There’s a chance that Moscow people will enjoy some proper winter weather soon. The first sign is the snow which is well overdue but is nonetheless welcome. I may try to be funny and say that Britain with the Brexit has waved goodbye to Europe and various European organisations, like PAEC, by sending a heatwave that saw the warmest December and January in all Russian history. But no, things are getting back to normal here, while we’re yet to see what lies ahead for Great Britain.
Since I took a photo of rain in Wales in 2009, I have been wondering if and when I’d be able to do it again. Ten years later, on October 1st, 2019, I recorded not only rain, but the fall, too, on video. It shall now stand as a new benchmark for my relations with rain and wind.
Over the last month I visited three different countries. This year, in general, I visited four different countries: France, Estonia, Latvia, and the UK. Scotland, for that matter, is sadly still a part of the UK, otherwise I’d count that as the fifth country. There were many instances of urban climbing (i.e. going up and down staircases in various domes, churches, and towers), park trailing, museum visiting, and I dare not say how many kilometres I thus walked. This doesn’t qualify me for the Olympics yet, but still. I even visited a car show and went camping for the first time in my life.
A whole lot of new experiences. I wouldn’t know where to start telling about any one of them.
Work-wise, I was pleasantly inundated with various translation projects. I’m very pleased to mention that in autumn visitors to the Russian IKEA will be reading my translation of new additions and some collection descriptions. I’ve proved myself over and over again, delivering great work to tight deadlines, which on two occasions I did either on the plane or at the airport.
But I had to give up something, as well, and for a good reason (I hope) it was blogging. I could not possibly log all my peregrinations as they were happening, not least because I did not always have reliable (if any) Internet connection. In the last week I had one of the projects prepared for a launch, which also required effort and time. Either way, the good news is that I am back and ready to show a plenty of photos and share stories.
In the spirit of the abovewritten, let’s start with a video I made in Tallinn. By the Toompea Hill (that houses the Government residence and a few historic monuments, including the Dome Church and St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, reportedly erected on the grave of the Estonian national hero) there is small bridge. Generally speaking, it is more of a lovely feature because the entire river flows by the bridge and doesn’t seem to go under it (unless via a collector). But just look at what fantastic use it has been put! Both rails read a message from the wind, telling you exactly what you need to hear. I admit that since moving back to Russia I have been doing exactly what the wind inscribed on this Tallinn bridge. And just in case it’s a bit difficult to view the video (connection ect.) here is what the wind has to tell the Tallinn visitors.
Do what you like, and like what you do.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
Love can sometimes be magic. But magic can sometimes just be an illusion.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
Whatever you are, be happy.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
Never stop dreaming.
Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
Tomorrow Russia and a few like-minded countries celebrate the International Women’s Day. I wrote a post on this earlier. Some countries, like the UK, celebrate Mother’s Day, hence there will be a Mothering Sunday.
For me, these will be days off work that I want to spend exactly as days-off.
In the third week of February I went to the UK and this time I finally crossed the border with Scotland and wandered around Edinburg. I very briefly, for a couple of seconds, contemplated visiting Glasgow, but then I remembered visiting the UK for the first time. I never visited London then, which is the capital city. I reckoned visiting Glasgow instead of Edinburgh would be like entering the same river twice, and since you cannot enter the same river twice, I bought a ticket to Edinburgh.
I was also contracted to do some translation work, one project having been completed the day I flew out to Manchester, another that I’m involved in as a collaborator is nearly finished.
There are more work projects, all in the Translation field so far, plus I’ve surprised myself by going back to teaching. Granted I teach World History, in which I specialised, it is probably no wonder. However, I still did not expect myself to do this, and yet… I have never said “never”, so I suppose I could do as I choose.
The best thing, as I feel it, is that certain days and weeks are already booked for months ahead. Only those who know the feeling will understand how grand it is to be able to look into a diary to see that you have things to do three weeks from now.
