Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 19:33:54
19 November 2018


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


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Romanov Holiday and Russia's Best Cat

by Alice E.M. Underwood
Pickled Tree Ornaments and Island Empires

1. What wintertime wonders does Russia have in store? You’ve got holiday parties like an annual ball attended by students from military schools all across Russia. For the homier types, focus on decorating your New Year’s Tree (that’s Russian for Christmas Tree) with ornaments featuring tanks, pickles, or Putin. But careful what gifts you accept: given the recent conviction of Former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev for bribery, some officials are refusing presents for fear they’ll be accused of getting their palms greased. And the only thing worse than a greasy palm is going to jail for it. 

2. What better spot for a restored Romanov empire than artificial islands in a tropical paradise? That’s what Russian businessman Anton Bakov planned to do, setting his sights set on The Gambia for his high-tech monarchist revival. But his plans were foiled by The Gambia Government, which chose not to do business with Bakov for several reasons – two main ones being that Bakov forged an agreement document between The Gambia and the Romanov Empire and that the Romanov Empire is not a real state. So close, and yet so far. 

3. On the anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, it’s the FSB vs. Pussy Riot. In reflecting on the first secret police organizations – whose successors like the KGB and NKVD were responsible for mass purges and the Gulag – current FSB Chief Alexander Bortnikov gave a lengthy defense of the secret police. Not everyone bought it: Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina, for one, unfurled a banner bearing the phrase “Happy birthday, executioners.” Somewhere in between, chilling children’s drawings show Russia’s secret police as heroic defenders of the Fatherland. It's cute, and a little creepy. 

In Superlative News
  • Who is Russia’s most popular cat? There’s the sailor one, the political pawn one, and the one with ESP. They’re all worth a peek.

Quote of the Week

“No baskets are [accepted] in any form, not with food, not with wine, not even with flowers….[Officials] recoil from the sight of them.”
—A ministerial aide on the tradition of gift-giving among officials and the newfound fear of being accused of bribery.

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.

Icebergs and tigers and starships, oh my!
Icebergs and tigers and starships, oh my!

Which would you rather: be trapped in the Arctic or accused of treason? Okay, not a fun game. But a worthwhile read about the latest in Russian news. 

Prizes, spies, and kasha for all
Prizes, spies, and kasha for all

This week was full of wins for Russia: a famous photographer, everyone who watched Putin's call-in, and lawmakers making it harder to get foreign aid. So, a loss for Russians getting foreign aid. 

A Very Russki Cinco de Mayo
A Very Russki Cinco de Mayo

Or, whatever the Russian version of margaritas, mariachis, and misunderstood military history might involve.

Baby bears, cats in debt, and other fuzzy victories
Baby bears, cats in debt, and other fuzzy victories

Victory Day, marking the 71st anniversary of the end of WWII, was celebrated this Monday. Here are the ups, downs, and nonsequiturs of the occasion.

Catchy beats and milk-soaked scuffles
Catchy beats and milk-soaked scuffles

Russia's physics-defying display at Eurovision. Bullying via dairy products. Plus some saucy presidential pecking – on the lips. 

Dancing diplomats and dictators' cats
Dancing diplomats and dictators' cats

Politicians are people just like us. They get millions of Instagram responses for a lost pet and do folkdances in front of world leaders. Just a day in the life.

Elton John Crocodile Rocks the Kremlin
Elton John Crocodile Rocks the Kremlin

Sir Elton John's much-vaunted visit with Putin, Eurovision for kids, setting doors on fire, and other great performances – all in one little week.

Russians don't need principles. Just submarines
Russians don't need principles. Just submarines

The British are out to get Russian values and Russian naval vessels alike this week. Scroll down enough and there's also a cat pic.