Category Archives: News

Zoos in Pandemic: Animals Without People

Not only theatres and museums are suffering from the financial losses due to pandemic. Zoos are also in huge distress – and, as the Russian zoo workers state, not only because of the lack of money. Animals without people is a poor sight, too.

animals-without-people
Meerkats at the zoo in Amiens, France (@YouTube)

The zoo keepers in Kaliningrad, Voronezh and Yekaterinburg in Russia noted the animals’ astonishment at the absence of visitors. In Kaliningrad, the llamas were surprised to see no people on the first day of lockdown in spring 2020. Having waited for a few hours, they retired to the farthest corners of their cages. Tigers and monkeys, who are especially fond of people’s attention, all but succumbed to depression. And even fish – the koi – were upset to have no visitors.

I suppose it is easy to understand the animals. They realise they are in captivity, and people’s presence makes a very necessary “link” between the cage and the outer world. Without this link, the outer world becomes an unattainable dream. Indeed, animals without people are bound to find zoos unbearable.

Budgeting the Cause

The financial problems the zoos have faced are partly exacerbated by their place in the country’s budget. In Russia, for instance, the zoos are assisted by special charitable funds that come under the jurisdiction of the Culture Ministry. The Government tries to support all cultural institutions, although it has to single out the likes of the Hermitage and the Bolshoi Theatre. And, rightfully, the preservation of the Hermitage comes ahead of that of a zoo, especially a regional one.

In October 2020, the Russian Ministry of Culture designated 200 mln rubles (~1,9mln GBP) to support the zoos. They admit, however, that situation is unlikely to change in the 2021, so, together with the Finance Ministry, they will look into rearranging their budget to preserve the zoos and natural parks and reserves.

Meanwhile, regional governments and visitors have been giving their little help to save the animals. A zoo in Novosibirsk received 27,5 mln rubles (~267K GBP) from the local government. And a zoo in Nizhny Novgorod collected nearly 300K rubles over an evening via the Internet (~1000 GBP).

The Scottish government has ruled to offer another 2,5 mln GBP fund to support the country’s zoos and aquariums, Andy Philip of Daily Record reports.

The applications can be made for loans or grants up to £100,000 to pay for three months of animal care costs.

The fund for zoos and aquariums will close on March 10, while the conservation part of the fund will open for applications later this month.

Life Goes On

There is also a bright side to look at. A year ago, at the start of the pandemics, a zoo in Cordoba, Mexico welcomed three cubs – a tiger and two pumas – whom they named, respectively, Covid (male), Pandemia (female) and Cuarentena (male). Life continues at other zoos, too. And this is what one may find particularly striking. In spring 2020, we all contemplated the maleficent impact of a man when dolphins returned to the Venetian waters, and animals came back to the city streets. Yet in zoos animals cannot survive without the humans. So, animals without people and people without animals are equally in distress – and this is a truly good motivation to protect the Nature.

More in the News.

The End of Democracy in the USA

Elephant and Donkey: the mascots of American two political parties (from ruswi.com)

You’d likely want to know what we think here, in Russia, about the situation with the elections and Trump-Biden confrontation. Well, quite simply, we think this is the end of democracy in the USA.

Politics, Weapons and Enemies

The state of affairs between our countries is such that most Russians like the American people, nature, the best of American culture and values – but we are deeply aware that political elites hold Russia as one of America’s biggest enemies. The model of Realpolitik these elites have adhered to for decades dictates to always remember there is an enemy whose attack is imminent. You might say that Russia exists in the same paradigm. Not quite: in our case, this is the sad historical reality. Following the creation of the ancient Russian state in the 10th century and its “free” existence until the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, the only time Russia was not invaded by the belligerent enemy forces was in the 18th cc. I don’t need to tell you that things are different with the USA that has been waging wars here and there in various corners of the East since 1960s. And while Russia has to produce the arms to defend itself, the U.S. produce arms to “bring the democratic values” to uncivilised barbarians elsewhere in the world.

