Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Back in the USSR

25 years ago, I could have bought this album for a fiver.   Paul McCartney released this album  CHOBA B CCCP (s'nova v sssr) on the Soviet Melodiya label as a special edition for release solely in the Soviet Union.  The Beatles were extremely popular in the Soviet Union (and continue to be in Russia) despite their recordings not being available from legitimate sources during communist times.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Choba B CCCP was given a worldwide release in 1991.

A black-marketeer (fartsovki, I think they were called) offered to sell a copy to me for £5 in a department store on Moskovskaya Prospekt not far from the Pulkovskaya hotel in St Petersburg. 

At the time, I considered McCartney to be a "talent-less has-been", declared him as such and refused the offer (saying to my mate "what do I want to buy that shite for?") .  Back in England, the album had become a collectors item and was being sold for up to £150!  What do I know?

I quite likes the Beatles now, and recognise their considerable talent and contribution to music. But back then, it was only 8 years after I had been hauled in front of the head teacher at school for a bollocking over my music exam paper.  They disliked my answer to the question "name two songwriters from the Beatles". My answer was "John Lop and Paul McCockroach". 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

RT - Russia Today News Channel

I have an admission: I occasionally like to watch RT the Russian state English language news channel which is free to view in the UK on Freeview.  It it is good to get some alternative perspectives on world events and sometimes to see things in other countries which are not necessarily covered by upon in western media for whatever reasons.

But, you have to wonder about its editorial bias and question the credibility of its output when they give a platform to the likes George Galloway on the station -  someone who presents their own program - Sputnik.  Former MP, leftwinger and Trotskyist, Dave Nellist, was also on the other night being interviewed at length.  RT seems to give a lot of airtime for a rag-tag of rent-a-mob, anti-capitalist, leftwingers.  Sometimes I think they focus too much on the negative aspects of the western societies, poverty crime, demonstrations - there is too much handwringing and schadenfreude and self-righteous tone to their reporting style.

It's odd that it has a left wing bias in its coverage of western countries when in terms of economic policy and authoritarianism Russia is on the right wing and anti-liberal.   RT seems to give voice to an odd alliance of left wingers, conspiracy theorists and anti-US and anti-capitalist academics.  

Has RT forgotten that Russia is a capitalist economy nowadays?  On the basis of how much the state accounts for a country's GDP, the UK and France are more socialist by comparison.

Having said that, the rampant Russophobia we have been seeing the western media over recent years and especially since the start of the Ukraine crisis, you would think that the west had forgotten that Russia was no longer communist and the Cold War finished nearly 25 years ago!

Nevertheless, RT does have some good programmes.  Peter Lavelle's Crosstalk is good (but watch out for the dodgy academics); the Kaiser report is entertaining of only they could turn down his rabid winy voice; and occasionally they have some good documentaries on aspects of Russian life you would not normally get to see.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Happy St George's Day Moscow!

...... from England and Newcastle.  England and Moscow share a patron saint, St George, whose day is celebrated today April 23rd.  In Newcastle, we have a statue of Saint George which stands in Old Eldon Square.  Incidentally, nearby the statue is a bench which dedicated to the Russian Convoy Club in Newcastle - honouring those who took part in the Arctic Convoys during World War II.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Joe Biden visits Ukraine - says nothing useful

Just heard him on Radio 4, PM news programme.  He needs winding up - how many times is he going to say the same thing twice  . . really slowly      for.   dramatic.    effect.  He said something about Ukraine not being reliant on Russian gas - I think Russia would probably like that too, or at least some kind of payment for gas delivered.  Yeah, let them pay world prices for their gas . . . not sure that would go down too well in Ukraine.   What a tit.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

VDNKh - Moscow's Economic Achievements Park to return to former glory

The All-Russian Exhibition Center (VVTs) in Moscow, famous for its Soviet-era pavilions representing the various republics of the Soviet Union, is undergoing a major facelift in a bid to become "beautiful and comfortable," according to the company that manages the property.

It has been rumoured that it is to revert to its Soviet-era name: Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (Russian: Выставка Достижений Народного Хозяйства Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnovo Khozyaystva).

Here is a Lego model of the People's Fountain of Friendship which features in the grounds of the exhibition centre. I saw this Lego model in the Centre for life in Newcastle as part of a Lego exhibition comprising famous buildings / landmarks from around the world - I thought it was a bit strange that out of all of the most famous buildings in Moscow they chose to create a model of a relatively obscure fountain.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Newcastle fights back against Russian occupation

Following the announcement on Tuesday of Russia's potential annexation of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne,  anti-Russian protest murals have appeared around the city. 
(see http://blog.therussiahouse.net/2014/04/russia-to-annex-newcastle-upon-tyne.html)

Scotswood Road graffiti

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Vladimir and Lyudmila Putin are finally divorced.

