Tag Archives: Russia & the Former USSR
November 16, 2008

Okhta Center (aka Gazprom City) on hold

Well, something good has to come out of this financial crisis, right?

From the department of silver linings comes this item from Russia: because of the financial crisis, plans for a controversial skyscraper that would have towered over St. Petersburg’s low-slung Baroque skyline have been delayed and — preservationists, architects and many residents fervently hope — may never be carried out.

The mayor of St. Petersburg has submitted an amendment to next year’s budget to cut money for the city’s first skyscraper, which was to have been financed with Gazprom, the Russian oil and gas behemoth that has itself suffered financially with the spectacular decline in energy prices.


From the start, the proposed design for the tower by the London firm RMJM drew considerable criticism, the twisting facade alternately being described as evoking a flickering gas flame or a corncob. But the principal complaint from historical preservationists was its height.

The building would soar 1,299 feet, shattering a czarist-era rule that no structure, other than a church spire, should exceed the height of the city’s centerpiece building, the former Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum. Before the law was changed specifically for the Gazprom project, the zoning restriction at the proposed site was 138 feet.

So contentious was the proposed height that three of four foreign architects on the selection committee resigned rather than consider any design of that sort in downtown St. Petersburg. Critics took to calling it the “Gazoskryob,” or “gas scraper.”

Critics, including Unesco and a number of prominent architects, pointed out that the site was directly across the Neva River from Smolny Cathedral, a delicate ensemble of spires and onion-dome cupolas. And they roundly panned the design itself.

“It could be a mirage, appearing over the sand,” complained Semyon I. Mikhailovsky, an architectural historian and the vice president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Art. “It was unclear they needed it before, and now it is clearly unneeded.”


November 9, 2008

In which Gorbachev slays Stalin zombies and gets all the ladies

This music video by Russian metal band ANJ leaves me almost speechless. In it, a buff Mikhail Gorbachev slays Stalin-like zombies and frees the Soviets to party on the beach and consume Coca-Cola and Twinkies. No need to study the fall of the Soviet Union, as this video says it all.


November 8, 2008

Nashi protests outside US Embassy



With pumpkins and Johnny Cash music:

Thousands of Russians from the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi gathered in front of the United States Embassy here on Sunday night carrying jack-o’-lanterns inked with the names of war victims and charging that the war in Georgia was part of an American plot to improve Senator John McCain’s electoral prospects.

As music by Johnny Cash and the Allman Brothers played from loudspeakers, a stream of young people climbed off buses that had carried them to Moscow from far-flung provincial capitals. They held the pumpkins aloft for a moment of silence as a deep bass thumped and carnival-style lights played on the embassy’s facade.

In a film projected on several large screens, an actor playing President Bush (though with a heavy Russian accent) delivered a speech in which he gloated over the United States’ control over world affairs. The film asserted that the United States orchestrated World Wars I and II so that the American economy could overtake Europe’s, carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to broaden government powers and planned to brand every person on the planet with the “mark of the beast,” as referred to in the Bible.

“When that will happen, we will totally control all humanity,” said the actor playing Mr. Bush, swigging a beer, as a picture of the globe in chains glowed behind him.

WTF? What a bizarre protest.

October 20, 2008

Life in Zvyozdny Gorodok (Star City)


This is a great article on the lives of American astronauts training at Star City, the Russian equivalent of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Significant cultural differences remain between the Russians and Americans here. For example, working side by side with the Russians, the Americans say, has helped them understand the nations’ approaches to safety.

Dr. Barratt said that when he first walked the grounds of Star City, he was surprised by how uneven the sidewalks were. At NASA, he said, “there’d be big red placards” warning people to watch their step. And if someone did fall, a lawsuit would soon follow. In Russia, he said, people simply watch their step.

The underlying point, said Mark Thiessen, the deputy to Mr. McBrine, is that “Russians accept risk.” Americans try “to eliminate risk instead of minimize it.” The American approach is laudable, he said, but not always possible, and Americans end up more cautious than Russians. “No one is willing to say, ‘I accept this risk,’ ” he said.


October 20, 2008

These two Russian dudes love Sarah Palin

I love it. Vlad and Boris, please make more music videos!

