Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Architecture And Interior Photography Of Siberian Cities

Architecture And Interior Photography Of Siberian Cities: Check out this collection of photographs picturing architecture and interior design of the buildings of Novosibirsk and other cities of Siberia. A cottage in the Novosibirsk Region. A sports center in the Novosibirsk Region. A bowling club in Krasnoyarsk. An … Read more...

Monday, 27 February 2012

Travelling Throughout Leningrad In The 1960s

Travelling Throughout Leningrad In The 1960s: These are photographs of Leningrad taken back in the 60s by a group of tourists. The first photograph was taken at the border between Finland and the USSR. Between Vyborg and Leningrad. Leningrad. By their hotel. In the cafeteria. On … Read more...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Innokenty Annensky: Bow and Strings



What heavy, dark delirium!
What dim and moonlit heights!
To touch the violin for years
And not to know the strings by light!

Who needs us now?  And who lit up
Two hollow, melancholy faces...
And suddenly the bow felt
Someone take them up, unite them.

"How long it's been! Amidst this gloom
Just tell me this: are you still the same?"
The strings caressed the bow,
Rang out, caressed it slightly trembling.

"Is it not true, that we will never more
Be parted. It's enough..."
Yes, replied the violin,
But pain was throbbing in her heart.

The bow discerned it and grew mute,
The echo still continued in the violin...
What was a torture to them both
The people heard as music.

But the violinist didn't snuff 
The candles out 'til dawn...The strings sang on...
 The sun found them worn out
On the black velvet of their bed.
...

Elena Obraztsova - Carmen - Habanera

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Heroic Sevastopol By Vladislav Mikosha

Heroic Sevastopol By Vladislav Mikosha: “Heroic Sevastopol” is 42 photographs picturing those stern and valorous years of World War II, episodes of wartime life, people who courageously protected their Motherland and for whom the word “feat” has become a synonym to the word “peace”. And … Read more...

Yurgis Baltrushaitis: The Pendulum



WHEN the dumb darkness most heavily clings,
Rhythmic and ruthless my pendulum swings.
Rustily creaking or whining dismay,
Urging each tarrying moment away.
Longing, it seems, for the days that are fled,        
Down ancient stairways resounds someone’s tread.
Heavy the footfall on flagstones unlit,—
Lower and lower and down to the pit.
Praying, it seems, for a long-vanished shore,
Dumbly the Helmsman with slow stubborn oar        
Brokenly rows me, morosely alone,
Into my harbor, afar and unknown.
Evil the Ferryman, darkly he pounds;
Farther and farther, more muffled resounds,
Hostile and hopeless, the long downward climb:        
Cold, ineluctable footsteps of Time.

...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Maya Plisetskaya, age 61, dances Dying Swan

Russian ballet icon awarded Legion of Honour


Russia’s ballet star Maya Plisetskaya has been decorated with the French National Order of the Legion of Honour.
As he spoke at an award ceremony in Moscow, French Ambassador to Russia Jean de Gliniasty said that for him Maya Plisetskaya had come to personify grace, beauty, talent and courage which are inherent in the Russian soul.
Plisetskaya also received the Order of Arts.
Addressing the participants in the ceremony, the Russian prima ballerina said that she had numerous ties with France having worked with a number of prominent French choreographers, such as Roland Petit and Maurice Bejart, who had written four ballets for her.
“All my costumes and dresses come from Pierre Cardin,” Plisetskaya said.
The Order of the Legion of Honour is the highest national award in France.
About 150 Russians have become holders of the Order for today. ...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Winter Sights Of Kazan

Winter Sights Of Kazan: Welcome to Kazan, a city in Tatarstan Republic. Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan inhabited by 1.2 million people. The city is located on the left bank of the Volga river. It celebrated its thousand anniversary in 2005 and is … Read more...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Pancake orgy hits Russia




Pancakes stuffed with… brains. Russian chefs have been racking their own brains, trying to seduce food lovers with truly original recipes to celebrate Maslenitsa, one of the country’s most popular and gourmet festivals.

Real life: how the Caucasus is feeding itself

Stop feeding the Caucasus ↑ ’ is a cry frequently heard from Russian nationalists, of both the radical and moderate-democratic persuasions. Aleksey Navalny is the most typical example. The suggestion is that Chechnya and the other republics of the northern Caucasus receive too much in the way of subsidies, both direct and indirect, and that there is no check on how the money is spent. As a result, people in other parts of Russia are convinced that the Caucasus is drowning in cash. But is this true? How rich are the inhabitants of the northern Caucasus, and what do they eat on a day to day basis? Let’s take as an example a village in the Karachay-Cherkessiya Republic, in the west of the region.

A pension for a ghost

If five hundred people gather on the street in a Russian town or village, it won’t be long before a police patrol car or an anti-riot squad appears. In a Caucasus mountain village a crowd like this arouses not the slightest interest, let alone alarm, in the local guardians of law and order. They realise that this is no demo, but a routine wedding or funeral.
Click map to enlarge (opens in new window).
Today it is the latter that has drawn a crowd to the village of Sary-Tyuz. Family and neighbours have gathered to say their goodbyes to Mariam Khubieva, an elderly widow. Her life has mirrored all the major events the people of the Karachayevo region have lived through in the twentieth century.
In 1943 Mariam was a teenage girl working on a collective farm. She survived the five-month German occupation of the area, and was deported to Kazakhstan along with the entire Karachai population, officially accused of collaboration with the Nazis. The true reason for this exile is still unknown: Karachais tend to blame the Georgians, who, they claim, denounced them in order to annexe the mountain regions adjoining their republic.
Mariam lived in exile until the ‘50s, when she returned home together with most surviving Karachais. Their old wooden houses had been burned down, and they hastily built new ones out of home-made mud bricks. They dug holes in the middle of the unpaved street, threw in some straw, added water and produced their own building material.
Mariam married and worked in a small clothing factory in the village. In the ‘90s the factory closed down after Karachayevo Cherkessiya, like the whole northern Caucasus, was flooded with cheap Turkish knitwear. Mariam’s husband, a tractor driver at the collective farm, died at around this time.
Even after Putin’s pre-election pension increases in 2011, Mariam’s basic state pension was no more than 5,000 roubles a month – about $150. However, in the Caucasus pension levels have always been higher than average. In the first place, half the peoples of the Caucasus – Karachais, Balkars, Chechens and Ingushes – receive compensation for their deportation.
In the second, by the 1950s almost all the inhabitants of Karachayevo Cherkessiya were registered as disabled. This was a result not only of their working conditions, which were indeed hard, but of the loyalty of local health service officials, something unknown in any other part of Russia. The loyalty, it must be said, comes at a price of about six month’s pension in the form of a bribe. So, taking into account her compensation and invalidity benefits, the deceased was in receipt of a total of about $260 from the federal exchequer each month.     
Mariam was buried according to Muslim rites, without an autopsy and before sunset on the day of her death. In other regions of Russia official notification of a death reaches the social security agencies pretty quickly, but in the Caucasus Mariam Khubieva will go on receiving her pension and other benefits for quite some time. It is accepted practice that her relatives will get the payments for another two to three years. During that time the deceased will also continue to ‘vote’ in elections.

