пятница, 29 апреля 2011 г.

9 days till the Victory Day

Anna Marly

A singer from Russia with words of hope for the French resistance

A few years ago, Anna Marly, the singer and songwriter associated with the best known song of the French resistance, decided to move to Alaska. She was "fed up with all the green lawns of civilisation" and wanted to find somewhere "close to wild nature". Anna, who has died aged 88, chose the small town of Lazy Mountain, where there is a Russian Orthodox church, St Tikhon, and there felt she was returning to her roots.

She was born Anna Betoulinsky in St Petersburg, in the month of the Bolshevik October uprising. Her father, an aristocrat, was arrested and executed in 1918 as "an enemy of the revolution". Her Greek mother took Anna and her five-year-old sister, and travelled by cart and on foot to the Finnish border. There she bribed the guards to let them cross, using jewels that had been sewn into her clothes. The family reached France, where they settled in Menton, among a group of White Russian refugees.

Even as a child Anna started to show promise as a composer, writing "many little songs". She was given lessons by Prokofiev and, at 16, spent a season as a dancer with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. By then an accomplished guitarist, she moved to Paris and began her career performing her own compositions. She found her first success at the Shéhérazade cabaret in the Rue de Liège, "wearing a Medieval dress". "I was a pioneer, no one sang with guitars then, there was no Elvis," she told an interviewer two years ago.

Joining a composers' group, she was encouraged to find a stage name, and picked Marly by looking in the telephone directory. In 1938 she married a Dutch diplomat; after the fall of France in June 1940, they escaped via Spain and Portugal, eventually reaching London in the spring of 1941. Her husband joined the Royal Netherlands government secret service, while Anna made contact with the Free French representatives in London. She worked as a volunteer clearing bomb damage - "We were picking up arms, legs, a traumatic experience" - and in the canteen of the French servicemen's centre in Carlton Gardens.

Years later she quipped that "soup and chansons" go together naturally, so she sang for the men too. Among the visitors was the resistance leader Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie (code-named Bernard). Along with the writers Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon, he heard her sing, in Russian, her Song of the Partisans. Kessel and Druon adapted the words into French, and soon Anna was invited to sing it on the BBC French Service programme Honneur et Patrie, which still got through to clandestine listeners in France. She would whistle the opening bars, which made it easier for radio-hams to pick up the song.

With its opening words evoking the night-time raids - "Ami, entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur nos plaines?" (Friend, do you hear the black flight of ravens over our plains?) - it became the single most famous song associated with Free French fighters and the resistance. It was recorded first by Germaine Sablon, and later by many others, including Yves Montand and Johnny Hallyday. Bernard wrote the words for another song, La Complainte d'un Partisan, which was destined eventually for worldwide fame: Personne ne m'a demandé/ D'ou je viens et ou je vais (No one has asked me where I have come from and where I am going).

Anna Marly with Metropolitan Laurus

Joining the forces entertainment service Ensa, Anna sang in English, French, Russian and Czech. She returned to Paris in July 1945, and sang her song in front of General de Gaulle. In later years there were disagreements with Druon and Kessel, who were sometimes wrongly credited with sole authorship of the song, which was re-christened Le Chant de la Libération. But Anna's contribution was finally acknowledged, and she was made a chevalier de La Légion d'Honneur and a dame of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.

Whenever she reappeared in France, people would come with tragic and heroic tales, recalling how important the song had been in their efforts. After the war, she divorced her husband and married another Russian refugee, George Smiernow. In the 1950s they lived mostly in south America, while Anna continued to tour and write songs, including one for Edith Piaf, Une Chanson à Trois Temps.

After moving to the United States, Anna became an American citizen in 1965. Four years later Leonard Cohen recorded The Partisan, which he had first heard while still a child, singing it from The People's Songbook. It became a notable success, and many other singers have taken it up, among them Joan Baez, Esther Ofarim and Isabelle Aubret.

