Healthcare in Russia

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Healthcare in Russia

Going to live abroad for a long period of time can be pretty worrying as one needs to get used to the new country, get adjusted to local customs and traditions, meet local people to get advice on how to get around the city, take care of all necessary documentation and many other little things which we do not even think about back at home. For example, in Russia healthcare system is quite complicated and often what is written on paper doesn’t coincide with reality. The biggest paradox is that Russia has very strong medical schools and good doctors but, on the other hand, it cannot yet be compared to the level of the US or European medicine because of its poor organizational structure, insufficient government funds and low salaries among doctors (many of them prefer to leave motherland and work abroad).

However, in recent years Russia has been trying hard to improve the situation. Many private clinics have been opened which provide high-level services and implement the latest technologies and equipment into everyday routine. Of the most successful businesses of this kind is the Mat I Ditya (Mother and Child)- a group of companies managed by a highly respected doctor, member of the Academy of Science Mark Kurtser. MDMG (Mat I Ditya Medical Group) is the only private healthcare company in Russia that has conducted an IPO and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. MDMG is the leading and fastest-growing provider of private women's and children's healthcare in Russia. It has over 32 medical centers across Russia which includes 4 hospitals and 28 out-patient clinics in Moscow, Ryazan, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg, Samara and Samara Region, Perm, Ufa, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Novokuznetsk, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk.

I was invited to attend their press conference which was held on the 8th of June, 2017, and I would love to share my experience with you because I believe that it may be helpful for many expats (and not only) living in Russia. The event was organized to announce the opening of a new, first in Russia, Miscarriage Treatment Centre at Perinatal Medical Centre (PMC) in Moscow. Dr. Kurtser gave a brief introduction on this center and passed the word to his colleagues who provided with more details and answered all questions that guests and journalists asked. The new project is focused on pregnancy planning and screening for patients at high-risk of miscarriage, foetal genetic abnormalities, and preeclampsia. It will also offer prognosis and treatment for complications during pregnancy, delivery, and care for new-borns from 23 weeks of gestational age.

After the press conference, the doctors kindly gave a tour showing around the new center. We were taken to the prenatal care and intensive care for new-borns units. All of them are equipped with the most advanced technology which allows to bring the women’s and children healthcare to a totally new level which corresponds to the leading countries’ hospitals. Moreover, the medical staff and the administration speak English which is valuable for all foreigners in Moscow and Russia.

The last part of our mini-excursion was on the 8th floor where we were shown the “homelike” child delivery rooms which look like a normal apartment room, with a big bed, different things you can distract yourself with, and all medical equipment is “hidden”. It is made for the patients who get very stressed about the idea being in a hospital. Also, there is everything for alternative ways of child delivery, like waterbirth, vertical birth etc.

To sum up, I’d like to say that I’m happy to see such centers being opened as it sets an example of how the healthcare institutions should be. I would also like thank the doctors for the interesting explanations and for the patience in answering to all questions. These people are passionate about what they are doing and only this way you can obtain amazing results in helping thousands of women live their dream to become mothers.

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Easter in Russia

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Easter in Russia

Easter in Russian is called Пасха (Paskha). On Easter night, Orthodox Christians attend evening services and participate in the procession of the Cross. Here are some other traditions...

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Happy Cosmonautics Day!

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Happy Cosmonautics Day!

On 12th April 1961, 27-year-old Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space. He circled the Earth for 1 hour and 48 minutes aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft. Today, Russia celebrates Cosmonautics Day!

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Five Amazing Russian Businesswomen for International Women's Day

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Five Amazing Russian Businesswomen for International Women's Day

Who runs the world? Yep. That's right. 

From banking to broadcast, food to fashion, these women have it covered.

 

Natalia Sindeeva

Natalia Sindeeva is the founder and general director of the media holding Дождь which includes the independent TV channel Дождь, known for its critical take on the Kremlin. She has won the ‘Russia’s media manager’ award for her work on radio (2004) and in television (2011).

 

 

 

 

 

Tatyana Bakalchuk

Tatyana Bakalchuk is the founder and CEO of one of Russia’s most successful startups and the country’s largest online clothes store, Wildberries. From small beginnings, the company now employs more than 7,500 people and its founder is worth an impressive $500 million. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ekaterina Trofimova

Ekaterina Trofimova graduated from St Petersburg University with a degree in Economics and Finance. From 2011 she held the post of First Vice-President of Gazprombank, before being appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Analytical Credit Rating Agency in November 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Olga Belyavtseva

In 1990 Olga Belyavtseva worked as a packer in the cannery of the Ministry of Fruit and Vegetable Production of the USSR. After its privatisation, she became a leading economist within the company and in 2000, she established the firm Assol to distribute the plant's products in the south of Russia. Four years later, Assol accounted for 30% of the plant's sales and Belyavtsev became a shareholder in the combined company. She is now one of the richest women in Russia!

