Jul 20, 2010

There's always a bigger fish

Newfound sensation Paul the Octopus has apparently taken his successful career in sports predictions and moved into the political sphere. Last week, according to several sources, Paul put his powers of foresight to work on predicting the outcome of the 2012 Russian presidency (a prediction which is supposed to remain sealed until the election year).

Big mistake Paul, you'd better turn down the recent bid from the Russian National Association of Bookmakers to come stay in the Moscow oceanarium, because we all remember what happened to the last fish that tried to move into Putin's pond...

Jun 14, 2010

Uzbekistan doesn't have enough people at its border

Central Asia is crushing my soul today. So hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks are flooding to the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border because of the ethnic conflict. Turkmenistan thought, why not add 30 or so more people to that?

According to the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, about 30 women together with their children were forcedly deported to Uzbekistan from the Sakar etrap of the Lebap velayat in Turkmenistan. All these women are natives of the Bukhara velayat in Uzbekistan, who married Turkmen citizens, lived as married couples for several years and whose children were born in Turkmenistan. The unlucky women together with their children born in Turkmenistan from Turkmen citizens were brought together and were forcedly ousted to the territory of the neighbouring country.

Yes, we've defined unlucky today: being born an underprivileged woman in Uzbekistan, who starts a family in Turkmenistan (and as I write, I still have no idea which country I would pick to suffer in if forced to choose), and then is deported back to Uzbekistan without her husband while there's an ethnic conflict in nearby Kyrgyzstan. Sigh.


So, I received a record number of emails about Kyrgyzstan over the weekend. Usually, I receive about 3 or 4 a day. I received over 100 since Friday night.

Looking at news reports in respected media (New York Times, Washington Post, etc) ethnic conflict is escalating. Mostly, gangs have been targeting Uzbeks in Southern Kyrgyzstan. It is reported that dozens, possibly as many as 100, have died.

And what's more upsetting is that the reports may not be accurate, and that the situation might actually be worse. Looking at the latest email from a yahoo group called "HR-Uzbekistan", some claim thousands have died. Homes, Mosques, and hospitals have been burned to the ground.

To put it simply it's a human rights nightmare. I for one agree with Human Rights Watch and think it's time for international action and UN involvement. Otherwise, it seems the situation will only escalate.

Jun 9, 2010

Poland+Castration Law = Why We Do This

Sorry ER fans, you're not getting a photo for this one.

BBC: "Under the law, [sex offenders] would be forced on their release to take drugs to reduce their sex drive, but courts are required to consider the opinions of psychiatrists before ordering it."

Jun 8, 2010

Voting Fraud in the Duma

Now this is how you run a "sovereign democracy!" (For: "99.8%.")

On the other hand, why even have a Duma if United Russia lackies are going to vote for you when that three martini lunch goes a little long.

Bonus points to the Duma deputy who tries to pick his nose with a microphone (1:18). Makes you wonder what this place would be like if deputies actually had to stand for a legitimate election.

Thanks to TYWKIWDBI, funny name...awesome blog.

Jun 7, 2010

Father's Day is Just around the Corner

Every year, we all struggle to buy gifts for Father's Day. Well this year, the decision is an easy one: Cufflinks that resemble the big bear, the manliest of men, the supreme leader - Vladimir Putin. Yeah, enough said. Purchase them now. NOW!

Divorce was complicated enough

Now, in some European countries, you can pick which laws apply to your divorce. What a blessing.

According to the Sofia Morning News, Bulgaria is among a group of 14 European Union nations which has opted to seal a divorce pact that will let couples of different European nationalities choose which divorce laws will apply. The proposal allows both spouses to know in advance which law is applicable to their divorce, increasing flexibility by giving them the possibility of choosing which legal code should apply. The countries taking part in the enhanced co-operation procedure are Spain, Italy, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria, Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Malta and Portugal.

If divorce in Italy is anything like the movie: "Divorce, Italian Style", I would opt for any of the other countries' laws. Thank you.

Jun 1, 2010

Oh No... I agree with Nashisti on this one

Yeah, there it is. I just said that. According to EnglishRussia, recently in Moscow supermarkets swastika stickers have appeared on Lithuanian products. The stickers showed up around the same time the youth movement "Nashi" called for a boycott on Lithuanian goods because the Klaipeda court had announced the swastika to be a historic heritage of Lithuania.