The renewed interest in Anna's work led to the publication of a book of Chants de la Résistance et de la Libération. Her autobiography, Anna Marly: Troubadour de la Résistance, appeared in 1980 and later she brought out a book of stories, Les Fables d'Anna Marly pour Rire et Réflechir de 9 à 99 Ans. In 2000 she was invited to join the service at La Madeleine to commemorate the 60th anniversary of De Gaulle's broadcast that launched the Free French army.

One of the things that pleased her most later in life was the knowledge that her songs were becoming known in Russia. With her own original words, The Song of the Partisans had come back to its homeland. In her house, a light was always burning beside an icon.

· Anna Marly, singer and songwriter, born October 30 1917; died February 15 2006


понедельник, 11 апреля 2011 г.

Vorontsov's palace in Alupka,Crimea

The Alupka Palace

A Russian Count commissioned an English architect to design a palace that combined Scottish and English gothic with Moorish architecture - it's hard to think of a more unlikely mix for a successful building. But it did succeed, and with surprising panache and remarkable elegance.

Edward Blore

The architect was Edward Blore, one of the most well-known British architects of the 19th century - responsible for parts of Buckingham and St James' Palaces in London, and for a large number of other buildings in both England and Scotland. He was a personal friend of Sir Walter Scott and had a keen interest in the architecture of Scottish castles.

He was commissioned by Count Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov. Count Vorontsov's father had been Russian ambassador to London for over 20 years, and the young Vorontsov had been raised and educated in England, and was familiar with English architectural styles.

After a long and distinguished military career, fighting in the Caucasus and then against Napoleon, Vorontsov, by then a Lieutenant -General in the Russian army, become Governor-general of Novorussia, which included Crimea. He followed the example of the Duc de Richelieu, Odessa's first administrator, making Odessa his working base, but establishing a private villa on the Black Sea coast in Alupka.

Count Vorontsov

Vorontsov was an energetic and dynamic administrator, happy only when he had a number of projects on the go, or when he had some challenge to meet. Novorussia provided him with plenty of both. Odessa was a burgeoning new trade centre with a population which doubled between 1823 and 1849 , in spite of two outbreaks of bubonic plague and two cholera epidemics during this period. A 19th century commentator wrote "Odessa in the 1830's combined all that was cultured, rich and refined in Russian society and which for one reason or another did not sit well with life in the capital or abroad. The southern climate, the warmth and sunshine for most of the year, the wonderful , gleaming, rainbow-hued Black Sea...the Italian opera...the resonant Italian voices in the streets, the cheapness of the free port, and generally just the freedom and ease of life in this half-foreign, half-Russian town, together with the enlightened and accessible nature of its governor-general, Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, inspired the warmest feelings for Odessa." *

Vorontsov and Pushkin

Challenges also came of a personally painful kind. The dissident poet Alexander Pushkin, who worked for the Foreign Service, had been sent to Odessa to put him at a safe distance from St Petersburg after he was suspected - correctly - of anti-state activities. Soon after Vorontsov's appointment as governor-general, Pushkin began a love affair with his wife, Countess Vorontsova. Scandal travelled quickly in Odessa and, not surprisingly, the two men did not get on. Pushkin famously described Vorontsov as "half milord, half merchant" - not an entirely fair description of a man who had distinguished himself on the battlefield. Vorontsov responded to the situation by using his position to get Pushkin appointed to a travelling commission to study locust damage in the Dniester region. Pushkin went under protest but reportedly did no work of any value for the commission (he was writing "Eugene Onegin" at the time). By 1824 Vorontsov had reached the end of his tether and, through friends in St Petersburg, secured Pushkin's dismissal from the Foreign Service. This meant that Pushkin had to leave Odessa, ending his affair with Vorontsov's wife, although he wore the gold talisman ring she had given him until he died in a duel thirteen years later.

The Caucasus

In 1844 Vorontsov, by then 62 years old, was appointed governor-general of the Caucasus and commander-in-chief of the Russian forces there, in addition to his duties in Novorussia. He spent the next 10 years either in military action in the Caucasus or in developing economic projects in both regions. No longer a young man by any means, Vorontsov personally led his forces in a charge during the siege of Shamil al Dargo in the Caucasus, which he had been ordered by the Tsar to take by storm. It has been suggested that he chose to lead his men into battle precisely because he knew that the Tsar's plan to take Shamil in a single assault was doomed to failure. "When Vorontsov ultimately succeeded in extricating himself from an extremely difficult situation without dishonour either to his superiors or to his calling, the Emperor elevated him to the rank of Prince in recognition of his services during the campaign and of the imperial debt owed him".** Vorontsov died in 1856.

