Monday, February 28, 2011

Russia wins gold in junior tournament...celebrate in typical fashion.

Every year the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) hosts international tournaments for U20 and over 20 players. The adult tournament usually occurs towards the beginning of summer, when regular seasons are over, and the youth tournament happens in December. This past tournament was a memorable one held in Buffalo, New York. A heated rematch between last year's silver (Canada) and gold (USA) medal winning teams was expected but the Russian team decided to give them a run for their money.
After losing to Canada in the preliminary rounds 6-3 nobody anticipated Canada to route the USA 4-1 to send the USA to the bronze medal match against Sweden and lead to a gold medal game between Russia and Canada.
The game started with total domination by Canada. The first period ended 3-0 and had the Russians sweating. By the end of the game, though, Russia had fought back to win it 5-3. Lots of crazy yelling ensued especially since the game was being broadcast on a national station in Russia. After all the excitement, the players celebrated like any athletes do...lots of drinking. They actually were kicked off of their flight back to Russia because of unruly (read: drunk) behavior. I want to party with those kids. They clearly know how to have fun.

The Olympic Games - 2014

Good news! Russia has announced its mascots for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, according to ESPN. They are:

1. A snowboarding leopard
2. A figure skating bunny
3. A polar bear (I guess he doesn't get to compete in a sport.)

The unusual decision to have three mascots was announced by the Sochi organizing committee. Viewers could vote from among nine candidates by phone calls and text messages. More than 1 million votes were cast, according to the program.

AP Photo/Sochi 2014 Organising Committee

Read the full article here.

Prokofiev Loves His Three Oranges

This unit around we will visit one of our favorite little Russian Geniuses, Sergei Prokofiev (OK fine he was technically Ukranian, but most music historians still consider him to largely be an important Russian composer), and talk about his most famous opera, “The Love of Three Oranges”. This work of art is charming as it is witty in making fun of the government officials without being outright scandalous.
Although the opera pokes fun at that powers that be in Russian it is important to make the distinction that this Opera was written originally in America for a Chicago audience. In 1918 Prokofiev was allowed to travel to the USA in hopes that he would spread the word about the success of Russian art in America. Needless to say this trip went swimmingly. After presenting a recital including the famous Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by the composer himself, Prokofiev caught the eye of Cleofonte Campanini(principal conductor and general manager of the Chicago Opera). He awarded Prokofiev a commission to compose a new opera for the company and thus the work in progress Prokofiev had in his repertoire was completed, “The Love of Three Oranges”. Although this opera does have a Russian libretto, it would have been quite inappropriate to present a Bolshevik themed opera in the Russian language to an American audience, thus the libretto was translated and premiered in French.
The plot of this opera by nature makes little sense at is more importantly meant to entertain through the use of satire. Just FYI, it is based on an old Italian Fairy Tale. Well here goes...

Act 1:
The King of Clubs and his adviser Pantalone are worried about the health of the Prince, a hypochondriac whose symptoms have been brought on by an indulgence in tragic poetry. Apparently his ailment can only be cured with laughter, so Pantalone summons the jester Truffaldino to arrange a grand entertainment, together with the (secretly inimical) prime minister, Leandro.
The magician Tchelio, who supports the King, and the witch Fata Morgana, who supports Leandro and Clarice (niece of the King, lover of Leandro), play cards to see who will be successful. Tchelio loses three times in succession to Fata Morgana, who brandishes the King of Spades, alias of Leandro.
Leandro and Clarice plot to kill the Prince so that Clarice can succeed to the throne. The supporters of Tragedy are delighted at this turn of events. The servant Smeraldina reveals that she is also in the service of Fata Morgana, who will support Leandro.
Act 2:
All efforts to make the Prince laugh fail, despite the urgings of the supporters of Comedy, until Fata Morgana is knocked over by Truffaldino and falls down, revealing her underclothes — the Prince laughs, as do all the others except for Leandro and Clarice. Fata Morgana curses him: henceforth, he will be obsessed by a "love for three oranges." At once, the Prince and Truffaldino march off to seek them. Yeah really...
Act 3:
Tchelio tells the Prince and Truffaldino where the three oranges are, but warns them that they must have water available when the oranges are opened. He also gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon with which to seduce the giant (female) Cook (a bass voice!) who guards the oranges in the palace of the witch Creonte.
They are blown to the palace with the aid of winds created by the demon Farfarello, who has been summoned by Tchelio. Using the ribbon to distract the Cook, they grab the oranges and carry them off into the surrounding desert.
While the Prince sleeps, Truffaldino opens two of the oranges. Fairy princesses emerge but quickly die of thirst. The Ridicules (Cranks) give the Prince water to save the third princess, Ninette. The Prince and Ninette fall in love. A body of soldiers conveniently turns up and the Prince orders them to bury the two dead princesses. He leaves to seek clothing for Ninette so he can take her home to marry her, but, while he is gone, Fata Morgana transforms Ninette into a giant rat and substitutes Smeraldina in disguise.
Act 4:
Everyone returns to the King's palace, where the Prince is now forced to prepare to marry Smeraldina. Tchelio and Fata Morgana meet, each accusing the other of cheating, but the Ridicules intervene and spirit the witch away, leaving the field clear for Tchelio. He restores Ninette to her natural form. The plotters are sentenced to die but Fata Morgana helps them escape, through a trapdoor and the opera ends with everyone praising the Prince and his bride

