среда, 30 декабря 2009 г.


New Year is the main holiday of the year in Russia– the most welcome and the most beautiful one, rich in history, fascinating traditions and amusing customs.

New Year Celebrations in Pagan Rus’

The tradition to celebrate the year’s beginning goes back to hoary antiquity. The ancients usually timed the New Year to the beginning of nature’s revival and so it mainly fell on March.

In Old Rus’ there was for a long time the so-called pre-summer, i.e. the first three months of the year, starting with March. It was celebrated as avsen’, ovsen’ or tusen’, which later turned into the New Year. So, the first six months of the year formed pre-summer and summer, whereas the last six months were winter time. The transition from autumn to winter remained in the background, just like the turning of spring into summer. Initially the New Year was supposedly celebrated on March 22, the day of vernal equinox. Thus, Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) and the New Year celebrations coincided: winter was driven away, thus giving way to spring and the New Year.

New Year after Christening of Rus’

Together with Christianity (the year 988 marking the Christening of Rus’) Russia adopted the new chronology system - the Mundane Era of Constantinople, as well as the new European Julian calendar with names of months fixed. March 1 came to mark the beginning of the year.

According to one version, in the end of the 15th century, or, by another version, in 1348 the Orthodox Church shifted the beginning of the year to September 1 in conformity with the Nicene canons. The shift was to associate with the growing importance of Christian church in the state life of the Old Rus’. Thus, the New Year was celebrated on September 1, the festivities accompanied with decorations of rowan trees and bright red berries.

New Year Innovations of Peter the Great

In the end of 1699 the Russian Emperor Peter I the Great issued an order to celebrate the New Year’s beginning on January 1 (by the Julian calendar at that) and for this purpose to decorate houses with pine-tree, fir-tree, and juniper branches.

In the epoch of Peter the Great the Julian calendar was still generally accepted in many Protestant countries of Europe, and Russia then celebrated the New Year together with them, yet 11 days later than in Catholic countries, using the Gregorian calendar since1582. When in the 18th century practically all Protestant countries switched over to the Gregorian style (whereas Russia adhered to the Julian calendar until 1918), the New Year in Russia again stopped coinciding with that in the Western Europe.

Abolition of the Holiday and its Revival

In 1929 Soviet authorities abolished Christmas and fir-tree decorations that were declared “priest-like” customs. The New Year was also abandoned. However, following the article “Let’s Organize a Nice Fir-Tree for Children for the New Year!” by Pavel Postyshev, published in the major Soviet newspaper Pravda in the end of 1935, fir-trees and New Year festivities returned to people’s homes on December 31, 1935. Yet, it was not until 1949 that January 1 became an official day-off.

New Year Nowadays

The festive preparations start already in the mid December. The streets, shops, companies and enterprises are decorated with garlands, toys and posters; adorned fir-trees appear outdoors. Every city, town or settlement has its major fir-tree lit with electric garlands set up in the central square. Fascinating sparkling ice sculptures, snowmen and figures of Father Frost and Snow Maid are placed all around the fir-tree.

New Year’s Fir-Tree

In the end of December homes are also decorated with fir-trees, which can be purchased at fir-tree bazaars or cut in the forest (with a special license required). Fir-trees are traditionally kept in homes till January 13-14, when the Russians celebrate the Old New Year.

Initially fir-trees were decorated with wooden toys, fruits, nuts and sweets. Decorations of glass came into fashion somewhat from 1850.

Modern fir-trees are decorated with glass balls and toys, garlands and tinsels. Figures of Father Frost and Snow Maid together with New Year presents are hidden under the fir-tree. Some families are lucky to be visited by alive Father Frosts and Snow Maids who bring the presents to well-behaved children.

Festive matinees, called New Year’s Yolka (i.e. fir-tree) are traditionally held in kindergartens and schools. Children dressed up as hares, snowflakes, and other characters, take part in the masquerade, sing songs, play and dance around the fir-tree and get presents from Father Frost and Snow Maid.

The most famous Russian New Year’s song turns 103 this year; its lyrics were written by Raisa Kudsheva, a teacher by profession, and later set to music by the amateur composer Leonid Bekman. Almost a folk song nowadays, it tells about a small fir-tree that was born in the forest and now have come to children and brought lots of joy to them.

V lesu rodilas yolochka,
V lesu ona rosla,
Zimoy i lietom stroinaya,
Zelyonaya byla.

In the forest a fir tree was born,
In the forest the fir tree grew,
In winter and summer she
stands tall,
And oh how green was she.

Father Frost and Snow Maiden

The New Year in Russia is impossible without the magic crowd puller Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his fairy granddaughter, companion and helpmate Snegurochka (Snow Maiden)! They come to greet kids with the New Year and give them long-awaited gifts. In spite of some similar details, such as a snow-white beard, long gown and present-giving function, Father Frost and Santa Claus are quite different characters.

Most Important Moments of the New Year’s Night

The celebrations start at about 11 pm, when the family is seated at the festive dinner. Shortly before 12 pm they toast “for the old year”, remembering and paying tribute to the good things it brought about. It is a custom in Russia to listen to the speech of the head of state broadcasted over TV and radio. The President traditionally summarizes the achievements of the past year and wishes Happy New Year to the citizens of Russia.

After the speech, at midnight sharp, the country listens to the Kremlin chimes, which signalize the beginning of the New Year. The chimes are followed by the country’s hymn.

During these exciting minutes all are drinking Champaign and wish each other Happy New Year. Afterwards lots of people like to go outdoors to let off all sorts of fireworks and bangers, and lit Bengal lights. Festive performances with songs, dances and games are held at the central squares of cities and towns.

As for lovers of peace and silence, their day will come to, when after the uproarious New Year’s night the streets turn unusually quiet and calm for a few days, even in megalopolises like Moscow.

New Year Popular Believes

There is a whole range of believes concerning the celebrations of the New Year. The most famous saying asserts: “As you meet the New Year, so will you spend it”. Thus everyone does one’s best to celebrate this decisive holiday merrily and in the hearty company of friends and family.

They also say, that one must “leave all the debts to the old year”, i.e. return the debts before the beginning of the coming year. On the New Year’s Night one ought to be wearing brand new clothes, which at the best should be of the “lucky colours” of the year to come.

