In The Answer to Your Country's Future

Written by Dustin "DP" Peffer, a Junior at Penn State

Some of Russia's future leaders
Some of the future leaders of Russia
(view a larger image)

During the evening of the previous Thursday, I tagged along to a student gathering with one of our Russian guides, Nadya.  She was attending a meeting of Grazhdanskaya Smena, the Civil Shift.  This organization is a Moscow-based student club that enables students from all the universities of Moscow to come together and work on projects ranging from class works, to civic duty activities, to business plans.

This club is two years old and gives students from more than fifty different universities a common forum in which to work together.  The three main areas of the club are Activities, Government, and Business.  I found this to be somewhat similar to American student clubs, but quite interesting because of the organization’s supra-university standing.  This model seems almost alien, American students are generally more accustomed to university-based clubs that usually don’t interact with clubs from other schools.  I am sure this is partly to blame due to the distances between American educational centers.

The Activities branch organizes various things for students to do on holidays and weekends, and might also be called the Social branch.  The Government organization works with the Moscow government and proposes ideas that could be implemented and also sends students to work with officials from each of the city’s thirty-nine districts in something akin to an internship program.  The Business side of Grazhdanskaya Smena allows students to make proposals for current businesses or for a new business.  If the idea is good enough, the students can organize their enterprises and may receive funding from the club (provided by Moscow’s government budget).

Although I merely sat quietly on a couch and watched the proceedings, I could sense the camaraderie and willingness of the students to work together for their common benefit.  As Nadya told me, it allows students to present their problems and hear many various viewpoints and solutions; the biggest thing was working towards and arriving at a solution that suited everyone.  A large banner on the wall read, “You are in the answer to your country’s future,” and the smiling portrait of Putin on the opposite wall left me feeling that I was in the company of the future leaders of this great country.

Also in this Issue...

  • Russian Agriculture by Allison Justice

    "Our tour guide stated that agriculture was quite a growing industry for Russia and surely will continue to increase. ... We ended our trip with lunch at the plant which was very tasty.  It’s funny that you can pet the cow in the morning and eat it in the afternoon!"

  • "... we celebrated a very famous Russian holiday called Maslinnesa Week.  This week is dedicated to the celebration of the coming of spring, although temperatures remain to stay in the negatives and even drop as low as – 22 degrees Fahrenheit on some nights. "

  • MSAU (or Moscow State Agro-engineering University) is considered one of the largest and perhaps oldest centers for training engineering personnel for the agricultural field...During the early 1940's, close to 500 students and faculty left the university to help fight in the war.  The institute continued to train students and specialists, and even aided in the repair and development of military machines and weapons.

Bleni, Bleni Everywhere!!!

Writen by Glen Adkins, a Freshman at Clemson University

Last week, February 11 – 17, we celebrated a very famous Russian holiday called Maslinnesa Week. 

John and Glen enjoying Bleni
John and Glen eating Bleni
(pancakes) in Red Square
(view a larger image) .

This week is dedicated to the celebration of the coming of spring, although temperatures remain to stay in the negatives and even drop as low as – 22 degrees Fahrenheit on some nights.  This week is celebrated by eating lots and lots of bleni, or should I say pancakes.  Upon every street corner one can find pancakes being sold by vendors that are stuffed with everything from honey to ham and cheese to fried chicken to cottage cheese and salmon.


But if you want to go traditional you must eat your pancake with caviar.  The pancake is so popular during this week because in Russia the pancake is symbolic of the sun because of its round shape.  Also during this week it is tradition to burn a Chu-Che-La, more commonly known to Americans as a scarecrow.  The burning of the scarecrow represents winter melting away and the arrival of spring.  This week is also celebrated by the partaking of some traditional Russian games.  These games include tug a war, a game that involves trying to knock your opponent off of a balance beam with a bag of feathers and many other interesting games.  Along with all the celebration comes a very serious day at the end of the week.  On Sunday many Russians celebrate what they consider a day of forgiving.  It is a day when they ask God to forgive them for their wrong doings and it is also a time of forgiving and asking to be forgiven by friends and family. 

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