Voices from Russia

Sunday, 12 January 2014

12 January 2014. Sergei Yolkin’s World. The Hare on the Moon

00 Sergei Yolkin. The Hare on the Moon. 2013

The Hare on the Moon

Sergei Yolkin



Any Russian would immediately understand this cartoon and “laugh out loud” (to us, it’s a real LOL). The Wolf is one of the two protagonists in the famous multifilm series Ну, погоди! (Nu, Pogodi!: Well, Just You Wait!). The Wolf could never catch the Hare, his nemesis… just like the Coyote with the Roadrunner, no? By the way, the cartoonists modelled the Wolf after the famous Soviet actor Vladimir Vysotsky… another point that Russians would immediately catch. Vysotsky was a “bad boy”, who died young, but who was THE iconic figure of his generation… many Russian actors and pop musicians still draw inspiration from him today.



The Chinese lunar rover Yutu (Jade Hare) undocked from its lander after effecting a successful soft landing as part of the Chang’e 3 mission to the Moon, and deployed itself on the lunar surfaceSergei Yolkin has some fun with that.

Sergei Yolkin



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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Mayakovsky Still One of Russia’s Most Popular Poets

00 We want peace, but if you provoke us... Mayakovsky. 20.07.13

“We want peace, but if you provoke us…”


According to a new poll by the Levada Centre published Thursday, a day before the poet’s 120th birthday, 120 after his birth and 83 years after his suicide, literary rebel-cum-Communist Vladimir Mayakovsky remains one of modern Russia’s most popular poets. The results show that he’s the second-most-popular Russian poet of the 20th century. The Levada poll was held in late June and surveyed 1,601 respondents. It had a margin-of-error of 3.4 percentage points.

Generations of Soviet school-kids memorised his lines about the eternal glory of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, or the pride of owning a Soviet passport… along with litanies of Communist utopia and a didactic sermon about the good and the bad, addressed to an imaginary “baby son” the poet never had. However, there was another Mayakovsky… a rejected, heartbroken, and suicidal lover, who was also an arrogant nihilist, whose rebellious, exquisitely-rhyming lines might fit a modern heavy metal anthem or rap tune. He committed suicide in 1930, after the end of a not-entirely monogamous relationship with Jewish Communist Lilya Brik, and increasing disillusionment with Communist dogma. Only Sergei Yesenin, the hard-drinking bard of the Russian countryside, who killed himself five years prior to Mayakovsky’s suicide, exceeds his popularity. Vladimir Vysotsky, the actor and folk singer who died in 1980, came third in the list.

Prior to Mayakovsky’s birthday, a national television channel showed a somewhat glamorised mini-series about his life and love, and people held readings of his poems throughout Russia. Although Mayakovsky’s suicide was widely seen as a symbol of the Soviet intelligentsia’s falling-out with the Communist régime, a cult began around him right after his death. Communist leader Iosif Stalin, who dabbled in poetry in his youth and studied theology before becoming a full-time Marxist revolutionary, turned the iconoclastic poet into an icon. Dubbed “Nr 1 Proletarian Poet”, he became omnipresent on bookshelves and city squares, his statues mushroomed all over the USSR, and his works published in the tens of millions. Mayakovsky was widely translated into European languages and was popular among Western leftist intellectuals. American poet Frank O’Hara wrote a poem about him, and British singer Billy Bragg recorded an album named after one of his works entitled Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.

19 July 2013



Monday, 21 January 2013

Nu Pogodi! A Soviet Animation Classic: 40 Years On

00 Nu Pogodi. 15.01.13




1 January 2013, marked yet another anniversary of Nu, Pogodi! (Just You Wait!)… viewers have hailed the cartoon series as a Soviet animation masterpiece for over 40 years now. The series is proudly positioned amongst the top five Soviet and Russian films, as rated by IMDb (Internet Movie Database) users. Meanwhile, as it turns out, Soviet officials were poised to shut the project down after a few successful episodes.

Ever since the Soviet era, Russians have been fond of this animated series about the mischievous Wolf chasing the Hare. The latter can actually be considered the epitome of an ideal Soviet person… as an athlete with advanced engineering skills, he takes part in amateur performances, lives a healthy lifestyle, and abides by the rules. The author and scriptwriter of the series, Aleksandr Kurlyandsky, said about how the series was created, “We decided the film should be a pursuit. We were young and humorous, and we wanted a film packed with as many gags as possible, which a pursuit easily lends itself to. There were no tiring discussions about who should be the chaser and the one being chased… we settled on traditional Russian folklore characters”.

The cartoon series scored 8.9 points out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database website (IMDb.com), with users, in their reviews, lauding the humorous sketches, the appropriate background music, and the charm of its main characters, as well as the accurate reflection of Soviet reality. For instance, mail-3839 (USA) wrote,Besides the adventures in the chase for the rabbit, you see nostalgic elements of Russian urban and suburban life. Where else can you find a children’s cartoon where the bad wolf smokes cigarettes, drinks beer while eating dried salted fish, steals, and vandalises property? One can’t help but fall in love with both the hero and villain”.

