Tag Archives: Russia

St. Nick’s, my parish church when in Peter

18 Jan

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

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New home page image: Zinaida Serebryakova’s portrait of husband Boris

16 Jan

I recently discovered the painting of 20th-century Russian realist Zinaida Serebryakova (Зинаида Серебрякова). She was born into a part-French family of artists and lower gentry in eastern Ukraine, and lived a totally charmed life there and and in St. Petersburg, till the Revolution upended it all as it did for hundreds of millions others. Read about it.

I’ve totally fallen in love with her work, and that will probably convince many of what a hopeless sentimental philistine I am, plus a shameless idealizer of pre-Revolutionary Russia, plus a sexist. No problem. I’ll be posting one painting weekly on the Jadde home page till I’m through with my favorites.

First is her beautiful portrait of what must have been her very handsome husband Boris Serebryakov, who died of typhus in 1919, leaving her, at the worst of all political economic times, destitute and with four children.

Boris Serebryakov – Борис Серебряков – 1909

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Kiev and Kievans, decked out in gold and sun and honey — summer 2010

15 Jan

In August of 2010 I was in Kiev for the first time since the fall of communism. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a honey festival — honey being one of Ukraine‘s and Russia‘s and wooded eastern Europe’s valuable trade product for centuries — that that year was held on the grounds of Kiev’s Pecherskaya Lavra – Києво-Печерська лавра, one of the most stupendous collections of churches and monasteries in the world and most sacred to both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodoxy (not a pretty dialogue these days): a farmers’ market from the countryside surrounding the city, and they all brought their honey and other bee-related products to sell.

Between the sun, the huge summer sky, the blinding gold of the church towers, the blue and gold of the flag, the dizzying array of hues of honey and honeycomb and honeycakes and beeswax and candles and sunflowers and between the hair, eyes, cheeks, smiles and the particular beauty of a Ukrainian farmer’s tan worn with that panache that only a Ukrainian farmer can wear it…. The whole thing was this gigantic fugue in gold!

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But tell me: how did gold get to be the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and gleaming and gentle in its brilliance; it always gives itself. Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold get to be the highest value. The giver’s glance gleams like gold. A golden brilliance concludes peace between the moon and the sun. Uncommon is the highest virtue and useless, it is gleaming and gentle in its brilliance: a gift-giving virtue is the highest virtue.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

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Огромное спасибо!!! to my friend Elias Hantula for taking these pictures and putting up with me that hot August day. Especially thanks to all these great folks. I took their names down in meticulous order so that I could label the photographs and then promptly lost them. And then promptly took ten years to finally post them. Maybe…maybe…weirder has happened…maybe, someone will recognize someone and however many degrees of separation these folks might have between each other…they were almost all from Poltava.

Mihail’skiy Sobor’ (above) unrelated to the Pecherskiy complex; completely, magnificently, painstakingly rebuilt in every glorious detail after the end of communism; it had been entirely levelled to the ground by the Soviets in the 1930s.

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Jordan Peterson calls out West’s ignorance of Stalinist/Communist repression: “…the fact that we don’t know that deep inside our bones is a testament to the absolute rot of our education system.”

12 Jan

“Well…Solzhenitsyn estimated the deaths in terms of repression inside the Soviet Union at something approximating 60 million between 1919 and 1959.  Now that doesn’t count the death toll in the Second World War by the way.  He also estimated that the same kind of internal repression in Maoist China cost a 100 million lives.  One of the things that is really surprising to me and that I think is absolutely reprehensible, absolutely reprehensible, is the fact that this is not widespread knowledge among students in the West, any of this, and it’s because your historical education, if you started to describe it as appalling you would barely scratch the surface.  These are probably the most important events of the 20th century and they’re barely covered at all in standard historical curricula.  …my experience with students is that none of them know of anything that happened as a consequence of the repression of the radical left in the 20th century and I believe that the reason for that is that the communist system had extensive networks of admirers in the West, especially among intellectuals and still, in fact, does, which is also equally reprehensible and I believe that one of the consequences of that is that this element of history has been…underexamined…  And that there’s absolutely no excuse for that.  It was the worst thing that happened in the 20th century and that’s really saying something because the twentieth century was as bad as it gets and the fact that these deaths on a massive scale occurred and the fact that we don’t know that deep inside our bones is a testament to the absolute rot of our education system.”

