"Mamma Mia! They will tear us apart! 7-3! Just like in hockey last year." Sverker Göransson, commander-in-chief of the Swedish armed forces, recently said that Sweden’s scaled backed military leaves the country vulnerable. Sweden, he claimed, could only defend itself for one week if it came under attack. The Russians have taken notice and issued a satirical response. [more inside]
The Turn Against Nabokov [newyorker.com]
"The author, whose novels thrum with ironic recurrences, might have been perversely pleased with this: thirty-six years after his death and twenty-two years after the fall of the Soviet Union with all its khudsovets, Vladimir Nabokov is, once again, controversial."
Khrushchev Tours America - His shoe banging incident at the UN and the the Kitchen Debates with Nixon are well known but less attention has been given to the time Nikita Khrushchev went to Hollywood. He met Marilyn Monroe and other film luminaries but he was denied a trip to Disneyland (previously). [more inside]
Russians without Russia is an elegantly designed digital archive of the magazines and newspapers produced by the Russian exile communities of 1920s and 30s.
The Lady of Orda Cave Two-time world champion free diver Natalia Avseenko ventures deep into Ordynskaya Cave in Perm, Russia, one of the longest and biggest underwater gypsum caves in the world. She dressed as the mythical Lady of the Cave, a spirit who protects divers inside the “natural cathedral”. Orda Cave previously.
In 1978, geological explorers in a remote region of southern Siberia made an unexpected discovery: a family living alone, more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement. They had lived in isolation since 1936 and were unaware that World War II had happened.
Soviet-era Russia was not a particularly friendly environment for aspiring fine watchmakers. For Konstantin Chaykin, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1975, there was no school where he could learn the craft that he dreamed of pursuing. So he taught himself.
In the bicentennial celebration of the historic Battle of Borodino on September 7th, 1812, that saw the Russian Army, despite heavy losses, withstand the attack of Napoleon’s forces, Orion Art multimedia group held a massive festival at Spasskaya Tower in Red Square, Moscow… complete with guest appearance by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Driving in Russia. (SLYT) (warning: contains footage of many many car accidents.)
It seems strange, 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, that ordinary Russians would still be hungry for details about how ordinary Americans eat and pay mortgages. But to Mr. Zlobin’s surprise, his book — published this year and marketed as a guide to Russians considering a move abroad — is already in its fifth print run, and his publisher has commissioned a second volume. - MOSCOW JOURNAL, A Hunger for Tales of Life in the American Cul-de-Sac (SLNYTIMES)
The subtitles aren't accurate, but that shouldn't stop your enjoyment of this Russian adaptation of 'The Hobbit'.
The great Russian animator Fyodor Khitruk passed away on December 3rd at the age of 95. You might know him as the director of the delightful Vinni Puh. (Parts one and two can be seen here with subtitles, for part three see this previous post.) [more inside]
Mannerheim: General of the Czar, Marshal of Finland [1/9] (In Russian, with English subtitles) [more inside]
"Entering into one of the fiercest competitions in existence, I found art."Sixteen mushers. 120 dogs. An adventure across one of the longest mushing trails in the world: the Beringia, a dog sled race stretching 683 miles across eastern Russia. Twilight on the Tundra [more inside]
Anyone familiar with the contemporary Russian humorous folklore (jokelore, or in Russian anekdoty) knows that one of the most popular series of such jokes revolves around the Chukchis, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia. These jokes, especially popular in 1990s and 2000s, fit the international genre of ethnic stupidity jokes . . .
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
In the first years of the Fifteenth Century Henry III of Castile sent Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo as his ambassador to Samarkand. His journey introduced him to giraffes and many other sights unknown to Europeans of the time. Samarkand was then the center of the largest empire in the world, that of Tamerlane the Great (a.k.a Timur), the last of the nomad conquerors. His capital began as a city of the Sogdians, which became an important center of culture and trade, as is recorded in these 7th Century wall paintings. Samarkand was refashioned by Timur and his descendants, the most famous being the astronomer Ulugh Beg, and the Timurid legacy is still visible in Samarkand. After Timur's death, his empire disintegrated, and soon fell into decline, but left enough of a mark to inspire both Christopher Marlowe and Edgar Allan Poe. The Russian Empire conquered Samarkand in 1868, and the city was documented in the early 20th Century in color photograhs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii (this one's a favorite) and remained an out of the way place in the Soviet era.
Japanese Prints Online - The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts provides an on-line catalogue for its collection of 18th- and 19th-century Japanese prints, which includes over 600 prints made by Japanese artists between the middle of the 18th century and the turn of the 19th century.
"Mountain of Dinosaurs" (1967) A Russian cartoon, directed by Rasa Strautmane. WARNING: things don't end well for the Dinosaurs. [via]
The mines were frozen so they did not explode, while we walked for several kilometres along the [mine] fields.
The history of the Russian-Chechen conflict spans two centuries. Images of Chechen enemies were mentioned even in a lullaby by Lermontov that put children to sleep in the 19th century. War correspondents Robert Parsons, Sofie Shehab, Petra Prohazkova and Andrey Babitsky tell about the war they saw with their own eyes in Nino Kirtadze’s film “The Chechen Lullaby”. [more inside]
Imagine a lake so polluted and contaminated that spending just an hour on its shores would result in certain death, and the only way seen fit to deal with it is to fill the entire water body with concrete blocks to keep the toxic soil underneath from moving onshore. That lake is Lake Karachay in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast, and it is considered by many to be the most polluted place on the planet.