 

 

Natalya Kasperskaya

Natalya Kasperskaya is an IT entrepreneur and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab. She is the 9th richest woman in Russia with an estimated fortune of $240 million.

 

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Four Russia related newsletters you really need to subscribe to!

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Four Russia related newsletters you really need to subscribe to!

Language, Literature, Business or Politics....whatever your interest in Russia, these daily newsletters have got it covered.

1. Literature

 Daily Pushkin

 

Want to learn the works of Alexander Pushkin? Subscribe to receive one poem by email every day of the week. Practise your reading skills and learn the works of Russia’s beloved poet, all at the same time.

http://nezarastet.ru/en

 

2. Business

EM A.M

Keep your finger on the pulse in the world of Russian business with this daily digest. All you need to know, without all the noise, every weekday morning. A must for anyone doing business in Russia (or hoping to at least!)

http://eepurl.com/bF1uqr

And if that isn’t enough, you can follow them on Twitter too, for non stop updates! 

https://twitter.com/MoscowMorning

 

3. Politics

The Kremlin

Like to keep tabs on what Putin is getting up to? Subscribe for daily updates straight from the Kremlin. Круто. 

http://en.kremlin.ru/subscribe 

 

4. Language

Transparent Word of the day

No matter what your language level, there is always something new to learn. Sign up to Transparent Language’s Word of the Day to improve your vocabulary and practise pronunciation! 

http://www.transparent.com/word-of-the-day/today/russian.html

 

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Russian Chat Shows for Advanced Learners

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Russian Chat Shows for Advanced Learners

By this point, many of us are aware that Russian isn't the easiest language to learn. The cases. The endings. The phonetics. Sometimes it can feel like one step forward three steps back!

However, when it comes to finding online resources, the availability of free and legal Russian language material is incredible. After all, how many British TV shows post every episode of every series on Youtube free??

So for advanced learners out there, looking to improve their listening and colloquial language, here are some excellent Russian chat shows. Follow the links to youtube to find many many more episodes. Enjoy!

 

Пусть Говорят

Think bizarre mash up of The Graham Norton Show and Jeremy Kyle, assisted by a panel of famous experts. 

Вечерний Ургант

An evening talk show in the style of The Late Show. Lots of celebrities and silliness.

Давай Поженимся

An amazingly Russian chat show about love and marriage. Basically the bloke discusses his love life, three women parade their talents (making blini, singing etc) and he picks one. Incredible.

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The IT Crowd guide to: Russian Visa Applications

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The IT Crowd guide to: Russian Visa Applications

Inspired by Avital Chizhik and Katrina Eastgate, here is our ever so helpful IT Crowd guide to Russian visa applications.

(Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, in case you are reading Russian Embassy!)

 

 

1. Your wise friend, who has already been to Russia, warns you about the visa process, but you just don't listen.

 

2. You totally lose your patience while trying to remember all the countries you have visited in the last ten years, including those ones you barely remember from that post exam interrailing trip in 2010.

 

3. Documents in hand, you arrive at the visa office but begin to wonder if it will ever be your turn.

 

 

4. After a few trips you gain some confidence and begin to believe you are mates with the security guard.

 

 

5. You might even have a chuckle at the expense of that poor businessman next to you, who forgot his bank statements from the last three months with a balance of £100 a day for the duration of the visit. Amateur hour.

 

 

6. But your sass disintergrates as you step up to the desk. 

 

 

7. And you realise how much the whole thing is going to cost you (including speedy service because you left it to the last minute again)....

 

 

8. ...but you don't worry too much because you already know who to call... 

 

 

9. Totally worth it for Russia though!

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7 Best Russian TV Shows for Language Learners

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7 Best Russian TV Shows for Language Learners

We all know watching films can be great language practice, but sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself for a long session. On the other hand, series’ tend to have much shorter episodes and you can really get in to them! Here are some of our favourite Russian TV shows we think you’ll love. 

Физрук

Having lost his job as the security director to a Russian businessmen, Foma becomes a PE teacher but his unconventional methods don't go unnoticed. This is a good series for advanced learners wishing to improve their Russian slang!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCul_jiE1NsPQ8JUFgT1iHqA

 

Кухня

With more episodes than you’ve had hot dinners, this TV series based in the fictional ‘Claude Monet’ restaurant in Moscow is sure to improve your food related vocab. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/KuhnyaCTC

 

Лондонград

This STS Sherlock style comedy detective series was the first Russian TV programme to be filmed almost entirely on location in London. Main character Misha Kulikov runs a fixing agency which helps solve problems for rich Russians in London. Good for a bit of cultural stereotype fun!

