31 декабря 2009 г.

Russiapedia – Russia guide.

I admit I first got idea for my blog from my fiance. I mean, he gave me the wonderful book ''Watching the English'' by Kate Fox and I got immediately hooked on how gracefully the author managed to represent whole big nation at 414 pages or so.

Culture, behavior, likes and dislikes, and even little cute national quirks! Say that I was astonished, say nothing. But more importantly, when I turned last page the first question that came to my mind was: ‘’Did someone already write the same comprehensive, humorous and enlightening guide on the Russian?’’

Well, I am the type of a girl who believes in going and getting, so I went on-line and did some research and I had to sadly admit that NO, nobody yet. Yes, there are some well-established resources out there that give a really, really good info, but they are mostly focusing on current affairs or travel tips for those, visiting Russia.

However, everytime you try to find something which is ‘out of customary circle of covered matters’…For example, educating you on how successfully to interact with Russians daily, what their national identity and behavioral code is, where their traditions and customs come from, why they do this or that, and if is Russian language really THAT complicated or this is another myth, and many more little (but critical for understanding this unique nation) details, you're frequently left without any clear directions. Or if you get some valuable insight, it is as a rule pretty sparse.

And seriously, what do you (yes, YOU!) know about this terra incognita? OK, let me guess: a) vodka; b) revolution and communism; c) Siberian frost; d) beautiful women. Oh and perhaps lately, also Chelsea Football Club – owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Not that much, huh? And certainly far from much in order to give you a COMPLETE picture.

So after much pondering over all this, I eventually came up with idea of informal guide to Russia and Russians. You see, there are 142 millions of us and we’ve got to have at least one volunteer blogger-spokesman LOL

I am going to discuss here everything uniquely Russian. Everything that makes this biggest, half-European, half-Asian, and enigmatic country truly GREAT: its culture, art, geography, language, traditions, nature, history and of course – its people.

And wait! I don’t promise you to be fully unbiased here, okay? ;-) After all, I am a Russian girl and via this blog I indulge my passion for my motherland, so I can be occasionally carried away with excessive enthusiasm. Feel free to step in and give your feedback.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘’no one makes it alone’’? I’d love you to ask me any questions to help determine what I should write about first, so we make it together the real Guide to National Gems, sort of Russia-pedia, Russia wiki, you know.


14 июля 2009 г.

10 Western Media Stereotypes About Russia: How Truthful Are They?

Found today an amazing resource - ''The Real Russia Project'' AKA Discovery Institute (http://www.russiablog.org/).

Check it please, it's plenty of interesting stuff about Russia and Russians there. What attracted my attention first was this special report '10 Western Media Stereotypes About Russia: How Truthful Are They?'

(click right on the link above to download)

I believe it's pretty impartial and well-grounded summary. If nothing else, it will give you a fresh prospect. Read and let me know what you think!

23 июня 2009 г.

Why we, Russians are SO into foreign stuff??

Russians got famous for being enchanted with foreign things and values.

It may sound a pretty weird statement these days, when our world rapidly becomes a smaller place but glabalization has actually nothing to do with our ineradicable hunger for everything that does NOT sound, smell, act and feel as Russian.

Admittedly, we are hungry for the western lifestyle in every way. Language, food, perfume, cosmetics, gym, and the numerous ways of social interaction like kissing-accolade. We hooked on it, even we prefer to deny it or even say, 'we don't care'! Whatever we pretend, it were we who first utilized the proverbial 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence' as the type of thinking.

There are many different reasons for that. First, historically many generations of Russians were hidden under the iron curtain way too long, so we are naturally curious about new things.

Secondly, we still don’t feel ourselves authentically the part of the rest Europe. We may learn languages and plan to join World Trade Organization but secretly, we always question ourselves if what we do now, bring us any closer to desired 'western' image? With all that said, vast majority of us are remarkable patriots (and rightly so). What we struggle most is how to remain Russian and yet correspond to the western standards, we read, hear and watch everyday.

I believe, what most of us should realize is that the role of cultural go-between among two world civilizations that Russia certainly plays, is just another expression of that cultural mission, positioning us as the unique mix of Europe and Asia. Something we could be easily proud of...if we just wanted to!

