Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Man Who Dared to Write About the Gulag

For this blog I am taking a brief departure from my usual discussion on Russian music history to take a look at the books I have recently read by author Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his book "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". Having read this particular work of art, I can attest to the gripping accuracy of the perspective from which the novel is told. Although it is a fictional account it is easy to see that Solzhenitsyn has drawn from his own personal collection of true stories to explain to a reader the typical days events for a prisoner in the Gulag. From morning to night the reader is captivated by the no frills play by play description of what Ivan Denisovich feels, what he eats, what is expected of him, what the punishments are for failure to live up to said expectations, and details as to the sort of things prisoners do to survive. What is most refreshing is that the book does not demand pity from the reader, although one may naturally feel pity for the harsh conditions these often innocent human beings had to endure. Instead it is honest in that he reveals life of a prisoner including the decent parts. For example, Ivan's work crew leader is a man who does not take advantage of his authority to be unjustly cruel to his underlings. When in fact he is given his extra leader's rations, he gives it to Ivan who he recognizes for his efforts to make life easier for the whole crew.

Another book I strongly recommend by Solzhenitsyn is "Cancer Ward". This book is also drawn from the author's personal experiences, having been admitted to the cancer ward following his exile. "Cancer Ward" is told from the perspective of the male patients as well as their nurses and doctors in an Uzbekistan clinic of 1955 post-Stalinist Soviet Union. Each of the patients come from completely different backgrounds but each is equal in that they are all at the mercy of death by tumors. Some patients in particular are given more of a voice then others. For example a main conflict in the novel is the juxtaposition between "personnel officer", Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov, and exiled war veteran, Oleg Kostoglotov. Rusanov is portrayed as a dedicated and corrupted man typical of the Soviet Union Authority. The reader is both disgusted and often amazed by his complete denial of the horrors of the Stalinist purges in which he himself played important roles in condemning his personal foes to labor camps for dubious crimes. Although he is pompous and ridiculous one almost feels pity in that he is so fragile in character and incapable of adapting to the changing world in which the political leaders of his hay day are now on the fall. His complete opposite, Kostoglotov (apparently meaning "bone chewer") is a man who has been thoroughly dragged through the mud of the Soviet Union. Having fought in the great war he was purged to the labor camps in the Gulag for trumped up charges of treason (he was a German POW) and later exiled indefinitely to the steppes. Kostoglotov is a charming character who is without any real feeling of obligation to his government. Thus he often antagonizes Rusanov and challenges his self righteous ideas. The men in the Cancer Ward each have their own story to tell, their own fears, and their own personal relationships which all culminate in this most excellent story.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unit 3-Rose

Hungry Russian bears dig up Arctic graves for food

Published: October 28th, 2010 11:04 AM

MOSCOW - Famished bears in northern Russia have resorted to digging up graves in cemeteries - and reportedly eating at least one body - after a scorching summer destroyed their natural food sources of forest berries and mushrooms, officials said Thursday.

The brown bears' grisly habit is forcing locals in the Arctic Circle region of Komi to mount 24-hour patrols, protecting their families and livestock with the concern that the bears might get a taste for fresher human flesh, said Pyotr Lobanov, a regional spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry.

(I thought this was crazy. What if you were visiting the cemetery and witnessed this. Ohmygosh!)

Russian Gambling

Russian Roulette is one thing that Russia is very well known for. But what is the history behind this gruesome game? Almost everyone knows the game. The general amount of players are 3-5, a single bullet is placed within a revolver and the cylinder is spun and snapped back in at random. The game is believed to have originated in 19th century czarist Russia. Prison guards would force prisoners to play the game and bet on the outcome. Over time soldiers even found themselves playing this game. Of course many who found themselves playing the game were actually crazy and suicidal, but there was also some who played to prove bravery. There is also another variation of the game. This game was called cuckoo. During cuckoo one player would stand on a table or chair with a gun, with the other players were around the room. The lights would than be turned off; players around the room would say cuckoo and than the player on top of the desk would fire in the direction of the sound. During cuckoo the shooter would have a fully loaded gun.

Both games held a certain amount of risk, the only component needed were a couple of men ready to gamble their life. No death has been reported ,by cause of this game, recently. However many still believe that these games are being played underground today.

Russian Federal Space Agency

Well as I was thinking about a topic to write about, I realized that Russia and America have many differences, but one thing they both have in common is a space program. Many people who grew up in the Soviet/Cold War era may believe that the Russian space program is nothing but a cover up for nuclear developments and world domination, and it probably is, but over the past few years the Russian Federal Space Agency has produced several good results. Firstly, after the U.S., they are the largest partners in the International Space Station program. They have contributed several modules of their design to the station, as well as flown several U.S. modules to the station on their own spacecraft. Also, the Russians have given their program an almost business-like structure. They have a contract with the U.S. to fly people ($42 million/person) and cargo ($50 million/trip) into space, and they also sell trips to the I.S.S. for $20 million (why it's more expensive to fly an astronaut than a tourist, I don't know). With the future of our own space program in jeopardy, it may be the Russians who continue to carry on the dream of space travel.

Unit 3 blog post, will add dialogues later

So, I was stumbling around the Internets, and I found this. It made me лол. I don't think my Russian is awesome enough to translate the video dialogue yet, but it's still funny. I dunno, I like Powerthirst parodies. They're like meta-parodies because the original was itself a parody.

