Merry Christmas and happy feast of Saint Stephen!
Russia—Beyond the Headlines had an interesting story a few weeks ago about a reindeer opportunist near Moscow: “Reindeer farm looks to expand beyond Santa season.” A former submarine sailor and his family, through a typically Russian twist of fate, ended up with a reindeer herd that has become his livelihood. The reindeer farmer Alexander Bondarchuk started a reindeer centered amusement experience named the Northern Fairy Tale, which blends agricultural, cultural, zoological, and fantasy tourism in a destination that I now want to visit. Who doesn’t want to ride in a reindeer-pulled sleigh? I found a YouTube video from a visitor:
It is worth pondering that such a delightful story would not have been possible before the fall of Communism. A free market allows Bondarchuk to channel his entrepreneurial creativity and energy to give himself and his family rewarding employment and thereby to enrich his community and to entertain his customers with a reindeer attraction. I am no neocon, but there is something to be said about giving men the space—the freedom—to actualize their talent. May the former bearers of Communism’s many horrors flourish in the new day.
Russia-InfoCentre also features a piece and video about the park: “Visiting a Reindeer Farm.”
A destination for the post-Yule blues, perhaps?
The Daily Mail published some lovely photographs of the Solovetsky Monastery earlier in the week: “The enchanted island of mist and snow: Life in the Russian monastery which belongs in a fairytale.” Glory be to God that the monastery is once again a place of prayer—though I am sure that it remained so even under the Soviets. Fr. Pavel Florensky was one of Solovki prison’s many inmates.
You may enjoy these photographs of the holy city (and of elsewhere in Palestine) from a century ago on LiveInternet: ”Фотографии Святой Земли, сделанные в конце XIX – начале XX века.”
In yesterday’s post, “Charlton’s Mormon Advantage,” I mentioned an old National Geographic article about Russia from A.D. 1914, “Young Russia: The Land of Unlimited Possibilities.” I am thrilled to see that National Geographic has put its archives online, and I admire the mode of exposition that retains the structure and feel of a magazine. I encourage you to read it. The experience is bittersweet for us who know what was to follow. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that such a different world existed a mere ninety-nine years ago. As I looked at the pictures of the people, I wondered what happened to them. Those children—did they grow up to be enthusiastic Party members? Did they die during the wars? Were they sent to Siberia? Did they starve in the famine? Did they survive the seige?
How lamentable is history! What Alcibiades did and what he suffered! We are but fleeting specks off the rails on a long journey, and the train passes so quickly.
This site’s Russian Week sadly nears its end, but today’s linked article is fun. Ellen Barry writes about Nikolai V. Zlobin’s middlebrow guide for Russians, America — What a Life!, in “A Hunger for Tales of Life in the American Cul-de-Sac.” I especially enjoyed this passage:
He devotes many pages to privacy, a word that does not exist in the Russian language, or in the airless human mass that forms when Russians wait in line. Americans, he reports, prefer to converse at a distance of at least four feet.
“I suppose that in a typical Russian line, your average American would lose consciousness,” he writes. “Any touch to an American is taken as a violation of his personal space, so in the U.S., as a rule, people do not take each other by the elbow and do not tap each other on the shoulder if they want attention, they do not embrace each other like brothers.”
I find the Russians similar to the French in many respects. They are often cold, suspicious of, and even hostile toward strangers, but once they know you, you may as well be a member of their family. You enter into their circle of trust—and protection.
When I lived in Paris, I would go daily to one of the neighborhood boulangeries or pâtisseries for food—restaurants were far trop cher for me except on special occasions. I did not complain—a fresh baguette with some butter, cheese, or hazelnut spread from the local grocery made a fine meal. I did buy sandwiches au Jardin de Luxembourg frequently after class, but they were good deals. Anyway, I noticed that the service at these establishments fell well short of cordial for a few weeks. Then, as the workers saw that I was not just passing through, they started to treat me ever more hospitably. The bakery ladies would even save certain loaves for me when they knew that I would not make it in until evening. I spent the first summer in a girls’ dormitory in Montparnasse, which was co-ed during the summer months. Then, when the school year proper started, I moved to the Latin Quarter. So, I had to go through the same thawing process with the local shops. Just as in Montparnasse, after a few weeks, I became one of theirs.
