пятница, 29 мая 2009 г.

Russia not ready to repay 5-7 years of gas transit - Putin

MOSCOW, May 29 (Itar-Tass) -- Russia is not ready to repay $5 billion for the next five to seven years of gas transit across Ukraine, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

“Ukraine is due to make another payment for Russian gas it receives for domestic needs and storing in underground facilities on June 7. Recent negotiations show that Ukraine may experience certain problems in the fulfillment of these financial commitments. Hence, there is a risk of new disruptions in the transit of Russian gas to Europe,” he said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko offered Russia to pay about $5 billion for gas transit of the next five to seven years. This is close to the amount of the Ukrainian gas payment.

“This formula is hardly possible for three reasons,” Putin said. “Firstly, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko actually announced it illegal. Secondly, it is planned to alter the organizational structure of the Ukrainian gas pipelines in accordance with the EU-Ukraine declaration signed in Brussels on March 23. That is, we cannot say for certain which possible partners Gazprom may have in the future deliveries of gas to Ukraine and to European buyers. Thirdly, it is rather difficult to amass $5 billion in the period of the global crisis and reducing gas prices and sale amounts.”

четверг, 28 мая 2009 г.

Russian poets of the Silver Age

Igor Severyanin

Spring Day

This day of spring is hot and golden -
The citys blinded by the sun!
Im me again! I am emboldened!
Im in love, happy and Im young!

The soul sings and bursts for the fields and
I come to strangers and say "hey."
What spaciousness I feel! What freedom!
What songs and flowers in my way!

Soon - vanish into the young meadows!
Soon - into snowdunes, full of bliss!
To look in pink faces of women,
Like friend, an enemy to kiss!

Make noise, the springtime forests mighty!
Bloom, lilac bushes! Grow tall, grass!
No sinners: Everyone is righteous
On a day so divinely blessed!

© Copyright translation by Ilya Shambat


среда, 27 мая 2009 г.

The secret of mysterious Russian soul lies in Russian dachas

Посмотреть на Яндекс.Фотках

A “national sanctuary,” an “oasis of freedom” would be the perfect description of a Russian dacha and a tradition to go out of town for the weekend. The vast majority of Russians, especially those living in large cities, enjoy making weekend trips to their country houses known in Russia as dachas. A well-known German journalist, Boris Reitschuster, shared his impressions of Russian dachas with Germany’s Bunte magazine.

According to the journalist, only a foreigner would think of such inconveniences as a toilet across the garden, swarms of mosquitoes, or a bucket of ice-cold water instead of a fine shower.

“In all sincerity, I have to admit that even an ardent adversary of the dacha lifestyle may become disappointed in their previous beliefs, the journalist, who resides in Russia for years, wrote.

About 60 percent of Muscovites prefer to spend their weekends out of town in summer. A Russian dacha is not just a summer residence. It is a lifestyle. Those Russians, who ignore this way of living, often have to face critical issues, Olga Vainstein, a researcher of Russian culture believes.

Май. Для подруги Samor-Natalya
«Май. Для подруги Samor-Natalya» на Яндекс.Фотках

It seems that many fans of the dacha lifestyle see the world divided into two different categories: dacha dwellers and losers. Adversaries do not see a point in dedicating their weekends to hours of traffic jams for the sake of just one day of fresh air out of town.

The distance between the city and the dacha may vary from 1 to 1,000 kilometers. Nevertheless, summer residents are fully prepared to overcome all obstacles to spend a week out of civilization. The daily city noise, the view of multi-storeyed apartment buildings, the overcrowded metro and streets can be very depressing indeed. Dacha is a whole new world which gives Russians a taste of personal freedom and unity with nature. Dacha gives an opportunity to get enough sleep, to enjoy a hammock, a lovely lunch underneath apple trees, or to spend long and warm summer nights singing songs in a company of friends.

“People used to feel free on their dachas in Soviet times,” Olga Vainstein believes.

Many Russians use their dachas to store their old furniture, clothes and a great deal of other things there. Dacha has become a sanctuary of alternative culture. Each Russian dacha, no matter how big, gorgeous or tiny and poor it may be, has its own piece of summer nature. Millionaires adorn their terraces with fashionable marble plates to put up a good show for neighbors. Common people usually grow vegetables on their dachas to make jars of pickled tomatoes and cucumbers for a long Russian winter.

Unlike in Western countries, Russian summer residents may visit their dacha neighbors for a cup of tea or a glass of something stronger without any invitation. An invitation to come to the dacha is considered highly important in Russia. A person who receives such an invitation becomes a family member to a certain extent. It is considered highly impolite to turn such a request down.

Even those who hate dachas have to admit that Moscow becomes easier to live in summer because tens of thousands of people leave the capital to enjoy their dachas.


вторник, 26 мая 2009 г.


On a busy square in the center of Moscow, placed on a high pedestal stands a bronze statue of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. This is one of the most beautiful and admired monuments in the city. But few people, however, know about its creator, the talented sculptor Alexander Opekushin.

Not far from the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga there is a small village called Svechkino. In the 1840-ies it was owned by a landlady. The soil there was not very fertile, and the harvest cropped was barely enough to last until January. To support their families peasants went in for all kinds of crafts, among which stone-cutting and moulding prevailed. One of the most gifted and successful moulders was Mikhail Opekushin. His clay figurines of shepherds and shepherdesses always sold well, yielding a small but stable income. In 1838 he became a father. When still a boy, his son Alexander showed keen interest in moulding and sat for hours on end watching his father work. Seeing that his son had a real gift for moulding, the father persuaded the landlady to send him to St.Petersburg to study.

At the age of 12 Alexander left his small village for a big city. He studied first at the drawing school, than in the studio of the well-known sculptor David Yensen. Once he secretly brought with him the statuette of a boy blowing soap bubbles. He wanted to stay up after work and polish it without telling anything to the master. But the master saw the statuette and was deeply impressed by it. A professor of the Academy of Arts, David Yensen obtained permission for his pupil to attend classes there.

Alexander worked hard, carving his way in art with his hammer and chisel. But he remained a serf peasant, a dependent man who could any moment be torn away from his favourite job.

To save money to buy freedom Alexander Opekushin worked himself to the point of exhaustion. Finally, he did receive a letter of enfranchisement bought at the cost of enormous effort. Only two years later, in 1861, Tsar Alexander II issued a Manifesto abolishing serfdom in Russia.

Years of perseverant study were crowned with success. Alexander Opekushin received a silver medal for a bas-relief on a classical theme. The young sculptor was invited to take part in the creation of a huge monument in Nizhny Novgorod.

The lower part of the monument consisted of figures of distinguished military commanders, scientists and politicians. Opekushin was entrusted to make the figure of Tsar Peter the Great. He did it so well that immediately received two orders – one for the statue of Empress Catherine II, the other for the statue of Admiral Alexei Greig. This work brought to him huge popularity in Russia. But it was the bronze statue of Alexander Pushkin that won him international acclaim.

In 1871 Tsar Alexander II decided to pay tribute to the great poet by putting up his statue in the center of Moscow. A commission was set up to choose the best model. The demands were very strict.

Alexander Opekushin was very much excited about the project. He went through all of Pushkin’s works and memoirs by his contemporaries and carefully studied the portraits and the death-mask of the poet. He made two models. Both were displayed at a special exhibition along with 13 other works. The commission came to the conclusion that only two sculptors may be entrusted with this order – Opekushin and Zabello. After some hesitation preference was given to Alexander Opekushin.

The sculptor made the monument to Pushkin with his head slightly bent, as if consumed with thought, his face bearing the sad and enigmatic expression. The deep folds of his overcoat accentuate the outline of the figure. The statue is both simple and exquisite, conveying the spiritual side of the poet.

The monument was unveiled on June 6, 1880. When the cloth was torn down, a cry of admiration ripped through the air. The author stood beside his work beaming with happiness…

Many decades have passed, but the bronze statue made by Alexander Opekushin still remains the best monument to Alexander Pushkin ever created by a sculptor.

Source:The Voice of Russia

воскресенье, 24 мая 2009 г.

Russia to mark the Slavonic Alphabet Day

MOSCOW, May 24 (Itar-Tass) -- Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will lead the church part of the celebrations on Sunday to mark Slavic Written Language and Culture Days.

