Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 21:39:35
19 September 2018


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


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Putin in Birthdayland and Alice in Wonderland

by Alice E.M. Underwood
Birthday Burgers and Yandex's Cheshire Cat

1. Happy birthday, Mr. President. What better way to celebrate than a spicy, 1,952-gram, five-patty burger in honor of the birthday boy? Russian state TV broadcast a story that just such a burger was on offer at a New York City restaurant commemorating the president’s October 7th birthday. Unfortunately for the Putinburger, independent journalist Alexey Kovalev did some digging and learned that the story was a hoax cooked up by one of the restaurant’s waitresses. You’ll have to make a giant burger and dedicate it to your favorite politician on your own time.

2. Fake burgers weren’t the only thing the big day had in store for Mr. Putin. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gifted the president a duvet cover featuring the two hotshots shaking hands, and the president of Turkmenistan gave the canine-loving commander-in-chief a pedigree puppy. As far as gifts that everyday folks can enjoy, too, the luxury brand Caviar designed a new line of gold-plated iPhones in honor of the man of the day. And carnivores can rejoice: one cafe in Moscow actually did dedicate a “presidential burger” to Putin.

3. Alexa and Siri, meet Alice. Russian search giant Yandex has launched Alice (Alisa) as a virtual assistant who gives vocal help to users, providing directions, weather forecasts, shopping advice, and more. Yandex also touts her accuracy in spoken language recognition and ability to improvise, even telling jokes and carrying on casual conversations. And, inevitably, some users have already figured out how to get her to communicate in a more casual (read: less polite) way.

In Odder News
  • St. Petersburg is glorious from up above, but rooftop visits used to be both dangerous and illegal. The first official, legal roof tour changes that. See the city from the sky.

  • Crude oil baths. Oxygen therapy. Ultraviolet nostril lamps. Sanatoriums seem like Soviet relics, but some health spas remain popular holiday spots.

  • Are frogmen indigenous to health spas? Not these ones: they’re underwater soldiers who performed special submarine missions through much of the Soviet period.

Quote of the Week

"In order to find this out, you just need to search ‘what does Putin eat’ online. I would like to note that he has a balanced diet with lots of vegetable food. Our burger has the best of what the Russian president likes."
—Timati, Russian hip hop star and owner of a fast food chain that did, in fact, serve a burger dedicated to Putin in honor of the president’s birthday.

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.

Medical tourism, space tourism, imaginary tourism
Medical tourism, space tourism, imaginary tourism

A Moon landing is on the horizon. Eurovision, with its typical set of scandals, is on an even closer horizon. And on your way, why not stop by Red Square for some dental work?

Grab a Guinness for Orthodoxy
Grab a Guinness for Orthodoxy

Does Russian St. Patrick's Day have leprechauns? After you ponder that, there's a reindeer herder fighting big oil, humans-turned-Twitter bots, and a mysterious murder.

#Russiagate, Demos & Alaska
#Russiagate, Demos & Alaska

Continuing scandal, new demonstrations, a sesquicentenial and a linguistic smackdown. Just another week here at TWERF.

Cosmonautics Day and Fruit in Disguise
Cosmonautics Day and Fruit in Disguise

Investigations: the state of Russian cosmonautics, what happens to prohibited fruit, and when mourners aren't really mourning. Plus, sneaking pickles into space. 

The bad, the sad, and the ice laser
The bad, the sad, and the ice laser

It's been a rough week in Russia, with the metro bombing in St. Petersburg, the disappearance of gay men, and the death of Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Luckily, lasers are kinda neat. 

Counterfeit TP and Commuting By Ball
Counterfeit TP and Commuting By Ball

Some folks form an Arctic military base or withdraw from mayoral elections. Others counterfeit toilet paper and roll through traffic in a giant ball. 

Floods of water, juice, and trendy ostrich photos
Floods of water, juice, and trendy ostrich photos

A juice flood. A mud flood. A human rights drought. And for good measure, portraits with wild animals and haircuts with an axe. 

Vegans, Frogs, and the Grandmas of Mortal Kombat
Vegans, Frogs, and the Grandmas of Mortal Kombat

Pop-star grandmas advertise action films, May Day doesn't go great for vegans, and a Russian frog smuggler's story gets even more unlikely.