Andrey Shilov at WordPress

The notes of a journalist working in Europe for Russian TV

Posts Tagged ‘Russia

The Wall

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Nobody reproached me while I was walking along the former Berlin Wall and made a report about today’s perception of it. Even though so many people were killed when trying to cross it, the city and the country are still divided, and it was over just 19 years ago.


Nobody said a word about Soviet ideology, communists from Moscow etc.


As if the Wall appeared from nowhere and vanished by itself.


We didn’t have long discussions with people on the street but if I were asked by a television crew about the Wall I would have mentioned the Soviet authorities, if not the USSR. At least I would have asked back a Russian journalist, “what do you feel?”


So if I ask myself the question – I am ashamed. And I am really interested how many Russians share the feeling.


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November 9, 2008 at 1:42 am

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“Na zdarofie!”

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I wonder who is the author of this phrase. Really.


Every single foreigner drinking and playing a la Russe says “Na zdarofie!” Why? The meaning is far from “Cheers!” (which people mean). “You are welcome”, that’s what it means. It is what a doctor can say in Russia to patient’s “thanks”, or one can hear it in a pharmacy, again as a reply to “thank you”.


I heard “Na zdarovie” from Brits, French and just recently from Germans – there must be an explanation! So far I have two versions, both from the readers of my Russian language blog:

-it is a quotation from another Slavic language;

-people once heard ‘Za zdorovie’ and made mistake.

Yeah, everybody makes the same mistake everywhere… I am really puzzled.


P.S. Drinking Russians say very many different things, an article can be written on the topic. Among the most well known are:

“Cheers!” (literally “For your health” – “Vashe zdorovie”)

“Let dreams come true” (“Za sbychu mecht”)

“For all of us and f*** them” (“Za nas s vami I khren s nimi”)

“For the ladies present” (unpronounceable “Za prisutstvuyuschikh zdies dam”)

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November 9, 2008 at 12:52 am

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On AN-2 above Berlin

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Old Soviet planes AN-2 fly above Berlin regularly these days, it is actually the high season. Till Thursday, October 30, when Tempelhof airport closes down.



Here is our ticket. And that’s what AN-2 itself looks like.



This particular plane was made in Poland in 1968 – the pilots say the bi-planes were made in two places outside the USSR – in Poland and in China.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are 9 passenger seats in this AN-2. It used to be a training plane for skydivers during the GDR times, later it has been transformed for sightseeing flights and the seats have been added. As a tenth passenger I got a seat near the pilot…



…but everybody wanted to see everything and take pictures…



so we swapped places and others could enjoy the view.


Old Soviet planes flying above the Brandenburg Gate wouldn’t be nice memories for the Germans, I presume. So we didn’t fly towards the Berlin center.



Tempelhof is situated to the south from the center and the sightseeing route goes away from it. Actually AN-2 has been designed after the WWII, in 1947, and has being produced ever since. The AN-2 history site claims the plane is even in the Guinness World Records Book. Well I don’t know whether it is true but AN-2 is indeed a classic for Russians. “Annushka” is a tender name for it (sounds just like a diminutive from the name Anna); “kukuruznik” (to be pronounced “kookoorooznik”) is a common name, it comes from the word “kukuruza” (“maize” or “corn”). AN-2 is universal and has been used a lot as an agriculturial aeroplane. It works quite well as a tourist plane, too – personal ventilation tools are particularly impressive.



So no Reichstag or Brandenburg gate in view – the only real “Berlin thing” we noticed was the television tower. I will show it in my report on NTV on Friday and will give the link to the video here, too.

UPD Here is the link



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October 29, 2008 at 11:45 am

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No way

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“10% of [Russia’s] population live in settlements and villages without stable connection with the road network”, Russian prime minister confirmed.


So approximately 14 mln of Russians live in places where you can’t get by road all around the year. You might need a boat, or properly frozen river to drive on ice, or a helicopter.


I have been to many places like this in Russia but they were thinly populated, half-deserted, with just pensioners in there, with population of 3, 10, 100 people.


Perhaps Northern settlements are included in the statistics: they might have infrastructure but surface transport connection would be too expensive for them.


But it is indeed shocking to realize there are tens of thousands of inaccessible settlements in Russia and millions of people are living there.

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October 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm

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3500 per day

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Three and a half thousand voices per day is the speed of the Internet supporting campaign for Svetlana Bakhmina, a former Yukos lawyer imprisoned for 7 years.

The campaign was launched on October, 7 and got little attention in Russian media. It is Russian speaking bloggers and Internet users who really participate: yesterday at 10pm I was # 11 335, by now 14 369 people put their names in the list.

It is very contemporary, very Russian story – with all the details accompanying the conviction. But at the moment it is her personal situation that gets attention: more than a half of term has passed, according to Russian law due to “good behavior” Mrs.Bakhmina had few days vacations at home and is due to give birth in two months – in a penal colony hospital, of course.

Her two kids (7 and 9 years old) are still told mum is having “a foreign business trip”. Her husband, teachers at school and neighbors manage to keep the details of the “trip” away from her children.

The supporting campaign is actually a plea to President Medvedev for mercy. So 14 369 person in a country of 142 millions. I think for the majority of people the signature under the letter is a personal test for mercy rather than real hope the prisoner will get home any time soon.

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October 11, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Russian blogosphere is monitored

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I just learned by chance that Russian blogosphere is monitored by US Open Source Center. Its website is open only for American government employees and for some people from the BBC. OSC makes small weekly reports “using blog posts by leading Russian bloggers and the list of the day’s top 30 most popular posts generated by the Russian web portal Yandex”.

Here is what they mention for the week 27.09-03.10:

“SPS Leader Resigns, New Right-Wing Coalition Proposed Nikita Belykh (, no date)”

“Yashin Blames Gay “Provocation” on Kremlin Wig and glasses worn by Yashin’s unwanted admirer (, 24 September)”

“New Website Set Up To Monitor Political Blogs website logo”

They follow political topics, so it seems.

I wonder if non-political top stories get into the review. For example when LiveJournal temporarily suspended very popular Artemy Lebedev’s weblog for his “users’ tits contest” or when the whole Russian blogosphere discussed during a week the striking news of “cat pack blown away in Moscow”.

It is life, too, isn’t it.

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October 9, 2008 at 8:27 pm

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On books and trains

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My 2-days business trip in Moscow started with book shopping at midnight. That’s what I love about Moscow: one can always find something at any time there. Service is for us, not vice versa. Hello, Europe, can you hear me?

So I went to a central bookstore (called “Moskva”) at half past 11pm and found there a proper queue, 100 people or so. Luckily the book store is long so the crowd didnt block everything. It turned out there was a book premiere there, so to say. At midningt the shop started selling “Farewell songs by political pygmies of Pindostan”. In the foolish title all words start with “p” in Russian so it made some sense but not much. The main attraction was the autror Victor Pelevin, one of the most known Russian intellectual writers of the late 90’s and 00’s.

Television crews and people reading the book outside the shop – these are my first images of Moscow this time.

And the last one is express train from the city center to Sheremetievo airport. “Sharik”, as people call it here, became the last Moscow airport connected to the city by train. Finally the disastrous driving in horrible traffic is over. “Perhaps 1 hour, perhaps 2 and a half – who knows…” – that was usual expectation before driving to Sharik just a few months ago, not mentioning years and years of travelling. 250 rubles (7 euros) instead of ~1500 rubles (40 euros), by the way. Hurraah! Long live trains!

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October 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm

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