I warned you...

Anyways Below is a recording of one of my personal all time favorite compositions, the “March” from “The Love of Three Oranges”!

Unit 7 Blog Post-Russian Cartoon

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Russian pets

Russia has no laws protecting animals or limiting the amount of pets in a household when there should be. If you have so many pets, it's hard to give enough and equal attention to every single one of them. It's also hard to make sure that they're all healthy enough and that they're getting enough to eat. You shouldn't keep 130 cats in a small room. Cats need to roam and have enough room to do so. You also shouldn't feed cats like chickens! It's just sad.

Russia Finally Classifies Beer as an Alcoholic Beverage

Apparently, beer is widely considered in Russia to be a "soft drink". In the country where an estimated 500,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes and the average life expectancy of a man is about 60, it is "not uncommon to see men swigging a can of beer on their way to work or teenagers downing a swift lunchtime beer or two in the park". Officially classified as a foodstuff, it is not regulated in the manner of hard liquor and wine, allowing it to be sold at any hour and in any quantity. This is changing, according to London's Daily Telegraph, as President Medvedev attempts to combat the national drinking problem. A bill is moving through the Duma that would reclassify beer as an alcoholic drink, requiring stricter regulation of its sale. As a cheap alternative to the more popular vodka, beer consumption has tripled in Russia since the 1990's. The country is the third biggest consumer after the U.S. and China (despite having only half the population of the U.S. and a ninth of the population of China). On the whole, Russians drink double the maximum recommended amount of alcohol, as determined by the World Health Organization, - more than 32 pints of pure alcohol per person per year!


The "Yuk" Factor

What do these five words have in common: скверный, скаредный, скупой, скудный and скудоумный? (it's not a trick question!) Yep. They all begin with "ck." It seems that the "ck" sound in Russian is equivalent to something like "yuk" or "ew" in English. Hence, Скверный (nasty), Скаредный (cheap), скупой (stingy), Скудный (pitifully small), and скудоумный (unintelligent). So the next time you see a "ck" word, it may be safe to assume a negative connotation.

Some useful "ck" expressions:
Он скуден умом (He's poor in brains)
Он не глупый, но он скудоумный (he's not stupid, but he's limited)
скупой начальник (stingy boss)
скупой на слова (quiet, or stingy with words)
скупой на похвалу (begrudging praise)
Скупой платит дважды (a miser pays twice)

Source: здесь


Let's say you're in Russia. Let's also say that you're bored because all there is to do is watch large circuses or ballets or go to museums. Yawn. So what do you do? PARKOUR. Well. If the videos I've watched is any indicator, I'd say that 90% of Russian architecture is dilapidated urban areas. The perfect place to either climb outrageously high or to jump off of things! Here are a few videos I've found of Russians doing parkour. (This one has cool Russian rap behind it.) (Almost a documentary on the sport in Russia)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mstislav Rostropovich

A video of two Croatian cellists (see below) has been steadily gaining popularity over the past few weeks, so, in honor of that, I decided to focus upon a particular Russian cellist in this unit's blog post...