What goes in reality is that we keep persisting in our wish to be total-lot Europeans in 99 cases. While we are neither Europeans, nor Asians. We are the absolutely new formation - Eurasians and this is what we learn about at our first geography lesson.
Now instead of living into and enjoying this, we see Slavic skin as something barbarian we need to mask at the worst, and transform into something more socially acceptable at best.

When abroad, we make a special effort to eliminate our accent, change our apparel and hold a conversation in the right way, God forbid to not turn off someone (now who decided what's right or what's wrong?)

We feel it would help us to look more 'westernized'...the truth, it gets us nowhere: 'to look' doesn't necessarily means 'to be'.
And unartful but still beautiful Slavic background could never be replaced with probably more sophisticated but still fake to us, western guise.

Now you likely tell me, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and I totally agree with that. But how about forgetting being Russians in...Russia?!

Unfortunately from our very infancy we are not taught this important skill - APPRECIATE our cultural identity as it is and it plays funny and somewhat sad role in everyday's life.

Travel to any Russian city and take a walk in its streets. What you see? Billboards and showcases of biggest (and best) shops are likely to be in Latin alphabet. You should know, that Russians strongly believe that using any (often pretty meaningless - I watch it everyday) English, French or Italian phrase on signboard or T-shirt would make their product look posh and attract customers in droves. Translation works wonders. If we cannot transform Russian word into English, we transliterate it like it goes below.

Boutique ''Soblazn'' (transliterated Russian word ''temptation'').

Thus, even pretty ordinary shop immediately gets a high-end boutique look and feel, when instead of boring ‘’Zhenskaya Odezhda’’ ('Female clothes' literally, but you caught my drift), it puts on something vague and enigmatic like ‘’Nicole’’ or ''GG'' or whatever else they believe, would increase sales. The same works for restaurants or fitness centers.

You see, it is cool to occassionally mention to your friend, being asked where you got that fantastic coat, ‘’At Stilissimo last week, they had a big sale and lots of couture stuff’’.

Isn't it alone makes you feel more confident and *European*?

Ah sure, it does LOL ;-)

Let's play fairly, I am prone of it myself...or I WAS prone of it. Or, rather say I am an incurable cosmopolite, but I also think Slavic culture, and Russian launguage have enough to offer to enterprising person, willing to promote his brand. Just dig deeper and you will find a lot of marketing gems.

Back to our topic, it is Russians who are building Moscow City that resembles New York's down town skyscrapers and demand from any popular singer, (if he or she of course wants to remain popular) to record at least few songs in English or other foreign language (but English is highly preferable)...why? For the very same reason, it's much in tune with the current trend: to be foreigner in own country. It is cool.

Moscow city - business center

For the reasons given above, Russians also adopted oh so many western holidays and traditions these days.

For example, we have a nice Sweethearts Day in July but St. Valentine so strongly came into our life, we now actually can’t imagine February without bunch of hearts, teary stories in Romeo and Juliet style, chocolate treats and love confessions. That’s so commercial, it makes me goat. But that's again about love for all western just because it is ‘’western’’.

Or...we used to be huge fans of Eurovision. Every single year, we invested lots of energy, money and time to win it. We were runners-up a couple of times, and finally we have won. The nation triumphed. Now when we successfully proved to the whole world we are not just a winner but ALSO the best host of this musical contest (watch this production yourself: it is whole new level), we can't be more happier and rested.

BTW, as for Eurovision 2009. It is highly recommended you would view it for pure pleasure rather than to soothe anyone's national ambitions, it is really THAT incredible.


Hmm, one day this thirst will be over. Soon, I hope cuz I am watching a growing positive tendency in this direction.

And really, guys we have got an amazing heritage, we can be proud of: OUR history, art, literature, music, whatever you name it! But the saddest part about all that is we still didn't master the most important (simplest and hardest simultaneously) art ever - being US!

Exactly because Russia has abundance of things to choose from for literally any person, we seem always taking for granted many of them. Strangely enough, but sometimes I think, if we would have a lack of culture, probably we would appreciate even smallest things much more than we are doing it now.

