December 21, 2017

Romanov Holiday and Russia's Best Cat


Romanov Holiday and Russia's Best Cat
Pickled Tree Ornaments and Island Empires

1. What wintertime wonders does Russia have in store? You’ve got holiday parties like an annual ball attended by students from military schools all across Russia. For the homier types, focus on decorating your New Year’s Tree (that’s Russian for Christmas Tree) with ornaments featuring tanks, pickles, or Putin. But careful what gifts you accept: given the recent conviction of Former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev for bribery, some officials are refusing presents for fear they’ll be accused of getting their palms greased. And the only thing worse than a greasy palm is going to jail for it. 

2. What better spot for a restored Romanov empire than artificial islands in a tropical paradise? That’s what Russian businessman Anton Bakov planned to do, setting his sights set on The Gambia for his high-tech monarchist revival. But his plans were foiled by The Gambia Government, which chose not to do business with Bakov for several reasons – two main ones being that Bakov forged an agreement document between The Gambia and the Romanov Empire and that the Romanov Empire is not a real state. So close, and yet so far. 

3. On the anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, it’s the FSB vs. Pussy Riot. In reflecting on the first secret police organizations – whose successors like the KGB and NKVD were responsible for mass purges and the Gulag – current FSB Chief Alexander Bortnikov gave a lengthy defense of the secret police. Not everyone bought it: Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina, for one, unfurled a banner bearing the phrase “Happy birthday, executioners.” Somewhere in between, chilling children’s drawings show Russia’s secret police as heroic defenders of the Fatherland. It's cute, and a little creepy. 

In Superlative News
  • Who is Russia’s most popular cat? There’s the sailor one, the political pawn one, and the one with ESP. They’re all worth a peek.

Quote of the Week

“No baskets are [accepted] in any form, not with food, not with wine, not even with flowers….[Officials] recoil from the sight of them.”
—A ministerial aide on the tradition of gift-giving among officials and the newfound fear of being accused of bribery.

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

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.
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.
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.
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.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
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.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
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.

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