Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slavic Summer Sampling

We hope you all made a splash around town on your first fall day back to classes or work! We're really excited for another Slav-tastic semester here at the Birch, and to kick things off we've compiled a Slavic Summer Sampling of our favorites from this season. Enjoy!

Cate Blanchett may be the only person officially forgiven for lambasting Chekhov as "a bugger" (see Urban Dictionary for various unrepeatable interpretations of the word)-- this summer she stunned DC audiences with a perfectly languid performance as Elena Andreevna, object of obsession for Uncle Vanya and his provincial associates. The Sydney Theatre Company brought a bizarre, Australianized version of the play to American audiences this August, performing a the tricky tragicomic balancing act that Chekhov always requires.

Check out the interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNFA10Fci38


Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story sketches the floundering travails of a Jewish Russian in love. An uproarious romp a la 1984, this novel charts the romance of an aging protagonist and his younger lover, who in an increasingly monitored world attempt to enjoy the few moments of privacy that love provides them.

Read the review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/books/27book.html

Anya Ulinich’s Petropolis

Ulinich’s darkly funny, and surprisingly touching new novel brings us into the Siberian wasteland known as Asbestos 2. Its cast of characters provide a splash of color in an otherwise gray post-industrial backdrop. Ulinich’s plucky and plump protagonist is Sasha Goldberg. Under the thumb of her anxious and aggressive mother, she begins art classes despite the fact that her skills barely exceed a firm grip of a pencil and from there, her world begins to expand from a bleak realm of limited possibilities to one that could include a brighter future in America—albeit, one that takes her (via a mail order bride agency) to the desiccated desert of Phoenix, Arizona where strip malls and saguaros replace the smoke stacks and shacks of Asbestos 2. All the while searching for her father who abandoned her, she travels across the country and her experiences are wonderfully and wittily described by Ullinich.


Viktor Pelevin’s Generation P, which attained cult status as a novel, has been transposed onto the silver screen, bringing the average viewer into the tumultuous, slang-riddled, sweaty landscape of Russia in the 1990s. It charts the transformations of a society and a man, Vavilen Tatarsky, as he grapples with the chaotic post-Soviet landscape. However, be warned—this movie has yet to be subtitled, so it is only recommended for those who want to brush up on their Russian (and specifically, on their русский мат).

Watching Nimród Antal’s film Kontroll is like drunkenly clamoring aboard an un-air conditioned Budapest metro car-- intoxicating and suffocating all at the same time. The film follows the efforts of rival teams of ticket controllers as they battle to prove their prowess in the shady underworld of the city’s transit authority. A highlight of this cinematic whirlwind involves a wild costume party in the metro and the reoccurring disarmingly charming presence of a train conductor’s daughter, dressed in a bear costume, aimlessly riding the metro with no ticket. Without going above ground, Antal’s film illuminates a world that is usually not given much thought once its commuters stuff their stubs in their pockets and step aboard their trains.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3902013721/

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Spring Russian Poetry Night!

Images from OASIES's Spring Conference!

We cannot wait to see what OASIES has organized for next year!

An Interview with Wyatt Ford (CC’09), Deputy Editor of The Kazan Herald

A couple months ago, we had the opportunity to chat with Wyatt Ford about his adventures abroad. Check out what he has to say about working for a newspaper in Russia!

Tell me about The Kazan Herald. How did it begin? How did you get involved?

The Kazan Herald is the brainchild of Rustem Yunusov, the current Editor-In-Chief. Rustem went to Serbia in 2009, as part of a student-volunteer delegation sent from Tatarstan to help out at the Universiade. While there, he came across a popular English-language newspaper. Rustem immediately saw that a similar paper would be hugely beneficial for Kazan and Tatarstan, with the huge influx of English-speaking tourists that would come to the Universiade in Kazan in 2013. In April 2009, Kazan also became the official third capital of Russia, after St. Petersburg and Moscow, both of which have independent, English-language newspapers. It was only logical that Kazan needed its own, so that it could rightly take its place in the newly-formed troika.

The next year, Rustem saw the rationale for founding such a paper in Kazan become even stronger, as record tourists figures were projected for 2010, and the city and republic began to make concrete preparations for the incoming English-speakers. Having a background in journalism himself—he had interned for Florida’s Daytona Beach News Journal while living in the United States in 2006, graduated from Kazan State University’s Journalism and Sociology Department, and worked for various local media in Tatarstan—Rustem decided to put together a team and start an independent, English-language newspaper himself. The Kazan Herald’s first issue came out on 7 May 2010.

I first came across The Kazan Herald in June 2010 in IQ Bar. Holding the paper in my hands, I immediately felt the latent writer within me reawaken. (I was heavily involved in my high school’s independent newspaper, and contributed periodically to the Spectator during my years at Columbia.) After a three-month sojourn in the United States, I returned to Kazan, finally met Rustem in October, and began collaborating with him and the rest of The Kazan Herald’s editorial staff.

To date, The Kazan Herald has published eleven print issues, and maintains a regularly-updated website, thekazanherald.com.

What kind of hurdles have you overcome during this process?

