Friday, January 13, 2012

From Russia with Love...

I have never been to Russia.  I've never even seen the movie "From Russia with Love" starring Sean Connery as James Bond.  I'm certain there's a girl in it, there's always a girl in it.  The title of my post about Russia comes from the fact that I have a few readers in Russia.  I want to start a series of blogs where I have readers showing up on my stats that truly SHOCK ME!  Russia is one of those places.

I know very little about Russia other than when I was growing up, that is where the communist lived and we called them "reds".  Mikhail Gorbachev was important and had a funny birthmark on his forehead.  And the country seemed in constant turmoil.  It took me a long time to also grasp the multiple name changes Russia went through (Soviet Union, U.S.S.R) or how Animal Farm was an allegory of depiction for the Russia Revolution.  I read this book when I was 15-years-old and no, my teacher did not discuss the Russia Revolution.  I knew who the characters generally stood for, that Old Major was Karl Marx, that Snowball was Trotsky, that Napoleon was Stalin. I got that at the end of the book, things were actually worse instead of better, but I didn't realize that was also the overall decided outcome of the historical reference of this book.  I laugh (internally of course) when my students complain about doing pre-reading activities for novels and then smile outwardly when they make the connections in the book.  I wish someone had made these connections for me when I was reading in high school.

Yuri Gargarin
I also knew that Russia had the market on space travel.  They sent the first human to travel into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.  Their satellite, Sputnik 1, was the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit (1957). 

These were the only ideas I had about Russia, some good, some bad, but overall incomplete.  It seems that the Cold War that lasted from 19461-1991 stifled my World History Education in the United States.  I don't blame anyone, it's what the educational system felt was right, but by the time we started actually talking about Russia in school in terms of progress, I was approaching graduation.  Not a lot of World History required for a Dance major in college, so you see how my learning was limited, sort of.

In college, I was fortunate to have met several people that changed my thoughts on Russia.  Two girls on my dance teams were foreign exchange students from Moscow.  Their names were Oksana and Tatiana and while I have no idea where they are now, it was so amazing to meet and live with (dorm living -welcome to American college) people from another country for the first time.  Growing up in Texas, I'd met tons of people from Mexico and that was quite common - I'd been to Mexico myself, you can drive there. But to meet people from so far away, for whatever reason, that impressed me greatly.  They were both very talented dancers and had a fierce work ethic.  They taught me a few expressions in Russia, and also all the bad words so we could talk about our director - their sense of humor for American culture was divine!

Through writing, I've been fortunate to meet a woman that grew up as a "young Soviet girl", calling herself this in her bio.  Her writings are divine and I often read her blog.  Her name is Katia Raina, and you can read her blog, too here:  Magic Mirror 

She writes fiction and non-fiction, book reviews, and musings on her life as a writer.

And I would be remiss if I did not speak about Baryshinikov, Nijinsky, and Nureyev - men from Russia I did learn a great deal about in college.  Truly gifted and talented dancers.  I must admit though, I'm partial to Baryshinikov.  After a promising start in the Kirov Ballet, he defected to Canda in 1974 for more opportunities in dance. He joined the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer to study Balanchine's movement principles of ballet. He then danced with the American Ballet, where he later became artistic director.  One of his most "Hollywood" noted performances is in "White Knights" with fellow tap dancer Gregory Hines.  If you want to watch a truly beautiful presentation of dance, view the opening ballet video from White Knights.  Breathtaking.  I could spend an entire blog talking about beautiful batter dancers from Russia - Anna Pavlova and Maya Plisetskaya, but I guess that's for another time.

Today there are over 160 ethnic and indigenous groups that make up Russia.   Russian literature is taught in public schools, most notably Leo Tolstoy for both novels and short stories.  They are certainly well known for their kick-ass hockey teams and gymnastics (think Nadia Comaneci discovered by Bela Karolyi). And we can't forget Vodka - who doesn't know the Russians are famous for it!

If you're looking for something beutiful to see, Russia is full of lovely locations for tourist visits:

This is the Grand Cascade in Peterhof, a popular tourist site in St. Peterburgs

And, to finish this out, while I was looking up research to share with you all, I stumbled upon a picture of what I just called a stackable doll when I was a child.  Who knew it was really called a Matryoshka doll.  I loved playing with mine when I was a little girl.

So, there you have it folks - from me, about Russia, with love.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, Cresta, you flatter me so!! Thank you for including me in this post. Sounds like you know more about Russia than quite a few people out there. ;) Now you got me thinking about writing a post on the Magic Mirror that would give readers a few more interesting tidbits on Russia. That could be fun, right? Thanks for the inspiration!