Thursday, December 11, 2014


So I found this really cute Russian cartoon with English subtitles. I thought it was interesting how they were encouraging smiling because I always thought that Russians generally saw smiling as foolish looking or something.

Unit 5: Russian Hospitality

When compared to other cultures/countries around the world, Russians are amazing hospitable, in some cases to a near unbelievable degree. Russians are often nominated for being the best hosts around the world - and not just for the drinks they provide. Friendly, open environments, and the ability to comfortably visit friends in Russia without needing an invitation is what separates Russians in this regard from not only Americans but most of the world as well. However, this hospitality does not only go one way. Gifts are almost always provided to the hosts from the guests at such visits, to such an extent that it is nearly shocking when guests arrive without gifts. Sadly, this sort of nice gesture is only beginning to come through in American society. Finally, Russians enjoy hosting foreign friends and showing them around, in addition to hosting more traditional events, such as holiday celebrations. Whatever the circumstance, you can bet Russians will be more accommodating to others than those snippy Americans.

A Few Things Never To Do in Russia That I Found Interesting

Don't go dutch

If you don't pay for her, she won't be going out with you again. She probably wouldn't even bring money to your date, unless she's afraid of having to make a quick emergency exit out the back and pay for a taxi home...

Don't burp in public

Bodily functions are a big no-no. Everyone on the bus will look at you like you are an axe-murderer and you've been killing puppies in front of them.  And for god's sake don't apologize, it's like raising your hand and telling the judge, "Yes sir I am very guilty."  So don't apologize, just let everyone ignore it and look terrified.

Don't take the last shirt

Russians will literally offer you their earthly possessions if you comment on them positively, this does not mean you should take them, they are just trying to be nice.

Don't joke about the parents

Russians literally don't care about any other kind of joke, whether it be racial stereotypes or puns. But don't joke about the RENTS! No one will understand you, they don't make your mom jokes.


This is one of the many dishes that we sometimes eat in my household, and is personally my favorite meal.
Here is the Russian blinchiki (блинчики) recipe:
2 ¼ cups of milk (молоко) or water (вода)
3 eggs
1 ¼ of flour
1 tbsp of sugar (if you want your blinchiki to be sweeter, you can use 2tbs of sugar)
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil
1.    Mix the eggs, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl until thoroughly blended.
2.    Add milk or water to the mixture and mix well.
3.    Stir in flour, mixing well to make sure that there are no lumps in the mixture.
4.    Add vegetable oil to the batter (жидкое тесто) and mix well. Leave to stand for 10-15 min.
5.    Oil a skillet (Смажьте сковородку маслом). Pour the batter on the hot oiled skillet and cook on one side until golden then flip the blinchik over and brown the other side.
6.    Serve (подавать) sweet crepes (сладкие блинчики) with jam (варенье), sour cream,honey (мёд), syrup, melted chocolate, whipped cream, and fruit.
Very tasty! You will lick your fingers! (Так вкусно, что пальчики оближешь!) :-P

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

UNIT 5: Russian Baked Apples Recipe (Печеные Яблоки)

  • 4 large Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
  • Lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, divided use
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in 2 tablespoons rum or water
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield4 Russian Baked Apples
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Find a baking dish that will just accommodate the apples without them rolling around. Coat it lightly with cooking spray. 
  2. Make the filling by combining in a medium bowl 2 tablespoons melted butter with toasted walnuts, drained raisins, honey, cinnamon and other spices, if using. Set aside. 
  3. Peel the apples. Rub them lightly with lemon juice. Slice off the top portion of the apples and core them, leaving the apples intact at the bottom to ensure that the filling will not run out. Place them in the prepared baking dish. 
  4. Divide the filling among the four apples. Rub the exterior of the apples with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place 1/4 cup water in the bottom of the baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the apples are soft, but before they collapse. If desired, serve with pan juices, and ice cream or whipped cream.
The Ukraine gave citizenship to a neo-Nazi, wanted in Russia for allegedly setting off a bomb near the Kremlin....on that note, the current Ukrainian President has included a rag doll into his daily musings on "how to protect the country".

