September 07, 2016

No Calendar, No Life


No Calendar, No Life

Why are calendars so great?

And by calendars, I of course (being a publisher) mean printed ones you put on your wall or desk, not digital ones you carry around in your pocket to keep track of your daily schedule.

"What's the difference?" you ask.

The difference, dear reader, is "yuuuuge!"

By printing a calendar and placing it your personal space, you are plunging a temporal stick in the ground – a reference point for your daily life. You are erecting a frame for your activities that connects today with all the other days in the month, and this month with the eleven others in our year.

Calendars are, simply put, maps for time. Which, if you think about it too long can kind of mess with your mind. 

"But time is a false human construct," you toss out (strutting your high school physics cred).

Of course it is. But so are political parties, social networks and chocolate chip cookie recipes. That doesn't mean they aren't all also real in their own way and rather necessary (especially the cookies) for keeping life as we know it from spinning out of control.

For proof of the effect changing a calendar can have, try sorting out the confusion that was the 5-day and 6-day weeks introduced in early Soviet Russia, while the country was still recovering from the impact of finally shifting to the Gregorian Calendar (something historians still wrestle with; here's our answer).

Calendars are important and impactful, people! That's why, when it is the middle of September and you forget what day it is, it is somehow comforting to look at a wall calendar and see that square you are inhabiting today nestled in the middle row of five, leaning toward the weekend. Oh, and to just casually notice (because the calendar tells you this) that tomorrow is a new moon. Nice.

Just try to get that same sense of grounded-ness from the sterile readout of a mobile phone. Go ahead. Try.

 

Our contribution to your sanity. You're welcome.

CALENDARS CAN ALSO provide us with perspective. I note this every fall when we are putting the final touches on our own Wall Calendar. Because in addition to showing Russian and American holidays (and a few Canadian ones too), we highlight about 250-300 historical events that have round anniversaries (any multiple of five) on any particular day.

This has the effect of "telescoping" historical events, placing alongside one another events that happened hundreds of years apart. And often this can lead to some interesting juxtapositions. Here are three I discovered when proofreading our calendar for 2017:

 

March 6

1937: Valentina Tereshkova, the first female cosmonaut, was born.

1967: Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's daughter, requested (and received) asylum at the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Tereshkova, born in that most difficult of Russian years, orbited the Earth and rose to the heights of Soviet fame, with all its attendant glories and indignities. Meanwhile, Alliluyeva was born in the highest of orbits and struggled much of her life with her identity and infamy.

 

September 2

1962: Soviet Union secretly agreed to send arms to Cuba (it will lead to Cuban Missile Crisis in just over a month).

1992: US and Russia agreed to jointly build a space station, which is now the ISS.

One year we are on the brink of nuclear war, threatening to sling missiles at one another, and exactly 30 years later we agree to jointly harness our missile and space technology toward a common goal. For a time at least.

 

October 18

1867: Russia transferred Russian America (aka Alaska) to the United States.

1967: Soviet Venera 4 spacecraft entered the atmosphere of Venus. It was the first successful probe to perform in-place analysis of the environment of another planet.

Exactly one hundred years separate two such signal events in human exploration. It is almost the stuff of sci-fi. It seems like there should be more than just one century spanning these two events.

Even a sideways calendar is better than no calendar.

OF COURSE, 2017 is also the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, an event that shaped modern Russia more than any other in the twentieth century, save World War II. And so there are lots of anniversaries on next year's calendar with a 1917 before them. Yet on October 25, the same day as the outbreak of the revolution, there is also this notation:

 

1852: Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak, writer, born.

 

The wonderful realist writer who wrote stories of his native Urals is not a bad counterpoint to Lenin's monumentally destructive coup. Nor is the fact that, in 1962, exactly three days and 45 years after the Bolshevik Thermidor was set in motion, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended.

These are the sorts of things calendars can give us: grounding, perspective, and a sense of our place in the larger world.

Just try that with an app.

Go ahead, try. I'll wait.

 

Before there were apps, there was this.

 

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Russian Rules

Russian Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
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. 
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.
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

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.
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.  
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 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.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
Okudzhava Bilingual

Okudzhava Bilingual

Poems, songs and autobiographical sketches by Bulat Okudzhava, the king of the Russian bards. 

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955