Drinking the Karachayevo Way

The average wage in Karachayevo Cherkessiya is not much higher than a pension. None of Mariam Khubieva’s adult children, her closest relatives, are well off, but if you were to tell an average wage-earner in central Russia about the amount spent on funerals here, they would think the wake was sponsored by an oligarch.
Although Maulud – readings of sacred texts about the life of the Prophet – is first and foremost a religious ceremony, it is dominated by food. ‘Doing Maulud’ means not just inviting the mullahs for the readings, but feeding about 500 relatives and neighbours.
In the North Caucasus a large amount of money relative to people's incomes is spent on important social events such as the 'Maulud', but that doesn't mean that the region is swimming in federal handouts as many nationalists claim. (Photo: Mikhail Loginov, all rights reserved)
The memorial rites involve the ritual slaughter of three bulls. The first should be slaughtered on the third day after the funeral. Then the mullahs calculate the date of the 52nd day after death, and a second bull is killed on that day. The third bull is slaughtered on the first anniversary of the death. The bulls have to be large and well-fed; otherwise they will not provide enough meat for everyone.
Almost all the dishes prepared for Maulud are meat based. They include khychiny (fried pasties), pelmeny (large ravioli) and simple boiled meat. The guests don’t just eat together, but take food home afterwards in large plastic bags. These ‘goodie bags’ always include bread, a pack of pasta, a bottle of cooking oil, a packet of sugar and a hunk of bull meat. The remaining contents depend on the imagination and financial situation of the organisers. There might be dried fruit, imported cheese, chocolate, tea or coffee. The guests take these bags home with them, and if someone didn’t make it to the celebration, someone will bring them a bag.
The tables at the ceremony would remind you of a wedding reception, were it not for the lack of alcohol. I was told that there is a saying in work teams where there are people of different ethnic backgrounds: ‘to drink like a Karachai’, in other words, only on happy occasions. ...

The Winter of Moscow 1959 In Photos Of Carl Mydans

The Winter of Moscow 1959 In Photos Of Carl Mydans: The photos of Moscow and its inhabitants were taken by Carl Mydans, an American photographer who worked for Life magazine. Location: Moscow via humus

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Leon Trotsky by Joshua Rubenstein - review

"An interpretation for the 21st century," says the blurb. My first reaction was to wonder whether the 21st century needs a new interpretation of Trotsky, or even whether Trotsky needs a new biography. We already have the three-volume classic by Isaac Deutscher, a Russian (former Soviet) perspective from Dmitri Volkogonov, and, just a couple of years ago, a book on his murder by Bertrand Patenaude and Robert Service's biography, a bit mean-spirited, perhaps, but well-researched and twice as large as this new one by Rubenstein.

With the Soviet Union gone and the cold war ended, the old question of whether Trotsky would have done a better job than Stalin, had he won the leadership battle of the 1920s, loses some of its edge; in any case, the evidence that Trotsky, too, could practise extreme violence seems overwhelming. On the international scene, Islamic terrorism has replaced the menace of world communism that so preoccupied the western world, especially the United States, in the postwar era. In post-Soviet Russia, Trotsky's old status as Enemy of the People No 1 is all but forgotten. When I last checked Trotsky on Russian Google, the main thing I learned was that as Frida Kahlo's lover for a short time in Mexico, he was a character in the 2002 biopic Frida.

Looking more closely at Rubenstein's book, I noticed something surprising: it is published in a series of "Jewish Lives", along with books on King Solomon and Moses Mendelssohn. Perhaps that is the new interpretation for the 21st century, I speculated: it might be hard on Trotsky, given his frequently expressed dislike of being pigeonholed as a Jew, but it would certainly be in line with this century's predilection for applying a Jewish prism to history and historical personages.

It turns out, however, that Rubenstein doesn't really go down the "Jewish Lives" road. With a nice mixture of respect and regret, he recognises Trotsky's stubbornness and consistency in refusing Jewishness as his defining identity and doesn't try to force it on him. To be sure, he nods to the "Jewish Lives" motif from time to time, noting the various occasions on which Trotsky failed to identify himself as a Jew, and doing his best to make something specifically Jewish out of his outraged comments on the Beilis "Jewish murder" trial (which outraged everyone on the left) and his patronage of a Russian-Jewish restaurant in the Bronx (he refused to tip the waiters, but that seems more like a principle than a recognition of ethnic solidarity). Overall, however, Rubenstein interprets Trotsky's life as Jewish only in the sense that he had Jewish parents and that others – not least the Nazis – saw him as a Jew and believed that blood tells, regardless. ...

The Day When Odessa Bay Got Frozen

The Day When Odessa Bay Got Frozen: Odessa is a city in the southern part of Ukraine that has warm winters and sea that is never covered with ice. It used to be like this always. But everything changes. This winter surprised local citizens a lot. Location: … Read more...

