the year 1891 in the village of Sontsovka which was, at that time, part of the Russian Empire (now it is a village in the Ukraine). His father, Sergei Alekseevich Prokofiev, was an agricultural engineer and his mother, Maria Grigoryevna Zhitkova, was a well educated pianist. A typical only child, born to parents who desperately longed for children, Prokofiev was privileged and doted on throughout his childhood. He enjoyed a comfortable life of luxuries as he grew up in his cozy manor on a spacious farming estate. Although he was never forced into his musical studies, young Sergei fast adopted a passion for music and piano as the result of his mother's constant practicing. As soon as he could reach the keys he began to learn piano and by age five he had composed his first piece, “Indian Gallop”. Remarkably, this early composition and the many that soon followed demonstrated a mature understanding of already established musical forms as well as new harmonies and rhythms that would be used in his works later in life. Prokofiev also developed a passion for the game of chess, mastering its complicated rules and tricks by the ripe age of seven.
Recognizing their son's prodigious musical talent, the parents arranged a trip in 1901 to the great cultural center of Moscow An audition was arranged for ten year old Sergei to perform in front of the famous Moscow professor and composer Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev. Taneyev was so impressed that he fast recruited another music teacher from Moscow to travel to Sontskova in the summer of 1902 to hone Sergei's skills. The teacher was Reinhold Moritsevich Glierewas a young but accomplished composer and capable pianist. By the summer of 1903, twelve year old Sergei had composed two opera, a four-movement symphony with Gliere's help, and about 70 small piano pieces.
In 1904 Sergei and his mother relocated to St. Petersburg in order to give him a proper music education. Acting on the recommendations of the famous composer, Alexander Glazunov, Prokofiev took the entrance exam to the Conservatory and was admitted as the youngest student in the history of the music school. This sparked jealousy in the hearts of his classmates, many of whom were twice his age. By the same token, his early success encouraged an arrogance that infamously characterized the composer for the remainder of his life. He was self-confident, generally critical of his fellow students, and yet loathing of criticism he often received from his teachers for his unconventional music devices. He never allowed the criticism to stop him from drawing his own ideas, even at the expense of poor grades and later scathing reviews. Prokofiev entered his tenth and last term in the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1913 at age 22 with a domineering goal in mind, to win the coveted Anton Rubinstein Prize awarded to the best student pianist. Bravely using his own Piano Concerto No. 1 (previously poorly received by critics as far as the states), Prokofiev won that competition, proudly touting his ultimately grand successes at the conservatory.
As he dashed around France during the succeeding years chasing the fame of his contemporary impressionist, Igor Stravinsky, major changes were happening in the government of Prokofiev's homeland. Czar Nicholas II was overthrown in March 1917 ending Imperial Russian rule forever and St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd, becoming a center location for the Bolshevik Revolution. Composers during this era suffered sever artistic restrictions and many choose to emigrate while they still could. In 1918, Prokofiev chose to move east towards Vladivostok, Japan, and eventually the United States. His time in the States were unkind to him, due to his Bolshevik labels, and his stay resulted in a bitter attitude toward American culture. On the bright side, it was in New York City where Prokofiev met the soprano, his future wife Carolina Codina, in the fall of 1918 (a complicated and ultimately terrible story that I can't touch in a short blog entry... look it up).
Prokofiev never forgot his beloved homeland behind the tight borders of the Soviet Union and towards the end of 1926 he began negotiations in with Soviet authorities for a return tour. Although weary of his similarities to the now troublesome Stravinsky they granted him permission in 1927, thus, beginning Stravinsky's permanent move homeward. Although he returned briefly during the rough year of 1929 (mostly due to Stalin and his random denunciations of all the great Russian composers of the time) Prokofiev enjoyed a much more successful tour in 1932 that convinced him to return to Russia for the duration of his lifetime (for better or more accurately for worse). With the outbreak of WW2 and the dangerous whims of the paranoid Stalin, the following decades brought danger (in the form of threatened execution for the crime of rejected works) and eventually complete isolation from the outside world. They also brought him is greatest success of all. In 1944 he wrote what is now considered the crowned jewel of his compositions, The Fifth Symphony, for which he was awarded the Stalin award in 1945.
Sergei Prokofiev died of a massive Brain hemorrhage, ironically on the same day as Stalin on March 5th 1903. After the long an epic journey of his life, his death was not published in the papers and was tragically unknown for a substantial time by most people outside his circle of exclusive friends. Prokofiev was eventually buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow alongside many of his contemporaries.
