Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 14:46:08
21 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.

Births: Modern Russia, baby LSDUZ, and lots of leopards
Births: Modern Russia, baby LSDUZ, and lots of leopards

Russia Day marks the birth of the post-Soviet Russian nation. This week saw some other births too, from literal leopard cubs to figurative names and games. 

Scandals, lies, sci-fi, and other sporting events
Scandals, lies, sci-fi, and other sporting events

Fictional sportscasters, the all-too-real Olympic ban, and the possible reality of teleportation in Russia's future. And don't forget about mind control.

What Brexit means for Russian economic and territorial expansion
What Brexit means for Russian economic and territorial expansion

Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Does that mean a boom for Russia? Or is that title a ploy to get you to read about how Russians go about sunbathing?

Get undressed and read the news till you sweat
Get undressed and read the news till you sweat

Presidential speeches urge disrobing, but it's not what you think. All while laws get passed, politicians play judo, and – wait, is that Leonardo diCaprio?

Ballooning of strict laws, and ballooning of a hot air balloon
Ballooning of strict laws, and ballooning of a hot air balloon

Adventure takes many forms. There's regular travel, round-the-world travel, and navigating the Russian legal system. Also beards. 

Ivan the Terrible and Pokémon the Great
Ivan the Terrible and Pokémon the Great

Pokémon goes to Russia – and so do memories of fallen tsars, athletes, street cleaners, and of course, a kitty cat.

That's not cheese. It's a cyborg.
That's not cheese. It's a cyborg.

A joke-telling Pushkin robot, an unimpressed Putin, and cheese that's as virtual a reality as Pokémon. 

Fake elections, real Cossacks, and how to do yoga in prison
Fake elections, real Cossacks, and how to do yoga in prison

Why some Russians would rather vote for a fictional candidate, the importance of a Cossack education, and some artsy graffiti along the way.