Russian Families End of 19 Century

Maria Yudina plays Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (On his 60th birthday), by Maria Yudina



The significance, importance and scale of Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Shostakovich as a creative artist knows no borders, but nevertheless he is first and foremost a deeply Russian man and composer. It is quite possible, that this realization that he has numerous attributes that lie at the very core of the Russian culture and tradition, and connect him to Andrei Rublev, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky and Lenin [this article was published in 1966 in "Moskovskii Komsomolets", a popular Youth Party newspaper, which is probably the reason for the last name on this list], gives us a key to understanding his art and life. However, there are other unsubtractable connections. Compositions of Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Shostakovich rise above us as dazzling mountain peaks, reminding us of Shakespeare's art. Fortunately, Dmitrii Dmitriyevich is now at the height of his genius and enormous creative powers; and we, his grateful contemporaries, congratulate him on his birthday, and his recovery from recent illness, the illness of his heart, that has room for all of us; and we pray and hope that it is too early to summarize his art. The hope to witness birth and realization of many opera by this favorite composer fills us with happiness. Developing our comparison to Shakespeare, we envision in Shostakovich art abysses, landslides, and rapid streams consuming in their implacable run both man and nature, as in "Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk", or in the unbearable sorrow of the Tenth Symphony, next to almost unreachable peaks of most of the symphonies, quartets, preludes and fugues for piano, the Second piano sonata, the vocal cycle on Pushkin poems. Echoing the last words of Alexander Blok: "Learn through suffering!" - from his "Shakespeare's 'King Lear', a speech to actors" (Petrograd, 1920), we inevitably recall this ancient wisdom, when we realize that the spiritual shock we experience is some kind of a gift from the tragic Shostakovich music. It draws us into the vastness of the "Historic Chronicles": the Seventh, Eleventh and Thirteenth Symphonies, the chorales, devoted to the events of 1905, the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello. The unprecedented novel realism of these two compositions, transformed and generalized to an unheard of degree, sometimes surpasses in its power and blinding truth both Shakespeare's chronicles and even Pushkin's and Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov". We should add that Shostakovich does not strive for an equilibrium of an epic, he involves us directly in the catastrophes of modern times. However, we also know examples of incomparable humour, brilliance, inexhaustible creativity, such as in "The Nose" (an opera based on Gogol's play), vocal cycles on English texts and Sasha Chernyi poems; sparkles of this humour spread over all his compositions, incinerating any trace of spiritual laziness. Shostakovich and Pushkin are ingenious Russian Europeans. The composer exposes the sins of man and humanity, as Dostoyevsky and Mahler, bursting into tears of compassion, as Shakespeare; he is encompassing all and everything. However, in many important respects his art connects him also to Mozart and Schubert. We should remind our reader that each and every connection and analogy to other authors should be understood only as a comparison of kindred spiritual atmospheres; Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Shostakovich is always himself, he never "borrows", he is overflowing with his own treasures, that he alone brought into being, but no matter how ingenious a creator, he always lives not in an interplanetary vacuum but in the history of man and humanity! Shostakovich has his own precise language, his constructive thinking, his rhythmic and intonational formulas, signs, symbols and images. Let us return to some connections: Mozart and Schubert. What are they? Oh, they are in the whole magnificent, shining and transparent world of Shostakovich. These "lightened endings" - the finales of many of his compositions, the codas in the finales, "the last words of the dying", or the words of a burial service, the end of ends, the meeting of man and Eternity, for which Christians pray all their lives, "the painless, unshameful and peaceful end" ... We will not ask the author whether this was his line of thinking, that is his personal secret and mystery. What matters is the presence of the angelic spirit in the pages of his compositions, and the influence of this music on listeners. In these last words of the author, when a relief comes as a result of all the road taken by him and his listener, the pain ceases, peace and tranquility come, shines the purification of man, sometimes even a smile, or its transformation into a different essence, that is not always accessible to our comprehension; indeed, this is Transfiguration. Let us use the words of Vladimir Solovyev: "The Evil past\\ Drowns in blood,-\\ Rises transformed \\ Sun of love," ("White bells again") or Boris Pasternak: "The hand of artist is most powerful\\ And washes dirt from every thing.\\ Out of his studio transformed\\ Comes life, reality and past..." ("After a thunderstorm") [all poetry was translated verbatim] Therefore, allowing ourselves to comment on some Shostakovich finales we talk now about some, that seem to us especially significant in this respect: about the finale of the Cello sonata, about the finale of the Piano quintet, about the finale of the Thirteenth Symphony (we do not talk now about the finale of the Eighth Symphony - this is a separate topic and essence). We hear in the finale of the Cello sonata a vague remembrance of a city song, may be even a factory one. It is hummed by a slightly drunk character who is somewhat similar to the people of Gor'ky, Hemingway, Andrei Platonov, - a simple-minded worker, who has his own necessary and unsubtractable place in life, with a slightly philosophic role, who passed through great and small troubles in his own way, who is in peace both with his past and mysterious future... The finale of the quintet is much more complicated: after all its outbursts of happiness, after a worrisome sharpness of its culmination, that views the traversed path and its hardship, mostly summarizing the exceptional and significant depth and diversity of the past four movements; the Gothic, angular beginning of the prelude and its subsequent thoughtful and even elegiac character, the grandness of the fugue and Intermezzo, that contemplate the meaning of the medieval culture, merge with it, or move toward it, and then realize it in modernity, - all contradictions disappear in the coda: the bird is chirping - merrily, lightly and happily. Isn't this bird similar to the famous mysterious magpie of Peter Breugel Sr. that is present at the charred ruins among the little that is left after the recent total destruction? No, the bird from the Quintet is both kinder and wiser. It is joyous with all of us; the Breigel magpie is "emotionless nature", it only states the facts, it is totally ignorant. The whole composition insists on the transparent light of kindness. The coda of the finale of the Thirteenth Symphony is the crown of these ideas, combined with the unbelievable, incomprehensible beauty of its rhythmical and intonational formulas. If we turn now to some of the slow movements in Shostakovich chamber compositions, what will we find there? In Largo of the cello sonata, and in the fugue of the Quintet - the artist and Eternity, their dialogue. This music organizes the inner world of the listener (and hence his life and actions), in the same manner as the ancient Russian art, the treasures of icon-painting, as the choral culture of religious music, as Bach "Passions" ... A little comment: I have written once to Dmitrii Dmitriyevich about the coda of the fugue: "You don't know what you have written. That happens with ingenious artists ... This is Michelangelo 'Pieta'. And even in your rhythmic formulas ..." We have now approached the crucial part: love and human heart. There is a lot of talk now about humanism, but there are many errors in these writings, such as its "Renaissance" roots. (However, it is not possible for us to dwell on a historic analysis that has no direct relation to the art and life of Dmitrii Dmitriyevich in this article.) This notion and its sources are abstract and cold. And we, the people of Russian culture, have neither ability nor will to create in heartless indifference. The outer image of the life of Dmitrii Dmitriyevich moves in travels and flights, congresses and premieres, in his care for lesser composers, in the beating of his warm heart. He carries in his heart and intellect a unified image of all the human race and the uniqueness of each human being, and of a genius; and in his art he faces the Eternity. He carries in himself all the complexity of the modern man and artist.

