This is a blog for use in both of my HIS 241 and HIS 242 Russian history survey courses at Northern Virginia Community College.

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27 February 2008

Washington Post's Russia Advertising Section

Well, today is Wednesday, and the Washington Post includes every Wednesday a special, pull-out "Russia: Beyond the Headlines" special advertising supplement produced by Rossiyskaya gazeta. I'm curious if any of you are reading it (or even aware of it) and what your thought might be. Is it news, or what kind of news is it? Why publish a special supplement? Who wants it published? I've got a lot of questions.

24 February 2008

Eating and Drinking Russian Style

There are few truly "Russian" food items found in the major supermarkets in Northern Virginia, but there are at least two specialized stores located in Herndon and McLean that carry Russian (and also East European) food and drink items--I tend to buy a lot of Russian chocolates and some very good Polish beer. (In reality, the Zywiec brewery. is now run by Heinekin. ) Although you can't find a lot of Russian prepared food items at the market, you can easily cook like a Russian as cabbage, beets, fresh vegetables, fish, etc are always around.

18 February 2008

Kosovo and the Russians

A diplomatic crisis of sorts is in the works now as a result of the Declaration of Independence issued by the Republic of Kosovo on the night of February 17th 2008. Both Serbia and Russia are upset, and much of Russia's anger seems directed at the United States (always a convenient target), the UN and NATO. Russia has long seen itself as the protector/liberator of the Slavic populations of the Balkans. Russia was at war with Turkey a number of times, usually for purely Russian goals, but Russian always espoused a rhetoric of liberating the oppressed peoples of the Turkish empire. So that Russian messianic view of manifest destiny in the Balkans dates back to the nineteenth century and the gradual creation of the independent Balkan countries from the Ottoman Empire. The main beneficiary of Russian support over the years has been Serbia, which has set its mission as the rightful unifier of all Balkan peoples, even though many of those peoples do not necessarily want to live with the Serbs. Kosovo aka Montenegro has played an important part of the historical memory of Serbs and and other South Slavs, because Kosovo Field was the site of an important battle in 1389 when the Sultan's army was temporarily stopped by an army under Serb command. That, of course, did not stop the Ottomans from extending their control over most of the Balkans. So, the Serbs view Kosovo as an inherent part of Serbdom, the Russians support the Serbs as an inherent mission of Russiandom, and neither listens to the wishes of the people (Albanians and Serbs) of Kosovo. Remember that World War I (not to mention other ethnic crises that appeared after the breakup of Yugoslavia such as in Bosnia) started over similar kind of Balkan issues.

10 February 2008

Peter the Great

Peter the Great so changed the course of Russian history that it simply is difficult to imagine what would have happened to Russia if he had not assumed the throne--and that assumption of the throne itself was no given--and been able to impose his will on Russia. Russians have long been trying to come to grips with the Petrine legacy, and the duality of that legacy (the desire to be West European yet uniquely Russian at the same time). In this course we have the examples to view of Pushkin and Catherine the Great (via Falconet) trying to understand Peter the Great.

03 February 2008

Muscovite Russia

There are plenty of churches that survive in Russia from the medieval period, including those in the Kremlin and on Red Square.

These are the domes on what is popularly known as St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. If I remember correctly, the number of domes on a Russian Orthodox church is usually an odd number: one dome symbolic of one God; three domes corresponding to the Holy Trinity; five domes representing Jesus of Nazareth and the authors of the four Gospels; seven domes to mean the seven traditional sacraments; thirteen domes for the twelve apostles and Jesus of Nazareth.