I’m sure you’re interested in what safety measures are undertaken in Russia for New Year Night 2021. Here’s a short digest:
shops close at 10pm;
restaurants shut down at 11pm;
ice rinks close at 7pm;
no official street festivities;
New Year fireworks can be watched in the city centre but people have to have hot drinks on them, as no cafes or street vendors work;
underground and public transport work all night;
Red Square in Moscow is shut down for visitors for the night.
New Year in Russia, just as Christmas in the UK, has always been a family holiday. Two or three generations sat down to one table to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new. With time, youngsters began to get together for huge celebrations at the restaurants and regional hotels. Due to virus, the tradition is back, although some families have to celebrate New Year separately for health reasons. My Instagram friend had a baby this October, and then her parents fell ill. So, she is meeting New Year with her husband and their baby daughter. But their New Year Night 2021 will be truly blissful.
We’ve had some sleet today, and some local folks are setting off fireworks already. I’m off to walk my dogs, and then I plan to go out to snap a few photos of the year 2020 as it is drawing to a close. I’m very happy as I’m on the verge of great changes, and I sincerely wish all of us to find happiness and faith, whatever happens in the world.
I’ve been looking through my posts here in which I tried to draw a line under the previous year. It was good to see for myself what experiences got me well prepared for the year 2020.
Back in the Day
There was a marriage break-up in 2006, a loss of job in 2008, yet another one in 2009, lots of travelling in 2010 and various events in 2011, more travelling and events in 2012-2013. In 2013, I started teaching. In 2014 my grandma died, the pound sterling rate doubled, and I found myself in a bit of jeopardy because I couldn’t get my books and academic photocopies back in the next six years. I rarely mentioned my extensive translation work here, except when it was literary translation. At the end of 2015 the neighbour upstairs got everyone below him severely flooded, so until 2018 I had to deal with a complete makeover of my flat. I was also an editor-in-chief, then a head of the department, and I started to perform as a singer. I couldn’t always maintain my blogging, so between 2015 and 2017 LCJ was offline. All these experiences, however unexpected and unwelcome, taught me to stay calm amidst any kind of storm, to be agile and flexible, to rely on myself but also to trust others, and to be patient.
My Year 2020
This explains why in 2020, when people were going mad because of distant work and learning, constant home living, and all sorts of restrictions, I was in the position when I could actually give them advice and provide help. I followed my heart, and it always brought me more good.
Some great things that happened to me in 2020:
I translated 4 books, due out in 2021;
I had 5 books published, 1 electronic and 4 printed, The Hammock for the Falling Stars I mentioned before;
starting from summer 2019, I listened to 9 online courses on finance and psychology;
I translated and voiced a course on front-edge technology for aesthetic medicine, orthopedics, dentistry etc.;
thanks to the above, and also my friends Adrian and Marco, I was finally able to get all my books and papers back to Moscow (here’s the mention).
I didn’t travel much, but I happily resorted to following a few Instagram accounts of people who live in countries as different as Bali and Italy and tell us about their everyday life.
Thoughts on Year 2020
Overall, I’ve had a fantastic year 2020. I realise this sounds ridiculous to some of you, so I’ll explain. I’ve had my best results in all my life when I took a complete responsibility for every action. I made my own choices, I followed my decisions, and I put myself first. Now, as far as I know, “I” for many people include their relatives, at the least, if not also friends, job, country and mankind. And this is the problem: we cannot be responsible for the mankind. We can be only responsible for ourselves as a part thereof. We cannot be responsible for our relatives, except for how we interact with them. It’s a totally different subject, but basically, if another person is unable to be happy, we cannot and shouldn’t make them happy at the expense of our own happiness.
My Wishes for Year 2021
For the year 2021, I want to wish us all to be patient and flexible. If it’s true that the virus is here to stay until 2023, then the new year will come “equipped” with more instability and danger. There will be more restrictions, more pressure, and more uncertainty. So I pray that we all stay calm and faithful. This storm is also of spiritual nature, it especially hits control freaks who are very fearful deep inside. As it is quite clear that the events are out of our control, please don’t fear what you don’t know. Instead, build on your strengths and find faith. With faith, we are unconquerable.
John R.R. Tolkien composed Letters from Father Christmas from 1920 till 1943, which makes 2020 the 100th anniversary of this great book. I’ve already produced several recordings of its Russian translation, and for LCJ I’ve chosen the letter from 1925. However, it was quite difficult to upload the video to the post. In the end, this was the only way to share with you the pressie Mr Nicholas Christmas, Mr J.R.R. Tolkien and I prepared for my readers who celebrate Christmas today. I haven’t got a pet Polar Bear, and there have been no goblins in sight, but I still couldn’t upload the video directly to the site. Thank you, Instagram, for helping out.
