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

Okudzhava Bilingual

Okudzhava Bilingual

Poems, songs and autobiographical sketches by Bulat Okudzhava, the king of the Russian bards. 
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.
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.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar (bilingual)

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar (bilingual)

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.
Chekhov Bilingual

Chekhov Bilingual

Some of Chekhov's most beloved stories, with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. 
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. 
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.
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.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

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.

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