Mstislav Rostropovich, who passed away almost four years ago, was considered to be one of the greatest cellists of all time. He gained popularity during World War II and the subsequent Cold War period of Russia.
In fact, he first won an international Music Award at the age of twenty, which was followed by a Stalin Prize at the age of twenty-three. The latter was, at the time, considered to be the highest distinction in the Soviet Union.
Despite this, Rostropovich found himself harassed by the Soviet regime for promoting democratic values, freedom of speech, and "art without borders." At the age of twenty-one, his instructor at the Moscow Conservatory was dismissed because he was labelled as a "formalist composer;" Rostropovich subsequently dropped out in protest, as well. Much later, in 1970, he sheltered Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an outspoken Soviet author, and found himself officially disgraced in the Union. As a result, he was even restricted from performing abroad, and was sent on a tour to small towns in Siberia.
By 1974, Rostropovich had decided to leave the Soviet Union in favor of settling in the United States (this was actually the same year that Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the USSR, as well). His Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his opposition to the country's restriction of cultural freedom, and he did not return to Russia until 1990.
After moving to the United States, Rostropovich served as the musical director and conductor of the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1994. He also founded the Rostropovich Music Festival, and performed quite often at the Aldeburgh Festival in the Unuited Kingdom. The cellist even gained international fame during the fall of the Berlin Wall, due to his impromptu performance in front of the structure.
Finally, Rostropovich and his wife formed a valuable art collection that included over four hundred pieces. In order to preserve the collection, and to bring it to Russia, a billionaire named Alisher Usmanov purchased all of the works for a price "substantially higher" than ₤20 million.

Random Fact: He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery on April 29, 2007. His friend, Boris Yeltsin, was buried in the same cemetery on April 25, 2007.

(Smooth Criminal Cover - Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic)

Also, here are the same two cellists performing a piece by another Soviet composer, Dmitri Shostakovich:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

David and Tito's recordings

Also, somebody commented this on my unit 2 dialogue:

"This is the most amazing fucking bullshit I've heard in years!!! Атлычна!!! )))"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

for you putin fanatics...

Last November, the world's first tiger summit in St Petersburg ended with £330m pledged to make the great cat worth more alive than dead. The summit was attended by Vladimir Putin, Wen Jiabao, Leonardo DiCaprio, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick and Naomi Campbell. During the summit, Naomi spoke with the Russian prime minister.
Read the interview.

Любите нас! Like Russian Studies on Facebook!

LIKE US! We'll use Facebook to announce events, scholarships, program news, etc...

Moscow Blog

If anyone is so inclined, this is what I've been up to.

I shall post pictures as soon as I replace my stolen camera cord...


Last year, I wrote a research paper on different myths and legends in Russian folklore. Among many manifestations of a goddess or feminine spirit is the rusalka. This word is generally translated to "mermaid" now-a-days, but in years past, it was a much more general term for a mystical and powerful female spirit-being. Rusalki were often associated with water (such as a water nymph, or the aforementioned mermaid), and each rusalka was the restless spirit of a dead woman (perhaps drowned in water) that would maliciously guard a river or stream. They were thought to climb trees where they would sing songs to lure unsuspecting bachelors to their doom.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PSA: It's super effective?

So, trawling EnglishRussia for a blog post for this unit, I came across a few pictures of what appears to be an anti-drunk driving PSA. Somehow, despite the fact that a fake corpse jammed through a billboard is about as unsubtle as it gets, the sheer low-budget, guerrilla-like feel of the whole ad makes it seem more subtle than flashy American PSAs on the same subject. The text accompanying the rear of the unfortunate dummy is difficult to see; it says "ЗДЕСЬ МОГЛИ БЫТЬ ВАШЕ ТЕЛО" -- "YOUR BODY COULD BE HERE." It doesn't even contain an admonishment not to drink and drive, so as far as viewers know it's just advising them to avoid launching themselves at billboards, or something. Then they drive past it, glance back, and see the front half of the dummy, still clutching a steering wheel...and, bizarrely, wearing a jaunty Santa hat.

Russian Mountains

Surprisingly, although Russia has extreme cold temperatures, there are relatively few mountains within the country. The Caucasus mountains sit along the souther border, and the Altai mountains to the east, but no significant range exists in the midlands. The majority of Russia is split between the tundra to the north, and the plains and forest which occupy the southern areas.

Russian Region Bans Valentine's Day Unit 6

The Russian region of Belgorod barred Valentine’s Day festivities in schools and government buildings, saying the western day of romance promotes promiscuity rather than true love.

