Tag Archives: Russia & the Former USSR
October 18, 2010

POTD: Moscow State University

“We won the war … foreigners will come to Moscow, walk around, and there’s no skyscrapers. If they compare Moscow to capitalist cities, it’s a moral blow to us”. – Josef Stalin

Back in the summer of 2003 I took Russian language courses at Moscow State University’s Center for International Education. Unfortunately, our classes weren’t held on the main university campus, but we did visit it occasionally to use the computer labs and play basketball. The main building that dominates the campus is one of the original “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers that Stalin ordered built in Moscow. It was constructed in the early 1950s by thousands of prisoners, most of whom were captured German POWs. This was the tallest building in Europe until 1990, and remains the tallest educational building in the world.

September 28, 2010

POTD: View of the Hermitage from the Neva River

This is a view if the Hermitage as seen from a cruise on the Neva River. The Hermitage is an art museum that holds over 3 million pieces in its collection, including works by Michelangelo, da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso. The Hermitage was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 and now comprises several buildings, including the Winter Palace, former residence of the Russian Tsars. The Hermitage is a must see for anyone who visits St. Petersburg.

If you are interested in taking a cruise down the Neva, check out Viking River Cruises, which offers an itinerary that includes river excursions to both St. Petersburg and Moscow.

September 23, 2010

POTD: Lenin watching over Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad

lenin statue

lenin statue

There aren’t too many Lenin statues still standing these days. This particular statue is located on Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad (October Square), a short walk from the dorm I lived in while studying in Moscow for a few months in 2003. Dedicated in 1985 by Moscow’s then mayor, Boris Yeltsin, this was the last statue of Lenin to be erected in the city. It’s now home to a thriving skater community.

September 18, 2010

POTD: Statue of Marshal Georgy Zhukov near Red Square, Moscow

zhukov statue

zhukov statue

This statue near Red Square depicts Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov, the most decorated general in the history of both Russia and the Soviet Union.

September 11, 2010

POTD: Yuri Gagarin Monument in Moscow, Russia

Gagarin monument in Moscow

Gagarin monument in Moscow

A monument to Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the Earth. Taken while studying in Moscow in the summer of 2003.

October 27, 2009

On Stalin and Obama


This is for all the illiterate idiots (hello, Glenn Beck) who invoke the names Stalin, Hitler, Kim, and Mao when discussing Obama. Pick up a goddamn history book for once and realize what you are actually saying. From “A Trip to Chon Tash”:

The crimes of the old regime were on exhibition to those swearing an oath to uphold the new order. In the museum at the site the possessions of many of the victims were displayed with some biographical details. Documents from the archives of the NKVD/KGB showed the trappings of legal formalism that accompanied the brutal deeds, every murder judicially authorized with a sentence stamped and sealed. The execution of the sentence was scrupulously documented. And on one wall was a simple display that spoke powerfully: a portrait of Stalin, and below it a skull, resting on stones taken from the pit.

In America today, the name and image of Stalin are invoked heavily by fringe critics of Barack Obama. The critics disagree with his policies on health care and see in it the basis for increasing power of the state. The role the state will play in the healthcare system is a legitimate political issue on which well-informed citizens can have different views. But the comparison to Stalin makes clear that these critics really have no inkling of who Joseph Stalin was, what he did, and why his name lives in special infamy at hallowed spots like the pit at Chon Tash. This frivolous use of his name and image cheapens our nation’s political dialogue, and it is also a mark of disrespect to his victims. And it points to the fundamental crisis of which Aitmatov wrote so powerfully: the failure to know the past, to be informed by it, and to distill guidance from it. The age of the mankurt, alas, has not passed.


August 13, 2009

Don’t bother trying, you’ll never ever find a surer friend than Gazprom

Definitely the greatest corporate anthem I have ever heard. Go Gazprom!

Don’t bother trying, you’ll never ever find
A surer friend than Gazprom
We’re giving people warmth and light
For office and for home
We should always keep in mind
From dawn till sun down,
That our work is always needed
Working day or holiday

Ref.:
Let’s drink to you, let’s drink to us,
Let’s drink to all the Russian gas
That it never comes to an end,
Though it’s so hard to obtain
Let’s drink to you, let’s drink to us
Let’s drink to all the Russian gas
For those extracting the new sun
From down beneath the ground

We’re renowned for our deeds
The world over
And all your troubles will recede
If Gazprom people are nearby
Don’t try, you’ll never ever find
A surer friend than Gazprom
We’re giving people warmth and light
For office and for home

Ref.:
Let’s drink to you, let’s drink to us,
Let’s drink to all the Russian gas
That it never comes to an end,
Though it’s so hard to obtain

Let’s drink to you, let’s drink to us
Let’s drink to all the Russian gas
For those extracting the new sun
From down beneath the ground

August 5, 2009

Такого как Путин!

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s latest vacation photos are now online. Sure beats going to Martha’s Vineyard…

putin_butterfly_swimming

putin_firewood

putin_submarine_baikal

March 9, 2009

Ура!!!!!!!


In an effort to improve my Russian (aka no longer sound like an illiterate peasant) I have signed up for yet another Russian class. The last time I took a formal Russian class was in 2005 while at the LSE. Since then, I have basically forgotten everything, except how to order borscht and tell the taxi driver to take you to the military museum (but really, what else do you need to know?)

Anyways, I can’t wait to start conjugating verbs again and participating in those fun role play scenarios (“No, officer, there is no contraband in my luggage. May I pay you a ‘fine’?”). Good times.


February 4, 2009

Fly Aeroflot!


One of their pilots is drunk and the passengers demand that he be removed before the plane leaves Moscow for New York. Aeroflot’s response?

At the same time, an Aeroflot representative sought to assure them that “it’s not such a big deal if the pilot is drunk.”

“Really, all he has to do is press a button and the plane flies itself,” the representative said. “The worst that could happen is he’ll trip over something in the cockpit.”

The Boeing 767 – so easy to fly, even a drunk could do it!