I kinda think it's a clever protest. Best way to protest anything is to hit people in their pockets. Good work, Nashisti. I can't condemn it. I can only encourage more consistency in your messages.

May 27, 2010

Bulgarian Domain Name Debate Continues

You may remember that late last year, that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began allowing cyrillic to be used in Internet domain names. This instantly sparked debate in Bulgaria, where the popular inclination was to make the Bulgarian government's cyrillic domain name ".бг". However, this rubbed Brazil the wrong way, because their latin domain name is already ".br" and looks very similar to the proposed cyrillic for Bulgaria.

Well, the Brazilians won out, and the debate rages on. There are now four options under review: .българия, .бгр, .бул, and .бя.

I vote for .бя because it's the shortest, and I HATE long addresses. In any case, make a decision already, Bulgaria. So far only Russia has registered a domain name in Cyrillic: .рф. Rather efficient and practical, Russia. Kudos.

May 19, 2010

Two-Party System, Turkmen Style

So according to Chronicles of Turkmenistan, Turkmen authorities are genuinely trying to create a two-party system. However, it seems that mostly, they want to have a two-party system so that the international community will get off their backs already. Farid Tukhbatullin claims that the introduction of a multi-party system is not a “present-day” requirement from within the country, but the requirement imposed by international, including financial organizations, which play a pivotal role in the economic well-being of the country and its leadership.

In a nut shell, it seems the two-party system will be the existing party, just in two branches. The branches won't be in opposition to each other at all. Just complimentary really. The new branch will be one for the farmers... This all sounds familiar. Power to the farmers aka the peasantry aka the proletariat of Central Asia... Nah, never happen.

Here's looking backwards at you, Turkmenistan!

May 17, 2010

It's Hard out There for a Pimp

At least in Bulgaria. According to the Sofia Morning News, several night clubs, offices and a number of private addresses in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia were raided Friday night in the latest special police ops codenamed “The Pimps.” The news was reported Saturday by Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who said they were targeting establishments providing “sex services.” Four people have been arrested, identified as Velislav aka Viki, Emil aka The Shaved (ew), Rosen aka The Fat (aw), and Miglena Hana, believed to be the Madam of the Sofia prostitutes.

So interesting and disturbing, but here's what I want to focus on: the use of the term "codename." According to Webster's dictionary, a codename is "a designation having a coded and usually secret meaning." There's nothing coded or secret about the term "pimps" when you're targeting a prostitution ring. Maybe the next special ops should be called "Oak Tree" or "Blue Jay." If you need help, try this site. Not a sermon, just a thought.

May 13, 2010

Corruption Solves Problems

According to most Russians. According to most Russians, dill should be used in every dish. According to most Russians, sitting on the floor will freeze your ovaries...

So, more than half of the Russians who participated in a Levada Center poll say that bribing officials is the best way to "solve problems." And more than that, they believe that everyone's doing it. Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else was, Russia? Yeah, you probably would... Sigh.

May 12, 2010

It's the Pictures That Got Small

If you're interested, or are just desperate for an hour of entertainment, then you can't go wrong with the PLOT-O-MATIC™ movie script generator. Sure it's the next big thing of 2005. But still endless fun.

"Just pick out the characters and plot elements you want to include in your movie. When you're happy with your choices, hit LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! and voila! A plot pitch you can take to the bank!"
Here's one we'll be introducing at Fox Searchlight later this week:

Little Bear's Big Trip
an original screenplay concept by D. Medvedev

Romance: A struggling artist teams up with a well-built female cyborg to save the earth from aliens. In the process they play Russian roulette with a kind hearted prostitute. By the end of the movie they poison 26 washed up ex-SNL cast members and end up winning the admiration of their country, living happily ever after.

Think Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Die Hard.

May 11, 2010

Who Wants a Nuclear Reactor?

The Guardian writes: “Speaking after talks with Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said today that Russia could build reactors in Syria, but gave no further details.”

These days, watching Medvedev make nuclear deals is like watching Oprah give away cars to her studio audience.

By the by, this is what happened the last time Syria tried to build a [suspected] nuclear plant.

