Showing posts from June, 2012

The Village That Has to Disappear But It Does Not

The Village That Has to Disappear But It Does Not: Would you be able to live in a village with population less than 100 people? Let’s check out how people live there. Talovka is a small village that has no leader, hospital or school. There is a butter factory near … Read more...

This optimistic Tragedy - A final interview with Tatiana Nikolaeva

During a recent chamber cycle in Antwerp a large part of which was devoted to Shostakovich's piano music, DSCH's Philippe Vandenbroek was fortunate enough to find the opportunity to talk with Tatiana Nikolaeva. The meeting took place in the large meeting room of the Antwerp Royal Conservatory, were she was found practising for the Second Piano Trio.

DSCH: Perhaps you could give us a short overview of the friendship you enjoyed with Shostakovich through the years?

TN: Our friendship began in Leipzig in 1950 and ended on his last day in 1975. During this entire period we were very good friends. Of course I had met Shostakovich many times before 1950 during his professorship at the Conservatory where I graduated in composition. But our friendship properly dates back to 1950, to the Bach festivities after the second world war. He was there as an honorary guest and as member of the jury at the piano competition where I, as a 26 year-old girl, was participating.
Perhaps I provoked him …

Dostoevsky and His Theology

by James Townsend

Alfred Einstein stated: "Dostoevsky gives me more than any other thinker."1 Nicholas Berdyaev was professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow until he was expelled by the Communist regime in 1922. Berdyaev testified that Dostoevsky "stirred and lifted up my soul more than any other writer or philosopher has done…when I turned to Jesus Christ for the first time.2 Some would assert that either TheBrothers Karamazov [pronounced kare-uh-MAHT-tsov] or Crime and Punishment is the greatest novel ever written. Some thinkers within the Christian camp would claim Dostoevsky as one of our own, thereby lending added value to such a study as this.

II. A Brief Biography Fyodor Dostoevsky3 (1821-1881) was the son of an ultra-strict Russian Orthodox father who was a medical doctor. He would call his sons names (e.g., stupid) when they got their recitations wrong. He compelled his sons to stand at attention when they spoke to him. Thus, the young Dostoevsky did no…

Children of the Russian Empire

Children of the Russian Empire: S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky liked to photograph children though each photo cost 10 rubles, it was a huge amount and the photographer was not rich, but he continued to take photos of kids because he liked them (he himself was a … Read more...

Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviourby mendeleyev

After Napoleon Bonaparte had retreated from Moscow, Emperor Alexander I signed a manifest on 25 December 1812, for a grand cathedral to be built in honor of Christ the Saviour and “to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her.”  The cathedral was to be a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people.
The original plans laid out a design full of Freemason symbolism. Construction work was begun on the Sparrow Hills, the highest point in Moscow, but the site wasn’t able to accommodate the plans. When Alexander I was succeeded by his brother Nicholas I, the devoted Orthodox Tsar disliked the Neoclassicism and Freemasonry aspects of the project and called for renowned Russian architect Konstantin Thon to create a new design.

Facing the street side of the Cathedral. Thon used the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (modern day Instanbul) as his inspiration. With the design approved i…

Meet Russian horror writer Anna Starobinets

Russian author of dystopian horror and apocalyptic fantasy novels Anna Starobinets talks about her terrifyingly successful writing career.
The writing of Anna Starobinets has been compared with that of a host of literary greats, including Edgar Allan Poe and George Orwell. Yet the young Russian author is still only 33. Her literary career was launched with a horror anthology called An Awkward Age. The title story features a little boy who was so fat and awful that he repulsed even his own mother. She finds a diary in the boy’s handwriting which reveals that a queen ant residing in his mind is laying bare her insidious plan: to capture the boy’s body and then conquer all humanity. The readers are left guessing as to whether the boy will bend to his new nature like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The horror genre came natuarally to Starobinets. “I didn’t consciously choose horror fiction in the sense that I never sat at my desk musing on which genre to choose for my writing,” she ex…

Soviet Past of Today

Soviet Past of Today: Perm. A huge city, the third largest in Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is growing fast, invading more and more territories from the Ural forests. Old blocks are being promptly rebuilt too. Walking we pass by office buildings, … Read more...

