Moscow’s Steamship Bolshoi Keeps Rolling

Bolshoi Theater file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Raymond Stults – February 9, 2016) [DJ: Bolshoi Babylon available on HBO in the US] In the summer of 2013, a British film production team was given unprecedented access to the Bolshoi Theater for purposes of making a documentary about the theater’s inner workings. Titled “Bolshoi Babylon,” the film made its debut on cable television […]

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Russia’s year of cinema, or a return to silent films

File Photo of Reel of Film

In Russia, 2016 has been designated the Year of Cinema. But any new films are likely to be ‘silent’, lacking any voice of their own. (opendemocracy.net – Eleonora Zbanke – February 3, 2016) Eleonora Zbanke is a filmmaker, videographer, producer, human rights activist and a speaker at the 2015 World Forum for Democracy on “Freedom vs Control”. Russia’s cinema industry […]

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Andrew Davies’ New ‘War and Peace’ Takes the Small Screen by Storm

Leo Tolstoy file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Des Brown – January 27, 2016) British screenwriter Andrew Davies is television’s best English literature lecturer. He introduced homicidal British Prime Minister Francis Urquhart to BBC viewers in the “House of Cards” trilogy between 1990 and 1995. Just over two decades ago, a wet-shirted Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy captured the national imagination in Davies’ […]

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Nine lingering myths about Russia

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

We are often held prisoner by imposed stereotypes and opinions about countries, people and events. RBTH has collected nine myths about Russia that are far from accurate. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NATALYA PUKHOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 26, 2016) 1. The death rate in Russia is higher than its birth rate There is a widespread belief […]

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Moscow’s Art Exhibition for the Record Books

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Andrei Muchnik – January 26, 2016) This past week Moscow, news has been dominated by events at the Valentin Serov retrospective at the Tretyakov Gallery. First the television shows broadcast President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the show, then the ever-growing crowds of people who came to see the exhibition in its final week, followed by […]

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How Russians react to BBC’s War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy file photo

RBTH’s pick of the best comments made by Tolstoy’s compatriots. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NATALIA MASHINISTOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 26, 2016) Although BBC’s new War and Peace adaptation hasn’t aired on Russian television yet, the most curious Russians have found a way to check it out on the internet. Any foreign attempt to adapt what […]

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Record Number of Russians Empty-Handed at New Year – Poll

New Year's Eve on Red Square with Fireworks, Kremlin, Saint Basil's, Crowds

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 25, 2016) Twenty-three percent of Russians received no gifts for New Year – the highest percentage for six years, according to a poll conducted by state-run pollster VTsIOM. For those who did receive gifts, the most popular items were sweets, alcohol and delicacies – these items were received by 24 percent of respondents, according […]

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The poorer Russians get, the happier they become and other mysteries

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Sometimes sociological surveys capture paradoxical results. For example, for some reason Russians on the whole feel happier when they are poorer and many people that claim to be Orthodox Christians do not go to church and do not believe in God. As the famous 19th century poet Fyodr Tyutchev once said, “Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone.” (Russia […]

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Russia without whom?

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

As the Soviet Union collapsed, a generation had just been born. The online journal Russia without us catalogues their struggle to find a place in today’s Russia. Interview. (opendemocracy.net – Andrey Urodov, Maxim Edwards – January 21, 2016) Andrey Urodov is a freelance journalist covering сultural and social issues in Russia. He runs the non-profit Russia without us magazine. Maxim […]

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10 common Russian superstitions

Spilled Salt and Toppled Salt Shaker

Russians are a very superstitious people. According to a recent Russian Public Opinion Research Center’s (VTsIOM) survey in October 2015, 50 percent of Russians conform their behavior to their beliefs in superstitions. Here are the most popular ones that could help you while travelling in Russia. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – LEXANDER KOROLEV, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January […]

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Russian Animated Film Gets Oscar Nod

File Photo of Reel of Film

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 15, 2016) [Trailer here http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/news/article/russian-animated-film-gets-oscar-nod/555777.html] The Russian animated film “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” has been shortlisted for an Academy Award. The film by Russian director Konstantin Bronzit was named a nominee on Thursday in the Best Animated Short Film category. The film tells the story of two friends and their paths to achieving […]

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Dark Jokes Lighten Gloom Over Russia’s Ailing Economy

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Tom Balmforth – MOSCOW, January 17, 2016) What’s the difference between the ruble, the dollar, and the pound? With a dollar, you can buy a pound of dried rubles. Jokes like these have become par for the course as the recession-hit Russian economy limps into 2016 showing no signs of recovery and the national currency plunges […]