One of the most significant and breath-taking elements of the New Year’s Night is making wishes. They believe that the utmost wishes made on the New Year’s Night will surely fulfill in the New Year. There is a unique method of making wishes that gives almost a hundred percent fulfillment guarantee: while the chimes are striking twelve, one should write the wish on a sheet of paper, burn it on a candle, mix the ashes in his/her glass of Champaign and drink it before the chimes cease striking.

Try it yourself!


вторник, 29 декабря 2009 г.

Snegurochka (Snow Maiden)

Snegurochka, also known as the Snow Maiden or Snowy, is a unique character of Russian folklore and an essential part of Russian New Year’s celebrations. The origins of Snegurochka are contradictory. The roots of this feminine character can be found in Slavic pagan beliefs. According to legend, she is the daughter of Father Frost and the Snow Queen. However, another Russian fairy-tale tells a story of an old man and woman who had always regretted that they did not have any children. In winter they made a girl out of snow. The snow maiden came alive and became the daughter they never had. They called her Snegurochka. But when the summer sun began to warm the land, the girl became very sad. One day she went into the woods with a group of village girls to pick flowers. It began to get dark and the girls made a fire and began playfully jumping over the flames. Snegurochka also jumped, but suddenly she melted and turned into a white cloud. In some parts of Russia people still follow the ancient tradition of drowning a straw girl in the river or burning her on the bonfire to dispel the winter. This custom symbolizes the transition from winter to spring.

Image from slavs.org.ua

Snegurochka became widely known in the 19th century after Russian playwright Aleksandr Ostrovsky wrote the play "Spring Fairytale" based on the legend. The play portrays the young beauty as the daughter of Frost - her father -and Spring her mother. She is immortal and she stays in her father’s winter forest, but she is ready to sacrifice her immortality for the ability to feel love, like normal humans. She is suffering from loneliness and her mother generously grants her a Love Wreath made from flowers, knowing with both sadness and delight that it will warm her daughter’s cold heart and let her experience love. But as soon as she falls in love she leaves her forest and melts at dawn as the sun touches her with its rays and turns her into a cloud. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s then wrote an opera based on Ostrovsky’s play.
The modern image of Snegurochka appeared at the turn of the 20th century, as Snegurochka became a popular character in children's New Year’s celebrations and theatrical performances. Little girls enjoyed being dressed up as Snegurochka by their mothers in light winter attire and sometimes a cap. Snegurochka has always been an essential part of the New Year’s celebrations and a helper to Father Frost, the Russian version of Santa Claus. Young, beautiful and smiling, she always accompanies Father Frost as he visits children and gives them gifts; she acts as a mediator between Father Frost and the children.

The role of Snegurochka gained more importance in Soviet times when New Year’s became an official celebration in the country. Now she is not only a helper to Father Frost but also an equal anchor of modern New Year’s parties and performances.

Image from www.livemaster.ru/NatAliska

Place of residence and contact details: She is said to live deep in the winter forest. Snegurochka's modern place of residence is quite real - it's the Russian city of Velikiy Ustug (in the original fairytale, her origins are in the Russian city of Kostroma). Nowadays, Father Frost is considered to be her grandfather rather than her father, as in the old legend.

Appearance and personality: Young and beautiful. According to the legend the old man and woman who made her from snow used two deep blue beads for eyes, made two dimples in her cheeks, and used a piece of red ribbon for her mouth. Snegurochka was very beautiful, but when she came to life, she was even better. Snegurochka is often depicted with snowy skin, deep sky-blue eyes, fresh cherry lips and curly fair hair.

Originally Snegurochka wore only white garments and a crown, decorated with silver and pearls. Her present day costume is blue, red, white or silver and her crown is sometimes replaced by an embroidered cap with fur edging. She is probably one of the most attractive women characters in Russian culture.

Favorite means of transport: Modern Snegurochka travels with Father Frost on a horse-drawn sledge.


The"A" route-"Annushka" ( the history of Moscow)

The most famous of Moscow tram routes is, of course, the A route. The Muscovites name this route 'Annushka', that is equal to 'Annie' in English. This route was initially opened in 1911 as a circular line along the whole arc of ten central boulevards of Moscow (Bulvarnoye Koltso, or Boulevard Ring) and three central embankments of Moskva river, namely Pretchistenskaya, Kremlyovskaya and Moskvoretskaya ones. This configuration had existed until 1936 when tracks on the embankments were lifted. Two more years the route remained circular making use of provisional bypass tracks, but finally the circle was broken because of the started reconstruction of bridges across Moskva river and Annushka became an ordinary linear route.

In the following decades the route underwent a number of changes caused by the constant closures of lines in the central and western districts of Moscow. Trams left forever the western part of Boulevard Ring in 1949, and more redirections and shortings followed. Finally, in 1971 the only parts of the once great route were tracks in three boulevards and the line in Novokuznetskaya Street. However, this short route, the whole length of which was also shared by two more routes (#3 and #39), existed unchanged until 1991, when suddenly the reversing loop in Zatsepa Square used by Annushka was closed. The reason for this closure was that the loop encircled a religious building that had been restituted to the Russian orthodox church and her representatives claimed that trams produced untolerable noises. Thus, Annushka just could not celebrate its 80th birthday that year, and the route imperceptibly disappeared from the map..

The tramway took part in literature life of the city. Bulgakov, Ilf and Petrov, Okudzhava and Paustovsky wrote about this famous tram. Paustovsky used to work as a conductor in his youth. He used to recall how the tram ran around the city. But the red tram hasn’t been running around the city for a long time. During the city’ reconstruction the route was changed not once. Today, you can meet the “A” tram in three out of ten routes but it still runs through interesting parts of the city.

So, let’s start. First of all, there is Chistoprudny bulvar. Legendary, there used to be a village Kuchki which is connected with the Moscow’s foundation. Slaughtermen worked near Chistye prudy (Clean ponds) in ancient times. Waste products drained into the ponds so they were called Poganye – Unclean. Menshikov bought an estate near the ponds at the beginning of the 18th century and ordered to clean the reservoirs. Since that time they have been known as Chistye – Clean.

Чистые пруды
«Чистые пруды» на Яндекс.Фотках

The Yusopov’s House is worth paying attention. Two-storey chambers with a “ginger-bread house” on the top are a bright sample of the 17th century’s architecture. A prince Grigory Dmitrievich – a Peter the Great’s general – made the illustrious name wealthy. He was presented the house for distinguished services.