 

Мамочки

A good one for girls, this STS series follows the three friends through their family and relationship struggles. Not high brow by any stretch of the imagination.  

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWw6msvCpTDGBKpcPGMDmjA 

 

Как я стал русскиим 

Another fun one for cultural stereotypes, Как я стал русскиим follows an american journalist as he tries to survive in Russia.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqnsnuCIqJmLW6H77GY0nxg

 

1941

Finally, a series not made by STS. The three series’ (1941, 1942 and 1943) focus on a group of partisans during the second world war. Be ready to learn lots of interesting (if not necessarily overly useful) vocab including ‘traitor’, ‘swamps’, ‘rifle’ and ‘underground fighters’. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_pWJkDbqk4&list=PLFwn5mqJn1ssTUMJ1WW6jIR8HqyvwXfT9 

 

Сладкая жизнь

A series about relationships. Ochen po russkii. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrUcjm_9Yak 


What are your favourite Russian TV Shows?  Share your thoughts below!

 

 

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Sergey Lazarev: a journey into Russian pop

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Sergey Lazarev: a journey into Russian pop

Words and Images: Elizabeth Rushton

It’s been a busy year for Sergey Lazarev. As if taking his live show “The Best” around Russia and other Eastern European countries for more than 100 performances, his appearance as Russia’s entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm brought him to international fame and attention. Although his tour isn’t over just yet, anyone familiar with Sergey’s social media accounts (all very fun places to be) won’t be in any doubt as to when we could expect its climax – a sold-out performance at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall on 24th November. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane to when “The Best” rolled into Petrozavodsk back at the end of September.

Perhaps understandably, my anticipation and expectations for my first experience of a Russian pop concert were high. I’ve had the privilege to have had great exposure to the greats of Russian classical music, but not quite so much to any of today’s legends in the making. And this isn’t just any flavour-of-the-month pop sensation, rather, no less than Eurovision 2016’s “people’s champion”, as the many Lazarev-fan club flags being waved around the room proudly proclaim.

The first thing to say about this show is that it was one of the most full-on live displays I have ever witnessed. The opening itself was dramatic enough, all before the man himself had even appeared on stage. Once the house lights had dimmed, the band started up a grooving, pulsating track, as a screen behind them showed a flashy journey through the cosmos, and the night’s backing dancers march robotically onto the stage. Only then does the man everyone came to see appear, striking a pose at the top of a sparkly pyramid of stairs at the back of the stage. At this point a special shout out deserves to go to the drummer, who consistently waved his arms around and spun his drumsticks around in his hands while playing, almost so much as to make me suspect that he wasn’t actually playing.

 

Squad goals - and some suspicious drumming

What followed was a true spectacle. When you buy a ticket to see Sergey Lazarev, that is very much what you get: a non-stop 2 hour extravaganza complete with costume changes, crazy graphics, and snappy choreography. Everything is full on, least of all his neon-white teeth, which are clearly visible even from two thirds of the way back in a 620-seat theatre.  He sings. He dances. He sings and dances at the same time. Bearing in mind the sheer length of time that this was done for without a break makes even the most lively of British acts seem tame by comparison. But then, Sergey is one of the most seasoned performers on the Russian pop circuit – he’s been singing professionally since childhood, and has pursued his successful solo career following the end of the group SMASH!, perhaps conjuring comparisons to Robbie Williams…

 

Ultimate pop star achievement - matching wings on your name AND your microphone

Another contrast between Sergey and the normal gig experience in the UK is that it is clear to all present that he is bloody loving it. I think even if I’d been sitting at the back of the room, and without the eye-catching nature of his teeth, I would still have been able to see his broad grin whenever the crowd cheered during a musical break in a song. He entertains not just in the capacity of his performance, taking time to speak to the crowd between songs and thank them for their support. A sweet moment came when he shared a fond memory of having participated in a singing competition in Petrozavodsk many years ago in 1995. It was clear throughout the evening how much it meant to him to see in perspective how far he has come in the 21 years since he last performed in the same room – a touching display of emotion which is rare to see expressed by your average British performer.

 

If you've never seen the video for "Это Всё Она" you're really missing a trick

The true climax of the evening, certainly for myself and my friends in our little British enclave, was the grand finale to close – Lazarev’s Eurovision anthem “You Are The Only One”. Despite his palpable disappointment at having lost to Ukraine’s Jamala on competition night back in March, he seems to relish announcing the moment all the Eurovision nuts (myself included) had been waiting for, proclaiming with great gravitas into the darknes of the hall «это Евровидение» - “it’s Eurovision”.  Although Sergey evidently decided to take a night off from his unforgettable trick of climbing a wall of flashy graphics for this performance, we were still treated to some of the other iconic images from his stellar performance in Stockholm – the epic raven’s wing, and of course his legendary pointing gesture, the symbol of the song that has brought him worldwide fame.

