I finally caught up with all my Russia-related news from the past few days…here are some notable headlines:
Moscow expats trying to re-establish “Democrats Abroad” in Russia
IMF tells Russia that its economy needs “more discipline”, may break out whips and chains if needed
Man makes educating Russians about tortillas his personal quest – wow, he has my dream job…
St. Petersburg restaurant introduces “Rus-Mex” cuisine – Mmmm…tacos and borscht…tasty
Moscow building bronze monument to commemorate Russia’s oldest brand of processed cheese
St. Petersburg police will now protect tourists – HAHAHAHA! I’ll believe it when I see it!
Russian arms control experts can’t comprehend that Capitol Hill is run by 25 year olds
Watch out Moscow, Wal-Mart is coming to town…
Putin aide says Kyoto Protocol risks killing off the world economy like “an international Auschwitz”
Indonesia agrees to give two elephants to St. Petersburg zoo for city’s 300th birthday…now demanding a “male and a female polar bear and a couple of brown bears in exchange.”
56% of Russians support burying Lenin’s body
“Anti-Barbie” joke entry almost wins Miss Russia contest, but is disqualified because she is only 15 years old
Comedian wins gubernatorial election in Siberia – “a candidate with no discernible political agenda but instant name recognition thanks to his showbiz profile”… hmmm sound familiar?
U.S. wants oil baron Khodorkovsky’s trial to be “open.” Russia could care less what U.S. wants.
Russia-Kazakhstan union in the works?
Russia-Belarus union near completion? – I’m back in the, back in the USSR!
Not from Eastern Europe, but still amusing:
Angry Cuban diplomat knocks U.S. diplomat unconscious after United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopts a resolution criticizing Cuba’s human rights record
I finally caught up with all my Russia-related news from the past few days…here are some notable headlines:
On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine experienced a catastrophic failure and resulted in the worst nuclear power disaster in history. The disaster was due to a flawed reactor design and poorly trained plant personnel. The amount of radiation released was at least 100 times that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs combined, and an area nearly half the size of Colorado was contaminated by the accident.
Over 600,000 emergency workers (referred to as “liquidators”) were drafted to clean up the disaster site and build a sarcophagus over the failed reactor. Robots that were brought in to remove the chunks of highly radioactive reactor fuel broke down, and Soviet military conscripts eventually did the job themselves by collecting the radioactive fuel by hand.
Although Western scientists detected high levels or radiation spreading across Northern and Western Europe, the Soviets continued to deny that an accident had occured at Chernobyl. It wasn’t until April 28 – two days after the disaster – that the Soviet government ackowledged an accident had taken place.
Evacuations of the affected areas were slow to occur, and the Soviet government continued to treat the disaster as if it were a relatively minor accident. The Soviet press focused mainly on the upcoming May Day celebrations, and when they actually reported on the Chernobyl accident, they were more concerned with the “lies” and “propaganda” that the West was using to describe the accident.
In the end, over 300,000 residents were evacuated from their homes in the contaminated zone and moved to safer ground. An estimated 25,000 people have died since the incident, and tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Belorussians suffer from radiation related sicknesses.
In December 2000, Chernobyl’s last remaining reactor was finally switched off.
This website has some amazing pictures of what the area surrounding Chernobyl looks like today. Seriously, check it out…very interesting…the photos of the abandoned houses and school in Pripyat are particularly haunting. (Update: I took a trip to Chernobyl in July 2007)
Oddly enough, the most popular keyword that brings people to my site is “chernobyl.” I was kind of perplexed because I had never posted anything about Chernobyl before, but then it occured to me that visitors were doing a Google image search for “chernobyl” and were coming across a picture of the cafeteria food at SPbSPU, which we fondly referred to as “Chernobyl Chicken.”
Last night, Vitali Klitschko defeated Corrie Sanders to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight title. The fight lasted seven and a half rounds, and I must say, both fighters put on a great show.
