I recently participated in Tотальный Диктант. At first I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. It was described in part as ‘kind of a flash mob’, which wasn’t exactly accurate, but did pique my interest and get me to participate. In the end I learned it was basically a mass Russian grammar test - for native Russian speakers.
Even though I’m not a native speaker, I decided I wanted to see what it was all about and give it a try. As I suspected, I ended up being the only non-Russian in our group of about 20 people taking the test. Like the little girl in this picture, I did not exactly fit in, but I tried not to let that intimidate me.
The idea was that a text would be read to the participants, who would try to hand-write it with as few mistakes as possible. First we reviewed some common pitfalls of Russian spelling, grammar, and punctuation using this guide. Then, we watched a video recording of the author, Dina Rubina, reading her text.
After that we got to work. The text was read aloud by someone in the room, and to my surprise, he repeated things as many times as requested. As the other participants scurried to try to make sure everything was spelled correctly, and every comma was in place, I scurried to have something written on my page representing each word I heard. Bonus if it was the correct word, even better if it was spelled correctly, and as for punctuation - let’s just say that was not my top concern.
In the end, I was proud of myself for participating. It was a good reminder of why I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and why I should do it more often. This year’s Tотальный Диктант took place in 35 countries with 32,280 participants. 2,564 participated from outside of Russia. (I am curious to know how many of those were non-native speakers.)
Here is a picture of my group, as featured in Вырастай-ка magazine. (That’s me in the Smurfs sweatshirt.)
Did any of you happen to participate? What did you think?
With the news of a US diplomat being accused of spying against the Russians, I thought this would be a good time to mention how much I’m enjoying the show, The Americans.
I started watching with little expectation that it would be any good, because I don’t like the typical cop shows, but I am surprisingly hooked. It has a good mix of Russian, drama, suspense, romance, and period disguises. There’s not tons of Russian language in it, but of what little there is, I’m impressed that the actors seem to be native speakers, or at least trained in Russian. (As opposed to just actors who memorized a few words with butchered pronunciations.)
If you haven’t gotten on board yet, you can watch for free at Hulu.com - would make a great weekend marathon. Are you guys watching it? What do you think?
Good news! I’ve been contacted by DC’s Taffety Punk Theatre, and they’ve offered a 50% discount to anyone with a ‘Passion For Russian’ who would like to see the Russian play, ‘Oxygen’.
Purchase tickets here and use discount code “i need oxygen”.
But hurry! The show is likely to sell out as this is the last week it’s playing. The last showing will be next Friday, April 26th.
A few weeks ago I went to Politics and Prose to hear Doug Smith talk about his new book: ‘Former People’.
Smith, a historian and former State Department USSR analyst, draws his title from the Soviet term for the Russian nobility. Focusing his narrative on three generations of two dynasties, Smith traces the fall of the upper class from its pre-1917 wealth and privilege to the punishing treatment—ranging from impoverishment to execution—meted out to class enemies.
In his remarks Smith noted he’s gotten some curious comments and looks from both Russians and Americans for writing about what many consider to be an unpopular subject: What it was like for ‘the other side’ (the losing side) following the Revolution. To me, it doesn’t seem that strange. Did people deserve to be imprisoned, or even killed simply because they were born into a certain social status? Maybe the division of wealth wasn’t (isn’t) fair, but like Smith said, any time a an entire class of people are sought out and killed, that’s wrong.
The book follows events surrounding two noble families:the Shermetevs and the Golitsyns. Smith says by the end of the book, you feel like you get to know them. Sounds like an entertaining way to work your way through some serious Russian history. I, for one, look forward to reading ‘Former People’, as well as the three other books he’s written.
If you’re in DC, keep an eye on Politics and Prose for future interesting events. Or even better, just subscribe to my DC Russian Events Calendar, and I’ll let you know when something related to Russia is coming up!
(Author’s note: I’m getting this post up a little late, but please enjoy the pictures of the lovely weather we were enjoying a couple months ago..)
This year, I decided to try a new festival - the Ukrainian Festival in Silver Spring. And I have to say, this one’s going to give the Baltimore festival a run for it’s money as far as my favorite DC Ukrainian festival - although both of them are great.
This festival felt a little bit more like a huge church picnic that was open to the public (and served alcohol). I loved the park setting right next to the church. And the fact that it’s about a half an hour drive from where we live in DC (instead of an hour to get to Baltimore) didn’t hurt one bit.
Here’s me enjoying a Bile, next to this Ukrainian guy.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of this future miss Ukriane. I loved how she interacted with these off-duty dancers.
I have heard of this dance group, Carpathia a little while ago and had been waiting for my chance to see them in action. I missed them in Baltimore because I got scared off by a storm the day they performed. I finally got to see them at this festival and they were great - a lot of fun!
Did you go to any festivals this Festivus? How were they?
As I mentioned earlier, Festivus is upon us. A couple weeks ago, I attended the Ukrainian Festival in Baltimore. I attended this festival last year, so I don’t want to bore you with repeated information, but here are a couple new things I noticed from this year.
First of all, I got a great shot of St. Michael the Archangel church. I love the very modern-looking take on the traditional onion domes!
Here it is again, in the background of the festival. The church is slightly down the road from beautiful Patterson Park, where the festival takes place:
I think this was the first year that the festival held a pirogi eating contest. As you can see, this proud Ukrainian woman beat out the other 5 contestants, all of whom were men (and 1 boy). Девушка power!
And finally, what Ukrainian festival wouldn’t be complete without…a tiki bar?
See you next year, Baltimore Ukrainian Festival!
Rewatched part of Hot Tub Time Machine again last night and almost forgot about the ‘Chernobly’; an energy drink, that, when combined with a hot tub, has magical powers!
Not really too Russian, but I thought it was funny and worth mentioning. Unfortunately, I’m also gonna have to tag this one with ‘misuse of Cyrillic alphabet’, but at least it’s for a funny cause.
Not in the DC area? Not to worry - I am putting together a list of all the Russian festivals in the country! (Maybe I can someday hit all of them.)
But I need your help! So take a look, and let me know if I’ve missed any by filling out this (short) form. I am still searching and will be adding more as I find them.
Let me know if you attend one, and if you’re interested in writing a guest post about it! …and don’t forget to tell them you heard about it on PassionForRussian.com.
Festivus is actually a fake Christmas-time holiday invited on one of the best TV shows ever: Seinfeld. But I have decided that I am stealing this word to represent one of my favorite holiday seasons: Russian Festivals!
For details on this year’s festivals, check out my calendar of events. (First one is this weekend!)
I’ve also put together this comparison chart of the festivals I’ve been to so far. (1 is Ukrainian) These ones are all in the DC area. Click on the chart for a more detailed side-by-side review of each festival!
Are you planning on going to any?