Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unit 4, China and Russia

Lately the country of Japan has been at odds with both China and Russia with various land disputes. According to the article, the Kuril Islands or "Northern Territories" as Japan calls them are still being disputed by Russia and Japan. In fact it was interesting to discover that since World War Two Russia and Japan still yet have to sign a declaration of peace over the issue. China is also at odds with its neighbor Japan, due to a territorial dispute over the uninhabited but resource-rich Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyus in China. It was during a meeting between Russia and China that Putin approached the Chinese President with not only this similarity, but the similarity that both countries had stood together before and assisted in the defeat of Imperialist Japan. Both countries intend to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their victory over Fascism in 2015. This is to not only show their military strength, but to show that they are still powerful allies that have overcome a similar  adversary before.

Almost WWIII...........

Everyone should know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is, but in case you don’t it was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were the two super powers in the world at this time after WWII and it just so happened that American capitalism and Soviet Communism made for an unhappy living arrangement causing the world to be on high alert for WWIII. Most people though don’t know how close we came to fighting a nuclear war. The decision to abstain from war actually rested on one officer’s command.
He was the man who saved the world by single-handedly averting World War Three. At the height of the Cold War, when paranoia on both sides meant the slightest mistake could spark nuclear war, four submarines secretly set sail from Russia to communist Cuba.Only a handful of the submariners on board knew that their ships carried nuclear weapons with them, each with the strength of the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.
Vasili Arkhipov, aboard the sub B59, was one of them. As his craft neared Cuba, U.S. helicopters, aeroplanes and battleships were scouring the ocean for Russian subs. In a game of high stakes cat and mouse it wasn't long before the Russians were spotted. Arkhipov's sub was forced to make an emergency dive. As the submariners tried to stay hidden from their US hunters, conditions in the sub deteriorated. For a week they stayed underwater, in sweltering 60C heat, rationed to just one glass of water a day.

Above them, the U.S. navy were 'hunting by exhaustion' - trying to force the Soviet sub to come to the surface to recharge its batteries. They had no idea that on board the submarines were weapons capable of destroying the entire American fleet. The Americans decided to ratchet up the pressure, and dropped warning grenades into the sea. Inside the sub, the Soviet submariners thought they were under attack.
Valentin Savitsky, the captain of B59, was convinced the nuclear war had already started. 
He demanded that the submariners launch their torpedo to save some of Russia's pride.

The programme on Channel 5 revealed how in any normal circumstances Savitsky's orders would have been followed, and World War Three would have been unleashed. And although his men were against him, he insisted that they must not fire - and instead surrender. It was a humiliating move - but one that saved the world. The Soviet submariners were forced to return to their native Russia, where they were given the opposite of a hero's welcome.

Monday, November 25, 2013

With the 22nd 2014 Winter Olympics approaching, Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided that it is time that the Olympic torch be taken back to space. Yes, back. this will be the third time the torch has gone to space, once in 1996 and again in 2000. The only difference being is that this time, the torch will go on its first space walk. This is just one of the many stunts president Putin has done in an attempt to change the perception of Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union for the February 7th Winter Games. the shuttle took off November 7th and returned November 11th safely with Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano in Central Khazakstan.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A More Sporting Lifestyle

In Russia a new way to pay for subway tickets has been released. This is by doing squats. As payment for a one way trip on a subway you can do thirty squats in less than two minutes. This is opposed to about ninety cents you would pay for a normal ticket. Failing results in you having to pay for a ticket. There aren’t any participation points.

            This machine was installed for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Vystavochnaya subway station. Alexander Zhukov said “We wanted to show that the Olympic Games is not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but that it is also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle.” Along with these squats new ways are being developed to add a sporting element to Russian lifestyle in preparation for the winter games. They are currently working on exercise bikes to be able to charge a phone and other various electronic devices.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Presumed Innocent, but Caged in Court

Assessing the commonly criticized Russian judicial system 

      Russia has a history of being viewed as a corrupt in everything from Government to Economics - however, the Russian constitution seems to give fair rights to those convicted of a crime. At least, these rights are the impression one gets upon reading the constitution. Unfortunately, these preconceptions are shattered when one looks into the proceedings in a Russian courtroom, particularly the "lock docks" which have recently come under fire. 

The Russian band Pussy Riot, after protesting at a church, was charged with hooliganism and tried in a Russian court of law. Pictured above, the band is held in a metal cage in the courtroom during the trial. Does this image not lend itself to the idea these women have already been weighed, measured, and found guilty?