 Thanks to Bob Lombard for editing the translation.

Nikolai Lugansky

Nikolai Lugansky Performs Extracts from Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto



 Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto n.3 - Nikolai Lugansky - 1st mvt.




Nikolai Lugansky was born in Moscow in 1972 into a family of scientists. He began studying the piano at the age of five, and shortly afterwards was enrolled in the class of Tatiana Kestner at the Moscow Central Music School. During his fifth year at the school, Lugansky became a pupil of Tatiana Nikolaeva, with whom he was to work closely for nine years. In her last interview, Nikolaeva declared that Lugansky would be “The Next One” in a line of great Russian pianists. Lugansky completed his studies at the Moscow Conservatory with another renowned pianist and teacher, Sergei Dorensky. In 1988, Lugansky won first prize at the All-Union Competition for Young Musicians in Tbilisi and second prize at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig. He went on to win prizes at the 1990 Rachmaninov Competition in Moscow, the 1992 International Summer Academy “Mozarteum” in Salzburg and the 1994 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Lugansky’s glittering career has taken him to many of the world’s great concert venues. His repertoire includes over 40 concertos and a diverse range of solo and chamber works. He has collaborated with such distinguished conductors as Paavo Berglund, Riccardo Chailly, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Valery Gergiev, Yoel Levi, Sir Charles Mackerras, Kent Nagano, Michel Plasson, Mikhail Pletnev, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leonard Slatkin, Yuri Temirkanov and Edo de Waart. Highlights of recent seasons include Lugansky’s appearances with l’Orchestre de Paris under Christoph Eschenbach, the Dresden Philharmonic under Marek Janowski and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi. In June 2001, at the Grieghalle in Bergen, Norway, Lugansky collaborated with Simone Young and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, the centerpiece of the closing concert of the Bergen International Piano Festival. In September of that year, he performed with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev at the opening concert of the London season. At the 2002 Edinburgh Festival, he played Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under Vladimir Fedoseyev. This year, Lugansky performed Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, opening the 2003-2004 season of l’Orchestre National de France, in a concert conducted by Kurt Masur and broadcast live on radio stations in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. In December 2003, Lugansky will collaborate for the first time with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Stéphane Deneve. The following week, he will give a recital at the University of Washington in Seattle, and will make his New York debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lugansky records for Warner Classics and for PentaTone Classics. His Warner recordings of Chopin Etudes, Rachmaninov Préludes & Moments musicaux and Chopin Preludes have each been awarded a Diapason d’Or. In addition, his Chopin Preludes CD was selected as Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and cited as one of the “Top 10 Classical Discs of 2002” in The Daily Telegraph. Lugansky’s latest release on Warner Classics, Rachmaninov Concertos 1 and 3 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo, has won two awards to date: Choc du Monde de la Musique and Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. His next recording for Warner Classics will be dedicated to the solo works of Prokofiev. In October 2003 PentaTone Classics released Lugansky’s recording of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Kent Nagano and the Russian National Orchestra. An avid chess player, Nikolai resides in Moscow with his wife and two children.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Another postcard from the edge: life on the Kuril Islands


Road-building

A historic event took place recently on Kunashir, one of the four inhabited islands in the Kuril archipelago. Almost five kilometres of road were asphalted for the first time ever. Not long ago, something like this would have been beyond the islanders’ wildest dreams, but now the residents are promised that the road-building programme on Kunashir will only grow and grow.
Despite the breathtaking views and fresh air, the lack of
basic conveniences mean that few are prepared to settle
on the Kuril islands 
This morsel of good news is an excellent illustration of the current state of affairs in the Kuril Islands. On the one hand, people can see that the quality of life is improving in this far-flung territory. On the other hand, what kind of changes are we talking about? Roads. Certainly not the nanotechnology so feted by our government.
But my how have the locals already managed to sample the delights of the roads! Now no longer do passing cars kick up clouds of dust on to neighbouring houses — instead it is loose car parts flying off at speed that the local homeowners have most to fear. Intoxicated by the unprecedented freedom and speed on offer, many local drivers have taken to racing along the new asphalt as if they are Forumula One drivers.
The neighbouring island of Iturup has also begun a road building programme. Though construction work has started, it will still be a very long time before road markings will appear. That hasn’t deterred the local arm of the law – the traffic police – from fulfilling their monthly quota for catching offenders crossing the double white lines, however. One can only envy the visual memory of these police officers, who carry in their minds’ eye the burning image of double white lines running along grey asphalt.

Sea transport

No less glorious a development for the Kunashir islanders was the recent opening at the local port of a new deep-water mooring complex, which cost more than 170 million roubles to build. Many readers might not automatically sense the importance of this. Suffice to say that until now, Kunashir residents travelling by ferry from Sakhalin needed to disembark on a pontoon boat. Getting on to that boat, especially during the frequent Kuril storms, was something that terrified even experienced sailors. The new port complex, however, means that the ship can come right in to the shore. A deep-water docking facility is also being constructed on Iturup (the biggest fishing company in the Kuril Islands has had a similar facility there for some time, but only for the use of its own company ships).
Transport remains a crucial issue for the islanders. Of course, they are used to living far away from civilisation and big cities; they are also used to buying food at prices twice as expensive as on Sakhalin – where things are already far from cheap. But they also expect to be able to leave the island at least once a year — onto the ‘mainland’ i.e. Sakhalin, and from there perhaps to the ‘big mainland’. They want to walk the asphalted streets, see shopping centres, go to the theatre and the cinema, see their friends and family.
The pull of the Kuril Islands is the extraordinary natural beauty of the wild landscape. And the absence of fellow man ... Where there are so few people, the air is different, there are no huge rubbish dumps, or enterprises which pollute the environment with their waste products. There’s fish in the river and sea eagles in the sky.  Whether a scientist or a philosopher, one could find no better place to seek out the meaning of life at one with nature.’
There are currently two ways of getting to the Kuril Islands (Paramushir, Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan): by sea or air.
There is still just the one ship operating between Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. It bears the name of a governor of the region, Igor Farkhutdinov, who died in a plane crash. (Some 3 years ago a boat called the Marina Tsvetayeva used to sail to the islands, but then it was sold to a commercial shipping company for private runs.) 
As goes without saying, one boat for such an important destination as the Kuril Islands is far from adequate. Demand for it is enormous, especially in summer months when the islanders go on holiday and people from all over Russia who want to work during the salmon fishing season need to get to the islands. A 4-berth cabin can often have 8 or 10 passengers in it at peak times. ...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Russian Village Of The Early 1980s

Russian Village Of The Early 1980s: Look at this amazing collection of photographs by Alexander Kalion which will give you an idea of the reality and hard life people of the Russian village of the early 1980s lived.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Varlam Shalamov: Resurrection of the Larch


We are superstitious. We demand miracles. We invent symbols for ourselves and live by these symbols.