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Agents of Change: Promoting Tolerance and Acceptance in Russia

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Vasily Kolotilov – January 18, 2016) A rehearsal is being held in a large hall – light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows onto the performers. Some dance, some sit sprawled across the floor watching their compatriots. “Kostik, stand up, you’re going to get cold,” the choreographer scolds. A young man slouched on the wooden parquet […]

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Russian Culture Minister Says Burning Books ‘Completely Unacceptable’

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 15, 2016) Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has denounced an incident in which 53 publications funded by the George Soros Foundation were reportedly incinerated in northern Russia’s Komi region. Medinsky told the Meduza news portal on Thursday that the burning of books and the destruction of monuments, is “completely unacceptable” because it “looks terrible […]

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What’s so Russian about Russian food?

File Photo of Russian Food and Nesting Dolls

Blogger offers cultural insights to the country’s cuisine. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEKSANDRA EFIMOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 12, 2016) [Photos here rbth.com/blogs/leadership._inspiration._achievement/2016/01/12/whats-so-russian-about-russian-food_558755] On a recent trip to Russia, I picked up three cookbooks dating back to the 1800s that were originally written for housewives of that time. Although updated for the modern cook, these books […]

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Seven powerful politicians from around the world that speak Russian

Mercator Projection Satellite Image of Earth

Russian is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn yet there are many influential politicians around the world that have taken it up. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NATALIA MASHINISTOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 12, 2016) [Videos with Michael McFaul and Condoleezza Rice here: rbth.com/arts/lifestyle/2016/01/12/7-powerful-politicians-from-around-the-world-that-speak-russian_558729] Most Russian-speaking politicians live in former Soviet republics and other […]

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Moscow homeless treated to free film shows

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

“Cinema for the homeless” was born in the summer: the homeless were shown French film 1+1 and classical Soviet comedy Operation Ы. The screenings are organized by volunteers from the Friends on the Street Movement, which since 2002 has been helping people without a home of their own. The movement feeds them, helps them socialize and carries out various events. […]

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Sanctions, Khachapuri, Burgers – Moscow’s Year in Food

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Andrei Muchnik – January 6, 2016) Despite the various sanctions, counter-sanctions, inflation and other economic and gastronomic woes, 2015 was a pretty good year for food lovers in Moscow. With all those economic problems, it’s no wonder that cheap but good fast food emerged as the main trend of the year. Georgian cuisine, previously associated […]

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Unwrapping Christmas in Russian literature

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

The decorations are up, the nights are drawing in – in the northern hemisphere, at least – and gift-hunters are braving the crowds ahead of Christmas. In Russia, however, this celebration has a different meaning. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – PETER BEECH, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 7, 2016) The majority of Russians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, […]

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Putin gives Kursk schoolgirl Labrador retriever puppy

Putin Descending a Staircase

KURSK. Dec 31 (Interfax) – Anna Abramova, 11, from Kursk, received from Russian President Vladimir Putin a Labrador puppy as a gift, the press service for the Kursk City Assembly reported on Thursday. The girl named the puppy Undina. The girl has been dreaming about a dog for a long time, but the income of her family (her mother, Tatyana […]

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State vs Art: Russia’s 2015 Crackdown on Contemporary Culture

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Eva Hartog – December 31, 2015) “It’s theater. We were just playing.” That’s how Boris Mezdrich, his tone simultaneously apologetic and defiant, described the avant-garde production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser that got him fired. “Blasphemy!” – was what the Russian Orthodox activists shouted as they protested outside the State Opera and Ballet Theater in Novosibirsk, […]

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2015 in review: 8 Russian figures who made an impact this year

New Year's Eve on Red Square with Fireworks, Kremlin, Saint Basil's, Crowds

RBTH has selected eight people and things from various fields of Russian life who had a significant influence on domestic and global affairs in their spheres in 2015. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXEY TIMOFEYCHEV, RBTH – December 30, 2015) Statesmen Sergei Shoigu – the operation in Syria Russian Defense Minister since 2012. Previously Minister of Emergency Situations […]

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Twelve Things to Do on the 12 Days Of Christmas

Snowy Night on Red Square with Old St. Basil's Lit Up

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 28, 2015) 1. Have dinner on an ice-breaker yacht Take in the stunning Christmas lights of Moscow whilst meandering on the Moscow River on one of the new Radisson Hotel flotilla of ice breaking yachts that ply the water 365 days a year. You can dine in the on-board restaurant or simply just come […]

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2015 in review: Eight key events in Russian culture