The letter from the year 1925 from Letters from Father Christmas tells the story of the Polar Bear attempting to rescue the Father Christmas’s hood from the North Pole, only to break the pole which in turn fell on the roof of the house, broke it, the snow fell through the hole and spoilt a lot of children’s presents.
So, please take care, and may God and His blessings be with you.
I’m not Father Christmas, but just like him I have been dreadfully busy. I’ve been studying a lot this year, and I’m yet to finish some voiceover and translation projects. Here’s the reason why, in spite of my best efforts, I’ve not been able to write any more Christmas posts. So I shall use this opportunity to suggest you to read some past Xmas posts:
The magical time of the year has arrived, and finally, after two very English (=mild, rainy) winters we’re having a proper Russian one, with snow and temperatures below zero. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby Jingle Bells suit the weather perfectly, even though I cannot yet put my feet up and rest. Instead, may I remind you about the Xmas labels on this blog, which you might want to flick through:
Xmas 2020 is going to tell about the holidays as they are being celebrated in Moscow this year. To put it officially, they are not being celebrated due to pandemics; instead, each of us is getting into festive mood by himself. This looks almost like what two great artists were doing in this video. So, let Xmas 2020 begin with Sinatra and Crosby Jingle Bells!
I am very glad to announce a publication of a collection of original fairy tales, inspired by the world folklore, The Hammock for the Falling Stars. The project is at the finishing stage where the authors and all those who are interested are collecting the money to publish the book before Christmas. 17 female authors wrote over 30 tales that take the reader to all the four corners of the world. This hardback edition contains over 100 pages, it is lavishly illustrated and will surely make a superb gift for a Russian-reading child. I have already translated my tale, inspired by Welsh folklore, into English and will look to publish it separately. In the meantime, you can look at the beautiful illustrations to this wonderful, superb edition. If you know of someone who may be interested in this book, please feel free to share the post with them.
The Hammock for the Falling Stars can be purchased via this link: https://www.tinkoff.ru/sl/AxyL1HgRWHH. Please write your name and a social network name or email to be contacted for the book to be posted.
In my blog post on November 4th on occasion of the Day of National Unity I mentioned that Russia today is performing a balancing act due to multinational and multicultural character of the contemporary Russian society. In his address to the leaders and heads of religious organisations President Vladimir Putin also mentioned that, barring certain differences, all religions consider all people equal in front of God. Today we’ve learnt that this is not quite so. The Council of Ulema of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia has imposed the ban on mixed marriages.
“The Council of Ulema decided that Muslims should not marry representatives of other faiths, in particular Christians and Jews. Interfaith marriages are permissible only in certain cases with the permission of the local muftiat… Common values are important for people as close as husband and wife. The similarity of spouses in religion is the most important condition for a happy life”
The decision to ban mixed marriages can create certain problems. Since the Soviet times there have been a lot of mixed – and happy – marriages, so neglecting the question of faith is a long-term habit. Russian Orthodox priests are not particularly welcoming mixed marriages either, and when they have to explain, they also raise the topic of common values. However, the Ulema’s decision that has existed in theory since 2019 pioneers the formal prohibition of future marriages between the representatives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism – something that neither Christian nor Judaic organisations formally did, although similar recommendations against marriages with the unfaithful exist in those religions, too.
Here at this point many people, mainly atheists, shall raise their hands and deplore the ruin that religion causes to people’s lives. Meanwhile, the Ulema explains their decision not only by a lofty idea of a unity of values (faith included), but by a more practical reason. Russian and Jewish girls are known for their beauty, and Muslim men often leave their former Soviet Republics to work in Moscow and other Russian cities to earn money. There they predictably meet and marry non-Muslim girls, while the Muslim beauties (who traditionally must stay with the family) cannot find a man to marry.
So, in truth, this is about demographics, not God.
I always look for good things on such occasions. If anything else, the Ulema’s ban reminds us what family is really about. We’re raised on fairy tales about love at first sight (and I believe in it, too!) However, love at first sight means recognising your other half as the one your soul has been waiting to meet. The soul doesn’t recognise the sex appeal or the hair colour. It recognises values. In case with traditional religions, a particular set of rites is a cornerstone of life. For many others, faith itself is a cornerstone, even if we don’t religiously follow a particular tradition. Hence it is important to know your values and not to compromise on those that matter most. If we look at things from this point of view, the Ulema’s decision suddenly makes sense.