Although three members of Pussy Riot "have been sentenced to two years each on the absurd charge of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,'" they remain unbowed. In this GQ interview Nadya Tolokonikovoy relates that "prison is a place for ascetic practices," and states "In any case, I'm happy I got two years. For every person with a functioning brain, this verdict is so dumb and cruel that it removes any lingering illusions about Putin's system. It's a verdict on the system."
Recommended procedures in the event of being propelled through the windshield of your truck, exhibit A. Youtube.
An opinion column: Why do Russians hate ice? (SLNYT)
Dan Roam reminisces about walking into a Russian bookstore in 1993 and picking up a one-of-a-kind item...
The Russian Institute of Geology and Mineralogy announced an allegedly previously undisclosed 60-mile-wide field of "trillions of carats" of impact diamonds caused by a metor strike into graphite rock in Siberia. The media is reporting that this has been known about since the 70s but undisclosed, but this is misleading. As detailed by Vishnevsky [academic summary PDF], for example, the presence of large amounts of impact diamonds within the impactites was very well known; it is perhaps better to say that the market-distorting sheer yield of the field (around an order of magnitude of increase over known reserves) had not previously been discussed. The diamonds produced by such high temperatures and pressures are around twice as tough as normal diamonds, and the extreme hardness and compartively cheap availibility is likely to hugely widen the usage of industrial diamonds even setting aside the gemstone issues. This does however put the 2011 sale of the Oppenheimer family 40 per cent stake in De Beers in an interesting light, especially as the field at once offers the prospect of huge diamond stones whilst devaluing De Beers' existing stockpile hugely.
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat. The battle was reenacted at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
When baby bears are orphaned in Russia, it's up to the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Dr. Valentin Pazhitnov to raise them to maturity while realizing they must not become too comfortable with humans. Observe as the cubs discover their natural instincts and dine al fresco and, well, eat some more. Have fun, little guys!
It is proposed that a memorial to Steve Jobs be erected in St. Petersburg, Russia. The entries are in and you can vote for your favourite online. [more inside]
Ramamba Haru Mamburu! Inhabiting a world somewhere between the desperate raunchy excesses of early Devo (NSFW), the playfully morbid obsessions of TMBG, and the puerile falsettos of Sparks, the Russian novelty/comedy/geek rockers Nogu Svelo! (English site) have been contributing earworms to Russian pop culture for, oh, some twenty years now. [more inside]
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
In Siberia, several frozen human burials dating to 2,500 years ago have intact skin with elaborate tattoos. Warning: link contains graphic pictures of dead people.
Pussy Riot found guilty of anti-religious ‘hooliganism’ for church protest. [NYTimes.com] Previously Previously.
The World in 2 Minutes is a series of videos showing the eccentricities, both good and bad, of different countries as told by their youtube videos. [more inside]
"I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we now expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. Now the whole world sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, Russia looks different in the eyes of the world from the way Putin tries to present it at daily international meetings. All the steps toward a state governed by the rule of law that he promised have obviously not been made. And his statement that the court in our case will be objective and make a fair decision is another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you." - Yekaterina Samutsevich: Closing Statement at the Pussy Riot Trial
The Hermitage Museum sits on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, it houses millions of works of art by the great masters, and since the 18th century, it has been protected by cats. [more inside]
Marina Akhmedova amongst the crocodile addicts of Yekaterinburg - published and censored in Russia, translated and mirrored on opendemocracy. "They check intently who is getting how much, and count out the eyedrops. If I ran right now into the middle of the kitchen and bellowed at the top of my voice, they would not turn round. Their world extends only a few metres and has the cooker and its hood at its centre. It is not a world within the world: it is their entire world, a world as narrow as a coffin, but all-encompassing for those who live in it, a world which follows its own laws. In it there are neither saints nor sinners, no thieves or benefactors, only the harsh laws of survival. There is no truth, no certainty about anything, not even that the sun will rise tomorrow. It is a world which arises when people are dicing with death. A supreme, inexorable law instantly appears, an axis around which their universe revolves: it is the right of those as yet still human to play a game they have chosen for themselves."
Urban skiing, courtesy of Finnish crew Nipwitz. Like skate videos with snow, ambient soundtrack, and a pinch of travelogue. Here is Murmanst Oblast and Sarajevo.
"The Western observer tends to split the Russian press into two camps: evil statists and martyrs. But for their part, members of the Russian press are convinced of their superiority over their Western colleagues, at least when it comes to Syria. Russian journalists aren’t under the illusion that they are more objective than their Western counterparts, but they are convinced of their ability to convey a more realistic, complex picture of the events in Syria." - The New Republic: In Russia, Even Putin’s Critics Are OK With His Syria Policy
"Mr. Lukashenko has steadily turned Belarus into something akin to a prison colony. The possibility of ending up in prison is a constant risk for millions, and a check on even their most mundane daily routines." - Europe’s Last Dictatorship (SLNYTIMES)
Pussy Riot is a free-floating (except when jailed) band of punk rockers and activists in Russia. Their punk protest issues include LGBT and gender rights, as well as opposition to Putin and the government. They’re usually anonymous, and they change their assumed and actual names and personnel on a whim. They perform in balaclavas that hide their features, and wear bright-colored tights and plain, skimpy dresses, so anyone can easily don Pussy Riot gear. Hair, makeup, even gender — doesn’t matter. This is not rock star territory. Men can be members of Pussy Riot; so can anyone on the spectrum. They do not perform in clubs or theaters or at music events. Every performance is a guerrilla one. Vice interviews Pussy Riot (before the arrests). Salon reports on the recent detention of three members. Amnesty International page.
Rio Wang has posted a fantastic 1892 photo album of Russian army fashions.