The Russian legal system places virtually all defendants in lock docks such as this one, defying the new age cultural norm of only restraining potentially violent criminals, and doing so discretely. The implications of such actions are two fold - defendants are presumed guilty when entering trials and justice is heavily obstructed throughout because of the process. “There is a joke,” Mr. Golubok said, “that in the cages, the defendants were like animals, and the glass cages are like aquariums; the defendants are fish.

Without the ability to communicate with one's client, how could one expect a coherent defense to be put together? The presumption of guilt is a fatal flaw in the Russian legal system and needs to be rectified if Russia can ever be expected to rise out of the global cries of corruption and fraud

US Currency

In Russia currently, the banks support US currency. You can trade this directly at banks without having to worry about the exchange rates and all the nuances that come with that. A poll went around 130 cities in Russia getting approximately 1,600 respondents with a 3.4 percent margin of error. The poll shows that one in every four Russians support the proposal to ban US currency from circulation and savings deposits. 39 percent wanted the currency to remain legal and 32 percent had no opinion. This poll was run by the state-run VTsIOM pollster because of a bill proposed by a state lawmaker last week.

40 percent of the 28 percent who wanted to ban the US dollar completed an elementary level of education. More than half of the opposing side were highly educated. This statistic alone shows how various education levels view every day decisions.

This bill was because of the belief that the dollar was on the brink of collapse and needed to protect the russian economy from an economic disaster. Whether or not this is the case, we will find out in time.

Orthodox Icons

The Russian Orthodox Church is very into icons. They are believed to be windows into heaven, a link to the divine on the mortal plane. The mosaics are unique in the way they seem dematerialized and abstract.The figures are often painted onto a golden background. It makes the image seem to flicker in the candle light. Halos are also commonly used in Orthodox icons. Also known as nimbus or  auroras, they surround saints, prophets, Jesus and Mother Mary. One of the reasons icons are so useful is they were used to teach the illiterate. Paintings, mosaics, and statues could communicate the stories of the bible quite well to those who couldn't read it for themselves.

Plane crash in Russia

A Russian plane crashed a day ago, killing the 50 people on board. The plane crashed seemed to be caused by losing control of the aircraft, earlier that day the pilot had trouble landing the plane and eventually lost control. The aircraft that crashed was a Boeing 737, and in the crash teams found the tape of the cockpit's recordings, which is a crucial piece of evidence when piecing together why the crash happened. The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee provided the teams to investigate the crash, The committee investigates crashes all over the former Soviet Union. They figured out that the crash was loss of control, but both pilots had sufficient experience, but not with second landings, which could have been the pilots' downfall.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I recently discovered that there are a number of buildings with crazy architectural structures created by Russians. The first of which being the crematorium in Kiev, Ukraine. Five crazy buildings that were actually made by Russians, not aliens

The second being the Central research institute of robotics and technical cybernetics, Saint Petersburg.

Five crazy buildings that were actually made by Russians, not aliens

The third being the The House of the Soviets, Kaliningrad.

Five crazy buildings that were actually made by Russians, not aliens

The forth being the Sports and concert complex "Amalir", Yerevan, Armenia.

Five crazy buildings that were actually made by Russians, not aliens

And the fifth being the Recreation and retreat centre Druzhba (Friendship) in Yalta, Ukraine.

Five crazy buildings that were actually made by Russians, not aliens

Although not all of these are located in Russia, they were all created by the imaginative minds of Russian architects.

Images can be seen on http://sploid.gizmodo.com/five-crazy-buildings-that-were-actually-made-by-russian-1468557202/@kcampbelldollaghan

The Fox says “привет!”

The Fox says “привет!”

Animal enthusiasts the world over are excited about an astounding new breakthrough in the domestication of the Siberian Fox.

An experiment, which was founded by scientist Dmitri Belyaev around the year 1959 as an attempt to explain the differences in fur between wolves and dogs, has succeeded in producing a relatively large species of the fluffy creatures with the benign temperaments of many modern pets... Sort of a hybrid between cats and dogs.  They can be taught tricks and commands (and, if purchased, will almost certainly come equipped with prior knowledge of the basics, to be dictated in your favorite Russian dialect). They eat anything from grain-free dog food to fruits and vegetables, or the occasional small rodent. The only real remnant of their past life is that they evidently hold-on to a ‘puppy-like’ energy, never outgrowing their energetic whims to play and chew.