The Palace

Pushkin had accused Vorontsov of being boring and pedestrian. As if to prove him wrong, the palace which was built for Vorontsov between 1828 and 1846 in Alupka is a triumph of the architectural imagination. Vorontsov was, typically, fully involved in the project at every stage, and carefully discussed the details of the planned design with Edward Blore's site architect, William Hunt.

The south face of the palace looks out across the Black Sea towards Turkey, and combines Russian and Moorish elements into a uniquely elegant building standing out against the backdrop of the Ai-Petri mountain. The north side could easily be mistaken for a Scottish castle in the gothic tradition. Somehow, these disparate elements blend successfully into a convincing whole.

The palace's luxuriant interior is open to the public - highlights include the Tudor-style dining-hall complete with minstrels' gallery , and many fine paintings including pictures by Crimean seascape artist Aivasovsky. The parkland surrounding the palace is magnificent, with fine views of the mountains and the sea. The six famous white lions on the south side are by Italian sculptor Bonani, who also contributed marble sculptures to the Capitol building in Washington, USA.


пятница, 1 апреля 2011 г.

why do russians smile so seldom?

The meaning of a smile? Why do Russians smile so seldom?

«Улыбка» на Яндекс.Фотках

We often hear from foreigners that Russians rarely smile (especially people living in big cities). We don’t notice it but in comparison to other eastern and western countries it is right. Meaning what? Russians rude, impolite, ill mannered, non-hospitable and so on??

I think it is deeper in national traditions. Lets’ see how it is! I have found a wonderful work in the Internet written by one of the Voronezh University Professor I.A. Sternin. I think he has given a good scientific base to this phenomenon.

He points out 14 distinguishing features of a typical Russian smile:

1. Smile is Russian communication is not a sign of politeness.

In American, English, German and Finnish communicative behavior it is. Smiles are necessary when greeting or having a polite conversation. Russian writers have pointed out many times that a typical American smile seems non-natural and false to many Russians. They say, “Americans smile as if they are electric lights turned on”, “their smile is something chronic”, “an American face is mainly teeth”.

I don’t mean to hurt Americans :) I’m trying to defend Russians from those blaming them of non-smiling.

Western smiles greeting someone mean pure politeness. The more a person smiles the more friendliness he/she is showing to his/her partner.

Japanese girls at the entrance to a moving staircase in large supermarkets smile and bow to each customer - 2500 smiles and bows per day!

Russian people don’t smile out of politeness. Visa versa, it is considered to be bad to smile without any significant reasons. The Russian phrase “he smiled out of pure politeness” implies a negative attitude to the smiling person.

A constant polite smile is considered a “smile on duty” in Russia and shows people’s insincerity, closeness and unwillingness to show real feelings.

2. Russian people do not smile at strangers.

Russians smile only at their fellow guys. That’s is why shop assistants never smile at customers (they don’t know them personally!:). If a shops-assistant knows a customer she shall smile at him/her.

3. It is not typical to Russian to give a smile in return.

An American wrote in the “Izvestiya” paper, “I don’t know hwy but when looking at Russian custom officers checking our passports and smiling at them we never get a smile in return. When our eyes meet the eyes of some person walking along a street in Russia we never get a smile back.” It is true: if a Russian person sees a stranger smiling at him he/she is certain to seek the reason of fun. Maybe something in his/her clothes or hairdo makes the gun so cheerful?

4. It is not typical for Russian to smile at a person whose eyes you met with your eyes by chance. Americans smile in such a case but Russians turn off their eyes.

5. Russians don’t smile altogether looking at babies or pets. (I think it is a controversial utterance).

6. A Russian smile is a sign of personal attraction.

A Russian smile shows that a smiling person likes you. He/she is very friendly to you. That is why Russians smile only to fellow people because they cannot favor strangers.

