Dmitry Medvedev is 50!

Medvedev birthday 2015

Happy 50th birthday to Dmitry Medvedev, prime minister of Russia. He and his lovely wife, Svetlana (far right), celebrated the event over the 13-14th with family in the Ivanovo region.

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A Royal Flush on the Moscow Metro

Metro Prospect Mira toilet a
Officials say that the new toilet on the train platform at Metro Prospect Mira is a test of the concept.

Several years ago Moscow began adding coin operated toilets, permanent units, to replace the old “construction site” style toilets near Metro stations. However, if there is a coffee shop nearby the trend is to head there for a toilet stop.

Metro Prospect Mira toilet b
Access is gained using a Metro ride card.
Metro Prospect Mira toilet f
Doors automatically lock once a passenger enters. Exit is gained by a push button.

Along with the addition of coffee vending machines in the Metro, system managers announced plans for toilets inside stations near the transition areas. It is a pilot project with the first one opened at the Prospekt Mira station earlier this week.

Metro Prospect Mira toilet e

Officials say that the toilet is “self-contained” and needs no plumbing or water connections. However, toilets do flush and there is water for washing one’s hands.

Metro Prospect Mira toilet d

Metro Prospect Mira toilet c

It had been speculated that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin might attend the opening of the new toilet, and perhaps give a guided demonstration. Alas, he was a “no show” and instead, opted to make an appearance at the opening of Moscow’s new station “Kotelniki.”

Metro Kotelniki opening

Kotelniki is the 195th station on the Moscow Metro system. While Kotelniki has a fancy new vending machine for purchasing disposable umbrellas, there is no toilet. Yet.

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Total Lack of Justice

It was almost a year ago, 20 October 2014, that Christophe de Margerie the CEO of French Petroleum corporation Total SA was killed as his corporate Falcon-50 jet attempted to take off from Moscow’s Vunkovo Airport.

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Vnukovo (VKO) is the third largest airport in Moscow and houses the government fleet, including Russia One. Although not as large as Moscow’s busier airports, it is well equipped and staffed. de Margerie, a supporter of the government of President Vladimir Putin, had been in Moscow for meetings with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Immediately following the fiery explosion on the runway, French authorities opened a manslaughter investigation and Russian authorities jailed several airport employees, including a snowplow driver who was accused of being drunk at the time of the accident. In addition to de Margerie, his three flight crew members also perished.

In typical Soviet and post-Soviet fashion, a handful of suspects were rounded up and jailed. After almost a year with no clear indication on who was at fault,on 28 August Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin announced that airport air traffic controllers were responsible for allowing the snowplow to enter the runway, and for failing to warn the flight crew.

Investigators charged snowplow operator Vladimir Martynenko with being drunk at the time of the crash, however his lawyers cited that he never drank alcohol due to a medical condition. Investigators had not obtained blood alcohol samples at the time that he was accused of being drunk. Air traffic control intern Svetlana Krivsun, 23, had been formally charged with manslaughter since she had given the pilot clearance for take-off.

Earlier this week it was learned that the snowplow driver had been quietly released from detention, and on 22 September the attorney for Senior Engineer Vladimir Ledenev, control instructor Alexander Kruglov, control intern Svetlana Krivsun, and flight director Roman Dunayev said that his clients had been released.

Authorities are required to release suspects if there is not enough evidence for criminal indictment, however prosecutors can bring charges in the future and have hinted that they will in the future.

McFoxy

Tea or Coffee: Here is Another Serving

As a follow-up to our story on the explosion of coffee consumption in the FSU (former Soviet Union), readers might be interested to know that 1 October will be celebrated as “International Coffee Day” with plenty of special menus at local coffee cafes.

Coffee tea Oct event

While we do not necessarily agree with his final rankings, video blogger “Addie” does a very nice job of taking viewers on a quick tour of several popular coffee cafes:

For readers who are learning the Russian language, the term for a coffee cafe is Кофейня, “KAh-feen-ya.”

And, our Moscow readers have the opportunity to experience one of the food industry’s largest events next March (2016). Observed over 1-3 March, Russian Barista Days and Russian Tea & Coffee Days will mark one of the largest non-alcoholic beverage events in Russian history.

A selected number of free tickets are available on a first come-first served basis. For those tickets, register online by clicking on the banner below:

Coffee tea March event

The exhibit at Moscow’s Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Centre will allow the public to enjoy:

  • Exhibition area with thousands of tea and coffee products
  • 5th Moscow International Tea Symposium;
  • 6th Moscow International Coffee Forum;
  • 3rd Tea Masters Cup, Russia (Russian tea masters completion in 3 categories);
  • Russian Barista Days (Russian barista completion in 6 categories);
  • Over 40 seminars, master classes, training workshops;
  • Special area – Roasting Factory;
  • Tea ceremonies, sampling the best varieties of plantation coffee and tea.

Tea or Coffee – Чай или кофе

There was a time when drinking coffee in the FSU was almost a rarity of sorts. Tea reigned supreme, and any coffee consumed was typically a “Turkish” brew which was incredibly strong. Instead of a morning staple, coffee was a dessert beverage, usually after dinner, if at all.

The times, they are a changin’ it seems.