I was never really a big fan of boxing while I was growing up, but I happened to catch the Vitali Klitschko-Lennox Lewis fight last June, and was instantly hooked. Klitschko was rocking Lewis, but the fight was stopped due to a bad cut under one of Klitschko’s eyes. The victory and WBC title went to Lewis, and Klitschko has been demanding a rematch ever since (Lewis, however, retired in February).
One of the most interesting things about Klitschko is his background. Klitschko grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, and his father was a colonel in the Soviet Air Force. Vitali worked his way up through the Soviet Union’s amateur boxing program, and even had an opportunity to visit the US when he was 18 years old. He earned a PhD in Sports Science and speaks four languages. Not bad for a boxer, eh?
Vitali has a younger brother, Vladimir, who also boxes. Four years younger than Vitali, Vladimir won an Olympic gold medal in 1996. Vladimir lost a recent fight against Lamon Brewster, and before that he lost a fight to Corrie Sanders.
The Klitschko brothers celebrate Vitali’s victory over Sanders
On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.
The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square. Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces within Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) and without. It was also Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital. – The History Channel
Americans and Russians in their historic long-awaited link-up in their joint war against Germany provided the world with a hilarious preview of VE-Day in a sunny meadow on the bank of the Elbe river here this afternoon.
There was a ceremony, of course. Maj.-Gen. E.R Reinhardt, commanding general of the 69th Infantry Division, one of whose second lieutenants made the first contact unofficially and accidentally late yesterday afternoon, crossed the Elbe in a rowboat to meet a major general of the 58th Guards Division of the Red Army.
They shook hands, posed for thousands of pictures in the center of a screaming, shoving mob of official professional and amateur cameramen, then feasted in a German barracks on captured German eggs, black bread with cheese and tumblers of champagne and eau de vivre, an inferior cognac bottled for the Wehrmacht.
Primarily, however, it was a day for the little man of the armies – for the GI and the junior officer-and each made it a merry one, forgetting war while toasting the United States and Russia, swapping insignia and watches, snapping pictures and trying out one another’s weapons amid noise, danger and laughter reminiscent of the Fourth of July at home. – Catherine Coyne, Boston Herald (27th April, 1945)
Coolio, the illustrious rapper that we listened to in middle school, is apparently on tour in the former USSR. I was surprised to find an article about Coolio’s Baku concert in the latest EurasiaNet newsletter, as most of their articles are about terrorism, oil, dictatorships, human rights violations…eh, you know, typical Central Asia topics. I didn’t realize Coolio still had a music career, much less was actually touring.
The first weekend of April saw what could easily have been taken as April Fool’s joke come true in Baku, as the American rap artist Coolio swung through town as part of a seven-month tour across Europe, the Middle East and the CIS. Coolio, who described himself in an interview as an “international emcee and entertainer,” devoted much of his two days in Baku to issues concerning Azeri youth. Despite an evident desire to serve as a positive role model for young people, and to live down the Gangster Rapper moniker, he managed to stir things up during his time in Baku, offending Azerbaijani viewers with a lewd gesture during a televised interview, and rattling security at the concert venue by encouraging the audience to get up and dance.
The buzz had reached a steady roar by the time Coolio, known for hits such as “Gangstas Paradise,” “See You When You Get There,” and “I Like Girls”, arrived in Azerbaijan on April 2, several weeks after promotional posters about his concert had first appeared on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital. At a reception hosted for Azerbaijani youth by US Ambassador Reno Harnish and his wife Leslie, as well as during interviews with the local media, Coolio stayed largely on message. “Be you,” was his main mantra for the youth of Azrebaijan, “don’t try to be like me, or like anyone else in this room.”
Azerbaijani teens seek social acceptance just like teenagers everywhere around the world, but they tend to do this not by asserting their individuality. Instead, they seek to establish an identity within a traditional framework, which stresses obedience to parental and societal norms. The public actions of many Azerbaijanis of all ages appear to be predicated on the answer to a fundamental question: “What would my neighbors think?”
