Bears & Vodka

Blogging about Russia like there is no tomorrow


In Memory of Edward Khil
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Edward Khil, 77-year-old People’s artist of Russia, also known as Mr. Trololo, died on the 4th of June, 2012, from a stroke in one of St. Petersburg clinics after several months of hospitalization.

Famous Russian crooner Edward Khil was born in 1934 in Smolensk. He underwent all the difficulties of the life during WWII in his early childhood. In 1949, a young man with strong voice and broad smile came to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and a few years later entered a music academy.

First significant performance in the artistic life of Edward Khil took place in 1962, and since then he became a beloved singer of the Soviet audience. By the 80s he had received a number of prestigious awards. But soon his career almost came to an end. Unclaimed and starting to be forgotten, he went to Paris, where he spent the next several years.

Global stardom burst into Khil’s life again in 2010 with a wave of Trollface-derived memes, but an aged singer was not an active Internet user and learnt about his new success only through his grandson. The video of an old Soviet hit “I’m Glad ‘Cause I’m Finally Going Back Home” (1976) was uploaded to Youtube and immediately garnered over 2 million views.

Soon, it became an Internet sensation. The video inspired thousands of parodies, special communities were created, Western Internet shops started to sell loads of Mr.Trololo-branded merchandise.

The original lyrics of the song were telling a story about American cowboу—not a good thing to sing in the USSR in the conditions of the Cold War. So, Khil had to replace the entire lyrics with the vocalization.

Charismatic handsome man singing a catchy cheerful tro-lo-lo-lo impressed western bloggers and immediately got a name Mr Trololo. This is how one of the world major Internet memes of the XXI century was born.

In fact, Eduard Khil was not only Trololo-man. He was a symbol of the Soviet popular music scene. During his singing career, which spanned over 50 years, Khil delivered hundreds of hits. Here are some of them:

‘A Song About Friend’

‘The Last Suburban’

‘Captain’

‘A Coward Doesn’t Play Hockey’

‘Girl Don’t Cry’

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


Homo Sovietikus: Twelve Traits of The Soviet Man
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Posted to the internets with little to no chance of distinct authorship, this text has been circulating for at handful of months before Bears & Vodka’s own Stass Stallin translated it. For your enjoyment, ladies and gentlemen. For this bitter kind of enjoyment you get when you read something so true and so sad at the same time.

1. The Soviet man has a strong belief that his personal well-being is the government’s concern and a sacred responsibility. Providing a well-paid job, free education, free healthcare and accommodation—if that’s not what the government is supposed to do, then do we have any use for it at all?

2. The Soviet man doesn’t really like to work. Because he always thinks he is underpaid. The Soviet man’s favorite saying is “they pretend they’re paying us and we’ll pretend are working.”

3. Drinking vodka and smoking home-grown is a must for true Soviet man. Otherwise he will look VERY suspicious. General public will think he’s not a genuine Soviet man, nothing short of a bad joke. Or even a saboteur.

4. The Soviet man is, to say the least, not really trustworthy. He tends to steal everything. And he does not reckon he is dong something wrong.

5. The Soviet man does not believe in God, does not fast, has not heard anything about the Commandments. But he goes to church from 1991 on. Just in case: what if He does exist? However, he has no doubt that the earthy heaven is the USSR. The only icon in the Soviet man’s house is the Stalin’s portrait.

6. The Soviet man believes in fairness. “It is not fair: he is not better than me, or is he? Then, take away and share.”

7. Politics falls out the circle of the Soviet man’s interests. “It’s none of our business. Those guys know better. All decisions have  already been made. I do not make a change at all.” Still, the same soviet man rushes early in the morning to the electoral district to vote for the only candidate. And the soviet man takes it. Any alternatives are the elaborate illusion created by the Governmental Department.

8. Unions are very important for the Soviet man. If it were not for the unions, how would he get hotel vouchers? As for the rest, the unions should keep a low profile and mouths shut, and play along with the superiors. Those guys always know better.

9. The Soviet man’s pink dream is to get free stuff. That is why he always buys lottery tickets and other raffle stuff. He ventures out boldly to participate in any shady schemes promising unbelievable profits. Believing in Ponzi schemes and chain letters is also required to be a proper Soviet man.

