Armenian cucumbers don’t wither under bright lights

Recently an authentic Armenian cucumber appeared in the Mendeleyev Journal food pages test kitchen. Imagine!

For our Calvinistic friends, yes there is such a cucumber! Okay, maybe Armenian and Arminian are two different subjects but we digress. Being that it was your faithful editor’s first experience with a cucumber native to the country of Armenia, but grown all over Asia (and California), we thought perhaps it worth an interview, so the cucumber was kidnapped and quietly spirited out of the kitchen and into our sound studio.

Armenian cucumber in the Mendeleyev Journal sound studios.

Perhaps this lowly cucumber had the answer to world peace or inner tranquility? Maybe it would impart significant theological insights to quell the disunity among churches of various denominations who still don’t understand the truth of Catholicity in that debate?

Alas, the cuke made not a sound! Hey, who were we to know that the Armenian cucumber is more related to the muskmelon family albeit tasting and looking much like a traditional cucumber? Every muskmelon we’ve tried to interview has been just as reticent so eventually the interview project was abandoned and we gave way to a slicing knife and slaughtered the poor fruit. It is worth noting that apparently Armenian cucumbers don’t wither under bright lights.

Even after intense peeling under bright lights, the cucumber remained speechless.

It was peeled though later we learned that peeling wasn’t necessary. The staff of the Mendeleyev Journal feels that perhaps we’re the first team of journalists in modern history to attempt an interview with a cucumber under bright lights and with a kitchen vegetable slicing knife.

Lavrentiy Beria would have been so proud.

вкусный “koos-niy” = tasty/delicious.

It was not just any run of the mill pickle either but a genuine Armenian cucumber! Oh, it was tasty by the way. With sliced tomatoes and a dash of salt, that plate rocked! вкусный!

(PS…to see this fruit up close click on the photos.)


Putin promises return to haunt Russian budget

(From the KyivPost)

MOSCOW – The easy days are over for Russia. After years of rising oil prices that poured ever more revenues into the nation’s coffers, it now faces tough decisions on spending. A draconian budget plan, due to go before parliament on Friday, symbolizes the new era of austerity. And it raises big questions about how exactly Russia will make its books balance in the years ahead.

President Vladimir Putin has put enormous pressure on the finance ministry’s sums with promises of public spending that aim to quieten domestic opposition and fund Russia’s hosting of events including the soccer World Cup and Winter Olympics.

In a sign of the political tensions that creates, Putin recently rebuked ministers – and by implication his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev – for failing to draw up a credible budget plan.

“The problem is that we have ourselves limited our expenditures – which is very correct,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at the Reuters Russia Investment Summit this week, “in order to reduce our oil-and-gas dependence.” “On the other hand we have to fulfill the decrees of the president … How can we do all this? Of course it wasn’t at all simple.”

Over recent years, the seemingly boundless oil revenues have enabled Putin to boost spending dramatically, smoothing his re-election to the Kremlin in March – and helping him ride out the first mass protests against his rule. Putin’s pre-election promises, later enshrined in a flurry of decrees, included generous hikes in public sector pay, additional social benefits and regional development programmes.

Read the rest of the article here.


Russia cranks up the crackdown on independent minded journalists

Financial fraud or tax evasion. Those seem to be the easiest ways to make it appear that rogue investigations and jail sentences are carried out in accordance with standards of justice and the rule of law. For Russia, and in neighboring Ukraine, those are also the quickest ways to silence political opponents.

When masked investigators stormed into the Yekaterinburg offices of popular regional news organization on Thursday, few people believed that investigators were serious about the newspaper embezzling 10 million rubles from it’s own bank account.

Yesterday as armed investigators raided the offices, journalists were locked in a second floor office without being told the reason for the raid.  The last posting on Publisher Panova’s Facebook page read, У нас идут обыски. Всех журналистов URA.Ru заблокировали на втором этаже редакции. (“We are being searched. All journalists of are locked in the office of the publisher.”)

Now it just so happens that the organizations editor-in-chief, Aksana Panova, and her staff have been very reform minded, often critical of President Putin’s handpicked governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Yevgeny Kuivashev. Area prosecutors and other government officials, most belonging to Putin’s United Russia party, have also come under scrutiny by Ura News.

Masked members of Russia’s Special Forces were part of the police raid of Ural News. (photo:

Police spokesmen however insist that the raid was to investigate financial fraud. Investigators confiscated documents and computers and also conducted searches of journalist’s homes.

Prominent Moscow newspaper publisher Alexander Lebedev was recently told not to leave the country as he is under government investigation. Lebedev is part owner and publisher of Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper where 4 journalists have been mysteriously murdered in recent years.