Bolshoi Theater file photo

This year brought mixed fortunes for Russian culture, with successes in the realms of literature, art and ballet offset by the growing interference of the Orthodox Church in the cultural sphere. RBTH looks back at 8 important events in Russia’s cultural life in 2015 that had an international impact. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Oleg Krasnov – December […]

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100 Million Fewer People Speak Russian Now than Did 25 Years Ago

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia Staunton, December 26, 2015) The number of people who speak Russian has declined by 100 million since 1989 or 27 percent, according to Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Duma committee on compatriots and Eurasian integration. (In 1989, 370 million said they spoke Russian; now, 270 million do.) But instead of seeing this as […]

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RIA Novosti: Putin warns against moves to close Ukrainian library in Moscow

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(RIA Novosti – December 25, 2015) Vladimir Putin has intervened in the case of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, whose director is in custody and facing charges of inciting hatred, RIA Novosti news agency reported on 25 December. Natalya Sharina was held on 28 October when the Investigations Committee carried out a search of the Library and found […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Kremlin.ru – December 25, 2015) Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art in the Kremlin. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. This meeting is taking place ahead of the New Year, so I want to begin by wishing you a Happy New Year. Greetings to all of you! The year of 2015 […]

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What is going on in Russia? The views and values of ordinary Russians

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Subject: What is going on in Russia? The views and values of ordinary Russians Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2015 From: Karen Hewitt <karen.hewitt@conted.ox.ac.uk> I am attaching the talk which I have given (with adaptations) to various groups of non-professionals who are interested in Russia. Some professionals in the audience, sometimes, but it was not intended for them. — What is […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Plenary session of St Petersburg International Cultural Forum

UNESCO Logo 70

(Kremlin.ru – December 14, 2015) Vladimir Putin spoke at the plenary session of the IV St Petersburg International Cultural Forum. The IV St Petersburg International Cultural Forum is taking place on December 14-16, 2015. Every year the forum brings together experts in culture, politicians, representatives of state bodies and business people, and this year’s event is dedicated to the 70th […]

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Three major Russian books of 2015; The Big Book Prize has been presented in Moscow

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXANDRA GUZEVA, RBTH – December 12, 2015) 1. Guzel Yakhina. Zuleikha Opens her Eyes This sensational debut novel is the main talking point of this year’s award, which saw a newcomer to the literary scene take first prize ahead of such established writers as Victor Pelevin and Alexei Varlamov. Guzel Yakhina was born […]

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Youtube Unveils Russia’s Most Popular Music Videos of 2015

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Katrin Scheib – December 11, 2015) [Links to the videos here themoscowtimes.com/news/article/youtube-unveils-russias-most-popular-music-videos-of-2015/552545.html] The stats are in: Youtube has released a list of the music videos that were most popular in Russia in 2015. Some of them were meant to be funny, others just are, and they are all worth watching. So dig out your headphones, […]

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Putin’s Russia on the Way to Complete and Proud Barbarization, Regnum Commentator Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 13, 2015) Russia didn’t succeed in modernizing itself, Sergey Shelin says; instead, “on all fronts, archaic forms and values are triumphing;” and Russia is achieving ever greater “successes in the construction of feudalism” and the promotion of ignorance as a value to the point that one can speak of the formation […]

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Moscow School Teaches Russian Boys to Look Up to Cavemen

Cave Art File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Eva Hartog – December 11, 2015) When Ruslan Goncharov, 25, refers back to the Stone Age, it is not for history’s sake, but as an example of better days. “Man goes out, kills a mammoth, brings the mammoth home to his wife, the wife prepares it and then saves the leftovers, salts them and so […]

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Russian Women: Obey Thy Father, Husband, Son

Two Babushkas file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Daria Litvinova – December 11, 2015) Russia remains a conservative country where traditional gender paradigms dominate. Rather than being admired for its progressive gender dynamics, Western society is seen as degenerate and ultimately doomed. As Russia has isolated itself from the West politically and economically, traditional values have been heralded as a hallmark of Russian […]

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How much do we know about contemporary Russian writers?