May 10, 2010

This is for all the Ladies

Thanks to PunditKitchen.

May 7, 2010

Aliens in Kalmykia

It's a line that got cut from the first version of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire," AND a claim made by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the leader Kalmykia, a small Buddhist region of Russia which lies on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Crazy right? Oh it gets crazier.

According to the BBC, MP Andre Lebedev is not just asking whether Mr Ilyumzhinov is fit to govern. He is also concerned that, if he was abducted, he may have revealed details about his job and state secrets.

Let's do the obvious round of questions:

1. Aliens travel lightyears, they have the technology to pick any place on Earth to land, and they land in Kalmykia? Really? Really?

2. What state secrets are we telling the leader of Kalmykia, Russia? Is that where the nuclear silos are?


May 3, 2010

Putin and Kadyrov are Predators

And not just of the ladies...

But seriously, my fantasy husband Putin and my least favorite orangutan Kadyrov have been included on Reporters without Borders' 2010 list of "40 Predators of the Press". Putin was on last year's list, but this is Kadyrov's first appearance on this particular list of infamy. Said of Ka-durak-ov:

"Anyone questioning [his] policies... is exposed to deadly reprisals ...Often referred to as 'Putin's guard dog', Ramzan Kadyrov shares the Russian prime minister's taste for crude language and strong action."

Sadly, this entry comes under "not surprised" for me, but as you know, I love lists and I love hating on Kadyrov.

Authorities Start Checking for Illegals

No, I'm not talking about Arizona, and I'm not talking about illegal immigrants. I'm talking about Sofia, Bulgaria and the current crackdown on illegal dogs. Yes, this is the most pressing issue facing Bulgaria (<--- That's what sarcasm looks like)

According to the Sofia Weekly, yesterday, teams from the Inspectorate of the City Hall in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia checked 106 dog owners in two of the city's most popular parks. Over 20 owners were fined with not having legal documentation for their dogs.

My initial question was "is it so horrible that someone would be taking care of a dog and not leaving it to be a stray roaming the streets all times of day keeping me up all night with their mating calls?" However, according to Mayor Yordanka Fandakova, legal documentation of dogs is the first step in getting owners to clean up after their dogs, keep their dogs on leashes, and walk their dogs in designated areas. So Mayor Yordanka, I commend your efforts. Also, good luck with the "staggering" unemployment among the youth of the city. Might I suggest creating more Dog Inspector positions???

Apr 30, 2010


Everything seemed to be going so well between Ukraine and Russia (minus a few tiffs in the Ukrainian parliament). Russia renewed its lease to its Black Sea naval base and Ukraine got a discount on natural gas, in exchange for consideration of Russian entry into the Ukrainian energy sector of course.

Today we saw what was behind door number two when Prime Minister Putin freaked out everyone at a press conference following some follow-on Ukrainian-Russian discussions in Sochi. In an allegedly impromptu announcement, he suggested that Gazprom and Naftogaz (Ukraine's national gas and oil company) merge into one conglomerate.

Ex Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has already denounced this suggestion as a Russian plot to deprive her country of sovereignty and is calling on her website for people "to work out an effective plan for ousting Yanukovych." Personally, I agree with the New York Times assessment that this is likely an aggressive haggling maneuver to get Russia a greater share of Ukrainian assets. Maybe the talks didn't go as well as planned and he decided to show the Yanukovych team that he was willing to toss them to the whims of a disgruntled populous? It certainly wasn't a move calculated to return Ukrainian politics to a sense of normalcy...

Apr 29, 2010

Spotlight on Stratgey 31

I'm embarassed to say I just recently heard about "Strategy 31", but according to opendemocracy.net, not many Russians have heard of it either, so I thought I'd spotlight it today, because I think it could have great potential.

Strategy-31 is a spontaneous civic movement which, since 31 July 2009, has regularly held protest meetings in defence of freedom of assembly in Russia. They are held on the 31st day of every month which has 31 days. In Moscow they take place in Triumfalnaya Square. They are intended to both promote and defend the right to hold peaceful demonstrations, as enshrined in article 31 of the Russian Constitution

To date, Moscow authorities have not approved a single Strategy-31 protest. Not shocking. Moscow authorities and Russian authorities in general are quite good at using bureacratic measures to stimy criticism.

