Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unit 9 Ivan the 3rd

In the early years of the Russian empire, before the Russians could even be considered a legitimate force, they were an up in coming group of people in Eastern Europe called the Keven Ruse. They were starting to expand and even had a rather large capital, Moscow. However in 1237 a Mongolian clan called the Tatars invaded and took Russia over. Their rule remained firm until the uprising of Ivan the 3rd.
In 4162 Ivan declares himself Grand Prince of Russia and Marries into the Byzantine Family. He adopts their crest of the double-headed for Russia and calls Russia the third Rome. In 1472, before going to war with the oppressive Tatars, Ivan decides to give a new face to Russia. That face come in the form of the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Ivan's first attempt to construct this cathedral ended in disaster when a tremor struck Moscow in 1474 and knocked down what his men had been working on for months. Realizing that he needed professional help, Ivan called in a skilled Italian architect who was able to integrate Russian design with modern building technology to revolutionize Russian architecture.
Upon completing the Cathedral of the Assumption, Ivan decided it was time to take on the Tatars. The Tatars responded with great force but after months of fighting the Russians were able to liberate themselves from a regime that had occupied them for nearly three centuries. Ivan's victory opened the door for an age of vast Russian expansion and domination.

UNIT 8- Russian Dessert

My favorite part of a meal is dessert, so I would like to share with you a couple of traditional Russian desserts. A long time ago Russian desserts were called "zaedkami", that means "after-eaters", because they were served after the principal meal. Native Russian sweet dishes are kissel, compote, levashen (fruit pastila), sweet pirohi, baked apples and pears, fruit and berry preserves. Baba Romovaya cake recipe


3 ea eggs

5 oz flour

5 oz sugar --

Icing: 5 oz cherry juice

2 tbsp rum --

Sauce: 4 tbsp rum

2 ea yolks

8 oz cream

1 tbsp starch

Method: Beat up eggs with sugar with the mixer until there is foam. Stir in flour very gradually and make dough very quickly. Fill in the form half (the dough wil rise twice) with dough very very carefully. Grease the form abundantly with butter and sprinkle with flour. Close all windows and doors to avoid draughts otherwise "baba" will catch a cold". Put in a warm place, don't move it. As soon as the dough rise up to the top, bake in the oven (180C) until it is golden. It is very important to keep the form of "baba" after baking. Put upside "baba" in the form down on the paper until it is cold. Don't take it out of the form until it is cold. Mix rum with cherry juice in a large bowl and sink "baba" in this syrup. Beat up yolks with cream and starch, pour in rum. Put the mass on a "steam bath" (put a smaller pan with cream mass in a large pan with water) and bring to thickening. Pour the sauce over "Baba" before serving.

And here is another:

Sambouk from Plums recipe

Sambouk is a kind of mousse but it is thicker and made from berries with egg whites.


1 lb plums boneless

5 tbsp sugar

2 ea egg white

2 tbsp gelatin

Method: Bake plums a little and grate them. Make plum-water from the rest of plums and bones, strain it and dissolve in gelatin. Add sugar and egg whites in plum puree. Put the bowl with plum puree in the pan with cold water or ice and whip with mixer until there is foam. Volume must increase 2-3 times. Pour in gelatin carefully while whipping. Pour mass into moulds quickly.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Russian Music through the ages

I have grown to really enjoy Russian music throughout the time I've been studying the Language in University. These are two of my favorite songs, which also do well in showing the progression of Russian music over the years ('80s-ish to present)

This first one, by Editha Pyekha, is a really great song about youth and years gone by.

The second one, by the artist Velvet, is a current top 50 hit in Russia (as per

Jewish autonomous oblast

In 1934 in an attempt to divide the Soviet Union by its ethnicity, Stalin moved the ethnic Jews way out into the far east so that the Yiddish could practice their culture while staying inside the socialist system. However according to the 1939 soviet population census, there were only about 18,000 Jews, which only made up about 17% of the population. Today, Russian make up of the largest part of the population at about 90%, while ethnic Jews only make up about 2% of the population now. The administrative center is Birobidzhan, and the JAO borders China and the Khabarovsk Krai Amur Oblast.