I have also nearly missed the worldwide craze Harlem Shake videos caused this February. It seems like everybody participated, from Amazon and Google to the Egyptian opposition. And yet I found two videos which you might not have seen yet. Harlem Shake reached the English National Ballet (!) and a group of Russian guys who like an occasional ice-water dip. The eponymous holiday was celebrated in January, but this was quite an Epiphany! I’m afraid you’ll have to watch it on YouTube.
And while the Russian TV has to keen a close watch on the age restrictions for programmes, when it comes to Harlem Shake, everyone is doing it, including a popular TV host and actor Ivan Urgant:
(I thus declare that Los Cuadernos de Julia has participated in the Harlem Shake global tour).
This is the poem I shall be working on translating, most likely, in 2013. 2012 has resulted in a few good translations of poems, as well as some prose pieces. Among them – translations from Robert Burns, George Orwell, Vita Sackville-West, Omar Khayyam, and W. H. Auden, and a poem by contemporary poet and author Adrian Slatcher.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
|“He who comes to us with a sword
shall die of the same sword” –
Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky poster
The Great Russian Prince Alexander Nevsky died on November 14, 1263. He is largely known for his victory over the Livonian Order on Chudskoe Lake (Lake Peipus) in April 1242. The so-called Battle on the Ice celebrated 770th anniversary this year.
Some claim that the Battle on Ice has only “appeared” thanks to the Soviet propaganda supported and popularised by Sergei Eisenstein’s fine masterpiece, Alexander Nevsky. Indeed, the 13th c. was marked by the so-called Northern Crusades organised by the Western (German and Scandinavian) armies and knight orders against the pagan peoples of the Baltic Region. The territories of the modern-day Estonia and Lithuania had been attacked, and Russia was a target too, along the northern and western borders. It was under these circumstances that attacks on Russian north-western cities were carried out repeatedly, and in this sense there were possibly several “battles on ice” fought, although only the battle on Chudskoe Lake (Lake Peipus) went down into history with so much fanfare.
The Battle on Ice claimed lives of some 400 Livonian Knights and 50 more were taken prisoners. The battle was significant in that the Livonian Order had to agree to make peace on Russian terms: the knights retreated, giving back all Russian territories they had captured. The Chudskoe Lake battle is also a splendid example of military manoeuvering: the Livonian Order sent their entire army against a small Russian troupe, only to be surrounded by the rest of the Russian forces.
The number of casualties is still under a dispute. What is obvious, however, is that the Battle on the Ice hammered the final nail in the coffin of the already unsuccessful 1240-1242 campaign of the Order against the Slavic lands.
It is easy to understand why on the eve of the Nazi invasion and during the war the version of the Battle on the Ice eloquently propagated by Eisenstein’s epic movie became so popular and continues to feed the imagination to this day. 1942 also happened to be the Battle’s 700th anniversary, which fact was commemorated in the war-time film posters.
Historians note that there were at least one other battle that was much more successful, and that is the Rakvere Battle (Battle of Wesenberg, or Rakovor) fought on February 18, 1268 by Alexander Nevsky’s son, Dmitry of Pereslavl, and Daumantas of Pskov. The Western forces were thoroughly defeated and had not approached Russia’s western border for the next thirty years.
The Battle on the Ice was widely commemorated not only in film, but music (the score by Sergei Prokofiev was used in Eisenstein’s film) and literature (an eponymous long poem by Konstantin Simonov was also published in 1938). It actually is interesting – if you believe in any such thing – to look at this avalanche of musings on the Russo-German relations a year before the World War 2 had started. The anticipation of yet another war had been palpable, and all the leading states – Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., and the USSR – each secretly plotted either against the Capitalist West or the Socialist East. Without any specific “promise” of an impending war how could the Russian film director and poet in the same year produce (or present) a work that mulled over the historical fact of military antagonism between Russia and Germany? Of course, Germans were there simply due to an historical coincidence. But what if contemplating the invasion and its victorious overcoming had actually led to a re-enactment of both in 1941-45?
Today the Battle on the Ice, as it was reconstructed in Eisenstein’s film, is a part of Russia’s contemporary popular culture. The final video of a Russian commercial for bread crumbs proves the point.
