New Year’s Eve on Red Square in Moscow!

С Новым 2012 годом!

2012, the New Year is ahead!

It is almost 9 am Moscow time and Russia’s capital city is bustling with activity as preparations are well under way for the biggest celebration of the year. Full daylight will arrive in 30 or so minutes but even the semi morning darkness of winter doesn’t seem to be slowing anyone down on this special day.

GUM department store turns part of Red Square into an outdoor skating arena each winter.

Today begins the biggest holiday of the year and tonight Russians and their related kin across the region will be celebrating “like it’s 1999” to borrow an American pop music phrase. This evening thousands of folks will begin making their way to Red Square:

Sometime during the evening the music starts and lively dancing and toasts begin. The finest champagne is held in reserve for after the midnight bells toll from the clock at the Kremlin. Just before midnight every television station switches to the Kremlin whose distinct red walls are dressed in a dramatic display of lights bathed in falling snow from Red Square.

Fireworks at the New Year on Red Square.

In Moscow the concert on Red Square will stop just before 11:55 and then President Medvedev will briefly address the Russian people. The crowd will count down the seconds on the clocks of the famous “Saviour” Tower (at right). This tower was built in 1491 and is so beautiful! Given the multiple time zones this scene will be repeated locally across the country starting in the far East and ending with Kaliningrad. Moscow is the next to last time zone.

The President will appear on the screen and in a solemn style deliver the traditional greeting to the Russian people. It is usually a very short speech and all across Russia the music has stopped. Dancing feet become still. It is as if even the sounds of the streets and the hissing steam from the heat radiators have also grown silent.

Those in the apartment, especially the elders and war veterans, stand at attention, glasses in hand, waiting for the playing of the Russian national anthem. Immediately it begins and afterward the glasses are raised heavenward in toasts to health, wealth, and happiness for the coming new years. Kisses, three times on alternating checks, are offered around the room.

Families are together, the adults will stay up all night, millions will watch the same traditional movie, and tables will overflow with salads, meat dishes, and desserts galore. In the morning Father Frost and the Snow Maiden will bring presents for the children!

Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden
Yummy! New Year's Eve table.

Just before midnight there will be a brief New Year greeting by President Medvedev and then lots of fireworks. So how are your stocks of supplies? Do you have enough fruit juice and some квас (lightly fermented soda) for the children? Hey, they deserve a little buzz too, ya know. I love квас. For the adults make certain you have plenty of champagne, wine, vodka.

"Kvas" from fermented black rye bread...delicious!

Fruit is important at the New Year dinner too. Russians consider things like tangerines, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, and grapes to be special treats in the winter. At about 8pm the salads begin to appear on the table, then soon followed by a never-ending stream of soups and meat dishes as favourite Russian culinary delights make their way from the kitchen to the living room table over the next several hours.

Fireworks will be heard everywhere, in cities and villages of all sizes. Frankly, it will sound like a war zone in large cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, etc. But perhaps there is no better time to experience the mood and pulse of the Russian people’s devotion to family, their culture, and to their Motherland than over the New Year’s holiday celebration. Just to hear the Russian national anthem on this solitary moment can be the experience of a lifetime!

It is a very popular tradition across the former Soviet Union to watch the movie Ирония судьбы или С легким паром (“The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath”), part one and part two. You will want to watch both parts in order to enjoy the entire story!

Wikipedia describes the movie this way: The movie is based on the premise that modern apartment complexes look so much alike that one cannot distinguish one city from another and on New Year’s Eve, Muscovite Evgeny Lukashin (Andrei Myagkov) finally dares to make a marriage proposal to Galya (Olga Naumenko).They plan to celebrate the New Year together quietly, but Lukashin’s friends convince him that first he should attend their annual meeting at a bathhouse.

The bathhouse meeting quickly turns into an improvisational bachelor party for Evgeny. Having consumed large amounts of alcohol, they cannot remember which one of them was supposed to fly to Leningrad to meet his wife. So they put the sleepy Lukashin on a plane.

Upon his arrival in the Leningrad airport, Evgeny gives the taxi driver his Moscow street address and the cab takes him to an apartment complex located on a street with the same name. The building looks very much like his own, so Lukashin, still not quite sober, does not realize that he is in another city. He enters someone else’s apartment because his key fits the door lock and he quickly falls asleep on a couch.

When the apartment’s rightful resident, Nadya, comes home, she wakes up the intruder and tells him to get out. The bewildered Evgeny insists that he is at home and she is the one who should get out. Eventually he sobers and finds out about his predicament.

He is about to leave when the situation is further complicated by the arrival of Nadya’s straight-laced fiancé Ippolit (Yuri Yakovlev) who does not believe in Lukashin’s story and accuses Nadya of being unfaithful. The interaction between the three characters results in Nadya and Evgeny’s gradual falling in love with each other.

Part One:

Part Two:


Send a Russian holiday card

Would you like to send someone a holiday Card in Russia, Ukraine or any part of the former Soviet Union? For free and in Russian?