View image on Twitter

1 Ruble = 63 USD

One ruble, the currency in Russia, is equivalent to $63. This is over double what the dollar was worth in Russia one year ago. According the the New York Times, this will make most Russians 50% poorer. The economic crisis Russia has been facing is due to Putin's controversial acts of military aggression toward Ukraine. The rest of the Western world has handed many sanctions down upon Russia and Putin has done his best to isolate as much of Russia as possible. The world is eagerly awaiting Putin's next attempt at expanding the Russian Empire, no matter what economic downturn for the average Russian it causes. I have attached the New York Time's article called "The Myth of Russian Oligarchs".

The beginning of the Russian - Scandinavian relationship dated from the 9th century is described in the Russian Primary Chronicle written by Orthodox monks. At that time, different Slav tribes lived in the North - West of Russia along the Neva and the Volkhov rivers as well as around the lakes Ladoga and Ilmen. The great Russian plain covered with forest and grassland was ideal for hunting, fishery and agriculture. Also it represented real trade crossroads between Northern Europe and Byzantine Empire. That was one of the reasons to build there the town of Novgorod which was a capital of the Old Northern Russia and an important commercial centre.
In 862 the Slavs, exhausted by uninterrupted inter-tribal wars, made the following proposal to the Rus (a name borrowed from the Finns to designate the Swedes): "Our country is rich and immense, but it is rent by disorder. Come and govern us and reign over us".
Three Swedish Vikings responded and came to Russia. Rurik became governor of Novgorod, Sineus settled down in Beloozerg and Truvor in Izborsk. Two years later Sineus and Truvor both died and Rurik extended his rule over the whole country. Later two of his lieutenants went down to Kiev, nearly six hundred miles away, and conquered it. In 882 Oleg, Rurik's successor, came to Kiev in his turn. Having established his own leadership over numerous towns and tribes Oleg strengthened considerably the new Russian State and became its master. The new capital, Kiev, little by little became one of the richest towns in Europe.
Rurik's successors became a ruling dynasty in Russia for more than 700 years.

Ivan the Terrible

One of Russia's best and worst Tsars, was Ivan the Terrible. Ivan was crowned Tsar in 1547 at the age of 16. His view of the position of Tsar was that it meant being an ultimate and supreme ruler. Ivan was not going to let anyone stand in his way. His policies involved making sure all Russian lands succumb to his great power. Ivan waged wars against everybody and everything that stood in his path to power. In his lifetime had conquered Siberia, he kept the Novgorod Republic under imperial control, fought and beat the Turks, raided Crimea and almost succeeded in gaining access to the Baltic sea by waging war. Ivan's Tsarship consisted primarily of desire for land and power and he failed to actually bring about a good policy to help his people. However, he did succeed to putting Russia on the map as a force to be feared when it comes to military prowess. Ivan died in 1584, leaving Russia to his son, who would then died childless and send Russia into the Time of Troubles.

Юлия Липницкая

Юлия Липницкая (Yulia Lipnitskaya) is a Russian figure skater who competed at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the age of 15. However, the Russian team won the gold medal. She did not earn any medals at the Sochi Olympics; she came in 5th place. Last year, she won the silver medal at the World Championships and the gold medal at the European Championships. Here is a video of her at the Sochi Olympics.

бабушка любит музыка

Elderly women are iconic in Russian culture. They are known for sitting on the roadside selling vegetables. However, 600 miles outside Moscow, the village of Buranovo hosts a group of women who are going against that stereotype.

Buranovskiye Babushki is a musical group of six women in their 70s and 80s. They travel across Russia singing The Beatles and Viktor Tsoi. The group also embodies the sad reality of Russian life. Many of the women are widowed because of harsh work conditions and alcoholism. They use music as a way to get through their suffering.