On a more scientific note, the study is famed for supporting an “interplay between behavioral genetics and development”, which will assist future scientists  in deducing how already domesticated animals (such as pigs and cattle) evolved from their ancestors. The foxes experienced behavioral, morphological, and physiological changes as a result of their breeding and upkeep, resulting in a desire to socialize with humans, offspring increasingly prone to floppy ears, changes to the tail length, and a loss of the distinct “musky” odor that would typically label them as wild.

Anyone interested in purchasing one of these rare Russian foxes can do so for the bargain price of $8900 (shipping and handling included). They will, however, be sterilized before leaving the country to ensure the existence of only one genetically tame line.


Check it out, if you’re interested:




best tank of WWII?

Most people think that the Germans had the most technologically advanced and overall superior armored vehicles of WWII, well they would be wrong. My friends, say hello to the T-34 tank. This tank was the first of its kind to use slanted and angled armor, allowing incoming firepower to bounce off the tanks thick armor and allow the tank to continue its brutal assault of the Rhineland. This tank was so easy to manufacture that at the height of WWII, 1,300 of these panzer-eaters would be made in a single month. Although they were outmatched in range and firepower by the Tiger and Panzer tanks (but not by much) they were so reliable that tank commanders sometimes wouldn’t even give the order to fire a round. Not fire? Why would anyone not shoot in a tank battle? Well this tank was so devastating and trustworthy that if you wanted to, you could just drive right through any tank, wall, building, well anything that got in your way. The T-34 was a machine that was built to last and ready for punishment, sometimes coming right out of the factory to the battlefield. Just another advantage the USSR had in WWII.

Here’s what 
the Military Channel has to say on the subject:


Pussy Riot!

     Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow. They were founded in August of 2011 and consist of about 11 women, ages ranging from 20 to 33. Their choice of clothing is interesting, they wear bright colored dresses, bright colored tights and brightly colored balaclavas which is also known as a ski mask. During interviews about their cause, they only use nicknames such as "Balaclava," "Cat," "Seraph," "Terminator," and "Blondie". All of their music involves issues of feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator, and links between the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin. Mostly I have found a great deal of opposition to Putin in their music; a song they wrote entitled "Mother of God, drive Putin away" was part of a protest movement against the re-election of Putin released in February 21, 2012. Also on that fateful day of February 21, 2012, Pussy Riot went to an famous Orthodox Church of Moscow and put on a short concert and called it "Punk Prayer". Three of the members of Pussy Riot were accused of hooliganism, all three were held without bail. In court, the three women were charged of "premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility". Pussy Riot said their protest was a political statement, but prosecutors said the band was trying to "incite religious hatred" against the Orthodox Church. The reasoning as to why the court thought this is because in one of their songs entitled "Putin Zassal", it states  "The Orthodox Religion is a hardened penis / Coercing its subjects to accept conformity" but I believe they wrote those lyrics because of the link Putin has with the Orthodox Church not just because they have hatred entirely towards religion. In the end, all three of the women were sentenced to 2 years in a penal colony by the judge. During the sentencing the remaining members of Pussy Riot who were not caught came up with the song called "Putin lights up the fire". "Putin lights up the fire" is about issues surrounding the case of the three members and among other demands, the lyrics requested that "Seven years [imprisonment] is not enough, give us eighteen!" Which goes to show these Russian ladies of Pussy Riot are insane, in a good way of course. I have linked the music video for "Putin lights up the fire," enjoy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tunguska Event

    The Tunguska event was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai,Russia, on June 30, 1908. Tunguska is the site of the largest-ever recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth. That blast is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons. No injuries were reported, but some 80 million trees over 830 square miles were leveled in the blast. Scientists calculated the Tunguska explosion could have been roughly as strong as 20 megatons of TNT, or roughly 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Dust from the explosion even hovered over Europe, reflecting light that was bright enough for Londoners to read at night by it! Because of the blast zone's remote location and the intrusion of worldly affairs (Aka WWI and the Russian Revolution), it wasn't until the 1920s that the first scientific expedition was sent to examine the area. Assuming that the blast had been caused by a falling meteor, the expedition expected to find a huge crater as well as pieces of the meteorite. They found neither. In the decades since this huge explosion, scientists and others have attempted to explain the cause of this mysterious event. The most commonly accepted scientific explanation now, is that either a meteor or a comet entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded a couple of miles above the ground (which explains the lack of impact crater). Over a hundred years later, the exact cause of the Tunguska Event still remains a mystery. However, if the blast was in fact caused by a comet or meteor entering the Earth's atmosphere, it poses the serious possibility that in the future a similar meteor could once again enter Earth's atmosphere, but this time land on a populated area. The result would of that be catastrophic!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Red Army and the "Great Patriotic War" (1941-45)