Valentine’s Day promotes “amorousness rather than love,” said Grigory Bolotnov, a spokesman for the governor of Belgorod, southwest of Moscow. “It’s designed to swell the emotions, and you know what kind of teenage liaisons happen then,” he said.

Government-funded institutions were instructed to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day in any way, though private businesses and individuals are free to do as they please, Bolotnov said.

Popular western celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween are no longer “en vogue,” as they were after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Bolotnov said. A poll in 2008 by Moscow-based research group Levada Center found that 41 percent of Russians considered Valentine’s Day a holiday and celebrated it as such, while the same percentage said just the opposite.



Kara and Veronica's recording.

Russian dialogue unit 6

Unit 6 Russian Air Pollution

The soviet Union was not very considerate when it came to the environment in Russia. They believed that Russia's resources were so vast and their land so durable that they could simply dump whatever they wanted into the atmosphere. Not only do they have bad air and water pollution across the board, they also have serious nuclear waist issues and deforestation, let alone the soil pollution caused by the many gas leaks. In the 1990s alone it was reported that 231 out of 292 Russian cities were exceeding the limit for maximum permissible concentrations of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide(

It has been loosely speculated that Russians do not live very long. After discovering that they still use leaded fuel and have very few regulations on harmful emissions produced by industry. The epicenters of this pollution are, not surprisingly but unfortunately, the metropolises with the most dense population such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and numerous others. These cities all are considered to have unsafe air. As of 1993, industrial emissions accounted for over half of the 43.8 million tons of pollutants discharged into the air, cars accounted for another 19 million tons It is estimated that only 15 percent of Russian citizens breathe safe air.

This problem does not seem to be improving. In the 1990s when Russian transportation was largely commercial, it accounted for one third of the air pollution in industrial areas; this was mainly caused by shipping trucks. With increasing private ownership of vehicles, it seems only to be worsening. Even today Russian vehicles still operate on leaded fuel. This problem needs to be stopped. There needs to be a stronger system of regulation to ensure better air quality. At the rate that Russia is going it could very well be the most polluted country in the world.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lessons Learned from a Russian Music Video

First of all, let me say that this is the kind of song that gets stuck in your head and stays there. Proceed with caution. The music video is very entertaining, mostly because it’s a bunch of Russians trying to act tough. From what I’ve heard, these guys are to Russia as the backstreet boys are to the US.

Things to notice:

1. Eating habits. Mom cooks dinner and lays it all out on the table for the guests family-style.

2. The guests bring gifts, usually flowers, chocolate, etc.

3. Very little smiling (though I think this is supposed to be some kind of mafia/love triangle thing, which might explain it a bit. Still, Russian’s don’t smile. )

4. Men are strong and dominant

5. Squished apartments/crowded cities

6. Lyrics: not too happy with the government/society in general


Another catchy Russian song, just for fun. These guys remind me of the A*Teens:

Dialogue with Patrick:

Ekaterina Gordeeva Takes Your Questions

Well, I've come back to skating. I always come back to skating. I have a strange fascination with it, and I find Russian skater Ekaterina Gordeeva absolutely entrancing. So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this video on YouTube. I can't understand very much of it, and I had the help of a sketchy English translation while I was listening, but it's still fun. I've spent so much time listening to it that I figured I might as well use it as a blog post.

Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva Answers Questions
(If you're really that interested, you can follow this first part to the other parts.

And because you really should watch her skate...
(Just for fun)

Dialogue with Keri Dillet

What are you, a Russian spy or something?

If you watch ESPN (and know me at all) you can probably guess that I love this commercial. WELL, after watching it I noticed that Ovechkin distinctly says 'да' and they don't translate it. So, I asked Dr. Denner and with his help I figured out that Ovechkin says "чуть не спалились" which means 'we almost got caught' NOT 'too close.' Oh the little things you can catch when you understand a bit of Russian.

side note: The guy in the ceiling (Semyon Varlamov) is not very nice in person.