Then we cross Pokrovka street. Barashevskaya settlement was situated in the region in the 17th century. The street was named after Pokrovskie Vorota (Gates) of the White town. The street is decorated in different styles what is very common for Moscow. Then we see a building of a former apartment house that belonged to a corn chandler Rakhmanov. One of the first apartment houses in the city was built in modern style. It is distinguished by its fretwork: peculiar masks, outlandish patterns, bas-reliefs - modest girls with sinking eyes. One of the best constructions, performed by Rastrelli in 1472 by order of Elizabeth, stands nearby. Its unusual architectural style reminds of the 19th century’s chest of drawers. It was built for a prince Trubetskoy and the owner of the house was often called “Trubetskoy - a chest of drawers”.

They say, Elizabeth celebrated her wedding with a count Razumovsky in the house. Legendary, they got married in a church of the Resurrection standing near. In honour of the event the church was decorated with a cupola in the shape of a tsar’s crown. The building, erected in 1652, is interesting also for combination of baroque and Old-Moscow styles.

We are already at the Pokrovskie Vorota (Gates).

Трамвай-трактир "Аннушка"
«Трамвай-трактир "Аннушка"» на Яндекс.Фотках

The square was constructed at the end of the 18th century. It is decorated with a cozy mini-park and there is located one of the most ancient Russian drugstores, opened in 1703.

Сквер на площади Покровских ворот
«Сквер на площади Покровских ворот» на Яндекс.Фотках

“Yauzskie vorota” is the next stop.

Be sure to visit St. Peter and Paul’s church erected at the beginning of the 18th century: carved ornaments, gorgeous decoration in Moscow baroque style agree with a simple bell tower. A curios tourist will be also impressed with the interior of the church where a famous Bogolubskaya icon of the Holy Virgin, reliquiae of St. Peter and the icons of Assumption are kept.

Then the tram brings us over the Yauza River to Zamoskvorechye (behind the Moskva River region). This quiet region was settled by merchants in the 19th century. It was they who formed Zamoskvorechye’s present image. One of its attractions is St. George’s in Endov church that was erected in 1653. Endova is a bowl in a boat shape which was used in ancient Russia. According to a version, the church got its name from “a tsar’s tavern for oprichnina officials” (oprichnina – political and administrative apparatus established by Ivan IV). A red and white building is decorated in common for that time style of tracery. The church is also distinguished by a thee-level Gothic bell tower (1806).

Фрагмент Храма великомученика Георгия Победоносца (Рождества Богородицы) в Ендове.

Novokuznetskaya street is a bright representative of merchants’ Moscow. It is tasteless and meanwhile cozy. It is indicative that there is a church of Old Belivers. Many merchants were Old Believers. Feodosiya Morozova – a famous follower of this religion – contributed much to the cathedral’s construction of 1909. The building combines the elements of Byzantium and Old-Russian architecture.

There are a lot of such constructions performed in various styles at a time. They make the street unique and charming. No wonder, writers liked the region so much. Lev Tolstoy rented a house on Pyatnitskaya, 12 which runs parallel to Novokuznetskaya street. Nowadays, the house is the writer’s museum. Esenin also lived in the region; he rented a flat in the house of a merchant Krylov. It is one of the tram’s stops.

Danilovsky val is the terminus.

Following Dubininskaya Street the tram brings you to the terminus – Danilovsky val, where St. Daniel’s monastery is situated. It was established in 1272 by a prince Daniil Alexandrovich. He was buried here. Ivan Kalita (Money Bag) moved the monastery into the Kremlin and the construction was empty for a long time. Ivan the Terrible revived the monastery when in his presence a dying child was cured near St. Daniel’s grave. The monastery was always patronized by Russian sovereigns. That’s why it is so ornate and splendid. Today, the monastery is a big complex with a hospital, a graveyard and churches.

москва.даниловский мужской монастырь
«москва.даниловский мужской монастырь» на Яндекс.Фотках

Have a beautiful ride!


понедельник, 28 декабря 2009 г.

Father Frost the Red Nose

The key figure of the Russian New Year is certainly Ded Moroz (Father Frost, or Grandfather Frost, to be more exact) who arrives wearing a red caftan (old-style long garment) decorated with traditional embroidering and edged with snow-white fluff, a red cap, white mittens and felt boots. Boasting a luxuriant snow-white beard, ruddy nose and cheeks, and a cordial smile, he is leaning on an icy staff with a sparkling star on its top and carrying a huge red sack with presents for kids.

Ded Moroz is usually accompanied by his fairy granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), who helps him play with kids and present the gifts. She is a unique attribute of the image of Father Frost – none of his foreign colleagues has such a cute companion. The image of Snegurochka personifies frozen waters. She is an enigmatic maid (not a small girl) wearing purely white garments. No other colour is allowed by traditional symbolism. On her head she is wearing an eight-radial crown decorated with silver and pearls.

In spite of some similar details, such as a snow-white beard, a long gown and present-giving function, Father Frost (Ded Moroz) accompanied by Snow Maiden in Russia and Santa Claus with his assisting gnomes in the West are quite different characters.

Russian Father Frost (Ded Moroz) comes from the more ancient Morozko. In Russian folklore he is a powerful hero and smith who chains water with his “iron” frosts. Moroz is not hostile to people; in most cases he helps them and presents them with rich presents. To gratify him Russian folks had the custom of “feeding” Moroz. It should be mentioned that the tradition was similar to the festivity of commemorating ancestors. On the eve of Christmas the family’s oldest member would go out on the porch and offer Moroz a spoonful of oatmeal kissel or kutya (a ritual dish consisting of boiled rice with raisins and honey) with the words: “Moroz, Moroz! Come and eat kissel! Moroz, Moroz, do not beat our oats!” Then one would enumerate all other plants that the frost was not supposed to beat.

In fairy tales Moroz is now kind and now evil. To be correct, he is kind towards virtuous and hard-working people, while with mean and lazy he is severe. It is not only about justice. It is rather a combination of two characters in one. In Russian mythology besides Father Frost (Ded Moroz), a good-natured giant there was another Moroz, a little old creature with a long grey beard who would run around fields and provoke biting frosts with his knocking. His malice would cause tree trunks crack and his blows would make hut logs decay.

It is interesting to note that initially Father Frost used to be a wicked and cruel sorcerer who liked to freeze people; this is reflected in Nikolai Nekrasov’s poem “Moroz – Red Nose” telling a story of Ded Moroz killing a young peasant widow and orphaning her small kids just to entertain himself. Ded Moroz took after the Old Slavic gods: Pozvizd - the god of wind and good and bad weather, Zimnik - god of winter, and the terrifying Korochun – an underworld god ruling over frosts.