The Red Army and Stalin's "Great Patriotic War" 
("Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́" according to Russian Wikipedia)

In pursuing my senior research project this semester about the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the mentality of the men on the ground (foot soldiers, artillerymen, Panzer units, etc.), I have come across various interesting tropes and stereotypes about Russian Red Army soldiers, their motivations, and their structure. Beyond the well-known Nazi racial hierarchy (of which the Slavs were just one rung up the ladder from the Jews), there appears various institutional and cultural differences that together with propaganda and the general brutalization of an ideological war, combined to make the war in the Soviet Union one of the most brutal and ideologically charged battlegrounds of the war. (See Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front)
In studying the ideological biases of the common German soldier, (Landser) there exists a large variety of tropes, themes and linguistic hot-words that carry a highly ideological or historically significant weight; i.e. partisan warfare; dehumanization; brutalization; Russian Atrocity stories; German reprisals; etc. All of these themes are interesting in their own right, and have been studied intensively from the German perspective. As my paper broadly attempts to ask the question of "what motivated individual soldiers, and how inundated were they with Nazi ideology regarding these tropes?", I thought that I would delve into a summary glance at the work done for the Landsers' Red Army counterparts. 
German soldiers' stereotypes about "Ivan" (the least offensive nickname given to Red Army combatants) abound, but the most interesting pertain to exactly what I am studying in the German Wehrmacht: what was driving these soldiers' to battle and to do what they did? The German troops vary in their perceptions, but mostly land on a dichotomous view that the typical Russian soldier was a lazy, unmotivated, (mostly) sub-human bum who would just assume run away from the battle as fight in it, and who had no loyalty or ties to the "Jewish-Bolshevik regime" figureheaded by Stalin. The other figure that emerges is the political commissar of the Soviet Party, who is an ideological backbone for the troops, commanding absolute respect and terror as Stalin's representatives on the front lines. Later in the war these commissars and the other officers of the Red Army would be responsible for shooting droves of their own men if they retreated even a step - which led to thousands of self-inflicted Russian deaths.  These two figures are representative of most German soldiers' perception of the Russian Red Army, but are obviously a very one-sided understanding of the Red Army from an entirely antagonistic point of view. Meanwhile, public discourse in Russia and the former Soviet Republics has largely been silent as regards critical analysis of the war with the Nazis. It has broadly (from what I can find) remained the official party story of a "Patriotic war" against the evil Nazis, and critical scholarship regarding the Red Army's atrocities in the war has been largely dismissed or argued against with the same justifications that the Nazis used for the mass murder of Russian civilians. The historical research of Rodger Reese, who did a study of the Red Army's motivations in 2011, sheds more light on the issue, and he concludes that there were (no surprises) many different motivations of Russian soldiers, in most cases the same spread of motivations that are ascribed to German and indeed any other military force in modern history. This also raises questions about propaganda and public memory in general, but of course in the former Soviet Republics in general. (This has already come up extensively regarding Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian Nationals and their involvement in Holocaust Perpetration, but regarding the national "heroes" and mythical status that surrounds military units, it has gone largely unnoticed in the public eye (from what I can find online, anyways). 
Some takeaway points of this overly lengthy and verbose post are:

  1. The questions that have been applied to German and other Western forces during the Second World War are only now being able to be asked of the Soviet Red Army, with interesting and exciting implications for the future of historical research into Stalin's Russia in the years to come. 
  1. Stereotypes made by the German troops (which were largely accepted by Western powers after the war) are not enough to explain and properly treat the motivations of Red Army soldiers. 
  1. The Red Army was if anything, a much more complex and interesting conglomeration of different ethnicities and people groups that were tugged and torn to pieces in what Timothy Snyder has deemed the Bloodlands (also a great book. If you need reading over winter break, consider it a great overview of the horrors that took place in the nations between Russia and Germany that were repeatedly brutalized in the 20th century).
  1. the interpretation of history within the tunnel vision of "victor's justice," or a "Great Patriotic War" can lead to some extremely distorted views of history, and should serve as an exemplar to those people who want to continually interpret history through the lens of their own self-aggrandizement (ahem -'Murica)
  1. Finally - Historians were really happy  continue to be slap-happy about the mass of sources now available in the formerly locked-down Archives of the Soviet Bloc.