 

I will never forget this moment                                                    Would you just look at that smile?

After all this, he still manages the exceptional feat of collecting a mountain of flowers and other gifts which members of the audience have brought for him. Whilst my friends and I missed the boat on this occasion, the Russian practice of audience members bringing flowers to performances to present to their favourite star is something I am strongly tempted to replicate at the next music event I attend in the UK.

 

This wasn't even all of them

For British readers, we can only hope that Sergey may borrow a trick from Robbie and bring his show to the UK to return the favour and give us his assessment of what it means to party like a Brit (just a thought). However, to any readers in Russia and its Eastern European neighbours, I would say this: even for those not so keen on Eurovision, with an impressive back catalogue of infectious pop hits that would cause even the most rigid of feet to tap along, and some of the wildest production value on Earth, it is near impossible for you to not be entertained. In short: Sergey Lazarev live is a juggernaut which you will miss at your peril.

Браво, Серёжа!

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Top 10 Russian Novels and Novellas We Think You Need To Read

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Top 10 Russian Novels and Novellas We Think You Need To Read

To celebrate #NationalBookLoversDay, we asked our fantastic followers to vote for their favourite Russian Novels and Novellas.  Thank you everyone for your contributions, your votes have been counted and independently verified and we are pleased to announce that our Top 10 Russian Novels and Novellas are as follows...

 

10. What Is To Be Done.


What Is to Be Done is an 1863 novel by Russian philosopher Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Written as a response to Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, it advocates small socialist cooperatives based on the Russian peasant commune as the basis of the future for the Russian nation. A bit of a rogue choice here at number ten, What Is To Be Done has not been free of criticism as a novel, but it's influence on the development of Russian thought makes it crucial to an understanding of the Revolution. 

 

 

9. The Overcoat

 “We all emerged from Gogol’s Overcoat”, a quote often wrongly attributed to Dostoevsky, neatly sums up the 19th century view of this novella as the starting point for a distinctive style of Russian literature, dominated by social pity. The Overcoat is Gogol's first appearance in our countdown, but not his last. 

 

8. Oblomov

Oblomov is the second novel by Ivan Goncharov and what could be considered as the fullest incarnation of the Russian Superfluous Man. We hope @Wouldbe_Wannabe makes a speedy recovery, if he is indeed suffering from this terrible affliction! 

 

7. Nose


We all have insecurities, for Gogol, it was his Nose. Find out more about the author with our interactive timeline here
 


6. The Hunting Sketches

Turgenev's collection of short stories is an interesting addition to our list at Number 6. The series documents rural Russian life, with a particular focus on the serf/master relationship that was going to be changed forever after the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861. 

 

5.  A Hero of our Time

Although the Romantic genre developed later in Russia than elsewhere, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time is a fine example of the literary style, making beautiful use of the exotic setting and Byronic Hero. Well worth a read...

 

4. Crime and Punishment

A list of Russian books wouldn't be complete without a bit of Dostoevsky. His most famous novel, Crime and Punishment, follows the internal anguish of it's protagonist Raskolnikov, as he makes plans to kill a money lender for the cash. The authors descriptions of the stifling and squalid St Petersburg are unforgettable.
 
3. The Master and Margarita

Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is a often considered to be the greatest piece of Soviet satire. Although the controversial theme means it is not taught in schools in Russia, it is much loved by many at home and abroad.   

 

2. Evgeny Onegin

Ah, finally some Pushkin. His novel in verse was first published in serial between 1825-1832. The hero is often considered to be the original incarnation of the superfluous man. Find out more with Jimmy Chen's brilliant article here

 

1. War and Peace

At Number 1, you probably guessed it, War and Peace. What can we say that hasn't been said before? Instead we will let our followers speak for us!  

"It has everything - love, philosophy, history, tragedy" - @BHSKSC 

"It's full of life" - @arussianaffair

"It's epic"- @viclou92

Well said guys. 

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Selector Pro, Play on!

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Selector Pro, Play on!

For the second year running, the Selector Pro forum offered Muscovites a fascinating insight into the latest trends in the music industry, guided by leading experts from the UK.

The programme was held at the Strelka Bar and Institute, one of the edgiest and beardiest (is that a word?) places in Moscow and was well attended by local crowds. Since the UK has one of the largest music industries in the world, the programme was a fantastic way to promote positive relations in business and cultural realms.

