Friday, March 30, 2012

Brittany Ooman unit 8

Recent events in Russia have created a crisis for the ruling regime of Vladimir Putin. The large demonstrations following the fraudulent parliamentary election early last December, suggest that Russia’s presidential election in March will not go as smoothly as Putin had hoped. Putin will have to work hard to regain his authoritarian rule over the country and try to avoid further damage to his weakened regime.

First, when a country is faced with a domestic political crisis, leaders seek to point out an “external enemy to blame for internal problems”. Unfortunately this can manifest itself through military actions. The Russian regime has already spoken upon increase its anti-American rhetoric, as it has already done periodically throughout the last ten years. This time, this approach has not been very effective. Efforts by Putin to portray the demonstrations as a western conspiracy have largely failed.

It is still possible that Putin will pursue a more dangerous route by seeking to uphold his regime through conflict with one of Russia’s many neighbors. The most obvious target for this type of conflict is said to be Georgia, due to the brief war that was fought in 2008.

The U.S. has a long and mixed record of supporting democracy and human rights in Russia. The end of the Putin regime would be a great opportunity to pursue the next phase of this attempt; however, the U.S. no longer has the resources needed to commit fully to building democracy in post-Putin Russia, should it come to that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Queens College

Greetings! Two weeks ago I went to Queens College in Queens, New York where I auditioned to become a Graduate student there for a Masters Degree in Orchestral Conducting. Whilst I was walking around the corridors and hallways I happened upon this most fortuitous poster. I was very excited by the sheer coincidence of my last blog post and this poster. I am also most excited that Queens can offer great guest artists such as Yevtushenko to their music students! I am also quite excited because I have official been accepted to the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mila Kunis

Mila Kunis tells off some reporter in Russian. It's kind of funny, even if it was slightly uncalled for. I just think it's cool that one of my favorite actresses speaks a language that I'm learning.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Song of The Volga Boatmen

A shanty sung by burlaks, or barge-haulers, on the Volga River. And like any other little shanty tune, it get stuck in my head and stays there for days.

(Poetic) English translation

Эй, ухнем!
Эй, ухнем!
Ещё разик, ещё да раз!
Эй, ухнем!
Эй, ухнем!
Ещё разик, ещё да раз!
Разовьём мы берёзу,
Разовьём мы кудряву!
Ай-да, да ай-да,
Aй-да, да ай-да,
Разовьём мы кудряву.
Мы по бережку идём,
Песню солнышку поём.
Ай-да, да ай-да,
Aй-да, да ай-да,
Песню солнышку поём.
Эй, эй, тяни канат сильней!
Песню солнышку поём.
Эй, ухнем!
Эй, ухнем!
Ещё разик, ещё да раз!
Эх ты, Волга, мать-река,
Широка и глубока,
Ай-да, да ай-да,
Aй-да, да ай-да,
Волга, Волга, мать-река
Эй, ухнем!
Эй, ухнем!
Ещё разик, ещё да раз!
Эй, ухнем!
Эй, ухнем!

Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Now we fell the stout birch tree,
Now we pull hard: one, two, three.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Now we pull hard: one, two, three.
As the barges float along,
To the sun we sing our song.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
To the sun we sing our song.
Hey, hey, let's heave a-long the way
to the sun we sing our song
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Volga, Volga our pride,
Mighty stream so deep and wide.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Volga, Volga you're our pride.
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Russian superstitions

Some supersititions that are different that are done in Russia:

- On examination day, it is bad luck to make your bed, wear anything new, or cut your fingernails.
- If one person accidentally steps on another person's foot, it is common for the person who was stepped on to lightly step on the foot of the person who stepped first. It is said that they thus avoid a future conflict.
- It's good luck to trip on your left foot.

Some "Cause and Effect" superstitions:

- If your ears or cheeks are hot, someone is thinking or talking about you.
- If your right eye itches, you're going to be happy soon. If your left eye itches, you'll be sad.
- If your lips itch, you'll be kissing someone soon.
- If you wear clothes (such as an undershirt) inside out, you will get beaten. Your friend should point this out, wait for you to fix the clothes and then punch you symbolically.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Deanna Wotursky blog unit 7

