Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Here in America, we celebrate winter coming to into spring simply by throwing all of our heavy clothes to the back of the dresser until the following year. In Russia, the celebration from winter to spring is a week long even known as Maslenitsa. It has both a pagan and christian history; in Pagan, Maslenitsa is celebrated on equinox; in christianity, it is celebrated the week before lent and is in preparation for spring.
In the christian religion, there is merrymaking happening all around, but one also must rid oneself of all meats, dairy, fish and eggs. This time is used to celebrate spiritual life and nothing more.

The Traditional Maslenitsa schedule looks on the line of this:

Monday-  The day of welcoming: The children assemble a Maslenitsa doll that is made of straw and women's clothing. They then place it on a pole and go dancing in khorovods. Afterwards, it is carried up to a snow hill and people then slide back down. "The rich start baking pancakes on this day, while the poor can only afford it doing it on Thursday or Friday. Traditionally, the first pancake goes to beggars to pay the tribute to the memory of deceased relatives. It was a common knowledge that if one doesn’t have as much fun as he or she could during Maslenitsa, they are doomed to grow old in loneliness and misery. Daughters-in-law are sent to their parents’ homes, with their husbands’ families joining them by the end of the day for a substantial holiday meal."

Tuesday- The day of fun and matchmaking: This day is full of fun and mischief. Children play in ice castles and eat tons of pancakes. Men kiss girls on the streets as if it means nothing and single guys rent sleighs to impress all of the beautiful girls. 

Wednesday- Visitation: Sons in law would pay to enjoy their mother in law's pancakes and the mother would then invite other guests over as well to enjoy the visitation. 

Thursday- Anger retreat: On this day, all work and merrymaking ceases and now violence begins. "On this day fist fights traditionally take place. Fist fighting is said to commemorate Russian military history, when soldiers supposedly fought each other in hand-to-hand combat. “Never hit a man when he is down”, states a Russian proverb, and its roots are found in this Maslenitsa."

Friday- Mother's day: Basically another day of family reunions and eating pancakes

Saturday- Sister day: "On this day young wives would invite their sisters-in-law for a feast to cajole them and win their favor. If husbands' sisters are single, young men are expected to attend the party. If they are married, she would invite all her married relatives along and the whole train would travel from one household to another.This ritual was of significance, since the relationship between the young wife and her sister-in-law initially was expected to be rather tense."

Sunday- Forgiveness day: On this day, presents are present to family members and/or sweethearts and forgiveness is asked for from those around them for all sins that had been committed in the year. This day is also when the doll made on Monday is burned and, once it was reduced to ashes, the young generation would walk over it, thus ending the festivities.

-Brooke Shepko

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Russian Grumblings about Ukraine Politics Continue

Who's really in the driver's seat?

Vladimir Putin, and the rest of the Russian Government, is ... Unhappy with the establishment of a popular government in Ukraine. Between criticisms being leveled by the Dmitri Medvedev and the Russian Foreign Ministry and the recent deposition of President Viktor F. Yanukovich over the weekend following the mass killings of protesters last week. 

“Strictly speaking, today there is no one to talk to there,” Mr. Medvedev said in remarks reported by Interfax. “The legitimacy of a whole host of government bodies is raising huge doubts.”

Attempts by the Russian government to de-legitimatize the new Ukrainian government are fierce and pointed - especially from Vladimir Putin. Questioning European and American motives regarding Ukraine, Putin issued a statement saying they had been driven “not by a concern for the fate of Ukraine but by unilateral geopolitical calculations.”

Russian Political leaders further pushed to show that the established government was too young and unprepared to be recognized by Russia. Saying the warrant for the arrest of Yanukovych came without "thought, perception, or foresight," the Russian Foreign Ministry has basically labeled the new Ukrainian government the plaything of a child. 

“If people crossing Kiev in black masks and Kalishnikov rifles are considered a government,” Mr. Medvedev said, “it will be difficult for us to work with such a government.”

