Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 21:36:06
16 December 2018


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


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Santa Claus, Space Aliens, & Robot Cars

by Alice E.M. Underwood
Of Technology and Mythology
 

1. Santa Claus really doesn’t exist. Because he’s been banned. In Novosibirsk, there’s talk of banning Ded Moroz (Father Frost), Russia’s answer to jolly old Santa from visiting kindergarten classrooms. Parents are protesting the tradition for two reasons. First, children’s delicate psychologies: the big, hairy man in red might be scary. Second, corruption: some kindergarten officials allegedly take bribes to fundraise for Ded Moroz actors. Well, it is the gig of a lifetime. As for parents, great guardians, or gaggle of grinches?

2. Driverless cars are one thing, but can they handle the Russian winter? Yandex, Russia’s software giant and biggest tech company, plans on rolling out a fleet of self-driving taxis. This week saw their first test of driverless cars in snowy conditions, and they put out a video to show that their cars can weather the weather. Yandex says the cars need more work before being released into the wild, but the winter test showed that you don’t always need a driver to get to your destination.

3. Ground Control to Major Tom, your Soyuz is wet, there’s something wrong. A weather satellite being launched into orbit from the brand new Vostochny cosmodrome plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. The rocket carrying it had been programmed with the wrong trajectory, and the crash is being attributed to human error. But not all is a cosmic failure: in happier space news, Russian cosmonauts may have discovered the first signs of extraterrestrial life. Cue spooky sci-fi music.

In Odder News
  • Did you know that the Cathedral of the Annunciation is in Beijing and the Mir Space Station is in Germany? Check out these weird but cool replicas of Russian landmarks outside Russia (plus one giant matryoshka).

  • To coincide with the centenary of the death of the last Tsar and his family, Netflix is developing a documentery series on the end of the Russian monarchy. Not your lightest watch, but bound to be tsar-studded.
  • If you’ve ever communicated with a Russian via technology, you may have seen mysterious open parentheses that seem to indicate positivity. Here’s why Russians prefer eyeless and noseless smiley faces to emojis.
Quote of the Week

“Experts say that small children don’t understand Ded Moroz. That’s why younger classes will only be able to invite Snegurochka, though psychologists advise against that too."
—A city hall official confirming Novosibirsk kindergartens’ ban on paid visits from Father Frost. While he's on the naughty list, there's still Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, Father Frost’s less threatening granddaughter.

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.