10. The Soviet man is sure that the laws have nothing to do with real life. Keeping to the rules and restrictions is not always good. And sometimes, if the laws contradict with common sense, it is great even to break some of them, for the sake of great justice. Or for the sake of convenience: isn’t it faster to cross the street right in the middle without searching for the zebra marking? It is. Giving a bribe makes any line much shorter. And the traffic tickets cheaper.

11. You can easily distinguish a Soviet man in any line by his likelihood to squeeze in up aganst the person in front of him. It is to make sure that a jerk (other Soviet man) can not get in between. The soviet man has learned through experience that going to any Soviet store means being cheated and short-dealt, but he is too lazy to check the prices and too shy to use check-weighing machine.

12. If somebody in the line argues with the salesperson, the Soviet man always sides with the salesman, teller, administrator etc. The Sovet man confronts the “pusher”: ‘Don’t mess up the business, go away!’ he does not like the salesmen himself, though. He calls them hucksters and money-grubbers and he is pretty sure that the business is all about stealing.

The soviet man is unlikely to stand up for his dignity being oppressed at the box offices, agencies and bureaus. He prefers to swallow an insult and go home. Because he thinks that the things can always go worse. And he is right. Because if the Soviet cops show up… no, it is always safer to shut up.

It seems that the Soviets are a pathetic gloomy nation with no real life, no dignity, no freedom. And it might be true. Or not. You decide.

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru

Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru
Soviet people. Via vsyako-razno.ru


Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


The Border Patrol Day
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Russians love celebrating. We at B&V have covered some of the most important holidays (like the New Year and more days to celebrate), and yet the Border Patrol Day somehow got left behind. Even though it is not a national holiday, you will always know it’s there. In fact, on May 28 city dwellers are genuinely scared of going out.

People are scared for a reason. On this day many of the former Border Patrol soldiers and officers would go out in the streets, drink their asses off, swim in fountains and do other nasty stuff in celebration of their brotherhood. Their union is truly precious. Photos of this year’s celebration are provided by RIA Novosti (Kirill Kalinnikov, Konstantin Rodikov).

A day to remember. Via RIA Novosti
A day to remember. Via RIA Novosti
Border Patrol—always on the watch. Via RIA Novosti
Border Patrol—always on the watch. Via RIA Novosti
The faces of Russian Border Patrol. Via RIA Novosti
The faces of Russian Border Patrol. Via RIA Novosti

Russian Border Patrol serves their duty both on the land and under water. Via RIA Novosti
Russian Border Patrol serves their duty both on the land and under water. Via RIA Novosti
Even drunk, the retirees are holding the line. Via RIA Novosti
Even drunk, the retirees are holding the line. Via RIA Novosti
An even more fabulous border patrol officer. Via RIA Novosti
An even more fabulous border patrol officer. Via RIA Novosti

The fabulous border patrol is fabulous. Via RIA Novosti
The fabulous border patrol is fabulous. Via RIA Novosti
Even at celebration they don’t leave a man behind. via RIA Novosti
Even at celebration they don’t leave a man behind. via RIA Novosti
Celebration at the Gorky Park. Via RIA Novosti
Celebration at the Gorky Park. Via RIA Novosti

Border patrol at their best. via RIA Novosti
Border patrol at their best. via RIA Novosti

They say that there are 3 holidays in Russia that you will never miss and always notice: the New Year, the Border Patrol Day and the Paratrooper Day. The latter is coming in August.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


Medvedev, Now on Instagram
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…He made Instagram boring. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Last week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev created an Instagram account to share photos with everybody who was interested in his everyday life. He did this while on his way to the G8 summit.

Dmitry Medvedev has now been on Instagram for only a few days, but has accumulated an ever-growing following of over 15,000 people. Medvedev’s Instagram posts are exported to Medvedev’s Twitter and Facebook, so no one misses anything about the life of Russian Prime Minister. Among his first photos, @damedvedev has uploaded the ones from the G8 summit in 2012, that took place last week in Camp David. On the night of May 21, he added a couple of TV screen shots to fix the moment when Russians won the Hockey World Cup.

Russia’s ex-president and now-Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev is known to be an active Internet user and blogger from the time of his Presidency. Apart from Twitter and Instagram, he also has accounts on Livejournal, Facebook and Vkontakte.

