(Moscow) It was a somber scene outside the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as Russian people came on Saturday, the Dutch day of mourning for victims of flight MH17, to express their condolences and sorrow over the shooting down of the passenger airliner over Eastern Ukraine. It was a solemn reminder that there is often a difference between the people of a nation and the leaders of a nation.
Flags at foreign embassies across Moscow flew at half mast in solidarity with the Dutch declaration of Saturday as a day of mourning. Several touching points are worth mentioning: Some Russians wrapped themselves in Gold/Blue flags, the colours of Ukraine, and others draped themselves in the red-white-blue of the Netherlands flag.
There were small placards with flowers reading, “Простите наc” which means “forgive us.”
Compressing time zones was one thing but the Medvedev experiment with changing the clocks wasn’t popular with most Russians and as lawmakers prepare to end permanent daylight savings time, most will welcome the return. That the vote in the Duma was 442-1 shows how much Russians had complained regarding the issue. Supposedly over 70% supported the change in 2011 but today polls indicate that close to 70% want to turn back their clocks.
Changing back isn’t a done deal yet as the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council (Senate) will take up the Duma bill on 9 July. The bill establishes that “Moscow Time” as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) plus three hours, and time zones in Russia then based on those UTC times. Currently Moscow Time is UTC plus four hours.
The Duma bill asks that the changes be made within 30 days from passage and that could happen but likely the change will be made on Sunday, 26 October.
In 2013 the Russian Supreme Court had refused to cancel what many Russians have dubbed as “year round summer time.”
It has been awhile since we’ve done a “Word of the day” so we’ll make this a bonus day with several words for the price of one!
Яйца Бенедикт is eggs benedict, [YAI-itsyah bene-dikt].
Of course if you’re making Яйца Бенедикт (eggs benedict) you’ll want to know how to make Яйца Пашот (poached eggs), which sounds like [YAI-itsyah pa-SHOtt]. It is not “shot” so think of “show” with a t sound at the end. Stress the “SHO” sound hard.
Now that you’ve learned a unique way to poach eggs, you may want a quick tutorial on how to make Яйца Бенедикт (eggs benedict):
While taking advantage of some vacation time, we wanted to share with our readers Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the main house of the Museum estate of one of Russia’s earliest national poets, Gavril Derzhavin, in Saint Petersburg on Friday, 20 June.
Poet Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin was born near Kazan, Russia into a Tatar family of very modest means. After failing to complete high school he joined the Russian military (Preobrazhensky Guards) and rose through the ranks to eventually become an officer.
He maintained an “on, then off again political relationship with Catherine the Great but eventually became a close adviser to the Empress. He retired after serving in the cabinet of Aleksander I as Minister of Justice. Many of his poems were dedicated to members of the Royal Court.
Derzhavin had a major impact on a young Aleksandr Pushkin and the Derzhavin Museum like several others, is part of the state’s Pushkin Museum holdings.You can see this estate from the River and it is open for visitors at Fontanka Naberezhnaya 118, in Saint Petersburg.
Like many other grand houses of this city, the Derzhavin house has an interesting history. Not long after his death in 1916 his wife died and was buried at his side. The couple had no children and the house was purchased by the Roman Catholic Church and a Catholic Theological College was established on the site.
By 1924 the Communist Party had seized the house and it was partitioned into dozens of communal apartments like so many of the grand houses of that tragic era and converted into communal housing. As expected, its character was gradually destroyed and the house was in grave disrepair for years.
At the close of the Soviet period the government transferred ownership to the state’s Pushkin Museum holdings in 1998 and gradually the grounds and several surrounding buildings of the estate reopened as a museum to Derzhavin’s life and work. Derzhavin was buried in the Khutyn Monastery but his body was dug up and reburied by the Soviets in the Novgorod Kremlin. After the fall of Communism his body was returned to the Khutyn Monastery.
Despite being anti-Semitic, which sadly was fashionable in Tsarist Russia at the time, he was an important poet and when traveling to Russia’s northern capital the Derzhavin Museum is worth a visit for the sake of history:
The Russian Duma’s Committee on Culture is recommending that Parliament pass a bill that would ban foreign words from being used in public speech or advertising.
Lawmakers representing the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party) want to protect the purity of the Russian language, making it a crime to utter foreign words in public or for companies to use them in advertising.
According to the Moscow Times the law, if passed, would make the use of ‘linguistic imports’ punishable by a fine of up to 2,500 rubles ($73) for ordinary citizens, and up to 50,000 rubles ($1,460) for companies or organizations. What is unclear at the moment is whether the intent is to ban words and phrases such as “fat free” and “ipad” or “iphone” and branding for Western companies such as Coco Cola, McDonalds, etc.
