Friday, October 30, 2015


Durak is undoubtedly the most popular card game in Russia. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that every Russian who plays cards knows this game. "Durak" means fool, the fool in this game being the loser - the player who is left with cards after everyone else has run out. d "Podkidnoy Durak" is probably the best-known form of Durak in Russia. It  means "fool with throwing in". This name refers to the fact that after an attack is begun, it can be continued by "throwing in" further cards whose ranks match those already played. The same game is played in Poland under the name Dureń (fool) 

Here is a link to the rules and instructions on ow to play! Get a few people in a room this Halloween weekend and show off your Durak skills!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Moscow Metro

The construction of the Moscow Metro was started in 1935 during the reign of the Soviet Union. It was the brain child of Joseph Stalin, who wanted to make a kind of “palace for the people” in a sense. It was constructed like an imperial style palace with various statues, mosaics, and large glass chandeliers. Unfortunately, the people didn’t treat it like a palace, as parts of the metro, like the floors, had to be replaced within a couple months of opening. During World War 2 construction was interrupted, and the deeper parts of the metro were used as a bomb shelter during bombings by the Nazis. After the war the state made an effort to finish the metro and make it even more spectacular to be a symbol of the Soviet Union’s strength during the war and post war peace. Now it is an important cultural site for those who live in Moscow.

Halloween Banned in Russia


                According to an article published by “The Telegraph,” Arkhangelsk region in Russia has banned Halloween because of its negative effects on children. Other regions, such as Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, follow the lead and propose the ban of Halloween. Followers of the church believe that Halloween will confuse children about fiction and reality and therefore they might become evil. Not just spirituals, but also highly ranked officials support the ban. According to them Halloween is a “dangerous and morally corrupt U.S. cultural influence.”


Work Cited

Horton, Helena. "Russian Region Bans Halloween Because the Holiday Is 'harmful to Children'" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, Web. 28 Oct. 2015

Russian Superstitions

Russian Superstitions

Russia has a lot of superstitions that are similar if not the same in The United States but there are ones that are very unusual.  For example, never putting an empty bottle on a table. This is considered a bad omen.

Another is unmarried people never sitting at the corner of a table. If they do they will never get married. Some people believe this is only true for seven years so young children can sit at the corner. 


Unity Day: November 4

With November just around the corner, I thought Unity Day would be a fitting blog post. Unity Day is a national holiday observed in Russia.  Unity Day commemorates an uprising that freed Moscow from Polish-Lithuanian occupation, which occurred on November 4, 1612. Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky were the leaders of this uprising and therefore became national heroes.
Unity Day was not made a national holiday until 1649 and was done so by the Russian Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.  Yet, when the Bolsheviks came to power, they replaced it with a new holiday, which was on November 7, and it commemorated the Revolution of 1917.  In 2005, the Russian Parliament removed the commemoration of the Revolution of 1917 as a national holiday and reinstated Unity Day as a national holiday.
Russians celebrate Unity Day in many different ways.  Many lay flowers on the statues of the national heroes who led the uprising.  Russian Orthodox Christians usually attend a church service to honor Our Lady of Kazan (a Russian Orthodox icon) who's feast day is held on November 4.  Many concerts and exhibitions will also take place on this day to commemorate the holiday.

*Statues of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky


Bandy is a national sport in Russia that is very similar to hockey. This sport can be traced all the way back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Instead of using a hockey puck, they use a ball. The rules are very similar to ice hockey anywhere else. Bandy is not an official Olympic sport. Bandy is a predecessor of floorball.  

Russian Architecture

After being introduced to the 18 store building that is Lomonosov Moscow State University. I find myself interested in other Russian buildings.

There have been many styles of architecture throughout Russian history because at various point, depending on who was in charge of the country/empire/etc., Russian architecture was inspired by western culture and at other times it focused on russificaiton. 

Examples of these various architecture styles:

The Kremlin:

The Intercession Cathedral.

The Intercession Cathedral (aka Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed) built 1555-61

The Kolomenskoye:

 The Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan.

The Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan

Novodevichy Convent:

The Novodevichy Convent. Church of the Protection.


 Peterhof. The Western Cascade Stairway. The Great Cascade. The enter to the Upper Grotto.  
Peter's Palace in St. Petersburg

Winter Palace:

Winter Palace at night (from Dvortsovy Bridge). Interiors of the Winter Palace. The Drawing Room in Rococo II Style, with Cupids , Watercolour, Edward Hau, 1860s. From the 1760s the Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tzars.

The Hermitage

As my parents are currently gallivanting throughout St. Petersburg, they have been raving about the Hermitage. Their reviews led me to read more and write this post.

Originally founded by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage has been open to the public since 1852. The complex of the museum includes various buildings with a wide assortment of collections. In addition to the variation of content in the museum, I found it interesting that there are dependencies of the museum throughout other parts of the world. There actually used to be a Guggenheim Hermitage in Las Vegas!

