Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 20:55:06
16 November 2018


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


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Vegans, Frogs, and the Grandmas of Mortal Kombat

by Alice E.M. Underwood

Sub-Zero, Rambo, and Vegans

1. Ethno-pop music, elderly Russian women, and shoot-em-up video games may be an unlikely mix. But the Buranovskiye Babushki, second-place winners of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, make the miraculous come true in their latest musical project, a commercial for Mortal Kombat. The Babushki watched scenes from the film to prep for their mash-up. Their verdict: Russian folklore heroes could do it better.

2. May Day parades traditionally feature labor unions and interest groups ranging from communists to supporters of United Russia to nationalists. Some groups get rowdy, but it’s not always the ones you’d expect: at this past Monday’s parade, among the leftist activists detained were also 19 vegans. It may have been the “Animals aren’t food” poster that got the police involved, but their unfurling of a rainbow flag was the more likely provocation.

3. A Russian frog smuggler quit his taxi-driving job in Moscow to capture poisonous frogs in Colombia. Then, he was kidnapped by an armed insurgent group. Then, he made a daring escape by grabbing a gun, firing on his captors, and fleeing into the forest, “like Rambo.” He’s still at large in the Colombian jungle. It’s one of those fact-is-stranger-than-fiction tales..

In Odder News

  • A statue of Ivan the Terrible mysteriously disappeared from its pedestal within an hour of being erected. The culprit: bureaucracy. (And, ironically, it was in the town Ivan IV disappeared to when he renounced the throne.)
  • The Great Patriotic War was a time of sacrifice, heroism, and military might. It was also a time before color photos. This project changes that.

Quote of the Week

“I knew that there was a video game. For the longest time, I didn’t understand what children meant when they screamed, ‘Back-back-forward-forward-X!’ I thought, ‘Isn’t that how a crab moves?’ It turns out to be a deadly blow.”
—One of the singers of Buranovskiye Babushki on the phenomenon of Mortal Kombat. She now not only knows about the video game, but also about the movie, having just recorded a commercial for the Russian broadcast of the film.

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.