This year, the forum opened on Thursday 21st of July with a panel discussion ‘How to Talk about Music’ followed by an evening screening of “The Man from Mo’Wax”, a documentary film tracing the extraordinary life and career of underground DJ icon, music producer and global trip hop mogul, James Lavelle.

 

 

Friday’s action packed schedule included a lecture by John Robb on the history of the uniquely British musical genre of Punk, as well as panel discussions and a music management workshop hosted by Daniel Tsu of the London BIMM music institute. 

 

The highlight of the day was certainly the launch of Mix The City, and interactive music video platform that allows users across the world to create interpretations of cultural capitals. I have to say, it is super fun and a little addictive, be sure to check it out here: https://www.mixthecity.com

 

Saturday’s programme included more panel discussions, as well as a lecture by Simon Reynolds based around his book Retromania, which, among many other questions, explored the idea that ‘everything is in remix’.

The forum closed with the outstanding Selector Live Party, headlined by Actress and the London Contemporary Orchestra performing Momentum, a piece inspired by laser geodynamics earth satellites (move over unrequited love!).

The Selector Pro forum was a fantastically positive experience and just one of a whole series of great cultural events organised here in Moscow by the British Council, creating a crucial cultural dialogue at a time of immense political and economic pressure. The Year of Language and Literature and #ShakespeareLives project have been marked across the city, with exhibitions at the airport and the unveiling of a very popular interactive Shakespeare train on the Moscow Metro

Showing great British expertise and talent to an eager Russian audience couldn’t have come at a better time. As the man himself would say, although I’m uncertain if he ever applied it to UK Russian relations, ‘if music be the food of love, play on...'. We look forward to Selector Pro 2017. 

All images from British Council by Дмитрий Смирнов 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishcouncilrus/sets/72157671526760805

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New Opportunity: Contributors Wanted!

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New Opportunity: Contributors Wanted!

Do you have a keen interest in Russian Language or Culture? Maybe you are dreaming of a job in journalism and need some experience? Perhaps you are going on a Year Abroad to the Motherland or maybe you are Russian and want to tell the world about your country while practising your English writing skills?

 

If your answer to any of the above is ‘YES', then The Russian Student needs you!

Our website is growing everyday and we would love you to join our young team of contributors and help us to fulfil our goals! 

We are looking for budding...

  • Writers
  • Historians
  • Film Critics
  • Photographers
  • and Social Media Gurus

In return we offer...

  • The opportunity to get your work published on a  popular and growing website, which looks great on the CV!
  • No deadlines or word limits.
  • Plenty of freedom to write about whatever it is about Russia that fascinates you!

 

No application form, CV or interview required! Just drop us an email with your area of interest: therussianstudentuk@gmail.com

 

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Move over Vogue, here are "Five Sexy Moscow Destinations"

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Move over Vogue, here are "Five Sexy Moscow Destinations"

This week, Vogue shared 'Five Romantic Russian Destinations' but here at The Russian Student, we like to break down some of those stereotypes, because as gorgeous as those places are, (and believe us they are gorgeous) it's not all Vodka and Vronsky!

So tongue firmly in cheek, The Russian Student presents: 


"Five Sexy Moscow Destinations"

 

1. Nothing says cool quite like Strelka, with its own institute, and an outrageously edgy summer programme filled with gigs, lectures and workshops, even the stunning view of the Church of Christ the Saviour view doesn’t take the sex out of Strelka, as the bearded Moscow hipsters who frequent this spot will surely tell you.

http://www.strelkainstitute.com/ru/bar/?v=bar/

http://www.strelkainstitute.com/ru/bar/?v=bar/

2. Grab your nerd chic glasses and swot up on your arty vocab, because next we are headed to the Garage Museum, good name eh? The Garage Museum for Contemporary Art opened last year in its new home at Gorky Park. The building, designed by rebellious architect Rem Koolhaas, is a refurbished polycarbonate-clad Soviet-era restaurant. I don't know about you, but I cant think of anything sexier than polycarbonate. 
 

http://garagemca.org/en

http://garagemca.org/en

3. Now cross the road and head into Gorky Park proper, where you can join the rest of Moscow rollerblading, cycling and skateboarding to their hearts contents in their skimpiest of summer shorts. How about getting down and dirty in the sand with a game of beach volleyball, or perhaps a cheeky frolic in the fountain? Keep it classy you say? Fair enough. Grab a partner and show off your moves with a sunset salsa...
 

http://park-gorkogo.com/

http://park-gorkogo.com/

4. Jagger. The decor is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. The photographer somehow manages to make you look beautiful too. And, once in a while, they might even treat you to a half decent track. You may not be about to meet your very own Count Vronsky, but a couple of their super smooth cocktails later and it probably won’t matter. 

http://jagger-hall.ru/

http://jagger-hall.ru/

5. So you found your Vronsky? Great work. In which case you will be needing this place. Sixty. The Highest Restaurant in Europe. A perfect venue for perfect evening… Good Luck x

https://ginza.ru/msk/restaurant/Sixty

https://ginza.ru/msk/restaurant/Sixty

What Moscow hangouts would you add to our list?