The peculiar character of those pagan gods determined the initial disposition of Ded Moroz – at first he stole children and brought them away in his gigantic sack. To ransom the kids, their parents had to give him presents. However, with the lapse of time, everything turned upside down, as it often happens: under the influence of Orthodox traditions Father Frost reformed, became kind and started to give presents to kids instead of kidnapping them. Now he adopted certain traits from Saint Nicolas, the prototype of the Western Santa Claus.

Yet, the image of Father Frost took its final shape in the USSR: he became the main symbol of the New Year’s Holiday that replaced Christmas as the most favourite and fairy holiday in the pre-revolutionary Russia. The image of “Soviet” Father Frost was established by Soviet filmmakers in the 1930s.

Father Frost has not just kept his popularity and importance up to date, but is gaining more and more of them. He and his snow-white granddaughter have made amusing professions: at numerous Yolkas (New Year festive matinees) held all over the huge Russia they entertain children and their parents with verses, riddles and performances, sing and dance with them around the fir tree, and, of course, shower them with presents and greetings. During the festive days one can sometimes even have luck of coming across a whole posse of white-bearded men in red, all carrying enormous sacks. Father Frosts even have their professional holiday, which falls on the last Sunday of August.

Father Frost has finally acquired his legal permanent residence, which is in Veliki Ustyug town of Vologda region, Russia. His estate is located in the forest, 11 km away from the town, which has been acknowledged the homeland of Father Frost for its rich history, attractive architecture and the beauty of its nature. The estate harbors the house of Ded Moroz and cozy cottages for his guests, winter playgrounds and other attractions for children and adults. Sculptures of fairy tale characters beautifully lit at night add to the magic atmosphere of the place.

The tourist project “Veliky Ustyug – Homeland of Father Frost” existing since 1999 is rapidly developing. All this time Father Frost has been honestly answering thousands of kid’s letters.

In January 2001 he visited his brother Santa Claus in Lapland and they agreed about development of sworn brotherhood relations between Veliky Ustyug and Rovaniemi.

One can get to the homeland of Russian Father Frost by special tourist trains from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vologda, as well as participate in special festive bus tours.


SLEIGH-BELLS. Russian romance БУБЕНЦЫ. B.Shtokolov.

This is an old russian romance (N.Bakaleynikov - A.Kusikov).
The vinill record from the concert in 1981.
The pictures are not mine except of 4 ones.
Old Russian romances born in the end of the 18 th & the beginning of the 19 th centuries still adorn the concert programmes of the singers of today. They are appreciated for their melodiousness, emotionality & sincerity which always find their way to people's hearts. A great in the development & formation of old Russian romances was played by Russian folk songs & gipsy romances, which were very popular in the beginning of the 19 th century. Many Russian composers have greatly contributed to this vocal form. Teplov, Kozlovsky, Zhilin - were the first composers in this genre, among the later ones - Alabiev, Varlamov, Gurilev, Bulachov & others can be named.
The subject & theme of old romances - written mostly by classical poets - determined the originality of this musical form. Romances-elegies & romances-monologues are prevalent here.

White Stone Architecture of the Old Rus’

The Old Rus’ has left us its amazing white-stone monuments of architecture; the magnificent cathedrals of Vladimir and modest churches of the Moscow Region, constructed of white limestone, embodied their epoch with the stone handwriting of builders, whose talent in those remote times could reveal itself mostly in erecting constructions of cult. With amazing accuracy they abated soft limestone to make wall blocks, flagstones for footsteps, socles and bases, window cases, fanciful figures, ingenious ornaments and even statues. Intricate carvings of ornamental décor on ancient cathedrals have stood the test of time for many centuries.

Usually the term ‘white stone’ stands for light carboniferous limestone (from the Paleozoic Era), occurring in the central regions of European part of modern Russia. However, it is also often referred to sandstone, dolomite, and Volga limestone of Permian formation, as well as numerous sorts of limestone, travertine, and alabaster lying in Transdniestria. Consequently, a more general definition of white stone is any treatable white-yellowish matt surfaced stone, which is neither marble nor shell rock.

Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir

White stone was one of the basic building materials in Old Rus' and was of great historic importance as an expression of the state’s power and imperial ideology in the 12th -15th cc. It played a key role not only in the Old Russian Architecture, but in the history of the Old Russia as well.

Christianity came to Russia from Byzantium, but church building was performed of plinthos (a special sort of broad and flat baked bricks) or in the mixed technology, «opus mixtum». The building methods used in Kiev, Novgorod, Pskov, Smolensk, and all other Old Russian lands, but for Vladimir and Suzdal Principality, where white stone building was started in 1152. In the pre-Mongolian years 95 per cent of buildings in Vladimir and Suzdal lands were built of white stone. The most emblematic and impressive white-stone churches are the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir (1158—1160, rebuild in 1186—1189) and the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the river Nerl near Bogolyubovo Village of the Vladimir Region (1158).

Church of the Intercession of
the Holy Virgin on the river Nerl

In the 12th century, when white-stone building was launched in Russia, Byzantium was already weak and did not have any considerable power on the international arena. At the same time, in the epoch of Gothic and Romanic styles in the Western Europe building of various kinds of stone embodied the state power and imperial ideology, whereas brick was used only for minor secular constructions and churches in poor outlying districts. Hence, following the example of West European building, Suzdal princes shifted to white-stone technology, expensive and unreliable, but “imperial”.

White-stone building became one of the major steps of the Old Rus becoming one of the leading European powers, the process, interrupted by the Mongol invasion for a long time. However, even in the hard times of the Mongol Yoke the builders of the Old Rus went on using white stone, which probably became one of the factors that helped the Vladimir-Suzdal Princedom in preserving its spiritual independence and resurrecting under the new name of Muscovy Rus’.

When Moscow became the basis for uniting the disconnected Rus into a single state, the construction of monumental buildings was of great importance. Therefore, churches turned to be monuments marking crucial facts in Russian history. Thus, for example, the famous St. Basil Cathedral (1555—1560) was a celebration of Ivan the Terrible’s taking of the Kazan Khanate.

