June 13, 2019

Diving and Driving into Summer Holidays


Diving and Driving into Summer Holidays
Best low-budget suspense thriller of the year. Lilu Dallas

Throwback Thursday

Mikhail Alexandrovich, last tsar of Russia
Mikhail Alexandrovich, last tsar of Russia. / Wikimedia Commons

One hundred and one years ago, the real last tsar of Russia — not Nicholas II — was assassinated by the Bolsheviks. He had only been tsar for one day and never wanted the job. Learn more about Mikhail Alexandrovich, last Emperor of All the Russias, on Russian Life {digital subscription required}.

A Holiday for Patriots, A Game for Anti-Patriots

1. An odd Russia Day. On Tuesday, Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov, who was arrested last week on trumped-up charges, was freed after public backlash. The next day was Russia Day, and things proceeded weirdly normally. Cities all around Russia put on historical exhibits, parades, outdoor concerts, and festivals celebrating indigenous traditions. In St. Petersburg, 500 military brass band players got together to put on the world’s largest ever performance of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” The only sign of the previous week’s unrest was the arrest of over 500 protestors in Moscow. On the one hand, you want to say “С Днем России”…but on the other hand, you really can’t.

World's largest performance of "Flight of the Bumblebee"
A giant brass band honors a tiny bee. / Elena Kalinina

2. Driving under the sea. On Sakhalin Island, a truck driver needed to get across a strip of beach, but he missed the low tide. So what did he do? Simple: he drove into the sea (the action starts 30 seconds in). At various times it looked like the truck was going to get drawn in, but slowly but surely, the driver navigated his way out. Once he drove onshore, he opened the door to let the water out, wiped the inside of the windshield, and calmly drove away. So the next time you feel all at sea, take a cue from this guy and just ride the wave.

3. Fifty shades of Stalin? This October sees the debut of a video game self-explanatorily entitled “Sex with Stalin.” If that sounds outrageous, check out some of the reactions: One Communist Party official demanded a police investigation, but stopped short of calling for a ban, because “If we reacted to the breath of every idiot…” But maybe there’s a deeper meaning behind this. One researcher on Soviet culture sees the game as “evidence of how post-Soviet masculinity fantasizes about the overthrow of the symbolic father while still being inside the original phallic structure.” We think the developers are just trolling… but we are glad someone is trying to sort through the fray.

Screencap from forthcoming "Sex with Stalin" game
Our reaction exactly. / Steam

Blog Spotlight

Scoot on over and read Katrina Keegan’s story on scooters in Russia.

In Odder News

Bear strolling into Kamchatka airport
He doesn’t need security because he is the security. / Kamchatka Info
  • Welcome to Kamchatka Bearport! A bear strolled through a security gate onto the tarmac of a Kamchatka airport. (Pun credits to the Siberian Times.)
  • Ahead of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, workers painted the grass along a highway green. Now the grass will always be greener on the other side.
  • How many words does Russian have for drunkenness? A Soviet-born sports writer reveals all in this epic thread of 25 tweets.

Quote of the Week

“Yay, it’s summer!”

— A Norilsk resident running out into the snow in short sleeves and shorts

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.

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Some of Our Books

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.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
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.  
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
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.

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