Lebedev, part owner of Novaya Gazeta calls the charges against him politically motivated. (Photo: The Independent, London)

Lebedev is identified as a member of Russia’s opposition and a supporter of anti-corruption reform attorney Alexei Navalny. Lebedev is worth 1.1 billion according to Forbes and says that authorities want him to leave the country. Since returning to the presidency of Russia, Vladimir Putin has begun a crackdown on Russia’s growing opposition movement.

Moscow residents protest building of new Mosque

(From the Moscow Times)

City Hall has shelved plans to build a mosque in the Mitino area, one day after a massive unsanctioned protest by inhabitants of the northwestern neighborhood. The decision was made by the city’s urban planning commission Thursday after authorities received a large number of complaints from citizens, local prefect Vladimir Goverdovsky told reporters, Interfax reported.

About 2,000 people gathered outside a high-rise apartment complex in Mitino late Wednesday to protest the construction of a large Muslim center, to include a mosque, on a nearby field. A video posted on YouTube showed people chanting “no mosque!”

Toward the end of a three-minute video shown here, recorded around sunset, people sing an Orthodox prayer while Leonid Simonovich, founder of the fundamentalist Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers, gestures with a cross in his hand.

A prominent Muslim leader criticized authorities for allowing the protest to be hijacked by nationalists. “This is very dangerous, especially in places like Mitino,” said Abdul-Wahid Niyazov, an adviser to Ravil Ganutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis.

Niyazov said Mitino is home to a higher-than-average number of migrants, many of them Muslims. He also recalled plans to construct a mosque in the city’s southeastern Tekstilshchiki district, where anti-Islamic sentiment led to similar protests in 2010. Last year, authorities said the land earmarked for that mosque would be turned into a park.

Muslim leaders have long complained that the capital’s four mosques cannot accommodate the city’s 2 million Muslims. But City Hall has been reluctant to support the Council of Muftis’ demands to build mid-sized prayer houses in each of the capital’s 12 administrative districts while keeping the central Cathedral Mosque, currently undergoing reconstruction to hold up to 10,000 worshippers, as the main prayer house.

Read the full story here from the Moscow Times.

Kremenchuk, Ukraine 69 years after liberation

Kremenchuk, or Кременчук (Russian) Кременчуг (Ukrainian) is an industrial town in central Ukraine, in the Poltava administrative region along the banks of Ukraine’s famous Dnieper River. Most of the photos for this report, unless otherwise noted, are from:

Approaching Kremenchuk, Ukraine.

The settlement of Kremenchuk was founded in 1571 and later the Kremenchuk fortress was built by French military engineer Guillaume Levasser de Boplan in 1638. The town quickly became an important city for transportation of goods from Russia to other parts of Europe.

The Kremenchuk Kryukov Railway wagon factory is a major job provider today.

Russian armies and the Navy was based here during the Russian-Turkish war (1787-1791) as local shipbuilders built the fleet for Russia’s Black Sea flotilla. In 1802 Kremenchuk was made a part of the Poltava oblast. Today railway cars and automobiles are manufactured in Kremenchuk as well as one of the largest truck factories in Europe to produce trucks for Russian auto maker KrAZ.

The city is served by passenger train service and locally by trams, buses and passenger vans called “Marshrutki” because they run regular routes.

The city suffered during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Almost 90% of the city’s buildings were destroyed and thousands died, including most of the Jewish population. War records held in the Russian Extraordinary State Commission archives in Moscow detail how the destruction of the Jewish population was a primary goal of Nazi SS units occupying Kremenchuk.

This year marks the 69th anniversary of liberation on 29 September 1943.

Prior to the war almost 30,000 Jewish persons, about 47% of the total population, lived in the city. After the war there were approximately 8,000 Jewish survivors. The Germans made a point of destroying the city’s synagogues, leaving only the historic “Great” synagogue standing but stripped and the roof blown off.

Many of the 235,000 city residents live in post war apartments since most buildings were destroyed in the war.

This past January (2012) the Jewish community of Kremenchug was forced to again deal with anti-Semitism after a Molotov cocktail ignited a fire and damaged the synagogue exterior in the early morning hours of the New Year. The attack took place less than a month after the dedication of a new Torah scroll. Two months prior a similar attempted firebombing failed to fully ignite and spared the synagogue of damages.

Autumn is the perfect time to visit Kremenchuk.

(Photos for this report unless otherwise noted are from:

Putin wants Russians to come home

Calling all compatriots, it is time to come home. That is the message from President Putin as last week he signed an executive order designed to make it more enticing for Russians to return home.

President Putin wants Russians living abroad to get on a plane, ship or train and come home. (Photo: Dmitri Mikshin)

The executive order, titled On Implementation of the State Programme to Assist Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad to the Russian Federation, is the President’s hope to harness the potential and capabilities of compatriots abroad to return home and help with the development needs of Russia’s regions. The Programme is part of a series of measures meant to stabilize Russia’s population, especially in regions of strategic importance for the country.