Monday, December 7, 2009
MOSCOW (AFP) – India and Russia signed deals on nuclear energy and arms sales on Monday as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks in the Kremlin with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"We welcome Russia's participation in the broadening of our nuclear energy programme," Singh told reporters after the talks, according to remarks translated into Russian.
"The successful end of the negotiations on the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy is a major step forward," he added.
"We are both of the opinion that our relations have very much potential," Medvedev said.
Both Russia and India are members of the so-called "BRIC" club of emerging economic giants, and New Delhi has been keen to win Moscow's help in building up its civilian nuclear energy programme and arming its military.
Russia, meanwhile, wants to bring India on board in its efforts to promote a "multipolar" world order not dominated by the United States.
A deal on Russian-Indian atomic energy cooperation was one of seven agreements signed after Monday's talks, the Kremlin said.
It did not release details of the nuclear deal, but Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said ahead of the talks that India and Russia had been trying to put together an agreement that would broaden a nuclear fuel import pact.
The pact would guarantee unhindered supply of uranium for Indian reactors and the right to reprocess spent fuel, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted unnamed officials as saying.
Russia is already building two nuclear power units in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and has agreed to install four more nuclear reactors there as part of an agreement signed during Medvedev's visit to India last year.
Russia's state-owned nuclear power firm Rosatom could build up to 20 nuclear power units in India in all, including four to six in the state of West Bengal, the ITAR-TASS state news agency reported, citing the company's chief.
"These are not just billions, these are tens of billions of dollars" worth of contracts, Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said, quoted by ITAR-TASS.
Russia and India also signed two agreements on arms, one on their bilateral arms trade in the years 2011-2020 and another on servicing Russian-made arms sold to India, the Kremlin said.
Details on the agreements were not released, but Russian news agencies said Moscow and New Delhi had settled a dispute over India's purchase of a retired Soviet aircraft carrier, citing a source close to the talks.
The 44,570-tonne warship, the "Admiral Gorshkov," has yet to be delivered amid delays and cost overruns in its refurbishment.
India's plans to acquire it have turned into a headache for New Delhi, with Moscow in 2007 demanding an additional 1.2 billion dollars to cover repairs of the 30-year-old ship.
"In matters relating to the contract, everything is settled, the parameters have been determined and a final decision has been made," a source close to Monday's talks told the Interfax and RIA-Novosti news agencies.
Singh also met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who called India a "true strategic partner," according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the Russian government's website.
"It is very pleasant to see that India, our true strategic partner and one of our most important partners in the region and globally, maintains such intense contacts with us in practically all areas," Putin said.
Russian blini are known as the thinnest ones, and for me, most tasteful. In a classic way, Russian blinis are yeast-leavened pancakes from buckwheat flour. Russian pancakes are served with different dressings - most popular are sour cream, jam, syrup, red caviar, salmon, cottage cheese and others.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I decided to do my post about Russian art, specifically landscapes because that's what I'm interested in. I stumbled across Isaac Levitan on a website and thought his work was really nice. So now I share with you =)
Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the actual збитень-making process, but that is because there is nothing complicated about this drink. For the recipe I used, you boil 10¼ cups of water in a large pot, then add half a cup of honey, 16 ounces of blackberry jam, and then ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a whole teaspoon each of ground ginger and ground cloves. Turn down the heat and simmer for six minutes, stirring constantly. Then remove the pot from the heat and let cool for two minutes before ladling the hot deliciousness into mugs and enjoying one another's company. Here is what збитень looks like after it has been made:
It smells amazing, with the honey and blackberry flavors mixing in with the subtle bouquet of the spices and causing what may legitimately be called an olfactory foodgasm. Or drinkgasm, I guess. I want a збитень-scented candle now. In any case...how's it taste?
I found the recipe for збитень here, and used the first one. It turned out to be delicious. I believe later on I shall make the alternate recipes, and remember to take pictures of the process too.
The page where I got the recipe says that збитень can also be served cold. I am sorely tempted to make more, chill it, take the cold збитень to the Kiosk and have them make it a smoothie, because that would be delicious as well. I'd do it myself but I don't have a blender. Or ice.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
These pictures are from the Pacific coast of Russia where in the last few weeks thousands of starfish have washed up on the shore. Russian scientist are concerned and are looking into the problem with little success so far. The locals who live in the area see the fish in an entirely light: free food. People go to the overrun beaches every day, pick up the usually expensive seafood that's washed ashore, and take it home with them to eat. Personally, the thought of eating anything that's died and washed up on the beach for an unknown reason kind of grosses me out but to each their own.