And it's perfectly legal. In fact, there are new laws under consideration. There is, for example, a proposal to introduce a notification procedure for one-off pickets, and to allow officials to ban a public meeting on the grounds of “insufficient information”.

Well good luck Strategy-31 activists. It's a tough battle. I'll keep trying to do my part in giving you more visibility. See you in May!

Russian and Azerbaijani Journalist Murder Cases Make Top 10

Here's a top ten list I never wanted to see our region in, but I can't say I'm surprised. The Committee to Protect Journalists recently posted a special report on the Ten Journalist Murder Cases to Solve. Among the ten listed: #2 Anna Politkovskaya of Russian and #9 Elmar Huseynov of Azerbaijan. Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006, Huseynov in 2005.

They are listed with other murdered journalists from countries such as Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Pakistan. These are countries with not exactly stable governments. Russia and Azerbaijan can and should do better to ensure the justice of its citizens. That's my 2 cents.

Apr 27, 2010

Eggs and Smoke Bombs

Throwing shoes has really gone out of style.

According to YahooNews, lawmwakers brawled, threw eggs at each other and set off smoke bombs in Ukraine's parliament Tuesday as the legislature erupted into chaos over a vote allowing the Russian navy to keep using a port on the Black Sea. Keeping it klassy. The extension passed with 236 votes in the 450-member parliament, but opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko vowed it wouldn't last.

Opposition parliament members threw eggs at speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn as he opened the session in the Verkhovna Rada, forcing him to preside while shielded by a black umbrella held by an aide. Two smoke bombs were set off, and deputies shouted their opinions about the squeal of a smoke alarm.

Some parliament members scuffled and the opposition Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc said one of its legislators was hospitalized with a concussion after fighting with members of Yanukovych's party.

Who brings eggs and smoke bombs to Parliament?! Come on, Ukraine!

Android Karenina?!?!

"Android Karenina: an enhanced edition of the classic love story set in a strange new world of robots, cyborgs, and interplanetary travel...As in the original novel, our story follows two relationships: the tragic adulterous romance of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the much more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These four, yearning for true love, live in a steampunk-inspired 19th century of mechanical butlers, extraterrestrial-worshiping cults, and airborne debutante balls. Their passions alone would be enough to consume them—but when a secret cabal of radical scientific revolutionaries launches an attack on Russian high society’s high-tech lifestyle, our heroes must fight back with all their courage, all their gadgets, and all the power of a sleek new cyborg model like nothing the world has ever seen."

Goes on sale in June 2010....maybe I'll like this version better?

Dom u Dorogi v Patonge

Hey there folks! Just came back from an extended stay in Asia. And I come back with a bone to pick with a restaurant, located in Patong Beach, Pkuket, Thailand. This restaurant is called "Dom u dorogi/Russian Roadhouse", and here are all the reasons I hated it and no self respecting Russian or Russophile should ever go there.

1. While the menu is in Russian, none of the staff speaks Russian and thus can't understand what you're ordering at all!

2. Beer selection. Obvious items missing from the beer lists, um, BALTIKA! Also, no zolotaya bochka, a personal fave.

3. So there was a whole page in the menu called "Drinks for Serious People" and the Thai lady boy waiting on me said he/she couldn't make any of them, including a "Red Russian", which as far as I could tell was just vodka and cherry juice. No idea why that wasn't possible.

4. I patented a "Red Russian" as a "Blushin' Russian Bride" years ago! (cherry juice and vodka, get it?)

5. I said black bread, not rye bread!

6. My potato should have been smothered with mushroom sauce not mushrooms and soy!

7. The blini were clearly straight from the McGriddle, and I think I even saw an M in the dough. And btw, American pancakes are not blini and don't go well with sour cream.

8. When my friend refused to pay for the blini, we had the cops called on us.

Dear Dom u dorogi in Phuket. I hate you. You exist to disappoint. PS. Thanks for the free rakia, but I still hate you.

I swear I'll go back to hard hitting items by tomorrow. I just had to get this off my chest.

