Friday, February 26, 2010

Unit 7 - Russian Ark

Since I love movies, my mom is always looking out for Russian language films for me. Over winter break my mom found a recently released film that was well received at Cannes and other film festivals - Russian Ark.

It is a odd movie so instead of describing it, lets go to Wikipedia for information -
An unnamed narrator, unseen by the audience and voiced by the director, wanders through the Winter Palace (now the main building of Russian State Hermitage Museum) in Saint Petersburg. The narrator implies that he has died in some horrible accident and is a ghost drifting through the palace. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various time periods in the city's three-hundred-year history. He is accompanied by "the European" (played by Sergei Dreiden), who represents the nineteenth-century French traveller the Marquis de Custine, and who is visible to the audience. The fourth wall is repeatedly broken and re-erected; at times the narrator-director and the companion interact freely with the other performers, and at other times, they go completely unnoticed.

Sergei Dreiden as "the European"

The film begins on a winter's day with the arrival by horse drawn carriage of a small party of men and women to a minor side entrance of the Winter Palace. The narrator, whose eyes are always in a first person point of view, meets one member of this party, "the European", and follows him through numerous rooms of the Palace. As each room is entered, the scene changes to a different period of Russian history; however the periods are not in chronological order.

The film shows, among other things, the spectacular presentation of operas and plays in the era of Catherine the Great; a formal court proceeding in which Tsar Nicholas I is offered a formal apology by the Shah of Iran for the death of Alexander Griboedov, an ambassador; the idyllic family life of Tsar Nicholas II's children; the formal changing of the Palace Guard; the museum's director whispering the need to make repairs during the rule of Joseph Stalin; and a desperate Leningrader making his own coffin during the 900-day siege of the city during World War II.

Catherine the Great

The last Romanov family

The climax of the film is a grand ball, featuring music by Mikhail Glinka, with many hundreds of participants in spectacular period costume, and a full orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, followed by a long final exit with a crowd down the Grand Staircase of the palace.

"the European" dancing with Natalya Pushkina

The narrator then leaves the building through a side exit and, in a digitally enhanced sequence, sees that the building is represented as an ark preserving Russian culture, and floating in the sea.

The film displays 33 rooms of the museum, which are filled with a cast of over 2,000 actors. Russian Ark was recorded in uncompressed high definition video using a Sony HDW-F900. The information was not recorded compressed to tape as usual, but uncompressed onto a hard disk which could hold 100 minutes. Four attempts were made to complete the shot; the first three had to be interrupted due to technical faults, but the fourth attempt was completed successfully. The shot was executed by Tilman Büttner the Director of Photography/Steadicam Operator. Lighting Directors of Photography on the film were in fact Bernd Fischer and Anatoli Radionov. The director later drew a distinction between the whole project and the achievements of Büttner by 'rejecting', by letter,Büttner's nomination for a European Film Academy award, believing that only the whole film should gain an award.

Filming Dates
The movie was shot on 23 December 2001.

The narrator's guide, referred to as "the European" in the film, is based on the Marquis de Custine, who visited Russia in 1839 and wrote a widely-read book about his visit. A few biographical elements from Custine's life are shown in the film. Like the European, the Marquis' mother was friends with the Italian sculptor Canova and he himself was very religious. Throughout his book, La Russie en 1839, Custine mocks Russian civilization as a thin veneer of Europe on an Asiatic soul; in the film, this is why the European makes comments about Russia being a theater and the people he meets being actors. The Marquis' family fortune came from a porcelain works, hence the European's interest in the Sèvres porcelain waiting for the diplomatic reception. At the end of the film, which depicts the last imperial ball in 1913, the European appears to accept Russia as a European nation.

Critical reception
While the movie was not a huge commercial success, it was almost universally praised by film critics. Roger Ebert wrote about the film: "Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen.... the effect of the unbroken flow of images (experimented with in the past by directors like Hitchcock and Max Ophüls) is uncanny. If cinema is sometimes dreamlike, then every edit is an awakening. Russian Ark spins a daydream made of centuries."[4] Russian Ark was placed at 84 on Slant Magazine's best films of the 2000s.[5]

While this movie may not have the most complex or ground breaking plot, the artistry is ground breaking - filmed in one continuous take with thousands of extras in the real Hermitage.