"After I lost my husband, I received some kind of gift — the ability to compose music,"Elizaveta Zarbatova, 84 said in a recent interview in her village. "The music comes from the heart. The suffering comes right from my heart."

"Life goes on; it's impossible to stop," Galina Koneva, 72 said. "That's what we sing."


Garrett Williamson Unit 5 post

Rights situation in Russia improved, but problems remain - ombudsman

Published time: December 10, 2014 11:26
Russia's Human Rights commissioner Ells Pamfilova.(RIA Novosti / Sergey Kuznecov)
Russia's Human Rights commissioner Ells Pamfilova.(RIA Novosti / Sergey Kuznecov)
The presidential ombudsman for human rights strongly rejected allegations that the rights situation in the country has deteriorated, adding that improvements were obvious to see for anyone who worked in this field 15 or 20 years ago.

I will never agree that the situation has become worse,” Ella Pamfilova told the Interfax news agency in an interview dedicated to the International Day of Human Rights celebrated on Wednesday.

The official added that the issue of human rights is now raised mostly by representatives of the political opposition, who talk about political rights exercised through public rallies or polls.

But ordinary people pay primary attention to social and labor rights. And the progress in these fields is simply astonishing, compared to what we had 20 years ago,” Pamfilova said. The difference between the perception of human rights by professional advocates and the common people is the main reason for the polarized opinions, the ombudsman suggested.

Human rights advocates are very demanding people and they always will criticize and remain unhappy with the existing situation. But I think that the activists who are engaged in actual work and who spared a lot of effort to change the situation for the better, they know very well how it used to be 15 or 20 years ago,” Pamfilova stated.

The official said that the reforms in the Russian court and prison systems were the best examples of changes for the better.

Who could have imagined 10 years ago that public monitoring commissions would visit inmates and have public control over detention centers? Now we have an opportunity to discuss problems that were previously deeply hidden,” Interfax quoted the official as saying.

Pamfilova acknowledged that conflicts in the human rights sphere remained and some problems were very serious. Among these she mentioned the scandals with the independent television channels, TV-2 and Dozhd (Rain), as well as a legislative ban on commercial advertising on paid cable networks.

The Russian parliament approved Ella Pamfilova as presidential envoy for human rights in March this year after her candidacy had been suggested by President Vladimir Putin. Before this appointment, Pamfilova chaired the Presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

The 60-year old official started her career during the Perestroika period as a member of parliament and later as the Federal Minister for Social Protection of Citizens. Now she also heads the Civil Dignity public movement that distributes presidential grants to various rights and civil projects.


This is actually a big topic in comparative politics. This debate centers around the idea of democratization in Russia, and how it has come to a standstill. At times we do see the liberal freedoms brought on by this process in Russia, slowly disappear. 

Kazimir Malevich was an ART TROLL!

Yes, Kazimir Malevich was a troll of the artsy variety. His 1915 composition “Black Square” [oil on wood] is just that. 

It’s a black square. It’s funny because regardless of the many people who don’t think that Black Square is art, it's one of the most recognized paintings in Russia for that very reason. He must've been laughing so hard, watching artists talk over each other as they try to answer the question, “WHAT IS ART?!” He totally pulled a Marcel Duchamp (The Frenchman who put this in an exhibition and played the art card)

More seriously, Black Square does hold historic significance. It's representative of the beginning of the Russian avant-garde period where anything goes. Traditional aesthetic values of the Romantic era disintegrates and artists begin to value the unconventional. He studied and produced massive quantities of non-objective, non-figurative (debatable) paintings. From one of his revolutionary series, he developed the concept of suprematism in art, which is essentially the idea that the elegance and conciseness of a simple geometric form is pleasurable to look at. Malevich found minimalist interest in color, symmetry and balanced asymmetry, space, line, and texture.