Russian Racism

For this Unit I'm just posting a BBC article on racism within the world of Russian football. I think it's interesting that such a large diverse country such as Russia still has racism that is so prominent and obvious as fans acting out against players on popular football teams. Just goes to show that every country has flaws and even efforts to correct those flaws don't always work.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Swan Lake

Here is some music from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake:

Tchaikovsky composed "Swan Lake" in 1875, commissioned by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev. "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" were both unsuccessful in their first year. Tchaikovsky's music was considered too complicated and hard to dance to by conductors, dancers, and even audiences. "It wasn’t until after Tchaikovsky’s death that Swan Lake was revived. Much of the Swan Lake we know of today was a revision by the famous choreographers Petipa and Ivanov." (

The Red Army Choir

The Alexandrov Russian Army Twice Red-bannered Academic Song and Dance Ensemble (the Alexandrov Ensemble, for short) is a performing ensemble that serves as the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces. It is known internationally as the Red Army Choir or Red Army Chorus.

The ensemble is made up of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. The songs they perform range from Russian folk tunes to church hymns, from operatic arias to pop music.

They're a fun group to watch. You can find lots of clips on YouTube, but I decided to go with a -- less reverent -- clip for this blog.

Here is the Red Army Choir performing "Sweet Home Alabama" with Leningrad Cowboys, a Finnish rock band.

Фаддей Фаддеевич Беллинсгаузен aka Faddey Faddeyevich Bellinsgauzen

Faddey Bellinsgauzen is known as a Russian Naval hero and an explorer. In 1803 Bellinsgauzem Joined the Russian ship named Hope. This ship circumnavigated the world between 1803-1806, and discovered Antarctica and the first islands south of the Antarctic circle. Bellinsgauzens best known voyage was when Tsar Alexander the first sent a voyage to explore Antarctica and Bellinsgauzen was chosen to lead the team. The voyagers left in 1819 and discovered the Arctic mainland in 1820. On his return Bellingsgauzen rose to the rank of admiral in the Navy and eventually was the Governor of Kronstadt before dying in 1852.

Unit 8 post-Russia's response to Libya

New Approaches to Understanding a Former Enemy

A Times  article, mostly about the Fulbright Program and how the Russians study America (and not vice versa). Hannah Chapmann, a recent Stetson Russian Studies graduate is teaching in Gori, Georgia this year through the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant program. 

MOSCOW — For decades, American studies in Russia and Russian studies in the United States, were, at the heart of it, enemy studies.

Now, two decades into the post-Soviet era and two years after President Barack Obama promised to "reset" U.S. relations with Russia, these studies have broadened to include the environment, émigrés, Alaska and native cultures.

"I even see the reset as a symbol of this," said Yefim Pivovar, rector of the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

"What used to be known as American Sovietology in the past has also changed; it has different goals," said Mr. Pivovar, an expert on émigré history who was a Fulbright Scholar in 1993 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of the centers of Russian studies in the United States during the Cold War.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Of Love and Locks

If you visit a large city in Russia (such as Moscow, Petersburg) you’ll no doubt notice rows and rows of metal padlocks on bridges. This is a Russian marriage tradition in which couples hang locks on bridges as a symbol of a future long, stable marriage. It is common to see brides and grooms attaching locks with their names engraved on them to metal structures throughout the city. In Moscow, officials have created metal “lock trees” to hold these locks. Now, men dressed as “utilities workers” have begun following marriage processions, cutting the locks off bridges and other infrastructure. Still, it is common to see clumps of locks in smaller towns and less well-known areas of the cities. No word yet on whether these "utility workers" are causing any divorces in the Motherland.

Russia doesn't like the NHL...and I don't blame them.

To increase the fanbase and world recognition of the National Hockey League they've been hosting Premiere Games the past 4 seasons. In these game two NHL teams are sent to different cities in Europe (Helsinki, Prague, and Stockholm to name a few) to play in exhibition games.
For the 2011 Premiere Games the NHL hinted at the Washington Capitals (and their captain, Moscow native Alexander Ovechkin) playing the New York Rangers in St. Petersburg. This would have been the first game played in Russia for the program.
Unfortunately, negotiations between the NHL and the Russian KHL have fallen through and I can completely understand why. The Kontinental Hockey League is in a state of disarray. It is not financially stable and teams are consistently on the verge of folding. Why would they want to promote their biggest competitor when they are so vulnerable? They are also demanding more money than the NHL is willing to shell out.
I'm waiting for the day I see stuff like THIS happen in an NHL game, though!