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I have a black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirt and I’m pissed

12 Jan

I bought it a thousand years ago in Toulouse — you have to believe me. It survived the drips and crumbs of countless French dinners, successfully cammoed wine stains for years, held up to Russian washing machines, the Attic sun and the hard water of Athens. And I really like it. And now I can’t wear it because of the fucking Proud Boys fachos.

I also loved it because black and yellow are, by complete coincidence, the colors of my favorite Greek soccer team AEK. That doesn’t mean I know anything about Greek soccer or care. But when asked or when I get thumbs-upped on the street when I wear it, it’s for AEK, because the acronym stands for the Athletic Union of Constantinople, which was founded in Athens in 1924 by Greeks from Istanbul, and is the institutional descendant of the Tatavla (a.k.a. Kurtuluş) Sports Club:

Kurtuluş S.K. was founded in 1896 under the name Hercules (Greek: Ηρακλής, Turkish: İraklis Jimnastik Kulübü) by local Greeks in 1896. It was the first club in Istanbul exclusively dedicated to sports activities. Later in 1934 it was forced to change its name to Turkish, Kurtuluş.

It was one of the major Greek sports clubs in Istanbul, while from 1910 to 1922 it was one of the clubs that undertook the organization of the Pan-Constantinopolitan games (Games organized among the Greek clubs of the city).

In 1906 two athletes of the club, the brothers Georgios and Nikolaos Alimbrandis won gold medals in the Intercalated Olympic Games in Athens, in horizontal bar and rope climbing respectively.

During the 1930s, the club intensified the efforts in the field of sports with the foundation of basketball, volleyball, cycling, athletics and other sports departments. Competent athletes from these departments were distinguished in local and international sports events. The club played in the Turkish Basketball League between 1966 and 1968.

The Tatavla Sports Club was the first athletic club in Turkey and was obviously created by non-Muslims because baring your knees is haram, I guess, and the Ottoman ulema had a particular problem with the soccer British troops in the City were making popular in Allied-occupied İstanbul because it was too evocative of the victors playing with Huseyn‘s head after his death at Karbala.

And it’s not like I can keep wearing it as long as I’m still in Greece, because even if Greeks didn’t know about the Proud Boys and their sartorial choices before, after last week they do. And they’re very unforgiving when they know they have one on you — malicious Romeic glee is boundless and an undying spring — and haydi explain yourself. I don’t know what the universe is trying to prove to me, but I’m vexed!

Thank God Carhartt is cool in Greece and has no American far-right nut-job associations yet, ’cause otherwise my dungarees would have to go next…

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Russia: the Pussy Riot’s 2021 New Year message on LGBTQ rights

31 Dec

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New header image from Sergey Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors” — Тіні забутих предків

26 Dec

See previous posts on Paradzhanov and “Shadows…” and his other films.

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Beautiful photos of Peter at Christmas, from Eraxite @Eraxite1

26 Dec

See Twitter: Eraxite @Eraxite1

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Photo: Russian forest

24 Dec

I’ve only seen forests like this in Russia, though I’m sure they exist elsewhere. There’s absolutely no brush or ground vegetation, so it all seems like a fantastic, enormous hall of columns (the way they say the columns of the Mosque of Córdoba look like a forest) and that makes for easy, long, wonderful walks, especially at night — which is most of the day in wintertime — and with snow.

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Feast of St. Nicholas on Julian Calendar, old post, and Срећна Cлава to all Serbian friends celebrating today

19 Dec

(See Slava: “Где је слава, ту је Србин” — “Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb“)

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Today’s my nameday

6 Dec

Saint_Nicholas_1550

Russian icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker (click)

Today’s the feast of St. Nicholas (on the Gregorian calendar — December 19th on the Julian Calendar, depending on what kind of Orthodox you are ethnically), the saint generally known in the East (and beautiful Bari, one of my favorite Italian cities) as the “Miracle-worker.”  But for me the coolest thing about St. Nick, and that’s the cause of his nauseating transformation into Santa Claus in the West, is that his miracles are deeply human and mundane and material, and actually just more good deeds than miracles: his most metaphysical, I guess, was his power to calm threatening seas; probably more to the point he prevents the execution of an accused criminal, following Christ’s example in opposing capital punishment or — my favorite — he quietly leaves three bags of gold, εν τω μέσω της νυχτώς, in the bedroom of three poor sisters who needed dowries to get married.  He didn’t preach or rail against the dowry system, like the moralist who thinks his ideological crusade is more important then the real needs of real people, who gets a hard-on from his preaching while others are truly suffering: for example, the schmucks who leave a hard-working waiter a card that says: “We don’t believe in tips; they’re exploitative, join our group at www…etc…” or like the assholes you hear in New York on the subway when a panhandler comes by and certain types go off on their “oh-I’ve-heard-that-story-before-get-a-job-you-probably-make-more-money-than-me” tirades, without thinking that if a man is reduced to begging, for whatever reason, he’s already been through hell enough and deserves your compassion.

