Friday, April 30, 2010
International Women's Day (Международный женский день) is celebrated on March 8th to coincide with two major events in Russian history.
First was March 8th, 1857 when women marched to complain about being left out of a recent legal reform. Men had won the right to 10 hour work days while women were stuck working 16 hour work days. The march gained international press and sparked further debated about women's rights.
Second was March 8th, 1917 when women began campaigning for greater rights from the Provisional Government; part of the argument stemmed from how much of the war effort women were shouldering (working in factories, raising funds, making care packages for soldiers, etc.).
Back in 1913, legislation had been passed to create a day in honor of women, but no official date for the holiday had been selected. Saint Petersburg celebrated the first holiday in 1913, but March 8th did not become the official date for the holiday until 1963.
Now, the day is a day off work where men are expected to have a gift - flowers, candy, a card, or something else - for the important women in their lives. Men usually do tasks that are typically seen as feminine in Russia such as housework or cooking for the day.
Visit http://www.sras.org/russian_holidays for more information.
The domovoi does have a more malicious side. Although one's own domovoi could be considered an ally, the domovoi from a neighboring household brought no happiness. Russian folklore says that a domovoi could harass horses in the stable overnight, as well as steal the grain of a neighbour to feed his own horses. Still, domovie could befriend one another and were said to gather together for loud winter parties.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
This happened about four years ago, but it is too very bizarre not to share...
On June 28, 2006, Russia's then-president Vladmir Putin kissed the tummy of a 5 year-old boy who was visiting the Kremlin. Putin explained the kiss of the boy, named Nikita: "He seemed very independent and serious... I wanted to cuddle him like a kitten and it came out in this gesture. He seemed so nice."
When interviewed a week after the event, Nikita said he had not watched his stomach since. He really liked Mr. Putin, and explained "I want to be president myself."
Monday, April 26, 2010
Vladimir Putin stated that his Government avoided an economic collapse (such as the one in 1998). Admitting that some measures were more effective than others, he stated that the forecast for growth is now at 4% and that the results for the first quarter of the year fuel optimism.
While many countries reduced social allowances and froze pensions, he pointed out, Russia did not, while some countries decided to cut expenses arbitrarily, Russia chose a different and more humanitarian path. In fact in 2009, Russian budget expenditure grew by 27.3% over 2008 while accumulated reserves were invested and budget allocations rose by 50% for wages, pensions and social allowances.
Admitting that the more pessimistic forecasts had not proven true, Vladimir Putin stated that Russia had reacted to the currency crisis as a strong power should, “acting resolutely and decidedly”. He added that while the recession is over, “the situation is far from being trouble-free” and demands a continued “conscientious financial policy”.
Indeed, during 2009 real income rose by 2.9% over the previous year while the integration of the national economy, the Russian financial sector and the social sphere were protected and preserved.
Regarding the Government’s social initiatives, Vladimir Putin stated that rather than raise more money through increased taxation, the Government should concentrate on a more efficient distribution of existing revenue. However as from 2011, Social Security contributions for companies will rise from 26 to 34% and this will fund a financing of the health service. Pensions will continue to rise (by 45%) and the Government promises extra financial benefits for mothers and war veterans.
As far as the future is concerned, Vladimir Putin stated that there are tangible signs that the banks have restarted lending schemes and this can only fuel a sustained economic development and growth which will build on the positive indicators visible already today, namely an increase in retail sales, a rise of 7% in real income and a stabilization of the unemployment rate at 8%. With the feelgood factor provided by the economic setting and the increase in buying power, this rate can only continue to decrease, since economic security is translated into spending and investment which in turn generates jobs.
Бе́шеной соба́ке семь вёрст не крюк.
Translation: For a mad dog, seven versts (Russian mile) is not a long detour.
Moral: If you are passionate (or unreasonably driven) about something you will do all the extra work without noticing it.
Близо́к локото́к, да не уку́сишь.
Translation: [Your] elbow is close, yet [you] can't bite it.
Moral: It only seems to be easy.
Болту́н — нахо́дка для шпио́на.
Translation: A chatterbox is a treasure for a spy.
English version: Loose lips sink big ships.
Волк в ове́чьей шку́ре.
Translation: Wolf in sheep's pelt.
English version: Wolf in sheep's clothing.
Compare: В ти́хом о́муте че́рти во́дятся.
Вся́кому о́вощу своё вре́мя.