UNIT 6: Drinking Traditions

Here are many drinking traditions in Russia:
  • When you have alcohol, it must be drunk until it is gone.
  • One should not put a glass with alcohol back on the table.
  • Traditionally alcohol is poured out to all the people present, though they are not required to drink.
  • One should not make a long interruption between first and second shots.
  • The latecomer must drink a full glass (so-called "penal")
  • Outgoing guest must drink last glass, so-called "На посошок". Literally it is translated "On a small staff", really means "For lucky way".
  • As a rule, every portion of spirit is accompanied by a touch of glasses and a toast. Funeral and commemoration are exceptions; there the touch of glasses is forbidden.
  • It is not allowed to pour out by hand holding a bottle from below.
  • It is not allowed to fill a glass being held in the air.
  • It is considered bad luck to make a toast with an empty glass.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Prima Ballerina: Anna Sobeshchanskaya

This unit I will once more somewhat deviate from my composer themed blog posts and plunge into Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake to talk about it's prima ballerina, Anna Sobeshchanskaya.

First off it is important to mention that although Tchaikovsky's beloved (albeit ill-recieved during its time) ballet was written and meant for Madame Sobeshchanskaya, she was originally booted from its cast. Apparently Madame caused quite a scandal by accepting a jewelry from a government official before choosing to marry a fellow dancer and selling her gifts for cash. She was subsequently replaced as the “Swan Queen” by Pelageya Karpakova for its premier on March 4, 1877. (Side note: the man she lost her job over was allowed to retain his role as Prince Siegfried... how is that fair?!)

So you might be asking yourself, why is Sobeshchanskaya so important if she wasn't even at the premier?

By the fourth performance of “Swan Lake”, Sobeshchanskaya was allowed to return to the stage: however, the prima ballerina was very unsatisfied with the presented with the choreography. One of the critics had the following to say about the original choreographer, Julius Reisinger's, work.

"Mr. Reisinger’s dances are weak in the extreme.... Incoherent waving of the legs that continued through the course of four hours - is this not torture? The corps de ballet stamp up and down in the same place, waving their arms like a windmill’s vanes - and the soloists jump about the stage in gymnastic steps. The designs were borrowed from other productions or made cheaply. Conceived by three different men, who did not work together, the result was a shabby and incoherent look.”

In order to salvage the ballet, Sobeshchanskaya went to St. Petersburg to seek the help of the illustrious choreographer Marius Petipa. She requested that he create a new third act pas de deux for her, which he did to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Tchaikovsky was obviously furious when he found out her plan to insert another composer's music in his score and after much debate he agreed to write additional music, basing it "bar for bar, note for note" on the Minkus music so that Petipa’s choreography could be retained. So thrilled was Sobeshchanskaya with Tchaikovsky’s composition that she requested an additional variation, which he composed for her. Indeed, this is the version that is played in modern productions.

Russian Apathy

My blog post for Unit 6 is about Russian apathy. According to the Moscow Times the only reason Russians aren't revolting along with the Middle East is because they just don't care. They reported that 85 percent of Russians think they aren't in a position to influence anything in the government. This political apathy is sad and perhaps reflected throughout the more Western parts of the world, which would explain why we don't immediately sympathize with active causes, such as that of the Egyptians.


Original Dialogue with Josh

Dialogue 4 on pg 184 with Josh

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meanings of Russian flag

The meaning of the current flag is:
white- nobility, frankness, generosity;
sky-blue - loyalty, honesty, irreproachability, chastity, faultlessness, wisdom;
scarlet- courage, magnanimity, love, self-sacrifice.

In the 19th century, the flag meant:
white- liberty, independence;
sky-blue - God Mother;
scarlet- sovereignty.
The colors themselves represent:
red= people,
blue= czar,
white= God. (picture of flag) (information)

Tuvan Throat Singers

While we were watching a video of Vladimir Vysotsky in class, somebody mentioned Siberian throat singers, planting the idea behind this blog post. Siberian throat singing, technically called Tuvan throat singing, is a unique vocal style in which the singer produces multiple pitches from the throat. This makes it sound like he (usually the singer is a man) is whistling and singing at the same time. It originated in what is today the Tuva Republic, located in Southern Siberia on the north side of the Mongolian border. The open landscape there allows sound to travel great distances, making the region conducive for this type of singing. For the historically animistic Tuvans, throat singing has a spiritual significance. The human imitation of sounds in nature represents the inter-connectedness of spirits and objects in nature.

Here's a video:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky is the most well known Russian author in the west. He was also well known as an essayist. Many of his works explore human psychology within the Russian society. His most famous work is Crime and Punishment . He also gave a speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin monument in Moscow on June 8, 1880.