Here's a link to the original video if you've been living under an Internet rock for a while:

Also, given that this blog is called Bear in a Hat, I thought it would be apropos to post the following:

dialogue links unit 3

Russian Folk Dance Unit 3 (Oct. 28)

Russia has been known, among many other things, for the interesting and energetic way in which they dance. Their ballet is especially notorious around the world. Many cultures consider dance the purest form of expression. Cultural and ceremonial dances have deep-seeded significance to any community because not only are they entertaining, they often times tell a story that is significant to the culture's history. Th history of Russian dance is a rather diverse and interesting topic.
Russian dance as a whole is very diverse. It ranges from the world renowned ballet schools that they have to a small culture of modern dancers. Modern dance, however, is not very accepted in Russia and is not very revered by the rest of the world. Russian folk dance is so unique because, until the fall of the Soviet Union, the people had very little contact with Western culture. Therefore there was no real way to learn about modern dance. However, Russia's folk dance has one of the most diverse stories of any dance.
The oldest account of Russian dance was an account of dancing on unstable rafts in the middle of a lake found in the ancient script "About Country of Moravia." It is not clear what kind of dancing was being performed on the rafts but this is the first account of folk dancing that appears in the region. The most notorious event of Russian folk dance is known as dancing with the bears. This occurred in 907 after Prince Oleg defeated the Greeks in Kiev. He arranged for dancers to dress as bears and for bears to be dressed as dancer and they performed a dance to celebrate the victory. However, after the performance he set the bears free and killed the dancers.
In more recent years Russian folk dancing was a social divider. Only the commoners and peasants danced. The aristocracy did not dance but they enjoyed to watch the dances. They usually hired performers (usually males) to entertain them with dance at social gatherings or events. This split occurred by the disruption of the Russian culture in the Tartar-Mongolian invasion that devastated Russian progress. However, after the Russian civil war a national folk dance team was established in 1937. It was an instant success around the world and is still prominent today, thus salvaging Russian folk dance.

Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!

The 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is certainly not an account of true Cold War events, but it does put the clash between capitalism and communism into a unique prespective. With the American public still in fear from the confrontation known later as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union seemed like a power keg waiting for a spark. Director Stanley Kubrick provided a scenario in which a spark would potentially ignite a nuclear war.

What would the spark be? An American general is convinced those pesky Soviets are keen on taking over the United States. Worse, some have already begun to infiltrate the country and possibly the ranks of the military. Their newest plot: using water fluoridation to infect American's precious bodily fluids. The paranoid patriot only reasonable response is to go rogue and send an Air Force B-52 wing to drop hydrogen bombs on the Russians, hoping to provoke an American early strike. If his plan works maybe capitalism and Uncle Sam can finally prevail.

When informed of the action by the general, the President establishes a crisis team to form in the War Room. With B-52 bombers heading for the Soviet Union without any way to be ordered back, the Russians could launch a retaliation. And what of the "Doomsday Device" the Soviet ambassador warns the Americans about; could that machine add more fuel to the flame? With planes on the Big Board moving closer and closer to their targets, the situation seems bleak (although is rather funny as the events are being played out). Maybe the ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove has a solution for the President and hope if the apocalypse emerges...

The film itself is a satire on the paranoia of the era and provides a dark comedic tone to the real threat that existed. The thought that one aggressive or inadvertent action by either Washington or Moscow would lead to nuclear annihilation was a real concern that existed for over 40 years. Several films have created a plot in which the United States or the world faced a nuclear threat (mainly from the Russians), but Dr. Strangelove provides such an over-the-top story which brilliantly magnifies the absurdities that existed in the real world. As a side note, Russian is also spoken in the film in a humorous exchange between the Soviet ambassador and the General Secretary. Like Russian Art, the subject of my last review, Dr. Strangelove is also found in the DuPont-Ball Library at Stetson University.

Unit 3 Recording: Courtney & Rachel

Piracy Laws in Russia - how Microsoft is helping

I recently read an article describing the recent change in Microsoft's Anti-Piracy policies strictly for non-profit groups. In Russia, the authorities have apparently been using the excuse of pirated versions of Microsoft as an excuse to raid and shut down various activist-based groups throughout Russia. Once Microsoft realized they were responsible for these raids, they began to change their policy on piracy based on these non profit groups in Russia. They have agreed to grant clemency to these institutions and even provide them with free versions of Microsoft products. Also, they have extended their aid to other countries including: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan along with China, Malaysia and Vietnam. Hopefully this program will cut down on the government's intrusion into these group's headquarters.