A priest at my old parish in Whitestone, I remember years ago on this day, said in his sermon: “St. Nicholas is not one of our great theologian-intellectual saints, like the Cappadocians [though he apparently slapped someone at the First Oecumenical Council at Nicaea for saying something dumb about the Trinity…I think], or one of our warrior, defender-of-the-faith saints, like Demetrios or Mercourios or the Archangels.  More, he was a saint who always made sure that everyone under his pastorship had food to eat and a roof to sleep under.”  He was particularly venerated in the sea-faring islands of Greece, for obvious reasons (“Hagie Nikola, I implore you” sings the island girl with her sailor-man away, “carpet the seas with flowers…”) and is the patron saint of Russia.  In communist times the name still had some lingering Imperial/Romanov stigma attached to it and when I was there in the eighties, it seemed anachronistically charming to many Russians.  Now it seems there are significantly more young “Kolyas” and “Nikolays” everywhere.

Despite an almost erotic devotion to and obsession I’ve developed for St. Demetrios over the years — hard to resist a young Roman aristocrat in uniform — Nicholas is still my patron saint.  And he’s more than just important to me as saint himself, but because I love the Orthodox nameday tradition, which again varies from country to country.  Serbs have always observed a single clan nameday, the Slava, celebrating the saint on whose feast-day the family’s first ancestor supposedly converted to Christianity, a very ritualized and beautiful celebration and one of the many traditions that Serbs adhere to that makes them the Slavs that, more than any others, still have one foot in their pagan past; telling, also, to how important he is in the Orthodox world: the single largest group of Serbian clans celebrate St. Nicholas as their Slava patron.  Communism forced Russians to take their birthdays more seriously, and discouraged the celebration of the obviously religious nameday, but nineteenth-century Russian literature is full of nameday celebrations (Chekhov’s “Nameday Party,” and Tatyana’s nameday dance in Pushkin’s Onegin*), and as a semi-conscience remembrance of what the new Western-style celebration of birthdays replaced, the birthday-boy is to this day still called the “imeninets,” the “name-bearer.”

What I most love is that, among Greeks, your nameday is a day critical to your honor and reputation: it’s when you take friends out and treat them; it’s when people in small towns especially, but even some in Athens still, sit home in a house full of food and sweets and wait for everybody who has the right to — meaning every one they know essentially — and most likely will, drop by and wait for the the privilege of feeding them; most young Athenians today wait for an official invitation but massive group drop-ins are still common enough among the old-fashioned.  In smaller, provincial towns, when there was a death in the family, you used to have to put an ad in the paper saying: “Due to mourning, we won’t be accepting callers this St. Nicholas Day.”  In villages everybody just knew.  It’s a day when you make an artoklasia,  a “bread-breaking” offering and share sweetened and blessed loaves with your whole parish.  It’s a day when it’s your obligation to give and serve and prove your noblesse and not, as Western birthdays have become, a day when you sit around waiting for others to do for you or give you gifts.  Western, American, birthdays are only slightly less gross to me than the totally American ugliness of wedding and baby showers: “I’m getting married and/or I’m pregnant; so I’m having a party where you have to bring me things.”  And don’t even start me on bridal registries, where you tell people, not just that they have to bring you something, but what they have to bring you.

So: χρόνια μου πολλά…  And Многая Лета to other Nicholases everywhere.  Keep the tradition alive.

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* Tatyana was not a popular name in Russia until Pushkin’s Onegin became the Bible and literary gold standard of modern Russian, and Russians took the deeply loved heroine into their hearts.  Only then did it become a widespread name and eventually, through her epic act of heroically soul-baring letter-writing probably, her nameday, January 12th or 25th — depending again on calendar — become the patron saint day of young students and scholars.

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