Dormition Cathedral in Moscow

In the late 15th century, when masters of the West European Renaissance completely shifted to the far more reliable, economical and practical brick building, the expression of the state power in stone had no sense any longer. Then Russians also switched to brick building. The last remarkable Old Russian white-stone church was the Dormition Cathedral (1475—1479) in Moscow. However, wide use of white stone did not stop, since it was used everywhere for bases, ground floors, and elements of architectural decor. Stone carving in Russian architecture reached enormous heights in the 16th- 17th centuries. White-stone carving was used both for church and secular buildings. Vivid examples of Russian stone carving art can be found in chambers and towers of the Moscow Kremlin. The Faceted Chamber (1487—1491) was decorated with intricate carved platbands in the 17th century, and the Teremnoy (Tower-Chamber) Palace is one of the treasures of Russian white-stone carving. The craftsmanship of Russian stone carvers manifested itself not only in Moscow, but in other towns and regions as well. Thus, carved stone details can be also seen in Yaroslavl churches of the 17th century, the Convent of the Presentation of the Mother of God in Solvychegodsk, etc.

Carved stones from archeological diggings
by N.A.Artleben near Church on Nerl

Fanciful carved ornaments and bas-reliefs are the greatest mystery of white-stone Old Russian architecture. It has come down to us only in fragments, mainly on the miraculously preserved St. Dmitrius Cathedral in Vladimir and St. George Cathedral in Yuriev-Polski. There are various hypotheses on the symbolic meaning of images depicted on the bas-reliefs of the St. Dmitrius Cathedral. Unfortunately, in the span of eight centuries that have passed since the creation of the church, Russian people somehow lost this beautiful legend, and so historians can only speculate about it now. Some explain the white-stone carving ornamentation as a peculiar expression of nostalgia that people of that time had about the heritage of paganism past recovery. There is also an option to account for these ornaments with the Roman, Byzantium, Scythian and Iranian, Celtic or Slavic pagan influence.

Richest realm of animal and fabulous images settled not only on the walls of churches, but also penetrated inside, to the capitals. Most popular were the images of gryphons, lions and leopards. The lion and leopard symbolized the power and strength of Vladimir princes. Gradually they took place in heraldry of great princes. The image of the fanciful gryphon bore a triumphant, winning meaning. Along with these adopted motifs in white-stone sculpture there appeared folklore and apocryphal images, such as dragons, various birds, and Kitovras, which speaks of broad social content of white-stone sculpture images. Folk roots of sculpture most strongly manifested in the floral treelike ornaments.


среда, 23 декабря 2009 г.

Russian traditional musical instruments


The balalaika is a wooden, three-stringed instrument of Russian origin, with a characteristic triangular body. The balalaika is played by strumming and plucking with the fingers of the right hand. An important part of balalaika technique is the use of the left thumb to fret notes on the bottom string, where it is often used to form chords.

There are many theories about the origins of balalaika and how it developed into it’s triangular shape. In any case, the first written record was in 1688. The balalaika was supposed to be invented by peasant serfs to relieve their hard living under cruel landlords. Gradually the instrument spread among peasants and skomorokhi (wandering minstrels and jesters) who traveled all around the vast expanses of Russia. Skomorokhi performed at fairs, using their ballads to poke fun at church and state. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich issued an order to burn all balalaikas, domras, horns and guslis, or punish those who would not yield. Although the repressions ended with the Tzar’s death, balalaikas did not achieve their former popularity until the mid 19th century, with Vassily Andreyev, a violinist, composer and arranger.

One day as Vassily Andreyev, a young nobleman, was walking in his estate he heard his house-serf playing the balalaika. He was astonished at the unusual sounds of the instrument as he considered himself a connoisseur of Russian folk instruments. He began to learn how to play it and realized how much potential the instrument held. He set to work perfecting and standardizing the balalaika and even went to St. Petersburg to ask the violin master Ivanov for advice.

At first Ivanov refused to make a balalaika, but after listening to Andreyev’s masterful performance, he could not resist. It was long, hard work but eventually they created an improved balalaika. Andreyev’s vision was to bring the balalaika back to the folk and popularize it. On his initiative all the soldiers serving the army were given balalaikas which they took with them after retiring from the army. In this way balalaika again spread all around Russia and became a popular instrument.

With the help of master instrument makers, Vassily Andreyev created a family of balalaikas, like in a string quartet. There are six sizes - piccolo, descant, prima, secondary, alto, bass, and contrabass. These instruments formed the basis of the Great Russian Orchestra, which later toured in many countries of the world to glorify the balalaika and Russian culture.


The Russian folk music instrument treschyotka is a kind of rattle which produces a variety of percussion sounds. It is formed from many wooden slats threaded together on a string.

Treschyotkas were often used in wedding ceremonies and were decorated with ribbons, flowers and sometimes little bells. Their use in weddings suggests that perhaps the instrument also served a mystical function of protecting the newlyweds from evil spirits. In some villages people still keep the tradition of playing and making treshyotka

Treschyotka should be made of completely dry wood, preferably oak – this is what provides musical qualities of the instrument.

In order to produce diverse sounds and rhythms, hold the string, stretch it like an accordion, then then squeeze the slats together. Try with different forces and vary the angle of the slats.


From ancient times, Eastern Slavic people used percussion instruments for war, hunting, in rituals, for singing and dancing.

In the 19th to early 20th centuries, choirs and folk instrument ensembles used spoons in elaborate stunts. Spoon players performed solo, accompanied singing and dancing, or were part of various ensembles.

Musical spoons are made of harder wood than regular table spoons, often have longer handles and the ladle part has a polished surface. Sometimes jingles are attached to the handle. A set of spoons can have 2, 3 or 4 spoons of a different sizes in order to create different pitches.

There are many techniques and tricks for playing spoons. To play them put two between the fingers of your left hand, and hold the third one in your right hand. Hit the first two spoons with the third one. Slide each strike from one spoon cup to another, then clap the two left hand spoons together.


Buben, or tambourine, is a hand-held percussion instrument with a narrow round frame and a membrane (rawhide or manmade) stretched over one side. Little bells, or pairs of jingles may be attached in the slots of the frame. Buben were widely used by skomorokhi (wandering minstrel-clowns) and bear tamers.

Virtuoso buben players did all sorts of tricks: they could toss it up in the air and catch it, bang it on their knee, head, chin or nose. Of course they beat it with their hands, elbows, fingers, shaking and rattling it, all while singing and dancing.


вторник, 22 декабря 2009 г.

Georgian opposition protests against demolition of war memorial in Kutaisi

TBILISI, December 21 (Itar-Tass) -- The leaders and activists of several opposition Georgian parties held a peaceful protest in Kutaisi on Monday against the demolition of a war memorial in this city on December 19 that resulted in the death of two people.