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – PHOEBE TAPLIN, SPECIAL TO RBTH – December 9, 2015) As December 2015 sees another week of Russian literary events in New York City, RBTH asks Anglophone readers and publishers about their favorites and bestsellers among 21st-century Russian fiction. When English-speaking readers talk about Russian novels, they generally mean Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Bulgakov and […]

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NEWSWATCH AP: “Russians Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 60-Hour TV Marathon”

Leo Tolstoy file photo

AP covers a televised reading of War and Peace. More than 1,300 Russians are reading Leo Tolstoy’s notoriously lengthy novel “War and Peace” aloud in a 60-hour marathon on national television. The public readings, pre-recorded at locations all over Russia, from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to remote Arctic islands, have been coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter and feature Russians […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of the Mariinsky Theatre Board of Trustees

Marinsky Theater file photo

(Kremlin.ru – December 9, 2015) Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Mariinsky Theatre Board of Trustees. Items on the agenda included establishing a branch of the Mariinsky Theatre in Primorye Territory, using the Primorye Opera and Ballet Theatre as a base, and other projects the theatre is involved in, in particular, organisation of the Moscow Easter Festival, which will […]

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Is Russia Ready for Modern Dance? Ask Diana Vishneva

Modern Dance file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Olivia Bagnall – December 8, 2015) Moscow just closed the curtains on the third international festival of contemporary choreography and dance, “Context. Diana Vishneva.” Performances from leading international dance companies from Argentina, Holland, Israel and the United States took place at various venues around the city. During the festival, the audience could also attend screenings […]

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We’re right here; Building a society inclusive of autism in Russia involves battling with myths, superstition and the Soviet legacy. But civil society is forging ahead.

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Natalia Antonova – December 2, 2015) Natalia Antonova was born in Kyiv and grew up in North Carolina. She works as a journalist and playwright. All over the world, autism is a condition that attracts scrutiny and controversy-it is both highly variable and often poorly understood. In Russia, a society still struggling with inherited Soviet disdain of anything […]

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Got a Diplomatic Dilemma? Send in the Clowns

Clown file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Justin Lifflander – December 2, 2015) While some potential visitors have crossed Russia off their list, a group of humanitarian clowns still regards the country as an ideal destination. The 22nd annual clown tour of Russia, which ended last week, brought more than 40 garishly dressed volunteers from 12 countries, including those with problematic relations […]

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Despite Economic Woes, the Book Fair is Bigger Than Ever

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Justin Lifflander – November 28, 2015) Other countries have book fairs where publishers come to do business. The 17th International Book Fair for High-Quality Fiction and Non-Fiction – commonly simply referred to as “nonfiction” – taking place in Moscow this week is very much an event for readers. And as such it is a good […]

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Muscovites Get Keen On Making, Not Buying

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Daria Litvinova – November 13, 2015) More crafts shops are appearing in Moscow every day, with more young men trading lucrative office jobs for the opportunity to make things themselves. In recent years, Moscow dandies have been moving away from cafes, barbershops and Internet-related startups toward trades like blacksmithing, printing and woodworking, putting down their […]

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A Cookbook to Rehabilitate Soviet Cuisine

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Michele A. Berdy – October 29, 2015) If you think of the Soviet period in Russia as a culinary desert, a new book in English by the country’s most prominent food historians, Olga and Pavel Syutkin, may change your mind. “CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine” was commissioned especially for an English-speaking audience […]

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A ‘new’ National Holiday serves to unite 11 time zones

Russia Regions Map

In a country where more than 130 languages are spoken, the idea of unity is a necessary theme to explore. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Mikhail Shvydkoi – November 4, 2015) Mikhail Shvydkoi was the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation (2000-2004). On Nov. 4, Russian citizens will celebrate National Unity Day. This is a relatively new […]

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American pop culture trends Russians choose to adopt

Stylized Russian and U.S. Flags with Number 200, 1807-2007

While public polls are showing a negative attitude toward Americans among ordinary Russians, from a lifestyle perspective, the influence of American pop culture is quite notable. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – KIRA TVERSKAYA, SPECIAL TO RBTH – October 31, 2015) DeLorean cars, Doc Brown quotes and Photoshopped images of Marty McFly flooded Inernet users Oct. 21. Crowds gathered […]

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Case against Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature may be closed

Vladimir Markin file photo

(Interfax – October 30, 2015) A criminal investigation launched against the director of the Moscow-based Library of Ukrainian Literature, Natalya Sharina, who is a suspect in a case opened into the spreading of extremist literature, may be closed, a source in law enforcement agencies told Interfax. “The case against Sharina may be closed on the basis of the Prosecutor’s Office’s […]

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Reclusive Russian Family’s Last Survivor Toughs It Out In The Taiga

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(RFE/RL – Nick Holdsworth – October 28, 2015) SIBERIAN TAIGA, Russia — Agafia Lykova emerges from the thick forest on the banks of the Abakan River like an image from Russian folklore. Dressed in ragged black sackcloth with a tattered head scarf and a triangular prayer amulet hanging from a beaded cord around her neck, she greets visitors arriving by […]

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