Even going so far as to indicate the Ukraine government a terrorist hierarchy, Russian political heads have pointed to a few isolated events in Pro-Russia areas. 

“A course has been set to use dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods to suppress dissenters in various regions,” the Foreign Ministry statement said, alluding to areas in Ukraine’s east and south where pro-Russian sentiment is stronger and Russian is widely spoken.

These observations are not to say the government recently established in Ukraine is "good," "infallible," or even morally adequate. However, it is important to look at the output of the Kremlin to predict the actions Russia may take, as well as to observe the attitude which they have adopted.

All in all, the treaty that some believed meant peace may have simply been one step closer to the real fire. 

Sochi Guests shouldn't poop on Russia's Rug!

I had noticed on social media sites, there was a lot of complaint from western travelers in Sochi over accommodations in particular during the Olympics the past two weeks.  Despite the fact I am not Russian, knowing more about the culture as a whole has allowed me to recognize the complaints derive mainly from a lack of understanding of Russian culture and lifestyle/ situation, and or people taking joy in poking fun at the misfortune of others.  This article was written as a response to the extreme bashing of Russian lifestyle commenting on the fact that "You don't come into someone's house as a guest and then poop on their rug." It makes the point that just because a different country or place or people do not do things the way you expect or are used to, does not necessarily give you the right to use slander to damage a reputation because you disagree with the way something is.  As a population we ought to take into consideration the context and culture we are putting ourselves in, and if we fail to show ourselves approved, it looks much more foolish and inconsiderate on our part than on the hosts part.  We have a tendency to focus on the negative parts of an experience than on the positive parts, and we need to learn to recognize what is most important in a situation or visitation! We also need to be sensitive to the fact living conditions in another country may not be up to the standards of living int he western world, and instead of complaining profusely we ought to consider the effect those living conditions have on the native people and have more of a concern rather than an attitude about it!

It Finally Fell!

How the Tsars of Russia held power not to mention obtained power over this gigantic and backwards empire until 1917 is amazing. If you look at Russia on a map you will see that in addition to the territory of modern Russia, prior to 1917 the Russian Empire included most of Ukraine, Belarus, Finland, Armenia, the Central Asian states, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, as well as many more nations. By the time Russia was revolutionized the size of the empire was about 8,600,00 square miles or almost 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass. One man was in charge of all of that. He had his advisors and different agencies but above all else he was in charge and executed final rule. In 1917 the year when the empire collapsed the Russian population was more than 150 million with more than 100 varied ethnic groups lived within the Russian Empire. The fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 was the end of over 400 years of imperial rule. From its initial creation until its fall, the Russian Empire was controlled by an absolute monarch known as the tsar, under an autocracy. This kind of rule is impossible in today’s world because of growing expectations for industrialization and citizens’ rights, but it existed in Russia for over 400 years and the more I learn about Russia’s past the more amazed I am that the Empire stood for as long as it did.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Сергей Зверев (He Kind of Looks Like the Russian Michael Jackson)