McDonalds Coffee June 2015 W 286

McCafe made the first inroads, adding upscale dessert shops that served both coffee and tea, usually located next door to a McDonalds. Then came CoffeeHouse, Costa Coffee, several others, and then late-comer Starbucks entered the market after a protracted legal battle with a home-grown cafe that had already latched onto the Starbucks name.

choc cafe шоколадница кофейна

Today the most popular coffee in the FSU is instant coffee, and Russia is near the top of the world rankings for consumption of the instant variety.  Coffee suppliers recognize this and have developed high quality options not sold in most Western nations.

coffee nescafe

One possible explanation for the popularity of instant coffee is the set up of the typical FSU kitchen. In Western homes it is common to find a “coffee maker” in the kitchen. Not so much in the FSU, instead one is much more likely to find a “chai-nik”, a hot water kettle used for brewing hot water for tea. That same hot water can be used for instant coffee without the need to purchase another appliance–or try to find room for it in kitchens that are generally much smaller than in the West.

Double Coffee 8-24-11 Moscow 1605

It isn’t just instant coffee that has caught on, and one might reasonably argue that the coffee house concept has driven popularity, especially among younger consumers. Most coffee houses offer high quality desserts, and some have limited entrees, but the idea of free WiFi packaged with good coffee in a hip meeting place has taken off. You can thank McCafe for that, although McDonalds McCafe market share has shrunk while others is exploding.

Coffee House 8-24-11 Moscow 1130

What seems to be the most popular coffee brew ordered in Coffee Shops as of late? Despite all the anti-American rhetoric often heard these days, the most popular brew is “Amerikano”, American.

Coffee Americano June 2015 W 908

Here is a handy chart to help you navigate your coffee options the next time you are in the FSU:

coffee translations

This primer on coffee choices may have come just in time. Next month, the newest player to get into the coffee business will be the Moscow Metro System. Sometime in October, coffee vending machines will begin to appear in the Metro subway system stations. Vending machines for cold drinks have been appearing in various pedestrian spots, but coffee on the Metro will be a whole new experience.

So, what is your choice – Чай или кофе?

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Is Russia Blocking Yahoo and Google

On Thursday, 10 September, Russian Telecom services Beeline and MTC began to implement the government’s new restrictions on certain Yahoo and Google services.

Both RT and Rossiyskaya Gazeta featured stories on the blockage. Vadim Ampelonsky, spokesman for government regulator Roskomnadzor, told reporters that the restrictions will impact Yahoo mail, Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Video services.

Ampelonsky indicated that the Yahoo search services will remain open. Roskomnadzor had instructed Yahoo and Google to take down known propaganda sites, and certain videos, associated with the terrorist group “Islamic State”.  So far, it appears that Yahoo and Google have refused.

Last month Facebook defied a Russian government order to allow access to all Russian account holders, and to hold this data on servers located inside Russia. As of today it is unclear whether this is a permanent blockage, or just a flexing of governmental muscles.

Here at the Mendeleyev Journal our Gmail worked fine all day, however Yahoo was been on and off during the day. Since it is unclear as to whether this is temporary or permanent, readers who are communicating with someone who is using Yahoo or Gmail in Russia, might be well advised to know the email addresses at Russian services for important Russian contacts.

Rather than risking Yahoo and Gmail messages being blocked into Russia, readers who email contacts in Russia may wish to establish free email accounts at one of the popular Russian email services, such as Mail.ru, Yandex.ru, imail.ru and inbox.ru, etc.

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Day of Moscow, Birthday Number 868!

Each city has a its own day of celebration in Eastern Europe.

Over the weekend we celebrated the “Day of Moscow” which was officially on 5 September but the city had events on the 5th and 6th. Supposedly 10 million showed up, not hard to do in a city with a 12+ million population.

Looking a various crowds at events and one the streets, however, one had to wonder at the police count because we have seen larger political protests which officials seem to site as 50,000 or so. Russian math, apparently.

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Photo: City of Moscow press pool.

To be sure, there were plenty of celebrations, and good numbers showed up. So, happy 868th birthday, Moscow! You are a grand old lady who has seen a lot of history pass through your gates.

Some of the more fun events included a massive book fair, yes Russians still love to read, at VDNH. It was also the VDNH exhibition grounds that hosted a “Rabbit Breeding” event. Curious, but Russians do raise rabbits at their dachas. That was free to children, but 300 rubles for accompanying adults. Of special note to my artist wife was the free weekend admission to the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

On Red Square there were booths of all sorts, and a grand celebration of the city that naturally featured a speech by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

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Photo: City of Moscow press pool.
Day of Moscow 2015 c
Mayor Sobyanin is seated with Governor of the Moscow Region Sergei Vorobyov and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to his left, and Prime Minister Medvedev, and Speaker of the Senate Valentina Matviyenko to the right. (Photo: City of Moscow press pool.)

Although the city had dispatched planes with chemicals that were supposed to disperse clouds, Mother Nature had a mind of her own. It was a rainy weekend.

Day of Moscow 2015 Ilya Varlamov a
Photo: Ilya Varlamov.

On Sunday evening, the annual Spasskaya Tower International Music Festival opened on Red Square, and naturally this year’s theme included tributes to Moscow.

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Photo: City of Moscow press pool.

This is the 8th annual Spasskaya Tower International festival. On Saturday the various bands from all over the globe had given free concerts in city parks, etc. The Spasskaya Tower is the “Saviour Tower” and the main clocktower of the Kremlin.

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