Tag Archives: Ukraine

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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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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Jews, Yiddish, past participles and the Rzeczpospolita

15 Dec

Stumbled upon this map (present day borders) the other day, of the distribution of past passive participle endings in Yiddish…

…that confirms a point I made in a post this past September ( Jews, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Romania and how “the borders kept changing” ) that is, that Jews never migrated to Russia or Ukraine, but only to the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita and then ended up in other states when Poland was partitioned. The two maps overlap perfectly.

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These are hilarious: “…Kyiv, Ukraine yesterday…people struggling to walk downhill due to ice covering the street…”

12 Dec

One of my favorite cities.

Why is human helplessness funny?! See all the videos here: Kyiv, Ukraine

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Photos: Hutsuls!

25 Nov

Some cool photographs I stumbled on of the Hutsuls of the Ukrainian Carpathian highlands (some live on the other side in Romania too), taken between 1918 and 1935. They are described in “New header image: Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors”. If you’re wondering why these Ukrainians look both so traditional and relatively happy and healthy, it’s because western Ukraine was part of Poland at the time, and though Polish rule wasn’t necessarily that benign for the Ukrainian, non-Catholic minority in that country, it was obviously, no-discussion better than the Leninist-Stalinist-Bolshevik reign of terror and deliberately induced famine that central and eastern Ukraine endured as part of the Soviet Union, and in which some 10 million — by conservative estimates — Ukrainians and Russians starved to death. Western Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union only in 1945, when Stalin annexed the eastern part of Poland, while Poland was given part of eastern Germany.

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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.

New header image: Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors”

25 Nov

The new header image is a production still from the filming of Sergei Paradzhanov‘s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors / Тіні забутих предків), 1965. This is one of my ten — or maybe even five — all-time favorite films. It’s a half Romeo and Juliet, half Wuthering Heights, full of eternal love, and cool stuff like frustrated desire, obsession and death.

The other pleasures this film offers is entirely ethnographic; Paradzhanov, a Soviet Armenian filmmaker from Tbilisi, Georgia, was completely enthralled with the material culture, music, languages, and human (especially male) beauty of the Caucasus and Anatolia. Elsewhere — probably when I’ve used pictures from his films as header images before — I’ve referred to him as an “our parts” pornographer. He really had a fetish for his cinematic object, and though we use “fetish”, usually, to describe something unhealthy, it might be better to just accept it as a point on the broader spectrum of object relations.

In Shadows… Paradzhanov moves from his home territory to the Ukrainian sub-ethnic group of the Hutsuls (Гуцулы/Гуцули), that live on the Ukrainian side of the Carpathian mountains in the far west of the country. (I’m sure his appreciation of male beauty was sated there as swell.) The Hutsuls have one of the most richest High Folk Civilizations of Europe: clothes, dance, music, handicrafts — they’re also the people that make those famous Ukrainian Easter eggs you might have heard tell of. In fact, Paradzhanov was kind of a prick when the film was being filmed: he would borrow heirloom items for the shoot from the local inhabitants and then never return them.

Shadows… may be my favorite Paradzhanov film. It’s his most cinematic film, meaning it has the most conventional visual and cinematic narrative — cinema comes from Greek kinema (κίνημα), which means movement. After Shadows…, which put him on the map cinematically, he turned to extreme long shots and extreme long takes of static tableaux; they’re beautiful, but sometimes they try even my patience.

For example, from Color of Pomegranates / Նռան գույնը / ბროწეულის ფერი / Цвет граната (1969):

…and The Legend of the Suram Fortress / ამბავი სურამის ციხისა (1985):

…and Aşık Kerib / აშიკ-ქერიბი (1988):

Color of Pomegranates in 1969 and The Legend of Suram Fortress in 1985What was he doing for twenty plus years? you ask. Well, he was arrested several times between 1973 and 1982, a period during which his previous films were prohibited, for “sexual crimes”, i.e. homosexuality, along with “rape and bribery” — probably trumped up charges. Only when censorship in the Soviet Union started to ease up during the Gorbachev years was Paradzhanov allowed to make films again.

The header photo is not a scene from Shadows… though. It’s a production still, a lovely photo of two Hutsul children watching the filming.

Here are the famous Easter eggs:

I’ll post a collection of cool Hutsul photos I came across in separate post.

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Jews, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Romania and how “the borders kept changing”.