     Before getting into
my main topic, I would like to thank this awesome website called Russiapedia ( that I just found that I think will be very helpful for the rest of the semester!
     Now to the main event: I discovered a prominent young-ish (the "-ish" will make sense in a moment) Russian man who is a famous hairdresser and stylist, and recently a singer and showman. This man's name is Сергей Зверев or Sergey Zverev, he was born in the town of Kultuk which is a part of the Irkutsk Region of Russia. Сергей was born in 1972 but some sources say 1963 (ergo "young-ish"); Сергей carefully hides his detailed biography from the general public, allowing people to know only the facts he wants to share. For some reason this star is very superstitious about dates and numbers, believing that they have a fateful meaning, and often claims that “show business doesn’t bear a nationality or age.”  Сергей's father died in a motorcycle accident when Сергей was only 4 years old, and his older brother, Александр, died from an asthma attack at age 29. Сергей was left with only his mother, after the second death Сергей and his mother moved to Kazakhstan; Сергей considers his mother to be one of his closest and most loved companions.
      Сергей likes call himself “King of Glamour” and "Star of Shock" and Russia would agree for the most part. The public either adores Зверев’s professional skills and unique style, or loathes his narcissistic attitude and superfluous glamour, that apparently verges on the ridiculous. Mass media like to follow him closely and say that he is a star that “startles, exalts, entertains, annoys, admires, amazes and makes people love and abhor him.”
     After finishing secondary school, Сергей attended a hairdressing college in Ust-Kamenogorsk which is in the center of the East Kazakhstan Province of Kazakhstan, and he received a diploma in three specialties: hairdressing, decorative make-up and clothing design. In the '80s, Сергей did his obligatory military service, at one point he altered the soldiers' uniforms and made them look better. After his discharge he was noticed by a prominent hairdresser, Долорес Кондрашова, moved to Moscow, and opened his first salon in the early '90s. In 1996-1998 Сергей won a series of international competitions and became the European Champion and the World Champion of hairstyling, which I did not even know was a thing. Сергей's name has become synonymous with stunning show designs. He has established innovative trends in the industry of hairstyling and fashion, constantly demonstrating his revolutionary ideas and creativity. At the moment Сергей owns a prestigious beauty salon that bears his name in Moscow. Of course with his abundant amount of fame he charges large sums of money just get his advice on styling; his clients consist of pop-singers, celebrities and millionaires and their wives.
      A famous Russian singer named Алла Пугачева encouraged Сергей, who was her private stylist and hairdresser, to start his own career as a singer. Сергей devoted his first song, "Алла" to the pop-queen as his patroness and muse. For the most part Сергей's career as a singer is thought to be a mere whim of the rich superstar. You can judge for yourself whether or not he is good as a singer, here is a link to the song "вера Брежнева": However, clearly he is an amazing stylist and hairdresser which is obvious through the images of himself I have included.        
Сергей as a child, adult before surgery, and adult after surgery.
    At one point in his career Сергей underwent a series of major plastic surgeries to completely alter his face which was seen merely as apart of his lifestyle and his work. The reasons for such an extreme transformation of his face are not entirely clear. Rumors say that in the late 1990s Сергей had an accident, which greatly damaged his face, and doctors did their best to save it, which sounds a lot like what happened to Michael Jackson. A more common rumor is that the he just wanted to look better and became a victim of bad plastic surgeons.
     Сергей has a teenage son who is also named Сергей, the date of the child's birth is unsure to the public and neither is the name of the mother; some say the mother died when young Сергей was little.The boy often accompanies his famous father at official events and parties, usually dressed in a style similar to Сергей Senior’s.
Сергей and Сергей Jr.
      Lastly, I wanted to mention what Сергей Зверев believes about his name, "Зверев means impossibly beautiful, impossibly fashionable and an impossibly big star. It is a colossal work to be a superstar, a king of glamour and to look like me.” This Russian star really caught my eye and I really wanted to share his life, he is such an interesting character that lives in our world today.
With the Sochi Winter Olympics coming to a close, a number of people aren't pleased with the results. As it stands now, Russian will come out on top with the US in second and Norway in Third. The reason many aren't so pleased with the results are because of the rumor that it was "fixed". On more than one occasion, especially in the women's' figure skating category, there have reports that the events have been fixed. One example is of Adelina Sotnikova who bested the anticipated winner and favorite Kim Yuna for the gold meddle in women's figure skating. They say that Yuna skated far better and even flawless, compared to Sotnikova. It doesn't help that one of the judges who scored the event was Russian Alla Shekhovtseva, who is the wife of Valentin Piseev, the president and general director of the Russian Skating Federation. This as well as a few other cases such as the Russian mens Luge team also being accused of cheating has plagued the sporting event in the past couple of weeks.

