Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 15:53:44
20 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.

Rocks, Raps, and Cats in Charge
Rocks, Raps, and Cats in Charge

Trouble in the tombstone industry, booming blockchain, and mercenary music hits. Plus, cats at work and a use of paper you've never seen.  

Slavic-Style Spooks
Slavic-Style Spooks

Halloween or Hallowon't? The holiday is more trick than treat in Russia, so dive into the details and creep yourself out with some frightful tales while you're at it. 

The Big 100
The Big 100

This year marks the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution. Here's what that looks like, plus gas, cats, and seals (state seals, that is).

Lions and Lawyers and Baba Yaga, Oh My!
Lions and Lawyers and Baba Yaga, Oh My!

Ice Age lions thaw out, fairytale heroes meet social media, and foreign news needs a new passport. Plus, all about Russian art in less than 30 minutes. 

Santa Claus, Space Aliens, & Robot Cars
Santa Claus, Space Aliens, & Robot Cars

Father Frost gets iced, a space shuttle gets wet, and cars get driven driverlessly. Plus, famous Russian buildings go on vacation, the Romanovs take TV, and Russian smilies)

Presidents, Olympians, and Feathered Friends
Presidents, Olympians, and Feathered Friends

Putin announces he'll run for president, the Olympic Committee announces Russia can't compete, and some swans announce that they want a new house. 

Superputin, Sly Wolves, & Censorship Stalkers
Superputin, Sly Wolves, & Censorship Stalkers

An art exhibit proves once and for all that Putin is a superhero. Plus, World Cup counterfeits, how Russian media monitoring works, and a leopard cub.

Romanov Holiday and Russia's Best Cat
Romanov Holiday and Russia's Best Cat

What a Russian holiday looks like, the Romanovs go to The Gambia, and why secret police are extra special around the holidays. All that, and Russia's most popular cats.