What strikes you about Medvedev’s Instagram is that… it’s not hip. The service is said to be “fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos”. But the PM’s account is nowhere near that. Medvedev and his team seem to have sucked the life out of the hip app:

It’s a long road. Jet Lag. Will work in the evening.
Now I’m on Instagram. Flying over to Washington for the G8.
Now we’re there
Now we’re there

In an helicopter to Camp David
(no comment)
(no comment)

Negotiation with Barack Obama, outdoors
A break during G8. Watching Bayern — Chelsea
Back home

Victory!
A major stock-raising enterprise is created in Bryansk region
(commented in English, sic!) Real Bryansk cowboy

Victory! Good job!

Dmitry Medvedev has changed drastically since his demotion to PM: he looks sad, drawn and, probably, has lost his social media secretary to Putin. If so, maybe it is for the better. At least now we can be sure that he posts to his accounts on his own.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


Drink Like The Russians
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To preserve the remainders of their identity, Russians hold on to whatever stereotypes the world holds about them. And drinking is one.

Are Russians big drinkers? Not more than the rest of the world, and Japan might kick their drinking habits in the groin. Do they have their own drinking culture? They do, like any other country in the world. Are they proud of how much they drink? And who isn’t?

And yet, there is something about Russian drinking that makes your heart race. We asked our resident squad to go into the nearest supermarket, stock up whatever felt right and went photomedieval on Russian food and drink. The results made us salivate, even though vodka kills your brain cells.

The ultimate drinkoff
Stolichnaya Vodka with a pickle, some sausage and cheese
Stolichnaya Vodka, hardcore intellectual style, with sausage and a little more sausage.

A bottle of Stolichnaya for three, soft cheese “Druzhba” for snack
Rye bread, canned fish and a bottle of Stolichnaya
Rye bread, traditional bacon and same old Stolichnaya

Pure, raw and uncut: a vodka and a pickle
Spiced up wine, Kagor, from the South of Russia
Although cognac is considered a separate treat, it can accompany any meal. Not in this case, though.


Most of the products seen in the photoshoot can be traced back to the Soviet times, where everything seemed better-tasting and true. Today, as years go by, it’s getting increasingly hard to grab a hold of a true Soviet product—among all the imported goods Russians enjoy. From a genuine Irish Jameson to imported Guinness, from Spanish Jamón to original French cheeses, Swiss chocolate and Greek produce—Russian shops seem to have it all these days.

So how do you drink like the Russians?

Join the Russians and find out!

Like what you see?

Download a collection of Bears & Vodka Original posters—for your desktop, your wall or your iPhone lock screen. Looks great. Take it for a spin:

The ultimate drinkoff

Drink Like The Russians.zip (14 MB)

The link will open in a new window and take you to a Dropbox storage.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


Words of the Week — Attention Edition
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Last week was all about spotting the tiny details that turned the world around. See if you can spot some too.

The Abay Cow

May 12, Moscow. One of the participants of the peaceful protest movement Occupy Abay took out his cow for a walk.

The Abay Cow

Why? Maybe he wanted to show the cow what all these meetings are about, maybe he wanted to show the occupiers what the cow looks like. Maybe he decided to feed the cow with the the fresh Moscow grass. Or maybe he was on a quest to provoke the police. To everyone’s surprise, the police stood strong.

The police spokesman stated that walking a cow does not infringe any of the civil laws, as the cow is considered a domestic animal. So unless your pet violates sanitary regulations, it can roam free—albeit on a leash.

An unprecedented case of police civility.

Grandma on Demand

Federal channels face great challenges these days. The stubborn opposition has been camping at Chistye Prudy, calling this indefinite protest “people’s stroll”. All these days this perfect news hook has been receiving wide and energetic coverage in social media, while pro-Kremlin state channels remained silent. But finally they found a way to cover the issue without deviating from the editorial policy handed down by the authorities.

Dramatic story in Channel One evening news bulletin showed an elderly lady clearly infuriated by the fact that protesters were barbarously “trampling down grass and tulips” and—oh, gosh—peeing wherever they wanted to. We cannot but mention that Nina Toporova (name of the lady) was delivering this speech against a perfect flowerbed of white tulips.