Apr 20, 2010

Put Away Your Bubbles

On Sunday a group of 500 teens gathered for a "flash mob" at the Gorkovskaya metro station in St Petersburg. In spite of the misleading title of "flash mob" this group gathered to celebrate spring the best way they could think of...blowing bubbles. (Why don't we do that where I live??)

Unfortunately this annual celebration known as “Dream Flash” or“Soapy Peter” was crashed by some bubble hating, neo-nazis who mistook the frivolity for a gay pride event... because bubbles give off rainbow colors... and brought not only fists but guns. It seems that a group of gay activists may have planned to hold a gay pride event during the bubbling, which may have been the source of confusion.

Apparently, once the police showed up and the assailants ran away the bubblers kept on bubbling in spite of police admonishments to “Put away the bubbles and disperse." One attacker was reportedly detained, but police also detained about 30 bubble-blowers on suspicion of walking on the grass...Way to keep the peace

Apr 10, 2010

Putin Blatantly Replacing Leaders in the FSU?

For those of you that haven't heard, Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with a group of Polish elites died today when their plane crashed in (guess where) Russia. The Polish leaders had been going to Russia to jointly commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

And just earlier this week Putin denies Russia's involvement in the uprising in Kyrgyzstan which has ousted President Bakiyev...three letters KGB (or FSB if we go with the new lingo)

Just remember that ER said it first.

Although unfortunately we are unlikely to be the last, and others may not mean it as facetiously.

On a serious note, prayers and thoughts out to the families and friends of those killed

Apr 8, 2010

Red Line Revolutions

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people"

We've all been watching the events unfolding in Kyrgyzstan this week and many were surprised by the speed with which unrest broke out and spread. Early reports introduced comparisons to the "colored revolutions" in Eurasia during the 2000s, but this is a different beast altogether and, in my opinion, something other authoritarian regimes should be far more worried about.

The colored revolutions were catalyzed by protest of perceived (and actual) corruption in an election; electoral revolutions. Although many did have popular support, colored revolutions were often led by a unified opposition which had varying levels of popular presence on the streets during their protests. For me, the most convincing literature analyzing the colored revolutions highlights three key factors 1. use of violence (by protesters and the government) 2. internal instability of the regime in power and 3. unity among the opposition.

Reports suggest that the unrest in Kyrgyzstan was and is spontaneous and largely disorganized. Although the opposition (through a tv appearance by Omurbek Tekebayev) has come forward claiming to have seized the government, there are clear cleavages within the opposition and signs of an impending internal power struggle. Unlike the colored revolutions, both the ruling regime and the protesters have shown willingness to use violence, but unlike other cases the regime's violence has not deterred protesters. Instead, protesters overcame the police and reportedly beat Interior Minister Kongantivev and First Deputy Prime Minister Zhaparov.

Most importantly, these protests are not about electoral fraud, but are connected to economic conditions; a few weeks ago, the government suddenly raised the prices of gas, water and electricity.

Time will show how events will work out in Kyrgyzstan, but what will other authoritarian governments learn from these events (they undoubtedly took lessons from successful and failed colored revolutions)? I think they'll realize, if they hadn't already that even relatively apolitical populations have red lines that cannot be crossed...

Apr 5, 2010

Can you still deport someone to the USSR?

So here's a tricky case highlighted in yesterday's Baltimore Sun.

Four years ago, Mark Denisyuk broke into an apartment in Harford County, Maryland (a great rurual county that has been fighting suburban sprawl for quite sometime, just saying). He fought with the occupants who threw him out and, when police arrived, he was standing outside, drunk, with slurred speech, his shirt and face bloodied. A judge later noted, "He had no realistic defense."

It became clear to Mark that since he is not a US citizen, his conviction meant deportation. So he fought the case. It was re-examined, but the conviction held. And now Mark must be deported. But where to?

Though not a US Citizen, Mark has lived in Harford County since the age of 14, graduated from a local high school and speaks fluent and colloquial English. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals says he is a citizen of Latvia. But Denisyuk was born in 1975 when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. Moreover, he came to the United States in 1989, two years before Latvia gained independence. And, Mark has no Latvian birth certificate, but oddly enough, he does have one from Kenya, just kidding...

So what to do with Mark? Let's keep an eye on this one. I'd like to see if precedence is set for how to deport someone to a state that no longer exists.

