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.
English Russia often chooses odd subjects but the ladies in this article have lived sadly sweet lives through some of the most intense and difficult years in an intense and difficult place. It was originally published in Russian Esquire if you prefer the Russian language version
Exxon mobil has signed a development agreement with the Kremlin-majority-owned Rosneft to develop the Bazhenov oil shale reserves in Siberia (PDF), which are estimated to hold 2 million million barrels of oil equivalent -- that's about 64 years of current consumption.
"There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls. It’s been many years since any child was taken. But still, on nights like these, when the wind comes cold from Tsibeya, mothers hold their daughters tight and warn them not to stray too far from home. “Be back before dark,” they whisper. “The trees are hungry tonight.” Tor.com brings us some short horror/fairy tale fiction from Leigh Bardugo, "The Witch of Duva: A Ravkan Folk Tale."
The Feynman Files. For the first time, FBI records for Dr Richard Feynman have been released to the public. They document the Bureau's apparent obsession in the 1950's with outing him as a communist sympathizer, and include notations from several background checks as well as interviews with his colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
"Skywalking" Russky Island Bridge. Three Russian teenagers climb up the 300 meter Bridge to Russky Island without any safety equipment. Apparently this is part of a trend calling 'skywalking'. WARNING: Sweaty palms may damage computer.
The nuclear-disarmament group Global Zero just released a report proposing a ten-year plan for the United States and Russia to reduce their arsenals below 900 warheads each, well below the New START treaty limits of 1,550 deployed warheads each by 2018. Implementation is unlikely in an election year. [more inside]
"Hi. Russia may well be associated with hard liquor like Водка, but in this video I will be talking about our traditional soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages." Part 1 [mostly juices] and Part 2 [fizzy drinks]. [more inside]
The first sighting of an all-white male orca (YouTube 1, 2) is reported by Eric Hoyt, Senior Fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, UK.
Moscow of 1931 is a collection of hand-tinted lantern slides by Branson DeCou, an American photographer and travelogue lecturer who traveled the world for 30 years before his death in 1941. You can view more of the DeCou corpus online at the Branson Decou Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz where they've been attempting to sort, preserve, identify and digitize 10,000 DeCou slides received in 1971, a gift referred to the university chancellor by photographer Ansel Adams. [more inside]
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War. Then, they made a documentary. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD, the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels. You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
Iron Lady lost in Russian translation. [Guardian.co.uk] Speaking to a crowd of supporters, Margaret Thatcher, as played by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, explains what she would do as prime minister: "Crush the working class, crush the scum, the yobs."
Punks Not Dead.... but it can get you killed. Punk rock in oppresive regimes.
Last Sunday, Russia's prime minister Vladimir Putin was shown shedding tears on TV as he was elected to be Russia's president for the next six years amidst a wave of protests. Meanwhile, despite a vast network of web cameras installed at polling stations to prevent vote fraud and independent exit polls showing more than 50% support for Putin, his opponents have decried the elections as a sham, as reports of falsifications, ballot stuffing and 'carousel voting' abound. What will his third term be like, though? in Prospect Magazine, Rachel Polonsky takes an in-depth look at the anti-Putin mood in Russian cities and what it means for his system of power. [more inside]
They screamed and shouted, begging us not to kill them because they had family and kids back home. So what? As if, by contrast, we’d come from an orphanage into this s***hole. We executed them all. Diary of the war in Chechnya. (via) [more inside]
"You’ll be happy with him. He’ll protect you like a stone wall." First time, only for <3. [more inside]
the previously discussed horse_ebooks twitter spambot/oracle creator has been tracked down by gawker
"What we are talking about here are models that reproduce real guns in details. These are acting mechanisms and real copies of guns decreased 4-4.5 times. They could fire if real bullets were used."
He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings "loaner" devices, which he erases before he leaves the US and wipes clean the minute he returns . In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi , never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery , for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, "Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop." - Travel precautions in the age of digital espionage.