Sometimes though it feels like a sampling of Russian culture or as if it is aimed at people who know Russian culture very well (such as native Russian speakers or Russian enthusiats) who would know the real story behind the snippets of Pushkin and Natalya fighting.

Still, it manages to cover the some of the rich heritage of Russia in under two hours.

Now - screenshots of the Hermitage and a web url with more great pictures and a minute break down of the cultural significance of the film -

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unit 7 - The Moscow Underground

I was stumbling through the internets when I discovered this beautiful picture of what was apparently a Russian subway, and not just any subway, THE Moscow Metro. According to Wiki, it's the second most heavily trafficked subway system in the world, number one being the Twin Subway in Tokyo, Japan. The walls are covered with beautiful art, the light shines down from crystal chandeliers, and the fancy tile stretches in wondrous patterns throughout the subway. At first glance I didn't think it was a subway, but instead some kind of Russian mansion or art museum. Apparently the art there is "Socialist Realist" or "a style of realistic art which developed under Socialism in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other communist countries. Socialist realism is teleological-oriented style which has as its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism." This whole complex that runs underneath the entire capital of Moscow is a testament to Russia's political history and the fact that Russians know how to make art and make it well.

Here are the pictures I stumbled upon; I especially like the strange stretched panoramic perspective.

And here is a link to more pictures if you would like to see:
[click me!]

And here's the wiki article if you want more info, and some more pictures are towards the bottom:
[click me!]

famous russian military leaders part 1

This is hopefully the beginning of a string of blogs about famous Russian military heroes. Included is a bit about their lives, their exploits, and their legacies.

Early life: This is a statue of St. Alexander Nevsky. He was born in central Russia in 1219 to Prince Yaroslav in a town called Pereaslval. His family was very devout and he was thrust into political intrigue at a very young age. At the age of three his father was elected to rule over the prosperous town of Novgorod. He was placed under control of his older brother back home. However, at the age of nine his brother died on his wedding night and his father was uplifted to the title of Prince of Kiev and ruler of all Russia. By right of succession he was given the fief of Novgorod. In 1238 the Mongols invaded although they were lucky they were halted at the city gates.

Major accomplishments: Nevsky is known for two things: beating back the advance of the Teutonic knights and sacrificing his pride and nobility to secure the borders of Russia. By the late 1230's the German order of the Teutonic knights, a holy order equivalent of the Knights Templar, and the kingdom of Sweden engaged in a holy crusade to forcibly "convert" the Slavs around the Baltic Sea and Northern Russia. Alexander first defeated the Swedes at the Battle of the Neva River, earning the name "Nevsky", after a forced march through the swamps and joining battle at sunrise. He then defeated the Teutonic Order his most famous battle, the Battle on the Ice. After engaging the Teutons on Lake Chudskoye Alexander's army of shop keepers and Russian boyars or knights managed to beat off the Teuton charge and rout them. It was the first time in history foot soldiers had beaten the armored knight. After stalling the German advance Alexander campaigned in Lithuania, preventing an Lithuanian expansion. After dealing with opponents in the West he turned his attention to the East. Here he committed what is widely regarded as his most selfless act. After his father was supposedly assassinated by the Mongol khan Alexander assumed the duties of the Ruler of the Russian people and turned to his Eastern enemies for help. This was a moment of historical necessity since there was no way he could deal with incursions from two great powers at once and the Mongols could provide much needed military strength to combat the Europeans. However, the Mongols were impressed that a man with such a great reputation would surrender to them and allowed him to continue to rule and to maintain his Christian beliefs. He managed to maintain a tenuous peace and died in 1263 after renouncing his princely title and adopting the habit of a monk.

Legacy: Alexander Nevsky was hailed as the savior of the Russian people and as their greatest hero. He was cannonized as a saint in 1547 and after Peter the Great defeated the Swedes again in 1721 his remains were moved to St. Petersburg and laid in a glorious tomb that can still be seen today. In 1725 Peter created the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, which is now the most important medal awarded for bravery in battle second only to the Order of St. Andrew (trust me most of these military heroes have medals named after them). Alexander Nevsky's life is widely remembered as a life of dedicated service, devout faith, and selfless sacrifice for Mother Russia. In a recent poll native Russians named him as the most popular historical Russian figure and his influence continues to inspire people today.