A man in the Far North seeks an outlet for his sensitivity — still not destroyed, still not poisoned even by decades of life in Kolyma. A man sends a parcel by airmail: not books, not photographs, not verse, but a larch twig, a dead twig of living nature.

This strange gift, dried out, blown by the currents of aeroplanes, crushed and broken on the mail train, a light brown, coarse, bony northern twig of a northern tree, is placed in water.

It is placed in a jam jar filled with evil chlorinated, antiseptic Moscow tap water, water that itself, perhaps, is also glad to dry out everything living — deadly Moscow tap water.

Larches are more serious than flowers. In this room there are many flowers, bright flowers. Here bouquets of cherry, bouquets of lilac are placed in hot water, the stems split and dipped in boiling water.

The larch stands in cold water, water that has scarcely been warmed at all. The larch lived closer to the Black Creek than all these flowers, all these sprigs — the cherries, the lilacs.

The woman who lives here understands this. The larch understands it too.

Submitting to passionate human will, the twig gathers all its strength — physical and spiritual, for a twig cannot be resurrected from physical forces alone: the Moscow warmth, the chlorinated water, the indifferent glass jar. In the twig, other, mysterious forces are awakened.

Three days and three nights pass, and the woman is woken by a strange, elusive smell of turpentine, a weak, faint smell, a new smell. In the coarse wooden bark there had appeared, emerged clearly into the world new, young, living, bright green spines of fresh pine needles.

The larch is alive, the larch is immortal, this miracle of resurrection cannot but be — for the larch was placed in the jar of water on the anniversary of the death in Kolyma of the woman's husband, a poet.

Even this memory of the dead plays a role in the reanimation, the resurrection of the larch.

This delicate smell, this dazzling green are important sources of life. Weak, but living sources, resurrected by some mysterious spiritual force, sources hidden in the larch that have now appeared to the world.

The smell of the larch was weak but clear, and no force in the world could have dampened that smell, nor extinguished that green light and colour.

For how many years — warped by the winds and the frosts, twisting in search of the sun — had the larch every spring stretched its young green needles into the sky?

How many years? A hundred. Two hundred. Six hundred. The Daurian larch reaches maturity at three hundred years.

Three hundred years! The larch, whose twig, whose shoot is now breathing on a Moscow table, is the same age as Natalya Sheremeteva-Dolgorukova, and can recall her sorrowful fate: the vicissitudes of life, fidelity and constancy, spiritual fortitude, physical and moral torments that differ not at all from the torments of nineteen thirty seven — the torment of nature's fury in the North, with its hatred of man, with its mortal dangers of spring floods and winter storms, the torment of denunciations, the crude despotism of the authorities, the deaths, the quartering, the breaking on the wheel of a husband, a brother, a son, a father, who denounced each other and betrayed each other.

Is this not the perennial Russian narrative?

After the rhetoric of the moralist Tolstoy and the furious prophecies of Dostoevsky there came wars, revolutions, Hiroshima and concentration camps, denunciations, shootings.

The larch dislocated time-scales, put human memory to shame, reminded one of the unforgettable.

The larch that saw the death of Natalya Dolgorukova and saw millions of corpses — immortal in the Kolyma permafrost; the larch that has seen the death of a Russian poet, this larch lives somewhere in the North, in order to see, to cry out, that nothing has changed in Russia — neither people's fates, nor human evil, nor indifference. Natalya Sheremeteva told all, recorded everything with her sad strength and faith. The larch, whose twig revived on a Moscow table, was already alive when Sheremeteva went on her via dolorosa to Berezov, so similar to the path to Magadan, across the Okhotsk sea.

The larch oozed out, literally oozed out its smell, like juice. The smell changed into colour, and there was no boundary between the two.

The larch in the Moscow flat breathed so as to remind people of their human duty, so that they would not forget the millions of corpses — the people who perished in Kolyma.

This weak, persistent smell was the voice of the dead.

In the name of all these corpses the larch dared to breathe, speak and live.

Strength and faith are needed for resurrection. Shoving a twig in water is far from all it takes. I too placed a larch twig in a jar of water: the twig dried up, became lifeless, weak and brittle — life left it. The twig departed into non-being, disappeared, did not revive. But the larch in the poet's flat revived in a jar of water.

Yes, there are sprigs of lilac, sprigs of cherry, and there are romances that tug at the heart strings; but the larch is not a subject, not a theme for romances.

The larch is a very serious tree. It is the tree of knowledge of good and evil — no, it wasn't the apple tree, nor the birch! — the larch was the tree standing in the Garden of Eden before the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise.

The larch is the tree of Kolyma, the tree of the concentration camps.

In Kolyma birds don't sing. The flowers of Kolyma — bright, hasty, crude — have no smell. The short summer — in the cold, lifeless air — brings dry heat and freezing cold at night.

In Kolyma only the mountain dog rose smells, with its ruby-red flowers. There is no scent from the pink, crudely-fashioned lily of the valley, nor the huge violets, the size of a fist, nor the sapless juniper, nor the evergreen dwarf pine.

And only the larch fills the forest with its elusive smell of turpentine. At first it seems like the smell of decay, the smell of the dead. But if you look and inhale this smell more deeply, you will understand it is the smell of life, the smell of resistance to the North, the smell of victory.

Besides, the dead in Kolyma don't smell — they're too atrophied, too anaemic, and anyway they're preserved in the permafrost.

No, the larch is a tree unfit for romances, you won't sing or shape this twig into a romance. It speaks of a different depth, another layer of human feelings.

A man sends a Kolyma twig by airmail: but it was not of himself that he wanted to remind people. He was sending a memento not of himself, but a memento of those millions who were killed, tormented, who were discarded in communal graves to the North of Magadan.