The assortment of works contained in the main Hermitage in St. Petersburg include works of the some the prominent Dutch Masters (i.e. van Dyck, Rubens, and Rembrandt) as well as an assortment of renown Italian and Spanish artists (e.g. Tintoretta, Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya). There are also collections of Egyptian and Prehistoric art and antiquities which, in combination with the other acclaimed works, leads to the Hermitage's recognition as a premier global museum.

I also guess Hermitage cats are a thing...

Vladimir's Fabulous Finds!

Disclaimer: This article is not about Putin :) 

INSTEAD, I bring you a different Vladimir and his shop of trinkets and other Russian-y baubles.

Dr. Denner, this google maps screen grab is for you.

I visited here during a trip to St. Petersburg, Florida (heh). It was packed, wall-to-wall with all kinds of Russian, Eastern European, and Asian figurines, flags, posters and swords. On the wall behind Vlad, he proudly displays AUTHENTIC (or at least that's what he claims) war paraphernalia from Russia dating back to the 1700s. Most of the other knickknacks, such as the nesting dolls, were made in China. A huge collection of magnet with Soviet slogans on them and flasks with the Russian coat of arms painted on caught the attention of most of the customers. I ended up buying a poster of a two women in a Russian perfume shop definitely drawn Pre-Soviet era. They wear French style frocks and are definitely of the noble class.

If you're in St. Pete and you need some Russian in your life, go stop by Vlad's. He and his wife are really sweet people and the store itself is awesome.

Sauerkraut Soup Recipe (Kapustnyak) (UNIT 3)

This sauerkraut soup is a most unusual and delicious soup. The sauerkraut gives it a lovely texture and zing. It's hearty, filling and will warm your belly |

Ingredients for Sauerkraut Soup:

1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz bacon, chopped
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 medium (1 lb) potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/3″ thick pieces
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed, optional 
2-3 cups sauerkraut, triple rinsed & drained (we use 3 cups or about 2 lbs)
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water, or to taste
1 (15 oz can) white beans (click to learn how to cook your own beans)
Salt, Pepper and Mrs. Dash seasoning, to taste


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add chopped bacon and sautee until browned then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  2. Add finely chopped celery and onion. Saute until softened and golden (5 min).
  3. Add sliced carrots, potatoes, ¼ cup quinoa (if using), 8 cups broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 min.
  4. Add 2-3 cups of well rinsed and drained sauerkraut and half of cooked bacon (I keep some for garnish), white beans with their juice, and 1 bay leaf and continue to cook until potatoes are tender (about 10 min). Season soup to taste (I added ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper and ½ tsp Mrs Dash). Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Russia's Strange Obsession

When people think of Russia, their minds fill with the thoughts of cold climates, acres upon acres of desolate landscape, and a surprisingly thriving culture. Alas, what they think not of is but a small fern, to some, even, a weed, that has managed to find its way into nearly every meal served in Russia. Perhaps a light bulb now goes off in your head, or even better yet, you know not of that which I now speak of - dill. Yes, this measly, seemingly insignificant addition to our already overly copious selection of green foods is, in fact, not insignificant at all. Dill has aggressively inserted itself into the Russian diet, and recent trends show no sign of change as this disgusting food manages to gain popularity despite its lack of a resemblance to anything close to a stimulating or satisfying taste. When something can be compared to the invasion of cane toads in Australia, perhaps it should not be so widely celebrated. Dill has gotten further into Russia than the Germans ever did, and were our reality to be some classic alien invasion movie that began with the poisoning of our ferns, Russia and her people would be dead within minutes. Alas, in movies these days, Russians always appear to be the bad guys, so perhaps this would not be such a horrible thing.

You know its bad when you have potato/dill flavored potato chips. Come on!

Russian State Library

When we think of great works of literature, it’s only natural that among the authors first and foremost in our minds are Russian heroes Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Given the substantial nature of their works, as well as that of many other prominent Russian writers, it is only fitting that their books find a suitable home in the appropriately lavish Russian State Library.
Known by many as the Leninka, the Library holds over 43 million items, written and preserved in 247 languages. It is the second largest library in the world, following only the Library of Congress here in the U.S. It was founded in 1862 and has taken over 140 years to become the pinnacle of literary success that it is today, holding a prestigious collection of maps, documents, etc. that enthusiasts would consider gems in the field.
Approximately 4000 visitors pass through the Library every single day (except Sunday, when the Library is closed), 200 of them taking their very first steps on the grand floors. Anyone over the age of eighteen is welcome into their designated reading rooms, and anyone may browse their stock online.
The Russian State Library is truly a link between times, utilizing both old-fashioned card-indexes and state-of-the-art technology to bring their books to the people. They have recently adopted a plan to take their outreach to a global scale, “emerging into the future” on the public, academic, digital and international scales. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Syrniki is a Russian treat often eaten for either breakfast or dessert. The simplicty of the ingredients needed to make Syrniki made the dish easy to cook for any lifestyle, and therefore was popular all across Russia. It is made from a special cheese called Quark cheese, which is similar to cottage cheese, and is soft and white. The Quark cheese used in making Syrniki has cream added to it, making the cheese even more soft, creamy, and smooth. This mixture is then rolled into patties and gently fried to produce its characteristic crunchy outer layer, but soft and moist inner layers.