Although the date of the collapse of the Soviet Union is clear, its much less clear if the weaknesses of the Soviet Union as a whole or the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would have to argue that the Soviet Union didn’t collapse just because of Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership from 1985 to 1991.The instability of both the agency and structure before his leadership, along with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika plan lead to the overall failure of the Soviet Union. In readings from the class, some authors argued that if he wasn’t the leader, the Soviet Union would have persevered longer without the leadership of Gorbachev, but would inevitably fail in the scheme of things. The perpetual structural factors are key to forecast the collapse, meanwhile the short term factors stem from Gorbachev’s optimistic reforms. Gorbachev had to restore structure through his agency, not that Gorbachev’s agency alone, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. These long term factors in need of reform include an economic overhaul, a political type of legitimization, and a fight against corruption. He had to initially pick up the pieces of the failing structure.
Under the leadership of Brezhnev there was a type of stagnation, where the agency wasn’t providing a growing structure to keep up with society. A prime example would be the weakened economic structure of the Soviet Union, in the 1970’s particularly. Gorbachev’s perestroika called for a more open market, for example foreign trade became more accessible to companies. With all these failing structural factors that occurred under the agency of Brezhnev, Gorbachev as an agency had to pick up the pieces. In a slightly abstract analogy, one could say Gorbachev’s leadership resembles Obama’s in the way that Obama is attempting to restore a system previously convoluted by previous presidential leaderships. Therefore, the blame of the collapse of the Soviet Union can’t be entirely blamed on Gorbachev’s leadership.
When Gorbachev took to office, his main initiatives were aimed to renovate the party and the political system through perestroika. A main factor that contributes to my argument is how society skeptically started to view the ever weakening Soviet Union structure. The regime promised their structure of society, socialism, was superior to western structures. External impact of western cultures under previous leaderships made soviet society question the legitimacy of soviet socialism. Gorbachev attempted to restore this with new political plans aiming at democratization on a low scale. For example, he added multi-candidate elections and a new “Congress of Peoples Deputies”.
I am not arguing that Gorbachev’s leadership didn’t have any fault in the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was a reformer, and with that came risks to his plans, but maybe the system wasn’t reform able? Perestroika and Glasnost were an honest attempt to restore legitimacy of the state that was being questioned. Past leaderships left the structure of the Soviet Union in a crisis and Gorbachev’s plans weren’t able to restore the state.
Russians have been named world's second rudest nation in a poll carried out by an international travel search website, while the French people took first place in the bad manners competition.   

I don't know if I agree, though it's true that Russians can be quite brusque. It's also true that, when on vacation, Russians can be unruly and not always terribly aware of other cultures' expectations for propriety. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ivankiad and Soviet Society

The Ivankiad and Soviet Society
            In The Ivankiad, many different elements of life within Soviet Russia are articulated through the various descriptions and events that unfold in Vladmir Voinovich’s account. One essential element is the corruption that pervaded the comprehensive bureaucracy of the Soviet party and state system. In the story, Voinovich was attempting to move into a two-room apartment with his pregnant wife, but Sergei Sergeevich Ivanko who was an editor for the Writing Bureau tried to use his connections to get the apartment for himself. Now, months before this confrontation happened, Voinovich was granted the next two-room apartment that opened up by the assembly, but the next apartment that opened up happened to be next to the four-room apartment of Ivanko. Ivanko wishing to expand his apartment so that he could fit all his American goods like the “toilet” used his sway with the Chairman Turganov of the Writers’ Housing Cooperative in order to try and get the apartment. The Chairman then uses his powers to try and stop Voinovich from gaining the apartment in exchange for having one of his books published by Ivanko. After this fails, the Chariman and Ivanko continue to appeal to several different people in order to take away Voinovich’s right to the apartment. Voinovich who is not as well connected ends up moving into the apartment without the Board’s approval and is then summoned by the Public Prosecutor where he is finally allowed to stay in the apartment after another vote by the assembly. What this story goes to show is how corrupt the whole Soviet bureaucratic system was with Ivanko using his abilities to publish books as leverage and various other people abusing their positions of power for their own selfish gain.
          Another important aspect is the Soviet society and economy. In comparison to the United States, their possessions were simple, and their standard of living was low. Ivanko who was the story’s “hero” brought back several things from the United States including a very nice toilet. The description that Voinovich provides of the toilet and the other goods sheds a light on the greed of Ivanko and the materialistic culture of the West. In addition to this, Voinovich touches on the inefficacy of the laws in the Soviet Union, which Ivanko and his colleagues paid little to no attention to. They had no honestly no right to keep Voinovich from his apartment as the vote by the assembly was legitimate and correct, but they disregarded the vote saying that there was not quorum or relatives were voting in the cooperative. Soviet society consisted of written laws that were seldom obeyed and unwritten laws that everyone followed but one openly supported. Much like the economy, the Soviet system in Russia was built partly on legal principles and partly on black-market norms.

Russia on the moon

this article gives a look at Russia's space program, and its upcoming plans which had previously been cancelled when the Soviet Union lost the US-Soviet space race, when Armstrong landed on the moon 60 years ago. This could lead to interesting developments and who knows might make the US renew our programs as well.

