June 13, 2019

Diving and Driving into Summer Holidays


Diving and Driving into Summer Holidays
Best low-budget suspense thriller of the year. Lilu Dallas

Throwback Thursday

Mikhail Alexandrovich, last tsar of Russia
Mikhail Alexandrovich, last tsar of Russia. / Wikimedia Commons

One hundred and one years ago, the real last tsar of Russia — not Nicholas II — was assassinated by the Bolsheviks. He had only been tsar for one day and never wanted the job. Learn more about Mikhail Alexandrovich, last Emperor of All the Russias, on Russian Life {digital subscription required}.

A Holiday for Patriots, A Game for Anti-Patriots

1. An odd Russia Day. On Tuesday, Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov, who was arrested last week on trumped-up charges, was freed after public backlash. The next day was Russia Day, and things proceeded weirdly normally. Cities all around Russia put on historical exhibits, parades, outdoor concerts, and festivals celebrating indigenous traditions. In St. Petersburg, 500 military brass band players got together to put on the world’s largest ever performance of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” The only sign of the previous week’s unrest was the arrest of over 500 protestors in Moscow. On the one hand, you want to say “С Днем России”…but on the other hand, you really can’t.

World's largest performance of "Flight of the Bumblebee"
A giant brass band honors a tiny bee. / Elena Kalinina

2. Driving under the sea. On Sakhalin Island, a truck driver needed to get across a strip of beach, but he missed the low tide. So what did he do? Simple: he drove into the sea (the action starts 30 seconds in). At various times it looked like the truck was going to get drawn in, but slowly but surely, the driver navigated his way out. Once he drove onshore, he opened the door to let the water out, wiped the inside of the windshield, and calmly drove away. So the next time you feel all at sea, take a cue from this guy and just ride the wave.

3. Fifty shades of Stalin? This October sees the debut of a video game self-explanatorily entitled “Sex with Stalin.” If that sounds outrageous, check out some of the reactions: One Communist Party official demanded a police investigation, but stopped short of calling for a ban, because “If we reacted to the breath of every idiot…” But maybe there’s a deeper meaning behind this. One researcher on Soviet culture sees the game as “evidence of how post-Soviet masculinity fantasizes about the overthrow of the symbolic father while still being inside the original phallic structure.” We think the developers are just trolling… but we are glad someone is trying to sort through the fray.

Screencap from forthcoming "Sex with Stalin" game
Our reaction exactly. / Steam

Blog Spotlight

Scoot on over and read Katrina Keegan’s story on scooters in Russia.

In Odder News

Bear strolling into Kamchatka airport
He doesn’t need security because he is the security. / Kamchatka Info
  • Welcome to Kamchatka Bearport! A bear strolled through a security gate onto the tarmac of a Kamchatka airport. (Pun credits to the Siberian Times.)
  • Ahead of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, workers painted the grass along a highway green. Now the grass will always be greener on the other side.
  • How many words does Russian have for drunkenness? A Soviet-born sports writer reveals all in this epic thread of 25 tweets.

Quote of the Week

“Yay, it’s summer!”

— A Norilsk resident running out into the snow in short sleeves and shorts

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.

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Some of Our Books

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
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.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
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.
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.
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.

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