Popular Russian weapons part 2: the RPG

If Hollywood action movies and video game villians are to be believed than no self respecting terrorist or freedom fighter seeking to bring about the downfall of the United States or any other imperialist power would not leave the house without two things: an AK 47 and his trusty Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher. This device has attained similar notoriety among the military forces of the free world due to its ease of use and the simple fact that there are so damned many of them in the hands of every respectable black market arms dealer. So it seemed fitting to dedicate this post to Russia's fourth greatest cultural contribution behind vodka, depressing writers, and the AK 47 assault rifle.
Just like the ever present and ever famous assault rifle the idea for the RPG (or ручной противотанковый гранатомёm) was created during the Second World War. Before the advent of the launcher the RPG was a handheld anti tank grenade but with the advent of the American bazooka and German Panzerfaust the Soviet adapted and the earliest rocket model, the RPG-2 was born. It utilized the science behind shaped charges, which attempted to penetrate tank armor by focusing a massive blast on a small area creating a stream of super heated metal inside the tank that would kill the crew. The Soviets continued to develop the RPG until the current model, the RPG-7 was created. To this day the RPG-7 is the most widely used RPG in the world and is the favored anti tank weapon for low tech militaries and insurgency groups, proving once and for all that the Soviets could create products that were superior to the decadent West.
Since the RPG-7 is incredibly popular due to its ease of use and availability of supplies it has become the object of intense study and experimentation. Armor and active defence systems have been created soley for protection against the RPG. With current advances in armor the RPG has lost some of its effectiveness. That being said, it is still very effective against lightly armored vihicles and large bodies of troops. Primary ammunition consists of two types of warheads: High Explosive (HE) rounds which detonate on impact and are used against troops and fixed positions, and High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) rounds which act as a shaped charge against armored vehicles.
While the RPG 7 is the most widely used weapon of its kind around the world the Russian military still utilizes variations of this weapon as their primary anti tank and anti personel weapon for their infantry. As a result many variations of the weapon have been created such as the RPG 29 "Vampir" which uses a fuel bomb as a warhead producing a much larger blast or the RPG 26 "Aglen" which is a disposable launcher that can penetrate over 440 millimeters of tank armor or a meter of concrete. So remember, when an enemy terrorist pops out from behind a bunker in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with a rocket launcher on his shoulder remember to thank the Russians for this important and infamous contribution to military and popular culture.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Street Children In Russia--Unit 3 post

In Russia today there are estimated to be over 1 million homeless children roaming the streets. The president states that this situation is "the most threatening of his country's economic and social indicators". Since the fall of communist Russia, the numbers of homeless children have gone up drastically. Many of these children are living in suers under the city and in Russian "metros". These children face many potentially threatening factors on a day to day basis such as starvation, abuse, sickness, and gang fights.

"Russia's metro stations have become home to a generation of street children, who survive by begging or prostitution. At first sight, 11 year old Yuriy and his 13 year old friend Max look like normal, happy children. But after family problems forced them to leave home, they've been reduced to living on the streets. "For me, the most dangerous thing about living on the street is paedophiles," states Max. "I know a lot of people who have been abused." Despite this risk, both boys would rather remain homeless than return to their families. Max and Yuriy are just two of the millions of children thought to be living on the streets. Once homeless, many children turn to glue sniffing and become infected with HIV. The issue of street children is a relatively new problem for Russia. The collapse of communism triggered many family breakdowns, driving children as young as seven onto the streets. The fear is that if something is not done to help them now, it may be too late to save future generations."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Soviet Union Jokes

I found a site with some jokes about life in the Soviet Union (some of them also pertain to East Germany). It reminds me of an article in the journal African Affairs, "The Uses of Ridicule: Humour, ‘Infrapolitics’ and Civil Society in Nigeria. The article talked about how people in Nigeria use humor to cope with the difficulties of living in a state that does not provide adequate resources or political rights. Judging by some of these jokes, it seems people under the Soviet regime acted in a similar way. Two of my favorites:

A Briton, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden. "Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."

"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."

"No way! They have no clothes and no shelter," the Russian points out, "They have only an apple to eat, and they are being told they live in a paradise. Obviously, they are Russian."

And another one:
Erich Honnecker (the president of East Germany) was invited to Moscow by Gorbachev for a visit. After weeks of preparation by Gorby, Honnecker arrives in Moscow. As part of the celebration activities, there is a big parade through the streets of Moscow. While the two are watching the parade, Gorbachev takes a small boy aside and asks him, "Who is your mother?" The child replies, "Mother Russia." "And who is your father?", asks Gorbachev. The boy answers, "Why, its you Uncle Gorbachev!". Finally Gorbachev asks the boy, "and what do you want to be when you grow up?". The boy proudly replies, "a good communist!".

Erich Honnecker, meanwhile, has been watching this and is very impressed. So impressed, that he decides to invite Gorbachev to [East] Berlin for a visit. Again, after weeks of preparation, Gorbachev's plane lands in Berlin. And again, part of the celebration includes a parade. Remembering what Gorbachev did in Moscow, Honnecker repeats the scene: He asks a little boy in the crowd, "Who is your mother?" The child replies "the GDR [German Democratic Republic - East Germany]." "And who is your father?", asks Honnecker. "Why, its you Uncle Honnecker!", replies the child. "And what do you want to be when you grow up?" queries Honnecker. Without hesitation, the boy replies "an orphan."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mail Order Brides

When I think of Russia I immediately think of mail order brides. The whole reason I joined the class was so I could get myself a bride. And although one of the preceding sentences is false I'm still going to do my blog post on mail order brides. The idea of Russian mail order brides is generally outdated, but that doesn't mean the actual system of ordering brides has been completely wiped out. People still look for Russian brides via the internet and through letter delivering services. There are two common scenarios however that make the whole institution seem sketchy. One is when the girl is nonexistent and you're just being conned out of your money. The other is when the girl comes to the US or Canada and is mistreated by her husband. Even with these stories though there are numerous cases of people forming happy and lasting relationships via one of these bride finding services. I guess it can be viewed as positive or negative depending on how the system treats you if you're in it and on what kind of stories you hear.