Sochi says goodbye to the Olympics

This past Sunday Sochi hosted a farewell show to the 2014 Winter Olympics. This year’s Winter Olympics is estimated to be the most expensive Olympics held to date, the price tag being 51 billion dollars; the second most expensive being 40 billion dollars in the Olympics hosted by Beijing in the summer of 2008. The construction and renovations took 7 years in Sochi to complete. In the farewell show Russian made fun of their mistake that happened earlier when one of the Olympic Rings didn’t expand, they recreated in the farewell show. These Olympics were to help the world see that Russia is a friendly country and to get people to visit.

Moscow or Bust!

It is commonly accepted that, when in search of gold, one should make the arduous journey deep into the heart of metal-laden California…
The truth is that professional gold-diggers should be making the hike to Russia.
Russia, particularly Moscow, is reputed for having more billionaires per capita than any other city in the world. According to Forbes, the infamous capital is home to a record seventy-nine of the exceptionally wealthy individuals (a number that increased by twenty one during the 2010-2011 year).
New York reportedly comes in second, claiming fifty-nine billionaires, with London claiming third at forty-one.
How did the lucky Muscovites collect their vast fortunes?
Evidently, by hording the natural resources.
Three of the wealthiest individuals on the list preside over the majority of Russia’s steel and oil.
Were the billionaires in Moscow ever to combine their amassed wealth, it would total over $375 billion. Not enough to get the US out of debt, but still a pretty sum…
Seems like it pays to be Russian.

Check out what Forbes has to say:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Russia Leadership History

Russia has a very interesting history. For starters the successor of Vladimir was Sviatopolk which is believed to be his biological son due the rape of Yaropolk’s Wife. Due the question of his authentic rule he ordered three of Vladimir’s younger sons to be murdered. He was  later defeated by Yaroslav I, one of his brothers who led and army against his rule and defeated him. Sviatopolk retreated to Poland. This younger son Yaroslav I issued the first Russian code of law refered to as the Russkava Pravda. When Yarolslav died his oldest sun succeeded him Iziaslav, he was later overthrown by a popular uprising, and fled to Poland. He later led the Polish army into Keiv and regained the throne. Two of his brothers over threw him. After these successions many followed throughout the history of Russia. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rudolf Nureyev was born, the youngest child and only son to a peasant family of Tartar heritage, on March 17, 1938, in Irkutsk, Russia. When Germany invaded the U.S.S.R., Rudolf and his family evacuated from Moscow to Ufa, Bashkir. Although the family lived in poverty there, Rudolf's mother, Farida, managed to buy a single ticket to the opera and sneak her children in. At his first glimpse of ballerina Zaituna Nazretdinova, Rudolf knew he wanted to become a dancer. At the age of 11, Nureyev started ballet classes. Nureyev started dancing professionally as an extra at the local opera when he was 15. From there he landed a job with the corps de ballet and toured with them in Moscow. When he turned 17, he got into the Leningrad Ballet School. When he graduated, Nureyev accepted a soloist contract with the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg and debuted opposite Natalia Dudinskaya. Over the next few years, he danced an additional 15 major roles in productions at the Kirov Theater On June 16, 1961, as the troupe was preparing to board a flight home following a tour in France, Nureyev broke from the group and insisted that he was staying in France. According to eyewitnesses, other members of the troupe pleaded with Nureyev to rejoin them and return to the Soviet Union. The dancer refused and threw himself into the arms of airport security people, screaming, "Protect me!" The security officials took Nureyev into custody, whereupon he asked for political asylum. Nureyev's high-profile defection was a double blow to the Soviet Union. First, it detracted from the quality of the Kirov Company, which had featured the young prodigy prominently in its performances throughout the world. Second, it severely damaged Soviet propaganda that touted the political and artistic freedom in Russia. Nureyev continued with his career after his defection. During the next 30 years he danced with England's Royal Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. He was in great demand as both a dancer and choreographer. In 1983, he took over as ballet director of the Paris Opera. In 1989, he briefly returned to the Soviet Union to perform. He died in Paris in 1993.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