A High Class Musician

More than 36 years after his death David Oistrakh is considered to be one of the best violinist to ever have graced the earth. Born in Odessa in 1908 when it was still a part of the Russian Empire studied violin at the age of 5 making his first concert appearance at the age of 6. From 1923-1926 he studied in the Odessa Conservatory. At the age of 26 he joined the faculty at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory becoming the teacher of many future great violinist. He was known for his impassioned tone and impeccable techinque. He died at the age of 64 from a heart attack. His has been honored with a music competition and the naming of an asteriod. His recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is still regarded as one fo the greatest, and his popularity is only matched by that of american violinist Jascha Heifetz.

Here is David Oistrakh playing the last movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for his nationally broadcast birthday celebration.

Remember the Weather Dominator?

Back in October the mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, promised that the city would be "snow free" this winter with the help of cloud seeding techniques.

The promise apparently fell through as Moscow was pummeled this winter with snow storms, culminating with a record breaking 25 inches of snow in one day.

Moscow Cat Theater!

I was browsing the Internet and came across this video. It's a man and his daughter who train cats and have them perform on-stage. The things that these cats do are simply amazing, and very fun to watch.

Here's a link to the video (and it will probably begin playing a different video when this one ends, just so you know...):

--М. Эзра Кит

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Legal? Questionably. Effective? Indubitably.

Look very, very carefully at this picture of a Russian skill-crane game. (Click for bigger; photo found on English Russia)

Do you see any...questionable prizes?

Like the little bottles of liquor tucked in among the stuffed animals and plastic cell phone toys?

I wish I knew where this skill-crane game was located and why, for God's sake, the owner of the establishment felt it appropriate and necessary to put booze in the machine. That crane cannot possibly be strong enough to lift a full bottle of liquor--even a small one. Glass (or plastic, possibly) is smooth and heavy, and the claws are designed to just barely lift the cheap stuffed animals that normally occupy machines like this. It is infinitely easier, and possibly cheaper depending on your skill at games like this, to just go buy alcohol from a store, like a grown-up.

But whatever.

The Cats of Leningrad

Ten years ago the city of Saint Petersburg put up two monuments to cats named Elisey and Vasilisa. These two cats are something like folk heroes to the people of St. Petersburg, especially those who are old enough to remember the nine hundred day siege and blockade that began on September 8, 1941. Things looked dire for the people of what was then Leningrad. People were starving, many had been reduced to eating their household pets out of desperation. And then there were the rats.
Rats tend to congregate wherever there are large amounts of people living close together in a small amount of space, particularly when there is a high death rate amongst those people. The city of Leningrad was truly at war, and not just with they army outside but with hunger and rodents inside as well. They rats were a real danger to people, not only did they devour what little food people had stored they also carried diseases that often proved fatal.
Then the Russian government had a great idea. The solution was obvious. Cats. Five thousand cats were gathered from surrounding cities and ant set lose in the beleaguered metropolis. The rats didn't stand a chance. Even now there are many older residents who can recall owning one of the siege heroes after the crisis had passed. There's only one question remaining:
If the government was able to get five thousand cats into the city why couldn't they just send more food?

Candid Camera! Unit 7

Here is an example of a Russian candid camera! I thought it was hilarious when I watched because I'm terrified of feet and the guy who roles under the bed is great! Plus, her flexibility exercises really help make it comical. Anyway, I like their sense of humor but with my phobia I'd have to say I'd freak out if she came near me!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cheburashka UNIT 7 Post

"According to the story, Cheburashka is a funny little creature, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, (possibly American or Australian as the crates are labeled in English) eats his fill, and falls asleep. Cheburashka is not a personal name; it is a species name invented by the puzzled director of the shop where he is found. The salesman takes the animal out and sits him on the table, but his paws are numb after the long time spent in the crate, and he tumbles down ("cheburakhnulsya" (чебурахнулся), a Russian colloquialism, "tumbled" in English) from the table onto the chair and then from the chair, where he could not sit, for the same reason, onto the floor. The director of the shop, who witnesses the scene, called him Cheburashka."

Cheburashka is male, has a bear-like body, large round ears, and is about the size of a 5-year-old child. In the tale, he hangs around with a friendly crocodile Gena, who wears a hat and a coat, walks on his hind legs and plays an accordion.