This introduction serves to explain that most people here in Russia are not “for” or “against” Trump, Clinton, Obama, Biden, or any other Democrat or Republican. We are for the politician that is least belligerent and more grounded. Such was Trump. His was the mindset of a good businessman: if it’s good for business, let’s do it. If not, forget it.

Democracy, Hypocrisy and Human Rights

I’ll explain now what problems I personally have with the liberal democratic agenda. Under the aegis of “human rights” liberals bring havoc and plague on all the houses in the neighbourhood. Before we knew it, every deviation under the sun has been considered normal, so that if you don’t discover any legally acknowledged deviation in yourself, you’re a freak. Any discussion becomes a minefield where you are bound to breach these or those rights. This makes any forward movement completely impossible. Instead of getting to the core of the problem and finding a solution, we’re beating around the bush fearing to offend somebody.

And secondly, I really despise these boss-servant relations when a boss comes across as your best friend. This is never the case. Liberalism is all about supporting the weak, it seems. In truth, it’s about weakening the weak, to make them powerless, dependant and therefore more docile and compliant. More often than not the boss takes the servant for a drink not to talk about life, but to learn the weaknesses of the employee. And then he disposes of the servant if necessary, and the latter cannot even understand why the boss had to be so ruthless. They always had a good chat and a pint on Friday afternoon…

The End of Democracy in the USA

First, there has indeed been proof of Democrats’ forging the elections. Interestingly, they used the same method of which they’ve been accusing Russia since 2011: they threw in fake bulletins. And now we see Twitter “forever banning” Trump. The meaning thereof is VERY simple. The Fourth and Fifth Estate in America is the real power; their owners and investors own the country. What the recent American election has shown, is that people no longer have any power or right. You may vote because the Constitution says you can, but you don’t decide who becomes the president. The owners of the media and social networks do. Officially, the last popular president, i.e. elected by the people, was Donald Trump.

This is certainly the end of democracy in the USA. This is also a revival of oligarchy in its worst form yet. Its power is entirely virtual, including the money, but extremely strong and omnipresent.

What’s Next for America?

I don’t for a second support those (rare) voices who claim they will enjoy watching the USA plunging into the civil war. For all the bad things the American politicians have done since the 20th c., the American people don’t deserve to experience the horror of an inner military conflict. Yet I can well imagine it happening. Just as there is a shadow state, there is a shadow national spirit that exists besides the social networks and television. It is supported by the values that we call traditional and that have been mocked or distorted in the recent years. But they still exist: family, children, faith, national independence, national culture, a healthy business competition. Republicans and those who share their values have a lot to fight for.

Links to other articles on Politics and History on LCJ

Ten Years Ago, on September 11, 2001

Historical Comebacks (about the West-East rivalry)

Jacques Le Goff on History (one of the leading medievalists on the Evil, the West and the East)

Thoughts on Russian presidential elections (+mentality+curious media parallels with the recent US elections)

Wrong on Russia (about history, democracy, Russia and the West)

The 75th Anniversary of the Leningrad Blockade, 1944-2019

The Professional Fallacy of Historians (a brief piece on mid-Tudor studies)

The Ban on Mixed Marriages: Marry But a Muslim

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”


Sourcehttps://runews24.ru/eng/society/10/11/2020/32ca990d9a290128710f914ba4c38cf4

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.

mixed-marriage
The marriages between Muslims and Jews may become a rarity for Russian Muslims (Image credit: europe1.fr)

Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin To Become a Trademark

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”.

poekhali-by-yuri-gagarin-to-become-a-trademark
Poekhali by Yuri Gagarin is known all over the world as the first words of a man in space. It is set to become a trademark if registered by Pospatent. Image credit: fortuna-2014.livejournal.com

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.

More posts on Space.