You could feel the hold of that question begin to lose its power over the course of Coolio’s performance, as the crowd loosened up, stopped worrying about acting proper, and started to groove to the music. At first it was only pockets of people, mainly in the front, who defied the security guards by dancing. A nod of Coolio;s head and a call to “jump jump!” about four songs into the concert brought swarms of young audience members to the front of the auditorium with their hands in the air to see who could jump the highest. When security protested, Coolio and his sidekick Gangsta Lu announced that they had been told the show would be stopped unless everyone returned to their seats, the ultimate concert buzzkill.
When a jury finds you guilty of attempting to commit an act of terrorism, it would probably be a good idea if you refrain from saying “When I return, I will blow you all up” after the verdict is read…you wouldn’t want that to come up at your parole hearings, now would you?
Russia’s first unsuccessful Chechen female suicide bomber was convicted of terrorism on April 5th. Zarema Muzhakhoyeva was arrested after she backed out of a suicide bombing at a restaurant on Moscow’s main street, Ulitsa Tverskaya, last July. After a jury found her guilty, she declared “When I return, I will blow you all up”. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Mrs Muzhakhoyeva, whose husband died in the Chechnya conflict, said that she attempted to attract attention by sticking out her tongue at security guards at a restaurant, after deciding not to go through with the attack. Someone eventually called the police, who arrested Mrs Muzhakhoyeva. A sapper working with the federal security services was killed when he unsuccessfully tried to defuse the bomb she was carrying. – The Economist
So I’ve been playing around with Movable Type, and I decided to enable the comment feature. I thought by enabling it that it would automatically add the comments feature to all my past entries, but I guess it doesn’t do that…maybe there’s a way to do it, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyways, I’ll enable them on a few recent entries and see how this works out…so say hello or something, eh?
I don’t have to go to work tomorrow…woohoo!
I finally caved in and picked up the Band of Brothers DVD set. If you haven’t seen Band of Brothers, you need to. It is an HBO mini-series based on Stephen Ambrose’s non-fiction bestseller about Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and the role they played in World War II.
The cast is excellent, even though at first glance you are probably thinking “What the..?”
A few notable cast members:
Donnie Wahlberg (yes, the guy from New Kids on the Block)
David Schwimmer (aka Ross from Friends)
Ron Livingston (Peter Gibbons from Office Space)
Jimmy Fallon (from Saturday Night Live…has a very small role in BoB)
Schwimmer does seem a bit out of place as the company commander, especially when he is being a huge jackass (which is pretty much the entire time he is on-screen) but you get used to it.
Anyways, watch Band of Brothers if you haven’t seen it…it’s only 10 hours long!
On any given day, my inbox is usually flooded with about 80 junk e-mails, which, as you can imagine, is really annoying. A majority of them are easy to spot (“The easy way to get an auto loan!”, “2 color cell phones at No cost!”, “Earn your MBA online!”, etc. etc.) but lately I’ve received some spam that has tricked me into opening it. The first e-mail had the subject “cominform”, so I thought that perhaps someone was randomly e-mailing me to discuss the organization for national Communist parties, but alas, they were actually trying to sell me pirated software.
The next spam I received was titled “dostoevsky”, but instead of discussing the well-known Russian author, the sender wanted to sell me “the best pain killers around.”
Those clever spammers…put something in the title that is related to Russia, and I will most likely open it.
Hey, look what GW finally sent me! Yeah, that’s right…after graduating in December, I finally received my diploma.
So now I have proof that I actually graduated from GW. It occurred to me that I’ve never posted anything about what I’m doing in the future. No, I will not be working at Office Depot forever…in late September I will be moving to the United Kingdom to attend graduate school at the London School of Economics.
By now you’re thinking “Economics? What?” The full name of the university is The London School of Economics and Political Science, but that is quite possibly the longest university name in existence, so from now on I shall refer to it as LSE.
I will be pursuing a Master’s in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies. School starts in October, but I’ll probably be leaving the U.S. around September 27th…I can’t wait.
Maybe I’ll post some more stuff about LSE later (for instance, how I even came to pick that school) but for now I need to get some sleep.