Unit 7 Blog

Lawmakers Say Heads Will Roll for Dismal Olympic Performance
19 February 2010
By Scott Rose
Five days into the Winter Olympics, lawmakers were already calling for blood Thursday, saying that top sports officials should be canned for the national team's dismal showing so far.
The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, or LDPR, initiated the howls, calling on Russian Olympic Committee chief Leonid Tyagachyov to resign immediately. Vitaly Mutko, the sports, tourism and youth politics minister, should also step down if the Russian team "does not start winning," the party said in a statement.
Medals table at the end of the fifth day
"The current state of Russian sports elicits bitterness and offense among all Russian citizens," said the statement, signed by Igor Lebedev, head of the party's faction in the State Duma. "The time for slogans and appeals has passed. In four years, Russia will host the Olympics in Sochi."
Later on Thursday, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, of the ruling United Russia party, said the Vancouver Olympics would be considered a failure if Russia placed anywhere below fourth in the medals table.
The national team has earned just three medals so far — gold, silver and bronze — putting it 11th overall. Going into the games, Izvestia had reported that top Russian sports officials were counting on a total of 30 medals, including seven to 11 golds, although Tyagachyov has attributed those figures to individual sports federations' goals.
"Anything less than an overall fourth-place finish for the team would absolutely be a failure," Gryzlov told reporters in response to a question about Lebedev's statement, Interfax reported.
He cautioned that a decision should only be made once the Olympics are completed, however. Tyagachyov and Mutko will be called to speak in the Duma in March, and "any parliamentary faction will be able … to express its concern," Gryzlov said.
But Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova, now a deputy speaker in the Duma with United Russia, said nothing would change if Tyagachyov and Mutko were forced to step down.
She said sports federations were responsible for success and failure at the highest levels and that top officials were unable to ask anything of them because the federations are independent.
"We can't separate sports federations and break them off from other social organizations. But they're totally on their own now, and no one can tell them what to do — the sports ministry has no way of exerting its influence," Zhurova told Interfax.
Ivan Melnikov, a Communist deputy speaker in the Duma, also said the firings would do little to help. He suggested that Finance Minster Alexei Kudrin and United Russia be held responsible for their federal budgets, RIA-Novosti reported.
In an interview to Radio Mayak on Tuesday, Mutko called for patience, saying the national team usually got off to a slow start at the Winter Games.
Tyagachyov, for his part, said cross-country skier Alexander Panzhinsky's silver medal — after a photo finish with Russian teammate Nikita Kryukov — was as good as gold.
"That's two golds — those two golden guys showed that we're strong," Tyagachyov told RIA-Novosti. "Mutko and I are worrying, although we're not showing it. But we're sure that it will all fall into place, because we're working a lot."

Russian Ice Skaters cause offense at Olympics

The ice skating original dance this year featured a theme of "folk dancing". Countries such as Georgia and Israel did dances representing their own countries, while Canada, the United States, and Russia portrayed other countries. The interpretation of Australian Aboriginal dance by Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin has caused an outcry among aboriginal leaders, who find the dance to be offensive and inauthentic.

They were criticized for this dance in January, and removed some of their body and face paint, but did not change the dance. Moves considered "offensive" include Shabalin pulling Domnina by her hair, stuck out their tongues, and patted their hands over their mouths. This performance made them drop from first to third in the Winter Olympics.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Maestro of Discovery: Igor Stravinsky