The patriarch will lead a liturgy in the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in honour of Saints Methodius and Cyril, enlighteners of Slavic peoples. The Slavic holiday is marked on the day of the memory of the saints.

Patriarch Alexy II started the tradition of church celebration in Moscow. A religious procession formerly went from the Kremlin to Slavyanskaya Square to the Cyril and Methodius monument. This year, the procession will go to Red Square at the end. The patriarch will lead a short church service in the presence of state power representatives, and then a festive concert will take place there after the patriarch's address to the meeting.

Some regional city was chosen formerly as a capital to mark the days, but the organising committee has decided to hold the main celebration in the Russian capital from next year.

The ambassadors of eleven Slavic states will lay flowers at the monument to Cyril and Methodius on Sunday morning.

The same day, a ceremony will be held at the Donskoi Monastery where are the graves of Russian emigrants -- writer Ivan Shmelev, philosopher Ivan Ilyin and general Anton Denikin.

The next day, on May 25, the patriarch will lead the ceremony to present International Saints Cyril and Methodius Prize awards in the assembly hall in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. A concert of the festival of Slavic arts will take place there after the ceremony.

The Moscow patriarchate and the Russian Slavic Foundation award the prize beginning 1997 to state and public figures, writers, artists and musicians for contribution to the maintaining and development of the heritage of Cyril and Methodius. A bronze sculpture representing Cyril and Methodius, a diploma and a medal are presented to those awarded.

суббота, 23 мая 2009 г.

Georgy Sviridov-"Our North "

Join me on my virtual trip to the most beautifull places of the russian North!)))

The photos of:
Hibines;Mountain Shorya;Taimyr;Kolyma;Ural;White Sea; Ladoga;Kuznetsk Alatau; river Enisey.

State Capella of Saint-Petersburg, Conductor Vladislav Tchernushenko

Russia offers Ukraine 5-year advance payment for gas transit

ASTANA, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday that Russia pay Ukraine five years in advance for natural gas transit, to help Kiev buy gas to fill its underground storage facilities and ensure uninterrupted supplies to Europe.

The announcement came amid fears of a new disruption in Russia's Europe-bound gas supplies via Ukraine, as the country, suffering a severe recession, needs to buy some 19.5 billion cubic meters at a cost of over $4 billion.

Speaking after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko, Putin said: "We propose advance payment for transit of our gas to European consumers."

He said that supply stability is currently under threat due to "the upcoming elections in Ukraine and the possible reorganization of its gas pipeline network."

The premiers are in Kazakhstan for a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States heads of government.

Putin said that disputes concerning transit and supplies of natural gas cannot be resolved until the Ukrainian leadership reaches a common position.

"I am asking the peoples of both countries to take note of this. Under such conditions and with such high risks it is unlikely that we will be able to solve our problems under this setup. We need a consolidated position from the Ukrainian leadership."

The gas contracts with Russia are one of a range of issues over which Ukraine's president and prime minister have clashed.

Earlier this week, President Viktor Yushchenko said the contracts signed with Russia at the start of the year are likely to be reviewed in the near future, as Ukraine is unable to meet its obligations under the current terms.

Putin also said that Russia is ready to take part in financing the process of filling Ukraine's underground gas storage facilities.

"Russia is ready to contribute its share... The size of this share should be determined in the course of negotiations," he said.

Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine on January 1 over non-payment and the sides' failure to reach a new gas deal. A week later, Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for EU consumers, and cut off supplies to the European Union via the country, prompting two weeks of gas shortfalls across much of Eastern Europe.

The standoff was resolved after negotiations between premiers Putin and Tymoshenko resulted in the signing of a new gas agreement for 2009-2019 on January 19.

Under the terms of the new gas deal, Ukraine will pay Russia European market prices - set at $450 per 1,000 cu m for the first quarter - with a 20% discount in 2009, while transit fees fixed under a previous agreement remain unchanged. Yushchenko has repeatedly criticized the deal.

пятница, 22 мая 2009 г.


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

Men weren’t the only ones to fight the war against Napoleon. Today’s story is about the extraordinary destiny of the famous “cavalry girl”, the Russian Amazon Nadezhda Durova.

Nadezhda came from the family of a cavalry captain serving in a hussar regiment. Her mother had been dreaming of a son and wasn’t particularly happy when a girl was born. She never cared too much about her daughter’s upbringing. Nadezhda grew up amid hussars. Since early childhood she got used to marches, drills and camps. “My first cradle was a saddle; my first toys and amusements were horses, weapons and a military band”, she recalled later. The hussar way of life struck deep roots in her mind. As a girl, she often played war games, liked swimming, arrow shooting, tree climbing and horse riding. Nadezhda’s mother was abhorred by her manners.

When Nadezhda turned eighteen, her mother decided to marry her off. There were several candidates whom she believed to be a fairly good match for her daughter. But the obstinate girl rejected them all. Soon, however, Nadezhda yielded to her mother’s pressure and married a calm and reasonable public service officer. But she was unhappy with him, even the birth of their son didn’t improve the situation. She couldn’t bring herself to love her husband. One night Nadezhda cut her hair short, put on an army uniform, which changed her beyond recognition, and left secretly. Without anyone realizing she was female, Durova enlisted a cavalry regiment as a rank-and-file uhlan under the name of Alexander Sokolov. The regiment was preparing for a military campaign abroad.

By that time nearly half of Europe had been under Napoleon’s control. The threat of French invasion was looming large on the horizon. Russia moved a 100-thousand-strong army against the newly emerged would-be master of the world. The cavalry regiment Nadezhda Durova had joined took part in the coalition war of 1806-1807. She got her baptism of fire near Guttstadt in Germany. Their squadron charged several times. Durova was awarded a silver St.George’s cross for saving a wounded officer at Guttstadt. During the campaign she showed indomitable courage. In an impressive display of stamina and fortitude she endured all hardships of military life: on horseback day and night in any weather; death; bloodshed; musty dried crusts and water from a puddle; no chance of warming oneself or changing into a dry uniform. For fear of being unmasked, Durova preferred keeping to herself. When officers were carousing around the fire, she had to keep aloof from company, denying herself the warmth she so desperately needed. She found it much harder at rest than in battle.

Sooner or later, however, the truth got out. Rumor of a brave cavalry girl fighting against Napoleon reached Emperor Alexander I, who ordered to bring Nadezhda Durova to St.Petersburg in male guise. Alexander gave her a warm reception and awarded her a St.George’s cross for the battle of Guttstadt. That could be the end of the story but for Durova’s resolve to remain in the army. She begged the Emperor to permit her do so. Amazed, Alexander voiced his approval. Durova enlisted in the Mariupol cavalry regiment as Cornet Alexandrov.

Then came the year of 1812 and the battle of Borodino… “A hell of a day!” she wrote later in her memoirs. “The wild roar of both artilleries nearly made me deaf. There was no fear in my soul and my face didn’t change color for a single moment. I was calm, yet I wished we stopped fighting”. She was shell-shocked and her left leg got swollen, but she refused to go to a hospital. Instead, she went straight to Field-Marshal Kutuzov and volunteered to serve as his orderly. “What’s your name and how old are you”, Kutuzov asked. “Cornet Alexandrov”, she said. Kutuzov stood up, hugged the cornet and said that he had heard a lot about him and was glad to meet him. Thus Nadezhda Durova became Kutozov’s orderly. Regrettably, the wound sustained at Borodino forced her to leave the army… Two decades later Nadezhda Durova wrote her famous memoirs.

Source:The Voice of Russia

“Last call” to ring for Russian school leavers today

Hundreds of thousands of Russian school graduates say farewell to school life and are getting ready to celebrate the traditional Last Bell holiday on Friday. After the official ceremonies at schools, the young will spend the rest of the day having fun: they will ride riverboat, attend concerts or go to the suburbs of Moscow. After the holiday they will face their graduate exams and then, in late June, they will celebrate their school leaving balls.

Source:The Voice of Russia

четверг, 21 мая 2009 г.