The Battle on the Ice – An extract from the film (medieval people all fought in the same manner, but it is quite obvious where Mel Gibson would draw his inspiration from for battle scenes in The Braveheart.
The Battle on the Ice
And if you have not seen it, here is a full film, courtesy of Mosfilm.
The video was recorded during the Moscow Autumn Tourism Industry Week. This annual event traditionally attracts professionals in the sphere of Luxury Travel, Spa and Hospitality services, with a special section on Moscow tourism. And in the video (which is 8mins long) you can see a dancing collective from Kaluga Region. Apart from watching the dance, you may also give some estimate to my filming skills. This year I took a course in film-making, so I hope I put zoom to a good use here.
Had he lived to this day, Andrei Tarkovsky, a genuine Russian film director, would celebrate his 80th birthday. Instead, we celebrate the lifetime of work marked by a never-ending philosophical quest, poetry, and constant probing.
Born into a family of the Russian poet Arseniy Tarkovsky, Andrei went on to graduate from the State Institute of Cinematography with a short film, The Streamroller and the Violin. The script was co-written by Tarkovsky and Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, another outstanding Russian director and the brother of Nikita Mikhalkov. I found a subtitled version, which I am sure will be a treat to all those who have already discovered and long loved such masterpieces, as Andrei Rublev (about the Russian icon painter and creator of the famous Trinity), Solaris (an adaptation of the novel by S. Lem), Ivan’s Childhood (a war-time drama about a boy), The Mirror (where Andrei first introduced to the public the poetry of his father), The Stalker (an adaptation of the novel by the Strugatsky Brothers), Nostalghia (with the script by Tonino Guerra), and The Sacrifice (again based on a script by Arkady Strugatsky, the film scooped many coveted awards, including the Grand Prix at the Cannes festival in 1986).
Still, it all started here, with The Streamroller and the Violin. Here already we notice Tarkovsky’s masterful use of colour and reflections as dramaturgical means.
|Julia and the yellow Porsche|
GUM, which is short from Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin, is the oldest and the largest department store in the capital. Having started long before the 19th c. as the trading hub of the city, it evolved to become a predecessor of shopping centres and department stores in combining the boutiques, cafes and restaurants with entertainment facilities.
The present building was erected by the architect A. Pomerantsev between 1891 and 1893 and consecrated by the Great Prince Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife, Elizaveta Fyodorovna. To quote from GUM’s official website, today
“GUM presents worldwide renowned names of fashion industry such as Louis Vuitton, Corneliani, Dior, La Perla, Ermanno Scervino, Escada, Sonia Rykel, Marina Rinaldi, Burberry, MaxMara, Max&Co, Kenzo, Hugo Boss, Wolford, Iceberg as well as different competent bags and elite luggage manufacturers such as Samsonite Black Label and Mandarina Duck. Popular jewelry companies as Chaumet and Frey Wille are also located in GUM. At the same time we don’t specify GUM a luxury direction. The trading house offers in its goods assortment some leading sport brands as Adidas, Reebok, Nike, Puma and popular casual clothing and footwear manufacturers as Pinko, Gant, Dimensione Danza, CK, Levi’s, Ecco, Monsoon, Accessorize, Chevignon.”
You get an idea. Nonetheless, the cafes are not expensive, meaning that you can pop in for a visit without a need to break your bank. Just enjoy exploring the place. Currently, for instance, there is an exhibition of Porsche cars from different years, and as I was wearing by hand-knitted yellow scarf I couldn’t resist posing in front of the yellow Porsche.
Without a doubt, one of the most striking features of the GUM is its roof. Designed by the engineer V. Shukhov, the roof represents a half-circle construction, 14 meters in diameter, made of over 50 thousand pounds of steel. It is a fascinating structure, and I somehow thought I’d try to film it. I got carried away, but the result is quite interesting methinks.
Last Friday I attended a press-conference at the RIA Novosti agency in Moscow, after which I thought I’d try to shoot a video on a bridge across the Moskva River. I tried it in colour, but eventually I switched to monochrome, and here is the result.