November 17, 2016

Clowns, corruption, and overdue library books


Clowns, corruption, and overdue library books

Clowning around for good or money

1. Insane Clown Posse? Try Humanitarian Clown Posse. For the next two weeks, a clowning troupe led by the doctor-clown Patch Adams will pile into their tiny car to visit orphanages, hospitals, veterans’ homes, and homeless shelters in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Their goal: to bring smiles to sad and lonely folks around Russia. After all, laughter and hope can transcend any language barrier. The power of a good balloon animal must not be underestimated.

2. Even economic hotshots have to count their pennies. Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s top economic official, has been arrested for bribery. He allegedly accepted $2 million for approving a massive acquisition by the oil giant Rosneft. Even with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stating that no official “has immunity if they commit criminal offenses,” some see the arrest as edging out the top echelon of Putin’s government.

3. Usually it’s librarians who do the shushing. But in a current investigation, Natalia Sharina, former director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, has been charged with “inciting ethnic hatred.” She says putting books on the shelf is not promoting hate speech. But the prosecutors say that the books’ contents classify as extremism. She’s also been charged with embezzlement, but given her line of work, maybe someone just had a lot of late fees.

In Odder News

  • Newsflash: baby foxes. A Russian photographer has taken on the task of photographing wild foxes, and this is the result.
rbth.com
  • The Pushkin Museum is featuring an exhibit of texture-rich paintings for visually impaired patrons to “visualize the invisible.”
  • A movie with an Irish director and a Russian setting may sound unusual enough to give you insomnia. In that case, go check out Moscow Never Sleeps.

Quote of the Week

“It’s important that so many friendly people are coming here from countries that are supposedly not so friendly. They help change our mentality.”
—Maria Eliseyeva, founder of the charity organization Maria’s Children, on clowns’ unique ability to create connections across difference through laughter.

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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.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
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.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
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.  

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