July 04, 2019

Trolley Drama and Piano Trauma


Trolley Drama and Piano Trauma
Thankfully, this cormorant is not dead (see #2 below). Pixabay

Throwback Thursday

Russian and American flags
Photo: Pixabay

It’s Independence Day in the U.S. — an excellent time to reflect on Russia-U.S. relations. Although it doesn’t often feel like it, there’s so much more to Russian interactions with the U.S. than the Cold War.

Today’s featured article profiles Sitka, a town in present-day Alaska that is rooted at the intersection of Russian, American, and Native Alaskan history. Its residents celebrate the transfer of Alaska to the United States, commemorate its Russian founders, and reconcile the Russian and American imperialist pasts with Native heritage and experiences. Read more, right here on Russian Life.


Trolleys and Birds Fly Away (But for Very Different Reasons)

1. Goodbye, trolleybus! On Monday, the city of Perm retired trolleybuses from its public transport system. City officials said the trolleys had been underused for years; still, Perm citizens were saddened by the end of a city mainstay and resolved to remember the trolleybus in style. On Sunday, riders crowded onboard the last trolley and threw a farewell party. They decorated the trolley with balloons and signs saying “We’ll miss you!”, riding until the very last stop. It was a bittersweet moment as the trolley drove away into the night. Nevertheless, though the trolleybus has met its end, it lives on in the fond memories of many Perm citizens.

Last trolley in Perm
Goodbye, trolleybus, oh, where I will never be… / 59.ru

2. A foolproof (but not soundproof) idea. Recently, Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg has had a problem: seagulls and cormorants won’t keep their beaks out of the humans’ business. The stadium’s solution? Scare them away with recordings of dying birds. These recordings, which often play overnight, have made early birds out of some irate residents. Meanwhile, some children worried about whether the birds were okay (bear in mind that we don’t know if birds were harmed in the recording of these sounds).

3. Nightmares come true. Last week, the Moscow Conservatory held the finals of the Tchaikovsky Competition, one of the world’s highest-stake competitions for pianists. Finalist An Tianxu came onstage expecting to play a Tchaikovsky concerto, then a Rachmaninov piece. The conductor lifted his hand… but instead of the slow, majestic Tchaikovsky, he started the rapid-fire Rachmaninov. For non-pianist readers: this is like getting your chair kicked out from under you, while perched above a steaming vat of kasha. Fortunately, An handled it with grace. Though he ultimately placed fourth, the jury awarded him a “special prize for self-confidence and bravery.” And on the internet, he’s probably more famous than the actual winner, which may be the best prize of all.

Shocked pianist
When the sheet music is pulled out from in front of you. / medici.tv

Blog Spotlight

Russia in 300 square meters: If you’re traveling to the Far East, don’t miss the microcosm of Russia that awaits you on Russky Island.

In Odder News

Police corgi
Yet another reason to love corgis. / Transport Management Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Volga Federal District
  • Meet Ryzhy, the only corgi to serve in a Russian K-9 police unit.
  • Need a Soviet-themed way to procrastinate? Try out this game of Tetris that lets you stack Soviet apartment buildings.
  • A roadside robbery in the Russian countryside had an unexpected ending. Whether it’s happy or not is for you to decide.

Quote of the Week

“What’s next — removing the bear from the coat of arms?”

— An indignant Perm resident responding to the retirement of trolleybuses from the public transport system

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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Okudzhava Bilingual

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93 Untranslatable Russian Words

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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.
Turgenev Bilingual

Turgenev Bilingual

A sampling of Ivan Turgenev's masterful short stories, plays, novellas and novels. Bilingual, with English and accented Russian texts running side by side on adjoining pages.
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.
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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.
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