December 05, 2019

"Yo" is for Yolka


"Yo" is for Yolka
A memorial to the letter ё near some ёлки (pine trees) in Ulyanovsk. Travelask.ru

Quote of the Week

“The letter ё (yo) exists in very few languages, which makes it a unique and distinctive phenomenon of the Russian language and Russian culture.”

– One of many impassioned arguments in a petition to rejuvenate the use of a letter usually replaced with “e” (yeh) in written texts

 

The New Year’s Tree and the New Me

1. Russians aren’t just quietly pining away for their New Year’s trees: they put them up early and take them down late. A Russian psychologist attributes the former to fighting depression in the cold, dark Russian winter, and the latter to laziness. But she admits this might be barking up the wrong tree: Russians just like their yolki (pine trees). It made national news in at least 15 outlets that the Kremlin yolka has been selected from sixty contenders: a 90-year-old, 82-foot specimen from local Moscow Forests. Nearby Red Square, however, might outshine all other attempts prolong New Year’s tree,  by leaving them up until they can stick suns on top and transform them into Maslenitsa trees… in March. 

New Year's tree in Cathedral Square in the Kremlin
This year’s tree will be on display starting December 15. / Ramil Sitdikov | RIA Novosti

2. Here’s some news worth toasting to: in spite of stereotypes, Russians have cut alcoholism in half over the past 20 years, according to a report by the World Health Organization. A French newspaper Le Monde, noting that now Russians drink less than the French, praised Russia as an example that can help teach other countries how to reduce alcoholism. Some changes that gave Russia a shot at making such a transformation were laws like bans on advertising alcohol and selling at it night, as well as a cultural shift to cut back on shots of hard liquors in favor of beer or wine. This reduction in drinking has helped increase Russian life expectancy, and narrow the difference in life expectancy between men and women. That’s the (non-alcoholic) spirit! (PS: We totally called this story back in 2000).

3. This Thanksgiving, Moscow could be grateful for a lot. On Thursday, the Russian capital was named the world’s best tourist destination, beating out cities like New York and Paris, a distinction the mayor equated to winning an Oscar. Meanwhile, Moscow school children ranked third in the world in reading skills and second in math, according to the international testing organization PISA. They may have “only” ranked sixth in natural sciences, but the Moscow region is nevertheless making progress in environmental conservation: the governor announced that old trash processing centers can be closed thanks to better recycling. Looks like the city met their New Year’s resolutions early!

 

In Odder News

  • Everyone thought the successful landing of Putin’s plane in Bishkek was just pie in the sky given extremely dense fog, and were arguing to re-route to Almaty. But the pilot said “I will land,” and was rewarded with cherry pie. 
Putin's plane in fog
Russians may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but at least they appreciate pirog (pie). / Aleksei Nikolovskii | RIA Novosti
  • A doctor in a Moscow Health Department advertisement says that the only reasonable explanation for why people would not vaccinate their child is… protection from vampires. To whom sucking unvaccinated blood is apparently dangerous. 

The debate between scientists and anti-vaxxers has become a blood feud. / Health Department of Moscow | YouTube

  • Homeless cats in Zelenogradsk are getting an official veterinarian, in addition to the “cat chef” currently responsible for feeding them. These new hires sound like pretty cool cats. 

 

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 Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.

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