Book Dialogue (#2 on pg 76)

Original Dialogue

the OTHER Alexander...

After coming off a hot finish in Saturday's game with a hat trick, I think a post about Alexander Semin (Александр Сёмин) is relevant.
Semin, or Sasha as he is referred to, was drafted 13th overall by t
he Washington Capitals in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, but played with Chelyabinsk-18 of the Russian Junior League, Chelyabinsk of the Russia-2 League, and Lada Togliatti of the Kontinental Hockey League for two seasons. During his rookie season in the NHL ('03-'04), he played in 52 games and recorded 22 points which lead all team rookies. However, during the 2004-2005 lockout, Semin returned to Togliatti and was suspended by the team and sued for not reporting to the Capitals' minor league affiliates for the season. He was also in hot water due to a miscommunication around the necessary two year military duty of all Russian men. Hockey players were allowed to play for their clubs as their service and Semin had only completed a year. By April of 2006, his military obligation had been fulfilled and he returned to the states.
Throughout his career in DC he has been quite consistent in his scoring, assists, and play. However, his weak spots are his lack of fighting skills (or amazing bongo abilities?) and his frequent stick penalties. Semin has also become best friends with "the more popular Alex," Ovechkin. (They even have a Secret Handshake!) He is much more subdued than his boisterous counter-part, rarely speaking English or doing post-game interviews, but he apparently enjoys Russian night life just as much. He is also quite the trickster ...and really likes gatorade and pizza.

[page 76] & [Written] ((RECORDED WITH ALINA))

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's the X-Factor: Russian Agility

I've always been intrigued by the pride Russians seem to take in their athleticism and physical strength. From the Olympics to professional world championships, Russians have well established their excellence in many realms, from figure skating to dance to gymnastics. While playing around on YouTube the other day I found a clip that proved to me that these ideas start very early in Russia, and I think you'll be amazed by the acrobatics these young children have mastered for this dance.

I certainly don't have the answer, but something seems to make the Russians more agile and more skilled. Does it simply come from hours of practice, or is it something else? What's the X-factor? I certainly wish I could get my muscles to do that.

Recordings (w/ Keri Dillet)

Composition B - Dialogue - Ex. 3-7 (No. 2), p. 80

Dialogue 4 - p. 77

Spetsnaz - A Few Facts...

I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to be able to do justice to this topic (due to the fact that the website I used was packed with random bits of information), but I'll certainly try for you military buffs out there.

The article that I used began with a general description of Soviet infantry, published in Great Britain in 1987, that focused on the use of short spades by the common soldier. Most commonly, these were used to dig and as a measuring device, due to the fact that the spade was 50cm long, the blade 15cm wide and 18cm long.
Spetsnaz belonging to other units, on the other hand, were not expected to dig trenches or even take up defensive positions. Instead, the spades were used as an effective melee weapon; spetsnaz soldiers would receive much more training with this simple tool than the general infantry. Not only can it be used to block blows from a knife, bayonet, fist or even another spade, it also serves as an accurate ranged weapon. These individuals are taught how to launch the weapon at an enemy and can, more often than not, cripple or mortally wound their target (especially if they are hit from behind with the spade).
The Spetsnaz are one of the forms of the Soviet military razvedka (which is often translated as "intelligence gathering") that operate somewhere between the lines of reconnaissance and intelligence. They are the shock troops, for the lack of a better term, whose actions include elements of espionage and terrorism among foreign countries, much like certain CIA-backed operations during the Cold War.
According to the author of the article, the spetsnaz really hit their peak during the 1950s, in that the Soviet leaders realized that these units could aid in the removal of nuclear weapons from Western societies. They were believed to be the answer to a majority of the USSR's problems for this very reason: they would be able to disrupt the nuclear weapons, the leaders, and even the production and distribution means of the opposing country.

Now, it was actually at this point that I began to grow curious about the author of this article; the source of the last paragraph contained not a few tall statements and I wasn't sure if this was some joke. It turns out that Viktor Suvarov, the pen name for Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun, was a Soviet spy who defected to the United Kingdom and then gained fame by publishing books about the Spetsnaz, the Soviet military, and the USSR, in general.
Many of his claims, though, are extraordinarily controversial, including his belief that Stalin planned to use Nazi Germany as a means to wage war against the West. Indeed, Suvarov states that Stalin prepared the Red Army to liberate Europe from the Nazis, even as he provided support to Hitler earlier on.

So, I guess my ultimate point is that the article I had considered a legitimate source, may in fact be composed of a certain amount of exaggerated statements. I'm afraid I've wasted some time, though, because the only thing that I've come away with is that Suvarov is a fairly good story-teller...

Recordings (with Josh Solomon):
1. Page 76, Dialogue 1
2. Page 80, 3-7, Dialogue 4 (Composition)

UNIT 3 - Ну, погоди

Ну, погоди! - translates to: Well, Just you wait!

This is a soviet/Russian animated series produced by Soyuzmultfilm in 1969. More episodes have been created since 2006. The episodes are comical adventures of the wolf, Volk, trying to catch the hare, Zayats. The cartoon is very similar to Wile E. Cayote and the Road Runner, but with very few Russian phrases uttered here and there. There are many subtle references to Russian culture in the episodes. There are twenty episodes of this cartoon, so enjoy. Here is one episode!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk (now present-day Udmurtia). He had four brothers: Nikolai, Ippolit, Anatoly and Modest (who were twins); a sister, Alexandra and a half sister from his father's first marriage, Zinaida. He began taking piano lessons when he was five years old and could read and play music as well as his teacher three years later; his parents took an interest in his musical ability, hired a tutor, bought him an orchestration, and encouraged him. But that did not last long because in 1850, they decided to send him to the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg; it would prepare him for becoming a civil servant.