Here is a recipe I found for making Syrniki:

  • Salt and sugar to your taste
  • 2 tablespoons not too full of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoonful of sour-cream
  • ½ pound of cream cheese or quark

Add all those delicious things to the cream cheese and mix well to get a homogeneous mass. Now form little round things about half an inch thick, roll them in crumbs or semolina and fry on a medium heat in vegetable oil.
Once cooked, syrniki are made more zingy with the addition of sour cream, jam, honey or apple sauce. Throw fruit or raisins into the mix as well, or use them as a condiment, and you have a delicious plate full of snacks!

The Russians and Their Vodka: a Book by Edwin Trommelen

For 600+ years, the Russians have become attached to what can be considered their national drink: vodka. Their love for this alcoholic beverage has been expressed through literature, politics, history, and essentially every aspect of pop culture. Trommelen's book, through the use of history and literature, paints a very complex and vivid picture for the reader to help him or her explore all aspects of the never-ending Russian obsession with Vodka. In addition to this book offers quotes from literature, poetry, and theater in the original Russian and English translation, which can help to improve one's Russian through the lens of this drink.

Оймяко́н | Coldest Place on Earth



File:Oymyakon forests.jpg

It is located in the northwestern side of Russia. Oymyakon means "Unfrozen Patch of Water" or "Frozen Lake." There around only 500 people  live in Oymyakon. They either experience a very short daytime in the Winter (3 Hours) and very long daytime in the Summer (21 Hours). In 1933, it recorded the lowest temperature ever, which was   −67.7 °C (−90 °F).

"Oymyakon has NEVER recorded an above freezing temperature between October 25 and March 17"

It is a dry climate thought the year except during summer months.

This is their weather forecast  for tomorrow! It is in °F


Нижний Новгород

Нижний Новгород is one of the five largest cities in Russia, located in Western Russia. But most people know just Moskow and St. Petersburg. The city became a central point for the Russian trade around 1850 and is now an important industrial city. The city does not have many international tourists, but more Russians that visit the city or who are on a cruise on the Wolga. It is still a very pretty city, although it is not known around the world.

Area: 158,56 sq mi

Population: 1,250,619 inhabitants

Density: 7,890/sq mi

Founded: 1221

Russian Superstitions

Like most other cultures, Russians have various superstitions. Americans might be superstitious walking under a ladder, spilling salt, or breaking a mirror. It may even be considered bad luck for the groom to see his bride before the wedding. Here are a few Russian superstitious…

Whistling inside the home will cause you to lose money. If you gift someone with a wallet or purse, put money inside of it or it will bring poor financial luck to the person receiving it. Money is believed to transmit energy from its owner – negative energy. The passenger of a taxi, for example, should leave the money on the dashboard or special tray. Once the passenger leaves, the driver may then collect the money (after the link to the energy is broken). 

If you have forgotten something at home, do not go back! If you really do think you need to go back to your house after forgetting something, look in a mirror before you leave the house again. Before someone leaves for a long journey, everyone in the house must sit down in the hall for a minute. This allows people to help calm down before the journey (and this helps to remember anything they might have forgotten to pack). 

Familiarly, if a black cat crosses in front of you it will be a bad day. (To offset this bad luck, walk backwards away from the cat). It is also bad luck to see a woman with an empty bucket headed towards your direction. 

No baby showers – you should only buy gifts for the child after it has been born. Do not visit the newborn for a month after its birth because you do not want to accidentally give the child negative energies. Women looking to get married should not sit on the corner of a table – this will leave her single for seven years!

Washing someone’s clothes when they are away on a trip might mean they will not return from that trip. Brooms should be kept in the corner where they can be seen to keep bad house spirits away. 

There are ways to have good luck instead of just keeping bad luck away! For exams, put five rubles in your shoe. Finding a lilac with an odd number of petals is also good luck. There are omens such as a spoon falling to the floor – this means that the next person who enters that room will be a kind woman. On the other hand, a fork means it will be an angry woman, and a knife means the man will arrive. If you find a spider on your clothes, this is a sign of financial success. 

Hiccups mean that someone is thinking of you. It you find out you is thinking about you, the hiccups will stop. A dark omen is the bird: a bird flying into your home will bring about death (although if bird poop lands on your head, this is also good luck in Russia).