About 2,000 people and the leaders of several parties attended the event, including Zurab Nogaideli (former prime minister and the head of the movement For a Just Georgia), Salome Zourabichvili (former foreign minister and the leader of the Georgia’s Way party), Temur Shashiashviil (former Imereti governor, presidential ex-candidate and leader of the Tetrebi party), Gubaz Sanikidze (leader of the opposition National Forum), and others.

They criticised the authorities for their policy and said “the fight against monuments is unacceptable and criminal”.

The speakers said they would insist on the dynamited war memorial be restored in the same place and an Orthodox church be built nearby in memory of those who died during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War and the woman and her eight-year-old daughter killed during the demolition last Saturday.

Nogaideli said earlier that the government’s policy with regard to monuments was “cynical”.

“The decision to dismantle the war memorial in Kutaisi was made by the authorities without taking into account the opinion of the public and without any need,” he said.

“There is enough room around the war memorial for the construction of new buildings for the Georgian parliament and there was no need to dismantle the memorial,” Nogaideli said.

He blamed authorities for the death of two people who were killed during the blasting work at the construction site.

Georgia’s Main Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the death of two people during the demolition of the war memorial.

Chief prosecutor Murtas Zodelava told journalists, “Two persons died during the dismantling of a part of the memorial that was carried out by a private company under a contract with the Kutaisi municipal authorities.”

“According to preliminary information, the tragedy occurred because occupational safety rules were not fully compiled with during the operation,” he said.

“All persons responsible for incident will be brought to justice,” the prosecutor said.

Chunks of concrete killed a woman and her eight-year-old daughter who were standing several dozen metres from the war memorial. The site is fenced off, but obviously too close to the place of the work.

Another two local residents received injuries and were hospitalised, local mass media and law enforcement reported.

The investigation of the incident is underway.

President Mikhail Saakashvili has cut short his visit to Copenhagen, where he attended the U.N. Climate Change Summit, and flew back home.

In the evening, Saakashvili held “an urgent meeting with law enforcement leaders, members of the government and the heads of regional administrations and received a comprehensive report on the tragedy”, presidential spokeswoman Manana Mandzhgaladze said.

“The president of Georgia hopes that the investigation started by the Main Prosecutor's Office will determine the details of the tragedy and those responsible,” she said a press briefing.

“The president has been shocked by the tragedy and expressed condolences to the families of those killed. According to Saakashvili's decision, the state will provide financial aid and moral support to the families of those killed and injured,” the spokeswoman said.

понедельник, 21 декабря 2009 г.

Birch-bark Manuscripts

Birch-bark manuscripts represent one of the most enigmatic phenomena of Russian history. Proved to be amazingly long-lasting, they open up unlimited possibilities for learning about the past in historical areas where quests for new sources were recognized hopeless.

The farther into the depth of centuries, the less written evidences. Birch-bark manuscripts found in the 20th century allow looking into remote centuries of our past.

Birch-bark manuscripts used to be a common element of medieval Novgorod household. Dwellers of Novgorod constantly wrote and read letters, tore them up and threw them away, just like we get rid of unwanted or used papers today.

Museums and archives harbor pretty many documents written on birch bark. There are latest manuscripts of the 17-19th cc, entire books among them. Thus, in 1715 in Siberia tribute to the Moscow tsar was recorded in a birch-bark book that has come down to us. Ethnographer S.V.Maksimov who saw a birch-bark book at the settlement of Old-Believers on Mezen’ River in the mid 19th century was very enthusiastic about that writing material, which was already out of common use in Russia.

Birch bark was cheap as compared to parchment and, later, to paper. There are lots of evidences of the fact that paper and especially parchment were very expensive in antiquity. Along with writing, the natural and accessible material was widely used in birch-bark handicraft for decoration and household.

Special processing was needed to prepare birch bark for writing: it was boiled in water, and delaminated, with cruder layers removed. A sheet of birch bark prepared for writing was most often trimmed from all sides and had accurate right angles. Finally, inscriptions were usually put on the inner side if birch bark, i.e. on that surface, which always turns to be on the outside, when a birch bark sheet is rolled into a scroll.

The first Novgorod birch bark manuscript was found on July 26, 1951 during archeological diggings in Dmitrovskaya Street, called Kholopia Street (i.e. the street of serfs) in the Middle Ages. The manuscript was discovered right in the pavement, in a chink between two blocks of decking. First time seen by archeologists, it appeared as a dense and dirty scroll of birch bark with clear letters showing through the dirt. It was one of the biggest birch bark manuscripts ever found in Novgorod. It has 13 lines and is 38 cm long. If the lines were put into a single row it would make five meters! Almost all the lines were marred, though. In spite of that, the content of the document could be easily figured out. It was a list of settlements with detailed description of their compulsory services to someone named Roma.

Majority of birch-bark manuscripts are private letters of business nature (concerning debt collection, trade, or household instructions). That category borders upon debt lists, which could serve as instructions “to take that much from so-and-so”) and collective petitions from peasants to their feudal lord (14-15 cc). Besides, there are birch-bark drafts of official acts, such as wills, receipts, deeds of purchase, minutes of the court, and so on.

Comparatively rare but especially interesting are the following types of birch-bark monuments: church texts (prayers, beadrolls, icon orders, and sermons), works of literature and folklore (charms, school jokes, riddles, household admonitions), and learning notes (alphabets, syllables, exercises, children’s drawings and scribbles). Learning notes and drawings by a 6 or 7 year-old boy named Onfim from Novgorod (mid 13th c)that were found in 1956 gained wide fame. These notes present a valuable evidence of elementary education in Old Rus’. When having rest from studies, the boy turns to drawing. The unskillful and yet expressive pictures show horses, warriors in helmets and cloaks, a horseman striking an enemy, etc. Altogether there were discovered 12 manuscripts (№№ 199—210 & 331) by Onfim, and several birch-bark drawings, not enumerated as manuscripts, because they have no text. Most of his manuscripts and drawings were found on 13-14 July 1956.

Birch-bark manuscripts are, as a rule, very concise, pragmatic and bearing only the most important data; the things that are known to both the author and the addressee are not mentioned, naturally. The difficulties of interpretation that modern researchers constantly face due to absence of context are the pay-off for reading “others’ letters”.

Majority of birch-bark manuscripts were written in Old Russian, and just a few of them in the Church Slavonic language. There are also several manuscripts written in non-Slavonic languages: 292 Baltic-Finnish, 488 Latin, 552 Greek, and 753 German ones.