Here are step by step directions on how to send a Russian holiday card:

-Go to

Those cards in the centre are for the New Year. Simply select one you like and follow the directions below.

Next week you can use this link to senda Christmas card in time for 7 January as well. To the left of the page there is a menu and the 2nd one from the top, открыток на Рождеством indicates Cards for CHRISTMAS. If your browser is viewing this page in English then naturally you’d select CHRISTMAS E-cards next week.

Remembering that New Years’ comes before Christmas, lets get the New Year card sent first. If you wish you can follow this format to send one or both–but if you do only one our suggestion would be for New Years’ as it is the bigger holiday.

As you can see there are several pages of card available in the middle of the page. Pick a nice one and send it!

-Choose a card and click on it

-Fill in “to whom/and from” information.  Use our guide below to help you.

-Put a heading (Заголовок) on the line (Such as happy new year, etc) Happy New Year is С Новым Годом.

-Fill in some text (Текст) in the text message box (either in English or copy from samples below)

-Next scroll down and choose your imaginary Выберите марку (post mark/stamp).

(The rest of the directions are listed below)

Translation guide:
Кому: (To)
Введите имя:  (Enter their name here)
Введите E-Mail: (Enter their email address here)

От: (From)
Введите имя:  (Your name goes here)
Введите E-Mail: (Your email address goes here)

Заголовок: (Heading or Greeting)

Sample heading:  С новым годом! (Happy New Year!)

Or for Christmas: С Рождеством! (Merry Christmas!)

Текст: (Text of your message goes in this box)
You can write a short text in English or use the sample one below.

Sample text to cut and paste:  Желаю тебе счастливого Нового года! (I wish you a happy New Year!)

Or for Christmas:  Я желаю Вам с Рождеством Христовым! (I wish you a merry Christmas!)

Next you choose from a “stamp”…cool idea!  It reads Выберите марку (post mark) so just click on the stamp design you prefer.

Now the line: Хотите послать эту открытку нескольким получателям?  asks if you wish to send this card to more than one person.  If so, select the very next box and select the number of persons in multiples of five.  Most of us will just send one card per person.

Okay, the green box at the bottom simply allows us to preview the letter before sending. Click it.

Now it looks just like a postcard!

If it’s okay, click the bottom left button.  If you need to make corrections, click the bottom right button.

Leave it checked where it says: “Прислать уведомление о прочтении открытки” if you wish to be notified by email when your card has been read.

The next screen should say something like this:
Ваша открытка была успешно отправлена — (You card was successfully sent).

Your card is set to be delivered on the holiday.

You will notice that this screen has more cards shown so that you can choose another and send it to someone else.  When finished save this link to your favourites and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

The Russian word for pharmacy is Aптека (Apteka)

Is is just the аптека (Apteka is pharmacy) locations we use, or is Vaseline, so helpful for treating winter weather ills, in some sort of controlled status in Russia?

Vaseline can be found in tube form.

It seems that Вазeлин (vaseline) is not available as a shelf item, and instead one must ask a pharmacy technician to dispense it. Many smaller аптеки (pharmacies) hold most products behind the counter because of space but is there a reason why Вазeлин is held behind the counter in larger ones as well?

Vaseline, 20 grams, in a round tin.

Some village folk across the former Soviet Union still use Vaseline as a way to store fresh eggs. An old farm trick, eggs will remain fresh up to two years without refrigeration if stored in a cool, dry space and given a thin coat of Vaseline. The Vaseline application supplements the natural “bloom” a hen gives each egg which keeps it fresh during the fertilization process immediately after an egg has been laid.

As Vaseline is petroleum-based we at first didn’t understand why some forms of vaseline are sold in a refrigerated state. Since pharmacy refrigerators are kept behind the counter, naturally obtaining those a refrigerated product would need the assistance of a pharmacy technician. Doing a little research however quickly led to the discovery that a form of Vaseline oil is dispensed as a stool softener when a patient suffers from constipation. The photo below is Вазeлинin a bottle:

Vaseline oil, sold as a laxative for chronic constipation. No prescription needed.

Language lesson:

If you purchase Vaseline in Ukraine it will be spelled slightly different as Ukrainian while similar to Russian in some respects, is truly a different language. Vaseline in Russian Cyrillic is spelled Вазeлин but the Ukrianian Cyrillic spelling uses a letter not found in the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet. In Ukrainian the spelling for Baseline is вазелін.

Note the Ukrainian spelling: вазелін

For students of Russian language the way to pronounce Вазeлин can be found here.

The Mendeleyev Journal Christmas Special with Miss Russia!

Okay, perhaps were getting ahead of ourselves. You see, in Slavic countries it can be considered bad luck to celebrate an important day early. You know, like a birthday or anniversary or Christmas!

