I shall especially remember this year’s Teacher’s Day. You see, despite the fact that I’d been teaching foreign languages for several years, my students weren’t particularly quick to send me greetings in English or French. Bizarrely, they always did so in Russian. In all these 10-11 years there have been only a couple of greetings in English. Perhaps, it was me who had to give a hint, but it never occurred to me either.
This year things went completely differently. Two of my new students sent me greetings in English! In fact, one of them recorded very heartwarming voice messages, which was quite moving. Another sent me a card and written greetings. I also received some postcards from my past students, as well as many greetings from my friends and colleagues.
On October 5th, I also started my first mastermind group as a moderator. I’m working with several amazing, beautiful, successful women from literally all over the world! This is going to be a totally new experience, despite that fact that I attended several masterminds as a participant. And I feel this is a fantastic beginning, given the date. At the end of that eventful Teacher’s Day I made a selfie that I’m sharing now.
Labour Day (its history) is not celebrated in all countries. Back in 2007, when I worked at my first Advertising agency, I had to research into national holidays in different countries. For example, the International Women’s Day is a day-off in Russia but not in many other countries.
As for Labour Day, it has been celebrated with a day-off in Russia and some other countries worldwide but not in the UK. And so my management was kinda upset that the month of May was so sloppy in terms of signups.
In Russia this year we have two spells of May holidays: one, to celebrate Labour Day (which is about to finish), and two, to celebrate Victory Day. On both occasions the holidays encompass the weekend and one or two weekdays.
This year there was no demonstration in Red Square; instead people roamed the parks and the city centre. As for me, I spent the most fantastic Saturday listening to classical music (Beethoven, Mozart, and Schumann) at the Moscow Conservatory. Then I had a mastermind session on Sunday and two classes on Monday. Labour makes a man, indeed, so it is only proper that we mark this day with a holiday.
On March 22nd, 2023, Belarus marks the 80th anniversary of annihilation of Khatyn village – one of nearly 5,000 villages that suffered the same fate during the Russian phase of the Second World War.
Today, on March 22nd, 2023, Belarus marks the 80th anniversary of annihilation of Khatyn village – one of nearly 5,000 villages that suffered the same fate during the Russian phase of the Second World War.
The story of Khatyn is succinctly narrated in this passage:
The destruction of Khatyn and the murder of the villagers was an act of revenge in response to the bombardment of a German motorcade by Belarusian partisans on 22 March 1943, killing the company commander, Captain Hans Woellke, and three Ukrainian members of the Battalion 118 protection team. On the same day Khatyn was plundered and destroyed by Battalion 118 and SS Special Battalion Dirlewanger. They drove the inhabitants first into the village barn, set it on fire and with machine guns shot the people who tried to save themselves from the barn. A total of 149 villagers died, including 75 children. One adult, the then 56-year-old village blacksmith Iosif Kaminskij, and five children survived the destruction of Khatyn and the Second World War. Two more girls were able to flee from the burning barn into the forest and were taken in by inhabitants of the village Khvorosteni, but then died in the destruction of that very village.
Some people from the Soviet side who participated in burning of the villages later attempted to lead a “normal” life and even met with school pupils as “veterans” to talk about the war. But one by one they were identified and exterminated.
The tragedy of Khatyn was revisited in May 2014 when over 100 people perished in the fire in Odessa for their opposition to the Kiev’s coup (Maidan). It was then that it became evident to many people that the coup was orchestrated by neo-Fascist forces who used the same strategy of “punitive operations” called to terrify the people and stop the resistance.
I’ve never been to Khatyn, but you can have a 3D virtual tour at the site of memorial complex. In addition to the eternal flame and solely standing bell-towers, there is a cemetery where all destroyed villages are symbolically “buried”, and a heart-tearing sculpture of a man carrying his murdered son. The sculpture that epitomises the fatal tragedy of the entire Soviet population during the Great Patrioric War has its real-life protagonists. A Khatyn blacksmith, Iosif Kaminskij, miraculously survived and found at burning site his 15-year-old son Adam who died in his hands.
Today, when we again fight against the same enemy, we have no choice but to live through the pain of those people. They nearly began to vanish in the haze when the bell rang to remind that no crime like this can never be forgotten.