Nina Toporova, the Grandma on Demand

As later discovered by bloggers, Mrs. Toporova was an active member of United Russia and was earlier spotted in a number of video footages praising the party in power and its key political figures. Moreover, it turned out she lives 2 km away from the site of opposition camp, so granny is highly unlikely to be disturbed by the noisy protesters.

The conspiracy was uncovered partly by Ksenia Sobchak, Russia’s glamour icon, TV host and a newly-hatched oppositionhead. Sobchak tweeted about the grandma-on-demand incident, and, allegedly, even phoned the old lady personally, requesting the latter to take a stroll while self-copulating.

Hashtag #бабкаповызову (Russian for #grannyondemand) quickly peaked in the Russian Twitter, causing public resentment and fury. Granny herself denies any political overtones in her speech, now complaining that hooligans gather near her house and show that TV footage with maximum volume level over and over again.

On Protesters’ Livers

Dmitriy Peskov is sure that the protesters deserve the most brutal of treatments

Dmitry Peskov is sure that the protesters deserve the most brutal of treatments

May 6. March of the Millions. Many arrested, some wounded, everybody pissed off. The same day Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, was interviewed on Dozhd’ channel and said that police should have been much more violent with the protesters. As if those words weren’t enough, the next day at the Duma session he shared more with Ilya Ponomarev, an opposition deputy. Had he been the member of the British parliament, he would have said something like “The protesters deserve to have their heads smashed and their blood smeared across the pavement, for what they did to that police officer.” But since he was in Russia, the original quote featured smearing the protesters’ liver across the pavement—a phrase as strong as the one with the smashed heads.

Russian bloggers were quick on spreading the word too. Such obnoxiousness coming from the representative of Russia’s highest authority hints that the officials consider all the protesters nothing more than scum. However, no surprises there: that emotion has been clear from the very start of Russian protest movement in early December.

Attention to Decoration

This year’s Victory Day on the 9th of May was traditionally marked with military Parade, this time featuring… fake veterans. Russia’s top blogger Rustem Adagamov was outraged at this fact and published a sensational post in his blog.

A Fake WWII Veteran during the Victory Day Parade

Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin, Rossiiskaya Gazeta

He spotted this Lady General, wearing fake military decorations. We can see the Order of the Hero of the Soviet Union along with the one of the Hero of Socialist Labor on her jacket. A brief research reveals that in the history of USSR there was only one woman who possessed these two awards at the same time—the famous pilot Valentina Grizodubova.

The woman in the picture is also wearing three orders of Great Patriotic War. But again, historically only one Soviet woman, distinguished bomber pilot Nadezhda Popova, received them.

A curious fact—in 2010 the same lady as seen in a colonel uniform, and this year she has been promoted to general. But even being in this high position, she doesn’t know that saluting with uncovered head is wrong.

The 9th of May is one of the major holidays for the Russians. This day they honor the veterans who contributed to the victory of 1945. The incident that took place this year is outrageous, given that a number of true participants of the war didn’t manage to get to the Red Square because of the closed metro exits that morning.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


#ОккупайАбай
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On May 10, 2012, nearly a thousand of people came to Chistoprudny Boulevard in Moscow to set up a camp. It was the final stage of White Ribbons protests that started right after the March of the Millions.

Starting May 7 to May 10, the protesters rallied peacefully in the city center. Police reacted harshly and inadequately by chasing the protesters in the streets, taking them into custody, putting them into police transports, chatting them up and letting them go. Some people were said to get detained by the police for up to 5 times. That scheme worked for 3 days and finally the hide and seek marathon seemed to have ended around the Chistye Prudy, a pond at one of the central boulevards of Moscow. The monument to Abay Kunanbaev, a Kazakh poet, became a landmark and gave the name to the camp: #OccupyAbay (originally #ОккупайАбай).

Part of the crowd near the Abai Kunanbaev monument. Photo by Drugoi.
Part of the crowd near the Abai Kunanbaev monument. Photo by Drugoi.
Food supply desk, with a donations box. Photo by Drugoi
Food supply desk, with a donations box. Photo by Drugoi
Crowd at Chistye Prudy. Photo by Drugoi.
Crowd at Chistye Prudy. Photo by Drugoi.