Russia in photos (Cossaks)

«Наставник» на Яндекс.Фотках
Cadetes in church (Novocherkassk)

«Скачки» на Яндекс.Фотках
fancy riding

«Ветеран» на Яндекс.Фотках


Don Region is well-known of its cultural and folk traditions. It's the region of wide open spaces, the place where the Don river flows down into the Azov sea. Its prominent history and folklore attracts tourists from all over the world. The Rostov region is the native land of the famous Russian authors Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Sholokhov, the Winner of the Noble Prize for Literature.

Утро на  Дону .Осень.
«Утро на Дону .Осень.» на Яндекс.Фотках
River Don.Morning

The name Cossack is likely from a Turkish work meaning a free, independent man who carries out a wild life beyond the reach of any government. The Cossacks managed to survive by hunting, fishing and participating in war campaigns and were not involved in agriculture and farming on any large scale. Cossack culture is a horse culture, born on the open steppes, the plains and grasslands, the rolling hills of the Don region. For centuries it has been the domain of many semi-nomadic people who were herdsmen with few permanent settlements.


Azov is among the oldest towns of the region, a site inhabited for over 2000 years, strategically, at the mouth of the river Don, where the river flows into the Sea of Azov. At this place, in the ancient world, here was the beginning of the road that entered Asia, the Great Silk Way to China started here, as one stepped of their ship and onto the docks of Azov. On this side of the river is Asia, on the opposite shore is Europe.

Russian history of this city is closely connected with the Russian tsar, Peter the Great. In his time the town was the largest economic, political, military and cultural center and the sphere of influence which included the whole South of Russia.

Under the names Tana-Azak-Azov this ancient city of the Don area has gone down into Russian and world history repeatedly. Azov is a classical example of what was known as the “watch-tower system of fortress.” The fortifications are here. Ramparts and the powder magazine are unique examples of the military engineering skills of the 16th century. The pedestrian route along the historical path of the town allows you to become a part of the past epochs of this original town.

The capture and devastation of Azov by the armies of Tamerlan, the Azov siege and the Azov campaign of Peter I against the Turks are only some pages in the history of this wonderful city. The remains of the rampart, the moat, Genoese wall, Alexseev’s gate and other fortification works have been preserved on the territory of ancient Azov. Azov is holds in remembrance it’s Venetian merchants, Tatar-Mongolian hordes and Turkish warriors, the Cossack defenders and so many others well into the 20th century.

In the 16th century Starocherkassk (Cherkassk then) was the capital and armed camp of the Don Army. The brave and freedom-loving people who founded Cherkassk, defended it in many attacks from the Turks to the Tatars and declared it their capital. Many years and many battles have passed since that time but the history of Cossacks is not forgotten.
Now in Starocherkassk, the heritage still lives on in nearly 150 memorials, monuments, the legends and songs and in memories of many generations, kept now for us today and the future.
Of course among the most grand of these memorials is the Resurrection Cathedral. It was founded on the initiative of Peter the First. Deeply impressive are it’s wonderful iconostasis, 125 icons of the 18th century are kept here, all made of wood and still a hallowed part of Orthodoxy. The galleries of the cathedral are decorated with pictures showing the stories from the Bible and the Gospel record.

The typical houses of the stanitsas (called kuren) have a distinctive style of architecture, 2 floors, a narrow balcony and colorful shutters, specially designed to protect occupants against seasonal floods from the river. The foreigneres used to call the city of Starocherkassk -Little Venice.
Дом казака
«Дом казака» на Яндекс.Фотках

The stanitsa is still famous for its religious value and contains a large orthodox monastery, which keeps a collection of the traditions of the monks and their spiritual deeds.

More details is here link

Russia to build railroads, develop mineral deposits in Mongolia

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti economic commentator Oleg Mityayev) - The Russian rail monopoly and its Mongolian partners agreed to set up a joint venture during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Mongolia on May 13.

Russian Railways (RZD) has pledged to modernize and build railways in return for development licenses for Mongolia's largest deposits, the Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit and the Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper field.

It has signed an accord with Erdenes MGL, the Mongolian state mining company, and MTZ, the country's national railway company, to set up a joint venture to build railways to the mineral deposits and develop the fields. The Russian company will hold a 50% stake in the $7-billion venture, while the Mongolian partners will each hold 25%.

At the initial stage, they are to contribute $1.8 million for a feasibility study, which is due to be ready by September. The JV will receive development licenses for the deposits in 2010.

Erdenes MGL owns all strategic deposits in Mongolia, including the Oyu Tolgoi (Turquoise Hill) gold and copper project, the Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit, and the Dornod uranium deposit.

MTZ owns railroad assets, including a fiber-optic-based railway communication system, while Mongolia's railroads proper are controlled by Ulaanbaatar Railway, parity owned by the governments of Mongolia and Russia.

Tavan Tolgoi, located 342 miles from the Mongolian capital, is one of the world's 10 biggest coal deposits (6.5 billion tons).

Oyu Tolgoi (32 million tons of copper and 32 million oz of gold) is located in the south Gobi region 342 miles south of Ulan Bator and 50 miles north of the Chinese-Mongolian border.

The joint venture will not develop the deposits, but will hold tenders to choose co-investors. It will form project operators with the winners, holding 25% plus one share in them and leaving 75% minus one share to the selected co-investors.

In the past, RZD planned to recruit the assistance of Oleg Deripaska's En+ Group, Viktor Vekselberg's Renova, and Alexei Mordashov's Severstal Resurs for these projects.

En+ and Renova are ready for cooperation, but the new agreement stipulates that the Russian-Mongolian joint venture is to hold tenders. This means that the Russian miners will not receive any privileges and will have to participate in the tenders on a par with Japanese, Chinese, American and other contenders.

Mongolia also hopes that Russia's contribution ($250 million) could be used to increase the charter capital of Ulaanbaatar Railway, half of whose railroads need to be overhauled. It also expects Russia to provide an easy loan ($300 million) for the purchase of Russian grain, agricultural machinery and mineral fertilizer, and a $1.5 billion loan facility for other purposes.

The partners also agreed to set up a joint venture to process uranium produced at the Dornod deposit (49,000 tons, located in northeast Mongolia) and the East Gobi fields. The Russian partner will be Rosatom, with Japan's Mitsui considering participation.

The stakes to be held by the partners and possible investment have so far not been determined.

Currently, Russia's largest projects in Mongolia are Erdenet and Mongoltsvetmet, joint non-ferrous producers established during the Soviet era. Mongolia holds controlling stakes in them (51%) while Russia's stakes (49%) have been recently turned over to the Russian Technology state corporation.

The corporation is considering adjusting the Erdenet project to the Udokan copper project in Russia. Russian Technology's partner, Alisher Usmanov's Metalloinvest, has been recently granted the development license for the Udokan project.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk to focus on security issues

Cooperation between Russia and the EU in counteracting the global financial crisis is going to hit the agenda of the 23d Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk, the presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko announced Thursday.

This time the delegates agreed to discuss traditional issues of cooperation from the point of view of the ongoing financial crisis.

President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Khabarovsk to head the Russian delegation at the summit. Czech President Vaclav Klaus leads the European delegation, which also comprises the EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Among other issues, the participants are expected to discuss some Russian initiatives, including the one put forward by President Medvedev on a new legal basis for energy cooperation. Sergei Prikhodko says this initiative is a kind of a call for joint work.

The Russian side says the EU partners are also ready to discuss another proposal on a new pan-European security treaty, which proves that the initiative was put forward by Dmitry Medvedev right on time. Prikhodko said Russia is going to use all high-profile meetings, including G8, G20 and Russia-NATO Council, to bring its ideas home to the partners.

We are very positive about the growing cooperation between Russia and the EU. Though we still do not see eye to eye on many issues, including the thorniest ones, we are glad to have an opportunity to discuss everything as part of the summit. We hope for successful talks despite the existing economic difficulties worldwide, Sergei Prikhodko said.

On 22 May the delegates are going to meet for a business and breakfast event to discuss the most pressing international issues: the Mideast peaceful settlement, Iran’s nuclear program and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from this, Russia and Europe are expected to share views on Kosovo, Moldova and Georgia. Moscow wants its European partners to explain what reasons they have for providing support to the Saakashvili regime in Georgia. The summit in Khabarovsk is expected to result in a serious dialog in interests of European and international security.

