Kissel: the dessert that’s also a meal

Depending on the person you ask and what part of Eastern Europe he hails from, kissel is either a thick juice, a dessert soup, or a gelatinous porridge. Just one thing is certain: it is a veritable medley of forest-born ingredients and a constant presence at the dessert table. Traditionally, Kissel is a soft, fruit-based dessert, generally made from berries, sugar and either cornstarch or potato starch. Its name comes from the Russian word “kisliy” meaning ‘sour,’ because sour fruits are traditionally favored. Its recipe varies from country to country,…

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Pine Cone Preserves: a sweet jam made from soft young cones believed to have health benefits in Russia and Georgia.

Aside from their decorating uses, especially in Christmas season, pinecones play an important role in nature and, like all plant parts, they have a very specific function in the plant world. Generally they serve as a protective cover for pine nuts, (a key ingredient in pesto!). Pine cones and pine trees belong to a group of plants called gymnosperms and date back to prehistoric times. There are a group of plants who have naked seeds, not enclosed in an ovary and the main function of a pine cone is to…

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Gamsutl: nestled high atop the peak of Mount Gamsutlmeer, this abandoned russian village is one of the oldest settlements in the region.

We are in the Gunibsky district of Dagestan, Russia, where lies Mount Gamsutlmeer. At an altitude of roughly 1,400 meters above sea level, resides the pictoresque village of Gamsutl, known to be one of the oldest settlements in the region. Translated from the Avar, the majority ethnic group of the republic, Gamsutl literally means “at the foot of the kahn’s fortress”, leading many to assume that someone named Khan chose this location to build his fortress or tower, to defend himself from his enemies. And, eventually, a community evolved around…

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The Legend of the drowned city of Kitezh submerged in Svetloyar Lake

According to a Russian legend, hidden beneath the waters of Lake Svetloyar, in the Nizhny Novgorod Region north-east of Moscow, there is Kitezh, a mythical city built by Georgy II, the Grand Prince of Vladimir in the early part of the 13th century. Its first reference comes in an anonymous late 18th century book known as “the Kitezh Chronicle” which was thought to have originated among the Old Believers of Russia. The book does not actually say that the city disappeared or that it was covered by the lake, but…

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King Frost, a Russian winter legend

The legends concerning Father (or King) Frost are inspired by ancient traditions about this mythical figure that in ancient times appeared in the tales of almost all of Europe. According to one of the most popular version, that come from Russia, once upon a time there lived an old man and his wife. She had one daughter of her own, and he had one of his own, and the old woman took a dislike to her step-daughter. Whatever her own daughter did, she praised her for everything and stroked her…

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3# The story of Babushka and the three kings

For many, Christmas is a time of merry making and gift giving, of bonding with friends and family and of spending time in the warm glow of love. And, of course, gifts are the most awaited part of the beloved holiday. It is a tradition which, according to legends, has continued since the birth of Christ, when He was offered the first gifts that would later become an important aspect of the celebration of his birth. And like gifts, Christmas stories are also an integral part of the occasion. Every…

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Russian Napoleon Cake, the traditional dessert that commemorates the country’s sweet taste of victory over the French emperor in 1812.

In Russia, where Christmas was banned in 1928 during Bolshevik rule and not reinstated until 1991, New Year’s Eve has long been the biggest celebration of the year, with decorative trees and opulent feasts. But also a towering Napoleon cake, often home-baked. The so called Napoleon cake may be similar to the French emperor in fame, but certainly not in stature… Standing tall with at least eight tiers (and sometimes more than 20) of alternating layers of delicious pastry and custard, it has become a national Russian dish, inspired by…

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Would you like to buy a living, breathing wish-granting cat for $127,000?

Forget genies in a bottle, if you can own your very own magical cat and have all your wishes fulfilled for the modest price of 10 million rubles ($127,000)! A Novosibirsk woman recently posted a bizarre ad on Russian classified ad platform “Avito”, asking people to pay a small fortune for her pet cat, a Scottish Fold named Vincent I, or Vinsik, for friends. The woman, known only as Elena, told Russian journalists that she discovered her cat’s wish-granting powers by accident, and has since tested its effectiveness three times,…

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Dustyesky: the leading genuine fake Russian choir in Southern Hemisphere

The little Australian village of Mullumbimby is one of the last places on Earth you would expect to find a men’s choir singing their hearts out about the Motherland and the Red Army in Russian like they knew the language….but that’s what makes Dustyesky so special. Mullumbimby is a small, subtropical town near Byron Bay in Australia’s northern New South Wales, and it was mostly known for its timber industry. However, thanks to the success of the 28 men making up hit choir Dustyesky it’s also become known for its…

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#March 5, 1953: Dictator and mass murderer Stalin goes to his grave

