Culture and History »

[21 Aug 2009]

“How Do You Do… Moscow” is an art exhibit which opens August 21st at The Moscow Museum of Modern Art. [More]

Culture and History »

[18 Aug 2009]

A lesser known villain in Russian and Ukrainian mythology is Nightingale the Robber. Usually portrayed as a monster with half bird features and half human features, Nightingale is a master thief and highway brigand. Aiding his attacks and getaways was his uncanny ability to fly and a deafening whistle that would cause the nearby grass to tangle, the trees to bend over and all people nearby to die. [More]

Culture and History »

[14 Aug 2009]

Deemed one of the Seven Wonders of Russia, Manpupuner is a mysterious site in the northern Ural mountains (in the Troitsko-Pechorsky District of the Komi Republic), made out of seven rock towers bursting out of the flat plateau, also known as the “7 strong men“. [More]

Culture and History »

[24 Jul 2009]

Koschei the Deathless, also known as Kaschey the Immortal and Chakhlyk in Ukraine is another prominent figure in Russian Mythology. He is a monster who dwells in the Caucasus Mountains and carries an iron club which he uses to terrify young women and attack anyone with the courage to seek his treasure. Like many other evil spirits and monsters in Slavic folklore, he normally appears as an ancient, wizened and ugly human although he is also sometimes depicted as a skeletal man with black hair. He is referred to as “The Deathless” or “The Immortal”, although neither term is completely accurate. Koschei’s soul was hidden in a needle, which was hidden in an egg, which was hidden in a hare, which was locked inside an iron chest and buried on the legendary island of Buyan. Koschei could only be killed by finding the island and digging up the chest, catching and killing the hare that will try and run away and then catching and killing the duck that would try to fly away. Once the hero of the story possessed the egg, Koschei would lose his magic and could be controlled. Finally, Koschei could be killed by destroying the egg. Koschei the Deathless could be contained and weakened by denying him food and water, but he would not die. He would also regain his strength if he ever managed to drink water. In the story “The Death of Koschei the Deathless”, the legendary Prince Ivan came across Koschei, weakened and thirsty, having been caged and tied by 12 iron chains and deprived of water and food for ten years. Koschei, like the Baba Yaga, has remained a popular figure in Russian Mythology over the years. In addition to the traditional folk tales that featured him, he is also featured as a major character in popular culture. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has featured Koschei as an antagonist in one of the volumes and he appears in Mercedes Lackey’s “Firebird” novel, her literary retelling of Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet of the same name. Koschei’s name is often featured in popular culture more than his character, used as a name for various monstrous characters and all sorts of legendary archetypes.

Culture and History »

[20 Jul 2009]

40 years ago today, Apollo 11 successfully landed the first man on the moon. This American achievement was monumental, but it would have never happend if the Russians had not fueled the race to space. Two days after the United States announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite, on July 31, 1956, the Soviet Union announced its intention to do the same. Sputnik 1 was launched on October 4, 1957, beating the United States and stunning people all over the world.   For a dozen years before the moon landing, the Russians racked up an extraordinary array of superlatives. It was the first to send a craft into orbit, with the Sputnik satellite in 1957. The first human to go into outer space was Russian Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Moscow sent the woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963; and Alexei Leonov was the first person to venture outside a spacecraft into the endless cosmos, in 1965. Russia even got to the moon first when the unmanned Luna 2 crashed in 1959. But the drama of the first human footprint on an extraterrestrial body eclipsed everything the Soviets had worked so hard to achieve.   The Soviet space program pioneered many aspects of space exploration. Here's a list from Wikipedia:   1957: First intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7 Semyorka 1957: First satellite, Sputnik 1 1957: First animal to enter Earth orbit, the dog Laika (pictured) on Sputnik 2 1959: First firing of a rocket in Earth orbit, first man-made object to escape Earth's orbit, Luna 1 1959: First data communications, or telemetry, to and from outer space, Luna 1. 1959: First man-made object to pass near the Moon, first man-made object in Solar orbit, Luna 1 1959: First probe to impact the Moon, Luna 2 1959: First images of the moon's far side, Luna 3 1960: First animals to safely return from Earth orbit, the dogs Belka and Strelka on Sputnik 5. 1960: First probe launched to Mars, Marsnik 1 1961: First probe launched to Venus, Venera 1 1961: First person in space (International definition) and in Earth orbit, Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1, Vostok programme 1961: First person to spend over a day in space Gherman Titov, Vostok 2 (also first person to sleep in space). 1962: First dual manned spaceflight and approach, Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 1963: First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, Vostok 6 1964: First multi-man crew (3), Voskhod 1 1965: First EVA, by Aleksei Leonov, Voskhod 2 1965: First probe to hit another planet (Venus), Venera 3 1966: First probe to make a soft landing on and transmit from the surface of the moon, Luna 9 1966: First probe in lunar orbit, Luna 10 1967: First unmanned rendezvous and docking, Cosmos 186/Cosmos 188. (Until 2006, this had remained the only major space achievement that the US had not duplicated.) 1969: First docking between two manned craft in Earth orbit and exchange of crews, Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 1970: First samples automatically returned to Earth from another body, Luna 16 1970: First robotic space rover, Lunokhod 1 1970: First data received from the surface of another planet (Venus), Venera 7 1971: First space station, Salyut 1 1971: First probe to orbit another planet (Mars), first probe to reach surface of Mars, Mars 2 1975: First probe to orbit Venus, first photos from surface of Venus, Venera 9 1984: First woman to walk in space, Svetlana Savitskaya (Salyut 7 space station) 1986: First crew to visit two separate space stations (Mir and Salyut 7) 1986: First permanently manned space station, Mir, which orbited the Earth from 1986 until 2001 1987: First crew to spend over one year in space, Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov on board of TM-4 - Mir   Sources: LA Times, Wikipedia

Culture and History »

[17 Jul 2009]

Baba Yaga is a figure in Russian and Slavic folk tales. Operating somewhat like the Boogeyman, or the Wicked Witch from Hansel and Gretel, the Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and many other characters that fit into the “Wise Crone” archetype in worldwide mythology. [More]

Culture and History »

[12 Jul 2009]

Ivan Kupala Day (Feast of St. John the Baptist) is celebrated in Poland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine currently on 7 July. Calendar-wise, it is opposite to the winter solstice holiday Korochun. Some early mythology scholars, such as Sir James Frazer, claimed that the holiday was originally Kupala a pagan fertility rite later accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar.   Many of the rites related to this holiday within Slavic religious beliefs, due to the ancient Kupala rites, are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification. Youths would jump over the flames of bonfires. Girls would float wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath.   Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by their garlands on their hair, would be the first to enter the forests. They are followed by young men. Therefore, consequent to the quest in finding herbs and the fern flower may be the blooming of relationships between pairs of men and women within the forest. That is one of the most romantic nights in Ukraine.   Some of the ladies on HotRussianBrides.com have invited their suitors to symbolically participate in this tradition with letters like the following:    “…That is one of the most romantic night in Ukraine. Pity you haven'tbeen here on that night cause if you had been you would have a uniquechance to see lots of beautiful single girls standing on the banks ofrivers with candles lit and throwing flower wreathes onto the water.Believe me that is an incredible view to see when a girl does this sheasks God to let her only intended to see it and take it out of thewater - if it happens and he will find her, they will be togetherforever. Writing this letter to you I am throwing my wreath onto the water - itis colorful, made of my dreams of you, warmed with my heart and mytender hands...Once you see it don't go pass it cause it is intendedfor you only.”     Information from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Kupala_Day  

Culture and History »

[10 Jul 2009]

There are some reports of Russian tennis star/model Anna Kournikova wearing a flashy diamond ring. Kournikova, who has long been linked to singer Enrique Iglesias, showed up for Monday night's World Team Tennis match with a huge diamond ring on her left ring finger — the finger normally reserved for engagement rings.   But did you know that in Russian and Ukraine, the right hand is the traditional place for engagement and wedding rings? Also, Russian wedding protocol is quite different from the US. For example, there are no bridesmaids, a best man and flower girls. So if you are courting a Russian or Ukrainian lady, don’t be discouraged if you see a ring on her left hand… she may be single.   Also, when sending flowers to a Russian lady, do not send a dozen! Even numbers of flowers are only given at funerals. Odd numbers are for all other occasions, so give 11 or 13. This rule does not apply to mixed bouquets and arrangements. Yellow flowers should be used with care since in some regions of Russia and Ukraine there is still an old prejudice saying that it is a sigh of bad luck and signifies the end of the affair. Still some women love yellow flowers, but we would advise using them with great care.