Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 07:33:08
13 November 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.

The spy who stayed out in the cold
The spy who stayed out in the cold

Some people see spies everywhere. Other people just see dumpsters, birds, snow, dogs, boars, or artists seeking political asylum. (That's at least 4 separate stories).

Bacon, comics, and fairy tales on ice
Bacon, comics, and fairy tales on ice

Adapting to life in Russia? Comic books. Craving cuteness? Piglets getting saved from a fire. Not Russian enough for you? Ice swimming. And for good measure, zombies. 

Blogging Bears, Ivan the Terrible Rapper, and a Blob
Blogging Bears, Ivan the Terrible Rapper, and a Blob

A polar bear travels the world, a historian serves up the Rhyme of Troubles, the Kremlin gets a new alien, and Presidents Putin and Trump get along by the skin of their teeth. 

Buddha in a blizzard, tsar in the tropics
Buddha in a blizzard, tsar in the tropics

A Buddhist monastery in the mountains fights one millionaire, and Kiribati's islands welcome another one. There's also exorcism, the Facebook of 1917, and general happiness. 

The Kremlin on Ice
The Kremlin on Ice

Convicts carve up the Kremlin, an assassin wins a prize, and governors drop like flies. Actually, that all sounds a lot worse than what happened. Find out for yourself. 

100 Years Ago, In a Monarchy Far, Far Away...
100 Years Ago, In a Monarchy Far, Far Away

Exactly 100 years ago, on February 23, 1917, the Russian Revolution began. And once you've learned about that, there's space, WWII reenactments, and a portal back to medieval times. 

Cats, droids, and acrobatic rock & roll
Cats, droids, and acrobatic rock & roll

A friendly robot graces the metro and a politically charged (and financed) dance studio gets footloose thanks to the youngest Putin. Also, happy World Cat Day!

Say no to discrimination, ducks, and hugs
Say no to discrimination, ducks, and hugs

International Women's Day was celebrated by marches, flowers, and flash mobs. In other news, Russia and China are BFFs, and Prime Minister Medvedev likes ducks.