Source:The Voice of Russia

среда, 20 мая 2009 г.

To the memory of Oleg Yankovsky

The final episode from Mark Zakharov's Film "An unsual wonder"

An Usual Wonder (aka An Ordinary Miracle) (Russian: Обыкновенное чудо, translit. Obyknovennoye chudo) is a Soviet 1978 musical film, a love story by Mark Zakharov based on a play by Yevgeni Shvarts. This is the second screen version of the play, first one was filmed in 1964 by Erast Garin.

This is a wonderful fairy love story. Magician met a young strong bear in the forest and turned him into a man. And he will turn into a bear if a princess kisses you... The Bear meets a lovely Princess and falls in love. The princess falls in love too. How dare you not to kiss a girl?
This movie has always been a romantic inspiration. I understand, that for Western movie fans it must look too simple but Mark Zakharov is a theatric director, so it is actually a movie PLAY, having a touch of theater.

Director: Mark Zakharov
Writers: Yevgeni Shvarts (play) and Mark Zakharov (writer)

* Oleg Yankovsky as The Wizard
* Irina Kupchenko as Wizard's wife
* Evgeni Leonov as The King
* Yevgeniya Simonova as The Princess
* Aleksandr Abdulov as The Bear
* Vsevolod Larionov as The Hunter
* Yekaterina Vasilyeva as First Lady
* Andrei Mironov as Minister Administrator

© MOSFILM, 1978.

Russia mourns death of actor Oleg Yankovsky

MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russian actor Oleg Yankovksy, best known in the West for his work with director Andrei Tarkovksy, died on Wednesday morning in a Moscow hospital at the age of 65.

Russian media reported that he died of cancer.

Yankovsky appeared in more than 70 films during his more than 40-year career, including the role of a wizard in the 1978 film "An Everyday Miracle," and the eponymous beast of the 1988 hit "To Kill the Dragon."

He was best known however in the West for his roles in Mirror and Nostalgia by legendary experimental director Andrei Tarkovsky.

Along with pop diva Alla Pugachyova, he was the last person to be awarded the title People's Artist of the Soviet Union before the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.

"Yanokovsky's charisma, the immensity of his personality and his talent meant that his presence brought more to a scene than the actual role," Roman Balayan, who directed the actor in six films, told RIA Novosti.

"In his silence... there was always a mystery - something left unsaid, multiple meanings, aristocratism and depth," he added.

Yanokovsky was also a renowned theater actor, and had been a popular figure at Moscow's Lenkom Theatre for over 30 years.

"This is a terrible blow to Lenkom," said the theater's artistic director, Mark Zakharov. "We had hoped for his recovery until the last."

Mourners gathered outside the theatre on Wednesday to lay flowers in memory of Yanokovsky's life and work.

вторник, 19 мая 2009 г.


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

There is a long-standing tradition in St. Petersburg. Every day at noon a gun is fired on the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul to let people know the exact time of day. There is even a saying: "As exact as a gun shot."

The city of St. Petersburg was founded in 1703. The very next year gun salutes were introduced to accompany the raising and lowering of a flag over the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul at sunrise and sunset. These were the first time signals in St. Petersburg. Very soon gun shots also announced important events in the life of the royal family, the city and Russia as a whole. They warned of imminent flooding of the Neva River and even announced the day when the river became clear of ice.

In December 1735 at a meeting of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences the distinguished astronomer Joseph Delile suggested firing a gun at high noon from a fortification of the Admiralty so that every one in the city would be able to set his timepiece by the sun. There was no action on this proposal, however, until more than a century later when a cable was being laid from the Pulkovo Observatory to St. Petersburg to inform the Central Telegraph of the exact time. Then it was that a gun at the Admiralty began announcing high noon. To ensure accuracy a fuse wire was placed in the gun, and the other end of the wire was connected by cable to a battery at the Central Telegraph. When a special clock at the Central Telegraph indicated 12-noon, the electricity circuit set off the gun.

This happened at noon on February 6th, 1865. A new tradition had been born. Nine years later the gun was moved to the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul. Here it was fired by an electric current from a clock in the home of the Fortress commandant that was connected by cable to the Central Telegraph. There, were many people in St. Petersburg at the time who had no timepieces and judged the time as best they could by the position of the sun. They had every reason to appreciate the gun shot at high noon.

This practice went on until the 1st of June, 1934. After that for more than two decades the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul was silent. It spoke up again only when it was time to celebrate the 250 birthday of St. Petersburg. Two 152- millimeter howitzers that had seen action in World War II were set up in the Fortress, and on the 23rd of June 1957 they announced high noon.

Since that time this tradition has come into life. It has now become so habitual that no one notices the booming of the gun. According to opinion polls, at least some people are surprised for a moment, but then relax, with the thought that all is well. Only the youngest of the young wonder why a gun has gone off when there is no war.

Source:THe Voice of Russia

Not enough silk for Nabucco


The organizers of the new “Drang nach Osten” in Brussels were disappointed with the results of the “Southern Corridor-new Silk Road” conference, which was held in Prague on May 8 as part of the Eastern Partnership Summit Format. It was expected that former Soviet republics, which yet had not been invited to join the Partnership (EU wants Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Iraq to comprise the 'new silk route'), would confirm their intention to approve the EU`s energy policy (in which Russia is not viewed as partner). The key moment of the conference would have become the ratification of a political declaration on Nabucco, which says that all EU members countries involved in the project, EU membership candidate Turkey and former Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union should undertake all necessary efforts to sign an intergovernmental agreement on Nabucco by June 2009.

But Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the countries which are expected to supply gas to the EU through the Nabucco pipe, refused to sign the anti-Russian declaration. The authors of the document did not even mention Moscow as a key EU`s energy partner but attempted to torpedo the agreements Russia had already signed with its partners on purchasing natural gas an its transportation to Europe via the existing pipe lines and the construction of the South Stream gas pipe (from the Black Sea to Bulgaria and further to Italy and Austria).

Why they were in such a hurry? The reason is quite clear. Brussels expects to put the Nabucco gas pipe in operation in 2014 in order to outrun the South Stream, at least for a few months. But since some Balkan states (Bulgaria,Hungary and Serbia) had already signed bilateral agreements with Russia, the EU planned to achieve a deal between a greater number of countries to repudiate the already existing agreements (if not de jure, at least de facto).

The scenario for the 'new silk route' proved once again that the EU leaders yet have not abandoned their Cold War thinking and continue to play geopolitical games which show 'zero result'.

On May 14 President of Bulgaria Georgy Pyrvanov published an article in the country's most circulated Trud newspaper daily. Although the article says nothing about either the Eastern Partnership or the ''new Silk Road”, it is obvious that Mr. Pyrvanov wrote it after the EU had failed to press former Soviet republics on the Nabucco project. He emphasizes the need of cooperation with Russia and suggests that the South Stream project be as important for the EU as Nabucco.

“When we talk about energy security, we can`t ignore Russia. It is necessary to decide whether the diversification policy will be implemented without Russia's participation, or will Russia, EU and other countries rich in energy resources develop their strategic cooperation. Russia will remain Europe's major energy supplier, and thus any attempts to 'isolate' Russia would have undermined the process of diversification and hampered Russia-EU cooperation in many other spheres. In the meantime, partnership with Russia would have put the international energy cooperation on a brand new level”,- President of Bulgaria writes. Mr. Pyrvanov says both projects are necessary in the interests of energy security and due to anticipated gas demand until 2025 and further. “Bulgaria makes its own contribution to the process and will continue the implementation of both projects since for the EU Nabucco is a project of high priority. But I also believe the South Stream must be on the agenda as well. We cannot make far-reaching plans on energy security without Russia. However, we want Moscow to understand that we are going to defend our national interests-like it was during the talks in January 2008, when we signed an equal agreement on the South Stream, and like it was this spring. We should stick to the agreements which have been made”. The Eastern Partnership and the Nabucco project in particular have already faced some financial difficulties. Although the EU leaders were all smiles on 7-8 May in Prague and looked optimistic, the initiators of the Nabucco project say the pipeline is estimated to $7,3billion (about 5,4 billion euros), and all the money will be from the EU budget. At the conference in Prague, the sides approved a program which stipulates a 600-million euro aid to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine until 2013.

