The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
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.
“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.
Tractors for Putin, toxic waste for Kaliningrad, and Reagan and Gorbachev for their modern-day counterparts. Also sweet wine, state secrets, and salt.
The scandal around the Bolshoi's latest ballet, remembering an Internet icon, and pro-Putin pensioners, with a dash of PhotoShop of daredevilry.
Getting flak for getting hitched, how fidget spinners foster political dissidence, and a new set of wheels around Russia. Plus dandy pigeons and the best totalitarian tourism.
President Putin visits human rights activists and curious kids, and a famous author falls to pieces. Plus Ivan the Terrible, a terrible auction purchase, and 10 fantastic bridges.
Pranksters solve energy security with pig manure, paratroopers get rowdy, and presidential grants yield surprise winners. Plus, Russia's deadliest plants and getting stuck in an elevator.
Beachgoers bathe in potable sludge, Russians weigh in on replacements for sanctioned food, and the Kremlin revamps funerals. Plus, Putin goes fishing.
A not-quite lake makes a splash, zombies on public transit, and problems memorializing history's tragedies. But on the bright side, shirtless men and hippos.
Elections are the new dinner and a movie. Plus, Moscow's heading east, rap battles get a bad rap, and pickles and melons galore.