Some linguists estimate that as much as twenty-five percent of the Russian vocabulary consists of cognates, borrowed words, and thus we doubt that the purpose of such a law truly targets foreign words as much as it seeks to ban foreign ideas. According to documents posted on the Duma’s public website, efforts to eliminate banned words would include the confiscation of books and other publications containing foreign terms.
The list of foreign or borrowed words in Russian is extensive, easily in the hundreds. Terms such as журналист (journalist), видео (video), меню (menu), секс (sex), экзамен (exam), директор (director), aлфавит (alphabet) and hundreds of others would have to disappear if the law were truly about protecting the Russian language.
If true that the real intent is to ban Western influences, then the question also looms over what would happen to hundreds of thousands of street and Metro signs that have English tranliterations in Russia’s drive to attract more tourism. Will lawmakers ban those too?
One of the most beloved features of large Russian cities and especially in places like Moscow is the famous transportation system knows as the Метро (Metro). That too is a foreign term. Would such a law cause the Metro to be renamed? No, we already know the answer to that question.
We suspect that the bill has less to do with language purity but instead is yet another thinly veiled piece of anti-Western legislation driven by the current insane frenzy of nationalistic zealotry. In fact some critics of the legislation inside Russia admit that the motivation is an attempt to isolate the Russian people from Western ideas and also to punish Western companies who do business in Russia in response to Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea.
Just last year the same Duma committee had refused to advance similar legislation saying then that there was no need to protect the Russian language from foreign words and phrases.
It is the same old song: former Soviet Republics who want true independence and to make their own economic and political choices are pitted against a Russia that seems determined to return to the days of Soviet glory. President Putin has found that the theme plays nicely at home, at least until the economic costs come home to roost.
As Georgia and Moldova announce their intentions to sign on the dotted line to join in a trade and political pact with the European Union, Russia has warned both countries against the deal. Neither country would be joining the European Union immediately as this is an association agreement. But it is a first step toward eventual full membership in the EU.
Just so you know, this is exactly what got Ukraine in hot water. Ukraine was ready to ink an association agreement with the EU, something a majority of citizens clearly wanted, and the violent protests that began in Kyiv (Kiev) were a result of the Yanukovich government backing out of the deal after extensive guidance from Moscow. Yanukovich was ousted from office and the country is now involved in a civil war.
When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were recognized by Moscow as independent nations even though most of the world has refused such recognition.
For all intents and purposes Russia has already “taken” Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the inconvenience of annexation. Abkhazia for example is an economic basket case and we don’t think that Russia wants to further absorb either Abkhazia or South Ossetia due to economic costs.
Russia has recognized Abkhazian political “independence” in as far as Russia really calls the shots and just forced President Aleksandr Z. Ankvab to resign after mass protests in the tiny “nation” recently. A new election in Abkhazia is scheduled for 24 August.
At issue with Moldova is the breakaway province of Transnistria which has a large Russian-speaking minority population. In the case of Transnistria the population at last count (2009) was 550,000 if which 150,000 are Russian. The Russian Army has approximately 1200 peacekeeping troops in Transnistria.
Russia already supports both of Georgia’s breakaway republics heavily and taking on additional social and infrastructure costs at this point in time would be dangerous to the Putin government. Moscow has found a successful recipe in energizing dissent amongst the minorities of Russian-speakers in former Soviet republics and assisting and guiding their activities but allowing the locals, many of whom are poor and not well educated, to do the heavy lifting so that Russia can claim some semblance of distance from such movements.
Recently there has been a proliferation of advertising flyers around Moscow promoting seminars on how to protect personal savings and prepare for possible pension cuts due to the economic impact of annexing Crimea and Sevastopol. No matter one’s attitude on the political issue, Russians are beginning to sense that the economic costs will be heavier than at first advertised. Russian activist Alyona Popova is a speaker at some of these seminars specifically targeted to women and she has done much to improve the lot of women in small business start-ups, etc.
Some cities and regions are now showing concerns and are communicating with their Duma representatives about the prospects of budget cuts at home in order to support new territories just annexed. At this stage of the game Moscow isn’t going to swallow up Abkhazia or South Ossetia and especially not the even more severely impoverished Transnistria, as to do so would be financial suicide and perhaps even eventually usher in increased calls for regime change in mother Russia.
Do countries like Georgia and Moldova have reason to be concerned about Moscow’s warnings? Russia wouldn’t issue the warnings if they were empty threats–that is not the Putin style. The real politic is that any former Soviet member country daring to look West instead of East should be prepared to deal with the wrath of a much larger and very powerful neighbor that has clear designs on reconstituting some semblance of the region’s Soviet past.