June 25, 1854, Tchaikovsky's mother died of chlorea, her death a massive blow to him; it affected him for the rest of his life. A month after her death, he made his first serious efforts to composing, a waltz dedicated to her memory.

In 1861, Nikolai Zaremba taught music theory classes, which Tchaikovsky attended and the year after, followed his teacher to the new Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He left his career as a civil servant to be a musician in 1863 and graduated from the Conservatory in 1865. His First Symphony was performed in Moscow of February 1868, where it was well received.

In 1877 after a broken engagement with a Belgian soprano, Desiree Artot, and after Vladimir Shilovsky, his favorite student, married suddenly, he got the notion into his head that he too, should marry. So he married one of his former composition students Antonina Miliukova; the marriage did not last long. They continued to be legally married but lived separately. Tchaikovsky was forced to confront his sexuality, that he was homosexual; he never married again, accepting how he was.

Tchaikovsky returned to the Moscow Conservatory in the autumn of 1879, resigned from his post, and settled in Kamenka but always traveling. He had an assured, regular income from Nadezhda von Meck while traveling. He traveled to Eurpope and rural Russia, living alone and avoiding social contact whenever possible.

In 1884 of March, Tchaikovsky was bestowed by Tsar Alexander III the Order of St. Vladimir and also won him a personal audience with the Tsar.

On November 6, 1893, nine days after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony, Tchaikovsky died. Most people say that his death was the cause of cholera, but others have theorized it to be a suicide. In either case, Tchaikovsky is known and remembered throughout the world as one of the most significant Russian composers.

You may know some of his popular compositions: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin. (information) (information) (picture)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yum... Salads

Salads are generally something I avoid like the plague... our ancestors didn't claw their way to the top of the food chain to subsist on raw lettuce. However, Russian salads have a special place in my heart, as they often include COOKED vegetables or even (wait for it...) MEAT. Here is a showcase of some of the delectable salad dished in question

Olivie: This delicious little salad was first cooked up at the Hermitage in Moscow in the 1860's. It is a potato salad, bound with mayonnaise, which includes such extras as carrots, peas, cucumbers, onions, and sausage. If made with chicken, it is known as "Capital Salad." In the ninteenth century, the original recipe was said to be include such yummies as veal tongue, crawfish, lobster, and grouse.

Vinigret: This staple includes boiled red beet and carrots, popatoes, onions, marinated cucumbers or sour cabbage. As the seasoning of the salad Russian use vinegar and vegetable oil.

A few more popular salads are made, out of such deliciousities as marinated cabbage, and red beets. Luckily, no raw lettuce in sight! (Largely because Russia has a short growing season)

*Please note, salad names are spelled phonetically because I am not working on my laptop with my phonetic keyboard. I apologize for any confusion.*

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Russian Elections

The largest election campaign since the 2008 presidential elections took place October 10th in Russia. These general elections, which took place in 77 regions, included 7,900. Over 100,000 candidates were voted on, with posts ranging from local parliaments to city mayors.

This was also the first time new techonology was used in elections, including cameras to monitor voting and electronic voting systems.

The elections were said to have gone really well, with only 76 complaints (30 million people voted), and are considered free and fair by observers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Цой - Троллейбус Который Идет......

Текст песни "Троллейбус".
Исполнитель: Виктор Цой, группа "Кино"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The new Grozny

The capital of the Chechnya, the semi-autonomous republic inside of Russia has undergone destruction many times over the last decade. A rare visit by the BBC shows pictures of the newly rebuilt capital.
War in Chechnya



Ignore the annoying voice-over. It's completely nonsense. But I've never seen this footage before, and it's very interesting.

Tsar Podcast HD E10: Suzdal


These “Tsar Podcasts” are pretty interesting reporting about travel & study in Russia. I’ll try to remember to post them on the blog as they become available.


Alphabet with a tune - Tito Feliciano

This helped me learn the alphabet, so it might help any others who might not know the letters quite well enough yet.

My recording is posted with David Kincaid's post.

David Kincaid and Tito Feliciano Unit 2 Recordings

David Kincaid and Tito Feliciano

Pg. 53, 2-18. No.4

Pg. 50, No.1

Russian Pianist in Chopin Competition

An Interesting article I read about 9 Russian pianist entering the coveted Chopin piano competition. It is interesting to note when the Russians first entered the competition in 1927 that they won on the first try but have not won again since 1985.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution was a major struggle for the Russians. From poverty to deaths, to starvation, people started to protest. Women started to protest for lack of bread and then got the men to join them. They went to the Zar and went on strike. They were ready to fight. Just after two days the Russian protesters began to get out of hand. The one of the most fearsome fighters in the army sided with the peasant's, so the peasants just saw them as peasants in uniform. So the officials went straight to the Zar to have him solve the problem. So he resulted in murder. The protesters who were demonstrating were serounded and the men were ordered to shoot them, fifty died. Following that a mutany started and the higher up officials didn't know what to do. In the end, the Zar of Russia lost power and it was the end of the Romanov Dynasty.