Putin-Medvedev Split

The Russian response to the NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya has produced the first major public difference in opinion between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. When the first bombings began, following Russia's abstaining on the UN Security Council Resolution, Putin spoke angrily of the intervention. He compared it to "a medieval call to crusades". Hours later, Medvedev gave a news conference indirectly rebuked Putin, saying "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions which make essentially to a clash of civilizations, such as 'crusades' and so on." Even Russia's state run television reflected the conflict of messages. At first it spoke of the intervention as an attack on a sovereign state as a war over oil and arms deal. After Medvedev's speech, it then praised the intervention, showing Col. Quadaffi as a ruthless dictator and the rebels grateful to the West. According to the Economist, this split won't have much effect on future policy decisions - Putin is still running show. Still, it adds to the curious buildup of circumstances leading to the 2012 elections. Will Medvedev step out from the shadow? Will Putin let him? This new twist suggests Medvedev is trying to become his own man, but to what end?

Source: Economist

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The world's tiniest aquarium!!

I love miniatures. This guy, Анатолий Коненко, makes miniatures for fun and profit. He's done a lot of other stuff, including a tiny book (1 mm square), a tiny mousetrap (6 mm x 3 mm), a grasshopper-sized violin, and a caravan of camels that fit through the eye of a needle. The first two as well as this aquarium are all Guinness world records.

The aquarium holds 10 mL of water and actually houses three itty bitty baby zebrafish (Danio rario), which Анатолий places into the water using a teeny net that, presumably, he also made. Here's a video.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stetson graduate writes children's book... in Russian!

Michelle Cabrera, a graduate of Stetson's Russian Studies program in the late 1990s, is now working in Oregon and doing an advanced language track at Portland State. Read about Michelle here.   
Here's a video about her book. Check out how well she speaks Russian! 

The Russian Flagship Program from Portland State University on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christine Jackobson's blog...

it's great reading... give it a minute!

These Are Simply Children's Excuses

After reading Rachel's Blog about how nearly everyone she encounters smokes (very disconcerting since my tolerance for it has definitely decreased since being at school), I stumbled across this little video of children encouraging adults to quit smoking. It's really interesting and I even found the version with English subtitles. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Throat Singing

I first heard a Siberian throat singer on the History Channel a few months ago, but I never really took the time to learn more about it. It wasn't really explained in the program (and was actually more of a break in the documentary), so I figured that this blog would be as good a place as any to explore the practice.

To begin, throat singing involves the ability to produce two, or more, notes simultaneously; the higher notes are normally harmonic notes (similar to those on guitars) and the lower notes are simply referred to as fundamental tones. Some throat singers can also produce sounds resembling the chirping of birds, the beat of a horse's hooves, or the sound of a reindeer breathing.

People who have this ability produce multiple notes by applying tension to the vocal cords and the surrounding areas, such as the mouth and even the lungs. The tongue, however, is only used to change the resonance and shape of the mouth, rather than to produce the vibrations (and, therefore, the sounds). The harmonic notes mentioned above can be amplified by moving the tongue and lips, thus creating a smaller or larger space for the sound to resonate.

This form of vocalization is primarily practiced in Asia, but also occurs in regions of South Africa, Northern Canada, and Greenland. A more precise list includes Tibet, Tuva (essentially southern Russia), Khakkasia (a republic east of Tuva), Bashkortostan (located in southwest Russia), Mongolia, and the Chukchi peoples of Northern Russia.

The latter group originally used throat singing to represent the breathing of reindeer, as mentioned above. However, scholars are uncertain when the practice began, or if the tribes were influenced by people from neighboring countries and regions.

In most of these groups, throat singing is practiced by men, especially in Tuva and Mongolia. Women of the South African Xosa tribe are one of the few exceptions.

Side Note: There are approximately 15,000 Chukchi in the world. The word Chukchi is derived from Chauchu, which actually means "rich in reindeer." The religious practices of the tribe were prohibited by the Soviet Union until the 1920s and, after the dissolution of the USSR, their farms were reorganized. This essentially destroyed the village-based lifestyle and economy of the region.
(Source: Wikipedia - Chukchi People)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ах ты зрячий!

This man is deeply concerned about the acuity of your vision...