A very good short film by Otar Iosseliani, an often overlooked peer of Tarkovsky. If you have an interest in Soviet film or film in general you should familiarize yourself with his work.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Corrine Garwood YPOK 7

As I was wondering what in the world I could write about that might top everyone elses, I thought of Russian legends. Never in my wildest dreams did I think to come across the Russian story of BIG FOOT. Here are two accounts, one extremely hilarious and the other slightly horrifying.

unit 7 post brittany ooman

Brittany Ooman
Unit 7
Russia and China
Back Syrian Government
“What is the
difference between democracy and sovereign democracy? It’s the same difference
between a chair and an electric chair.” –This is a common joke Russians repeat
about Putin’s “sovereign democracy” in today’s day in age. Currently the
country of Syria is a war zone between the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and
its people. Assad has already killed over 6,000 people and is continuing to
grow anywhere from 30-100 people a day. Russia currently has armed dealer
contracts with Syria worth up to $6 Billion dollars which means that Russia is
providing Syria the weapons they are using to murder its people. Almost the
whole world is opposed to this ideal excluding Russia, China, and Israel; three
of the countries that carry the world’s most destructive weapons. Although there
are no laws saying that Russia is in the wrong, doesn’t morality play a more
important role in the issue?


The link above is a description of the events the collectively make up the Russian celebration of Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is a Russian Orthodox holiday similar to Mardi Gras. Like most Christian Holidays it has origins in a pagan celebration of the end of winter. The holiday is a weeklong celebration that is meant to be the last celebration before the horror that is Orthodox Lent. As soon as Maslenitsa ends, Religious Russians (of which there still are a few) must fast and give up meat, dairy, and fish for forty days.

However, they have a week to go crazy beforehand, and so they do with pancakes, and other traditional Russian foods. Of which, one Russian food, Blin is a traditional staple. Blin is essentially a crepe, and for all those that want to make it here is a fun recipe:

2/3 cup warm milk
½ tsp honey
1 pkt dry yeast
2 tbl melted butter, cooled
½ cup flour, plus 2 tbl flour
1/4-cup-buckwheat flour
1 pch salt
2 eggs, whisked together
1 potato, cut in half
vegetable oil or butter for frying

Preparation: Combine milk, honey and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk together and let stand until foamy. Stir in cooled butter. In a separate bowl combine the flours, salt and baking powder. Make an indentation in the center of the dry mixture and stir in liquid mixture, slowly, until blended. Without stirring vigorously, blend in whisked eggs just until combined. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Cooking: Heat a thick-bottomed skillet (or a blini, crepe, or plett pan) over medium-high heat. Dip the halved potato in oil, or coat with butter and grease the pan lightly (this is the traditional way, a paper towel or oil brush may also be used). Pour some batter in the pan. Some chefs use a special "blini roller" to spread the batter evenly and paper-thin, otherwise, move the pan while pouring to help spread the batter, or make very small bliny, which will be able to spread themselves (use about 1 tbl.). When the blin is golden brown on its underside (should happen in under 1 minute), flip over and brown the other side. Repeat.

Presentation: Blini are remarkably versatile and may be served with nearly anything from caviar to salmon to cottage cheese to sour cream to jam to honey. Place your filling in the center of the blin. For larger blin, fold once in half, then thrice lengthwise to form a small triangle.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yay for Russian science.

Russian scientists have managed to revive an ice age flower from seeds and fruit found in a frozen squirrel's burrow, which had been stuck in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years old. Really interesting stuff, check it out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Russian Ghosts

Household ghosts are so common in Russia that they have developed distinct classifications for them. Domovoi are domestic ghosts that tend to be nuisances or poltergeists but help out with chores if treated with respect. Domovikha are more quiet household spirits whose presence you can sense in certain rooms. The roads of eastern Russia is haunted by the ghost of Zorya Vechernaya, who can usually be seen at dusk driving a white chariot. The home of Josef Pisinger in Prague, Czechoslavakia, is haunted by the short ghosts of dwarves, while the Heidenreich House in Bucharest is haunted by the ghoul Bassarab, the sole survivor of the dynasty of Walachia, now a province in Romania. Vaso Miskin Street and the adjoining marketplace in Sarajevo, Bosnia, is haunted by the ghosts of innocent people slaughtered there, and the streets of Bijeljina are haunted by Mehmed, a Muslin killed by a Serbian strike force.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dasha Gauser. Весна-лето 2012

Here's another Russian designer that I've come across. Her name is Dasha Gauser and she started out in 2008 selling her clothes from her livejournal blog. From livejournal to Mercedes-Benz fashion week in Russia, she has come a long way. Here is her spring/summer collection for 2012.