Some may remember a similar call from Joseph Stalin who wanted to entice Russians who had fled prior to and during the Great Patriotic War (WWII) to come home to help rebuild Russia. Many Russians returned home, most to find themselves charged as traitors and many shipped off to the Siberian Gulag camps within months of their return.

We don’t really expect a repeat of Stalin era reprisals but it is funny how quickly Russians bring up that topic when asked if they plan to return. Many Russians have fled for reasons of wealthy protection, for opportunities to live without fear of a repressive government and private mafia involvement in business, or for political reasons. These folks will need more than a mere executive order if the government hopes to get their attention.

The Putin plan promises a comprehensive approach to facilitating the voluntary resettlement of compatriots abroad to Russia, offering them a choice of future place of residence, employment, and education and training opportunities, taking into account the Russian regions’ respective socioeconomic situations. The amount of state guarantees and social support provided to compatriots resettling in Russia will vary depending on the region of residence they choose.

The President has ordered an intergovernmental Commission on to work on implementing the programme under the guidance of the Federal Migration Service.

Kiev Symphony Orchestra touring USA and Canada

They tour the USA and Canada approximately every three years and each time leave concert goers with the feeling of wishing they’d drop by more often. The Orchestra and Chorus brings the sounds of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Bortniansky and other Russian/Ukrainian composers in cities and towns that sometimes don’t have an opportunity to hear such classics. The concerts are segmented with Ukrainian folk music.

Below is the current schedule:


12th, Chilliwack Alliance Church, 8700 Young Rd, Chilliwack, BC, 7 pm
13th, Trinity Western University Chapel, 7600 Glover Rd., Langley, BC, 11 am (choir only)
13th, Central Heights Church, 1661 McCallum Rd, Abbotsford, BC, 7 pm
14th, Garden Park Towers, Clearbrook Road, Clearbrook, BC, 1 pm (choir only)
14th Central Heights Church, 1661 McCallum Rd, Abbotsford, BC, 7 pm
15th, Christian Life Assembly, 21277-56th Ave., Langley, BC, 7 pm
16th, South Delta Baptist Church, 1988 56 Street, Delta, BC, 9 am, (Wes Janzen and instrumental soloists only)
16th Willingdon Church – Russian Service, 4812 Willingdon Avenue, Burnaby, 1:15 pm (Wes Janzen and choir only)
16th, Peace Portal Alliance, 15128-27 B Ave, Surrey, BC, 7 pm
17th, Bethany Baptist Church, 22680 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, BC, 7 pm
18th, Evangel Church, 3261 Gordon Dr., Kelowna, BC, 7 pm
19th, First Baptist Church,1311-4th Street, Calgary, ALBERTA, 7 pm
20th, Beuhlah Alliance Church, 17504 98A Ave NW, Edmonton, ALBERTA, 7 pm
22nd, First Presbyterian Church, 9 South 8th Ave., Yakima, WA, 7 pm
23rd, Slavic Gospel Church, 276 Harvest Way, Bellingham, WA, 6 pm
24th, University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA,7 pm
25th, New Hope Community Church, 11731 SE Stevens Rd., Portland, OR, 7 pm
26th, George Fox University, 414 N. Meridian St., Newberg, OR, 7 pm
27th, Village Baptist Church, 330 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton, OR, 7 pm
28th, Redding Christian Fellowship, 2157 Victor Ave, Redding, CA, 7 pm
29th, Valley Church, 10885 N. Stelling Rd., Cupertino, CA 7 pm


2nd, GraceBaptist Church, 22833 Copper Hill Dr., Santa Clarita, CA, 7 pm
3rd, Love of Christ Lutheran, 1525 N. Power Ave., Mesa, AZ, 7 pm
4th, Central United Methodist Church, 201 University Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM, 7 pm
5th, Tucson Arts Express (day off), Tucson, AZ
6th, Tucson Arts Express-Sahuaro High School, 545 North Camino Seco, Tucson, AZ, 7 pm
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 open
13th, San Clemente Presbyterian Church, 119 N. Avenedia de La Estrella, San Clemente, CA, 7 pm
14th, Solano Beach Presbyterian Church, 120 Stevens Ave., Solano Beach, CA, 7 pm
15th, DAY OFF – Solano Beach, CA
16th, San Diego First Church of the Nazarene at PLNU, 3901 Lomaland Drive, Point Loma, CA, 7 pm
17th, DAY OFF
18th, departure for Ukraine, Los Angeles

For more information call the KSOC Florida office at (800) 467-5051.

The USA/Canada tour is comprised of the main orchestra and chorus. A smaller group of the Kiev Symphony is also touring several former Communist nations of Asia.

Proceeds from the concert tours are used for food distribution to elderly pensioners, homeless & street children, and orphanage programs in Ukraine.