Apparently, the Eastern Partnership aims to isolate Russia from the process of energy cooperation despite the likelihood of financial and political loses. However, not all countries in Eastern Europe, to say nothing about the leading energy producing countries, are ready to step on this slippery path. Although maybe too cautious, the conclusions made by the President of Bulgaria in his article prove this quite well.

Source:The Strategic Culture Foundation

понедельник, 18 мая 2009 г.

Russians in Holy Land

For two thousand years Orthodox pilgrims from all over the world defy time and distance in their ardent strivings to touch the Holy Land of Palestine. A Voice of Russia reporter, Lyudmila Markova visited the Holy Land awhile ago and here is her story.

“By God’s grace my years-long dream of visiting places connected with the life of the Saviour came true. I went to Nazareth, where Archangel Gabriel announced to Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Saviour. I went to Bethlehem, where Christ was born, I soaked myself in the waters of Jordan, where the Saviour was baptized and I walked by the Sea of Galilee, where Christ summoned his disciples to service and where He prophesied His teachings. Our pilgrim group traveled through the whole of the Judaean Desert calling at monasteries founded by hermit monks and the Hill of the Temptation, where the Lord renounced the temptations of the devil.

We spent three days in Jerusalem. The sensation you feel treading on the stone-paved path of the times of Christ and following the route by which He was led to crucifixion. We worshipped the priceless shrines of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Golgotha, where He was crucified, the Stone of Anointing, where His body lay before burial, and finally, the Holy Sepulchre, the place of His resurrection on which the Holy Flame descends every year at Easter time. Night vigils at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is something we’ll all remember for the rest of our days.

Of thousands of tourists and pilgrims who come to the Holy Land from all across the globe, Orthodox Russians stand out clearly, for both the clothing – the traditional long skirt and obligatory headscarf – and the blissfully devout attitude to the holiest of Christian shrines. And this is no wonder, since the Holy Land is inextricably linked in the religious consciousness of a Russian with Holy Rus.

Russians began to arrive at the Holy Land in the 11th century, soon after the introduction of Christianity, and it quickly became a favourite destination of our pilgrim forefathers. Hierarchs in Jerusalem often appealed for assistance to religiously united Russia at difficult times, particularly during persecutions from Muslims. Russian princes and tsars granted every support for eastern hierarchs. In early 19th century the Jerusalem Compound was opened in Moscow.

The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, set up in 1847, organized more pilgrimages to the Holy Land, which was largely to the credit of Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin, who headed the Mission for 30 years.

Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin

A scientist, historian and archaeologist, he knew biblical history and conducted archaeological excavations. Due to his effort Russia acquired shrines such as Abraham’s Oak, in the shade of which, old books say, Abraham received the Holy Trinity in the person of three vagrants, and the sepulcher of Saint Tabitha in Jaffa. On the acquired lands they built schools to teach Orthodoxy to Arabs, pilgrim homes, hospitals and of course, the monasteries. To this day the Russian Monastery at Ein Karem, founded where Virgin Mary met with righteous Elizabeth, is one of the saintliest cloisters on the Holy Land. It was in this very place that the One destined to give birth to the Saviour uttered the famous “Blessed art Thou among women…” More than 70 nuns from Russia are currently living in the cloister.

The 33-meter bell tower of the Ascension Monastery on the Mount of Olives is known as the Russian Tower. On clear days its upper gallery offers a striking view of the Holy Land embracing the whole of the Saviour’s earthly life.

Ascension Monastery

The Gethsemane Garden, where the Saviour often went to with His disciples and from where He was led to crucifixion, boasts a breathtakingly beautiful church in the classical Russian style built in honour of St. Mary Magdalene and pertaining to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The church is a resting place for the relics of two martyr saints – Grand Princess Yelisaveta Fyodorovna and Nun Varvara.

Over the years the number of pilgrims grew and acquired a mass scale in the 19th century. There were up to 100 Russian worshippers per each pilgrim from Western Europe, and many arrived in the Holy Land on foot. Others traveled by sea and crawled to Holy Jerusalem on their knees. Most pilgrims refused to travel by donkey, on horseback or on mules in a belief that on a land the Saviour Himself had walked to and fro it is forbidden to move otherwise.

Trinity church

The Russian Compound in Jerusalem with a spacious Trinity church, a hospital and daily living services accommodated thousands of pilgrims. For pilgrims the Compound had daily religious readings and published guidebooks and books on the history of old monasteries in Palestine. Not a single Christian nation took so much care of its pilgrims as Russia in those days. Being a subject to the Russian Emperor was a matter of prestige. The number of pilgrims to the Holy Land was up to 10,000 a year in the late 19th – early 20 century.

Holy Land Russian Mission

The First World War, followed by the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and the establishment of atheistic state cut the Russians from pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Pilgrim trips resumed in the early 1990’s and have been growing. I’ve seen compatriots from Vladivostok, Blagoveshchensk, Tyumen, the Urals. No hurdles or money shortages can stop a devout Orthodox believer from going to bow to the Holy Land.

Bethlehem, where Christ was born, is a special shrine. A small town 8 kilometers south of Jerusalem, it means the Home of Bread in the translation from Old Hebrew. In the heart of Bethlehem is the Basilica of Nativity with a grotto where Christ was born. The Basilica is the only Christian church that survived the Persian invasion of 614. Its façade mosaics depicted scenes of Nativity including the worship of Persian magi. And the Persians, reverent of their ancestors, left the church untouched.

You have to bend down to enter the Basilica. The 1 meter and 20 centimeters high entrance is called the Gate of Humility and was shortened during the Turkish rule to prevent the Turks from entering on horseback. The interior design is just beyond description. A Greek priest showed us two beautiful chandeliers adorned with two imperial crowns – a gift from the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. Another present from the Romanov royal family is the Icon of the Nativity in a silver frame placed inside the church’s iconostasis.

The Basilica’s major shrine is a small cave in the depths of which there is the Nativity altar with 15 silver lamps above the silver star signifying the place of birth of the Saviour. The cave can house no more than 70 at a time. Pilgrims glorify Christ in their native languages and among the numerous varieties you can hear the Nativity Hymn in Russian.

Source:The Voice of Russia

U.S. missile shield may hamper arms reduction talks in Russia

MOSCOW, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - The controversy over U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe may prevent Washington and Moscow from striking a new strategic arms reduction deal before yearend, a Russian business daily said Monday.
A team of U.S. negotiators led by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller arrives in Moscow on Monday for a first two-day round of official U.S.-Russian talks on a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire on December 5, 2009.

Despite optimism expressed by both sides, the Kommersant newspaper said there is only a very slim chance that Moscow and Washington will be able to adopt a new document by the December deadline, because Russia intends to link the issue with the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe.

The Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START 1), signed in 1991, obliges Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The agreement, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

According to a report published by the U.S. State Department in April, as of January 1 Russia had 3,909 nuclear warheads and 814 delivery vehicles, including ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers.

The same report stated the United States had 5,576 warheads and 1,198 delivery vehicles.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, agreed during their London meeting in early April on an immediate start to talks on a new strategic arms reduction treaty.

Moscow, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement with Washington in 2005, expects the United States to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.

Moscow also insists on the effective use of control mechanisms and procedures, "which the previous administration ignored categorically," according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

To meet the ambitious deadline, the sides have five months to overcome their differences in the approach to arms reduction, which includes the deployment of nuclear weapons in space and the so-called retrievable nuclear arsenals (stockpiled warheads).

However, they do not even have a draft document and the United States has not yet submitted its written proposals on the issue, the Kommersant said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin could insist that Washington abandons plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech republic before striking a new arms reduction deal. Russia says the U.S. missile shield would be a threat to its national security.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated during his recent visit to Japan that "Russia will certainly link missile defense with all related issues, including strategic arms reduction."

U.S. officials have traditionally maintained that the deployment of a U.S. missile "umbrella" in Europe was aimed at countering the threat of missile attacks from rogue states such as Iran, and repeatedly refused to consider it as a "bargaining chip" in negotiations with Russia.

воскресенье, 17 мая 2009 г.