Kara's recordings

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Sasha's recording

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I enclosed links but I guess they didn't show up so here they are

Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette has become a popular and dicey phenomenon in American culture. The dangerous game of chance involves passing a revolver with one loaded chamber between however many participants there are, holding the gun to your head and squeezing the trigger. This process has obvious implications and it becomes very clear that being the winner is literally life or death. Russian Roulette has appeared in movies, books, games, and even in real-life scenarios all throughout the 20th century, however, despite the seemingly telling name, nobody knows where it originated.
As the name suggests the largest belief is that it started in Russia in the early nineteenth century. The prevailing legend is that Russian soldiers would force prisoners to play with them and make bets on the outcome, these games were most likely rigged from the start. Other stories indicate that the game originated form an earlier game called cuckoo where one Russian soldier would stand on a table in a dark room and the other soldiers would yell cuckoo as the solider on the table would try to shoot them based on the sound of their voice. This seems more like a very dangerous variation to marco polo.
The government issued Russian side arm from 1895 to 1930 (roughly the time of the origin of the legend) was the double-action revolver Nagant ( These were ideal for the game. However any revolver will suffice. This game is not intended for magazine fed weapons or automatic weapons of any sort, nor is it advised period.
Despite all the speculation on the origin of Russian Roulette there is no documentation to support these claims. Therefore, the origins of this dangerous duel may very well forever be shrouded in mystery. However, I think that it is very likely that it did evolve from these tales and that this game may have been a torture mechanism for terrified prisoners of war.

Russian recordings

Kara and Veronica's recordings.

Crimean War

The Crimean War (1853-1856) was the war fought over the influence of the Black Sea during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The war was the first war to be documented mainly in photographs, and used railroads and telegraphs for stratigic purposes. The Russian Empire fought the alliance of British Empire, the French Empire, Ottoman Empire, and the kingdom of Sardinia. The main battle was fought on the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea. Many of the battles were known for their stratigic blunders on both sides. The war ended in 1856 when Tsar Alexander II worked with peace negotiations began through the congress of Paris. Ultimately, Russia lost its influence of the Black Sea and had to respect the territorial influence of the Ottoman Empire.

David Bell


Siberia is located in the northeast of Asia and is a portion of the Russian Federation. Siberia's land area is about 3/4 of the entire country, but only contains about 1/4 of Russia's population. Most of the cities in Siberia are located along the Trans-Siberian Railway, with Novosibirsk being the largest city at 1.5 million people.

Most famously known for its cold weather, the temperature in Siberia varies greatly throughout each region. However, the average annual temperature in Siberia is 23F degrees with the northern most tundra easily dropping below -40F degrees during the winter. During the summer, the average temperature rises to a much more bearable 60F degrees.

Other than cold weather, Siberia is also home to the world's largest deposits of resources, mainly ores, fuel and timber. Siberia contains about 40% of the world's nickel deposits and grows the world's largest forests. Because of cold currents, Siberia also has very rich fisheries and produces close to 10% of the world's fish supply. On the negative side however, the cold weather makes agriculture hard throughout most of northern Siberia, and most food is either imported, grown in the southern, more fertile lands, or collected from herded animals such as reindeer.


Micah Ivey

Russian Radio

Here's a link to Русское Радио, a Russian radio station. It can be streamed on-line with IE6 or later, or Firefox 1.5 or later. I'm having a little bit of trouble on my system, but I think it's only because I'm running Linux (it used to work when I used Vista).

Anyway, even if you can't understand what's being said, I believe it's beneficial to start hearing words and intonation, and most of the songs are pretty catchy anyway.

Space Hotel

A Russian Company called Orbital Technologies has announced on September 30 that it will have a space hotel in orbit by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016. It will be the first space hotel ever created. The first module of the space hotel will be 20 cubic meters and will have four chambers. It will be able to accommodate seven people at a time. The hotel will be name "Commercial Space Station". The food and other supplies with be delivered via Progress Rockets.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Russian Politics: Yuri Luzhkov (by popular request) Unit 2