One significant hurdle was the need to expand the writer base from the core group that was involved with the paper from the very beginning. We have managed to do this recently, by tapping into the various international students who, under different flags and in differing capacities, find themselves in Kazan. The Kazan Herald has begun holding bimonthly meetings for the paper’s enthusiasts and contributors to meet, discuss the direction and content of the paper, and come up with new article ideas. This process has yielded interesting results, most noticeably redirecting the focus of coverage to emphasize the arts and cultural offerings of Kazan.

The most significant hurdle that remains is stabilizing the newspaper’s finances. Advertisers are very cautious here and have failed to see the potential of advertising in a paper aimed at an educated audience.

What kind of audience is the Kazan Herald addressing?

The audience is two-fold. First, it is English-speakers in Kazan, whether on business, tourism, or living here. The paper is designed to provide English-language information to them that they might otherwise have trouble gathering through the Russian-language sources.

Equally important, however, is our second audience: locals studying English. We are conscious that this paper is a valuable resource for them, as it is a trove of authentic materials that they can relate to. The articles are written for the first audience, but we try to make them as accessible to students as possible. We’ve created several lesson plans based on articles in the paper, and have recently begun recording audio files of the texts with the hopes that English teachers will incorporate them into their lesson plans. And indeed, this is already happening. Just yesterday, an acquaintance told me that his university teachers are using The Kazan Herald articles as springboards for group conversation tasks.

What role does social media play in the development of your paper? Is your audience more responsive to your online work?

It is no surprise that social media has helped us build our readership. Our statistics are very clear: most of the visitors to our site get there through links they’ve found on Facebook, Twitter, or Vkontakte. With the print version, it is more of a guessing game. It’s harder to know who is reading the paper. Still, that the papers do not last long in the hotel lobbies and cafes suggests that people are taking them and reading them. Similarly, the letters that we’ve gotten from America and Europe demonstrate what has so far been our pattern of development: foreigners discover the paper in print form and then continue to read it upon leaving Tatarstan.


The Kazan Herald is a work in process. Any comments or feedback would be welcome. Visit us at our website or e-mail us at thekazanherald@inbox.ru.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"20 Most Important Russian Reads": What do YOU think about this list?


Tunes from Russia and Beyond this Week!

Russia and Beyond:

Music from Former Soviet Republics

The Russian Chamber Chorus of New York invites you to the first concert in our new series, Russia and Beyond: Music from Former Soviet Republics. We're excited to share with you our musical exploration of the republics of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Tuva, and Russia.

The Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are known around the world for their highly developed choral cultures. RCCNY will join this tradition, singing choral gems by the master composers Tormis, Dambis, and Bajoras, frequently performed in their native countries and in Europe. Our program offers quiet contemplation, human drama, and joyful celebration, flavored with a Tuvan folk song featuring the
khomus and throat singing.

Wednesday, May 11, 8:00 pm at St. Joseph's Church in the Village:

Buy tickets now

Sunday, May 15, 3:00 p.m. at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church: Tickets available at the door only

"Splendid...radiant and sonorous" -- The New York Times

"The Great Mystery" by Feliksas Bajoras (b. 1934). Inspired by a poem by Lithuanian priest Jonas Zukauskas, this piece has a haunting, powerful sense of spiritual contemplation.


"Songs of the Sea" by Pauls Dambis (b. 1936). This three-part choral cycle paints a tragic history through tolling bells and whispering waves.


"Livonian Heritage," a cycle from "Forgotten Peoples" by Veljo Tormis (b. 1930). This is Tormis's effort to rescue six Baltic cultures from extinction -- and it's more than an academic exercise, it's brimming with nature and life.


"Handagaity," arranged by Alexei Chyrgal-Ool (1924-1989). This folk song is accompanied by the khomus, a traditional Tuvan instrument, and with the throat style of overtone singing.


"Concerto for Cello and Chamber Choir" by Alexander Kholminov (b. 1925). It's rare for a composer to write a cello concerto accompanied by a chorus instead of an orchestra. Our soloist is the gifted young cellist, Adrian Daurov.

Ticket price reductions are available for students and seniors age 65+. For further details and the full concert program, please visit our
Concert Schedule.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Russia and Beyond: Music from Former Soviet Republics is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

The Russian Chamber Chorus of New York is a proud 2011 member of Sing New York!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If you cannot make it to "A Global Piano and Literary Salon: From Russia with Love" (tonight) or our event "An Evening of Russian Prose, Poetry, and Food" (Thursday night), then try to go to the following event, which will feature Igor Belov, Viktor Ivaniv, Ksenia Shcherbino and Fedor Svarovskiy! You have three opportunities to hear these prominent poets recite their work!

New Russian Poetry: A Bilingual Reading

Friday, April 29, 2011 at 6:30pm

The National Arts Club, Sculpture Court
15 Gramercy Park South

Free. Seating is limited. RSVP at http://www.cecartslink.org/wordpress/2011/03/31/new-russian-poetry/

Note: business casual attire is requested by the National Arts Club.

Join us for a beautiful spring evening of poetry with four of Russia’s rising literary talents, participants of the 2011 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Igor Belov, Viktor Ivaniv, Ksenia Shcherbino and Fedor Svarovskiy will read selections from their work, with New York poets John Coletti and Laura Sims reading the English translations. Followed by a Q&A and light reception.

Presented by CEC ArtsLink as part of the Open World Cultural Leaders Program.