By The Russian Student

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New opportunity: Internship with Eclectic Translations

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New opportunity: Internship with Eclectic Translations

Apply for a month-long expenses-paid internship with Eclectic Translations in St Petersburg: 

The intern will learn his or her way around MemoQ, get a sneak preview of new Russian films, learn how to subtitle, work on files of national importance, and help small companies get heard far beyond Russia’s borders. If at the end of this internship we seem to be a good fit, we’ll talk about bringing the intern on board as a full-time employee.

If this sounds like the sort of thing that floats your boat, then get in touch, giving us three reasons why you think you’d be up to the task.

Deadline for applications: for the internship/in-house position, please ensure that you write to us no later than 30 June 2016. Recruitment for freelancers is ongoing, so even if you miss the stipulated deadline, do feel free to contact us.

Please note that only successful initial applications will receive replies. We look forward to hearing from you!

Contact: tal@eclectictranslations.co.uk                          www.eclectictranslations.co.uk  

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5 Great Russian Women for International Women's Day!

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5 Great Russian Women for International Women's Day!

On Tuesday 8th March, Russia will join many other countries around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day. On this day Russians give gifts to their mothers, wives, sisters and other important women in their lives, incorporating celebrations normally associated with Mothers’ Day or Valentines Day into one occasion. It has been a public holiday since 1965, and in the Soviet Union the efforts of working women and those who had defended the country during the Great Patriotic War were especially commemorated. To celebrate, we’re sharing the stories and achievements of some great Russian women who you may not have heard of.

Olga Bergholz (О́льга Бергго́льц) 

Olga Bergholz was a poet who lived and worked in the Soviet Union. She is especially well known for the radio broadcasts she made to the people of Leningrad (today St Petersburg) from 1941 to 1944 whilst it was under heavy siege from Hitler’s invading forces. Originally a journalist, she would later channel the tragedy of losing two daughters to illness and her husband during Stalin’s purges into her poems. The other themes of love, faith and heroism served as great inspiration to the people of Leningrad following her regular poetry readings on the radio, where she worked.  She wore a tin brooch in the shape of a swallow on her lapel, symbolising that she and indeed the whole city were waiting for correspondence from the rest of the Motherland, and the swallow still serves today as a symbol of the resilience of the citizens of Leningrad during the brutal siege in which as many as 800,000 people are thought to have died. 

Alexandra Kollontai (Алекса́ндра Коллонта́й)

Alexandra Kollontai was a politician and the most senior women in the early administration of the Soviet Union. Fiercely intelligent from a young age, she grew interested in Marxist ideas and became a member of the Russian intelligentsia, which led her to become well acquainted with one Vladimir Ilycih Ulyanov, otherwise known as Lenin. After the revolution she became the People’s Commissar for Social Welfare, thus becoming one of the most prominent women in the Soviet government. One of her most well known achievements in this role was the creation of the Zhenotdel, or Женотдел, which aimed to help realise the Soviet Union’s goal of achieving gender equality. She was also one of the world’s first female ambassadors, serving as the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Norway, Mexico, and Sweden between 1923 and 1945. She was an advocate of free love and lesser taboo surrounding sexuality, and believed traditional family institutions to be highly repressive of men and women, views which were extremely radical at the time.

 

Irina Ratushinskaya (Ири́на Ратуши́нская)

Irina Ratushinskaya is a Russian dissident and writer, best known for her poetry. It was this for which she was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp in 1983, followed by five years of exile, due to her poems being viewed as sources of ‘anti-Soviet agitation’. Whilst in prison, she was forbidden from writing but evaded this by scratching her poems into a block of soap until they were memorised, when she would wash them away. She wrote 250 poems in this manner. She was released early in 1986 on the eve of a conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, and was stripped of her Soviet citizenship. After living in the United States, where she was poet in residence at Northwestern University, and in London, she fought to return to Russia and educate her children there in 1998, and has since written a memoir detailing her time in a prison camp, as well as more poetry. 

Vera Mukhina (Ве́ра Му́хина)

Vera Mukhina was a Soviet artist and sculptor. One of her most famous pieces, the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman monument, in which a pair of figures hold their hammer and sickle heroically forward, is regarded as an iconic and pioneering piece of Soviet Realist sculpture, and earned her the title of People’s Artist of the USSR. Her skill and artistry gave her power and influence within the upper echelons of the Communist party, and is credited with using this to halt the destruction of the Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia, her family’s native land, which had been due to be replaced by an enormous statue of Stalin after the Soviet Union’s annexation of Latvia in 1940. 