Translation: Every vegetable has its time.
Moral: Unlike English version, it means: It's ok if it isn't in good shape right now. Things need time to ripen.
And more a lot like this one at: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Russian_proverbs
And remember: До́брое сло́во и ко́шке прия́тно.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The banya has been a part of Russian culture for over a millennium. Two different sources created prior to 989 C.E. detail the use of the banya. A visitor to Russia mentioned how the Russians beat themselves to exhaustion with the branches. However, the story of Princess Olga of Kiev is illustrative of the dark side of the banya. The man who killed her husband demanded the Princess’ hand in marriage so the princess demanded he and his men wash in the banya before she saw him. Quickly, she had her subjects lock the murderers’ in the banya and had it set on fire.
Many traditions are linked to the banya. Every major event in a Russians’ life is connected to the banya in some way. The prospective bride and groom are expected to bath separately in a banya a few days before the wedding and go to the banya together immediately after the wedding. A new mother and her child are traditionally escorted to the banya after the birth for the child’s first bath. Banyas are used primarily on days of religious significance such as Clean Thursday, but never on Sunday as this disturbs the spirit who lives in the banya. Further related to this, is the tradition of removing all religious icons/symbols when entering the banya as the banya predates Russia becoming Orthodox Christian.
Now the health benefits are awesome – the heat opens up your pores to make you sweat thereby releasing toxins from the body. The heat also creates an artificial fever which kills viruses. The branches used for beating each other are meant to create healthier skin – plus it sounds like a great way to work off pent up frustration!!
Monday, April 12, 2010
According to EnglishRussia, which is my new best friend, earlier this month a group of Vladivostok drivers upset with municipal authorities' neglect of the city roads came together to repair a single pothole and raise money for further efforts. EЯ has pictures of the process, with about 15-20 people--men and women alike--wearing bright orange vests. Some of them are working on the asphalt and a few of them are holding cardboard boxes marked "НА ДОРОГИ ГОРОДА" and "НА ДОРОГИ ВЕЗ ЯМ," meaning "For the city roads" and "for roads without holes." Based on the sheer number of pictures of people putting money in the boxes, I'd say they were at least mildly successful. They did a pretty good job of repairing the one pothole, and hopefully the stunt will call the municipal authorities' attention to the problem and force them to look into it.
Click here to see pictures.
The Hymn is as follows:
Preserve us from jeopardy.
Take thee now our fate
and glow bright in penitence,
And be with me
O'er trecherous and cruel and grand unease and to our land bring peace.
O mighty Lord hear our lowly prayer,
and by light, shinning Holy light,
Grant us, O Lord, Peace again.
O mighty Lord hear our prayer.
I should also note that because Tchaikovsky had not originally intended for a choir most recordings feature no choir at all. I however implore one should listen to recordings both with a choir and without. I feel that adding the choir does the piece more justice.
Here's an article and video:
Obama, Medvedev Sign Arms Reduction Treaty: 'An Important Milestone for Nuclear Security'
Russian people are so cool!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Yesterday, Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife, and nearly one hundred high ranking politicians and staff were killed as their plane crashed while attempting to land in heavy fog.
In a twist of bitter irony, the plane was en route to attend a memorial for the Katyn massacre, the first one openly supported by the Russian government. Medvedev and Putin offered their condolences to the families of the victims and the Polish people.
The accident is still being investigated, but is believed to be a pilot error due to heavy fog. The pilot was warned that the fog at the airport was too thick, and that he should divert to another airport. The pilot decided to attempt a landing anyways, resulting in everyone on board dying.
For years prior, world renowned composers such as the great Dimitry Shostakovitch, had suffered career and life threatening destruction at the hands of the oppressive Communist Russia. During these darkest years of Russian Music History, the threat was so dangerously present that should any work dare to resemble those of their most hated western counterparts, the composer could very well be shot before Stalin himself. It was not, however, until the Resolution of the Central Committee in February of 1948 that the greatest atrocity of culture would be committed against Russia's own people.
On the surface the Resolution composed was a reaction to an Opera by second rate composer Vano Muradeli titled "The Great Friendship" that had three months earlier been blacklisted with criticisms such as "historically and ideologically incorrect" and "a confused muddle of sounds". This was not, though, the primary focus of the pages and pages of slander that followed. Virtually all soviet composers including those who had gained international acclaim including Shostakovitch (specifically for his 8th and 9th Symphonies), Prokofiev (specifically for his opera War and Peace), Khachaturin, and Miaskovsky were accused of the heinous crime of music "formalism" and pressured to denounce themselves wrong dooers of the state. Even critics of these composers were not spared from the vicious attacks, had they per chance given favorable reviews for blatantly anti-communist music.