Friday, March 4, 2011


And no, I don't mean "мать", the lovely maternal word we all know and love. "Мат" (apparently also known as матерщина or матерный язык) is the term for the wide array of Russian profanity and foul language. I won't post any directly here, nor will I post links directly to a website; we all know that if you wanted to learn such things, it's only a short Google-search away. While I do not encourage swearing in any way, shape, or form, it is my personal philosophy to be generally aware of what is (and what is not!) socially acceptable to say or to have said to you.

According to certain Internet encyclopedia sources, мат is "censored in the media and ... in public constitutes a form of disorderly conduct, punishable under article 20.1.1 of the Offences Code of Russia, although it is only enforced episodically, in particular due to the vagueness of the legal definition." Even so, it seems to find use with Russians of all ages and social groups. And as we learned in 202 recently, these colorful words apparently find their way into Russian humor just as they do in our own English.


In Yuzhno-Kurilsk, caviar poaching is serious business

Or, rather, cracking down on caviar poaching is serious business. EnglishRussia features a series of photos of the probably-haunted town of Yuzhno-Kurilsk, as well as a series of photographs depicting officials dumping poached caviar into a trench, pouring in a few gallons of gasoline (or possibly kerosene, this is Russia after all) and lighting it on fire.

According to the article, the caviar was "deemed inedible," probably because it was procured illegally more than anything else. The environmentalist in me feels like the situation was not handled in the most responsible of ways, but the 14-year-old in me also thinks this picture looks freaking awesome:

See all the pictures of Yuzhno-Kurilsk and the burning of the caviar here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Russian Ark Film

The film, “The Russian Ark”, directed by Alexsandr Sukorov, is a wonderful story based around the Russian State Hermitage Museum. The film is in a very strange style, with only one camera shot comprising the whole of the viewtime. At first, it was quite unsettling; I must admit that I felt a bit like Sartre’s characters in his play, “No Exit”, with the ability to blink having been taken away from me. After a while, however, the story makes use of this style of cinematography and uses it to add to the feeling of confusion that one can feel in sympathizing with the main character. Something that I still can’t get my mind around is the tremendous amount of effort it must have taken to put the film together, as all 800-something actors would have had to know their parts completely perfectly for each take, having only one chance to get their part right before having to start all over again.

One is introduced after a while to the Marquis, or the European as he is referred to by the main character, nameless himself. The Marquis is a sort of time-travelling character, ageless and wise. Excuse my science-fiction reference, but he reminds me of the Doctor, from Doctor Who, fumbling through time and space, alas all alone. The pair walk through the corridors of the museum, travelling also through time as they meet various characters in Russian history, such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas. As the film progresses, one learns the opinions of the Marquis, being himself all too ready to reveal them. His character develops until the very end, when he refuses to go on with the main character past a ball and out of the museum, showing that he is entrapped in the affairs of history to such an extent that he might not be able to bear normal existence outside of the museum walls. In this, he reminds me of Mr. Dorrit from the Dickens novel, afraid to walk outside of the prison walls in which he has lived for years.

All in all, this was a wonderful film which I would recommend that anyone watch. It was truly enjoyable and I know I’m watching it again!

UNIT 7, Decorated Eggs-pysankas

The tradition began when Mary gave the emperor a humble white egg, as was custom to give gifts, saying, “The Christ has risen!” The emperor expressed his disbelief, “Nobody can rise from the dead ….. this is as hard to believe as it is to believe this egg can turn red!” At once the egg became red, and since that time eggs serve as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, the victory of life over death.

The tradition to paint eggs in the Ukraine dates back to pagan times when people performed magic rituals connected with nature awakening each Spring. After Christianity was introduced into the Ukraine, the tradition continued, assimilating magical beliefs from the past. Ukrainians believed that blessed eggs could help to put out fire or to find lost cattle.

Traditional Ukrainian eggs or pysankas are painted on birds eggs using hot wax. First, the wax is laid on the egg by means of a small metal tube with a wooden handle, making a contour. Then, an egg is dipped into one color, again covered by wax in parts which should preserve that color and then put into another color. When the egg painting is finished, the egg is warmed to melt the wax. Each color and pattern has different meanings.


Russian Tutoring Hours

Monday 2:00-5:00
Tuesdays 2:00-4:00
Fridays 9:00-11:00

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Unit 7 Tetris wade invented by a Russian!