Legends of a Different League

League of Legends is one of the most popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games in existence today. Nearly 27 million people play on a daily basis, a large portion of which login on the Russian server of the game. The Russian server of League of Legends ( consists of the standard artwork for the champs and site with completely Russian text and audio. with nearly 600,000 players accessing a single Russian server it should come as no surprise that one of the top players of League of Legends is Russian. Summoner NiQ, or as he's referred to in the real world Sebastian Robak, has achieved the nigh unobtainable rank of Challenger 1 in a relatively short of time, a feat of no little significance in the realm of League. Needless to say this goes to show that games can be one of the strongest unifying forces across all boundaries.

Unit 5

"A juice box? Is this for real??" I couldn't believe this actually happens. I guess it's just a culture shock to look at this. I can't imagine cracking open an ice cold Juicy Juice to find a 37.5% alcohol rate. It's no secret that Russians love their vodka, but to put it in such a childish form seemed absurd! I find it humorous that this is a selling product. It's on the same level as putting milk in bags (that's you Canada). However, despite all that seems wrong with this product, I feel unreasonably obligated to try it just for the sake of the experience. Who else but the Russians would drink Vodka so casually as to use a straw to siphon it out of a children's product?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sex Slavery Thrives in Russia Out of Public View

            While sex trafficking is a global issue, new reports suggest that Russia is one of the most prominent countries for it. Russia has been dubbed the “hub for trafficking and exploitation in Eurasia, and was recently ranked 6th out of 167 countries for having the most sex trafficking. They have 1 million known current slaves, and in a system where only one in every 9 cases come to light, that number is startling. Russia presents an interesting challenge in that they do not have a very active role in combatting sex slavery. Most victims’ best hope is for a Good Samaritan to buy them out. In addition, were a victim to escape, there are no state run safe houses for them, so many have no hope. When there is not a greater safety found in escape, there are few who fight for it. In addition, it is not really a matter on the agenda, for “the government and the legislature both ignore the problem for fear that it would damage Russia's reputation, even though sex trafficking exists everywhere, said activist Boris Panteleyev.”
              Most victims are not procured through outright abductions, but instead through scams. These scams promise high paying jobs or grand opportunities, however, when the victim arrives at the planned place of meeting they are forced into the trade.
            This area of criminal activity is the second most profitable, right after the drug trade. Due to the high demand within Russia, victims are commonly imported from other countries. A new rising trend is also seeing “ethnic diasporas in Russia import women from their native countries, including Vietnam, China, the Central Asian republics and African nations, to work in their brothels.”
Human trafficking is a global pandemic that needs to be stamped out. While it is coming to the forefront in Russia, every nation needs to be conscious of its presence in their societies. These changes start at individual levels; we are the catalyst. You, reader, are may no longer use ignorance as an alibi. Action is now your responsibility.
“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing.” Proverbs 28:1

Don't Mess with Father Frost!

I found this very interesting article in the Moscow Times: Ads Denying Existence of Russian Santa Clause Cause Outcry in Moscow

The Advertising developer Donstroy faced severe criticism after using the slogan "There's No Father Frost - but there are Discounts!" in one of its campaigns. Muscovite parents decried the ad on social media claiming that it would be "psychologically traumatic" for their children. Father Frost is a New Years icon residual of the Soviet Era, popularized in response to the Western Santa Claus.

The public outcry has been taken so seriously that the Federal Anti-Monopoly Agency, that monitors advertisement agencies and enforces advertising legislation, has gotten involved. Bureaucrats from the Anti-Monopoly Agency have stated that there's no infraction at this time - because Father Frost only comes at New Year's - but pledged to closely monitor the advertising firm to see if the ad continues closer to the New Year holiday, implying then it would be a problem.