So with apologies to all those who need an apology, even though it isn’t New Year’s day or Christmas yet, we’re going to get the jump and go ahead with this year’s Mendeleyev Journal 2011 Christmas special feature. By the way, Miss Russia is a part of this special so I’m sure you’ll want to see her photo (that is it below) and hear her voice.

Irina Antonenko, Miss Russia 2010.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

…from your friends at the Mendeleyev Journal.

Mendeleyev’s Math on what would Putin do?

We must confess that the idea for this article began this past Saturday in the form of a simple backpack poster worn by a demonstrator at the mass protest in Moscow on Avenue Akademika Sakharova. Thanks to inspiration coming from a poster that in itself was by no means the largest or most colourful in view, yet was very funny!

Proclaiming "Mathmatics for idiots" after the early December Duma elections.

We’ll be content to allow the United Russia party to claim that 4 + 9 = 49%. Instead, we’ll work in the realm of numbers by 3 and here are three indicators showing why we believe that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will stay the course and push on towards his presidential election in March.

#3: During the Cold War it was common for the Soviets to shoot off a missile once in a while, usually well timed, to rattle cages and nerves in places like Washington, London and Berlin. So was it a surprise when last week Russia successfully tested two new Bulava intercontinental missiles? These are the missiles which have had a very hard time hitting targets in the past, but since some major tweaking this Spring had been accurate during trials in the month of June.

Fired from a submerged submarine in the Arctic White Sea, the 12-meter-long Bulava (called “Mace”) is planned as the primary weapon in Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. Each Bulava weighs 36.8 tonnes and has a travel distance of 8,000 kilometers with a payload of six to 10 nuclear warheads. The blast would be 100 times more deadly than the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.
Was it a pure scheduling coincidence? Perhaps, but one could easily argue that it should have been delayed in view of all the unrest going on inside Russia.
#2: The “Pearl Ensign” case. In July 2010 a St. Petersburg policeman roughed up several citizens during a “31” protest marking each month of 31 days for article 31 of the Constitution which gives citizens the right to protest, right to assemble without interference, and the right of free speech. Saint Petersburg police ensign Vadim Boiko administered beatings to several citizens, including punching one man in the head with his police truncheon and punching him again in the face once other officers arrived, and dragging another to a police bus by the hair.
The video earned Boiko the nickname “Pearl Ensign” because of his pearl bracelet. The video does not show every scene in the short 10 minute span that he terrorized citizens but is widely available on the internet.
Yesterday the court gave Ensign Boiko a suspended sentence. Some observers point to this as reassurance to police that the Putin government will grant police and Interior Ministry troops wide latitude in dealing with citizens who protest against the government.
#1: The jailing of opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov. Either the judge in the case has been living in a cave with no knowledge of outside events on the streets, else she was influenced by forces much higher in handing down her sentence. At the same time that St. Petersburg policeman Vadim Boiko was given a suspended sentence for beating citizens, Moscow judge Olga Borovkova, on Sunday–just a day after the largest protests in recent Russian history–sentenced Udaltsov to jail for the “crime” of conducting a one-man protest vigil outside Election Commission headquarters in October.
As explained so well by a Moscow times article, “Borovkova found Udaltsov guilty of resisting police during a one-man picket near the office of the Central Elections Commission in October. She dismissed the defense’s claim that such pickets require no permission from authorities, as well as video footage that showed Udaltsov offering no resistance during arrest.”
The judge sentenced him just after his release from jail on other charges. Udaltsov has been jailed 14 times in 2011 for protesting against the government. The Moscow Times newspaper reports that Russian bloggers have launched a campaign against the judge and a Facebook page has been created to organize a rally to call for his release.

Mendeleyev’s math 1 + 1 + 1 = 3: Given what we’re seeing on the ground, it may be that old Soviet era tactics are in play given the missile launches, suspended sentences for unruly police, and yet jail time for protest leaders.
The government may have seemed to loosen the reins for a short time in an effort to defuse the mass protests. But before the election in early 2012 look for Vladimir Putin to crack down and attempt to take control in order to assure a victory for himself in March. After that, protesters will be dealt with much for swiftly and harshly.

Russian children at the New Year and Christmas holidays

The New Year will be the big holiday and it has the commercialized focus. Christmas trees are called “New Year trees” and gifts are exchanged on the New Year, January 1, “New Year gifts.” Santa Claus isn’t unknown, but he doesn’t serve this part of the world. Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden are the stars here (Дед Мороз и Снегурочка). Snegurochka will tell a story and the “children’s garden” (kinder garden) will dance:

Some quick holiday facts:
– Christmas doesn’t arrive until 7 January
– Christmas trees are called “New Year trees”
– Gifts are exchanged on the New Year, January 1
– Gifts are called “new year gifts”
– Santa Claus isn’t unknown by any stretch, but he doesn’t serve this part of the world. (His cousin) Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden are the stars here (Дед Мороз и Снегурочка).

Often parents come to attend/enjoy these children’s garden events as the children dance and sing. Here the children are singing the Дед Мороз (Grandfather Frost) song: