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20 November 2018


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Language & Literature

Spanning all things related to Russian and Russian literature.

Quotable Pushkin for Six Everyday Occasions
Quotable Pushkin for Six Everyday Occasions

In honor of Alexander Pushkin's 217th birthday, here's a small sample of his poems to show that his writing isn't just pretty and witty – it can help you through almost any situation.

Tags: pushkin, poetry, russia, literature, history, eugene onegin, boris godunov, bronze horseman
Two Miracles of Russian Love Poetry
Two Miracles of Russian Love Poetry

On the occasion of Pushkin's birthday, we offer a post on the challenge of translating his most famous love lyrics, "Я вас любил," with a bonus look at Innokenty Annensky's "Среди миров."

Tags: pushkin, literature, russian literature, poetry, annensky
Piter's Five Must-Stroll Streets (that are not Nevsky)
Piter's Five Must-Stroll Streets (that are not Nevsky)

After you finish strolling St. Petersburg's Nevsky Prospect, you'll want to visit these five must-stroll streets in the Northern Palmyra, to get a feel for the rest of the city. 

Tags: St. Petersburg, travel, tourism
Katya Everdeenova? No. YA Fiction Set in Russia? Yes.
Katya Everdeenova? No. YA Fiction Set in Russia? Yes.

We're seeing a growth spurt in literature for kids and teens set in Russia. That means magic, time travel, and Stalinism all rolled up in one.

Tags: literature, teen fiction, young adult fiction, magic, fantasy, stalin, Ivan the Terrible, baba yaga, faberge, romanovs, time travel
Happy Birthday, Gogol and Olesha!
Happy Birthday, Gogol and Olesha!

Two writers, two different centuries, one number in common. Actually, Yuri Olesha and Nikolai Gogol have more in common than you think!

Tags: gogol, olesha, russian literature
Socialist Realism and Potatoes: The Dmitry Furmanov Story
Socialist Realism and Potatoes: The Dmitry Furmanov Story

Writer and commissar Dmitry Furmanov died 90 years ago. If you don’t recognize his name, it may be because he’s better known for his character Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev, a Red Army commander who achieved victory via potatoes. 

Tags: 1934, russia, civil war, russian civil war, film, movies, stalin, chapaev, furmanov, 1923, potatoes, history, military
Modigliani and Akhmatova in Paris
Modigliani and Akhmatova in Paris

We know comparatively little about the relationship between Akhmatova and Modigliani, but sometimes a few pictures can speak volumes. In honor of Anna Akhmatova's birthday (June 11, old style; June 23 new style), we reprint this essay, originally published in Russian Life, Jan/Feb 2011.

Russophile's Bookshelf
Russophile's Bookshelf

A few books we have received recently that we thought Russophiles should know about.

Tags: books, history, memoir, fiction
8 Sci-Fi Futures That Explain Russia Today
8 Sci-Fi Futures That Explain Russia Today

In honor of Evgeny Zamyatin's birthday, here are eight Russian sci-fi novels that reveal something about Russia and the world beyond.

Tags: science fiction, literature, history, fantasy, bogdanov, zamyatin, strugatsky, voinovich, lukyanenko, yeskov, sorokin, elizarov
Happy Chekhov Day!
Happy Chekhov Day!

Today is Chekhov's birthday (he's 156). We celebrate by kicking of several months of Daily Chekhov quotes, and share a few other things...

Tags: Chekhov, quotes, literature, russian literature
War, Peace and Cable
War, Peace and Cable

On Monday, January 18, a new BBC six-part miniseries of Lev Tolstoy's War and Peace comes to American television. Here's your crib sheet.

Tags: Tolstoy, war and peace, television, movies, film, literature, war
Russian Life Book Receives National Award
Russian Life Book Receives National Award

The classic work of Russian journalism, Moscow and Muscovites, by journalist Vladimir Gilyarovsky (translated by Brendan Kiernan), received the prestigious 2015 AATSEEL Award for Best Scholarly Translation into English.

Tags: Gilyarovsky, Moscow, history, journalism, books, translation
More Dangerous Than Gunpowder
More Dangerous Than Gunpowder

Under Stalin, a poem could mean life or death. For many poets, it was a one-way ticket to the Gulag. Today, poems can be a means to face cultural memories of arrests in the night, forced labor, and the silence demanded of people fearing those fates. 

Tags: poetry, gulag, prison, memory, history, literature, Akhmatova, Ozerov, Samoilov, censorship
5 Reasons Silver is Precious
5 Reasons Silver is as Precious Poetically as Metallically

As a metal, Silver means second place; as a period of poetic production in Russia, the Silver Age is unparalleled. The years 1890-1925 (give or take) stand out for the explosion of poetic voices, forms, and innovations. With help from the recently published Russian Silver Age Poetry, we explore what sets that period apart.

Tags: poetry, silver age, symbolism, history, literature, Merezhkovsky, Gippius, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Khodasevich, Khlebnikov, Balmont, Severyanin, Bryusov
A Survey of Russian Humor (and it rhymes!)
A Survey of Russian Humor (and it rhymes!)

There's plenty of talk about how Russia is dark and dismal, its writers pathologically depressed, and the general mood among the populace about as cheery as a Siberian winter. These stereotypes give short shrift to Russian humor...

Tags: poetry, humor, literature, Oleinikov, Khlebnikov, Boroditskaya, Prigov, satire
Poetry, The Russian Riddle, and International Politics
Poetry, The Russian Riddle, and What Both Have to Do with International Politics

What can we learn about Russia, now and throughout history, from its poetry? This month we try to find out, with help from The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, to be released later this month, as reviewed in the Nov/Dec issue of Russian Life.

Tags: Tyutchev, poetry, history, international relations
Venedikt Erofeev's Art of Alcoholism
Venedikt Erofeev's Art of Alcoholism (and how to say nyet)

Vodka gets its fair share of PR as far as Russia is concerned. But is it always for the right reasons? October 24 marks the birth of Venedikt Erofeev, at least as well known for his drinking and vagrancy as for his writing.

Tags: vodka, Erofeev, Soviet
Translator's Note: Bulat Okudzhava
Translator's Note: Bulat Okudzhava

It's one thing to become famous as a writer or poet in your own country. But what does it take to earn yourself a spot in world literature? By describing the promise of Soviet poet, songwriter, and classic Bulat Okudzhava, translators offer us some insight.

Tags: bulat okudzhava, translation, poetry
Why Stalin Called Andrei Platonov "Scum" – with 8 Quirky Quotes
Why Stalin Called Andrei Platonov "Scum" – with 8 Quirky Quotes

Andrei Platonov spawned many an incongruous image and incomprehensible sentence. Compared by some scholars to James Joyce, he was critiqued by Stalin himself, yet he avoided prosecution. We dig into his challenging literary style.

Tags: literature, soviet, stalin
War and Peace: 7 Fun Facts
War and Peace: 7 Fun Facts

How many characters are in Tolstoy's War and Peace? Could it have been any shorter? Did Tolstoy himself love it or hate it? Find out the answers to these – and more! – questions in this quick list of little-known War and Peace facts.

Tags: Tolstoy, war and peace, literature