To help others create a memory, and release one's soul of this heavy burden: to see the worst and find the courage not to tell, but to create a memory. A man and his wife adopted a little girl — a convict girl whose mother had died in prison — as if, in their own personal way, to take on some sort of obligation, fulfil some sort of personal duty.

To help one's comrades — those who remained among the living after the concentration camps of the Far North...

To send this coarse, slender twig to Moscow.

Sending the twig, the man did not comprehend, did not know, did not think, that it would be revived in Moscow, that, in its resurrection, it would smell of Kolyma, that it would break into blossom on a Moscow street, that the larch would prove its strength, its immortality — the six hundred years of the larch's life is practically immortality for man — or that the people of Moscow would touch with their hands this rough, plain, coarse twig, would look at its dazzling green needles; that they would look at its rebirth, at its resurrection; that they would inhale its smell, not as a memory of the past, but as living life.

Translation by Sarah J. Young 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tchaikovsky: Symphony n.1 "Winter Daydreams" - Christoph Poppen - 1st mvt.

From Good Wishes (Dobro vam) by Vasily Grossman

The inner yard! What constitutes the soul, the inner kernel of Yerevan is not its churches or government buildings, not its train stations, not its theatre or concert hall, not its three-storey palace of a department store. No, what constitutes the soul of Yerevan is its inner courtyards. […] This is the city as a living organism, with the outer skin stripped away. This is where all of Eastern life can be seen: the tenderness of the heart, the peristalsis of the gut, the firing of synapses, the power of both blood kinship and the ties that link all who were born in the same town or village. Old men pray their rosaries and exchange leisurely smiles; children get up to no good; smoke rises from braziers; quince and peach preserves simmer in copper pans; washing tubs are lost in clouds of steam; green-eyed cats watch their mistresses plucking chickens. We are not far from Turkey. We are not far from Persia. […]

And so I go on building my own Yerevan. I grind, crush, absorb and inhale its basalt and its rose-coloured tufa, its asphalt and its cobble-stones, the glass of its shop windows, its monuments to Stalin and Lenin, its monuments to Abovyan1, Shaumyan2 and Charents3, its countless portraits of Anastas Mikoyan;4 I absorb and inhale faces, accents, the frenzied roar of cars being driven at speed by frenzied drivers. […] 

Lord and creator, I wander through the streets of Yerevan; I build Yerevan in my own soul. Yerevan — this city that the Armenians tell me has existed for two thousand and seven hundred years; this city that was invaded by both Mongols and Persians; this city that was visited by Greek merchants and occupied by Paskevich's army;5 this city that, only three hours earlier, did not even exist at all. 

But then this creator, this almighty ruler begins to feel anxious; he starts glancing around uneasily…

Who is there I can ask? Many of the people around me do not speak Russian — I feel shy, embarrassed to address them. The lord and master is tongue-tied. And so I enter a courtyard. But no — not a chance! This courtyard is nothing like our own deserted Russian yards — it is an Eastern courtyard, an Eastern inner yard, and I am immediately scrutinized by dozens of eyes! I quickly go back out onto the street. But very soon I go into another courtyard. My anxiety is growing — I am no longer pondering on how, in the East, the inner yard is the heart and soul of life. But it truly is the heart and soul of life — and so, once again, I go back out onto the street. What am I to do?

I rush headlong into a third courtyard — and am filled with despair. I see a web of little staircases and balconies, an old man sipping coffee from a little cup, a group of women who break off their conversation to look at me. I smile confusedly and turn back. Everywhere I look, there is life! What am I to do? By now, my thoughts have moved a long way from poetry. And then I come to a decision — I jump into a half-empty tram. For three kopeks I acquire a ticket. I sit myself down on the hard seat, and for a while I breathe more freely. No longer am I a lord and creator — I am the slave of a base desire. This desire controls me; it has power over my thoughts and my soul. It has fettered my proud brain. […]

Everything is new for me; I am seeing everything for the first time. But no longer is the creator's power of thought constructing the whole of Yerevan — its old quarters and its very newest quarters alike. The creator's thought is now obstinate — and it is at once both rigid and supple. How, in a given building, are the toilets arranged? The construction sites are still largely unmechanized and so there are large numbers of workers everywhere — just what I don't want. Behind every pile of bricks I will find people, people and still more people… But if I get out by the bridge and stand on top of the cliff, I might get dizzy. My blood pressure feels terribly high… But the torrent at the bottom of the gorge is white with foam; it looks very beautiful! […]

The tram has reached the end of the line, and no one has stopped me. I dash into some wasteland and find a safe place, out of sight among the ditches and scree… Happiness… Do I need to describe this feeling? For thousands of years poets and other writers have been striving to convey on paper the nature of happiness. All I will say here is that what I felt was not the proud happiness of a creator, the happiness of a thinker whose omnipotent mind has created its own unique and inimitable reality. It was a quiet happiness that is equally accessible to a sheep, a bull, a human being or a macaque. Need I have gone all the way to Mount Ararat to experience it?


Translated by Robert Chandler

Modern Moscow Views

Modern Moscow Views: Moscow is a wonderful city that has combined history and modern facilities. Check out some photographs of the city below. Click on the image to see it in full size. The Troitskaya Tower, the Troitsky Bridge and the Komendantskaya Tower. … Read more...

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Anton Chekhov: An Artist's Story