Example of many countries (even much smaller size as against Russia) shows that they not only declined to assimilate into another culture, they religiously cherished their own one; the quality which alone deserves a high respect. So why such multidimensional giant Russia is, always tends to be the part of something...whereas being already complete by itself?

The question of the day is not whether we are Europeans or Asians, it's rather how to marry up our rich heritage with today's world actualities and needs? What it takes to be modern Russians - being US?

* * *


I have visited Scandinavia recently and I am still amazed how they honor their countries' languages. All signboards were in Swedish, Danish and Finish and it didn’t stop here…they promoted THEIR Nordic lifestyle in each possible way; yet it all went very natural and unobtrusive. Isn't it lovely?

I wish we would have more of this in Russia too. I’d love seeing signboards in Cyrillic, as we all know that Russian is a lot easier than... say, Danish. At least, pronunciation is not full of tongue-twisters ;-)

So why not to finally start loving being US?

It is high time, really.

Scarlet Sails show: 2 more videos

Well, wanted to add two more imrpessive videos so you would get an idea about how it was. They say a picture can be worth of thousands of words...then what video is worth? ;-)

Anyway, enjoy! I read somewhere that more than 3 millions of people participated in this celebration at 20 June 2009.

Romance is officially back! Scarlet Sails show in Saint Petersburg

Couldn't resist sharing this beauty with you today.

This is the famous show ''Scarlet Sails'': Saint Petersburg city celebrates a 2009 school-leaving party for thousands and thousands of its graduates.

Beautiful analogy of Scarlet Sails by of the same name novel of the Soviet writer Alexander Grin, telling a romantic story of the love which goes thru all obstacles to blossom in the end.

Romance is back, is it? ;-) I wish I could be there!

«Очищение» на Яндекс.Фотках

«aquarel» на Яндекс.Фотках

Небесные хризантемы
«Небесные хризантемы» на Яндекс.Фотках

«волшебство» на Яндекс.Фотках

high blue
«high blue» на Яндекс.Фотках

Алые паруса
«Алые паруса» на Яндекс.Фотках

Алые паруса
«Алые паруса» на Яндекс.Фотках

Sure, it's spactacular and good news is that every year you can book a special tour to SPb with opportunity to be part of this show too!

15 мая 2009 г.

Eurovision 2009 in Moscow!

Woohoo! Russia hosted Eurovision 2009.

It is really whole NEW level of production, all European countries appreciated. So proud : ) Just a few shots to illustrate the history of this contest in our country. The highlights:

1. 2006 'Never let you go' by Dima Bilan (Russia is a runner-up)

2. 2007 'Song # 1' by Serebro girl band (third seat)

3. 2008 'Believe me' by Dima Bilan again (long-expected win)

10 февраля 2009 г.

Winter Fun in Russia. Part III (''Russian Troika'')

Let me share with you one more idea to enjoy your winter vacation in Russia – a legendary ''Russian Troika'' (or ''troyka'') horse ride. After much abandoning this traditional pastime during communist times, it fortunately again becomes popular kind of sport and just amusement.

Basically, the term ‘’troika’’ is a three-horse team of special design, which draws sledge or carriage. The term’s other meaning is wild, speedy dashing race, wide steppes and the cold Russian winter: fur hats and garment, valenki (the kind of footwear – felt boots), warm blankets and sure, a stop for a glass of fine, original Russian vodka to get warm and continue the journey.

Something that makes troika a uniquely Russian invention is the special arc harness, serving as a fine shock-absorber when riding through the pretty rough Russian roads. To understand how it works, look at the picture below:

Russian troika rideThe troika of Orlov trotters

Over the wither of the middle horse you can see a huge wooden part that holds and fixes the shafts to the harness.

The wing horses' traces are also fixed to the vehicle; they hold splinter bars, which are attached to the outside of each wing horse and their heads are bending to the outside via a special, fixed leather belt.

Due to this pretty complex construction, the whip of a troika has to watch over 4 reins: two for the center horse (left rein in left hand, right rein in right hand) and one outer rein for each of the wing horses in the corresponding hand.

However the true mastery of whip is to be in control for different paces of all three horses simultaneously! Thus, the middle horse is supposed to trot, whereas the rest two (wing horses) are galloping. It is pretty problematic to force two wing horses into unnatural body posture all the time, so no wonder that the like skill takes a few years to train daily.

