December 26, 2019

Best of The Russia File 2019


Best of The Russia File 2019
A hat in a pinch. fedpress.ru

We look back and re-share some of our favorite stories from 2019. They may not be the most noteworthy or newsworthy stories, but we felt they were the most fun.

Our Favorite Stories of 2019

1. A Russian journalist accidentally wore underwear as headwear half the day, and the internet decided it was a fashion statement. She tweeted about how she used the panties to to tie up her hair in the shower, and then, half a work day and two formal meetings later, realized she had forgotten to take them off. In a second tweet she complained that “not one b**** told me,” dismantling the myth that Russian babushki will always correct your clothing choices. (Then again, maybe the babushki approved, since any form of headwear does keep the head warmer.) In comments, however, Russians encouraged her to embrace it, saying that everyone was respecting underwear on the head as a “message to the world,” and “a great person creates fashion trends.”

2. A meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began on a discordant note. After Putin arrived in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi marching band played the Russian national anthem for him. It went all right, until they got to the chorus and… to put it mildly, Putin was definitely trying not to laugh. Fortunately, Russia got its revenge when it gifted the crown prince a falcon that defecated on the carpet. (Actually, according to the Tweeter who posted the video, a bird pooping is a good luck sign in Russia. Then again, we’ll never know if the Saudis believed that or called Putin on his birdcrap.)


The Saudi marching band attempts the Russian national anthem. / saudiatv
 

3. Every spring, when the Amur River in Siberia unfreezes, there’s a risk that big chunks of ice flowing downstream will get stuck and cause floods. The Russian government has devised a clever solution: blow up the ice. Usually, ice explosions start around mid-April, but the Amur is thawing earlier and earlier due to global warming, so this year authorities started clearing the ice on April 3, and finished on April 12. To blow up the ice, workers plant explosives at regular intervals across the river, so the explosion resembles a grand fountain. You could say that winter’s going out with a bang (hope someone warned the fish).


Almost better than fireworks. / Video: Anna Liesowska
 

Five Most Popular Weekly Russia Files of 2019

Data don't lie (unless you force them to)!
Here’s what readers liked best this past year. Click on over, give them a read, and see if you agree.

  1. Black Snow, Brown Bears, and Sore Losers (February 21)
  2. A Dog and a Muscovite Come In from the Cold (March 21)
  3. Naked Facts about Science, Art and Agriculture (March 28)
  4. To and From Russia with Love (October 10)
  5. Victory Over the Past (May 9)
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Some of Our Books

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.
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.  
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
At the Circus

At the Circus

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.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
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.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
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.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
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.

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