IT was six or seven years ago when I was living in one of the districts of the province of T----, on the estate of a young landowner called Byelokurov, who used to get up very early, wear a peasant tunic, drink beer in the evenings, and continually complain to me that he never met with sympathy from any one. He lived in the lodge in the garden, and I in the old seigniorial house, in a big room with columns, where there was no furniture except a wide sofa on which I used to sleep, and a table on which I used to lay out patience. There was always, even in still weather, a droning noise in the old Amos stoves, and in thunder-storms the whole house shook and seemed to be cracking into pieces; and it was rather terrifying, especially at night, when all the ten big windows were suddenly lit up by lightning.
Condemned by destiny to perpetual idleness, I did absolutely nothing. For hours together I gazed out of window at the sky, at the birds, at the avenue, read everything that was brought me by post, slept. Sometimes I went out of the house and wandered about till late in the evening.
One day as I was returning home, I accidentally strayed into a place I did not know. The sun was already sinking, and the shades of evening lay across the flowering rye. Two rows of old, closely planted, very tall fir-trees stood like two dense walls forming a picturesque, gloomy avenue. I easily climbed over the fence and walked along the avenue, slipping over the fir-needles which lay two inches deep on the ground. It was still and dark, and only here and there on the high tree-tops the vivid golden light quivered and made rainbows in the spiders' webs. There was a strong, almost stifling smell of resin. Then I turned into a long avenue of limes. Here, too, all was desolation and age; last year's leaves rusted mournfully under my feet and in the twilight shadows lurked between the trees. From the old orchard on the right came the faint, reluctant note of the golden oriole, who must have been old too. But at last the limes ended. I walked by an old white house of two storeys with a terrace, and there suddenly opened before me a view of a courtyard, a large pond with a bathing-house, a group of green willows, and a village on the further bank, with a high, narrow belfry on which there glittered a cross reflecting the setting sun.
For a moment it breathed upon me the fascination of something near and very familiar, as though I had seen that landscape at some time in my childhood.
At the white stone gates which led from the yard to the fields, old-fashioned solid gates with lions on them, were standing two girls. One of them, the elder, a slim, pale, very handsome girl with a perfect haystack of chestnut hair and a little obstinate mouth, had a severe expression and scarcely took notice of me, while the other, who was still very young, not more than seventeen or eighteen, and was also slim and pale, with a large mouth and large eyes, looked at me with astonishment as I passed by, said something in English, and was overcome with embarrassment. And it seemed to me that these two charming faces, too, had long been familiar to me. And I returned home feeling as though I had had a delightful dream.
One morning soon afterwards, as Byelokurov and I were walking near the house, a carriage drove unexpectedly into the yard, rustling over the grass, and in it was sitting one of those girls. It was the elder one. She had come to ask for subscriptions for some villagers whose cottages had been burnt down. Speaking with great earnestness and precision, and not looking at us, she told us how many houses in the village of Siyanovo had been burnt, how many men, women, and children were left homeless, and what steps were proposed, to begin with, by the Relief Committee, of which she was now a member. After handing us the subscription list for our signatures, she put it away and immediately began to take leave of us.
"You have quite forgotten us, Pyotr Petrovitch," she said to Byelokurov as she shook hands with him. "Do come, and if Monsieur N. (she mentioned my name) cares to make the acquaintance of admirers of his work, and will come and see us, mother and I will be delighted."
I bowed.
When she had gone Pyotr Petrovitch began to tell me about her. The girl was, he said, of good family, and her name was Lidia Voltchaninov, and the estate on which she lived with her mother and sister, like the village on the other side of the pond, was called Shelkovka. Her father had once held an important position in Moscow, and had died with the rank of privy councillor. Although they had ample means, the Voltchaninovs lived on their estate summer and winter without going away. Lidia was a teacher in the Zemstvo school in her own village, and received a salary of twenty-five roubles a month. She spent nothing on herself but her salary, and was proud of earning her own living.
"An interesting family," said Byelokurov. "Let us go over one day. They will be delighted to see you."
One afternoon on a holiday we thought of the Voltchaninovs, and went to Shelkovka to see them. They -- the mother and two daughters -- were at home. The mother, Ekaterina Pavlovna, who at one time had been handsome, but now, asthmatic, depressed, vague, and over-feeble for her years, tried to entertain me with conversation about painting. Having heard from her daughter that I might come to Shelkovka, she had hurriedly recalled two or three of my landscapes which she had seen in exhibitions in Moscow, and now asked what I meant to express by them. Lidia, or as they called her Lida, talked more to Byelokurov than to me. Earnest and unsmiling, she asked him why he was not on the Zemstvo, and why he had not attended any of its meetings.
"It's not right, Pyotr Petrovitch," she said reproachfully. "It's not right. It's too bad."
"That's true, Lida -- that's true," the mother assented. "It isn't right."
"Our whole district is in the hands of Balagin," Lida went on, addressing me. "He is the chairman of the Zemstvo Board, and he has distributed all the posts in the district among his nephews and sons-in-law; and he does as he likes. He ought to be opposed. The young men ought to make a strong party, but you see what the young men among us are like. It's a shame, Pyotr Petrovitch!"
The younger sister, Genya, was silent while they were talking of the Zemstvo. She took no part in serious conversation. She was not looked upon as quite grown up by her family, and, like a child, was always called by the nickname of Misuce, because that was what she had called her English governess when she was a child. She was all the time looking at me with curiosity, and when I glanced at the photographs in the album, she explained to me: "That's uncle . . . that's god-father," moving her finger across the photograph. As she did so she touched me with her shoulder like a child, and I had a close view of her delicate, undeveloped chest, her slender shoulders, her plait, and her thin little body tightly drawn in by her sash.
We played croquet and lawn tennis, we walked about the garden, drank tea, and then sat a long time over supper. After the huge empty room with columns, I felt, as it were, at home in this small snug house where there were no oleographs on the walls and where the servants were spoken to with civility. And everything seemed to me young and pure, thanks to the presence of Lida and Misuce, and there was an atmosphere of refinement over everything. At supper Lida talked to Byelokurov again of the Zemstvo, of Balagin, and of school libraries. She was an energetic, genuine girl, with convictions, and it was interesting to listen to her, though she talked a great deal and in a loud voice -- perhaps because she was accustomed to talking at school. On the other hand, Pyotr Petrovitch, who had retained from his student days the habit of turning every conversation into an argument, was tedious, flat, long-winded, and unmistakably anxious to appear clever and advanced. Gesticulating, he upset a sauce-boat with his sleeve, making a huge pool on the tablecloth, but no one except me appeared to notice it.
It was dark and still as we went home.
"Good breeding is shown, not by not upsetting the sauce, but by not noticing it when somebody else does," said Byelokurov, with a sigh. "Yes, a splendid, intellectual family! I've dropped out of all decent society; it's dreadful how I've dropped out of it! It's all through work, work, work!"
He talked of how hard one had to work if one wanted to be a model farmer. And I thought what a heavy, sluggish fellow he was! Whenever he talked of anything serious he articulated "Er-er with intense effort, and worked just as he talked -- slowly, always late and behind-hand. I had little faith in his business capacity if only from the fact that when I gave him letters to post he carried them about in his pocket for weeks together.
"The hardest thing of all," he muttered as he walked beside me -- "the hardest thing of all is that, work as one may, one meets with no sympathy from any one. No sympathy!" ...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Siberia And More By Alexander Kuznetsov

Siberia And More By Alexander Kuznetsov: Alexander Kuznetsov is a photographer and a film maker from Krasnoyarsk. Below are photographs he took from 1980 till 2007. In the line for milk, Krasnoyarsk, 1980. Krasnoyarsk, 1980. Military Parade in Krasnoyarsk on May 9th, 1981. Minors Commission, Krasnoyarsk, … Read more...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Monday, 6 February 2012

Marina Tsvetaeva's Memorial Flat

There is a special house in the heart of Moscow, in one of the ancient districts of the city. Hidden in the quite and cozy lane, between low-storeyed buildings, it appears like a little miracle for a stranger, walking down the Moscow streets.