Generator, powering the camp devices and FAQ board. Photo by Drugoi
Generator, powering the camp devices and FAQ board. Photo by Drugoi
Elderly couple at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
Elderly couple at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
A game of chess at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
A game of chess at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)

The faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
The faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
White Ribbon is one of the #OccupyAbai symbols. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
White Ribbon is one of the #OccupyAbai symbols. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)

When you see lies, get rid of them. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
When you see lies, get rid of them. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
The crowd at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
The crowd at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
Springtime at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)
Springtime at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Alex Kazakov (the-kovboy.livejournal.com)

The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)

The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The minimum of police at #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The minimum of police at #OccupyAbai
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)

The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)

The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Occupy Russia. Join the club. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Occupy Russia. Join the club.
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)

The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
The intelligent faces of #OccupyAbai. Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Photo by mi3ch (mi3ch.livejournal.com)
Whiteboard with the schedule of events at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Jean Dzhibladze.
Whiteboard with the schedule of events at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Jean Dzhibladze.

Hipsters galore at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Jean Dzhibladze.
Hipsters galore at #OccupyAbai. Photo by Jean Dzhibladze.

The police allowed the camp to emerge, as the most active participants brought their tents and sleeping bag and even spent the night there. The less enthusiastic ones visited the camp only after work and afterwards went home to sleep properly.

Surprisingly, the more people were coming in, the more organized the event became. Campers collected money for food and supplies, cooked up rules and regulations, brought a petrol-powered generator to charge the gadgets, installed free wifi and even set up portable toilets. Other campers supplied the intellectual component. Currently, many of the trees in the camp have cardboard signs specifying the locations of discussion clubs, seminars or lectures to be taking place later on. The movement even has its own newspaper, printed out on an A4 page, front and back.

The main rule of this movement is no violence. The #occupiers seem to abide most of the laws in order not to piss off the police. Unlike many instigators (supposedly from pro-Kremlin youth organizations), that are trying to do everything to provoke clashes. On Sunday, a man even walked a cow in order to enforce the law upon the crowd, with no success whatsoever.

The public sentiment towards the Chistoprudny Blrd gathering is constantly fluctuating between “What a group of brave guys” and “What a bunch of hippies”. The truth is, both answers seem about right. These strolls, campings and walkabouts are currently the only way of protesting against the illegitimate elections and other violations that doesn’t lead to any kind of fights or violence. Youngsters who were previously stuck in social networks now got a place for a real political discussion, conversations with interesting people and even active pastime, like frisbee, badminton and other outdoor sports. However, the average age of 24/7 camp dwellers quite rationally provokes a question “Why don’t these chaps get a job?”

As a result, #ОккупайАбай seems to be a true #occupy movement, with a regional twist. But there is one crucial difference between Russia and USA in terms of its composition. In Russia, it consists of the creative class people, young and hyper-ambitious. In the US, that would be exactly the same if not for one more remark: across the pond, the creative class has jobs and doesn’t attend such events.

UPD: Following the decision of Basmanny Court of Moscow, the camp, which was allegedly creating troubles for the district dwellers, ceased to exist as of 5:10am (Moscow time). OMON forces dispersed the crowd quite peacefully and let the most of it leave. The remainders of #OccupyAbay relocated to a park near Barrikadnaya metro station.

UPD 2:

May 16

5 am — The police arrives at #OccupyAbay location and closes the camp quietly. Since the remaining campers were still sleeping, the police had no chance to practice its signature brutality. Only words.

Noon — The remaining organizers, including the opposition leader Ilya Yashin, decide to relocate the camp to the park near Barrikadnaya metro station. #ОккупайБаррикады (#OccupyBarrikady) is born.

Evening — More people arrive at the new location and continue the previously interrupted protests.

May 17 — The camp is still active, but in the evening squads of police show up at the square. Conflicts reignite as some of the police officers decide that a canister with porridge and a couple of water bottles mean that the campers have organizers an illegal food distribution point. The police confiscate the items as well as a box with RUR 250,000 (approximate value) that the protesters had collected for camp purposes. Not happy with such decisions, people start to protest and demand for their things back, which OMON considers as a command to attack. Several people are arrested; some OMON trucks get their tires slashed.