I have decided to write this blog on Yuri Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow by popular request. He was born on September 21, 1936 in Moscow, not much is known about his family. He studied at the Gubkin Moscow Petrochemical & Gas Industry Institute from 1953 to 1958 and was a researcher at the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Plastics for 6 years. Also, in 1958 he met his first wife, Marina Bashilova and had two sons. Sadly his wife would die in 1989 of liver cancer. He joined the Communist Party in 1964 while serving the state chemical industry and was elected on the Moscow City council in 1977. After his wife's death he married Yelena Bautirina, Russia's only female billionaire, in 1991 and had two daughters with her. He would eventually be appointed mayor in 1992 by Boris Yeltsin in an attempt to gain popular support with the Moscovites.
Luzhkov became an incredibly popular figure in Moscow politics during his tenure as mayor. It is widely acknowledged that he is responsible for bringing Moscow into the 21st century with aggressive building programs and popular actions such as encouraging entrepreneurship and providing free bus transportation for the elderly. By rebuilding Moscow, expanding the transportation infrastructure to cope with the ever growing number of private cars, and creating an effective guest worker registration program, Luzhkov was able to encourage investors and make Moscow one of the richest cities in the world. This in turn made him incredibly popular with voters who reelected him 3 times: in 1996 with 96% of the vote, 1999 with 70% of the vote, and 2003 with 75% of the vote (bear in mind that this is Russia we are talking about and there is a good chance that the election results could have been falsified).
Unfortunately for Luzhkov, his quick rise to success would only be matched by his fall from grace. Despite his incredibly popular policies he did manage to obtain enemies. There were reports of massive corruption, his wife mysteriously achieved her billionaire status under his terms as mayor when several construction contracts were awarded to her. His brother -in-law is rumored to have powerful ties with the Russian mafia and he is suspected in a money laundering scheme in Sevastopol. He drew criticism from historians when his proposed building projects would demolish important historical structures and from residents when he tried to forcibly remove the residents of the Rechnik neighborhood. And most importantly, he is widely disliked for vacationing during the recent smog crisis and not taking quick action. As a result his poll numbers dropped with only 36% of Moscovites viewing him in a positive light. He was recently removed from office by President Medvedev and his boss Vladamir Putin.
Luzhkov has also drawn criticism from his personal beliefs. He is a devout Orthodox Christian and a die hard nationalist and traditionalist. He believes in Russian superiority, evidenced by his belief that the territory of Sevastopol still technically belongs to Russia and not to the Ukrainians. He is also firmly against homosexuality and took action as mayor to ban Moscow gay pride parades. But his greatest pratfall came when he attempted to honor Stalin in 2o10 by putting up posters of him around the city 50 years after his reign of terror ended. Despite widespread criticism on a local, national, and international level he insisted that history must remain objective and recognize Stalin's modernization of Russia (although this is true there was the small fact that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of over 12 million people in the purges paralyzing the military and the government which resulted in the death of over 20 million people at the hands of the Nazis but hey, at least he built the metro).
Whether Russians love him or despise him Yuri Luzhkov played a pivotal role in Moscow politics and is responsible for making the city what it is today. It is thanks to him that Moscow is the city that it is today and despite his ignominious end and his borderline racist and repressive policies and beliefs he will always be remembered by Russians as a powerful and successful leader.

Russia Attempts to Curb Public Smoking

All of Europe seems to be involved in a love affair with tobacco, and Russia is no exception.

More than half of all Russian adults smoke, and up to 500,000 people die in Russia each year of smoking-related causes. Around 80% of Russians are exposed to passive smoking daily, and about 40% of women who smoke continue the habit through pregnancy.

It was only in June that Russia forced tobacco manufacturers to post health warnings on cigarette packs, adopting standards similar to those in the United States and the European Union. Now, Primie Minister Putin has approved a new anti-smoking program aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and lowering the number of tobacco-related deaths.

Under the new program, tobacco advertising will be banned by 2012 and a ban on all smoking in public places by 2015 has been proposed.

How hard will it be for Russia, where some 400 billion cigarettes were produced last year, to break its tobacco habit?

For the full article from Reuters, click here.


Dialogues with Keri Dillet

1. Dialogue 1, p. 50

2. Composition - Part B - Dialogue - See Portfolio for written script.

Russian Ark: A Review

Although the film Russian Ark may have released in 2002, it is never late for an appropriate review. Available in the DuPont-Ball Library of Stetson University, the Russian language film is a surreal travel through nearly 300 years of Russian history.

The film takes place entirely in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, with each room of the palace offering a different scene into critical events in Russian history. Russian Ark is viewed in a first-person perspective as the narrator who is traveling through the palace.

For part of the film, the narrator is guided though the halls and rooms by a mysterious "European" who has little respect for Russian culture. As a different room is entered, the narrator enters a different chapter in Russian history in non-sequential order. In one moment the narrator is in the era of Catherine the Great, then during the Siege of Leningrad, and finally at a royal ball before the outbreak of World War I (with numerous more events in between).

Russian Ark is not a history lesson or a documentary, but a series of glimpses into Russian society and the various turning points that occurred within the Winter Palace. The film offers numerous snapshots to what events may have (or actually did) look like. Further, the comments by the narrator or the European provide perspective and context to which period the film had moved to and what was happening to have some since of the transition.

What is the most remarkable about Russian Ark is that it was filmed in one continuous take and was not edited (save the final seconds at the conclusion). With over 2,000 extras in the film and over 30 rooms used, logistically the creation of the film itself is breathtaking.

I had the intention of learning some Russian through the film, which eventually became an impossible task. The narrator spent most of the time mumbling and the other 'characters' were often either too distant or intentionally made difficult to hear. Of course, I am not an expert on the Russian language, so perhaps a fluent speaker could clearly understand what was being said. Nevertheless, watching Russian Ark is certainly an opportunity to hear the Russian language and also to see how Russia looked throughout its history.

Unit 2 Dialogues (with Patrick Bailey)

Russia-Ukraine Approve cooperation Program for 2011-2016

On October 4, 2010, Ukraine and Russia signed a Program for Cooperation for 2011-2016 in the Russian city of Gelendzhik. This means that the countries have full cooperation from both sides on matters of trade, economy, science, technology, and culture.

Since Viktor Yankuvich became president in February, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine has been improving. Yankuvich plans to continue to build a stronger bond between the two perviously hostile countries. This does have many Ukrainians worried because of the past behind Russian and Ukraine. Can they have a peaceful relationship without merging again?