Following the Great Silk Road

Marine expedition (photo from http://konyukhov.ru)

It seems that tireless traveler Fyodor Konyukhov has seen it all. Not quite, he says, as he has just started a new expedition which will cover the ancient Great Silk Road.

RT caught up with Fyodor Konyukhov ahead of the seven-month journey.

Q. Could you tell us a couple of words about the upcoming expedition? What are your tasks and goals for the Great Silk Road?

FK: The Silk Road expedition will take place along its most northern route for the first time in 300 years. It will traditionally start in Mongolia, in Harim, the ancient place found by Genghis Khan where the trade routes between the West and the East used to run. We will travel on animals only. We have 12 Mongol two-humped camels and 15 Mongol horses. We have nine Mongol participants and six Russian participants from Kalmykia mostly. This year both Russians and Kalmykians celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Kalmyk nation joining the state of Russia. Our Great Silk Road expedition is dedicated to this event. We will be traveling for seven months, and we’ll cover 6,500 or even 7,000 kilometers. Camels and horses used to cover 25 kilometers per day along the Silk Road in the ancient times. They used to make the caravansary as well. But we will be covering 35 or 40 kilometers per day as we will not carry heavy cargos. Our participants will ride horses; and camels will carry our cargos up to 70 or 100 kilograms which is not much for them. And if we ride camels we’ll put cargos on horses. Each participant will use two animals. More than half of our scientific expedition members are scientists and others are the Mongol and Kalmykian animal drivers. This will enable scientists to leave the caravan on horses for several hours and catch up with it later. Horses are more mobile. The caravan will be going non-stop along its route. If we all went sideways for 10 or 15 kilometers it would significantly delay our trip. This is why we’re taking both horses and camels.

Q. You’ve been traveling all your life. What actually makes you travel round the world and to Elbrus for example? What attracts you?

FK: I always have my goals. Even though I’m 57 I still live in my childhood dreams. I used to say if I was born 300 or 400 years earlier I would’ve become a camel driver and would travel with caravans through Saudi Arabia. This is the second stage of my Silk Road expedition. When I started working with camels in the desert I realized I didn’t have to go 300 years back. The steppe, the mountains, the desert and the animals are still the same. I really like the fact that I’ve switched from the yacht to the caravan and that I will travel on camels – the sand ships.

As a rule, I prepare big expeditions. The Great Silk Road is the second stage. It is seven thousand kilometers long. After that we plan to cross the entire Sahara Desert, which is five thousand kilometers from West to East. Our next destination will be the Arabian Desert. We plan to cross it with the Bedouins on camels. This expedition will naturally involve the desert, horses and camels.

Q. How did it all start, your expeditions I mean? As far as I know you got interested in traveling at a very young age?

FK: That was a very long time ago. I started traveling at the age of 15, but, in fact, I wanted to become a traveler at the age of eight. Naturally, I dreamed about these expeditions and I spent my life preparing for them. It’s like the talent of a painter, a scientist or a composer. It takes more than just a zest or desire to become a traveler. A talent is absolutely necessary. This is what I keep telling young people when they come to me and say that they also want to become travelers.

Q. But what served as a jump-start? Can you remember? Perhaps it was a book?

FK: A jump-start? I always try to explain it. When I was a child, my grandfather, Mikhail Konyukhov (he was ill and paralyzed) used to tell me when I climbed on top of him that I should become another Georgy Sedov, a Russian traveler. Every morning I ran to the coast of the Sea of Azov and saw the Sedov point, the place were Georgy Sedov was born. It can be seen very well from our village. It was called Troitskoye at that time. And my grandfather was born in 1883 like Georgy Sedov and he used to say that I should be like him. At that time I promised him that I would be a traveler. When I reached the North Pole, I’ve been there three times now, I decided that I should go somewhere else.

Q. You are a very experienced traveler. You’ve traveled by sea and by land, you’ve climbed Mount Elbrus. You’ve been a member of polar expeditions. Do you have any kind of gradation? What was the most difficult experience for you?

FK:. I never say what was the most difficult and what was the most interesting because if I conceive an expedition, it automatically becomes interesting to me. I never take part in expeditions if they don’t interest me. The reason why I’ve made so many expeditions alone is that they were my brainchildren and they were interesting to me but not to other people. That’s why they didn’t take part in them. Each expedition I write books and paint pictures. This expedition is interesting, and I hope and I strongly believe that it will be the most interesting trip that I’ve ever had. But it’s going to be difficult to spend seven months in a saddle from eight in the morning until eight in the evening. Consequently, it’s going to rain, sometimes it’s going to be cold and hot and there will be dust storms. We will meet a lot of people and animals. I hope we are going to succeed with God’s will. As for the past expeditions, I find it hard to say which of them was the most difficult or the most interesting? Of course, the most difficult thing was to ascend Everest. At the same time, I wouldn’t say that my trips to the North or South Poles or to Cape Horn were easier and not so difficult. I’ve been to the North and South Poles and I’ve passed by Cape Horn. These expeditions are of equal importance to me. They are all in one row. If I say that climbing Everest is more preferable to me than traveling to the North Pole, I will offend the North Pole or the South Pole. Why did I go there at all? I’ve put my expeditions on an equal footing.

Q. And you’ve seen the whole world. It’s a rare opportunity. Perhaps, there are things and places that impressed you most? Maybe it’s Mongolia?

FK: Now it’s certainly Mongolia. I’ve been staying here for a long time. I’ve been living in a yurt together with my horses and animals for two months, and I was here before. I traveled a lot around Mongolia. I have a lot of friends here. So, it’s natural that today Mongolia is a very close and dear to me. But I wouldn’t say the same about Australia, Argentina or Chile which I’ve visited. But they are already in the past, a matter of the past, but Mongolia is my present. I am planning to cross the Gobi Desert on my own with a camel. So, Mongolia is just opening to me! I am looking forward to a start. There’s a very beautiful place here called Kharkhorin. It’s very beautiful. I must say that I am already on my way, and I am burning to get into a saddle and leave.

Q. Expeditions like the one you are planning to make in Mongolia and round-the-world trips, and the ascension to the Elbrus, what’s the most difficult part in the preparation of mass expedition projects?

FK: First of all, it’s logistics and the need to make others to believe that what you are doing is necessary and useful for someone. If I don’t have support and there’s no one to help me to prepare an expedition, if I don’t have a sponsor in other words – financing and budget is one of the most vital aspects of any expedition, then I say that this expedition is not interesting to other people and, therefore, it’s not interesting at all.

You have to ensure that your expedition, your childhood dreams, your thoughts and science and art are interesting for others so they would fund it. Our scientists and camel drivers are not the only ones interested in the expedition. The Mongol government and citizens are also interested in it. When we cover Mongolia on camels and horses we will be discovering the country not only for ourselves but for the entire world also, and for Russia in particular. We have close ties between our countries and governments and we have joint projects. This joint expedition enables the Mongol and Russian people to be together, even more so that our nations are similar in their culture and hospitality. I really enjoy traveling to Mongolia. They have a tradition of serving kumis to their guests, just like tea in Russia. This is a very welcoming and civilized country. I’ve visited more than 120 countries and I’ve lived in many countries. Civilization doesn’t mean living in a luxurious house or wearing nice clothes or driving a large car. Civilization is in the people’s mentality. In this sense the Mongols are even more advanced than us, the Europeans. Perhaps their houses and roads are not so good but their mentality is civilized. Today when I travel to Mongolia I can stay in a yurt or on the steppe. We don’t have security guards and we are not afraid of anyone; we don’t have weapons and we welcome visitors. When I traveled for hundreds of kilometers, I felt safe, and people were friendly and smiling everywhere. This is what I call civilization and this is what I like about Mongolia.

Q. Let’s talk about a more personal issue. As far as I know you have a family, a beautiful wife and three children. Would you like any of them to follow your steps?

FK: Well, being a traveler looks very attractive. I would like my children to see the world and feel the same about it like I do. I think any traveling should have peaceful purposes. When I travel, I don’t say weapons, for example, or destroy anything, or pose any danger.