Boris Vasiliev: The War Began Tomorrow

The guys felt awkward, as if they had been monstrously untactful, forcing themselves to be tolerated out of mere politeness. They felt an urge to leave, but leaving just like that, with nothing told or heard in response, seemed impossible, and all they could do was exchange embarrassed glances. 
“Have you been to the cemetery?” Artyom asked. He did it so sharply, his bluntness made Iskra shiver. But that was the tone that drove Leonid Sergeevich out of his stoop. 
“Yes, I have. The fence is blue. Flowers everywhere. The bush is good. A good bait for birds, too, though.”
“A good one,” Zhora affirmed, and went on rubbing his swollen fists.
Luberetsky’s voice was constrained and colorless, he was talking briskly, and having said his words, he plunged back into heavy silence. “It’s better we leave now,” Val’ka whispered. “We are bothering him.” Artyom gave him an outraged look, then took a lungful and made a step toward Luberetsky. He put his hand on Luberetsky’s shoulder, slightly shaking it,…

Praise the Lord - Sergei Rachmaninov


Moscow Trees: Then And Now

Moscow Trees: Then And Now: Once Moscow was a green pleasant city. Today it is sooner a stone sack for dirty cars storage. It’s hard to imagine that squirrels used to jump and birds used to sing on lime and chestnut trees of Moscow.  People … Read more...

Kolomenskoye – museum of ancient Slavic architecture

Kolomenskoye – museum of ancient Slavic architecture:

Kolomenskoye park is one of the most ancient places of human habitation in the area of modern Moscow. You can hardly find a better starting point for the acquaintance with religious Slavic architecture of 16th-17th centuries.

Photo Tour In Kyrgyzstan

Photo Tour In Kyrgyzstan: Valley of Chon-Aksu river Red mountains Jety-Aguz Market in Caracol – here one may buy things that nobody needs or assemble a Moskvitch 412.. Local barber’s Sheep are also cut – once a year Toys for a boy… Waterfall near … Read more...

Soviet Military Marches: Semeon Tchernetsky (1881-1950)


Summer Residence of Joseph Stalin In Novy Afon

Summer Residence of Joseph Stalin In Novy Afon: Since 1993 this object eventually came into possession of the Abkhazian authorities (the leaders of the USSR including Gorbachev had liked to come here), but lately it became a place of tourits’ interest. For $3 you can have a short … Read more...

Andrey Arshavin - Biography

“I can't be infected with a superstar ego, because I was born with it” 

Despite being 1.72 meters tall, Andrey Arshavin is the biggest star in Russian soccer. He currently defends the colors of Arsenal in the English Premier League and captains the Russian national squad. 

Arshavin’s position on the pitch is forward – or second forward – but he is also often called a “playmaker” as his dribbling skills and a great strike are accompanied by the “beautiful mind” and an ability to assist. 

He was born in St. Petersburg, called Leningrad back then, into a typical working class family. It was Andrey’s father Sergey Arshavin who persuaded his son to become a pro soccer player in an attempt to fulfill the dream he failed to achieve himself.

The world might not have known about Arshavin as he had been hit by a car when he was a child, but he recovered and at the age of seven he was recruited to Zenit Saint Petersburg’s soccer academy – Smena.

The young soccer player’s childhood was a difficult…

E-books for the treasure chest

Sales of electronic books in Russia are growing by leaps and bounds. In the last three years alone, e-book sales have increased 12-fold. Receipts for 2011 were double the amount for 2010, totaling 135 million rubles ($4.5 million). However, the growth of legal sales is limited by extensive piracy in the sector. In Russia the share of illegal downloads of books is as much as 90 percent. According to the federal press and mass communications agency Rospechat, sales lost to piracy add up to several billion rubles per year. In comparison, the volume of illegal e-book downloads in Germany is 60 percent. In the UK, 29 percent of those who use e-book readers download pirated texts according to Entertainment Media Research, while according to an American Assembly Poll, in the U.S. this share is 46 percent.
For many, downloading books legally is inconvenient as well as expensive. According to Rospechat, the pirated book market in Russia has more than 100,000 titles on offer while only 60,000 ti…

The Aral Sea Is Dying

The Aral Sea Is Dying: The Aral Sea is an endorheic saline lake in Central Asia located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Since the 1960s its level and its amount of water are promptly decreasing due to drawing of water from main feeding rivers – the … Read more...