That’s why they used to harness only the best trained horse to run the center. As a rule, it is Orlov trotter. ‘’Orlov’’ is the specially bred Russian horse that used in troika racing competitions due to its ability to develop a very speedy, straight trot (check http://www.horses.ru/orlov_trotter.htm to learn more about Orlovs’ history).

The forehorse, the leader in the team, Orlov trotter is the key responsible figure that brings beauty and harmony to the whole — team and carriage. Exactly its flashing trot imposes control and direction while two other horses just help him to move the carriage and maneuver it best.

Russian troika appeared in its familiar for Russians sight in the middle of the 18th century. Back to then, it used to be a traditional style of cold weather transportation. Passengers bundled up in furs in the back of the sledge to ward off often dangerously low temperatures.

Today ‘’troika’’ is one of most internationally recognized and most famous symbols of Russia. This image of three horses, put together in a team in a horizontal row in front of a carriage or a sleigh commonly featured on Russian folk art, pictures, novelties, and also in classic Russian literature, like for example in the world-famous novel ''Dead Souls'' of Nikolai Gogol.

Russian troyka

Palekh lacquer miniature

To understand such a phenomenal national love for Troika, one should conceive the greatest role the horse used to play for centuries in Russia. Apart from the work, horses participated in all events of social life. Be it a wedding procession or merry Pancake week’s celebration, no holiday in the old days could be made without them. Much of this tradition is renovated nowadays. For example, many newly married couples instead of inevitable limousine, often book a romantic wedding carriage.

But perhaps flip side of the coin is that Troika always was something more than just three horses, harnessed abreast.

Designed to fast speed wide distance of spacey continent, where poor, mud-locked roads and snow still always rule, in some allegorical sense, it was always reflection of the spacious and also pretty reckless Russian soul.

‘Spacious soul’, 'big nature' – that likely be the first thing to hear from a Russian if asked about the Russian national character. The phrase may sound a commonplace, yet its meaning is not so easy to define. "Russian people are altogether spacious people, just like their land, and extremely inclined to the fantastic and disorderly", — a Dostoyevsky's character says in "Crime and Punishment".

And it is very true. Just imagine the vast expanses of this huge country stretching over the continent and uniting Europe and Asia, with a great variety of cultures, landscapes, and nations… and you will perceive its infinity that reverberates in the unconscious collective mind of its people. One human life is far from enough to see all the places of this land, its riches seems impossible to waste and sure, its spaces are quite hard to control. That’s where the Russian spontaneity and generosity from one hand and weakness for extremes and longing for the known from other hand, plus everlasting (charming though!) unpredictability come from. Nuclear cocktail LOL ;-))

Thus, troika symbol is not just prominent part of national heritage but in many respects the very essence of Russian mentality.

''[Troika] …It could not have been a more quintessentially Russian scene — at least to the eyes of westerners reared on Doctor Zhivago'', says Telegraph (you can read the full article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1543285/Russia-driving-a-sled-and-horses-back-to-past.html )

If you want to see with your own eyes what the real Troika racings is about, here is the video I found on-line today:

Oh and just in case, you’re enough adventurous to try this exotic, typically Russian thing during your stay, ''Gold Horseshoe'' (http://www.gold-podkova.ru/troika.htm) seems one of most well-established services, specializing exclusively in horse activities (troika experience included). Actually their website is in Russian only but I don’t mind to help you with translation if you got really interested.

Honestly, Russian troika ride is something you are going to fall in love from the very first minute! : )

* * *

OK, feels like here our conversation about winter fun in Russia draws to a close. I enjoyed talking to you about everything that makes Russian winter is so special and I hope at least one of national attractions captured your attention.

But I can’t let you go without one last word of caution: Russian winter time can be fascinating but it’s often insidious. So unless you are in a warm refuge, avoid drinking alcohol in open air especially during some celebrations. It may seem a popular national method to get warm but actually fastest way to get frostbite. Also, remember that depending on location you are about to visit, Russian winters can be quite cold and it is hard to get by without fur coat, hat and boots. Clothes should be fewer but when choosing them, make sure they are really warm.

Bon voyage!