As for danger, I don’t seek any danger or adventures in my travels. I travel out of necessity. I want to paint lots of pictures, write a book, and create some creative heritage. Well, whenever I encounter some danger, I say that I wouldn’t like my kids or grandkids, of which there are five, to get in the same situation. On the one hand, I want them to see the world, but, on the other hand, I would like them to stay out of danger and not do what I have done.

Q. Don’t you sometimes feel like living a calmer, sedentary life?

The Last Way of Naomi Uemura. 1989.
by Fedor Konuknov
. Click to enlarge

FK: Well, over the last few years, I’ve felt more and more like sitting in my workshop and drawing paintings, because now I’m mostly fighting time. I have everything except time. I have lots of plans to draw huge canvases: a series of paintings on the Antarctic, a series on the jungles and on the ocean. I’m now beginning a series of paintings on camels, Mongolia, and Kalmykia, but I have no time! I would like to close myself, to spend more time going to church and praying to God. I have no time, though, because preparations for any expedition take a lot of time. The second stage of Silk Way expedition has been in the works since 2002. Every expedition takes five or even ten years to prepare for. If I cancel expeditions that are planned for 2010, 2012 and 2016, my friends and sponsors won’t understand me. I’d hate to quit halfway and give up what we have planned. Completing everything that I have planned to do takes a lot of time, and leaves very little time for creativity.

I have written more than ten books, but they all are more like diaries, while I’d like to write a more philosophical book. I already have the material for it; I just need to sit down and work on it, but that’s going to take me a year or more, and I have no such time!

Q. You have mentioned going to church and praying to God several times. You are known to be a rather religious person. How much does faith help you in your journeys?

FK: Well, there’s nothing you can do without faith, especially when traveling. As the saying goes, “There are no unbelievers in war.” The same applies to traveling. How can you go on a solo trip to South or North Pole without anything, a straw, to cling on? There are situations when you know very well that nothing but God or St. Nicholas can help you. I believe in St. Nicholas and I always ask him to help in my expeditions or in emergency situations.

Even in the ocean, you can count on the boat and the equipment, but they can fail at any time, while God will never let you down if you ask him. I always say that I am forever grateful to our God Jesus Christ for letting me survive all of my expeditions and all the troubles I’ve been through. The fact that I’m still alive is not my merit. I’m not that smart or physically strong, but some of my friends were killed by stones on Everest, or went under river ice, or never came back from the ocean, and I’m still alive. I’m no better than they were, but God helped me stay alive.

Even now, it is impossible to go on such a long journey without faith. This expedition is going to involve very many people, especially scientists, and I am responsible for all of them. So I pray to God to give us health and keep us safe and sound and help us achieve the goals of the way that we call the Way of the Great Saddle, or the Great Silk Road.

Besides, our team drivers are mostly Kazakh, who are Muslim. Then we have Kalmyks and Mongols, who are Buddhist, and some Orthodox Russians. We are of three different confessions, but they are all my friends, and we are going to walk this way together and eat together and work together in this expedition. We are of different confessions, but we all believe in our Heavenly Father.

Q. You said that expeditions like this one take a lot of time and preparations. Could you tell me about some of your next plans? What’s in the works?

FK: I’m usually asked about my expeditions when I’m on the threshold of one. In a few hours, we are going to mount and embark on a very long journey. But nobody saw how the expedition was prepared. It took us seven years of logistics to tie all those countries together, to work out the budget day by day, and coordinate all those border crossings.

Greebland trip (photo from http://konyukhov.ru)

Our next big expedition we are working on now is a trip across Greenland together with Greenland Eskimos. We’ll be crossing Greenland on dogcarts all the way down from south to north and then across the North Pole ices to Russia. It’s a gigantic expedition that is currently halfway through the preparation process. We’re still finalizing the logistics, the route, the sponsors, the choice of dogs, and so on. I’d like to make this trip useful for everyone: not only to Greenland Eskimos and me, but also for people of Greenland, Denmark, Russia, the extreme North of Russia, Chukotka and so on. That’s where I need extensive support of not only my team, but from high-ranking officials like Prime Minister Putin. A trip like that requires getting a lot of permissions, which can take us years to obtain if we don’t find support on high levels.

For example, when we started planning this Great Silk Road seven years ago, there were twelve people on our team. Seven years on, there are only six of us at the start of trip. Some have fallen ill, some have grown old, and some simply found other interests. That’s why I wouldn’t like to waste any time.

Q. Well, our best wishes go to you. We wish you a good trip and good luck.

FK: Well, I’m not much of a collector to bring lots of things from my journeys. I usually bring my record-books and diaries, my impressions, photos, sketches and videos, which I later turn into my paintings and books. I’m not a collector, because collecting would distract me. I think collectors always cling on to their collections, which is definitely not my thing.


English version of Fedor Konyukhov site

суббота, 16 мая 2009 г.

Russian Wedding Beliefs and Superstitions

Marriage being sort of a turning point in life, wedding ceremony and everything related to it has always been accompanied with variety of traditions and beliefs, some rooted in hoary antiquity, some recently devised, but all targeted at bringing good luck to the newlyweds and averting misfortune from them. So if your bride or bridegroom is Russian or if you have been invited to a Russian wedding only as a guest so far it might be helpful for you to know a bit about this abstruse wedding ruse.

Do Not Wed in May!

Nowadays Russians still believe that marriages contracted in May are destined to be unhappy. There are even some sayings about this, like Good people do not get married in May. He’d be happy to wed, but May does not let. Those married in May will always pine. May is considered to be a “difficult month” and so any initiative undertaken in May is reportedly doomed to failure. Such a prejudice most probably owes its existence to the fact that “May” in Russian (mai) sounds common to the word mayatsa, i.e. “pine” or “suffer”. Words rule!

Do Not Cross the Newlyweds’ Way!

Nobody should cross the path in front of the bride and bridegroom neither on their way to ZAGS (Registry Office) and/or church and back. In Russian villages they still believe that only sorcerers and ill-wishers “cut the path” of the newlyweds to harm them. It reminds of the English token of a stone that rolls across the road in front of the newlyweds.

Who’ll be the Head of the Family?

It is believed that it is the one of the newlyweds who first steps on the wedding carpet in Registry Office, who is going to be the head of the family. The master of the house is also defined according to who is the first to step into the house (compare to similar English beliefs: who contrives to step out of the church building first or who enters the new house first will be the head of the new family). In some places there is a nice custom suggesting that the bridegroom steps across the threshold of the house carrying the bride in his arms. When meeting the newlyweds back from the Registry Office the in-laws treat them with khleb-sol (a round loaf with a saltcellar put on its top); the bride and the bridegroom must take a bite of the bread without touching it with their hands. Who takes a bigger bite is going to be the head of the family.

Beware of the Rings!

If during the wedding, while putting the wedding ring on, the bride or the bridegroom happens to drop it, this is really bad omen. After the bridegroom has put on the ring onto the bride’s finger, she should not take the empty ring box. It is usually taken by the bridesmaid, who is willing to be married soon: then she is guaranteed to be the next to wed.

Pull the Tablecloth!

Another piece of advice to those eager to be married soon is to secretly pull to oneself the tablecloth at the wedding dinner. Or else, unmarried girls exercise in catching the bride’s bouquet, which she throws (only one time!) standing with her back to them.

Watch Your Shoes!

It is bad omen if something happens to bride’s shoes during the wedding; in particular, if the heel breaks off. By the way, there is a similar Celtic belief concerning a wedding glove, that happens to be torn, or a shoe, etc.

However, shoes can also harbour luck! There is a well-known custom in Russia to put money into the wedding shoes. Russian brides like to put a coin under their left heels as they believe it will bring them luck. In the traditional Russian wedding, however, it was bridegroom to put money into his boots. Before the wedding night the bride would take his boots off in token of her obedience and he would give her that money.

Don’t You Be a Cold Fish!

Another interesting belief that stands fast all around Russia (I guess this country is not so original about this) is as follows: on the wedding night (no matter whether it is the first one or not) making love is a must for the newlyweds! If by this or that reason it fails (let’s say the wedding party has been too wild and long, the guests have stayed in all the night, the bridegroom is drunk, etc.) they believe that the newlyweds will not be happy in their family life. This somehow explains why the bride and the bridegroom are traditionally expected not to eat or drink much at the wedding feast.