Led by Andrei Zhdanov, spokesperson for cultural ideology and Khrennikov, who later became an all powerful figure in the Russian Music Bureaucracy, the draft of their Resolution had four cited goals:
1.To condemn the formalist trend in Soviet music as anti-social, and leading to the liquidation of music.
2.To propose to the Propaganda and Agitation Board of the Central Committee and to the Committee for Artistic Affairs: that they rectify the situation in Soviet music; that they liquidate the failures indicated in the present Resolution; and that they take steps to ensure that Soviet music develops in a realist direction.
3.To call upon Soviet composers to carry out the high demands made by the Soviet people regarding musical creation; everything that weakens our music and hinders its development should be swept away by composers, thereby ensuring an upsurge of creative work that would move Soviet music forward and lead, in all areas of composition, to the kind of valuable, high-quality works that the Soviet people deserve.
4.To approve all administrative measures of the responsible Party and Soviet organs directed towards the improvement of musical affairs.
In response to the reading the the entire Essay the composers were each asked to stand a apologize to their comrades for their deeds.
Muradeli spoke "How could it be that I failed to introduce a single folk song into the score of my opera?... I have before me a serious task, to realize fully and unequivocally the seriousness of my creative errors, and to correct these errors with ideological honesty in the future."
Shostakovitch spoke "I am deeply grateful for all the criticism contained in the Resolution and I shall still with more determination will work on the musical depiction of the images of the heroic Soviet people.
In a joint letter to Stalin for the public humiliation all the composers together wrote such degrading remarks as "We are tremendously grateful the the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party and personally to you, Comrade Stalin, for the severe and yet profoundly just criticism of the present state of Soviet music".
Obviously any sense of idealism in Russian art came to an abrupt halt for the decade following this event. Most unfortunately this obscene oppression lingered until after the death of Stalin when in 1957 the All-Union Congress of Music allowed for more artistic freedom. Thankfully a 1958 decree exonerated those Musicians attacked in 1948, restoring the honor they had been most unjustly stripped of.
Below I have included a link to access the entirety of "The Resolution" in case you are curious as to the extent of the public spanking. It's a long and insufferable document but can be insightful even if skimmed...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
1. Lev (which means Lion)
2. Aleksandr (defender of mankind)
3. Mikhail (who is like God)
4. Sacha (shorter version of Alex)
5. Nikolai (victory of the people)
6. Gavriil (God is my strength)
7. Konstantin (steadfast, everlasting)
8. Vasili (king)
9. Maksim (the greatest)
10. Luka (Lucania)
1. Galina (Light)
2. Nikita (unconquered)
3. Raisa (rose)
4. Natasha (born at Christmas)
5. Kalista (most beautiful)
6. Nadiya (hope)
7. Tatiana (fairy princess)
8. Valentina (healthy or strong)
9. Veronika (victory bringer)
10. Zenya (well-born or noble)
New ideas for Russian novels! My favorite name is not listed on this though, Arkady.
Friday, April 9, 2010
All of the images shown above can be found scattered around the city of Priypyat. Most Russian graffiti is characterized by bright colors and cheerful, if often lewd, images. The graffiti of Pripyat on the other hand, is haunted by ghostly black and white figures, many of whom are in obvious pain.
Monday, April 5, 2010
The explosions that ripped through the Moscow metro on March 29 made us realize that the terrorist threat is not a matter of the past.
Terrorist acts do not have physical damage as their only goal. Terrorists follow their insane and perverted ideas to kill everyone who disagrees with them. They do not distinguish between old or young, military or civil, Orthodox, Christian or Muslim. Those, who send suicide bombers to explode their bombs and kill innocent people, pursue other goals.
A terrorist act is a method, which terrorists use to send their terrible messages to the world. It is a way to humiliate an enemy and demonstrate power. Even if special services have information about a terrorist act, it is very difficult to prevent an extremist attack. Every terrorist act strikes a serious blow on the state.