Vladimir Putin acts as Alexander Nevsky, making a choice between the antagonistic West and the more traditional China, now epitomised by Xi Jinping.
Russia’s definitive turn to the East that is presently much discussed in the Western media comes as another historical comeback of the recent years. Here, Vladimir Putin acts as Alexander Nevsky, making a choice between the antagonistic West and the more traditional China, now epitomised by Xi Jinping.
The 13th Century in Russian History: A Choice between the West and the East
Back in the first half of 13th century the Papacy went berserk against everyone that was still not subdued to the power of the Roman throne. The barbarian Albigensian Crusade and the siege and capture of Constantinople as the highest point of the Fourth Crusade were insufficient. The Slavic and Baltic tribes of the Eastern Europe remained pagan or Orthodox, and they had to be converted coerced into Catholicism.
The Livonian Order successfully converted or exterminated several Baltic tribes before reaching the borders of Rus near Novgorod the Great. The story of Alexander Nevsky’s overthrowing the Catholic knights in two decisive battles (the Battle on the Neva River, 1240; and the Battle on the Ice, 1242) is well known.
At practically the same time the Mongols came in hordes and subdued the fragments of the Ancient Russian state that fell apart as a result of feudal disunity. Arguably, the Tatar-Mongols were better equipped, and they acted as one force, whereas the Russians were divided, and this explains why there was little resistance to their onslaught. The Mongols were strong, the Russians were weak – although not too weak against the Catholic knights.
Yet there was another reason why the Mongol yoke seemed the lesser of two evils. The Mongols left unscathed the Orthodox Church. If an occasional temple did perish in the flame, it was because the Mongols burnt the entire city, and not because they strongly opposed the Russian religion. As a result, not only did the Orthodox church and faith survive, they also became the building block of the Mongol resistance and played the pivotal role in the first victory at Kulikovo Field in 1380.
Needless to say, this would be absolutely impossible if the Papacy had its way. The Papacy’s sole aim was to expand its power beyond the known limits, to make it universal. There would be no Orthodox order, but only the Roman Catholic. There would be no Russian churches or that peculiar ancient Russian culture we all admire. And there would possibly be no Russians as a nation. The Papacy gave an example of discerning between the heretics and faithful during the Albigensian Crusade: kill them all, and God will know the difference.
Russia and China Today
Centuries later we are back to the same configuration in politics, and once again Russia opts for an alliance with traditional, Orthodox-friendly China against the West, which has clearly lost sight of things in its servile devotion to “progress” and a staunch opposition to Orthodox Christianity.
Hence, Alexander Nevsky’s not-so-difficult choice has been upheld by Vladimir Putin.
Today we celebrate the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland. When I was little, on February 23rd we celebrated the Day of the Soviet Army and the Military Fleet. At school, we drew pictures and gave small presents to the boys who were duly expected to go to the army one day. It was a compulsory 2-year service during the Soviet times.
Then the USSR collapsed, and for some time this day attracted a lot of criticism. The Soviet Union was presented as a militarist state, whereas the entire world allegedly wanted to be friends with us.
And then it became a male version of 8th of March, with socks, underpants and antiperspirants being the presents of choice for many women to their men.
This year, following the Presidential address, this holiday (Day of the Defender of the Fatherland), which is marked with an official day-off, has at once become a truly national celebration of our service to Russia. Vladimir Putin has uttered what I believed for many years: a family is akin to one’s native country (Rodina), which we call the Motherland or the Fatherland. And thereby each and everyone of us serve and defend it in whatever capacity we can.
For me as an historian, writer and translator, my service to Russia is in preserving its history, arts, and language; in disseminating these among the foreign speakers; in liaising between my country and those parts of the outer world that share our values.
The abnormally low temperatures in Moscow have brought spectacularly bright sunsets. The red glow against the frozen sky amazes and terrifies the viewer.
Sunset, Jan 8th, 16:11
Like I wrote a few years ago, the terror that industrial architecture can instill in its observer fades in contrast to the elements. The sunset remains beautiful no matter the environment. And this may force one to consider the power the Nature has over the mundane world. It can make the most horrible circumstances bearable, and the rest will depend on the person, whether he or she finds inspiration to change the circumstances – or finds consolation and changes nothing.
Sunset, Jan 8th, 16:36
Incidentally, these two photos were taken with a 25-minute difference, and just see how different they are.
I spent today at the ArtPlay creative quarter in Moscow. I had a fantastic photo session in a studio with a photographer. ArtPlay itself is a fantastic place and I hope to have more time to explore it. A brief acquaintance has shown that it’s located in the premises of a former factory and is packed with all sorts of shops, studios, boutiques, and cafés.
This part of town is virtually unknown to me. I followed the YouTube video showing the way to the studio, and on my way I passed the 19th century buildings that could previously house residences but are now usually home to civil service offices. Alas, it was also quite slippery, so I had to take extra care going there and back.
Going to ArtPlay was like visiting Manchester to me. Made of red brick and located close to the railway station, with its plethora of various studios and outlets, it was like an open-air Affleck’s Palace, and all murals and witty inscriptions reminded me of the Northern Quarter. Throw all the Christmassy lights in – and the déjà-vu feeling was almost palpable. More still, the folk who worked there were like the good old Mancunians, complete with green or pink coloured hair, tattoos and piercings, odd clothes and accessories, and the obvious struggle to make ends meet.
I watched it all from both sides: as a person who once belonged to this kind of place and life (except hair dyes, tattoos and piercing) and who now felt transported back into this old experience; and as a person who no longer belonged there, and probably never did, but who had once made an honest effort to live there.
Suddenly ArtPlay came to mean much more than just a clever name…
Autumn is hesitantly descending onto Moscow. Some trees have lost all their leaves, while others – of the same kind – are only just beginning to yellow. The fall beautifully covers the streets and park lanes. It is still quite warm in the day and at night, and the sky’s blue is as clean as in early March.
It’s been a few years now that I’ve noticed how seasons miraculously blend into one another. Winter sends its reminiscences in summer when poplar covers the town with its white foam. And now, above the greens and still rare yellows and reds, the blue unashamedly spills across the sky.
A man cannot constantly focus on things at hand. If he persists, things gradually lose their significance and become mundane. So we have to look up to the sky now and again. The reflection is what we notice when we return “home”.
Today’s speech by Vladimir Putin will definitely go down in history.
In fact, this is a manifesto. It is a manifesto of conservative antiglobalism. Evidently, Russia has finally defined its present-day ideology, combining the best that was in the Russian Empire and to some extent – in the USSR.
First of all, Putin has declared our country a stronghold of traditional conservative values where 15o genders, LGBT-propaganda, destigmatization of paedophilia and transsexuality are all out of place. Meanwhile, the left liberals from the U.S. Democratic party are trying to impose the above as the “new normal” on the rest of the world.
Secondly, our President has proclaimed Russia the leader of the global anti-colonial movement. Such was the USSR in the mid-20th century when it helped the nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America to free themselves from the European and American colonialism.
Indeed, the West acknowledged the independence to its former colonies. However, it has de-facto continued to exploit these countries economically and has not shun from applying military force to overthrow the regimes it dislikes.
Thirdly, it is no coincidence why, speaking of Russian national interests, Putin finished his landmark speech with a quote from the work by Ivan Ilyin. Ilyin was the principal ideologist of the Russian Orthodox Imperial national-patriotism. This philosopher’s works that were written at the beginning and in the mid-20th century, are extremely relevant today. Everything he wrote about external and internal enemies, the West and Ukraine fits perfectly into the current agenda. Moreover, apart from warnings about the dangers on the path of the Russian state and its people, his writings contain the working recipes how to overcome both dangers and enemies. Putin quoted Ilyin’s work “For national Russia. The manifesto of the Russian movement”.
Today, the speech of Putin himself has become such manifesto. The speech contained reference to the Bible, Ilyin, and traditional values and indicated that Russia is moving away from the servile copying of the Western liberalism towards creating the Russian national state and the renaissance of the Russian empire, whose interests the rest of the world will have to reckon with. Novorossiya’s comeback to the native harbour is but the beginning of Russia’s gathering its lands and gaining full sovereignty.