пятница, 15 мая 2009 г.

Gazprom signs deals with transit states to spur South Stream

SOCHI, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian gas monopoly Gazprom signed agreements on Friday with transit states Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Italy to push forward South Stream, another pipeline to pump natural gas to Europe.

The pipeline is a rival project to the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline, designed to bring gas from Central Asia and the Caspian to Europe bypassing Russia. The EU, nervous about growing energy dependence on Russia, is backing the project despite the current economic crisis.

The agreements with the Bulgarian Energy Holding, Greece's Desfa and Serbia's Srbijagas outline pre-investment cooperation and requirements for joint ventures to design, build and maintain the pipeline.

In a new additional agreement to their memorandum of understanding on South Stream, Gazprom and Italy's Eni said on Friday they would increase the pipeline's capacity from the planned 31 billion cubic meters of gas a year to 63 billion, Gazprom announced.

The two companies have already set up a joint venture to build the pipeline that will run through the Black Sea to Bulgaria on to Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi traveled to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to attend the signing of the deals along with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Commenting on Friday's agreements, Putin said they "contributed to Europe's energy security."

Europe has expressed concerns about being dependent on Russia, which supplies a quarter of its natural gas needs. Calls for diversified supplies intensified following bitter price disputes between Russia and Ukraine in recent years, when Moscow cut off gas to Ukraine, affecting consumers across Europe.

Moscow has argued that South Stream and another gas link to Europe via the Baltic Sea, Nord Stream, would cut its dependence on transit states like Ukraine and improve European energy security.

Echoing Putin, Berlusconi told reporters: "Under the circumstances, a major step toward boosting energy security was made."

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said on Friday South Stream would cost an estimated 8.6 billion euros ($11.6 billion), and the pipeline launch date had been set for December 31, 2015, although the partners would try to complete the project earlier if possible.

Talks between Russia and its partners in the project have not run smoothly, with Italy seeking the right to sell gas from the pipeline not only domestically, and Bulgaria also planning to host the Nabucco pipeline.

In April, Bulgaria, affected by Russia's cutting off gas supplies to and via Ukraine in January, hosted a "gas summit" of major producers and European consumers to promote Nabucco. Sources of gas supplies remain a problem for the project.

russian mini-series "Master and Margarita" (2005)

Russia’s first television production of The Master and Margarita, the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Vladimir Bortko is the director and screenwriter of the new adaptation. The mini-series of ten 52-minute episodes was first screened on the state television channel Rossiya on December, 2005.

General Producers: Anton Zlatopolsky, Valery Todorovsky

Director: Vladimir Bortko

Composer: Igor Kornelyuk

VFX: Lesta Studio


Kanal Rossiya

Behemoth Studio St. Petersburg
Trigraph - special effects

Main cast

Margarita: Anna Kovalchuk

Master: Aleksandr Galibin (voiced by Sergey Bezrukov)

Woland: Oleg Basilashvili

Bezdomny: Vladislav Galkin

Pontius Pilate: Kirill Lavrov

Koroviev: Aleksandr Abdulov

Azazello: Aleksandr Filippenko

Ieshua: Sergey Bezrukov

Behemoth: Aleksandr Bashirov

part 1

part 2

part 3

4 part(1/5)





part 5

6 part(1/5)





part 7

part 8

part 9

part 10

Today is the birthday of M.A. Bulgakov


Our focus is on the prominent Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. Even though his best works appeared in the first half of the past century, they are still hugely popular today.

Mikhail Bulgakov died in 1940 just a little shy of his 50th birthday. Looking at this prematurely aged man exhausted by deadly disease that was eating him up, few people could recognize in him the lanky, blue eyed young man who later became one of Russia’s very best authors.

Mikhail Bulgakov had his full share of head-spinning triumphs and crushing defeats. Loved by the most dazzling beauties and a good friend of many outstanding personalities of his time, Bulgakov remained forever in love with a woman he had once mistreated and whose forgiveness he craved, even on his deathbed… Her name was Tatyana.

They first met in Kiev, back in 1908. Tatyana was in town to spend her summer vacations with her aunt. The girl from the backwater Volga town of Saratov was new in town, so her aunt promised to get her acquainted with a young man who would show her around. Tanya and Mikhail made a perfect pair, peers, both coming from decent families, and small wonder that they quickly fell in love with each other. The vacations over, Tanya returned home but the two kept writing to each other, much to the displeasure of their parents who feared his mutual infatuation would interfere with their studies. These hurdles only added fuel to the burning flames of the young lovers’ passion though and in 1911 Mikhail Bulgakov headed to Saratov to meet his would be in-laws. Two years later their relatives finally resigned themselves to their offspring’s desires and gave a much-awaited nod to their marriage.

Shortly after the wedding ceremony the newlyweds settled down in Smolensk where Mikhail started working as a doctor after his graduation from the Medical School of Kiev University. During his very first night duty at the local clinic they rushed in a pregnant woman whose desperate, gun-toting husband said he would kill the young doctor if his wife died. Tanya assisted her husband reading loudly from a gynecology textbook while Mikhail tried to follow her instructions to the letter. Happily, everything went well.

Shortly afterwards Mikhail was drafted to the army where he was enlisted as a field doctor; Tatyana followed him there tending to the wounded as a nurse. Upon his discharge from the army Bulgakov worked in a village hospital near Smolensk. The hospital’s staff was literally overwhelmed by an avalanche of patients dying of starvation and the lack of medicine. Unable to help them, a desperate Bulgakov became addicted to morphine. Living with a drug addict is never easy, especially if you are surrounded by an atmosphere of general disrepair and catastrophic lack of money. To buy morphine, Mikhail Bulgakov was forced to sell family jewels and live literally from hand to mouth. During the recurrent bends, Bulgakov was alternatively aggressive or sheepish tearfully imploring his wife not to send him to a junkie shelter. It was his devoted Tatyana, not the doctors, however, who eventually managed to wrest him free from his deadly addiction. Diluting each shot of morphine with distilled water, Tatyana eventually entirely replaced the drug with water…

When, in the winter of 1920, Bulgakov was laid low by a terrible bout of diphtheria, Tatyana was again running around looking for doctors and selling what had remained of her family jewels to feed her slowly recuperating husband. She even ventured to sell their wedding bands – an act of desperation she later blamed for the ultimate breakdown of their family life…

Life in post-revolutionary Russia was one big nightmare. The Bulgakovs, who now lived in Moscow, were working desperately to make ends meet with Mikhail staying up nights writing his novel “The White Guards” while Tatyana sat by his side boiling water to warm up his freezing hands… That selfless effort did not go in vain and a couple of years later Mikhail Bulgakov’s literary career started looking up. Unlike his family life which was now going down and down and down…

Tatyana was not particularly interested in her husband’s literary work and looked too plain for her now trendy husband. For his part, Bulgakov was getting increasingly susceptible to advances made by his many young fans of the fair sex. He did not keep his promise to never leave Tatyana. Eleven years after their wedding he proposed a divorce. By that time he was dating Lyubov Belozerskaya, a 29-year-old divorcee who had just arrived from abroad and was trying desperately to marry again. The fling with Bulgakov was a real Godsend for Belozerskaya. Mikhail Bulgakov was deeply impressed by her refined manners, love for literature and high-society luster. Mikhail suggested they live all together in their apartment. Tatyana said a flat no and so he packed up and left…

Even though Lyubov Belozerskaya became Bulgakov’s second wife, Tatyana was still on his mind. He occasionally bought her food and visited her in their old apartment. Once he gave her a copy of a magazine where she could see “The White Guards” published with the author’s personal dedication to Lyuba Belozerskaya. “She asked me to,” he explained. “I can say no to a dear one but never to a stranger…” Unimpressed by that flattering explanation, Tatyana tossed the magazine onto the floor. They never saw each other again. Tatyana later married another man and lived a whole 90 years. Bulgakov divorced Belozerskaya and married Yelena Shilovskaya with whom he lived the rest of his life. But memories of his first love were always there, deep down in his heart…


Illustrations: E.Bulgakova, S.Lyandres, “Recollections of Mikhail Bulgakov”, Sovietsky Pisatel, Moscow, 1988

Source:The Voice of Russia