July 04, 2019

Trolley Drama and Piano Trauma


Trolley Drama and Piano Trauma
Thankfully, this cormorant is not dead (see #2 below). Pixabay

Throwback Thursday

Russian and American flags
Photo: Pixabay

It’s Independence Day in the U.S. — an excellent time to reflect on Russia-U.S. relations. Although it doesn’t often feel like it, there’s so much more to Russian interactions with the U.S. than the Cold War.

Today’s featured article profiles Sitka, a town in present-day Alaska that is rooted at the intersection of Russian, American, and Native Alaskan history. Its residents celebrate the transfer of Alaska to the United States, commemorate its Russian founders, and reconcile the Russian and American imperialist pasts with Native heritage and experiences. Read more, right here on Russian Life.


Trolleys and Birds Fly Away (But for Very Different Reasons)

1. Goodbye, trolleybus! On Monday, the city of Perm retired trolleybuses from its public transport system. City officials said the trolleys had been underused for years; still, Perm citizens were saddened by the end of a city mainstay and resolved to remember the trolleybus in style. On Sunday, riders crowded onboard the last trolley and threw a farewell party. They decorated the trolley with balloons and signs saying “We’ll miss you!”, riding until the very last stop. It was a bittersweet moment as the trolley drove away into the night. Nevertheless, though the trolleybus has met its end, it lives on in the fond memories of many Perm citizens.

Last trolley in Perm
Goodbye, trolleybus, oh, where I will never be… / 59.ru

2. A foolproof (but not soundproof) idea. Recently, Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg has had a problem: seagulls and cormorants won’t keep their beaks out of the humans’ business. The stadium’s solution? Scare them away with recordings of dying birds. These recordings, which often play overnight, have made early birds out of some irate residents. Meanwhile, some children worried about whether the birds were okay (bear in mind that we don’t know if birds were harmed in the recording of these sounds).

3. Nightmares come true. Last week, the Moscow Conservatory held the finals of the Tchaikovsky Competition, one of the world’s highest-stake competitions for pianists. Finalist An Tianxu came onstage expecting to play a Tchaikovsky concerto, then a Rachmaninov piece. The conductor lifted his hand… but instead of the slow, majestic Tchaikovsky, he started the rapid-fire Rachmaninov. For non-pianist readers: this is like getting your chair kicked out from under you, while perched above a steaming vat of kasha. Fortunately, An handled it with grace. Though he ultimately placed fourth, the jury awarded him a “special prize for self-confidence and bravery.” And on the internet, he’s probably more famous than the actual winner, which may be the best prize of all.

Shocked pianist
When the sheet music is pulled out from in front of you. / medici.tv

Blog Spotlight

Russia in 300 square meters: If you’re traveling to the Far East, don’t miss the microcosm of Russia that awaits you on Russky Island.

In Odder News

Police corgi
Yet another reason to love corgis. / Transport Management Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Volga Federal District
  • Meet Ryzhy, the only corgi to serve in a Russian K-9 police unit.
  • Need a Soviet-themed way to procrastinate? Try out this game of Tetris that lets you stack Soviet apartment buildings.
  • A roadside robbery in the Russian countryside had an unexpected ending. Whether it’s happy or not is for you to decide.

Quote of the Week

“What’s next — removing the bear from the coat of arms?”

— An indignant Perm resident responding to the retirement of trolleybuses from the public transport system

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

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.
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.
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.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Bilingual series of short, lesser known, but highly significant works that show the traditional view of Dostoyevsky as a dour, intense, philosophical writer to be unnecessarily one-sided. 
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 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.  
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.
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.
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.

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