Having recently been introduced to the theory of tonally transitional composers of music, I figured it would be all the more appropriate to dedicate this unit's blog entry to one of my favorite Russian Composers, Maestro Igor Stravinsky!
Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский, born in 1882, grew up in the famous city of Saint Petersburg. His father, Fyodor Stravinsky, was a Bass Singer at the Mariinsky Theater, thus young Igor was exposed to classical music in all it's various forms from a young age. As a child he took up lessons in piano and composition and by the age of fourteen he had mastered the infamously difficult Mendelssohn Concerto for Piano in g minor. Despite his early love for music, however, his parents chose for him what they believed would lead to a more fruitful living, law school. Ill- fitted for this line of work, Stravinsky dragged his feet in his studies from 1901-1905. When the school was closed in the Spring of 1905 (due to Bloody Sunday) and Stravinsky was prevented from taking his finals it became clear to him that he was to follow his ambitions in music after all. From 1905-1908, he began to take twice-weekly private lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov, who at the time was the most renowned of all composers in Russia. It also was during this time that he married his cousin Katerina Nossenko (whom he had been betrothed to since childhood) and by 1908 she bore him his first two children Fyodor and Ludmilla. In 1909 Stravinsky premiered his first major work, Fireworks, and was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, director of the Ballets Russes in Paris, to further develop his ideas into a larger production. It was this encouragement that led to his immigration to Switzerland and yielded one of the most famous ballet's of the 20th century The Firebird. Although, Stravinsky would briefly return to his homeland in the summer of 1914, the following decades of war and hostilities meant that he would not return to Russia for fifty years. In 1920 Stravinsky, with his family (two more children in tow), immigrated to France where he was to form a significant partnership with the French piano manufacturer Pleyel. Pleyel collected relatively minimal royalties that in return would allow Stravinsky to afford a studio. Stravinsky also arranged many of his works for Pleyals brand of player piano that utilized all of its 88 keys and were considered, to be nearly inaccessible for most musicians. Such major compositions spun from these roles include but are not limited to the Rite of Spring, Petrushka, Firebird, Les Noces, and Song of the Nightingale. Tragically, in 1934, Katerina's tuberculosis infected his eldest daughter Ludmila, and Stravinsky himself. Ludmila died in 1938 and Katerina died in the following year (actually from cancer). Stravinsky himself spent five months in hospital. During his later years in Paris, Stravinsky formed key relationships with American Music bigwigs and in 1939 (at the outbreak of the second world war) he moved to America where he would live the remainder of his career. Vera de Bosset, the true love of his life, followed him and they were Married in Massachusetts on March 9th, 1940. The couple settled in LA California, the city where he ultimately spent the most years of his life. Although he was already an old man at the ripe age of 58, Stravinsky thrived in his new environment of movers and shakers, taking great interest in the cultural advances of American artists such as Otto Klemplerer and Arthur Rubinstein. It was in the States that Stravinsky explored some of his most revolutionary ideas. Always one to be unconventional, Stravinsky was arrested by the Boston Police in 1940 for violating a federal law that strictly prohibits the re harmonization of America's national anthem. Despite such trivial blunders, he was nonetheless quite successful. Post humorously he earned a Grammy for Lifetime achievement and a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Two years after his move to New York City in 1969, Stravinsky died at the age of 88. He was Buried in Venice near the island of San Michele. In the end he was buried near Sergei Diaghilev who had given him the opportunity to explore outside of Russia's borders as a fresh young composer so many decades ago.
Musicians who experience Stravinsky's music will most likely identify Stravinsky's works as complicated, complex, and at times hard to swallow. Stravinsky was certainly a composer for neoclassicism and discovery of techniques never before used such as bitonality, often leading to sounds strange enough to invoke passionate reaction. One infamous example of a case where he shook the auditoriums was the premier of The Rite of Spring. The dissonant sounds, not to mention the semi-nude dancers on the Paris stage proved so shocking that a riot broke out during the show. Indeed he did not live the majority of his life in Russia (Stravinsky was fortunate enough to avoid the atrocities committed against his fellow composers who were trapped behind his homeland's borders); however, through works that portray traditional Russian Folk tales as beautiful as that of The Firebird, Stravinsky's heritage is ever omnipresent.

Below I have attached a video from The Firbird. In this scene, the Prince who has fallen into this magical land comes across the enchanting Firebird. During their Pas de Deux (dance for two) he captures the trembling bird. In exchange for letting her go, the Firebird grants him one of her golden feathers with the promise that she would come to his aid should he wave the feather over his head.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Unit 6