This apartment house is a unique place, that keeps the spirit of old noble time, dreams and reality of a young woman with bitter tears of the postrevolutionary period. The name of this women is Marina Tsvetaeva and for nearly a century ago she, full of joy and inspiration, rented an apartment number 3 in this 3-storeyed villa, where she spent 8 years from 194 to 1922.

This building was built in 1862 at Borisoglebsky Lane, named after the Church of Saints Boris and Gleb. That is how it looked in 70-80s, before the restoration.



Marina Tsvetaeva spent in this house a big and important period of her life. It was a place of inspiration as well as a realm of tragic feelings. While living here with her husband Sergey Efron and their daughter Ariadna, she grew intellectually and emotionally by writing remarkable verses. The artistic world of the poet was formed in this house. Inside the museum, which looks like an apartment, one can feel the atmosphere of past time, full of joy, love and welfare. It seems like an old friend is still waiting for you there. You hear the sounds of piano, children's voices and loud laughter.

Every room has its own face and every thing, every secluded corner breathes with culture and art. From a hall one can walk into a dining room with nice interior and a window-lantern ceiling. ...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lighthouses Of The Caspian Sea

Lighthouses Of The Caspian Sea: Lighthouses are the most romantic places on earth. Today, we want to tell you about the lighthouse of Apsheronsk, one of the oldest lighthouses of the Caspian Sea, and a lighthouse located in the city of Lankaran which used to … Read more...

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Boris Berezovsky:Rachmaninov - Preludes Op.23 No.1, 2, 4, 6, 10

The USSR In Photos

The USSR In Photos: Some interesting pictures of the USSR to remember how it was. Healthy Family Club, Igor Charkovsky, Moscow, 1985. Igor Charkovsky was a well-known person in Moscow with crowds of fans who wanted to have healthy kids. Igor taught them how … Read more...

Friday, 3 February 2012

Winter Fairy Tale In Pripyat

Winter Fairy Tale In Pripyat: Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979 but was abandoned in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster. Currently Pripyat is being supervised by the Ministry of … Read more...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mikhail Frunze

 Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze was a Russian/Soviet revolutionary, a politician and one of the most successful Red Army commanders during the Civil War of 1917-1923. Mikhail Frunze’s father was a “Russified” Romanian who had lived as a peasant in the Kherson Region (now Southern Ukraine). He served in the military in Turkestan in Central Asia (now a divided territory shared by Russia, Afghanistan and China) and remained there to work as a paramedic. Frunze’s mother was a peasant who had moved to the Zhetysu (or the Semirechye, meaning “Seven Rivers”) Region of Turkestan in the 1870s. Mikhail Frunze was born in the town of Pishpek (now Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan) in the Semirechye Region. His childhood was financially difficult as his father died early and his mother had to work hard to earn a living. After graduating from the Pishpek town school he entered the gymnasium in the town of Vernyi (now Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan) and in 1904 graduated with a gold medal. He first became acquainted with revolutionary ideas in the gymnasium, where he attended self-development clubs. After graduating he entered the Polytechnic University in St. Petersburg. He was an active participant of various students’ and workers’ clubs, as well as a member of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. In November 1904 he was arrested and expelled from St. Petersburg for participating in a political rally. During the uprisings of December 1905 (the start of the 1905-1907 Revolution), Frunze led armed groups of weavers in the town of Ivanovo-Voznesensk (now Ivanovo, Central Russia) and participated in street fighting against government troops in Moscow. In 1909 and 1910 was sentenced to death but under pressure from public opinion, the first sentence was commuted to ten years in a forced-labor camp and the second sentence to life-long exile in Siberia. In exile Frunze formed a military club for exiled revolutionaries called the “War Academy” (“Voennaya Akademiya”). He also practiced self-education and promoted revolutionary ideas in Siberia. In 1916 he escaped and illegally preached the cause of revolution to Russian soldiers at the Western Front of World War I. After the February Revolution in 1917, which led to the fall of the tsars’ rule in Russia, Frunze was elected chief of the peoples’ police force in Minsk and a member of the Western Front Committee. During the events of October 1917 (which paved the way for the USSR), Frunze and the two-thousand-strong Red Army squad he had formed fought the White Guard royalists in Moscow, where he showed himself to be a capable commander. In the beginning of the 1917-1923 Civil War he became the chief enlistment officer, first in the Ivanovo-Voznesensk region, and later, in the Yaroslavl military district (also in Central Russia). There he formed Red Guard squads and led armed suppressions of anti-Soviet uprisings. In January 1919 Mikhail Frunze was appointed Commander of the Fourth Army of the Eastern Front, and in March – Commander of the Southern Group of the Eastern Front, which was the main strike force during the that same year’s counter-offensive against the Whites. For the successful counter-attack Frunze was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. In July, he took command of the Eastern Front, which liberated the Northern and Middle Urals. In August, he took over the Turkestan Front, and all the Red forces in Turkestan that were cut off by the White Army. In 1920 Frunze fought the Bukhara Emir’s army (Bukhara is now a province in Russia’s Republic of Uzbekistan), then led the defeat of Pyotr Vrangel, one of the top White leaders, in the Crimea. When in autumn 1920 the Red Army took over the Crimea, Frunze ordered his troops to have mercy on captured enemy soldiers and telegraphed a proposition to Vrangel of full pardon to anyone who surrendered their arms and the possibility of emigration for those who wanted it. This “pliable attitude” invoked the displeasure of Vladimir Lenin upon Mikhail Frunze. However, the defeat of Vrangel’s army earned him an honorary award weapon. This and other military feats, including the destruction of bandit groups in Ukraine, earned him a second Order of the Red Banner. ...