July 27, 2017

Parties with Putin and the Ruins of Literature


Parties with Putin and the Ruins of Literature
Presidential Visits and Ancient Authors

1. Soviet-era dissident and human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva celebrated her 90th birthday last week, and an unexpected guest celebrated with her. President Putin doesn’t make a habit of visiting elderly activists, but he congratulated her on living “for the sake of the people." Some critics argue that the president was “trolling” Alexeyeva, only feigning respect for an activist whose anti-Kremlin posture makes her an unlikely recipient of many happy returns from the man at the top. But she trolled back, securing a pardon for an imprisoned senator and voicing her certainty that the president always stays true to his promises.

2. From senior citizens to the very young, the president had a busy week of visits. After partying with Alexeyeva, Putin paid a visit to the Sirius Educational Center in Sochi, where he reviewed some of the students’ projects and candidly answered youngster’s questions. Topics ranged from social media practices and agriculture to favorite foods, composers, and martial arts moves. They even covered Putin’s nickname at intelligence school.

3. Gogol has lost his nose. And the rest of his body—literally, since a bas-relief of the famed 19th-century writer fell from the Moscow building known as the “House of Writers.” Literature-loving locals gathered his limbs for safekeeping, hoping that they’ll be restored. That hope is faint, however, as several of the house’s stucco authors have come unstuck in recent years. Archnadzor, a volunteer organization that urges protection for historical monuments, said that authorities have ignored requests to restore the landmark.

In Odder News
  • Maybe Ivan the Terrible isn’t so terrible anymore. Russia's first monument to the Tsar popped up less than a year ago, and now there are two.
  • watch owned by Putin snatched over a million euros at a Monaco auction. The Kremlin denied the connection, so the new owner may be out of luck. But at least they can tell the time.
  • Russia’s got some record-breaking bridges. Ten, to be precise. Cross on over to learn about them.

Quote of the Week

“I said they were OK, but I was really thinking to myself that they tasted strange. The chefs replied to me: ‘Thank God you enjoyed your meal, we killed so many chickens to make it!’ They thought I had ordered chickens’ crests instead of scallops!”
—President Putin on a fishy (or actually, not-so-fishy) food order. The Russian word for scallops is the same as the word for the combs on chickens’ heads. He told this entertaining story to the children he met with at the Sirius Educational Center.

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.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

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.
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.
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.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
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.
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

802-223-4955