Most of the birch-bark documents from the territory of the Novgorod feudal republic (Novgorod, Staraya Russa and Torzhok) were written in the Old Novgorod dialect, which differed from the Old Russian language, known from traditional monuments, on various levels: phonetics, morphology, and partly even vocabulary.

Letters were pressed or scratched on birch bark with the point of a special metal or bone writing instrument, kind of a stick. Only two of the discovered manuscripts (№ 13 и 496) were written in ink.

Recently great sensations have been brewing in mass-media concerning finds of certain birch-bark manuscripts containing foul or obscene words found in some of the manuscripts.


пятница, 18 декабря 2009 г.

Saint Nicholas in Russia

19-th century russian icon

When Vladimir the Great brought Christianity to Russia in AD 988, stories of Saint Nicholas came along, too. Nicholas is greatly revered in Russia as the protector of the weak from the strong, the oppressed from the oppressor, and the poor from the rich— he is the Russian champion of the disadvantaged.

Saint Nicholas is the Orthodox tradition's Wonder or Miracle Worker. As such he is Russia's most beloved saint; his icon often appearing on triptychs with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Numerous Russian cathedrals, monasteries, and churches have been dedicated to St. Nicholas. In villagees, St. Nicholas churches revered him as merciful intercessor for working people. Merchants and others revere St. Nicholas the Miracle-worker as the patron of all who travel on land or sea, and have dedicated marketplace churches to him. Ship captains carry St. Nicholas icons on board ship. His icons have been prized gifts for weddings and birthdays. The beloved saint's name is also very popular for Russian boys.

Archbishop giving icon to ship captain
Archbishop gives St. Nicholas icon to ship captain at start of a round-the-world voyage, beginning in Vladivostok
Photo: Linda Garrison About.com Cruises

Proverbs like these reveal Nicholas' great popularity in Russia:

"If anything happens to God, we've always got St. Nicholas."
"There is no icon like Nicholas."

As patron of farming and cattle and master of water, St. Nikola the Wonder-Worker is in many sayings. For example, "The winter Nikola will bring the horse to the stable. The spring Nikola will feed the horse." St. Nikola's winter day, December 6th or 19th, was believed to be the beginning of winter matchmaking.

In the name of St. Nicholas, more than 6,000 pilgrims make a three-day walk following an icon of St. Nicholas, from Kirov to the holy village of Velikoretsky. This June pilgrimage has taken place for the past six centuries, though during the Soviet era the numbers fell to a trickle. Since the Soviet Union's collapse, the Festival of St. Nicholas is again very popular. About 3,000 pilgrims completed the 50-mile walk within the designated three days. Others take longer to finish. A service of thanksgiving for the works of St. Nicholas the Miracle-maker is held at the end of the pilgrimage.

Holy Hierarch Nicholas of Aaraisk
3.2 meter bronze Saint Nicholas by sculptor Sergey Isakov on Tanfilyev
Photo: source unknown

The Foundation of St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker is installing monuments to him at various places along Russia's frontiers, because Saint Nicholas is patron of all travellers and, also, border guards. Bronze sculptures have already been placed in Anadyr, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Omsk, Batajsk, Elista, and Maikop.

The latest one was installed in July 2007, on the Kurils' Tanfilyev island. The consecration service was led by a priest from Moscow, with officers and soldiers of the Coast Guard Federal Security Service, and representatives of the St. Nicholas Foundation. In 2005 an Orthodox chapel was built for border guards stationed on the otherwise uninhabited island.


четверг, 17 декабря 2009 г.

Kuzma Minin and Count Dmitry Pozharsky

Image from www.museum.ru

They came from two different worlds – Dmitry Pozharsky belonged to the aristocracy and Kuzma Minin reportedly was the son of a salt producer.

But because of their achievements in Russia’s struggle for independence from the Poles, these two figures managed to go down in history – together.

The beginning of the seventeenth century was a time of great uncertainty in Russia. Following the death of Tsar Boris Godunov in 1605, Polish troops constantly invaded Russian lands and supported the False Royalty’s strive towards the throne. As a result, by 1610 Polish troops occupied several Russian cities, including Moscow, and most of the territory was under the rule of Polish King Sigizmund the Second.

The first uprising occurred in February 1611. A more than twelve-hundred-men army made its way from the city of Nizhny Novgorod to free Moscow from the invaders. This is when Dmitry Pozharsky first demonstrated his skills in combat. Coming from a respected family, Pozharsky was close to the throne during the rule of Tsar Boris Godunov, which made him quite an influential figure among Russia’s elite. With help from the Muscovites, who blocked the city’s streets and attacked Polish soldiers, the militia became a real threat to the occupiers. The Poles decided to burn the city to the ground but even such extreme measures couldn’t stop the people’s fight for independence. Unfortunately, Dmitry Pozharsky was seriously injured in combat and had to flee the city to recover, leaving his main goal - the freeing Moscow - unachieved.

Image from www.wikimedia.org

In June 1611 several Russian cities were preparing a new revolt against the Poles. Nizhny Novgorod once again became one of the centers of the resistance movement – its residents were constantly meeting to decide how and when to rise against the occupiers. Kuzma Minin, the head of one of Nizhny Novgorod’s districts at the time, was gaining more and more influence with his ideas on how to get rid of the occupiers. Minin suggested every resident should devote one third - or in some cases one fifth - of their belongings to form a militia. Part of his plan was the idea that those who didn’t comply with these rules would be enslaved and their property would be fully taken away.

These harsh measures were supported by the majority of residents and soon a new movement for independence was formed, including the recovered Count Dmitry Pozharsky and his troops.

By early April 1612 an impressive army headed by Minin and Pozharsky was on its way to Moscow. As the movement reached the city of Yaroslavl, the Poles tried to assassinate Pozharsky, but the Count survived and the army continued to move towards Moscow. On 20 August they finally reached the occupied city. For the next four days Minin and Pozharsky and their troops took part in a bitter battle to free Moscow from the Poles. The situation was worse than during the first revolt since this time Polish troops were backed by Lithuanians who were called in for help by Poland’s King Sigizmund the Third. Nevertheless, by the end of 24 August the occupiers were fully crushed and the remaining Polish troops were fleeing the city.

Moscow was liberated, turning Kuzma Minin and Count Dmitry Pozharsky into national heroes.