Pushkin, a consoling angel guards Russian hearts

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837) is revered by Russians as their national bard and greatest literary genius.  In critic Apollon Grigoriev’s famous phrase, “Pushkin is our all.” To Gogol, “Pushkin is an extraordinary phenomenon, perhaps the only true expression of the essential Russian spirit”; to Dostoyevsky, Pushkin was “the height of artistic perfection.”   Pushkin is the “Prophet” of Russian literature; his phrases permeate the Russian language as Shakespeare’s do English. Yet,  even though Pushkin’s works “represent the absolute pinnacle of brilliance in all Russian literary art” and though Russians revere Pushkin much as English-speakers do Shakespeare or German-speakers Goethe, Pushkin remains relatively unappreciated in the West, at least in comparison with his literary heirs.

The primary barrier to enjoyment of Pushkin in the West has been the absence of proper verse translations.  Pushkin’s majestic lightness is not easily conveyed. Too often Pushkin’s poems, so easy …

American Tourist In Russia 1982-1991

American Tourist In Russia 1982-1991: A set of photographs taken by an American tourist travelling along Russia in 1982-1991. “Kosmos” (“Space”) pavillion Trans-Siberian railway, 1985 Baikal, 1985 “Perestroika, full power to the Soviets” Day of peace and labour

Konstantin Paustovsky: Snow

During World War II, a young Moscovite woman named Tatyana Petrovna and her daughter, Varvara, are evacuated to a small town and settled in the home of an old man namedPotapov. A month after Tatyana's arrival, Potapov dies.

At first, Tatyana does not like the provincal town, but eventually she comes to like it, especially when it is covered in snow. She gets used to living in a stranger's home with a stranger's things. Potapov has a son who is currently serving in the Black Sea fleet. Tatyana looks at the son's photograph and feels that she met him somewhere before, long ago, before her unsuccessful marriage, but she can't remember where.

Letters start arriving for Potapov, all written by the same hand. Tatyana stacks them up on old Potapov's desk. One night, when it is snowing, Tatyana can't sleep. Out of curiousity, she opens one of the letters. It is from Potapov's son, Nikolai, who reports that he is recuperating in a hospital after receiving a minor …

At the Tajik Bazaar

At the Tajik Bazaar: Every week not far from Pejikent, Tajikistan, they arrange a big bazaar, let’s see what it looks like. General view of the bazaar Part of the bazaar where animals are sold Profit of the rice seller Public catering via zamkosmopolit

Alexander Terekhov Wins National Bestseller Award

Russian writer Alexander Terekhov has become the winner of the National Bestseller Award 2012. 

The writer has been awarded the prize of 250 thousand rubles for his novel "Germans" narrating about the life of Moscow officials.

Four of six jury members voted for the novel "Germans". Other two chose "The Living One" by Anna Starobinets and "Francoisa, or the Way to Glacier" by Sergei Nosov.

The annual award National Bestseller was first time handed over in 2001. The winner of National Bestseller 2011 was Dmitrii Bykov with his novel "Ostromov, or the Student of the Magician".

Rosamund Bartlett on Russian Short Stories

What first got you interested in Russian literature? I was lucky enough to learn Russian at school, with encouragement from my father, who visited the Soviet Union in 1957, and my grandfather, who had joined the Communist Party while a student at Cambridge. He became disillusioned when he visited Moscow in the early 1930s and was told there were no telephones in England, but retained his interest in Russian culture. So I began reading Turgenev and Chekhov in the original when I was 16 years old. I found it all dreadfully difficult to begin with, but then became inspired when I spent time in Leningrad as an undergraduate in the early 1980s. It is hard not to be swept up by the passion and serious engagement of Russian writers, and it was exhilarating to discover that they were revered in the Soviet Union as national heroes, as they had been in the despotic days of the Tsarist regime. [Alexander] Solzhenitsyn was not exaggerating when he referred to Russian literature as the country’s se…

The Letter Killers Club: you are what you write - Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Those who doubt that literary experimentation and a good, engaging story can exist in the same space should have a look at the work of the Soviet author Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Krzhizhanovsky, who wrote mostly from the 1920s to the 1940s, saw almost all the fruits of his fantastic imagination censored by the Soviet government. His strange fables of Soviet life were much too original for socialist realism and his lonely, vaguely disaffected intellectuals were certainly not the kind of citizen-artist the Soviet state wanted to exhibit. It was only in the 1980s that he become known in Russian, three decades after his death, and his English debut came even later, with the 2009 story collection Memories of the Future.

For all Krzhizhanovsky’s avant-garde bona fides, few authors speak more honestly about the power great literature can exert on a reader and on its creator. 

The writing that has reached English thus far is pervaded by bookworms and their customs, these trappings of bibliophil…