Aaron and I experienced something similar in Moscow. The market by our hotel was staffed by a colorful Russian family. The daughter vacillated between icy and angry at the beginning of our stay in the capital. After a few weeks, though, my brother and I had become welcome guests in the store. We did not know the woman’s real name, but we decided to call her Ivana Petrovna. When one travels in a foreign country, he compiles certain moments, stock images, and a cast of characters in a mental collage whereby he remembers that land. “Ivana Petrovna” forms a part of Russia’s impression on me. Many blessings to her, whoever she is.
RIA Novosti has photographs of GUM decorated for the holidays.
GUM—Главный универсальный магазин, “main department store”—is the huge, stately shopping mall on Moscow’s Red Square. You may read about the mall’s history on its site. Here is a video of the seasonal swag:
The Soviets transferred the popular celebration of Christmas to their secular New Year’s Day according to the Gregorian calendar that the Communists imposed on the country. Russian cultural celebrations continue to revolve around the new year, while Christmas is mainly observed only religiously. Some folks find this satisfactory, as it shields the nativity feast from commercialism. I find it a sad reminder of the fragmentation that persists due to the wicked theomachists and their foul deeds. May their endeavors come to naught!
Defensive driving is extremely important in a land where vodka flows freely. Here are numerous harrowing clips of Russian road disasters.
Yes, I remember the fear that I felt on Russian highways very clearly.
Evidently, everyone shown in those clips lived. God takes care of idiots, drunkards, children, and Russia.
I shall continue today with the Slavocentrism of yesterday’s post. As I wrote in ”Женщина” and “Russian Jumper,” Russian dames are a force to behold. When they are young, they look dangerously beautiful. When they are old, they look unbelievably tough. It is no wonder they survived the Tatars, serfdom, and the Communists. Here is a short video of a seventy-two year old who trains with the Kenig Turknikman Association in Kaliningrad:
Not bad for an old lady.
Russian Turknikman Associations feature many impressive videos online; search “turnikman” for examples. I wonder if these Russian Turnikmen are related to the German Turners. In any case, the popularity of communal athleticism in Russia provides another sign that Russia is becoming a healthier, stronger society. Khrushchev may have been right in a way. They just need to get rid of horrendous European rap!
Expedition 33 to the International Space Station ends in a few weeks, though NASA’s astronaut and Roscosmos’ cosmonauts will remain in space for months as they transition into Expedition 34. NASA’s Flickr page offers photographs of Expedition 33, including the Russian Orthodox blessing of the latest crew and of the Soyuz rocket right before last month’s launch.
If you look at the photo gallery, the priest blesses the American Kevin Ford, as well.
Russian society is slowly becoming what we should expect of an industrialized Christian nation. I imagine that Britain was that sort of society before the nihilistic degradation of the twentieth century wrecked its culture. Do Englishmen still recite the first epistle of Saint Peter, “Fear God; honor the king”? At least, Christendom is patching itself back together in the East.
Happy Columbus Day to my fellow Americans! Our effeminate, overly apologetic (for others, of course, not for oneself) age abhors the day, but it is a celebration of our civilization’s conquest of the New World and of the new nations born therefrom.
Another famous traveler, though fictitious and more appealing to the liberal Zeitgeist, is the Doctor. Instead of the Santa Maria, he uses the TARDIS to get around. Instead of conquest, he forever gets entangled in local business on behalf of the locals (or for some of the locals, much to the chagrin of others). Like Columbus, though, he has been occasionally charged with genocide, monomania, and crimes against humanity. In short, the Doctor, like Columbus, is an interesting person.
To celebrate the day, I suggest that you set course for Brooklyn, where there is a Doctor Who themed bar—The Way Station. Girl Gone Geek offers a thorough review of the joint along with many pictures (see the full set below the post): “A TARDIS Lands in Brooklyn - The Way Station Bar Interview.” I love the wall homage to the fourth Doctor.