Moscow Mayor Promises No New Lockdown

An autumnal park in Moscow is still the place for peaceful walks

While a new lockdown has been announced in several European countries, the Moscow Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, hopes to avoid the drastic measures. To do so, the following measures have been implemented:

  • no public transport access for pupils aged 13 to 18, pregnant women, people over 65, and those who have disabilities or chronic illnesses;
  • shops’ working hours restricted to 7/8am till 11pm;
  • masks and gloves are mandatory in shops, on public transport and in crowded, busy places;
  • at least 30% of workers to work out-of-office, except those whose presence is critical;
  • leisure centres closed until the end of November;
  • night clubs and bars’ visitors must obtain and scan a QR-code (until the end of November);
  • if hospitalised, a person can only receive food packs from the relatives; personal visits not allowed.

We are waiting to hear about restrictions on visiting the places of worship. This Wednesday, when the Russian Orthodox people celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Kazan, one of holy icons that played an important role in fighting the Polish and Lithuanian intervention in the 17th c. November 4th (the day of victory over the intervents) has been celebrated since the 17th c., minus a few decades when November 7th (the day of October Revolution) was celebrated instead. It is the day when Russian people traditionally visit churches. And this time, unlike the Great Lent, the faithful will be able to participate in the service, albeit in masks and gloves.

Moscow is obviously affected most, as it is bigger, and more businesses and people are located here. Incidentally, in Paris, people have been leaving the capital ahead of a new lockdown. This is unlikely to happen in Moscow, as a lot of famous dachas are not adapted to winter conditions.

I suggest we all keep in touch at this time, so please share your experience of living through the pandemia, suggest the topics we can discuss, or look at my brisk notes on the first wave of epidemics in spring this year.

More posts in safeathomeinrussia

The Mask as a Test on Inner Freedom

For the second day running one of Russian radio broadcasters, VestiFM, is discussing a truly vital question:

How to make citizens wear a mask?!

The question sounds crazy because “to make” is to force someone to do something against their will. In the days of “we shan’t be slaves” a mask is called nothing but a “muzzle”. According to this logic, the task is, more or less, to make the Russian citizens wear muzzles.

Dogs are shocked: people are wearing muzzles

A MASK: FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY

Since March 2020, just as you, I have been reading various opinions of the doctors as to whether a mask protects you, and how well, and if the demand to wear it at all times is really justified, and whether this runs against the Constitution and the civil rights, etc. Likewise, I cannot doubt that the virus exists, and people fall ill, among them – my friends and their relavites.

Add to this numerous publications about the “Illuminati conspiracy”, and I suspect that someone really wants to see all the craziest forecasts come true so we can witness “apocalypse now”. You see, the TV passions are no longer exciting, but a live catastrophe is just the right thing!

You know what I think? I think that the virus, the pandemics, and all related restrictions run a check on the degree of our inner freedom. We may call it Jesuitism and abuse, or look for the culprits. Or we can admit that the most aggravated are those who are in no way responsible for their lives. For them, to wear a mask is not a measure to protect oneself and everyone around; it is a pain because the inner restrictions (which sees no-one but you) are now coupled with the outer.

Believe me, this is one’s personal choice. It has nothing to do with the circumstances, place-and-time, or the “wrong” head of state. This is one’s own fear: to fail, to take responsibility, to make a decision, to choose. It is far easier to find a scapegoat and send it off to the desert, so one can sit back and keep fearing.

William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat (1854-1856, Manchester Art Gallery)

You may disagree and say that age is a factor, but let me disagree with you, too. Anxiety has nothing to do with age. It is a consequence of a person’s desire to control – especially if the object is out of one’s sphere of influence, in principle. Today we witness people who are ready to give their all just to prove that the mask is not necessary and can be done without.

A person who takes primary responsibility for their life is doing the following in the present conditions:

  • Seasonal prevention;
  • Wearing protective equipment;
  • Avoiding, if possible, busy places;
  • Looking after oneself, the near and dear, and friends.

And what do some people do instead? Anything, except looking after themselves. Still, if anyone is really awaiting the Doomsday, please remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Five wise virgins took with them the oil for lanterns, the foolish ones didn’t. Then the latter ran out of oil and couldn’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Parable of the wise and foolish maidens

To look after oneself and wear a mask in busy, crowded places is the task of the wise virgins. Yet Christianity respects one’s free will, so it is only a fine that can make “free citizens” wear masks. Meanwhile, my friend was attacked on the Moscow underground when one such citizen tried to rip the mask off her face.