-Russia is the largest country on earth in regards to land area!
-There are 9 time zones in Russia!
-Unlike some other European countries Russian’s drive on the right side of the road!
-Russia launched the world’s first satellite, sputnik, in 1957 by the Soviet Union.
-Russian is part of the UN Security Council along with four other countries permanently.
-Russia has over 40 national parks, and 100 wildlife reserves.
-Russia is home to the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Baikal.
-Russia is also home to the longest river in Europe, the Volga River.
-Russia also has the largest area of forests in the world.

-Russia is very go green! It produces a large amount of renewable energy due to its hydropower stations.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Russia’s Spetsnaz are the first and often the last line of defense against many of the threats to national security. The word Spetsnaz is actually an acronym for spetsialnogo naznacheniya, meaning "special purpose". The Russian public use to know very little about the state of their countries Special Forces unit until many state secrets were disclosed under the glasnost policy of Gorbechev in the 1980's. Since then, stories of Spetsnaz units within Russia have both captivated and terrified those who live in the country. There supper star like status in the state controlled media have encouraged the public to identify many of these forces by names such as SOBR, Alpha, Vityaz, Fakel, or torch. On the battlefield, Spetsnaz soldiers have the reputation of being among the world's toughest and most ruthless soldiers. They have seen extensive action in Afghanistan and Chechnya. During the Cold War, the prime objective of military Spetsnaz troops would have been to act as an airborne battlefield reconnaissance force, operating deep behind enemy lines.
In the decade following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, large numbers have been recruited for a range of security and counter-terrorist roles. A Spetsnaz unit known as Vega specializes in dealing with nuclear incidents while other units like those mentioned above (Fakel and torch) are skilled in dealing with hostage incidents inside prisons. The selection process for Spetsnaz troops is grueling, and training can last up to five years. Recruits are submitted to an intense and deliberately brutal five-month long induction intended to strip away dignity and instill the toughness and resilience needed to endure harsh combat conditions. According to analysts, Spetsnaz tactics are far more improvisational than those of Western Special Forces, with more emphasis placed on sheer physical strength.

Andre Walton

Are Athletics the Key to Expressing Structural Integrity?

Russian news has ravaged headlines in the West due to Ukrainian unrest and rioting in the caucuses, not to mention the powder keg of social justice due to laws about homosexuality.  

However, there's another element of Russian news which has been sneaking its way into the minds and homes of the rest of the world - the prevalence of world sporting events being held in Russia. In just a few days, the Winter Olympics are going to kick off in Sochi. Just a few short months ago, the World Track and Field Championships were held in Moscow. And now the announcement has been confirmed that the Russian government is putting money into their national arena in order to prepare for the most watched sporting event in the world - the FIFA World Cup 2018. 

Marat Khusnullin, Moscow Deputy Mayor for Urban Development and Construction, said that Russia had learned valuable lessons from Brazil, especially when it came to dealing with the demands of world soccer body FIFA. 

“FIFA finally agreed to allow the Moscow government to reduce the seating capacity of Luzhniki Stadium to 81,000 seats following the unrest in Brazil,” he said. 

“I should thank Brazil for that,” he added with a laugh.

So, how does hosting all of these international sporting events help the Russian political face? Well, it all depend son how the events themselves end up going. The Athletics World Championships were pulled off quite well and the Russian economy was not left reeling like some hosts before them. However, the real test will come in Sochi and the World Cup. If the government can pull off these two events with the eyes of the world upon, the stigma of past country's failures fresh in our minds and the current turmoil surrounding the Russian government at its current gravity, then Russia will have officially established that even in a post Soviet world they are still a superpower with the infrastructural integrity to bear the weight of the world's expectations on their shoulders.