Tony Straka (USA) said, “Another factor which differentiates Nu, Pogodi! from other cartoons, is that the background music isn’t orchestrated for the cartoon series, but rather popular Russian/contemporary songs are incorporated. You’ll hear popular music from the time that particular cartoon was made. Wolf will be chasing Hare in an episode from the late 1970s, whilst a disco tune is playing; another episode from 1984 contains techno/pop music from that particular time period. The visual effects are set to the music, which allows for some comical moments!”

The pilot episode of the series… a sketch about the Wolf and the Hare directed by Gennady Sokolsky and later used as a prototype for the series… was featured in the first number of the first cartoon journal, Vesyolaya Karusel (Happy Merry-Go-Round). In the sketch, as the Wolf fails to hit the mark shaped as the Hare at a shooting range, the slogan (the famous “Nu, pogodi!”) that later became the name of the series appears for the first time. The series was produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio from 1969 to 1993, with 18 main episodes created, followed by a sequel in the early 2000s. The main episodes were directed by Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin, and his son Aleksei taking over the reins for the sequel.

Nu, Pogodi! very truly captures the reality and artefacts of its time. The entire environment that is now perceived as the retro charm of the cartoon was actually true for the Soviet people of the 1970s and 1980s… commodity shortages, cars, telephone booths, soda vending machines, and holiday destinations. Even the soundtrack for some of the episodes featured certain popular hits of the time… for instance, Song About a Friend by Vladimir Vysotsky, or songs by pop icon Alla Pugachyova. Likewise, the songs written for the Hare and the Wolf are still popular and often quoted. Even some of the events in the storyline are true… for instance, the scene of one of the episodes is set in Moscow during the 1980 Summer Olympics.

The production of the series sparked numerous stories and anecdotes. It’s believed that the government didn’t like the image of one of the main characters, the Wolf; and the government didn’t approve of singer, songwriter, actor, and poet Vladimir Vysotsky, who was cast as the voice for the Wolf, either. It’s also known that the project was nearly shut down after the first few episodes, after Feliks Kamov (one of the scriptwriters) decided to emigrate to Israel. Actor Anatoly Papanov rescued it, he was eventually cast as the voice for the Wolf, he had immense popularity at the time… he complained to a Communist Party chief that his family would miss the cartoon heroes, and production was resumed without too many changes.

Meanwhile, the end of the Soviet era didn’t mean the end of troubles with government approvals for the series. After the law On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development took effect in September 2012, some media reports suggested that Nu, Pogodi! would be assigned an 18+ rating and aired only after 23.00. Aleksei Kotyonochkin, the director of the latest Nu, Pogodi! episodes, responded. “I can remember the instruction to cut out drinking scenes during the anti-alcohol campaign, but then again, it was just an order. It’s the Law now. They certainly know how to make laws in Russia…”

Now, Nu, Pogodi! is often compared to Tom and Jerry. However, according to his son, the first time Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin saw the American series was in 1987, when 16 episodes of its Soviet rival had already been produced. Aleksei said proudly, “Tom and Jerry is actually about gags, but our film is more than just gags. We’re now preparing a full-length 3-D animated production. We’d like to move away from the old format and use more speech and characters (including supporting characters) in the new film”.

3 January 2013

Ksenia Isayeva

Russia Behind the Headlines


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Russian Strategic Subs to Resume Routine World Patrols

RPKSN (SSBN) K-535 Yuri Dolgoruky (2009), surfaced, on trials


Russian strategic nuclear submarines will resume routine extended patrols in international waters around the world in June 2012, Navy C-in-C Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said. At a meeting with naval personnel on Friday, Vysotsky said, “On 1 June, or a bit later, we’ll resume constant patrolling of the world’s oceans by strategic nuclear submarines”. The annual number of extended patrols performed by Russian strategic nuclear submarines and nuclear-powered attack submarines dropped from more than 230 in 1984 to less than 10 today. Nevertheless, the Russian high command still believes that the submarine fleet’s the backbone of the Russian Navy, and that it’ll continue to play an important deterrent role in the future. The Russian Navy has 12 nuclear-powered strategic submarines in active service, comprising five Project 667BDR Kalmar (Delta-III) class, six Project 667BDRM Delfin (Delta-IV) class, and one Project 941 Akula (Typhoon) class. Two Project 941 Akula class submarines, the Arkhangelsk and the Severstal, remain in reserve at Severodvinsk in northern Russia. Russia decided to suspend the planned disposal of strategic nuclear submarines currently in service with the Navy and plans to build eight new Project 955 Borei class strategic submarines by 2020. The first Borei class submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, may join the Pacific Fleet as early as in June this year.

4 February 2012



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