Mar 29, 2010

Loss for Words

Mar 17, 2010

Surprise Fireworks Show Cancelled

The day was ruined for several Moscow maintenance workers by the discovery of a between 800 and 2000 unexploded WWII artillery shells in a cache beneath the road where they were planning to replace waterpipes. RIA Novosti reports that "between 200 and 300 unexploded aviation bombs, artillery shells and other ammunition is found in Moscow each year." Mad props to the worker that stopped jackhammering in time.

Sympathy for the Citroen

This is one of those stories that gets legs and won’t stop running.
Two weeks ago, the vice-president of Russian oil giant Lukoil was in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes when it crashed head-on into a Citroen killing the two women in that car. The police blamed the Citroen for the accident but [Russian hip-hop artist] Noize MC has his own version of events.

…and that version has now gone viral on YouTube, which is important since Ekho Moskvy has apparently been banned from playing the song.

But we're not.

Say what you will about the decline of Russian culture, but we're pretty sure Rimsky-Korsakov never thought to combine guerilla dissent with a hip-hop cover of the Rolling Stone's Sympathy for the Devil...and South Park?

Bulgakov is smiling from hell.

Medvedev: Russia Must Tap That Arctic Resource

AP MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia must defend its claims to mineral riches of the Arctic in increasing competition with other powers.
...claims which have a dubious basis in international law. But hey, Rock Hudson had a dubious claim to being a submarine captain. And that didn't seem to stop him.

Mar 16, 2010

Future Headline: AIDS Epidemic in Uzbekistan

According to CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, sex education is now illegal in Uzbekistan, evidenced by the fact, in September, Maxim Popov, was sentenced to seven years in prison apparently as punishment for his work to raise public awareness on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Why report on something that happened in September in March? Because it was just made public today.

In any case it looks like Uzbeks will have to learn sex ed the hardway. Unless of course they have access to HBO or Cinemax.

Mar 15, 2010

Face Value

An Imedi network report in Georgia yesterday broadcast the news that Russian tanks had invaded the capital and that Saakashvili was dead...What they didn't mention clearly enough was that this broadcast, complete with footage from the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict, was a simulation meant to imagine what would happen if Saakashvili was killed...

When the "War of the Worlds" series was first broadcast on radio on October 30, 1938, people panicked in the belief that Martians really were invading Earth. But people have learned since then not to accept things at face value right? Broadcast journalism has learned the importance of that fine print please do not panic button at the bottom of the screen right?

Apparently not..but I guess Imedi got high ratings that day

See the report here.

Mar 10, 2010

Happy Martenitsa!

What the hell is Martenitsa?

Mar 4, 2010

Armenian Genocide, the Sequel

Here we go again:

"The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, in a closer-than-expected vote of 23-22," moved to recognize Armenian Genocide.
Poor Ambassador Tan. We hope he didn't have plans to be in Washington for the Cherry Blossom Festival. He just got recalled to Ankara in protest.

Long Gone: Tsarist Russia

More haunting pictures from the archive of Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (c. 1915) and the Tsarist world in twilight.

Pinkhus Karlinskii stands by a ferry dock along the Mariinskii Canal system (now the Volga-Baltic Waterway). He was eighty-four years old when the photo was taken, having worked the canal for sixty-six years. (That's ten three years longer then the total life expetency of a Russian male living today.)

Ethnic Russian settlers in the South Caucasus. (Are the faces that different from Dorothea Lange's photos of American Okies during the Great Depression?)

A rail push-car near Lake Onega, Petrozavodsk. Prokudin-Gorskii is one of the figures on the car.

Mar 3, 2010

Comming Soon: Jersey Shore, Russian Edition

We kid you not.

According to the NYPost, producers claim their new reality show (tentitivly called Brighton Beach) will be “a cross between the Jersey Shore and Anna Karenina.”

A cross with Anna Karenina?

Unless this means that we can expect to see an orange Bolivian little person throw herself in front of a rush-hour A Train because Count Vronsky didn't like her hair extensions -- then we're not watching.

Have the producers even read Tolstoy?

Crossing Jersey Shore with Anna Karenina is like trying to cross Mein Kampf with Hello Kitty’s Nighttime Storybook Adventures. Then again, people would watch that too.