7. Russians do not smile when working or doing something serious.

Customs officers do not smile because they are doing their serious business. The same thing is with sellers and waiters. It is a unique peculiarity of a Russian smile. Chase Manhattan Bank has a large note “If your operator didn’t smile you tell the doorman and he will give you a dollar!”

Children mustn’t smile when studying. Russian adults tell their kids, “Don’t smile, be serious at school, preparing home task and when grown ups are talking to you!” One of the most common remarks of a Russian teacher is, “Why are you smiling? Stop it and start writing”.

Serving staff has never smile din Russia. Since early times clerks, salesmen, waiters and servants have been polite and courteous but never smiling. Now we have to make a smile a professional requirement to all the service staff members because it is not gonna appear otherwise:).

8. Russian smile is sincere. It is the expression of either high spirits or a good attitude to a partner.

Russians do not smile without reason (for example, to make the mood of a partner better, to make him/her feel pleased or support him/her). One has to really like the person he/she is smiling at or be in very high spirits to have the right for a smile.

9. A smile of a Russian person should have a sufficient reason, which is evident to others. It gives a person the right to smile from others’ point of view. The Russian language has got the unique proverb missing in other languages, “Laughter without reasons is the sign of foolishness”. Western thinking people are unable to understand the logics of this proverb. A certain German teacher got the following explanation of the proverb, “If a person is laughing without reason he has problems with his/her head”. He couldn’t understand it and asked, “Why does the second utterance follow the first one??”

The reason of a smile should be evident and clear to others. If they don’t understand the reason or consider it insufficient for s smile they may break smiling and make a reproof, “What are you smiling at?”

10. The only worthy reason of a smile in Russian communication is the wealth of a smiling person.

Carnegie’s call for a smile arises the following question among the Russian people, “Why smiling? No money paid, only problems all over, and you say, “smile”…” Thus, for Russians a smile is not an inherent part of communication but a reflection of their conditions, mood and material wealth.

11. It is not typical for the Russian communicational culture to smile in order to cheer up or make others cheer up. A Russian person will hardly smile without evident wealth or very high spirits.

A certain Japanese documentary about the emergency landing showed the episode with a stewardess smiling at her passengers before the emergency landing. After the landing was over she fell down writhed in hysterics. So, she fulfilled her professional duty having calmed down the passengers.

Russian public opinion condemns a smile of self-encouraging, “Her husband has left her but she is smiling”, “she has got a great number of children but she is smiling” and so on. All these phrases condemn a smile of a woman who is trying not to lose courage in a hard situation.

12. In a pure Russian consciousness a smile need a proper time for appearing. It is considered an independent action, which is very often unnecessary and annoying. Another Russian proverb says, “Business takes time, fun takes an hour”.

13. A smile should fit the situation from the point of view of the people around.

The commonest situations of Russian communications do not further smiles. People do not smile in a tense situation. They say, “Not a proper time for smiling”. It is not considered good to smile near people having serious problems or troubles (if they others are aware of them of course): illness, personal problems and so on.

14. Russians do not really distinguish between a smile and laughter. They often mix up these two phenomena.

Very often people say to smiling people in Russia, “What’s funny? I don’t understand!” or “Have I said something to make you laugh?”.

The conclusion of the author is as follows: the Russians are cheerful and wit in general. It is natural for them not to hide their feelings and moods.

However, everyday life of a Russian person has always been a constant struggle and survival; lives of many Russian people were very hard and some serious concern has become a constant expression of their faces. A smile in such circumstances is an exception meaning wealth, high spirits. Only a few people can have it altogether (and rather seldom). It is evident to everyone and very often may arise questions like “hey, why smiling?…”, envy and even dislike.

So if you a smile at a Russian person and get no smile in return, don’t feel surprised or hurt. Consider it an exotic national tradition :))

Well, commerce, market relations and other values of a different world are gradually bringing the habit of smiling “out of pure politeness” and “making a good impression” to Russia. Right are the Chinese, «If you cannot smile you cannot trade well!» :-))