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

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.
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.
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 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.  
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.
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.
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

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.
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.
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.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
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.

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
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955