17 Sep

Flying Dacian@FlyingDacian Tweeted the following:

This is a map of the distribution of Jews in Romania in 1930. 728,115 or 4% of the country was Jewish. Notice that the territories lost in 1940 to Russia and Hungary account for the majority of Jewish people in Romania in 1930.

And I asked him…so…what conclusions are we supposed to draw from his map?

And immediately I realized what the most important conclusion was for me and should, therefore, be for everyone: Jewish migration into eastern Europe and the nature of the Polish state at the time.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard it; you can’t be from New York and not have heard it. You ask a now third or fourth generation Ashkenazi Jew where his ancestors were from and he says: “Oh, Russia or Poland…the borders kept changing.”

It’s a misconception that the Jews who fled pogroms, massacres, persecution and the social chaos of the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe of which they were the primary victims, migrated east to different countries in eastern Europe. They didn’t. They only moved to Poland.

People wonder what it was that led so many Jews to migrate to poor and socially backwards areas of Europe like Russia or Ukraine. Again, they didn’t. What Jew in his right mind would have fled persecution in the Rhineland, say, and sought refuge in Russia, for God’s sake? A relatively primitive mediaeval theocracy, which it arguably still is. Jews, however, ended up in Russia and Ukraine, when Poland was partitioned twice in the late eighteenth century by Russia, Austria and Prussia/Germany. The Pale of Settlement, which my hypothetical New York Ashkenazi Jew above might have heard of — the parts of the Russian Empire were it was legal for Jews to live — were simply the parts of what is now Poland, Ukraine, Belarus’ and Lithuania that Russia got out of the partition of Poland. Upon taking control of these lands, Tsarist Russia also inherited the largest part of Polish Jewry as well.

Why did they go to Poland then? Because at the time that persecution of Jews in western Europe was booming the Rzeczpospolita, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (shown in its various constituent parts in map below) was by far the most tolerant and progressive Christian state in Europe, which surprises many people, and like the Ottomans, Poles saw that Jews’ talents would benefit their state, and allowed and even organized their settlement throughout Poland.

So to address @FlyingDacian‘s curiosity, the parts of contemporary Romania that had the largest number of Jews in 1930, were simply those regions that had been Polish, then passed, some to Hungary, but most to Russia, and then ended up in modern Romania.

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New Header Image: Sergei Paradzhanov’s “Color of Pomegranates”

31 Aug

Though he had made a name for himself with Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1965) earlier than Color of Pomegranates (1969), it was with the latter that S.P. first unveilled his particular style of almost still life tableaux — one after the other. So much so that it’s almost hard to call it cinema: “cinema” is Greek for movement, and nothing much moves in most of his films. But they’re insanely watchable.

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Jadde’s homepage photo: Sergei Paradzhanov

12 Nov

I had thought that maybe I would permanently keep the photographs that I first posted on the blog’s homepage when I started it (Turkish refugees from Rumeli in turn of the century Istanbul and adorable kids in Samarina in 1983), as sort of a trademark, or what obnoxious “Ok, millenials” call a “meme” — which is just a mystified/jargonized term for what used to simply be called an “image”.  But when you don’t have any new ideas, you make up fake new words to cover for the fact.

Then I saw footage from a Paradzhanov film that I love, and remembered that he’s among my two or three favorite directors.  It’s strange that I hadn’t thought of him before, because he was essentially obsessed — possessed would not be an exaggeration — with the visual beauty of our parts, of the Jadde world.  He was almost an our parts pornographer, in the most beautiful sense of the word, fixated on the image of our cultures’ physical (and I mean that sexually) and material beauty, more interested in the fetishized gaze and tableaux than in editing or the syntax of cinema.  In our world today, where cinematic and video language has been so perverted and debased that the average viewing time between editing cuts is less than three seconds — we’re kept watching by the fact that we’re not allowed to actually look at anything — Paradzhanov granted us the delicious luxury of lingering over every beautiful detail his cinematic mind generated.

So, I decided that every month I’m going to change the homepage pic with one from his various films.  This one is from his 1969 The Color of Pomegranates, widely considered his masterpiece, though it’s not my favorite.  That would be his 1965 Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, though Pomegranates is without a doubt a beauty.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I like to watch them and post the stills.  Unfortunately, the crappy Soviet color film stock they were shot in and the abysmal curatorial conditions these films were kept under for so many decades means that some of the stills will be soft or just not of optimal quality.  But I hope you enjoy them anyway and look out for opportunities to see them, and hopefully on a real screen and not your Mac…

Color of Pomegranates 2_DxO

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