December 05, 2019

"Yo" is for Yolka

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

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. 


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