I found this article very interesting for several reasons. First, it shows how much Russian cultural artifacts are still shaped by the Soviet legacy, despite repeated attempts to define itself to the contrary. Second, it highlights the bureaucratic limitations advertising companies have in exercising freedom of information. Third, and most importantly, it gives yet another example (after the Anti-LGBT Propaganda Laws of Putin's renewed presidency) of the deeply rooted Russian value of preserving the innocence and naivety of children. I think this story while seemingly frivolous and verging on ridiculous on the surface, draws attention to many complexities of Russian culture and society in the Post-Soviet world.

Russian Bayan Accordion

Russian Bayan Accordion

Jupiter bayan accordion.JPG    The Bayan is a chormatic button accordion developed in Russia in the early 20th century. It was named after the 11th-century bard Boyan. This instrument is different from regular keyboard accordions. Instead of a keyboard this instrument has a serious of chromatic buttons. The reeds in this instrument are broader and rectangular vs trapezoidal. This helps produce the fuller sound of the bass. The tone of the Bayan is best described as a miniature church organ. This instrument is usually only played by accordion virtuosi who want to perform classical music such as Bach.

For example here is a video of someone playing one of Bach's Toccata and Fugues on this instrument. Enjoy And below another student ripping on one of these fabulous instruments.

Olympics in Russia
The twenty-second Winter Olympics took place in February in Sochi, Russia. 2861 athletes competed in 98 competitions. Russia invested 51 billion US dollars into the games; they therefore were the most expensive games in history. Although many criticized Russia as the host, the International Olympic Committee highly praised the effort that Russia put into the preparation and the execution of the games. Russians saw the Olympics as a great opportunity to show the world that they are peaceful and a friendly country. Altogether, the games were well organized and the athletes enjoyed staying in Russia. Despite the fact that many international politicians decided to not attend the winter Olympics due to the political situation in Russia, the Olympics can be seen as a huge success.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Gusli

When I was ten, my grandfather gave me a stringed instrument that he brought home from one of his trips in Russia. It came with traditional Russian songs that you could learn how to play. I wanted to see if I could play it for this blog post, but I wasn’t able to find it. I looked online at Russian instruments, and saw that the instrument I’m looking for is called a gusli. It’s like a mixture between a guitar and a harp, with a hollow box like a guitar and many strings like a harp. The gusli has been played in Russia as early as the 11th century. They were usually played by skomorokhs, or street performers, who used gusli to play music by itself or to accompany dance, singing, and epic narratives. Priests also played a type of gusli. The gusli almost completely vanished from folk culture in the 17th century when the Orthodox Church persecuted the skomorokhs and denounced the practices associated with them. The gusli only lived on through a few musicians and the Russian priesthood, who were able to hang on to their gusli. In the 1900s gusli were perfected and evolved into a whole family of instruments that ranged in pitch. They became widely used in Russian folk orchestras. Today there is a large interest in the revival of the gusli by Russian youth. It is often played in concerts and on Russian radio. Here is a link to a video of someone playing the gusli.


Russias Secret Cities

Back in Soviet Russia there were secret cities. These cities were often the location of strategic military bases, nuclear plants, uranium production, etc. Often the inhabitants of these cities were gifted better schools, food, and luxuries in order for them to live there and have heavily restricted movement from the secret city. Even the Russian population didn't know about these cities until the late 1980s. As of today we know about 42 of the cities, but people suspect there are still 15 that are hidden from the population of Russia and the rest of the world.Russia-border-guar_1498206c

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Olympic Mascots

There was quite a bit of controversy over the mascot for the Sochi Olympics.  Upon inspection, the designer of “Misha,” the Moscow Olympics mascot, noticed that the polar bear was almost identical to his original design.

Clearly, the two do have very similar facial features, as “Misha” designer, Viktor Chizhikov, pointed out. He said, “It’s exactly the same as mine: the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the smile…”

The Russian people voted on the three mascots (polar bear, leopard, and hare) after the Organizing Committee narrowed the options down from over 20,000 designs.