The art of Kremlinology is not dead.  Keen analysts of the Russian government website have noticed a change in Vladimir Putin's marital status - gone is the reference to his being married to Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Putina.  His spokesperson, Dimitri Peskov, explains that this is because they are now divorced.  They officially separated a year ago in 2013 following a number of years of speculation and rumours because Lyumila had not been seen in public accompanying her husband. 

When Lyudmila (and Vlaidimir) Putin visited the UK in 2003, The Times newspaper published Mrs Putin's Ukho (fish soup) recipe (which I kept). The dish is called Ukho, a traditional Russian fish soup, which literally translates as "ear" soup . It could be said that she no longer has the ear of Putin, so to mark the sad occasion of their divorce, here is Mrs Putin's fish soup recipe that Vladimir won't be enjoying any more:


1 pike-perch 
1 pike 
1 potato 
1 carrot 
2 onions 
3 cloves garlic 
1 bunch parsley, coriander and fennel leaves 
2 eggs Cinnamon, 
curry powder, 
4 tomatoes 
Orange peel 
4 sticks celery 
4 spring onions 
A cup of vinegar, 
lemon juice or white wine 

Gut and remove the gills from the pike-perch and pike, leaving their scales on. Marinade them for one and a half hours in “sour water” (vinegar, lemon or white wine). Then remove the head, tail and skin (with the scales still on) and place them in cold water, leaving the fish to one side. Add salt, a whole potato, a carrot, onion, three cloves of garlic in their skin, some parsley stems (remove the leaves for later) fennel and saffron. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for one hour. Then drain, keeping the stock. Cut the pike-perch into strips 3cm wide and put the pike and the onion from the stock through a mincer. Add two egg-yolks, pinch of cinnamon, curry powder and saffron. Mix together and roll the mixture into balls about 10cm in diameter. Plunge tomatoes into boiling water for 15 seconds, then skin and cut into pieces. Finely chop celery (removing leaves), spring onions and an ordinary onion and sauté in olive oil. Finely chop parsley leaves, coriander and some orange peel. Bring stock back to the boil and one by one add the fish balls made from the pike and strips of pike-perch and boil for ten minutes. Add tomato, sautéd celery, spring onion and onion, orange peel, parsley and coriander as well as your favourite spices (a little curry powder and some saffron). Bring to the boil, take off the heat and allow to cool a little before serving. 

Serves four

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Russia to annex Newcastle Upon Tyne

Russian tricolour flies over Newcastle City Centre
The Russians are coming to Newcastle! Following the events in the Crimea, it seems Russia may have its sights on territory in the UK, in particular, Newcastle City Centre.  Durak Aprelski, the self appointed spokesman and leader of the Emergency Committee for National Reconciliation of Russian Diaspora in Newcastle has announced today that the city of Newcastle upon Tyne has seceded from the UK and formally requested membership of the Russian federation.   

This has been done in order to correct historical injustices and anomalies, and represents the popular will of the circa 4000 population of ethnic Russians in Newcastle.

According to Durak, the legitimacy of Russia's historic claim on the territory of Newcastle city lies in the area around Stowell Street, known locally as China Town, which lies alongside the city's walls. These walls are part of an ancient fortress, or "Kremlin". The words China Town is a literal translation of the Russian words Kitai Gorod - which is the site of an old fortifications of the original Kremlin in Moscow. He believes that this area of the city derives its name not from the numerous Chinese restaurants located here but because is was once the site of a wooden Kremlin (Kitai Gorod) belonging to the Ancient Rus - before the existing city walls were built.   

Following accession to the Russian Federation, Durak Aprelski states that the rights and languages of all other nationalities in the city will be respected and protected, but warns that there will be a period of Russification. Until Newcastle is formally accepted as part of Russia, a State of Emergency has been declared and the Emergency Committee has drawn up a list of key buildings which will be taken over or renamed:

1.Theatre Royal will henceforth be known as the Bolshoi Theatre, and for the duration of the State of Emergency, performances of Swan Lake will be shown instead of the advertised schedule.

2.All Saints Church will be converted to a hotel and renamed Ukraine Hotel.

3. BT Hadrian Exchange Building to become the Telegraph Agency media centre known as TASS

4. The Central Arcade will become the State Universal Store (Gosudarstveny Universlany Magazin - GUM)

5. The shop "Cruise" on Princess Square to house the Palace of Congresses

6. Crudass Park to be renamed Izmailovsky Park

7. Newgate Street to be renamed Novy Arbat Street,  however, the territorial integrity and right of self-determination of the Malgosia's Polish shop in the Newgate Centre will be respected.

8. New Bridge Street to become Zubovsky Boulevard.

9. Police Station Market street to become a toy shop - Children's World: Detsky Mir

10.  Carliol House will become the Ministry of Defence for the People's Militia and The Emergency Committee.

On a more positive note, Durak Aprelski has ordered an immediate revamp of the Metro - initially installing chandeliers at city centre stations and having trains run every minute to all destinations.

People's Militia in training