July 25, 2019

A Cross Wrapped in a Card, Inside a Khinkali


A Cross Wrapped in a Card, Inside a Khinkali
Pelmeni (allegedly). Wikimedia Commons

Throwback Thursday

Vladimir Vysotsky
Vladimir Vysotsky. / Wikimedia Commons

On this day in 1980, the legendary bard singer Vladimir Vysotsky died. His legacy lives on in the dozens of Russian rock groups who directly or indirectly pay tribute to him. But it also lives on through his films and poetry (Vysotsky was an actor and poet, too). In one of his poems, Vysotsky commented wryly on the Sino-Soviet split, writing a sardonic “open letter” to the Chinese government from workers in Tambov. Read a translation of his poem from the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Russian Life.


Street Art and Artful Renaming

1. A khinkali by any other name… Long ago, a famous Communist made Georgian cuisine popular in Russia. So it’s ironic that today Communists decry the popularity of Georgian food in Russia. “They spit at us, but we wipe it off,” declared one deputy, referring not just to the current Georgia-Russia spat, but also to the fact that Russians like Georgian food. They propose renaming khachapuri as pyshki (fried dough) and khinkali as pelmeni. Clearly, as one satirist puts it, this will once and for all restore the dignity of “disgraced Russia.”

2. Three, seven, king? In the gamble for Internet fame, one graffitist played their cards right. An intricately illustrated quadriptych at a Kamensk-Uralsky bus stop depicts four Russian politicians as face cards: Putin as the King of Spades, Dmitri Medvedev as the King of Hearts, Patriarch Kirill as the King of Clubs, and spokesman Dmitri Peskov as the King of Diamonds. The impromptu exhibition abruptly ended after four hours, when a resident started erasing Medvedev’s portrait. Nevertheless, viewers retain fond impressions of the drawings. “It’s clear the author meant to say a lot with this,” reflected one resident.

Graffiti of Russian politicians as face cards
No jokers in sight. / Podslushano Kamensk-Uralsky

3. An asphalty cross to bear. Yekaterinburg authorities crossed a few wires when they approved a new work of street art — a giant cross in the middle of a main square. But they drew even more wrath when street pavers inadvertently paved over part of the cross. The incident was “a crime against art, culture, and the city,” declared one news editor, while Instagrammers joked that they should start painting crosses over potholes to get them fixed. Fortunately, the artist, though justifiably annoyed, has volunteered to restore the artwork. He bears no grudges against the pavers… or, we might say, he isn’t terribly cross.

The original cross artwork
The original artwork. / Pokras Lampas

Blog Spotlight

In these tough political times, can you be both a Russophile and a Ukrainophile? Katrina Keegan says yes.

In Odder News

  • Muscovites started the weekend by staging an epic cake fight (albeit clad in protective clothing).
Muscovites throwing cake at each other
Get caked! / Moslenta
  • Creative Russian environmentalists hijacked the comments of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Instagram. (Story credits to David Edwards.)
  • While gathering food in an Arkhangelsk forest, a boy got lost. Fortunately, he was found safe and sound seven hours later. His only complaint? He couldn’t find berries for his mom to bake pies with.

Quote of the Week

“well, Alexei”

— Photographer Evgeny Feldman, responding to oppositioner Alexei Navalny’s plagiarism of his iconic photo of the ongoing Moscow protests

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Some of Our Books

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
The Best of Russian Life

The Best of Russian Life

We culled through 15 years of Russian Life to select readers’ and editors’ favorite stories and biographies for inclusion in a special two-volume collection. Totalling over 1100 pages, these two volumes encompass some of the best writing we have published over the last two decades, and include the most timeless stories and biographies – those that can be read again and again.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.

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