After many disputes in 1613 led by Pozharsky, Mikhail Romanov was chosen to become the next Tsar, as he was distantly related to one of the previous Tsars – Ivan IV Terrible. On the day after the enthronement, Kuzma Minin was awarded a noble title.

Many historians say he was trusted and respected by the rulers and was in charge of major projects in Russia until his death in 1616.

Image from www.rah.ru

Count Dmitry Pozharsky remained close to the throne for the rest of his life as well, which ended in 1642. A well respected military and political figure, even when Pozharsky turned 60 (quite an advanced age in those days), the Tsar wouldn’t let the Count retire, allegedly explaining that he needed to have someone to whom he could entrust the most difficult tasks and be sure of their timely fulfillment.

Image from www.openspace.ru

Even though Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky died at a different time and were buried in different places, a joint monument to them at the Red Square in Moscow reminds Muscovites and visitors of the city of the great deed these two men did for Russia’s sovereignty.


пятница, 4 декабря 2009 г.

To the memory of great actor - Vyacheslav Tikhonov


The episode from "War and Peace"

Vyacheslav Tikhonov as Prince Andrey Bolkonsky (Austerlits).

This gigantic motion picture epic, based on the novel of the same name by the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, has won worldwide critical acclaim. For the shooting of the films battle scenes, such as the Battle of Borodino or the 1812 Moscow fire, a regular army was mustered into service, as well as a specially created cavalry regiment. Over 120, 000 soldiers participated as extras in the crowd scenes. More than 35, 000 costumes were made for the production. The details of 19th-century Russias everyday life, the period costumes, society and its traditions, the psychological characteristics and the heroism of the people, the glory of Russian arms all this attracts the viewer not less than the love story of the delightful Natasha Rostova and the Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. ATTENTION! You are offered a complete original version of the picture. The scenes previously cut out by censors are presented with the original Russian sound and with pertinent subtitles.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Battle of Borodino scene included 120,000 soldiers, making it one of the largest battle scenes ever filmed. Many museums in the USSR contributed artifacts for the production design, making it one of the most elaborate films ever created.
In the USSR, the film was released in 4 parts, with a total running time of 484 minutes (8 hours); a longer running time of 511 minutes is a miscalculation based on longer length of 70 mm prints.
Part 1 - 'Andrei Bolkonsky' and
Part 2 - 'Natasha Rostova', combined running time 255 minutes, released 1965
Part 3 - '1812', running time 104 minutes, released 1966
Part 4 - 'Pierre Bezukhov', running time 125 minutes, released 1966.

Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk.

XL Report: Meeting with nature: Pleshcheevo lake

Theories Abound As to Cause Of Crash

By Galina Stolyarova

Staff Writer

Investigators say a terrorist attack was the likeliest cause of the Nevsky Express train crash on Friday night that claimed 26 lives and left more than 90 people injured.

The scenario was first publicly voiced on Saturday by Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways, before being confirmed by Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in reports on the investigation given directly to President Dmitry Medvedev.

The investigation has already distributed a photo-fit of two suspects, one of them a short, red-haired man of about 40 years of age with thin lips and a broad nose, and another tall, dark-haired man of about 30 to 35.

A number of nationalist blogs and sites reported that the radical youth group Combat-18 had claimed responsibility for the explosion, but analysts and critics both in nationalist circles and human rights groups have treated the claims with suspicion.

Galina Kozhevnikova, an expert with the Moscow-based Sova-center, which specializes in researching hate crime and nationalist movements, said Combat-18 is the sort of group that is only active on the Internet. “They have a high presence in cyber-space, but they haven’t gone as far as plotting any explosions yet.”

Extreme nationalist activist Alexander Belov, one of the founders of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, branded Combat-18’s alleged involvement as a red herring created by the security services.

The police have so far failed to offer any comments as to whether they have interrogated any members of Combat-18 or the bloggers who reported their alleged involvement.

Analysts and commentators are also actively discussing possible parallels between Friday’s apparent explosion and a Nevsky Express crash that took place on August 13, 2007, when the train was passing by the village of Malaya Vishera in the Novgorod region. Twelve carriages were derailed on that occasion. There were no fatalities, but several dozen people were injured.

The 2007 Nevsky Express case is currently being heard at the Novgorod City Court. A few days before the explosion last week, one of the defendants, Maksharip Khidriyev, made a confession, admitting that he carried explosive materials to the scene. As the police continue to search for Pavel Kosolapov, the alleged organizer of the 2007 crash, it has been speculated that he could have orchestrated Friday’s Nevsky Express explosion. Kosolapov, 29, is already wanted by the police for allegedly organizing terrorist attacks.

According to the police, upon completing army service, Kosolapov went to Chechnya, where he joined guerrillas, adopted Islam and became an explosives specialist. Since 2003, he is believed to have taken part in several bombings of bus stops in Krasnodar and metro stations in Moscow.

An insider close to the investigation told Interfax news agency on Monday that the nature of the crash suggested it was “a terrorist attack carefully prepared by a group of fanatics, rather than by a single criminal.”

“The type of the explosive material as well as the type of the explosive device both show that there was a group of criminals behind the attack,” the source said.

As rescue work continued on Saturday, another bomb went off near to the crash scene but the explosion was weak, it was reported.

In the meantime, some industry specialists have not yet been entirely convinced of the terrorism version. Yevgeny Kulikov, head of the Russian Independent Labor Union of Rail Workers was skeptical about the terrorist attack scenario in interviews broadcast on television on Monday and suggested that officials had jumped to conclusions far too quickly.

An experienced former train driver himself, Kulikov said a fault on the line or a train malfunction seemed far more realistic to him.

“The railroad officials are talking about terrorism in order to escape responsibility,” Kulikov said. “But if the train had run over a bomb, the front carriages would have been damaged. Instead, what happened was that the last carriages came off the rails. The loud sound heard by some witnesses could have just as easily been the sound of a broken rail caused by emergency braking.”

Kulikov accused Russian Railways of focusing exclusively on profit and failing to devote enough attention to repair works and maintenance issues.

The management of Russian Railways vehemently denied Kulikov’s allegations. “A technical malfunction is out of the question; this talk would only distract us from the real cause of the disaster, namely, an act of terrorism,” said Mikhail Akulov, vice president of Russian Railways, speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday.

Akulov said Russian Railways had adopted a series of additional security precautions and purchased new equipment, including a number of high sensitivity video surveillance cameras after the 2007 crash.

Source:The St.Petersburg Times