Any terrorist act is performed to entail a reaction from the general public, from the state and from those, who sympathize with terrorists. The state can make concessions to terrorists as a result of an attack. For example, it happened in Spain, when terrorists exploded a dozen of bombs in commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004. Over 190 people were killed in the attacks. A new government came to power in the country after the attacks and ordered to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Many perceived it as a demonstration of weakness in front of terrorists.
State can show a different reaction and restrict democratic liberties within the scope of struggle against terrorism. If it happens, one can assume that terrorists have reached their goals and transformed the society which they chose to manipulate.
A terrorist threat does not limit itself to human losses only. It triggers xenophobia, suspicion and fear among people of different nationalities and confessions. People must unite in front of a terrorist threat and conduct a dialogue to decrease the efficiency of extremist activities. A dialogue between civilizations is supposed to touch upon the general public, young people, first and foremost, rather than political elites.
There is no universal recipe for the anti-terrorist struggle and there will not be. Terrorism changes all the time and meets the reality of today, not of the past. Blocking financial channels, destroying organized structures and terrorist communication networks is essential. However, a victory in the struggle against terrorist requires a lot more: it should be a victory for people’s minds. Terrorists must not see any conditions which they could use to find their followers.
These cruises typically last 12-16 days and port in cities for passengers to get off and explore. There are plenty of activities to do on board as well. This website gives you all the details, you can customize the trip you want as well.
Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are featured on sailings that combine the Volga River, Moscow Canal and other waterways. In Moscow, visit the immense Red Square, which is bordered by colorful onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral and the stylish 19th-century facade of the GUM department store. Highlights of St. Petersburg, Russia's cultural capital, include the world-famous Hermitage museum and the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Many Volga cruises visit Uglich, one of Russia's oldest towns, and Volgograd, formerly called Stalingrad and the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. See the unique wooden architecture of Kizhi Island, including a cathedral of 22 domes constructed without the use of a single nail.
Volga River cruises typically are part of longer itineraries that include hotel stays. They offer considerable savings over traveling the same itinerary on your own, because river cruise operators are able to negotiate low group rates on hotels, transportation and sightseeing excursions, passing the savings on to you. With so much included in one price, Volga cruises are easy to budget.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Корзина, or "baskets" are little meringue flowers in pastry baskets.... Clever, huh?
Картошка, or potato cakes, are named after the root veggie they resemble. But they aren't made with potatoes, unfortunately. Rather, they are a yummy mixture of walnuts, cocoa, breadcrumbs, and other cake-like ingredients.
Сметанник is a sour-cream cake. While sour cream in a dessert might sound a little weird to most Americans, my grandmother makes sour-cream cookies, and the sour cream makes them so very moist!
Should anyone choose to make any of these yummy things and bring them into class, I will be eternally grateful.
Random misspellings have been included for your viewing pleasure!
One of the suspects in last week's Moscow bombings is a 17-year-old widow of an Islamist militant from the North Caucasus. She is suspected of blowing herself up in suicide attacks that killed 40 people in Moscow.
More than 50 people were killed and another 100 injured in suicide bombings this week in the Moscow metro and in a town in the turbulent North Caucasus region of Dagestan, raising fears of a new bombing campaign against the Russian heartland.
She has been named as Dagestani-born Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the widow of 30-year-old Umalat Magomedov, a prominent insurgent killed by Russian forces on December 31.
Abdurakhmanova also used the name of Dzhanet Abdullayeva, the source said.
Magomedov, who was shown in the photographs holding a pistol, styled himself as the "Emir of the mujahideen of the Vilayat Dagestan," a local Islamist group, the source said.
Officials said two female suicide bombers -- known in the Russian media as "Black Widows" -- killed at least 40 people on packed Moscow metro trains during the rush hour on Monday.
"Black Widows" is a term for the widows of Islamic militants killed by Russian forces.
The first bomb tore through a metro train just before 8 a.m. as it stood at the Lubyanka station, close to the headquarters of the FSB. A second bomb was detonated less than 40 minutes later in a train waiting at the Park Kultury metro station.
The suicide bombings in Moscow and Dagestan follow a surge of violence over the past year in the patchwork of North Caucasus republics, where Russia has fought two wars against Chechen separatists since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Islamist Chechen rebels claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the Moscow metro bombings and threatened further attacks against Russian cities.
Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who calls himself the "Emir of the Caucasus Emirate," said he had ordered the twin suicide bombings in Moscow to "destroy infidels" and in revenge for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's policies in the North Caucasus.