May 18 — The camp is dispersed yet again due to the alleged complaints of the locals. Less and less people remain in the crowd. As Ilya Yashin gets arrested, the beheaded camp divides into 2 parts: on Nikitsky Boulevard and on Arbat Street. Several minor police conflicts aside, the camps remain at their spots, but of course not as glorious and powerful as before.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


Words of The Week — Spring Edition
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Medvedev’s Coat

On May 1, during the traditional May Day parade, then-President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were on a mission to get closer to their electorate. Or it might be just Medvedev who couldn’t miss the opportunity to show off his brand new white coat. For better or worse, they marched along with people, shaking hands, kissing children, discussing the bright future of the country… Well they did it, and they did it pretty well, and the coat—was fabulous:

Medvedev’s white coat

But they went further in their intentions to discuss everything with ordinary people and stopped by Zhiguli bar. However, the only person allowed to talk to the tandem, was Valeriy Trapeznickov, grade 6 mechanic and Duma delegate known for his great obsession with both Medvedev and Putin. Rumor has it, the entire bar had to be evacuated prior to the arrival of the Tandem. Which is no surprise, since the event was aimed at newspapers and television.

Putin and Medvedev enjoying a beer in an evacuated bar

The International Workers’ day (May 1), or the Festival of Spring and Labor, is a tradition dating back to the Soviet times. Russians celebrate it with parades: some to bring back the spirit of the soviets, some to drink beer in good company, some to show their children what the 1st of May is about, some—to show off a coat… even so, on these marches all Russians feel united through and through.

March of the Millions

On May 6, thousands of Russians walked out in a protest of the upcoming inauguration of Vladimir Putin. The national protest rally, “March of the Millions”, accumulated between 20 and 80 thousand people in Moscow alone.

During the Moscow rally, protesters clashed with the police, forced through the cordons and gathered in improvised sit-outs in the streets. The protesters’ demands included providing the opposition with live air time on federal television and repeal of the recent presidential elections. The demands were never met.

Independent news media reported injuries on both sides, with the police and the protesters clashing fiercely at around 6 PM in the Bolotnaya and Manezhnaya squares in Moscow.

The opposition clashed with the police during the March of the Millions

The government strategy to contain the March of the Millions was to set up a series of security checkpoints that dramatically slowed down the entry into the official rally space.

Following the usual pattern, the Kremlin forces organized a series of pro-Putin events simultaneously with the national protest rally. No reports of violence or clashes with the police came from those events. Russia’s anti-Kremlin sources claim these events are only attended by professional stand-ins and workers of state-funded companies. The latter are allegedly forced to attend the pro-Kremlin rallies by their employers.

Visual approximation of Pro-Putin and Anti-Putin rallies

The rally was followed by a new opposition-organized rally, this time dubbed “mass strolls”, which is legal to hold, yet very irritating for the police. Alexey Navalny and Sergey Udaltsov, the biggest opposition activists, will remain in jail for another two weeks.

Today’s opposition in Russia is known to have organized and performed dozens of walkouts and rallies against Putin and the falsified results of both Parliament and Presidential elections in Russia.

Chechen Parking

An unusual incident turned heads on the 1st of May in Moscow, near the shopping mall Evropeisky, starring the closest relatives of Chechen vice plenipotentiary Tamerlan Mingaev.

The members of the Russian youth movement “Nashi” were conducting a traditional “Stopham” event (from Russian “хам”—savage), putting big round stickers on the windscreens of every wrongly parked car. A lady on a posh offroader, who turned out to be Mingaev’s wife, was so insulted with such outrageous behaviour of young activists, she called her son and his friends to teach the offenders some manners. A fight broke out between the Nashis and the young Chechen men that arrived to the rescue.

A fight between Stopham and the Mingaevs

The media picked up on a story and unwound it into a full-fledged scandal, which led to Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, firing Mingaev from his high position.

Russian pro-Kremlin political youth movement “Nashi” was created in 2005 as a patriotic, democratic, anti-facist oraganisation and its activity is, allegedly, aimed at modernization of the country and establishing an integrated social order. Since the Nashis are closely connected with the Kremlin, their reputation is constantly under attack from the opposition. Few would argue, though, that teaching the savage drivers to park properly is a good item on their agenda.

River for Sale

Last week a remarkable offer was brought into focus by the media: an official from the Russian Ministry of Transportation offered a 40-year-old stranger to purchase a position of general director of the Moscow Canal. This may look like a random fraud, but don’t be too quick on judgment.

