Russian Life

Articles from Vol. 52, No. 3, May-June

Between 1598 and 1689, Russia Added to Its Empire an Area the Size of Britain Every 2.5 Years
Russia's 100 zapovedniki--strictly protected natural areas--cover 83 million acres, or about 1.6% of the country; in addition, Russia's 35 national parks cover another 0.4% of the country. Taken together, they are the largest protected land area of...
Completing the Circle
ARKHANGELSK PHOTOGRAPHER and journalist Nikolai Gernet traveled back to the Kanin Peninsula to visit the nomadic reindeer herding families he wrote about in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Russian Life. He took along copies of the magazine to show the families...
Composure
Many of Russia's great composers of the 19th century might have become something else, if their parents had their way. Mikhail Glinka's parents wanted him to join the foreign service; Pyotr Tchaikovsky was to be trained as a lawyer; Modest Mussorgsky...
Cultural Clones
In 2001, the Dutch television production company Endemol threatened to bring suit against the Russian television station TV6 over the latter's program Behind the Glass, a copy of Endemol's popular international reality show Big Brother, and demanded...
Culture
Culture--there are those who would argue that this is the country's true natural resource--has long headed the list of Russia's exports and lasting contributions to the world. Below are a few lesser-known facts. Birch bark tablets are a fascinating...
Faith in Progress
WITH FEWER THAN A DOZEN permanent residents remaining in our village, our village of Chukhrai would not seem to be high on the list of priorities for politicians seeking electoral support. However, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched a national...
Feast amid Carnage: The Battle of Poltava: June 27, 1709
By the summer of 1709, Russia and Sweden had been at war over lands along the Baltic coast for nine years. The battle would rage for another twelve. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] This endless Northern War completely changed the face of Russia, since...
History Is One of the Main Things
History is one of the main things binding Russian life together. It is simply impossible in Russia not to know your history. It is all around you: on the town's coat of arms, which carefully enumerates its age and its first, tiniest mention in the...
In Old Russia
"In Old Russia, the stratum of high Christian culture was comparatively thin and did not affect the rural masses. The vast majority of Russia's population was illiterate and obeyed the oral versions more than their ecclesiastical sources. On the other...
Matryoshki, One of the Most Recognizable Russian, Folk Arts, Has Its Origins in Japan
In Russian, icons are not drawn or painted, but "written." Their composition is strictly governed by canonical conventions (bypassing naturalistic conventions like perspective and realism), and the icon painter is not an artist, but a theologian, seeking...
Notable Inventions
Bisphenol-A: The stuff in plastic bottles that can be harmful to you is traced back to this polycarbonate, first discovered in 1891 by A.P. Dyanin. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Musical Synthesizer: The world's first was created by Russian engineer...
Numbers
Russia is the world's largest consumer of heroin. 90% of drug users use heroin from Afghanistan. 2.5 million Russians are drug addicts, mostly between the ages 18 and 39. There are 845,000 Russians working for the state--that's up 74% in the past...
Olympian Drama
SOCHI, RUSSIA'S RESORT TOWN and future location of the 2014 Summer Olympics, is becoming an arena for political games and ego-boosting campaigns as some two dozen candidates competed in the city's mayoral race, set for April 26. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]...
On This Day
120 & 210 YEARS AGO POETIC TWINS Alexander Pushkin (born June 6, 1799) and Anna Akhmatova (born June 11, 1889) had much in common besides being born under the same sign (Gemini: the twins). Not only were both poets recognized early to have great...
Our Centennial Issue
As the Russian saying goes, it is better to have 100 friends than 100 rubles. (He [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] CTO [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] CTO [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) Of course, a hundred...
Overheard
"It seems to me as if a blind man and a deaf man sat down and signed a piece of paper, without any understanding what they were signing." Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin, on the declaration Ukraine and the EU signed about modernizing...
Russian Theater
Russian theater has been a world leader ever since Anton Chekhov began writing plays at the end of the 19th century. As Sergei Diaghilev and Vaslav Nijinsky thrilled Europe with the Ballets Russes in the second decade of the 20th century, Valery Gergiev...
Sergius of Radonezh: Born C. 1314
When you enter the gates of the St. Sergius Lavra along with the diverse crowd of people piously crossing themselves, you sometimes think to yourself "Why has there never been a special observer in this cloister, like the chronicler of old Russia,...
Singing in the Rain
FORECASTING THE WEATHER in Russia is a national sport. Especially in Moscow, where some locals are obsessed with the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (weather forecast). This trait was ridiculed and immortalized by writer Fazil Iskander in his early...
Size Matters
Size matters. Geography matters. Just asked alpine-locked Switzerland, archipelagic England, or Poland--history's unfortunate doormat. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Being the world's largest country, with few natural boundaries,...
Taboos & Superstitions
1 Take off your shoes and hat whenever you enter someone's home, even when they insist that you don't. 2 Don't shake hands or pass something to someone through a doorway. 3 If you give someone flowers, make sure there are an odd number of flowers...
Ten Important Legends and Folk Tales
Baba Yaga lives deep in the forest, in a house on chicken legs surrounded by a fence made of human bones. She flies on a mortar and pestle, sweeping behind with a broom. She typically threatens to eat her visitors, if they do not fulfill her impossibly...
The Deportation of Peoples: 1943-1944
THE SOVIET AUTHORITIES never saw people as human and therefore did with them as they saw fit. Deportation of entire segments of the population was no rarity. During collectivization, thousands upon thousands of peasants were rounded up and sent from...
There Is an Old Russian Saying
There is an old Russian saying that goes something like this: "You can rack your brains, but, you can't beat hospitality!" Hospitality is a longstanding tradition in Russian culture. Another Russian saying affirms that only the ailing should be asked...
Things 100 Everyone Should Know about Russia
How was it that one of the most isolated, illiterate societies in Europe produced, in the 19th century, so many giants of literature, science, music, and the arts? Why is it that such a conservative, deeply religious, and agrarian-feudalist society...
Zaryade: Moscow's Quiet Nook
Everyone knows that there is a Jerusalem above and a Jerusalem below, and that they are two very different things. It is the same with Moscow. In essence, Moscow is a rather hostile and unpleasant megalopolis with silly, new apartment blocks and...
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