Voices from Russia

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hand-Holding 101: Universities Warn Theology Students About Crucifixion, Other Triggers



In their efforts to ensure students feel safe while learning, some universities in the USA and UK risk becoming helicopter-parent caricatures… warning archaeology students that old bones might upset them; warning theology students that crucifixion can be gory; warning veterinary students that, indeed, they will be working with dead animals. In other words… d’oh!

 The Telegraph reports that Glasgow University took it upon itself to warn theology students that in studying the Bible, they’d see material that “contains graphic scenes of the crucifixion”. Mind you, these are adults or near adults who chose to study the Bible. This isn’t, presumably, because they don’t know how the story ends. The university also warned veterinary students that they’d encounter and work with dead animals and that those studying “contemporary society” would discuss illness and violence. One wonders how either of those announcements could come as a surprise, unless the university launched a campaign to focus on attracting all those prospective students who were left behind because they live under rocks. Glasgow University defended itself through a spokesman, who said:

We have an absolute duty of care to all of our students and where it’s felt course material may cause potential upset or concern warnings may be given.

Glasgow University isn’t the only educational institution taking precautions, on the off chance their students simply picked a major out of a hat, without knowing anything about the subject. the Daily Mail and others reported that Those who choose to study forensic science at Strathclyde University, also in Glasgow, are warned in person “at the beginning of some lectures where sensitive images, involving blood patterns, crime scenes and bodies… are in the presentation”. Surely, students studying forensic science would revolt if they weren’t shown gory crime scenes?

However, there’s more. At Stirling University, archaeology students are warned that they may find old preserved bodies in their archaeological context “a bit gruesome”. In the gender studies department, they’ve simply thrown up their hands. The university explained to the Daily Mail:

We can’t anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.

Last year, the Independent reported on law students at Oxford University being warned ahead of potentially “distressing” lectures. Law lecturer Laura Hoyano criticised the practice, telling the Mail Online:

[Lawyers] have to deal with things that are difficult. We can’t remove sexual offences from the criminal law syllabus… obviously.

The trigger warning debate remains heated across the pond in the USA. In 2015, a group of students at Columbia University wrote an op-ed calling for a trigger warning for Greek mythology, for example. Four students, members of Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board, wrote for the school newspaper:

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a fixture of [literature humanities], but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalises student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of colour, or a student from a low-income background.

The University of Chicago pushed back last year, in its letter to the incoming freshmen class of fall 2016. Dean of Students John Ellison wrote:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we don’t support so-called trigger warnings; we don’t cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we don’t condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

The note was polarising, with many applauding the university’s commitment to intellectual freedom whilst others said he’d misunderstood humane efforts to minimise trauma. Feminist writer and lecturer Naomi Wolf thought that concern can go too far. She told the Sunday Times:

Trauma from sexual or other assault and abuse is very real, and “triggers” are real for victims of abuse, but the place to process or deal with survivor triggers is with a trained therapist in a counsellor’s office, and not in a classroom or university context.

8 January 2017

Sputnik International



A Christmas Wish from Syria



Merry Christmas to our Russian Orthodox friends who are defending the roots of Christendom and Normal Muslims in the Middle East.

7 January 2017

This is Christian Syria


Sputnik Presents: Pray, Sing Carols and Tell Fortunes… How Russia Celebrates Christmas


The majority of those celebrating Orthodox Christmas on 7 January live in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia. Minority populations in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria also observed the holiday according to the Julian calendar.



President Putin attended Nativity services at the Yuriev Monastery in Novgorod Oblast.



Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias served on Nativity at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.



In 337 AD, Roman Pope Julius I approved 25 December as the date of Christmas. Since then, Christendom celebrates Christmas on December 25 (except the Armenian Church, which celebrates Christmas and Epiphany as a single feast on the Epiphany). The Russian Orthodox Church also celebrates Christmas on 25 December, but as it didn’t accept the calendar reform by Roman Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, the Church observes the feast on that date according to the old Julian calendar, which is 7 January on the “new” Gregorian calendar.



President Putin talked to fishermen after attending Nativity services at the Yuriev Monastery.



At Christmas, it is customary in many families to decorate a Christmas tree and give each other gifts. People adorn Christmas tree branches with various sweets and glowing lights.



After attending services on Christmas day, people would break the fast with all kinds of meat and fish dishes, as well as a jellied or roasted goose with apples. Roasted poultry adorned the Christmas table. Chicken was served cold, whilst goose or duck was served hot. People garnished cold chicken with pickles, tomatoes and herbs; they served hot poultry with roast potatoes. In every home, there were pies and cakes made of unleavened rye dough with various fillings. People also gave out Christmas cakes to “starrers” (kolyadki* singers).

  • Kolyadki: Russian equivalent of Christmas carols, sung during the entire Svyatki period, and sometimes, in some places, right up until the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple on 15 February



In Russia, tradition and religion intertwine. Christmas celebrations last from 6 to 18 January in most places. People still follow old customs such as “Starring” (Russian carolling), which is the Russian equivalent of “trick-or-treat” (but without the pranks).



On the evening of 6 January, Chairman of the Government D A Medvedev and his wife Svetlana prayed at Orthodox Christmas services at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.



“Starrers” walk from house to house of friends or acquaintances singing Christmas carols in their honour and ask for treats. People show generosity and hospitality to their unexpected guests and give them traditional gifts.



The “starrers” sing songs wishing their benefactors a rich harvest, newborn livestock, and good order at home in thanks for their generous gifts. Then, they go on to the next house.



On 6 January (Nativity Eve), a woman prayed during services at Vigil mass at St Serge Russian Orthodox church in Paris.



The Svyatki period is also known for its fortune-telling tradition. Eastern Slavs consider Christmas and Epiphany Eves to be the best time for fortune-telling. If a girl wants to see her groom, she must sit in a dark room between two mirrors, light candles, and peer into the gallery of reflections, hoping to see her future husband. Questions about love, marriage, and family life have always been the most popular in fortune-telling.



Participants in the Winter Malanya Festival of ethnic groups and historical reenactment at Klyuchi Oblast Park in the village of Kostroma in Prokhorovka Raion (Belgorod Oblast).



Archpriest Pavel, the parish rector, oversaw Christmas services at the Church of the Icon of the Birthgiver “of Tikhvin” in Kazan.


Truth in Advertising Department:

Some of these images are from last year or the year before… but that doesn’t matter, as they illustrate Russian Nativity and Svyatki customs well. Just tellin’ you what is…


7 January 2017

Sputnik International


8 January 2017. Where Was Vladimir Vladimirovich on Christmas?



Where else, but at services? He attended Nativity services at the Yuriev Monastery in Veliki Novogorod…


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