Saturday, October 27, 2012

Народные Русские Сказки

Народные Русские Сказки, or Russian Folk tales, is a collection of various Russian fairy tales put together by Russian folklorist, Alexander Afanasyev. Afanasyev is sort of the Russian equivalent to the German Brother's Grimm. Some of these fairy tales have been retold and adapted into our culture... for example The Princess and the Frog. The Russian style of the story usually differs quite a bit. In these stories, there are some reoccurring characters like Koschei the immortal, Baba Yaga, and Vasilisa the Beautiful. I could not figure out after reading them, however, if these are really reoccurring characters throughout the stories, or if these names like Vasilisa are just common names that are used in several stories. Either way, the set of stories is an interesting read, as are most European folklore. Also, there is a ton of Russian art work dedicated to some of these stories that are really very cool. 

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)
This is a painting of Koschei the immortal. He is risen from the dead by wizards on a mission to save Marya Morevna.


  Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)
"The Princess who never smiled" was about a shallow princess that could be pleased by nothing. Her father promised her suiters that whoever could make her laugh or smile would be her husband.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Russian Church Architecture: the Onion Dome

One of the most distinctive features of Russian church architecture is the onion dome.  Historians debate the origin of the onion dome's popularity in Russian church architecture.  Some claim that the dome emerged after the Russian conquest of the Khanate of Kazan during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and thus was inspired by Islamic architecture.  Others claim that Russian churches had onion domes as early as the 13th century.  The purpose of the onion dome also is not clear.  Some propose that it emerged as a functional solution to alleviate snow buildup on the church's roof while others claim that its aesthetic purpose is to make the church appear taller.  Further along aesthetic lines, some claim that the onion dome on top of a drum or tower is meant to resemble a burning candle.

Check out these golden domes on the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin:

And these colorful domes on St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow:

The onion domes on top of this church at the Taize ecumenical community in France are reported to have been added after the fall of the Soviet Union as a symbol of welcome to and reconciliation between the constituent states of the fallen Soviet Union:

Political Extremism in Russia: The National Bolshevik Party

Political extremism in the Russian Federation is nothing new. The modern Communist Party (Коммунистическая партия Российской Федерации) is the second largest party after Putin's United Russia (Еди́ная Росси́я), but this anachronistic party is not enough for many on the extreme left. One party that seeks to fill that void is the National Bolshevik Party (Национал-большевистская партия). The party combines what at first glance one would find as otherwise contradictory symbols, terms, and beliefs. Despite being banned repeatedly and not being officially registered as a party, the NBP is not limited to merely Russia; in fact, it has expanded out towards other Slavic countries, Greece, and even the United States. It has been criticized as not being a piece for legitimate political action, and for the sexualization of its female members.

The party's flag is that of the traditional Soviet hammer and sickle, sans star, featured on a white and traditionally red (extremely recently in Russia, sometimes black, reflecting a shift to a "national anarchism" ideology) flag -- reminiscent as some sort of bizarre mix of Soviet and Nazi symbolism. It is not merely on a superficial level that the movement seems contradictory. Despite wishing to "keep Russia Russian", the party advocates a Eurasian union, and states that they are neither racist nor xenophobic. Indeed, despite the symbolism and the name, the party is decidedly towards the left, breaking away from its nationalist right-wing allies in the year 2000. A splinter group arose using the party's former name of the National Bolshevik Front, but it has failed to rise to the level of the NBP. 

Although the movement behind the party has its roots in the beginning of the Soviet Union, its founder and leader Eduard Limonov (Эдуард Лимонов) is essentially the sole mouthpiece behind it. The journal, "Limonka (Лимонка)", regularly criticizes the Russian government, particularly Putin. Limonov emigrated to the United States during the Soviet era, and it was there that he was introduced to radical left wing politics and the punk subculture. Despite criticism and brief periods incarceration, along with the party being repeatedly banned, Limonov has kept the party going. The NBP was an important player in the opposition coalition known as "The Other Russia (Другая Россия)", and briefly attempted to reform as a new party with the same name, only to be denied registration. 

The NBP has undergone criticism that, outside of a few intellectuals, it is mostly a gang of young, disaffected and alienated hooligans dressed in punk and fascist-chic. Most of its prominent members are journalists (in a very loose sense of the word) and artists. The NBP has regularly conducted riots that are more typical of anarchist black-bloc tactics seen in the western world, and has continuously disrupted what it sees as false democratic processes. Limonov denies this as mere ad hominem attacks.

          Other criticisms of the NBP include its use of propaganda, typically involving young, attractive women. The more extreme propaganda will not be featured here, but it is readily discoverable, typically featuring full or partial nudity. Again, Limonov denies this as an ad hominem attack, and states that he is not in control of what goes where, especially given the party's massive size.