Mar 2, 2010

Serbia is Going After Alleged War Criminals…

…but only if they're Bosnian. Specifically, former Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic.

And yes, the UK’s permissive legal system (where anyone and everyone can be arrested as a war criminal) is involved.

No word yet if Serbia will also seek the arrest of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for aiding and abetting a war criminal when she served Ganic a cup of tea during their meeting in 2006. However, the legal department reminds us that providing material support and comfort to a war criminal could also be a punishable offiense.

Not on the list: exploiting international legal systems for domestic political gain.

Mar 1, 2010

Bureaucrats of the World Unite

Part of photographer Jan Banning’s series, Bureaucratics, featuring bureaucrats and their offices from around the world.




This Teddy Bear has Claws

This week Medvedev went Soviet on us. According to ESPN, Medvezhyonok has demanded that sports officials step down over the country's dismal performance at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Russia placed 11th for golds and sixth in the overall medal count. For shame. Medvedev said if those responsible for preparing the athletes don't resign, then the decision will be made for them. I think I'll keep track of the hockey coach's fate.

*Picture provided by Ellustrator.

Feb 26, 2010

Russian Chimp is Drunk as a Monkey

Let me start by saying, this article has everything I've ever wanted in a story: booze, addiction, monkeys, and Russia.

So according to YahooNews, the Rostov zoo has sent Zhora, one of its chimps, to rehab, because he can't kick his beer-drinking and smoking habits.

"The beer and cigarettes were ruining him. He would pester passers-by for booze."

And yes, of course passers-by at a zoo in Russia had booze on them. Who goes to the zoo park without some beer? And for those of you who don't know, the Russian language is so awesome it actually has a verb that means "to get an animal drunk." The imperfective is опаивать, and the perfective is опоить. Yes, this is the Russia I fell in love with.

Feb 25, 2010

Cold War Flashback

If you’re interested, there’s an awesome retrospective on the bitter architecture wars which erupted between east and west during Cold War-era World Expos.

At the 1959 World Expo in Moscow, GE's canary yellow “modern kitchen” sparked the Nixon-Khrushchev kitchen debates. (Is that Leonid Brezhnev eyeing the self-cleaning oven?)

The Soviets responded with this monster pavilion at the 1967 Montreal World Expo, featuring the exhibition’s largest restaurant (stuff it GE).

Which, if anyone is keeping score, was a shameless rip off of Eero Saarinen’s 1958 design for the Main Terminal at Dulles airport.

Orange and Blue, Together at Last?

Only in the eyes of a Siberian Husky competing at this year's European dog sled championship in Donovaly, Slovakia.

(JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Feb 24, 2010

So I started watching the Russia-Canada game...

...10 minutes ago. The score was 4-1 Canada, which I'm like, wow, I only missed the first period and it's already a blow out. The score is now 7-2, Canada. So here's the thing...

1. It's the Olympics. This is supposed to be close competition
2. It's now 7-3, but still really bad, Russia
3. I miss the Soviet Union athletics program! I want crazy competition back!

All the same, go Canada!

Lenin Had a Sex Life?

We might have just found a new motto for Eternal Remont, compliments of Helen Rappaport’s new biography of Lenin during his pre-revolutionary exile:

“There it is, my fate. One fighting campaign after another — against political stupidities, philistinism, opportunism and so forth."
Amen, brother Vlad.

So why is everyone talknig about the biography of a Kremlin lawn ornament? Well, Rappaport jumps head first into Lenin’s sex life, particularly his long-whispered affair with Inessa Armand (pictured). Rappaport writes:

"His sexuality, seemingly, had long been subordinated—along with his emotional needs.”
Get Fabio on the cover and you've got a best seller.

EU Visa Regime Weakens

Don't worry. The EU still hates Turkey.

So after the meeting of the EU top diplomats in Brussels, the Italian Foreign Affairs Minister, Franco Frattini, reported that the EU will propose a visa-free regime for travel inside the Union for Ukrainian citizens. The EU wishes to establish strong relations with the administration of the newly elected President of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, known for being a bit more pro-Russian.

So Ukraine is being rewarded for picking the candidate the west didn't want? Ukraine, why didn't lean east earlier?