Roscosmos has initiated the registration of several historic and seminal signs as trademarks “to protect the state corporation from unfair competition”. Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin is to become a trademark – the world-famous word he said on his first flight to space, which means “let’s go”.
As we’re waiting to hear about further details, here’s a song about Yuri Gagarin, Do You Know What Man He Was, sung by Yuri Gulyaev. The video is a collage of Gagarin’s photos.
Nine years ago, when the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first manned Earth orbit, Anton Agarkov paid a visit to the Star City and shared lots of photos that I also featured on my blog. Read the article. To commemorate the same event, Attic Room Productions have made The First Orbit movie that you can watch below. It reconstructs Gagarin’s historic flight and helps to relive his experience – now almost 60 years on.
The new year is just around the corner, and I’m pleased to announce the availability of 2021 photographic calendars I’ve prepared for you.
We’re starting with my photographic calendars available on Zazzle.com. One of them is dedicated to Wales and features my photos made there between 2009 and 2013. The photos were taken in North, Middle and South Wales, particularly in Caernarfon, Llandudno, Denbighshire. Exact places include Valle Crucis Abbey, Horseshoe Path, and a few others.
Another calendar consists of my London photos. The landmarks include a church in Aldgate, St. Pancras Railway Station, the church of St. Clements Danes, a few Bloomsbury and Soho streets. This is London you rarely see on postcards. While the Welsh 2021 photographic calendar is ideal for those who love the countryside, London 2021 photographic calendar will best suit those who like the subdued city vibe.
We celebrate the Day of National Unity in Russia today. It falls on the same day as the celebration of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady by the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, November 4th has been celebrated since the 17th c., after the Polish-Lithuanian intervention had been driven out of Russia by the Second Volunteer Army of Minin and Pozharsky. The occasion was first commemorated by Mikhail Romanov, the first ruler of the new dynasty on the Russian throne.
In recent years the civil holiday was widely celebrated by the parades and street performances, but naturally, this year such events were out of the question. On the contrary, the faithful flocked to churches this morning. Many Russian Orthodox churches traditionally serve two liturgies on big holidays like this one, to accommodate as many believers as possible. I, too, went to the church today, although I couldn’t stay for the service.
I’m drafting a big article on satyre, the mockery of religious beliefs and the impact it has on the world today. One thing I certainly find disturbing is that we are not serious enough about the really important things. We take politics very seriously; we take economy and money-making even more seriously; and expendables, like buckwheat and toilet paper, seem the end of it all. But our world is growing exponentially void of sympathy and respect. For is there really an explanation to the fact that, while the Act of Equal Opportunities demands employment to all despite their (dis)abilities, religious beliefs, sexuality and gender, the artists and journalists demand the right to mock faith and its most important aspects? Logically, this means 1) that a person outside the titular spectrum is given a competitive advantage based on their “difference” but at the time 2) in return for the titular population tolerating their “difference” they are made to tolerate the mockery of some very important aspects of their culture, namely, faith.
Christianity has undergone this hysteria during the Reformation, when zealous Protestants whitewashed the opulent Catholic frescoes and broke the statues of saints and prophets. There has long been a taciturn consensus between the different denominations within the Christian Church, whereby the Russian Orthodox Church remains faithful to the old Byzantine order, preserving the spirit of Christianity, while Catholic and Protestant Churches have moved on pastures new, admitting in women and gay priests. The thing is very different with Islam, as according to traditional Christian thought, Muhammad is a fake prophet, hence Islam is a sect, not a religion in its proper sense of the word. It has been accepted by the civil society, by the lay order, but in terms of religious culture, there has been no acceptance. The Western culture remains largely Christian, and if if chooses to drift anywhere, it is to yoga and Buddhism, not Islam. The Muslim culture doesn’t fit anywhere, so it literally has to fight for itself. Despite this, for nearly a decade European journalists have seen to aggravating the Muslim population by producing caricatures on Muhammad and, most recently, on President Erdogan, who seemingly aspires to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. Add to this the problem of the West “making up” the palatable East and not even attempting to understand the East on the latter’s own terms, and it becomes obvious just how really tragic these caricatures are, and how oblivious is President Macron or other leaders to the real state of things.
Admittedly, Russia today is also performing a balancing act today, following the demise of the USSR and the influx of the cheap labour force from the former Soviet republics. I wrote previously about the Day of National Unity in Russia and the attempt to relegate the revolutionary past into the void of History. However, it is legally prohibited to mock or satirize anyone’s religious beliefs, and I fully support this limitations. I know some call these satirical acts the manifestation of freedom. I strongly believe that freedom is not about how far we can go, but when we choose to stop.
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