Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 06:58:16
24 September 2018


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Bananas, Ballerinas, and Bubble Bath

by Alice E.M. Underwood
From Footballers to Hamster Bloggers

1. Wearing your favorite team’s jersey and booing the other side is one thing. Painting yourself in blackface and juggling bananas when the opposing team hails from Cameroon is another story. In a Sochi parade anticipating next month’s game against Cameroon as part of the Confederations Cup, certain costumes renewed fears of racist acts and perhaps racist violence, unfortunately common occurrences among Russian soccer fans. The Confederations Cup being essentially a dress rehearsal for the big tournament, officials hope such displays aren’t similarly foreshadowing things to come.

2. Some Siberian folks might have very, very distant cousins in the U.S. – at least, linguistic cousins. New research links the Ket language to Navajo, and a genetic study suggests a more recent migration across the Bering Strait than previously believed. Historical linguist Edward Vajda has researched connections between Native American languages and the Yeniseic language family. Ket is the only Yeniseic language still spoken, though it has fewer than 200 speakers and most are over 60. That’s more reason to study the language’s past, as it is likely to disappear in the future.  

3. Russian youth love their video blogs (what else do they love? That was TWERF’s focus last week.) Apparently, there’s an ongoing conversation about just how important this mode of communication is, with a famous YouTube blogger (renowned for her skills with hamsters and bubble bath) addressing the State Duma about building dialogue between youth and government. With United Russia officials discussing ways to nip youth culture’s urge to protest in the bud, hamsters and bubble bath just might be the answer.  

In Odder News
  • A photo gallery worth pointing out: students from one of Russia’s top ballet schools in Novosibirsk dance, study, check their phones, and do things with their bodies you wouldn’t believe.

  • The special tuning, layered notes, and floaty melody of the accordion is unmistakable. All the more when it’s a specialty accordion from Shuya, a town in western Russia.
  • Yandex programmers created a neural network to generate music in the style of composer Alexander Skryabin. Then, a chamber orchestra played it. Weird, but neat.
Quote of the Week

"I sometimes told [them] I was from America," Vajda says. "But some people thought that was maybe just another village somewhere out there."
—Historical linguist Edward Vajda on his many years spent living among the Ket people in an isolated part of Siberia.

Want more where this comes from? Give your inbox the gift of TWERF, our Thursday newsletter on the quirkiest, obscurest, and Russianest of Russian happenings of the week.

Siberia's natural wonders meet the Duma elections
Siberia's natural wonders meet the Duma elections

This week brings you not just news, but also striking images of the latest discoveries in natural rock formations and mammoth hunting in Siberia. Also, election season. 

Bears, boycotts, and busting rhymes
Bears, boycotts, and busting rhymes

Election aftermath, polar bear attacks, why drivers are against Russia's version of Uber, and maybe even a state secret or two. 

Tanker, toddler, marketer, spy
Tanker, toddler, marketer, spy

Spy gadgets get culinary, Putin parks a tank, and a tyke takes on the wilderness. All that, and the spirit of adventure. 

Liquor machines and lullaby missiles
Liquor machines and lullaby missiles

Patriotic tectonic plates, the threat of airborne Internet, a possible return to the Gulag, and some problems without solutions.  

Solzhenitsyn, Alf, and raccoons all around
Solzhenitsyn, Alf, and raccoons all around

A disturbing attack on a renowned author, and a lighthearted nod to an unlikely TV hero. Plus Russian military expansion, raccoons' domestic expansion, and more unlikely art. 

Can a Martian invasion fix Russia-Europe relations?
Can a Martian invasion fix Russia-Europe relations?

It's a busy week for technology, what with a Mars lander, more secure Internet, electric cars (in unlikely places), and enough counterfeit money to fill an ATM.

How to name your baby (and not get arrested)
How to name your baby (and not get arrested)

Baby BOCh rVF 260602 may have to change his name. Plus, Russia's protest potential, the shrinking middle class, and dabbling with Shamanism. 

False history and forensic literature
False history and forensic literature

Fighting falsified Russian history, righting incorrect Bulgakovian history, and piecing together just what – and how unified – is the Russian nation.