WELL, WHAT IF ALL THIS IS TRUE?

One final thought, especially for those who love conspiracy theories. Suppose, all this is true: there is a conspiracy, the Masons and the Illuminati, the digital concentration camp, and so on. Suppose even you’ve had an epiphany, and now you are dead certain as to who is guilty of all this mess. To begin with, any such culprit is an illusion; the real masterminds remain behind the curtains, so you shouldn’t be too pleased with your guesses. Secondly, what’s next? Most likely, there’s nothing you can do. Are you planning to keep on living in spite of these terrible people’s ? Then remember that the main goal is to reduce the population of the Earth. Smart, free people are indispensable in the face of a pandemic: it is thanks to their irrepressible love of freedom and concern for others that the goal is achieved much easier.

Look after yourself. And use a mask.

The Russian original text

Other posts in LCJ Author Corner, safeathomeinrussia, and News.

Neighbourhood Cam: Sunday Sunset

There’s little better than to spend a Sunday afternoon in a company of good friends. Years ago I wondered what to do to ensure I spend such lovely time with people whose company I treasure. It took me a decade to find such people but now I’m very happy to have them. So, this Sunday sunset is peaceful and fills my heart with joy.

My school year has finally ended, the A-Levels are done with, and my students are looking forward to their results – and their new adult life. I wish them every happiness on their way.

These days in Russia we recall the 1980 Olympics. I’m doing two voiceover projects, in one of them I’m also a translator, and my text will apparently be used by the German team to produce a German version of an educational course. The French voiceover project involves me as an editor and a voiceover artist; this is a Psychology course for those who wish to overcome stress.

I’ve got enough time now to finish my editorial work, to develop my Yandex.Zen channel, and to do a couple of translation projects. I’ll probably finish a couple of knitting projects, too.

And to share the glimpses of my Moscow life with you, I’ve started the rubric Neighbourhood Cam. My Instagram account is also dedicated to the photos of the place where I was born and currently live. To begin with, here’s today’s Sunday sunset.

Also, if there’s something you want to learn about life in Russia, or Moscow in particular, feel free to ask!

More posts in Neighbourhood Cam.

Quarantine Shuts Moscow Down

As of March 30th nobody can leave the house in Moscow, unless a matter of urgency. Quarantine shuts Moscow down. Dental services have stopped working for a week, just as shopping malls, entertainment centres, cultural places and restaurants and cafés of sorts. People are advised not to walk in parks, therefore all major parks have been shut down. Only shops, pet shops, pharmacies, clinics, and municipal and state services remain operational.

Needless to say, this will cause a lot of damage to businesses; however, it will also reveal just to what extent these businesses are responsible and ethical. It’s one thing to report the growing profits but a totally different thing to consider the liabilities and a force major. It’s one thing to boast a team of people and another thing to avoid lay-offs at the time of an economic crisis. Quarantine shuts Moscow down for us to reassess our ways in life and business.

The future will show what Russian businesses can withstand this frightening check on their skills. In the meantime, we’re all bracing up to a week off work… that may be extended, for all we know. I went shopping yesterday, so I’m going to stay at home mainly, except for short voyages to walk my dogs.

More posts in #safeathomeinrussia

Megxit, or Coat-hangers and Coat-bearers

Being a trained specialist in English history, I cannot avoid commenting on the recent scandal in the British Royal Family, poignantly called Megxit by the media. Harry and Meghan walked out on the British royal family. I didn’t want to engage in the hysteria of Harry’s exiting the family when the news had just broken out. I now feel I can share my view of the situation.

Personally, I don’t sympathise with either Harry or Meghan. Even Kate Middleton didn’t instantly become the nation’s favourite, and she’d been in the public eye for much longer before her marriage than Meghan. Never mind the latter’s cinema career, I suppose few people had heard of her before she got engaged to Prince Harry. So, I cannot see why the public wouldn’t judge Meghan where it had previously judged Kate. The British mouth can blurt out some scathing criticism. This had to be foreseen, obviously, and not just by the PR services but by Harry and Meghan themselves.