Partner recordings:


Adam Brink and David Bell

Rhopilema Jellyfish

This past summer, due to the long period of hot weather, rhopilema jellyfish (aka mushroom jellyfish) appeared of the coast of Primorye. Primorye is located in southeastern Russia on the shore of the sea of Japan.
The Rhopilema Jellyfish have a blue colored body and bright red tentacles, and can have a body of half a meter in diameter. They are mostly found in the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
According to Sergei Maslennikov , Senior scientist Sea Biology Institute of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the the jelly fish appeared off the coast of Primorye after warm currents in the Sea of Japan changed direction. The sea's currents pushed the jellyfish towards the shore. Russian fisherman didn't waste this opportunity to catch the jellyfish and sell them to China and Japan where Rhopilema are delicacies.

Unit 2 blog post, also dialogues again.

This just kind of makes me smile.

EnglishRussia posted a series of Photoshopped pictures of American actors' faces on the bodies of Russian hockey players...for no reason other than "for the lulz," apparently. It's impossible not to smile looking at some of these pictures; my personal favorite is the one above of Роберт Паттинсон.

I added the caption myself. "Хурп дурп" is my really terrible transliteration of the phrase "herp derp," mostly used as a caption to a picture of someone or something making a stupid face. For a more visual explanation, check out, a proud member of the Cheezburger network of time-wasting sites fulla pictures with words on 'em.

Also, dialogues: Clicky!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Russian Censorship Under Microsoft Piracy Ruse

Apparently there are still problems in Russia with censorship. There have been false accusations of piracy within the country that result in advocate groups or groups with unfavorable purposes being raided for their computers. The raids occur due to claims that the groups are using pirated Microsoft software. Once the groups' computers are taken they essentially can no longer function. Microsoft has already spoken saying they have no reason to suspect these groups are pirating software and that using piracy as a front to silence advocacy is detestable. It is sad to this type of censorship occurring in Russia.


Dialogues with Josh
#2 on pg. 50 :


The Cherry Orchard (1904) By: Anton Chekhov

This play did not become popular until it premiered at the Moscow Art Theater, where the actors and director understood how to bring the characters to life. The director, Constantin Stanislavski, portrayed the play as more of a tragedy. However, Chekhov intended the play to be a comedy.

Summary of play: The play concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family's estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate, the family essentially does nothing and the play ends with the estate being sold to the son of a former serf, and the family leaving to the sound of the cherry orchard being cut down. One of the main themes of the play is the effect that social change has on people.

Here is a video of the first part of the play in English:

Anton Chekhov:
Here is great background information on Anton:

Dialogue Recording, Unit 2 (M. Ezra Keith, Matthew Blair)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Very Unhappy Dance: The story behind Khachaturian's "Masquerade Suite"

This summer I had the pleasure to perform a composition by Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian titled “The Masquerade Suite” and based on a play by Russian author Mikhail Lermontov. I was so enchanted with this lush and often mournful work of art that I made it my business to do some investigation of the story that inspires it.

The Masquerade depicts the tragedy of a woman who is killed by her husband over a false accusation of infidelity. The story begins with a grand masquerade ball where the Baroness Schtral, who is secretly in love with the Prince, grants him a bracelet as a token of her affection. As the Baroness is disguised by her mask, the Prince does not know who she is, prompting him to confide in his acquaintance, Arbenin, that he will search until he finds the mystery woman who gave the gift. Things however get complicated when Arbenin comes home and notices his own wife, Nina, is missing a bracelet that suspiciously resembles the one the Prince possessed. Assuring her husband that she most likely lost the bracelet carelessly at the masquerade, Nina visits the baroness' home in search of her misplaced jewelry. Unfortunately she meets the prince instead and in a grand misunderstanding the Prince is convinced that she gave him the bracelet. Gossip of Nina's “flirtations” spread around the community and eventually reaches a furious Arbenin. Enraged that his wife would cheat on him he begins to plan jealous revenge on his unfaithful wife. Meanwhile, the Baroness hears of the whole mess and confesses to the prince that it was she who gave him the bracelet and that Nina is innocent after all. At the next ball the Prince returns the bracelet to Nina and warns her of the extent of her husbands anger and distrust. Of course Nina does not take him seriously. Later in the evening when Nina suddenly falls gravely ill her husband reveals that he poisoned the ice cream he gave her earlier and that she will surely die. In desperation Nina tries to convince her husband that she is innocent and that it is all a misunderstanding but ultimately it is too late, she dies. Only after wards does Arbenin cool down enough to realize the mistake he has made. To add salt to the wound the prince himself arrives to confirm that there was no affair between Nina and himself and he gives Arbenin a letter from the Baroness which explains everything. Opps...

Below is a recording of the lovely "Waltz" from “Masquerade Suite” by Aram Khachaturian
You don't need to know the story to hear that it is not a happy dance:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Moscow's Mayor

Longtime Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov was sacked by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, according to this article by the BBC. Although the official reason for the firing was that Luzhkov no longer had "the trust of the president of the Russian Federation", other possible reasons are cited including mishandling the wildfire crisis and corruption stemming from his billionaire wife. Most interesting is the last potential reason for the firing:

Commentators believe this battle at the highest level of Russian politics was sparked by a newspaper article written by the mayor in which he appeared to criticise the president and call for a return to stronger national leadership, says the BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow.

This article from Russian news site does not mention such a "battle." It only reports on Luzhkov's corruption allegations. Perhaps this is an example of Russian state-controlled media influencing what is reported?