Iosif Vissarionovič Džugašvili Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator who sent millions of his countrymen to their deaths, joined them on this day, March 5 1953, after failing to recover from a brain haemorrhage four days earlier. He was 74 years old. His 30-year term as absolute ruler of the Soviet Union was marked by a long series of atrocities including purges, forced displacements, imprisonment in forced labour camps known as Gulags, manufactured famines, torture, acts of mass murder and massacres, in addition to the estimated 20 million Soviet troops and…

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The splendid grave of the dancer Rudol’f Nureev covered by a rug like mosaic

A short distance from Paris is the Orthodox Cemetery Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, which houses many Orthodox Russians who died and were buried close to the French capital. Among these there is also Rudol’f Chametovič Nureev, one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the 20th century, who rests in a decidedly particular grave. The sepulcher is in fact covered by a mosaic in the shape of a Kazakh kilim, a carpet of great value which is woven like a tapestry, because the dancer was an avid collector of beautiful carpets and antique…

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Vyborg: Once Finland’s 2nd most influential city, now only a small provincial town somewhere in Russia

In Vyborg, Russia, time seems to have stopped. The city has a long history behind it that the ruins of its past never cease to pass down. Once Finland’s second most influential city, Vyborg is now only a small provincial town somewhere deep in Russia, about 30 km from the border with Finland and 138 km West of Saint Petersburg, one of Europe’s largest megapolis. According to locals, the city has been damaged the most in recent years than it was devastated during the Soviet period. About 1km east of…

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Oymyakon: the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth

The Russian village of Oymyakon is one of the coldest inhabited places in the world, which has recorded the lowest temperature in any place inhabited by man and which sees every winter descend mercury to about -71 degrees C°. The remote village, in eastern Siberia, is closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to the nearest city. A monument in the town square commemorates the day in 1924 when the temperature fell to a record 96 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In any case, Oymyakon is the coldest permanently inhabited…

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The beautiful tiny church of St. Andrew on the Vuoksa River – Russia

Although it is an unusual custom, it is technically possible to built a church in an area of only 100 square meters, and this small church on an island in Russia proves it. Designed by Andrey Rotinova, this sacred building is relatively very recent, having been consecrated in 2000. The Saint Andrew church (Priozersky district of Leningrad Oblast) is so small that the Vuoksa river that runs around it, looks like a sea compared to the dimensions of the microscopic building. The church is named after one of the twelve…

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Leonid Rogozov: the man who cut out his own appendix

Leonid Rogozov, a russian surgeon, was part of the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition – a team of 12 had been sent to build a new base at the Schirmacher Oasis. The Novolazarevskaya Station was up and running by the middle of February 1961, and with their mission complete the group settled down to see out the hostile winter months. He was the only doctor present at Novolazarevskaja Station and, while he was there, he was forced to perform an appendectomy on himself, in one of the popular case of self-surgery.…

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Nikita Golubev, the artist who turns dirty cars into works of Art

In his Moscow’s neighborhood, Russian artist Nikita Golubev aka Pro Boy Nick uses dirt found on trucks and vans to draw with his fingers incredible artworks. However, it seems that the owners love them so much that they now refuse to wash their trucks! Art is decidedly unconventional, and many have uploaded photographs of Gobulev’s works on the web. The artist’s “canvases” are cars, trucks or vans, and result is a work that looks like a charcoal drawing, beautiful in its simplicity. ProBoyNick’s Instagram account has become very popular, and…

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Dargavs Village: City of the Dead

We are in Russia’s North Ossetia, hidden in one of the five mountain ridges that cross the region. Reaching this interesting and unusual destination requires a three-hour drive, taking you down a dangerous and hidden road, really what could be expected from a trip to the city of the dead! The foggy mountain weather certainly doesn’t help. The village of Dargavs, friendly know as the City of the Dead, has an ancient cemetery where people that lived in the valley buried their loved ones along with their clothes and belongings.…

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The incredible story of the man who fed a family of Polar Bears in Siberia.

In the second half of the ’70s a strange rumor began to run among the inhabitants of the autonomous region of Čukotka, the north-eastern end of Russia that looks beyond the Bering Strait to the United States. Nikolai Machulyak (Николай Мачуляк) a man who worked in an Artel, a cooperative of the Soviet Union, had become friends with a huge polar bear and her puppies, and fed them with meat and condensed milk. These photographs date back to 1976, and depict an adult bear weighing almost 300 kg, with two…

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Eduard Gordeev: an Impressionist Cityscape photographer

Eduard Gordeev, in russian Эдуард Гордеев is a really talented photographer who lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia. He creates artistic landscape photo series of his beloved city St. Petersburg, a magnificent cityscape images look impressive and atmospheric with a bit of effect of acrylic paintings. These urban streets seem drenched in mystery and rain, and the reflections of city lights and all melting colors turn them into extraordinary pieces of art. His urban landscape scenes are a hybrid between painting and photography, with a slightly retro charm, which…

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The Splendid Waves of the 19th century paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky.

The painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, in the nineteenth century, was the author of some of the most incredible paintings representing the sea. Of Russian-Armenian origin, he was one of the most important painters of his time, author of the painting “The Ninth Wave”, considered by many “the most beautiful work of a Russian”. The title of this incredible painting, in the image below, refers to an old sailing expression referring to a wave of incredible size that comes after a succession of incrementally larger waves. It depicts a sea after…

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Shirokorechenskoe: the Incredible Cemetery of the Russian Gangsters.

Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery, located on the southwestern outskirts of Yekaterinburg, Russia, is the last abode of many famous local people, including artists, scientists and heroes from the World War II, often adorned with unusual funerary sculptures, gem-embedded headstones and laser engravings of the deceased. But in a particular section of the cemetery, in the shade of the pines, there are some of the most elaborate funerary monuments: huge granite gravestones are engraved with life-sized, rather disquieting, photo-realistic images depicting gruesome looking men, dressed in expensive clothes. These characters often flaunt gold…

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SVL: the Very Fast Soviet jet-propelled Train of 1970

Before high speed, which today we consider a service almost obvious, railway companies around the world were looking for different tricks to make their convoys fast and able to travel huge distances in a short time. During the 1960’s, Americans, followed by the Soviets, experimented with turbojet trains. The idea was that, like a jet aircraft, the train is propelled by the jet thrust of the engines, rather than by its wheels. From Russia, in 1970, a futuristic project arrived that today appears to be decidedly vintage, a piece of…

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The Hermitage in St.Petersburg maintains still today a Colony of Cats to keep the Museum free from mice.

The State Hermitage Museum in the Russian city of St. Petersburg is one of the oldest and most prestigious museums in the world. The gigantic collection, which has over three million pieces, was started by the Tsarina Catherine, but became accessible to the public, like a museum, since 1852. Among the historic buildings that make up the great Hermitage complex is the Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian imperial family. The tradition of Cats at Court dates back to a 1745 decree of Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter…

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The Mystery of the Medieval Fortress of Por-Bajin in Siberia.

The large archaeological site known as Por-Bajin sits on an island in the middle of Tere-Khol Lake, between the mountains of southern Siberia, and it is still one of the most mysterious ancient sites in Russia. The name Por-Bajin translates from the Tuva language as a “clay house”, and the excavations suggest that it was built in the 8th century AD, first as a palace and later converted into a monastery. The construction was probably destroyed first by an earthquake and then by a fire, leaving behind many questions and…

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The accident at the Dyatlov pass: the most disturbing alpine mystery of the 20th century

The Dyatlov Pass accident is one of the most disturbing and mysterious death cases in the history of world alpinism, and its history has developed countless debates and hypotheses, first on paper and then on the web. It all started in February of ’59, when nine Russian hikers started climbing to Mount Otorten… The boys, aged between 21 and 25 years old (besides Zolotarëv, the only out-of-quota with 38 years), were all experienced hikers, certainly accustomed to life in harsh climates, graduates (or undergraduates) at the Polytechnic Institute of the…

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Transnistria, the country that doesn’t exist.

More correctly known as the ‘Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic’ (or ‘PMR’), Transnistria is one of a number of frozen conflict zones that emerged following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. (Others are the unrecognised states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia along the Russian-Georgian border, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory of Azerbaijan.) At the border points with Moldova there are still today tanks in the middle of the road and soldiers in camouflage. With a few euros you can get permission to enter, only few euros to put a…

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Schwellenpflug: the “Rail Wolf” used by Germans in retreat.

The bitter-sweet relationship of Stalin’s Russia and Third Reich had shaped the European theatre of the Second World War, and Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly the most ambitious dictator since Napoleon, a bit more ambitious and surely more ruthless. If Hitler hadn’t been so greedy and didn’t start the assault on Russia, the things probably would have turned out to be pretty different, at least for the Europe of the Second World War. Underestimating Russian resilience and over-estimating the military might of German Army, Hitler decided to faced the grim consequences,…

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A regular upside down house in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

It seems that in the city of Kasnoyarsk, Russia, the natural attractions were not enough to attract a consistent number of tourists to the sunny and fresh (-18°C stimated in January) of one of the major transport hub in Siberia. The municipal administration, really very active from the point of view of cultural initiatives, has therefore decided to provide the copious local population (more than 1 million people) with a new attraction that could entertain and intrigue even tourists looking for something “different”. This house is totally normal, except It’s…

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