So, I feel for Meghan for any misery she endured at the royal court but it was in the cards anyway. The monarchy has to maintain its public image, and it costs a lot – financially, as emotionally. If she thought that the BRF is no Hollywood and she could be herself here, it was a very silly thought indeed. I’ve never been to either place but it seems no Hollywood may be as restricting and false (to someone’s liking anyway), as a royal family of any country.

Coat-hangers and coat-bearers of the British monarchy (Image courtery: Telegraph.co.uk)

To portray Harry as a poor guy torn between the beloved Granny, the native country and the wife-and-child is also to do him no justice. He’s not a teen nor even a young adult. He’s the sixth in line to the throne, and even if he was unlikely to get there ever in his life it doesn’t change the main thing: he represents the British monarchy. I cannot imagine what it was that eventually prompted him to break the news on Instagram of all places, but it is clear that this was a thoughtful decision, not a fly of fancy. Of course, he’s got a historical precedent in the face of Edward VIII. However, there isn’t as much pressure on Prince Harry, for he simply decided to get rid of royal responsibilities that demanded the presence of his wife. It is in no way critical as King Edward’s abdication in the wake of the Second World war.

Following the Megxit has led me to this observation. When it comes to joining a high-profile family, women apparently fall into 2 categories: coat-hangers and coat-bearers. Coat-hangers dream of nice clothes, family jewellery, publicity and other perks of an aristocratic dolce vita. So duties and not-always-nice-comments come as a surprise. Coat-bearers are more grounded. Being women, they certainly dream of the above, but they realise that to be a wife to a president, a king, a prince etc. means to carry the coat-of-arms of his country and his family.

Speaking of royal couples, the Spanish Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia have long been my favourite Royal family, for they both had successful public careers before getting married and ascending the throne. Princess Letizia reported from war zones and was an established professional in her own right. The image of a “normal” family that Prince William and his wife have adopted has made them popular but I cannot see them projecting the country to any new heights. They were so “normal” that they left practically no mark on this world prior to their marriage. Perhaps, the forward movement is no longer important after Brexit.

Having said that, Kate Middleton is certainly a coat-bearer. And there’s a good reason why she also is. She’s British. Whether she’s always dreamt of joining the Royal family or it happened by chance, she’s aware that she represents the country – hers, as her husband’s. You may remind me of members of other European royalty and aristocracy whose wives or husbands are foreigners (the Netherlands and Monaco come to my mind). What we still see is that a spouse becomes a full member of the royal household, complete with all duties this entails.

In case with Meghan Markle, she comes from the country that abandoned monarchy from the very beginning of its political life. America has been the country of the people – at least, nominally. When you elect and re-elect presidents, it’s hard to force yourself to be a part of the family where you will have to work like a queen but never get the chance to sit on the throne. British Royal family is very undemocratic and has evidently made some impossible demands on the good, young American.

So, Meghan is a coat-bearer, too – but of her own country and interests. It’s hard to say whether her attempt at bearing the arms of Britain and the Windsor family was good enough or it was doomed from the start. Yet even  her appearances as a coat-hanger didn’t always impress the media. Her being a brunette meant constant comparisons to Kate. Since William is more likely to get the throne than Harry, it’s more important for the media to keep Kate in the spotlight, than to let Meghan have her share thereof.

The result is that Prince Harry chose to altogether abandon the Royal family instead of withdrawing from the public eye for some time and helping Meghan to come to terms with her duties and a new lifestyle. Perhaps, Meghan decided that being married to a Prince is quite enough for her. And Prince Harry whose past behaviour occasionally outraged the public apparently thought that he could finally live his life on his own terms. Whatever the reports say, he’s always been the younger brother: always second, always in the shadow. Now he’s got the spotlight, and it remains to be seen what use Harry and Meghan will make of it.

Julia Shuvalova

Image is courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Belated Snowfall

A late January snowfall in Moscow

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.