This was only tangentially related to my senior research, but if you are interested in hearing me present the (mostly) completed project, I will be doing so along with my senior research class on December 6th between 2 and 6pm (I'll probably be around 4:30). 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Russian Christmas Music

Russian Christmas Music by Alfred Reed was a piece that was written in 1944 for symphonic band. Reed was commissioned to write a Russian piece of music for a concert in Colorado. The goal in doing so was to improve Soviet-American relations. Originally Prokofiev's March, Op. 99 was to be preformed but it was soon discovered, 16 days before the premier, that it had already been played within the United States. This is when Reed was asked to write a new piece, and it was premiered on December 12, 1944 on nationally-broadcasted NBC radio. 

Although Russian Christmas Music consists of only one movement, it can be readily divided into four sections:

  1. The opening section, Carol of the Little Russian Children (mm. 1–31; approx. 3 minutes), is based on a 16th-century Russian Christmas carol. It is slow throughout; after a quiet opening by the chimes, contrabass clarinet, and string bass, the clarinets carry the melody. The other voices join in, and the section ends with a series of chords.
  1. The Antiphonal Chant (mm. 32–85; about 2 minutes) is faster and louder, with the melody initially carried by the trombones, horns, trumpets, and cornets. The woodwinds join in, and the music becomes more and more frenzied until the section ends with a massive cymbal and tam-tam crash.
  1. The Village Song (mm. 86–165; about 5 minutes) is much gentler by comparison; the Cor anglais has two solos, with soli in the flutes and a solo in the horns at the end of each. The piece enters a time signature of 6/4; the band plays a series of cantabile two-bar phrases back and forth between the woodwinds and brass, with the string bass playing long strings of eighth-notes, which are passed along to the bells. The song becomes quieter again, and the section ends with another English horn solo.
  1. The Cathedral Chorus (mm. 166–249; about 5 minutes) starts quietly, as the end of Village Song, but a crescendo in the trombones andpercussion brings the rest of the band in majestically. The music builds to a climax, but then backs down for a final chorale in the woodwinds; the sound builds once again, and the piece concludes with a thundering chorale marked by liberal use of the chimes and tam-tam as well as soaring horn counterpoint.

The Stetson University Symphonic Band will be playing this piece in the Hall of Fame concert on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 4:00pm, conducted by Colbert Howell, associate of bands at Vero Beach High School. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ballet Russes

The Ballets Russes was established in 1909 by the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev. The company was initially in resident at the Théâtre Mogador and Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris and later moved to Monte Carlos. The company returned to Russia in 1910 and was presented in London as Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Its' original members were from the Tsar's Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia where all its dancers had been trained and danced. The company had thirteen original members, all of whom had an extremely high standard of dance. The company featured and premiered now-famous works by the great choreographers Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Leonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky and a George Balanchine at the start of his career. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes became one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century, in part because of its ground-breaking artistic collaboration of choreographers, artists and composers. In 1916 Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes toured the United States for their first performance. Their first performance was in New York on January 17, 1916. After that performance they toured sixteen towns, dancing in a different place each evening. The tour wound up back in New York on April 3, 1916, at the Metropolitan Opera House. At the end of the U.S. tour the king of Madrid asked them to perform in Spain. On May 6th the company set sail for Europe in the middle of World War I. Even with the threat of U-Boats, the company arrived safely and their first performance in Madrid was on May 26, 1916 at the command of King Alfonso. On September 8, 1916 Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes set sail back to America for the second tour with Nicolas Kremnev acting as manager. Nijinsky had composed a new ballet to Strauss's “Till Eulenspiegel”. Its first performance was October 23, 1916. It was a failure. The season finished with a large financial loss and the company's reputation was so damaged that the Ballets Russes was never able to appear in American ever again. On July 26th, 1929, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes gave its final performance at Covent Garden Theatre in London. Diaghilev died in Venice, Italy, on August 19, 1929, and is buried on the nearby island of San Michele in the San Michele Cemetery. Following his death creditors took over and the dancers were scattered. The American Ballet, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet are all descendents of the original Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes.