Пасхальный Благодатный огонь / The Easter Holy Fire

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media / holy fire in Jerusalem

Audio content: Orthodox believers discussing their experiences and feelings as they meet the Easter “Holy Fire” at a Moscow airport
Visual content: Liturgical candle lighting and lanterns

Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t arrive until May 1 this year. (The date is calculated according to the phases of the moon, and also tends to fall later in the year because the Orthodox Church operates on the Julian calendar.) That means that Orthodox believers are still in the middle of the Великий пост (Great Fast or Lent), the 40-day period that involves the denial of certain worldly pleasures in preparation for the joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

One event that Orthodox believers can look forward to is the yearly arrival of the “Благодатный огонь.” This phrase can be translated as “Holy Fire” but actually indicates something along the lines of “the fire that provides abundant blessings.” This fire appears on the evening of Holy Saturday, the night before Easter, at the храм Гроба Господня (Church of the Lord’s Tomb) in Jerusalem. This church is located at the site where Jesus is thought to have been buried after his crucifixion and where he subsequently rose from the dead. Many believers assert that the fire arises miraculously each year, although there has long been disagreement on this point even among members of the Church. In any case, the fire is distributed from the inner sanctum out to the worshipers in the church; it is also transported on special airline flights from Jerusalem to multiple centers of Orthodox belief around the world.

In the below videos we see

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Немцов мост / A Bridge for Boris Nemtsov

2016Mar_Nemtsov

Audio content: Moscow residents describing what motivates them to watch over the memorial at the site where Boris Nemtsov was murdered.
Visual content: Images of the bridge memorial and of the procession on the one-year anniversary of Nemtsov’s death.

Main videos at TV Rain (interviews with the guardians of the memorial)
Additional video at TV Rain (anniversary procession)

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On the evening of February 27, 2015, the Russian politician and activist Boris Nemtsov was shot to death as he was crossing the Большой Москворецкий Мост (Large “Moscow River” Bridge), located right next to the Moscow Kremlin. Nemtsov was a charismatic figure known for his commitment to freedom in both the political and personal realms. He remained consistent in his political beliefs (classically liberal, pro-democracy and pro-free market), regardless of whether those beliefs brought him a high post in the federal government or temporarily landed him in a jail cell. Nemtsov rose to positions of political responsibility at a relatively young age. In the mid-1990s, he was governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast; by the late 1990s he was a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and then a leading figure in the Duma as a member of the free-market-oriented party Союз правых сил (Union of Right Forces).

After Putin came to power in 2000,  Nemtsov’s party gradually lost its standing, as was the case for most factions not affiliated with Putin’s Единая Россия (United Russia) party. Nemtsov had briefly voiced support for Putin’s presidential candidacy in 2000, but from the mid-2000s became one of Putin’s most outspoken critics. In 2008 he co-founded the pro-democracy movement Солидарность (Solidarity) and in 2012 joined the opposition party РПР-Парнас (RPR-Parnas). Working with allies in these movements, Nemtsov published a series of reports sharply criticizing Putin’s leadership, such as “Путин. Итоги. 10 лет” (“Summing Up Putin: 10 years”) (2010) and “Путин. Коррупция” (Putin – Corruption”) (2011). During this period he also participated in numerous anti-regime street protests and was occasionally detained by the police. Another controversial stance in the later part of his life was his support for the Western Europe-oriented factions in Ukraine; as a result, he criticized Russia’s annexation of Crimea and at the time of his death was working on an investigative report gathering evidence of Russia’s involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine.

All of this meant that Nemtsov had many political enemies at the time of his death.

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День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media / wreath on Defender of the Fatherland Day

Audio content: People expressing thoughts both patriotic and provocative on the occasion of Defending the Fatherland Day
Visual content: Images of Russian military pomp, political leaders from multiple parties and political regalia

In a week or two I’ll do a post featuring the remarkable marches in honor of Boris Nemtsov that happened last weekend. I’ve found lots of great video on that topic but need a chance to sort through it. Meanwhile, today’s post offers a multifaceted look at the Russian national holiday that was celebrated a week ago. On February 23rd every year Russians observe День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is the post-Soviet heir to holidays celebrating the Red Army. The holiday honors all who have served in Russia’s armed forces, but the day is also popularly viewed as a celebration of men in general, as it comes just a couple weeks before Международный женский день / International Women’s Day, marked on March 8th.

On this year’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, a number of interesting intersecting political currents were on display. Not all of them are apparent in this post’s videos, but they provide an interesting backdrop to what you’ll see here. The official state-supported celebration included parades, fireworks, the placing of a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier, public exhibits of military technology and family events meant to encourage national pride and promote interest in military service. But several notable non-officially-sanctioned events occurred on this day as well. Ilya Yashin, one of the leaders of the opposition party РПР-Парнас (which currently has no representation in the Duma), chose this day to present a report on Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov is the leader of the Chechen republic, an ally of Putin and an outspoken, aggressive enemy of opposition political movements. With the report, titled “Угроза национальной безопасности” / “A Threat to National Security,” Yashin accuses Kadyrov of cultivating a cult of personality, fostering rampant corruption and developing a local security force that operates without federal oversight. Yashin’s presentation at party headquarters was interrupted by bomb threats and the building was vandalized with bright paint.

Kadyrov, meanwhile, also made some notable statements on February 23rd.

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Снос ларьков / Demolition of the Kiosks

Demolition of the Kiosks

Audio content: Multiple pedestrians briefly sharing their opinions on the demolition of Moscow kiosks.
Visual content: The demolition site and ongoing demolition work outside Metro Sokol

Link to video at Телеканал Дождь
(the video is currently accessible to non-subscribers)

One of the most-discussed events of the last week in Moscow was the “removal of the kiosks.” Small semi-permanent retail structures — tent markets, kiosks and small buildings — had been a fixture in the city since the 1990s. They were common around metro stations and other public transportation stops and sold newspapers, flowers, drinks and food, etc. The city administration had declared many of them “незаконные постройки” / “illegal structures” or “самострой” / “self-building” because they had never been properly permitted. City leaders expressed concern that these structures were hazardous, blocked access to public spaces, interfered with maintenance of city infrastructure and disfigured the city.  On the night of February 8th, about 100 of them were demolished in a coordinated action. (Apparently the owners of these retail spaces had been notified that their structures were considered illegal and needed to be dismantled, but the sudden nighttime bulldozing was a surprise.) In the video featured here, various pedestrians share their opinion on the event. The site is the metro station “Sokol” in the northwestern part of Moscow.

Russian Life published a blog post on this topic, from a very critical perspective.
Gazeta.ru has a great photo gallery with aerial perspectives that give an idea of the spaces involved.

Заметки о языке: Some common names for these small retail spaces are “ларёк” / “kiosk”, “торговая палатка” / “trading stall” or “торговый павильон” / “trading pavilion.” The verb used to describe the removal of these spaces is “сносить” / “remove, carry away,” a good transitive verb of motion, with the “с-” prefix indicating a movement down and away. The speakers express their opinions with the verbs “считать” / “to have an opinion” and “относиться” /” to relate to.” The full construction for the latter verb is “относиться к чему? как?” / “to relate to something in a certain way,” but, as is often the case in Russian, something that can be assumed from context is often omitted, so speakers say “я отношусь плохо” rather than “я отношусь к сносу ларьков плохо.”

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Click on the link to view the video in another window, follow along with the text below, and scroll down for the English translation.

Link to video at Телеканал Дождь
(the video is currently accessible to non-subscribers)

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Note to subscribers and visitors

Dear subscribers and visitors:

I was dismayed to realize that the video of the mortgage borrowers (the post from two weeks ago) was behind a paywall at телеканал Дождь. I’ve contacted them to try to work something out for the future. I would post the video files directly on my page, but I want to respect their copyright. Unlike Первый канал, Дождь doesn’t offer the option to embed their videos on my page. In the meantime, you can get ten days of free access if you click on the button “Бесплатно на 10 дней.” Or you could subscribe — it’s only about $6.00 / month, and they could use the support!