October 18, 2008

“My dog is not a piglet, she doesn’t lie in puddles”


I’m so glad Putin decided to stay on as Prime Minister. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get all these “news” pieces, like this one from RIA Novosti:

Putin’s dog get long-promised satellite tracking collar, wags tail

Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin’s black Labrador, Connie, has been given a tracking collar linked to the Russian navigation satellite system Glonass, the government website said on Friday.

Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System), Russia’s equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), is designed for both military and civilian use and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

“I have to say that I am a touch late, as I promised [in March] to give Connie the collar this summer. In the interests of fairness, however, I should point out that it was ready – I just didn’t have the chance to meet with you and Connie. The collar is ready, and we are ready to demonstrate it, fit it, and test it,” Deputy First Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told Putin at a meeting to discuss the development of Glonass.

Ivanov said the collar was the “only one of its type in the world.”

Putin then put the collar, weighing 170 grams, on Connie, who was also present at the meeting.

“Come here Connie, they’ve brought you a present,” said Putin, noting that, “She’s wagging her tail, that means she likes it.”

Ivanov also said that when Connie was stationary, for example, “in the forest, lying in a puddle” then the collar’s battery would switch itself off, thereby conserving energy.

“My dog is not a piglet, she doesn’t lie in puddles,” retorted Putin.


Putin’s dog is sooo cute. Having owned a Labrador myself, I might be a bit biased, but they really are amazing dogs. (My dog did not require a GPS tracking device on her collar, however, since she basically slept on the couch all day).

October 16, 2008

Opening up the Siberian oil frontier…to the sound of disco

I love it:

Russian oil major TNK-BP has just brought on stream a pioneering big new oilfield in eastern Siberia, part of a wave of development overcoming huge technical challenges to open up some of this vast country’s most inaccessible crude reserves.

As the first commercial oil flowed on Wednesday from the 1-billion-barrel Verkhnechonskoye field to the sound of disco music echoing across the empty taiga, TNK-BP TNBPI.RTS Chief Operating Officer Tim Summers told an audience of men in hard hats, dungarees and overcoats:
“Oilmen say every oilfield in the world is unique. That is true, but there are several things which make Verkhnechonskoye extremely special.”

First discovered by a Soviet geologist in 1978, Verkhnechonskoye lies in a desolate area of thin, spindly forest inhabited by the odd elk, wolf pack or bear. More than 4,000 km (2,500 miles) and six time zones east of Moscow, temperatures mostly remain below zero and can plunge to minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter.

October 12, 2008

Putin gets a Siberian tiger cub for his birthday



I swear, the dude is becoming more like a Bond villain with each passing day. And how hilarious is it that the gift-givers presented the tiger cub in a tiger print dog basket? WTF?

The Russian prime minister, who turned 56 on Tuesday, was given the tiger as a present. Yesterday he posed with the animal at his dacha outside Moscow, stroking her affectionately. “It’s the most original present of my life,” he told Russian TV. Putin refused to say who had given him the female tiger, which is to be called either Mashenko or Milashka.

“She eats meat – two kilos in the morning and two kilos in the evening,” Putin explained, adding that he intended to transfer it from its temporary home in a dog basket to a Russian zoo.

October 7, 2008

“Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin”


Well, now I know what I want for Christmas:


Just weeks after Russia’s state-run media reported that Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin had saved a news crew from a wild tiger, he is flexing his muscles again, this time in an instructional martial arts video.


The judo video includes instructional tips from Mr. Putin, a black belt, and from Yasuhiro Yamashita, a former world champion, among others, according to press reports. It will first be sold in martial arts schools throughout the country, and only later at some unspecified date will it be available to the public, First Channel, a state broadcaster, reported.

In one video fragment shown on Russian television, an Asian-style flute whistles in the background, as a black-clad Mr. Putin describes the principles of judo.

“The name itself carries the foundational philosophy: to receive the greatest result with little, but effective, effort,” he says. “In a bout, compromises and concessions are allowed, but only in one case: if it is for victory.”

This is soooo much better than Bush’s “Hey Ya’ll, Let’s Clear Brush on My Fake Ranch” video.

September 26, 2008

Putin rearing his head over Alaska



Yep, pretty damn scary.

(Via boingboing.net)