UPDATE 1-Ukraine says has paid January bill for Russian gas

* Energy firm Naftogaz says Russian gas bill paid
Stocks Global Markets
* Energy minister earlier put bill at $780 million
(Adds background, Prodan)
KIEV, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Ukraine has paid on time and in full for its January imports of Russian natural gas, the Ukrainian state oil and gas company Naftogaz said on Thursday.
Ukraine's late payments in previous years have caused rows with Moscow and in January 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies for almost three weeks, affecting millions in the European Union.
"We have paid in full for 2.55 billion cubic metres," Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky told Reuters.
Earlier this week, Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Prodan put the January bill at $780 million.
According to a 10-year contract between Naftogaz and Russian state energy giant, Gazprom (GAZP.MM), the former Soviet republic must pay for its gas imports not later than the 7th of the month following gas deliveries.
At the end of 2009, Naftogaz and Gazprom agreed that Kiev would import 33.75 bcm of gas in 2010 compared with 33.51 in 2009. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unit 6 - Icons, The Virgin of Vladimir

I was in my Russian History class and we started talking about icons and how they play such a big role in the Russian Orthodox religion. One of the most renowned icons is the Virgin of Vladimir or Владимирская Богоматерь. It was originally a gift from the Byzantine empire and was rumored to have been painted by Saint Luke. It was kept in Kiev until Andrei I Bogolyubsky stole it to bring it to Suzdal. The Russian Chronicles say that the horses stopped at a river near Suzdal and that Andrei camped there that night. He received a vision where the Virgin Mary said she was pleased with him for taking her to Suzdal. Andrei then built the Church of the Intervention (Church of the Assumption is an incorrect name as the Assumption is a Catholic belief, not an Orthodox belief). Later, when Tamerlane moved to attack Moscow, the Muscovites sent for the icon so that the Virgin would protect them. Then, when Tamerlane's forces mysteriously disappeared, it was attributed to the icon's power. The Muscovites then refused to return the icon, thinking the Virgin Mary wanted them to have it seeing as she protected them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Russian Tea Cookies UNIT 6

I found a recipe online of Russian Tea cookies and decided to make them! And there will be a special treat in class tomorrow!

1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, cream butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine the 6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar and flour; stir into the butter mixture until just blended. Mix in the chopped walnuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When cool, roll in remaining confectioners' sugar. I also like to roll mine in the sugar a second time.

Russian students 100 years ago

English Russia never lets me down. I found some pages from a book published in 1900 about Russian students. It has drawings of students in different disciplines and of various nationalities, all male of course. I kind of want to see the rest of this book; it starts out normally enough, with pictures of a physics student, medical student, law student and a student from "the Academy," who looks like a soldier to me. Then it just delves into ethnic/nationality stereotypes. There is a "Ukranian student," a "Polish student," a "student from the South/Armenia/Azerbaijan," and the obligatory Jew. I'd like to know what the target audience was for this particular work of, um, art.

There are all kinds of things I could say about these drawings but none of them would really do justice to the pictures themselves, so here is a link. Click!

Soviet Toys

Back in the days of the USSR toys were certainly not on the Bolshevik's list of important concerns. In the entirety of the country there were only about a dozen toy factories and all toy designs had to be approved by the Communist Party. Because toys weren't considered a topic worthy of much attention, very few designs were ever approved and most children at the time only had a very small selection to choose from. People who grew up during that era often find years later that they all had the exact same toys, with very little variation from city to city or even year to year. Most of the toys followed an military theme, and plastic appears to have been relatively uncommon.

The Lira (Hurdy-Gurdy)

Following a trend of Russian instruments, I decided to investigate the lira, or 'hurdy-gurdy.' I suppose it is not originally Russian, per se, but it does seem to have left its mark on Russian and Ukrainian folk music. According to

Ukrainian Lira (hurdy-gurdy) - a wheel made to rotate by a crank acts as a bow. The old examples are diatonic and provided with nine to eleven keys. They have one melody string and two drone strings (tenor and bayork). These instruments are not held obliquely but laid horizontally on the lap. Their keys are provided with a device (often a simple rubber band) to make them return to their starting position. Contrary to most European hurdy-gurdy forms, the Ukrainian lira has never had a trompette (drone string with rhythmical function). Supposedly the instrument was imported from France by the Ukrainian Cossacks of colonel Ivan Sirko, who took part in The Thirty Years War (1618-1648).

It then proceeds to give several Russian variations, including the
Kolyosnaya Lira and the Donsloy Ryley.


Funny commercials.

I decided to do my blog post on a commercial from Russia; however, many of the ones I found had half naked women in them so for that kind of thing youtube "Russian Commercials". Instead, I found this funny beer commercial.