Chulpan Khamatova (Чулпа́н Хама́това)

Chulpan Khamatova is a Russian actress and campaigner. After quitting studying maths and economics to pursue an acting career, she became a well known figure within Russian theatre, and drew international attention when she featured in the German film Good Bye Lenin! in 2003. Since 2006 she has been more well known in Russia for her charity work after she founded the charity ‘Gift of Life’ (Подари жизнь) which helps children suffering from cancer and blood diseases and by the summer of 2009 had raised 500 million roubles in just 3 years. She took to the international stage again when she was one of 8 flag-bearers who carried the Olympic flag into the stadium in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

By Elizabeth Rushton

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Maslenitsa – or Russian Pancake Week!

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Maslenitsa – or Russian Pancake Week!

Monday 7th March marks the first day of Maslenitsa (Масленица), a week-long feast with a rich and fascinating history which is celebrated by Russian communities all over the world, and of course in the Motherland herself. But what are the customs associated with Maslenitsa, and more importantly, what should you eat with your pancakes?

Maslenitsa is thought to be one of Russia’s oldest feasts, dating from the 2nd century AD, before the arrival of Orthodox Christianity 600 years later, and as such it was originally a pagan festival to celebrate the arrival of spring. Perhaps given the infamous harshness of the Russian winter it is not surprising that Maslenitsa’s popularity has prevailed despite restrictions on celebrating it in public during the Soviet era.  

Today, Maslenitsa can be seen as the Russian Orthodox equivalent to the feast day of Shrove Tuesday which is celebrated by most other Christian denominations. The Christianisation of medieval Rus’ meant that Maslenitsa became an opportunity to indulge in more luxurious goods such as eggs and butter before the start of Lent, traditionally a period of fasting or abstinence which is known as Velikii post (великий пост) in Russia. 

As such, Maslenitsa has also been a period of great merriment and fun within the community, with families coming together not just to eat together, but also to play in the snow and sing and dance in colourful traditional costumes. This is still a part of Maslenitsa celebrations today and Russians often paint bright rosy cheeks on their faces! Other strange traditions include fist fighting and dancing bears – although most of the time this is just a keen volunteer in a furry costume. In Pskov, a city in north west Russia, they even have their own mascot for Maslenitsa, Tsar Blin, a jolly pancake-like figure who presides over all the celebrations in the city. 

Of course, Maslenitsa wouldn’t be quite the same without the pancakes, or blinis (блины) in Russian. Traditional blinis, today a quintessentially Russian dish, are descendants of ancient flatbreads and appear very similar to French crêpes. However they can be made with some ingredients we may not be quite used to putting in our pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, such as honey, buckwheat flour, sour cream and even potato! Their significance as part of Maslenitsa celebrations dates back to its pagan origins, when they were eaten due to their round shape which symbolised the sun and its pagan deity, Volos. If you want to eat your Maslenitsa blinis like a true Russian, try them with sour cream, mushrooms, jam, or simply with butter.

Maslenitsa’s history is also reflected in its name. Its significance as a period for eating luxury goods before abstaining from them during Lent can be seen in its derivation from the Russian words for butter, or maslo (масло), and week, or nedelya (неделя), and as such it is sometimes known as Butter Week. Formally, Maslenitsa has also been called Myasopusta, stemming from the words мясо (myaso, or meat) and пусто (pusto, or empty), as traditionally Russians were not supposed to eat meat during the week of the feast. 

In typical fashion, Russians go all out for Maslenitsa, so rather than restricting themselves to enjoying pancakes on just one day, they enjoy them throughout the week’s festivities, and so each day of Maslenitsa has a different focus of celebration and reason to eat pancakes with different members of the community. The schedule for pancake eating goes as follows: on Monday the first blinis are given to the poor, as traditionally only the rich could afford to start making their pancakes this early in the week. On Tuesday people take to the streets to sledge and play in the snow, so it is traditional to offer pancakes to your neighbours at your front gate as everyone goes out to join the fun. On Wednesday married people visit their mothers-in-law to eat pancakes with her, and on Thursday children go from house to house asking for pancakes, much like the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating. On Friday men invite their mother-in-law to their house for a special dinner, and on Saturday women invite any sisters-in-law they have over for the same purpose – a traditional belief in Russia supposed that this was an opportunity to reduce animosity between the women, and if she was single for the sister-in-law to meet a husband from another of her host’s guests! 

The final day of Maslenitsa sees a ceremonial burning of an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, who represents winter, before the congregation all bow to each other and say, “God will forgive you.”. These acts symbolise the cleansing of sins before Lent, and also bring together the pagan and religious history of the feast in its final moments. 