The “ministry official” later turned out to be an ordinary resident of the city of Pskov, being not even close to any ministerial positions. Such a sophisticated plan of earning some extra money is an additional reason to respect the guy who was trying to sell… a river.

The position of Moscow-Canal-Poseidon costs, as it was revealed, 20,000 €. However, the romanticism of the whole story wrecked on the letter of the law. The 57-year-old Pskovian was detained for fraud before he was able to close the deal.

Football Season Over

The Russian football (soccer) season is almost over. This year, Saint Petersburg’s FC Zenit became the team most worthy of holding the crystal cup over its head. Even though the members of the Russian Premier League have still got one last round of matches to play, mathematically Zenit secured their lead 3 games before.

The night Zenit was declared champions, the northern capital of Russia stayed up all night celebrating.

This pretty much closes the 2011/12 championship. It has been by far the most news-provoking one.

Racism. As the World Cup-2018 will be held in Russia, the eyes of international football officials are fixed upon all possible imperfections of the system. And, God bless their souls, their Russian colleagues make these imperfections as shiny and easily discoverable as possible.

Even though spiffy-looking presentations of stadium projects did the trick and Russia’s bid won, the previously existing problems didn’t disappear. On the contrary, racist encounters like banana cases and middle finger flashings occur practically every week. It’s a shame.

FC Anzhi. Most of world championships do have glory hunters’ teams owned by big time oligarchs and capable of buying practically any player in the world. Russia isn’t lagging behind anymore, having its own FC Anzhi, with Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto’O and Guus Hiddink as the manager. The team did keep the observers amused, with all their statements about buying Messi, Ronaldo and basically any other world class players. Just because they can.

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


St. George’s Ribbon: Russia’s Symbol of Victory Day
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Black and orange ribbons start to flicker around the streets of Russian cities in early May. They stand out well on people’s clothes, bags, body parts, antennas and in any other places wherever they can be attached. These are St. George’s Ribbons—Russia’s new symbol of Victory Day.

How to wear a George Ribbon

The “St. George’s Ribbon” initiative started in 2005 in a bid to revitalize the Russian patriotism and modernize the Victory Day. Since then it has become so popular that a V-Day celebration cannot be imagined without it. Today it is held in many countries around the world including not only ex-USSR members, but also partly Europe an North America. The ribbons are distributed for free in the streets weeks ahead of Victory Day—May 9.

The black and orange ribbons mimic Russian historic Ribbon of St. George, which was initially a part of The St. George Order—the highest military decoration in the Russian Empire before 1917 (it was re-established in 1998 as the top military Order in the Russian Federation). During the World War II, almost identical ribbons were used in the “The Order of Glory”—an important military decoration, given to the soldiers of the Red Army for valor and bravery.

Today it is the most popular symbol of the Victory holiday. Its primary aim is to show respect to those who put their lives on the line to defend their country and their nation, as well as to remind younger generations of Russia’s great heroic past.

The George Ribbon, Russia’s symbol of the Victory Day

However good-spirited, the initiative remains controversial. Opposers denounce it as a senseless and even harmful enterprise, and even demand its withdrawal. And while some citizens, especially older generations, take the George’s ribbon seriously and wear it to honor the Soviet soldier, many youngsters use it merely to decorate their clothes, hair and even use them for laces (however impractical that might be). This nihilism of the younger generation is understandable, yet remains disappointing to the veterans.

An improper way to wear a George Ribbon

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


A Thing About Putin’s Inauguration
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In disaster movies movies, my favorite part is when they show the post-apocalyptic world. The camera pans across a desolate city, with well-known landmarks in the background, half-destroyed. The Eiffel Tower is overgrown with weeds. The White House is dark-gray, shabby, no windows. The Colliseum split at the seam of an earthquake. Majestic. You can never go wrong.

But showing landmarks is never enough for a global post-apocalyptic movie.There is an extra touch that helps build up the drama. Can you spot it in this next clip?

Got it? If not, here is a hint:

Top: Putin’s Inauguration. Bottom: Obama’s Inauguration

Top: Putin’s Inauguration. Bottom: Obama’s Inauguration

Originally published at Bears & Vodka. You can comment here or there.


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