          Time will tell if conditions in Russia improve. Until then, actions such as banning extremist parties not only seem to fail, but have the opposite effect of energizing their cause. The NBP's membership has exploded every time attempts are made to ban it. Although currently operating also as "The Other Russia" in an attempt to move beyond its former image and become a respectable party, The Other Russia was, as previously mentioned, denied registration; abroad, the NBP image remains active, and Limonov keeps one foot in the door with the NBP. Time will tell if the NBP in Russia ever actually becomes a party, and whether it becomes a politically powerful force. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Russian Football- Perfect Record in World Cup Qualifications

On Wednesday October 14, the Russian football maintained the perfect record for the qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Prior to this last game, Russia recorded wins over Northern Ireland, Israel, and Portugal. This last victory was an important one over Azerbaijan. Not only has the football team made it through the first part of qualification undefeated, but they have managed to also not yet let up a goal. Russia has scored a total of 8 points over the course of these four games without letting in any-a huge accomplishment.

Another reason which makes this winning streak so impressive is that this is a new era in Russian football. After the failed Euro 2012 campaign, a new coach, Capello, was hired. Along with Capello being brought on board, so were many new players. As noted from a sports article in Russia discussing the team, “The Italian coach [Capello] has commanded respect from Russian fans for getting results after a bold decision to dispense with a generation of players who many considered to be automatic choices”. A slew of starters were in fact cut from the team and replaced with a fresh new generation of players such as Dmitry Kombarov and Andrei Yeshchenko-which is proving to be beneficial to the team.

With such an amazing start to the season and bright outlook on the future will the Russian team be able to keep it up? Or are they simply running on beginner’s luck whose winning streak could end at any time. We will find out at their next big match against the United States on November 14.

Woolly Mammoth Discovered by Russian Boy

A young Russian boy from a nomadic family in Northern Russia stumbled upon what turned out to be what scientists are calling, “the mammoth of the century.” Russian scientists are claiming this mammoth found by an 11 year old boy to be the best preserved woolly mammoth found in over 100 years. Scientists, along with the help of employees of Sopkarga polar station spent nearly five days digging up the mammoth. It was an adult specimen with the full skeleton intact, as well as some of the internal organs, including the heart.  The mammoth was brought to the city of Dudinka, where it will later be transported to Moscow and St. Petersburg to further be studied. There has been talk of possibly cloning the animal and nicknaming it after the Russian boy who made the discovery, Zhenya.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It is common knowledge that Russians absolutely love their soups.  So much, that they have a bowl at every meal!  As we learned in a discussion in class, their use of soup could be equated to the American's use of a beverage. So upon further investigation I looked up a recipe for a famous russian cuisine - Borsch Soup ("grandma's favorite" apparently --- had to be good then, right?!) Common borsch ingredients are beets, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, meat, and a variety of spices, but the flavor comes mainly from the amount of time it is cooked. Specifically:

The  ingredients for the soup are as follows:
1-2 center cut beef shank (s)
1 beef soup bone
6 medium/large beets with greens2 lemons or lemon juice32 oz. sour cream (I use fat free)1/2 oz. fresh dill5-7 tsp. salt (taste as you go)1 onion, finely chopped8-9 quarts of water

As much as the Russians like their soups, they might even like their beets more. It could be assumed that they take pride in this vegetable because beets thrive in the cold. That relates to so much of the Russian culture! How they farm, how they make a living, how they create a lifestyle...Why wouldn't they take pride in it! 
I think what really tops off this soup is the use of the cream that is miked in as soon as it is poured (you can not go wrong with extra cream!)

All I have to say, is I'm for sure trying this soon! 

Anna Pavlova was born in St. Petersburg Russia in 1881. Her mother was not married at the time of her birth, and the identity of her father is not known. Her mother's second husband adopted her and thusly her last name is actually his. When she was little her mother took her to see a ballet, and it apparently became her life long passion. She was well known in her time for her dancing and is still an important figure in the ballet world. She was known for her interesting style, which did often violate the conventions of ballet. Her build was slightly off for ballet dancing at the time, but crowds really liked her anyway, and she became the favorite of her instructors. She is possibly best known for the role of the dying swan, which she portrayed beginning in 1905. She came down with pneumonia at the age of 49 and the doctors told her that the operation she needed would prevent her from dancing for the rest of her life. Deciding that she would rather be dead than not dancing, she refused the operation and died of pleurisy in 1939. Her remains have of course caused controversy, and no one really knows what she wanted.

Traditional Russian Dance

Traditional Russian Dance

Russian folk dance was and still is today an important part of Russian culture.
Traditional Russian folk dance has Slovenian and Tatar origins. Some of the first folk music appeared around the 10th century when the Slavic tribes moved into Russia. Overtime Russia witnessed various invasions from other countries. This caused a cultural mix of music and dance, which in turn helped develop Russian folk dances.

Typically theses early dances were performed by the lower class while the upper classes would watch the performers, rather than participate. Costumes were designed with great beauty and detail. Typically the clothing for the dances was based on specific events and holidays. The costumes would vary between different events. Folk dances continue to play an important influence in various sectors of Russian culture.