Russian communities in the UK will be holding their own celebrations to mark Maslenitsa, but there are plenty of events happening in London throughout the week which will be open to the public. We hope you can make it along to some of them to learn more about Maslenitsa, or at least use this week as an excuse to indulge in plenty of pancakes!

By Elizabeth Rushton

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‘Not Ukraine… Mykraine’

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‘Not Ukraine… Mykraine’

The Power of Memes in the Information War between Russia and Ukraine

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 The complex situation in Ukraine has had a near continuous presence in the world media since 2013. However, it is not the meticulously compiled fact files or timeline of events which leave a lasting impression, rather the hastily fashioned image of Putin smiling to the words ‘Not Ukraine…Mykraine’.

This is representative of the changing media landscape, where the rapidity of communication allows information to spread at an unprecedented rate. There is an increase of attention-grabbing headlines and ‘click-bait’ videos, as we value sound bites over in-depth analysis. Yet the accessibility of these media forms, specifically memes, allows a democratisation of opinion, as anyone with access to a meme generator can attempt to articulate their viewpoint with a concise juxtaposition of picture and text. Consequently, the internet is now awash with a myriad of images and references to the Ukraine crisis, physical illustrations of the competing voices and opinions in what has been dubbed the ‘information war’ between Russia and Ukraine.

Memes have literally become weapons used either to praise, condemn or simply to ridicule. The strikingly simple act of sharing a meme can become an expression not just of opinion, but also of identity, as your allegiances or criticisms are overtly displayed to the world. Memes embody this performative aspect of identity through visually exposing a thought process or shade of opinion. For example, this picture appears sympathetic towards Russia, as it symbolically presents Russia as Ukraine’s defiant, yet motherly protector against the predatory America. Yet the beauty of memes lies in the rapidity and ease of their replication, since a single image can be manipulated to voice a multitude of contradictory opinions; depending on the intended depiction of Russia, the image of a bear can be seen either as protective or condemningly aggressive.

Memes, then, can attempt to present a generalised identity of entire nations in a single, two-dimensional snapshot. This image represents a cowering Ukraine, subservient to America in the face of Russian aggression. A narrative is constructed in order to depict a subjective vision of reality, so negotiating accepted systems of thought through the power of satire.

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Conversely, they also have the capacity to deconstruct an established norm and delegitimize an opposing point of view through actively foregrounding the fictitious processes that lie at the heart of information manipulation. The Yarosh business card memes are brilliant examples of this. They stemmed from a Kremlin-backed report, which insinuated the involvement of a right-wing nationalistic political party member, Dmytro Yarosh, in a shooting in Ukraine. The allegation revolved around the apparent recovery of his miraculously unscathed business card from a burnt-out car, and so prompted a wealth of creative spin-offs which mocked the absurd accusation.

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This willingness to critically, or at least satirically, engage with political thought suggests that warfare has moved beyond the field of combat and into the digital sphere, where the fighting takes places within the framework of a creative struggle for moral legitimacy. There have been few studies on the measured effectiveness of memes in swaying public opinion, yet at the very least they allow a single voice to be multiplied exponentially across cyberspace, becoming distorted or expanded in its replication. Therefore, memes have become emblems of a world where it really does seem that an image is worth a thousand words. 

By Joanne Riggall

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When is the Motherland not the Motherland? When it is the Fatherland...

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When is the Motherland not the Motherland? When it is the Fatherland...

The national personification of Russia dates back to Medieval Rus. The Russian lands were often identified as the mother of the Russian people and so were often personified as a female character. The idea continued to proliferate right up till the Civil War, when the White Army used the idea in their struggle against the Bolshevik ‘oppressors of Mother Russia’.

After the civil war, the image of Mother Russia didn’t fit with Bolshevik ideology, as it was considered that ‘the proletariat have no country’, and the idea became a symbol of the backwardness of tsarist Russia. However, a new personification developed, Rodina Mat, who was the mother of all peoples of the Soviet Union.



During the Second World War, the image became immensely important in propaganda calling Russians to the defence of the Motherland. But the war itself is know at the Great Patriotic War, and today is Defender of the Fatherland Day. So....

The Russian Student needs your help! When is the Motherland, not the Motherland? In what circumstances is it common to think of Russia as female, and when is it considered male. Please comment below!

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Defender of the Fatherland Day!

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Defender of the Fatherland Day!

The Russian Student congratulates you on Defender of the Fatherland Day! 

Every year on the 23rd February, Russia (as well as Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) celebrate День защитника Отечества. Officially it celebrates people who served in the military, however these days, it is a more general celebration of all men.  

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