  • "Korobeiniki is a famous Russian folk song that tells of an incident between a peddler and a girl 'haggling' over a price, with the details only being said in metaphor.
  • In western culture, the song is primarily known for being used as the "Type A" music in the Game Boy version of Tetris. However, Korobeiniki was written and published in 1861, a full 128 years before Tetris was released on the Game Boy.
  • Tetris is a puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released on June 6, 1984 while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game's pieces, known as Tetrominoes, contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov's favorite sport.
  • The song "Korobeiniki" is based on a poem with the same name by Nikolay Nekrasov, written and printed in the Sovremennik magazine in 1861. Due to its increasing tempo and the dance style associated with it, it quickly became a popular Russian folk song.
  • Nekrasov's poem is a sad story about the love between a peasant girl, Katya, and a young peddler. They meet each other in a rye field at night where he has promised her a good deal on the goods he carries, before they are sold in the market during the day. Only the night knows what happens between them in the rye field, but she is not so simple and does not take any of the goods which he offers her. What is the point, she figures, to have all that without him—her first and only love? She takes only a small turquoise ring, as a memory, and he promises to marry her when he comes back from his commerce trip. He continues his journey and she waits for him with caution. His business goes very well and he makes a lot of money, but on the way back he is killed and robbed by a forest ranger who he asks for directions. So he never comes back to marry Katya. The song is only the very beginning of the original poem; it only recounts Katya's first meeting with the young peddler when their relation is getting off to a happy start.


Strategy-31 is a current Russian project designed to organize civic protests in support of the peaceful assembly guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian constitution. If you don't believe me, check out Wikipedia. Anyway, for every month that has a 31st day, the organization facilitates a peaceful protest at Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow in order to advocate for the Article's rights. This initiative began on July 31, 2009 with the "Choose health, be like us!" campaign. Other activities include a youth sports festival, a military sports festival, a "Pro-Kremlin" gathering, and a year ago they held a "Winter Amusements" festival. Each of these rallies has been disbanded by riot police and state police. As of January 31, 2010 the initiative has spread to more cities throughout Russia including St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, and Vladivostok. On August 31, 2010 the protests took place worldwide in cities like London, Tel Aviv, and New York City.

Joseph Bové

Joseph was a famous Russian neoclassical architect in the early 1800's. After the fire of Moscow in 1812 Joseph was put in charge of the approving new facade designs and enforcing the new master plan for Moscow. Some of his famous works included the Theatre square, and Red square.

Russian Yellow Cake Uranium Unit 7

It is a wide known fact that, next to the United States, Russia is in possession of the largest largest nuclear stockpile in the world. There have been significant measures taking by the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of their warheads. However, Russia's system for disposal and storage of this nuclear material is not as efficient and secure as many of us would like. In fact, some of the yellow cake uranium (the kind used for nukes) can be accessed by simply breaking a padlock on an old chain-link fence and walking across an open field with no concern about detection.
Although there have been no successful attempts for terrorists to access or build a nuclear weapon yet (that we know of), there have been many close calls and many seizures of yellow cake uranium that were purchased on the black market. Every one of these seizures has been traced back to Russia (Countdown to Zero). Although Russia has managed to somewhat limit the smuggling of this nuclear material through border checks, it is apparent that they cannot control it. Who could blame people for trying to make a quick fortune when it is as easy as walking into an old shack and taking a few kilos (about the size of a football) of the most potentially dangerous substance in the world? Not to mention the fact that an amount that small, if concealed in a led container, is less detectable than any drug.
Not only is this material very lucrative and destructive to human life but it is also harmful to the environment. Uranium is highly radioactive; it has a variety of adverse effects on the environment and it decays very slowly. The United States has a sophisticated system of storage and transport of nuclear waste and we still consider ourselves at risk. Russia literally has uranium sitting in old northern ship yards and in military bases that are located in cities. Not only is this bad for citizens' health and the environment, but if an accident were to happen, it would be the end of the line for anything within at least five miles of the blast! Not to mention the health problems caused from the ensuing nuclear fallout.
Russia needs a change. They need to develop a secure and efficient system for disposal and storage of nuclear waste. The last thing anybody needs is for terrorists to develop nuclear technology or for a terrible accident to wreck the population and further damage the environment for decades to come.